Prev Next

Sample Wedding Budgets


The dirty secret: how much it cost.

This year we wanted to have more frank talk on APW about wedding budgets. To start the discussion, we enlisted the excellent Elizabeth of Lowe House Events in the San Francisco Bay Area, a longtime APW sponsor. It’s a tricky thing to discuss because budgets are profoundly subjective and vary hugely geographically. In the APW book, I include budget breakdowns: a $15,000 budget in San Francisco bought a very non-traditional city hall/food truck/nightclub wedding, while $13,000 in Columbus, Ohio bought a formal sit down dinner wedding for twice the number of people. And that’s not even bringing in the questions of personal resources, values, and tastes into the equation. But I fear that by not discussing budgets, we’ve done each other a great disservice, because when you’re starting planning, you flat out have no idea what anything costs. At APW we fundamentally believe that you can have an amazing wedding on any budget. This year, we want to discuss how. (And an editorial note: most of these budgets include wedding planning as a line item, not because it’s necessary, but because these are all weddings that Elizabeth, a wedding planner, worked on.)

Sample Wedding Budgets | A Practical Wedding

Sample Wedding Budgets | A Practical Wedding

Budgets! Budgets are almost always one of the hardest, and scariest, parts of planning a wedding. Unfortunately, they’re generally the part you have to figure out first. There’s a lot of discussion around that weddings are expensive because they’re weddings… and as someone who does them professionally, I don’t actually think this is true. Throwing a “traditional” wedding is expensive because throwing a big, fancy, sit-down dinner party with entertainment is expensive. Really—ask someone who works in corporate events how much they cost, and minus the fancy dress, they’re generally on par.

I also want to note at the start that this is framed in the context of the Northern California event market—which is one of the more expensive markets in the country (for, let’s be honest, everything, not just events).

I thought it would be helpful to look at the budgets of four actual weddings from 2012. (Disclaimer: none of these have been published on APW.) While these aren’t exhaustive options, I’ve included a wedding that was under the $5,000 mark, two within the $20,000-$30,000 range, and one that was $50,000, since these tend to be popular budget benchmarks in my area. I also chose to include only thirteen key budget lines, instead of… all of them, to make comparison easier. I excluded personal clothing (i.e. wedding dresses), as well as other miscellaneous costs, tried to group things in a way that made sense and made them comparable, and generally rounded to the nearest hundred dollars.

The $3,500 wedding

What it looked like: City hall ceremony and dinner for 10, followed by a casual, afternoon reception at home, featuring drinks, cupcakes, and a light buffet for 60 the next day.

Venue: $0
Reception food, combo of homemade and purchased: $1000
Disposable plates, forks, glasses: $110
Cupcakes, made by a friend: $0
Alcohol & beverages: $600
Photographer, semi-pro friend: $400
Music, DJed by a friend: $0
Wedding planner: $0
DIY invitations: $175
DIY flowers: $50
Other decor: $300
Makeup, self; hair by a non-pro friend: $0
Extra hired staff: $375

The $20,000 Wedding

What it looked like: Family property, with full ceremony, stand-up buffet dinner provided by food-only caterers, and pro-DJ provided music for 100 guests.

Venue: $0
Food truck catering for 100, plus family-made appetizers, coffee: $3900
Misc. decor, all rentals, dishware: $1200
Dessert buffet: $500
Alcohol & beverages: $1500
Pro photographer: $4000
DJ: $900
Wedding planner: $3600
Website & invites: $375
Flowers, combo of florist-provided and DIY: $700
Other decor: $450
Pro hair & makeup for bride & bridesmaids: $500
Misc. costs for having it at home (staff, furniture moving, cleaning): $850

The $25,000 Wedding

What it looked like: A popular event venue, with full-service, buffet-style catering for 120, and a DJ-provided dance party.

Venue: $5100
Full service catering for 120: $9000
Misc. rentals: $250
Decor: $750
Wedding cake: $600
Alcohol: $1000
Pro photographer: $2000
DJ: $1100
Wedding planning: $2250
Website & invites: $380
Flowers, florist provided: $900
Other decor: $750
Hair & makeup for bride only: $500

The $50,000 Wedding

What it looked like: All-inclusive wine country venue, multi-course plated meal for 115, an eight-piece live band, full bar.

Venue (all-inclusive): $25,000
Catering (included above)
Rentals (included above)
Dessert (included above)
Alcohol & beverages: $2700
Pro-photographer: $4800
Band: $5400
Wedding planning: $4300
Website & invites: $225
DIY flowers: $800
Other decor: $750
Pro hair and makeup for bride, bridesmaids, moms: $1900

Now. I was at all four of these weddings, and all four of them were among of the best weddings I’ve ever been to (and I have been to a lot of weddings). Does this mean that the $20,000 and $50,000 couples could have spent less and had just as good of a time? Maybe. Maybe not. What I loved about all four of these weddings is that they were really authentic to the couples who had them—each couple spent what they and their families could afford, no one went into debt, and they were all in the style that these couples generally entertain in.

And that’s the key—making your wedding, and your budget, authentic to you. Maybe you cannot imagine your wedding involving anything other than a sit-down meal, and you can easily afford it, or you’re willing to save for a year to pay for it, or you end up deciding to only have twenty-five people attend that sit-down meal. Maybe cake in the church reception hall is what you’ve always imagined, or maybe you realize that having 350 people* there is what’s most important, and so you forgo the meal and just buy some really awesome cake. One of my favorite wedding stories belongs to a family friend—they were young and poor and living in New York in the ’70s when they got married—they couldn’t afford a “real” wedding, so they spent their whole budget on champagne and caviar and had a reception in their apartment, because damn it, it was going to be decadent. (More than thirty years later, she still throws some of the best house parties in the world.)

There’s a lot of shame around money in the wedding industry—who spent too little, and who spent too much. I’m here to tell you that ninety-nine percent of people cannot tell how much a wedding cost from being at it, or from seeing photos (the one percent who can work in the wedding industry… it’s our job). If you didn’t go into crushing debt? You didn’t spend too much. If you were concerned about being a good host to your guests? You didn’t spend too little. If you ended up married and happy? Then you accomplished what a wedding is supposed to accomplish. Stay authentic to yourselves and to your relationship. And remember that what your guests really want is to see a happy couple get married and to celebrate with you. And most won’t mind if it’s over a five-course meal or a piece of cake on a paper plate.

*True story—I just recently learned that my parents had 350 people at their church-wedding-cake-and-punch-reception. Because apparently both of my grandmothers invited every single person they’d ever known, many of whom my mother had never met before and never saw again. Hey, 1972.

****

Now let’s talk. Have a question about wedding budgets? Want to share some of your wisdom? Leave it in the comments! Elizabeth is going to be hanging around from Noon-3pm PST (because she’s awesome) to answer your questions. Also, if there is something specific you’d like to see covered in a future budget post, let us know.

Photo by: Emily Takes Photos (APW Sponsor)

More in Logistics Recent Posts Staff Picks

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • Beaula

    It would be awesome if APW could showcase what you get for the same budget lines around the country, or even do a segment with more of a variety of locations…excursion wedding, elopment?! It’s so interesting to see how its all divided up!

    • efletch

      This was my exact thought “this is awesome, I hope they do more of them covering more areas/types of weddings” This is a great post and I especially loved the point about making your wedding budget authentic to you.

    • One More Sara

      I know one of the staff’s goals for this year is to re-work the layout and tabs a bit… is there a way to make sending in real budgets more streamlined? Maybe a button on the side could lead a reader to a budget submission form that includes blanks for location, guest count, type of wedding (city hall and dinner, backyard bbq, country club, cake and punch, etc.) and then blanks for all the typical expenses (like the one’s Liz used here, but with attire added in). That way hopefully more people can send in budgets and APW can get more varied budgets? I know you guys have enough work on your plate, but if you really want to talk honestly about budgets, I think it’s helpful to have a shit ton of examples. Just my two cents… I’m looking forward to budget discussions!!!

      • kyley

        Oh my god, I love love love this idea.

      • Amy

        Oh! And! If there was a space on the site to send in budgets like this, you know what else would be pretty easy to incorporate? There are many “cost of living” calculators across the internet — while these are probably not perfectly reliable, they could be used to convert budgets from one locale to another*. Then APW readers could tick a box to see everyone’s budget in (their town) dollars! Geeking out over here, something like that would be REALLY cool and useful.

        * At least within the US this would work. For worldwide comparisons the accuracy would suffer since converting the currency from one unit to another wouldn’t account for whether the wedding was held in a large or small town.

        • kyley

          I would absolutely send in my budget (once I’m married) and a library of anon. budgets to puruse would, I think, be incredibly interesting and helpful.

          Sort of how, I love my ladies-only gym where everyone walks around the changing room super naked. Like, blow drying their hair and then applying makeup in the nude. Once you see a lot of real bodies, you realize that everyone’s is very, very different and so you’re is *just fine.* (This metaphor makes perfect sense in my head.)

          • kyley

            “you’re is”

            My inner grammar nerd monster just died of shame.

    • http://www.mollyeverafter.com/ Molly

      I agree. I’d be willing to share my budget for a similar post about Chicago weddings.

      • http://www.craftybroads.com/blog Cindy

        Hi all – just popping in to say that I have exactly this – a series of real wedding budgets from various locales – on my blog, which could use some more submissions. You can check them out and submit yours here: http://www.craftybroads.com/blog/tag/real-wedding-budget/
        (Not trying to be spammy, I promise, just letting you know it exists)

  • http://somethingshavehappened.blogspot.co.uk/ Siobhan

    I think a guilt free wedding budget conversation is very important. Before we got married we felt weird about the budget and how much was being spent. But no one got into debt and we were able to provide our guests with great hospitality and we got married. And as we got married in London it was expensive. But not so much that it could not be afforded. If we’d been able to get over the guilt before the wedding though that would have been ace!

  • MTM

    I feel like the “under $5000″ option is super bare bones. Our wedding was on a Sunday afternoon, so there were discounts involved, but there’s a lot you can do in that range — 90 people. It was at a historic hotel in PA. We also hosted a party at a local brewery the night before.
    Food (Location, both inside and outside option included, plus day of coordinator):$1600
    Alcohol: $300
    Dress: $800
    Shoes: $50
    Hair: $50
    Makeup: did own
    Suit: $150 (on clearance)
    Invitations: $205
    DJ: $700
    Bagpiper: $175
    Brewery (included housing for up to 12 guests): $200
    Flowers: $300
    Photography: $1400
    Cake and cupcakes: $200
    Officiant: $250

    • Caroline

      This is San Francisco though. The cost of everything is SO high here, that really, you can’t do as much for 5,000 as even many other cities. A wedding budget of 3,500 doesn’t go very far here at all here (because nothing ones far here compared to elsewhere), so it will have to be simpler, and more DIT . Seriously, even hanging around the wedding webs and getting a sense for how much things cost in general, there has been huge sticker shock about the costs of things for planning our SF Bay Area wedding.

      • Copper

        I’ve had that same sticker shock planning something in LA. Venues want 3–5k just for us to exist in their space for an afternoon, and even then they might limit our hours so much that we wind up getting charged extra! Or at a restaurant (not really our style, but) where they don’t charge a fee, the food and alcohol comes to $120pp, making it just as much, if not more, expensive.

        For that reason, it would actually be great to do regional budget features, where people could talk about the bonuses & difficulties of that region.

    • Amy

      I plan corporate events as part of my job in NYC, and midweek, in the city, a sit down dinner for 90 people is roughly going to cost you $10k including tax and tip…at somewhere just nice. At a high end hotel/restaurant it can easily be $17k and up. It really does vary by location, and any city (esp. NYC, Boston, San Fran, DC) are very expensive because they have no lack of people looking to book.

      • Laura

        same in sf, for sure.

    • Melissa

      If you don’t mind my asking, where abouts in PA was your wedding? I’m in southeastern PA, about 40 minutes northwest of Philadelphia, and our potential budget seems pretty similar to yours.

      • MIRA

        That has been my experience outside Philly as well.

      • http://happysighs.com Liz

        Girl, shoot me an email, if you want! I’m in southeastern PA, and we planned a cheap(ish) wedding.

        • Kristen

          I just saw this post and am trying to plan a wedding on a low budget in the Philadelphia area—any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!

      • MTM

        Northeast PA, sorry!

    • http://nathanandlauramiller.blogspot.com/ Laura

      My budget is $5000 and we’re throwing a fairly simple wedding but we definitely have enough money to go around. I’m in South Carolina but then again even I had a hard time finding a venue for under $3000! I ended up going slightly over my original venue budget of $1000. The breakdown looks like this, if that’s helpful:

      Venue: $1250 (includes tables, chairs, tablecloths, setup & tear-down)
      Food: approximately $2000 (includes a full brunch for 120 people, utensils, non-alcoholic beverages, & cakes)
      My outfit: $250 (my dress & veil were off eBay & I love them!)
      Hair & makeup: doing my own/friends are helping me
      Invitations/programs/paper products: $300 (designing ourselves & printing at local shop)
      Photographer: $700 + $100 for engagement pictures (college student & friend)
      Decorations/flowers: $200 (tissue paper flowers, books & vases from family)
      Gifts: $200

      That adds up to exactly $5000 — I know I’ll need some money for extras but some of these categories are over estimations (i.e. catering is $12/person for 120 people which doesn’t add up to $2000, even with $300 of cakes).

      Looking at other people’s budget breakdowns is super helpful for me, so I hope this post helps others too!

    • meg

      I actually think the $3,500 wedding was in NYC. And trust me, in NYC just pulling that off for that number is a small stroke of total brillance. Totally get that you can get way more in other parts of the country (which is why the relative part of the conversation is so important), but even in SF, you’d probably add a zero to that first item on your budget, sadly.

      Anyway, this is why the conversation is so key.

      • MTM

        Oh absolutely! I just didn’t want folks with that budget to look at that and think that they HAD to do city hall.

      • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

        Location/the market you’re in is so key – in the Bay Area literally the only catering options I’ve ever seen under $12/head are food trucks. And even most of them start at $15/head. But again, everything is more expensive here (rent, housing prices, gas, restaurants, etc) and theoretically (ha) people make more to compensate for that.

        • Rebecca

          I think this is where the “Olive Garden Rule” helps set a perspective. Like, “What would it cost per person to feed people the type of food/drinks I want to feed them at Olive Garden?.” Full dinner/ drinks at $10/head- even in the midwest- probably not going to happen.

          • MTM

            This is where some good conversation and luck helped us out — original quote was $25/person for full dinner. We opted for “grazing stations” which in reality was a full meal (turkey carving station, ham carving station, sweet and regular baked potato bar, two veggie options, build your own salad), which included beverages (soda, water, tea, coffee) and added some additional appetizers (crab cakes, bruschetta, fried portobello w/ bacon blue cheese sauce). So the change to “grazing stations” plus the Sunday discount got us to the low cost. We put this together about 3.5 months before the date, so the venue was more than happy to fill that date and were willing to be flexible (which is where the luck part comes in).

      • Sarah

        My wedding was about $4300 in Manhattan just a few years ago, and had a full (daytime) meal for 55 people. The cost included the venue, food, open bar, staff, tips, photographer. Decorations were covered by the venue, since it was a restaurant. They put beautiful flowers on the tables that I didn’t have to think about or pay for. The normal decor of the place was more exquisite than anything I would have come up with. The ceremony was in a park, so was almost free (like $20 for the permit). A friend officiated.

        I’m not trying to brag, just saying that it depends where you look in NYC. Restaurants can be surprisingly affordable options, as they generally charge you a flat rate for food, and the venue comes with. Every time I looked into renting a space and getting caterers, the estimates were astronomically higher, and sometimes furniture or decorations would have to be brought in, which cost even more. I asked around at restaurants I thought were beautiful, and where I liked the food, and I found out that they were much more accommodating. Night time did tend to be more expensive, so being flexible about times helped us get a good price – we went with Sunday afternoon in the summer.

    • Jen

      Thanks for that! I saw the under 5k one and got a little nervous about my expectations, however I’m not in Northern CA, I’m in Delaware… so thanks for the perspective :)

      I agree that perhaps future posts of various budgets in various areas might be nice. Also any ideas on how to divy up sources of funds in a not-very-amicable divorced family would be awesome.

    • Rymenhild

      I would love to know where that hotel is, especially if it’s on the Philadelphia side of the state. If you’re not comfortable posting it here, email me at rymenhild at yahoo dot com.

  • http://safarimama.blog.com Manya

    I think this is a great post and a helpful broad brushstrokes way to think about cost. Sometimes, however, the devil of the wedding budget is in the details. I found that it’s possible to “upgrade” literally EVERYTHING: Heart-shaped sparklers in personalized matchbook envelopes, silver cake-cutting knife engraved with the couple’s initials, saltwater pearl necklace with matching diamond earrings, Glass hurricane lanterns everywhere you look, Top designer dress, personalized porcelain ring dish etc….

    The WIC is very good at playing the “Doesn’t your love deserve the BEST?” card–DON’T BE TRICKED BY THIS PLOY. Your purchasing choices have no relationship to the value you place on your love and marriage.

    I found one way to control costs was to “downgrade” stuff: bulk sparklers and a bucket of matchbooks collected free from different places we like to hang out, knife from our kitchen with a ribbon tied on it, fake pearl necklace with CZs, white paper lunch bag lanterns, DB dress, pretty $2 dish with ribbons glued to it… etc.

    What I realized AFTER our wedding was that your love and the excitement of the day gives everything a magical glow and sparkle. Your love UPGRADES EVERYTHING!

    That said, I was really glad I spent money on: Our rings, Comfortable shoes (stacked heel flip-flops), a last-minute DJ (because music was stressing me out BAD and causing fights with my fiancé, who had agreed to do the music but then didn’t, and I wanted killer dance partying into the wee hours), insanely delicious cake-dessert thingies that people STILL talk about, and that adorable paper cake topper–totally frivolous and I STILL LOVE IT. I wish I had spent much less on: that cute little clutch purse I never touched and have never used again, my dress (I had seen one for 1/3 the cost that looks FABULOUS on my body without any alterations but passed it over because I thought the fabric didn’t look expensive enough. Shame on me, and regret), the uncomfortable designer shoes I wore for three seconds. Repeat after me, Your Love Upgrades EVERYTHING!

    • Erin

      Your comment about ‘downgrading’ rings so true to me! This is something we did, especially with the things that we just didn’t care about that much. There are a lot of things you can sub-in for other things!

      My unity candle was a $4 pillar candle with a bit of our ribbon glued around it (and it looked AWESOME!). My guestbook was a fancy journal from Staples that cost me like $7. Both of these are items that cost triple at the /basic/ level and can cost a whole lot more.

      Some other places we were fortunate to be able to save:

      – Our church had candles and some pew bows leftover from a previous wedding. I used some of these, and then donated the ones I’d bought when our wedding was over.

      – Neither my husband nor I were that into cake. We bought 22 Amish-made pies for less than $150. Everyone got delicious dessert (often more than one piece!) and it cost us a fraction of what a cake would have. We also had friends volunteer to make truffles and paid another friend for some mini cupcakes in fancy flavors. All told, our variety of desserts for 160 people was about $220. We cut our personal pie with a plain old knife and I don’t think anyone knew the difference!

      – Neither of us are big music people, but we wanted to be able to dance. Our church agreed to loan us a speaker and a sound board, which made it easy to have a cousin serve as DJ for the important announcement stuff and an iPod to serve as DJ for the getting your dance on stuff. (We outsourced our playlist, too – a google doc spreadsheet, ten of our friends, and we had a great list of music that they owned and could send to us. I fleshed it out with stuff from the library!)

      – We also borrowed a lot of stuff, but I feel like that was luck more than good planning. We did keep ourselves open to using what other people had, though – candles, votive holders, tulle, candle holders, ribbon, even my veil.

      These downgrades left us room to ‘upgrade’ on the things that were important to us. We didn’t want to fuss with family making food or having to do work on the day-of, so we paid for an all-inclusive venue. I wanted great pictures, so we paid more for a photographer than I ever thought I would.

      It worked out to a pretty nice balance!

      • Carissimaamica

        Love your “crowd-sourcing” of a playlist idea! Thank you for sharing it.

    • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

      Ahh this is SO SO true.
      My meeting with my coordinator at the venue:
      “Do you want to bring your own toasting flutes?” “No.”
      “Do you want to purchase our upgrading toasting flutes which would be yours to keep?” “No. Can we just use plain glasses?”

      “Do you want to bring your own cake cutter?” “No.”
      “Are you purchasing upgraded linens?” “No.”
      “Are you bringing floral for the centerpieces?” “No. We’ll use the house centerpieces.”

      Stop trying to convince me that everything needs to be upgraded and special. I have never gone to a wedding and thought “they must not love each other because they used plain white tablecloths!”

      • kyley

        I have never gone to a wedding and thought “they must not love each other because they used plain white tablecloths!”

        haha. Perfect!! I may be repeating this to myself when I start getting drawn in by the WIC.

      • One More Sara

        While I know this can be annoying, it’s usually just the person’s job to ask. Much like how waitresses at chain restaurants have to ask “Would you like to substitute your fries for onion rings for just $1.29? Would you like to have that baked potato loaded for $.99?” They might not like asking you as much as you don’t like being asked, so just always try to stay polite (I’m not implying that anyone was rude, just a gentle reminder that kindness begets kindness)

      • Laura

        i am of exactly the same mindset! no’s all around to the superfluous. m&ms with our faces on them? no!!

    • Emma

      Love this. It’s my new mantra!

    • sandyliz

      “Your love upgrades everything”
      SO GREAT! I’m going to write that on every planning book, and tell it to anyone who tries to upsell me.

  • Ann

    One thing that I think is worth mentioning: there is a lot of shame for couples AND their parents.

    My parents are very well to do. Several years ago, they gave me and my brother very sizable cash gifts (the biggest a couple can give an individual without tax implications). My brother bought a hobby car and has spent just about all of the money working on that. Knowing that a wedding would be coming within 5 years, I thought “I can throw a wedding for that much!” And that’s what we’re doing. The budget includes 2 nights of hotel accommodations for our grad student/under employed out of town friends. Paying for 10 hotel rooms for two nights is a quick way to blow through 4k.

    My dad has expressed his relief at the fact that I am paying for the wedding (though with money that did come from my parents), because it means he has something to say to his friends (some of whom I don’t know at all) who expected to be invited to my wedding. “They’re having a small, intimate wedding, and it’s important to them to pay for it themselves.” is a good line for him. He and my mom have recently been to the weddings of children his longtime business partners. The father of the bride at one wedding bragged to my dad that they were spending 140k on the wedding! My dad had a very simple life growing up, and even though he could probably afford to spend that much on a wedding, he couldn’t do it psychologically!

    My parents are in charge of a separate reception for east coast family (all of my extended family, including grand parents who are too old to travel to California and others who couldn’t afford to), and I have no idea what they’re spending, but I doubt it tops 15k. But the division of events (me paying for small <50 person wedding, and my parents throwing a "family" east coast reception), has enabled my dad to opt out of the "Daughter's Wedding" olympics common among his upper class work friends. And he is very grateful for that.

    • KC

      My sister had to deal with some of that, since business partners/clients/bigwigs/etc. were invited to their wedding, so it had to be “up to the local standard” for that “class” of weddings. Which meant that my non-tulle-loving sister had an extremely “wedding-y” wedding. She was gorgeous, it was gorgeous, it worked (they’re happily married and all that), and they did get to incorporate some things that were non-standard, but they also spent a whole ton of money on things they weren’t really interested in, just because they sort of had to. (a business investment, I guess, like buying a nice suit for an interview, except it’s a wedding?)

      I was incredibly, incredibly glad that my in-laws are not in professions where this is a thing; yes, there were a few parental “but people won’t understand we love you and that this wedding is important if we choose the cheap option!” things (or possibly “but people will think we’re cheap if we do the cheap option that we prefer over the expensive option!”), but we got off *so easy* compared to my sister. And our wedding worked, too. :-)

      But it was really interesting (and slightly horrifying) to realize that there’s a whole stack of business/class expectations on weddings that can actually be really hard to escape if you’re in that grouping. Because, seriously, we need more pressure and sets of expectations layered on top of what’s already there for weddings?

      Congratulations on finding a way around/out of that!

      • Ann

        I wouldn’t say I “found” a way out of it–more like I fell into a plan of my dad’s! Effectively, my parents paid in advance for a wedding that they aren’t hosting. Recently, my dad admitted that he had hoped that I would do exactly what I’m doing, precisely because it prevents him from being in an uncomfortable situation of paying for a super expensive 200+ person wedding. He had the plan all along, and he was banking on me being practical and fiercely independent.

      • Jo

        Yes, for sure, on the issue of shame for both the couple as well as parents.
        In my case the shames were conflicting:
        For me and my partner, a very relaxed couple living in Colorado, the idea of spending too much money felt shameful and inappropriate. For my parents, the idea of spending too little felt shameful, like KC’s saying in terms of what they’re surrounded by with their middle-aged successful East Coast friends.

        I can’t say many of you would agree with our solution, but we decided to scrap the whole stressful debate and avoid everyone’s expectations and judgements by just eloping.

        At this point, we’ve received some very generous wedding gifts in the form of money, and I think we may use a chunk of it to throw a celebration in the future. This way, we’re the hosts – kinda like what you, ANN, wrote — so our parents won’t have to be defensive to their friends, but we’re also spending money that we never expected to have in the first place so it alleviates some of the stress from our end.

        • KC

          If I’d had to face down the wedding expectations that my sister was, I would totally have thought more than once about eloping. Having everyone there was one of the top items on the list of important things (below getting married, but above most other things), but if I’d been wedged into that sort of corner where the required – and unwelcome – fanciness level was 100 times the level of our normal life and the cost was proportionate (wedding per-head dinner cost for some friends’ weddings: greater than our total monthly food budget when we got married), I would have likely ducked and run (with my husband, obviously), even – or perhaps especially – if someone else was paying!

          So… I think eloping might really be the best way out of that situation of differing expectations/standards for some people! (and congratulations on your successful elopement, and I hope you have an awesome and appropriate-to-you party at some point!)

    • Laura

      Arrgh arrgh arrgh. Dealing with this right now. It’s about us, but it’s about them (parents) too, and they (both sides) would feel extremely uncomfortable if they couldn’t invite a handful or so of their cronies. Which is kind of neat because, not to be greedy, but those are the people who are the most likely to contribute to our. e.g., future down payment, etc. But, in so doing, our headcount goes up by nearly 50%, we can’t use a lot of the smaller venues we liked, and the cost of the whole shebang increases multiplicatively. As the families are footing the bill in my case, the “it’s important to them to pay for it themselves” excuse wouldn’t stand. And even if the cost of the ordeal doesn’t come out of our pocket, the idea of an “extravagant” wedding make me very, very uncomfortable. And there’s also the extremely stress-inducing issue of the families asserting their wishes/expectations and not listening to what we’re setting as our boundaries and priorities because they hold the purse strings. And I agree, they are entitled to have certain concessions for their generosity, but not at the risk of my and my dude’s overall sanity. There are many, many conversations that will need to be had. Arrgh.

    • dcengaged

      The shame in my family is the exact opposite. My mother fetishizes DIY and is constantly disappointed that I’m not interested in a potluck dinner with handmade plates – but honestly, beyond that totally not being me, it’s also not at all practical for her – I can guarantee that she would be a nervous mess at a total DIY event and I’d be stuck picking up the pieces. Still, it makes me feel guilty every time I talk to her because I’m not doing enough by myself for the event and don’t have the plethora of artsy friends to help like she’d prefer.

  • http://www.lilredsbasket.com Stephanie

    We went a bit over our $5,000 budget for 85 guests – that’s including everything, even our clothing. The hall was our biggest expense because we paid for extra time so we could come in and decorate ourselves. We live in Maryland, had the ceremony and reception at a Knights of Columbus hall, and catered the food ourselves. We could have had 20 more people for all the leftovers (including wine), but getting to eat and drink wedding leftovers has been fun!

    Did you want a break down of the costs or just generalities?

    • Caroline

      Even generalities are super helpful. Thank you.

    • http://nathanandlauramiller.blogspot.com/ Laura

      This is something I ran across too, sure maybe the ceremony & reception aren’t going to be more than six hours (or four, or twelve!), but you need time to decorate/possibly tear down. And sometimes paying for those extra hours is super expensive! We ended up paying almost $400 more for two extra hours—but they’re two extra hours we needed.

      • Parsley

        For anyone for whom this is a possibility in terms of location and style, we rented the pavilion at a state park, and we got it for one flat fee for the whole day. Worth checking out if there’s something similar near-by.

    • Ashley

      I’m not completely buying the “hey, depending on where you live the costs will be totally different” argument. Yes, to an extent. But we spent $6000 on ours in the greater Los Angeles area, and $1800 of that was my wedding dress! (We didn’t intend to spend that much, but my parents were paying and were willing to pay for that, and my mom and I have literally never seen any other wedding dress that was even close to resembling mine.) That number also includes everybody’s wedding clothes and gifts to our friends, some of which were fairly generous. Same kind of thing as you did, Stephanie: 80 people with ceremony and reception at some friends’. Got another friend to do catering (paid her $500 to do it, and $750 for waaayy too much food). We bought the flowers at the flower district – so arrangements I’m assured would have cost several thousand if a florist did them were only $300.

      • Amy March

        Yeah, but I think the point is that the cost for the same thing will be more in some parts of the country than others, not that you can’t have a 5K wedding anywhere. Dinner for 10 at a nice restaurant in NYC with wine- $2K. Dinner for 10 at the nicest restaurant in town in a small town in the midwest- probably going to be a lot less.

        • Ashley

          Amy, of course. I wasn’t really trying to say that – just that I think it depends on the kind of wedding you want to have. If you want a plated dinner at a fancy location, that will vary greatly by location. But the kind of wedding usually featured on APW, which is so often about more intimate gatherings where everybody pitches in and that don’t feature too many of the WIC “must-have” accessories… well, I could be totally wrong, but it seems like you can have comparable weddings for roughly the same in most places.

          • Caroline

            I’m not sure that’s at all a true generalization. We’re planning to get married at my mom’s house, and it will be super pitch-in-y, but also hugely affected cost wise by the fact that we are in the Bay Area. Things like a DJ, Day of Coordinator, and photographer cost so much more here than elsewhere. Similar types of catering cost more here. Venues cost more here (not relevant to us). The officiants we are looking at charge an arm and leg. Things are just expensive here, and we are having a sane, practical wedding.

  • CoCo

    Agreed on Siobahn’s comment on guilt free budget conversations. I’d also love some discussion on what are reasonable costs for various things. I have two other friends who are planning weddings right now, and I have a feeling I’m smack in the middle of their budges (ours is still a VERY generous one).

    I’ve been discussing costs with my friend who doesn’t want to spend as much as we’re spending, and wondering if there is a huge quality difference in vendors based on price — e.g. DJ at $600 vs a DJ at $1600. Unlike other other services and goods (hair cuts, clothes, restaurants), there isn’t much opportunity for trial and error. Sure, there are reviews out there on some websites, but I always take those with a shaker full of salt.

    • http://technicolorvision.com Allie M

      This is a really tough question (and a good one). In my experience the answer is. . . sometimes. I think a good suggestion for trying to sort through some of this is if you’ve hired one vendor you really trust/mesh with, get their expert opinion. If you start with a planner, someone who works at your venue, or a photographer, etc, booked early on who gets what you’re going for they have probably seen lots of weddings with lots of vendors and may have connections that can help you. You wouldn’t want to ask this question in a situation where you suspect your vendor is getting commission for their referrals, but asking your photographer something like “I’m looking for a DJ, it’s not a top priority, we want someone that’s ok but inexpensive, do you have any suggestions?” or “I’m looking for cake and it’s really important, I want the best cake money can buy, what’s the best wedding cake you’ve ever seen?” may be helpful because they’ve seen LOTS of weddings.

      • JessPeebs

        Our photographer recommended our DJ to us in a similar way – – we wanted someone that was pretty cheap, but still pretty good – – and he was awesome for just under 300 bucks.

        FWIW – we had a 13K wedding for 180 people with a buffet dinner and champagne toast in Southern Indiana

    • http://nathanandlauramiller.blogspot.com/ Laura

      We’re doing this with our caterer. We went with a caterer who charges per item per person, so we chose six or seven items for a total of around $12/person. So does paying $12 a person mean you’re getting a quarter of the quality as paying $48/person (real number I saw but not something I could ever afford to pay!)?

      It helped that we were able to do a tasting with her before signing a contract. Sometimes if you meet with the person (DJ, caterer, photographer, etc.) it can help you to get a “gut feeling” about them. Or, if you can do a tasting or some kind of sample—engagement pictures with a photographer? listening to a band play locally?—it might help you to judge.

    • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

      I have three rules for hiring vendors: 1) do you like their work/product 2) do you like them (because you’re going to give your money to someone, might as well give it to someone you like) 3) can you afford them? If the answer to all three is yes, then great, go for it.
      As far as quality = price … sometimes, sometimes not. I have incredible vendors I work with all the time who are significantly cheaper than a lot of their competitors, and I think provide a higher quality service. I also work with a lot of extremely high priced vendors who really provide amazing quality for that money, and I think are well worth every penny they charge over others providing a similar thing.
      In the end, if you think the food/music/photos/etc are quality, then… they are! At a certain point it’s subjective.

  • http://smittenimmigrant.wordpress.com pluis

    Let me fill out a little list as well. It’s been a little while, so I’ll be estimating.
    Location: Western-Europe, medium sized city. Wedding size: tiny (us, 8 adult guests, one toddler)

    NB. We sort of had a wedding in three parts, spread out over several months, but since the day of the ceremony is what we planned and paid for, that’s what I’ll count. The receptions / parties that followed later were not included in our original plans, nor budget.

    We married in front of our parents, our siblings and their partners in the library of a historic observatory. Then we had set up a custom tasting menu at a local Michelin star restaurant. We could have had a much cheaper wedding, but we wanted to create something that would make it clear that, despite not doing something massive (as our parents might have liked), we certainly did think it was a very special occasion.

    Officiant / marriage license / legal cost: E 400
    Ceremony location / coffee and cake / tour / telescope demonstration: E300
    Dinner and wine for 10: E1500
    Photographer: E1200 (a friend who is a professional)
    Husband’s suit / shirt / tie / alterations: E1000
    My outfit: E400 (for a hat, which was commissioned – the outfit itself was made as a present by a fashion designer uncle)
    Transport: E100
    Rings: E300
    Odds and ends: E500 (boutonnieres, baby sitter, make up, part of hotel bill for international guests, wedding night hotel etc.)

    Total number: E5700 ($7500)

    We did not pay for all of this, as my parents insisted to pay for the hat and for some other, smaller expenses. Our closest guess is that we paid E5000 ourselves.

  • Anka

    We did a $6000 wedding and it was great! We live in a small church community where my husband is a theology student, so we had a cake and punch style reception (tea-party themed, so cupcakes, little sandwiches, etc) for 350 people. Our family and friends made all the food and lent all the platters, tables, etc, another friend DJ’d. We just paid for the actual venue where we held the reception. (We’re not dancers, so we had lawn games instead of dancing, so no need to rent a dance floor for our outdoor venue). Everyone seemed to have fun!

    • Emilie

      This sounds GLORIOUS. Wish I could convince my partner we can do something this simple and lovely.

  • carrie

    For new baby brides-to-be who may not know, here were some expenses that I didn’t consider when considering my overall budget:

    – Purchasing self-done makeup. I did it myself, but I bought a lot of new stuff to the tune of $200. Which in hindsight was foolish, however, there was only about $40 of product in there I don’t still use today. But when I walked out of Bare Minerals $200 later, I felt guilty.
    – Alterations to your dress. This is probably a no-brainer for most of you, but I was not prepared for the $500 alteration cost. She made that dress gorgeous on me, but sh*t, it was a good amount of money and I didn’t know it would be that much and by the time I knew, it was too late. It turned out for the best, but I still cringe at that dollar amount. And then of course any alterations to your spouse-to-be’s stuff.
    – Mad money. For when you decide at the last minute: no, we need something extra for the centerpieces we’re doing ourselves. Or whatever. The real advice here to is to trust what you already have, but at the last minute, you never know what might come up. I feel like a couple hundred dollars is a good figure, if you can.
    – Dining out money for before the wedding! I’ll put an LOL on this – we were so busy and a bit stressed before the wedding, we couldn’t be bothered to make dinner for ourselves, so we did a lot of take out which adds up.

    • Nicole

      I also spent a couple hundred dollars at Bare Minerals that I hadn’t planned/budgeted for, but I was so glad to have fresh makeup to work with on our wedding day. I just wished I had planned for it in the beginning!

      • carrie

        Exactly! But I wear that eyeshadow combination all through the summer, their primers are beautiful, and I needed the brushes. I didn’t need the eyelash primer or the lip glosses. Pssst – the best/prettiest lip gloss is CO Bigelow, Mentha Lip Tint! $7.50 at Bath and Body Works. There’s peppermint in it, so even your breath stays fresh!

    • http://nathanandlauramiller.blogspot.com/ Laura

      I’m doing my own makeup but hadn’t thought about buying new stuff. I usually buy cheap makeup at Target, so I’m not sure even what I would buy… any suggestions? I think I would actually budget this under my normal toiletries budget & not under my wedding budget if it’s going to be something I’ll use for every day wear, or even just if it’s going to be my “nicer” makeup for presentations, going out, etc.

      • carrie

        This is the smart thing to do! The most important item you can buy as a new item is primer for your face, if you wear foundation or tinted moisturizer. And then primer for your eyes, if you are wearing eye makeup. Check out APW’s posts on DIY wedding makeup, they have how-tos, product suggestions, and lots of comments: http://apracticalwedding.com/tag/diy-wedding-makeup/

        Also, take a look at makeup on Pinterest and play with what you have at home if you don’t want to buy anything new. I have gotten a ton of eye makeup ideas from there.

        • http://nathanandlauramiller.blogspot.com/ Laura

          Oh all of these comments are awesome!! I can’t wait to check these out & play around with them more as we get closer.

      • http://safarimama.blog.com Manya

        I splurged on really good foundation: Makeup Forever HD. MAC Studio Fix fluid is also wonderful In my opinion, that was worth it. I also love the Naked pallet eyeshadows by Urban Decay are delicious and I haven’t used anything else since I bought those pallets. Getting some special wedding makeup actually helped me to find some great favorite products.

        • One More Sara

          BSROUHKFNDOSUJBFDS!!!!!!! I am OBSESSED with Urban Decay. Just had to say that.

          Edit: and their eyeshadow primer is AMAZEBALLS. It’s like eyeshadow glue. I’ve done my makeup, gotten drunk at a party and woke up the next morning with it looking more or less the same. (Not that this is recommended, but that ish is GOOD)

          • Liz

            Same here! I always thought primers were just another gimmick from the makeup industry, but I bought some Kors foundation primer and UrbanDecay eyeshadow primer a few months before my wedding and they’re honestly the best purchase ever! I’m happy to pay for the convenience of not having to worry about my makeup on my wedding (or any other) day.

        • carrie

          Wearing stuff from the Naked pallet today!

      • Copper

        One thing I’m toying with doing is getting my makeup done at a Sephora, where they’ll do it and all I have to do is spend $50 on products. I figure if I do this for engagement photos, then I can replicate it myself on the wedding day (cause I don’t want to be running all around town for appointments, I might stay at my venue the night before) by buying the key products that I don’t already own.

      • Jen

        I’d suggest checking out sweetlibertinecom, she makes a wide selection of mineral makeups (primarily eyeshadows but other products too). I get her stuff because it’s a fun selection and her prices are decent.

      • Jessica

        I would go into sephora or ulta or a department store and ask for help. It’s what I did and it’s what I plan to do with a friend that’s now getting married. It’s their job to help you find makeup to your taste and specifications and you certainly don’t have to let them go all bridal, just let them know you’re looking to upgrade what you have.

    • Jo

      Great point about the makeup.

      I did my own makeup the day we got married because I didn’t want to factor in the time or expense or logistics of having someone else do it. And while I’ve been doing my own makeup for quite a long time at this point, I went to MAC a week or so beforehand and got some extra tips (and some new makeup).

      In particular, I’d had false eyelashes put on when I was a bridesmaid in another wedding, and I thought it was super-fun and glamorous. SO I went to MAC specifically to learn how to put them on myself. They were very helpful, gave me a whole tutorial and lots of tips, all for free (I went to Sephora first but they wanted to charge me for the time). And when I put them on myself to get married a week later, it came out great!

    • sandyliz

      Thanks! That’s pretty helpful.

    • Tara B.

      Yikes! I had no clue alterations could be so expensive, thanks for the warning.

  • Molly

    “I excluded personal clothing (i.e. wedding dresses), as well as other miscellaneous costs,”

    The miscellaneous costs are what I need help estimating!! What are things that pop up along the way that people do not initially budget for?? How much money should I set aside for miscellaneous expenses? In people’s experience, what were some unexpected expenses and how did you deal with them? I’m getting married in about 16 months and just recently got an overall idea of our budget, and am in the initial planning stages. Any help is greatly appreciated!!

    Thanks!

    • Darcy

      In the last few weeks we spent extra money on a rental for an SUV (when we realized we couldn’t fit the photographer, their ladder, their gear and the wedding party into a car), money for a babysitter for a friend’s wee one, a flat of bottled water and granola bars, extra food to feed everyone crashing at the parent’s house, gas for multiple trips to the airport, an extra night at the hotel, the maincure and pedicure I suddenly decided to have and general gack related to esentially having a mini party every day once people started arriving from out of town.

    • http://www.piercedwonderings.com Lynn

      We burned through a lot of money in that last week before the wedding.

      There were things like the PA’s hair cut, the deposit for the kegs (I’d figured the cost of the kegs but somehow didn’t remember we’d have to pay the deposit), all the ice we had to buy, serving utensils and platters that I somehow forgot we’d need, umbrellas because it was supposed to come a flood of Biblical proportions, the bottles of champagne that we drank while getting ready, thank you cards for our parents and everyone who helped out with the wedding, that stop at Wendy’s we made on the way to the B&B after the party was over, the breakfast the morning after. Napkins. I forgot that if we were having BBQ for dinner, we were going to need napkins.

    • http://fancystephanie.wordpress.com Stephanie

      Hmmm… Definitely don’t forget to tip your vendors. Our officiant was technically free, but we tipped him $50 (would have tipped more if he wasn’t a friend). Don’t forget trash cans if your venue doesn’t provide them. Don’t forget ice for drinks, if you are not using a caterer. Also leave in extra time for hair/makeup. It will take a lot longer than you think!!

    • Rebecca

      People who budget for other really expensive things (I’m thinking of buildings…) set aside a percentage of their budget as a contingency. We set our total budget at a number we were okay with, then lopped off 15%. So, for example, we wanted to stay below 10,000, so we set the initial budget at 9,000, minus 15%, which gave us a working budget of 7,650, with 1,350 in “oh crap” money. Or “make it go away” money.

      Generally, 15-20% gives you enough buffer. (In life- others might be able to confirm what an appropriate % is in the land of weddings) If you’re really, really not sure what things cost, you can start with a 25% (or heck, 30%) contingency, and eat into it as you get closer to the final date. Using a 10,000 budget for simplicity, here are sample numbers. At the “when and where are we having this thing” stage, plan with a 7,000 budget. Once you’ve nailed down major costs and things settle, you can probably up it to 7,500, gradually decreasing the % of the budget you have set aside until the day of your wedding (where you might still hold 10%/ 1,000 or so in “venue destruction/ gratuities/ or other emergencies” money).

      Contingencies are the best way I know to make sure that you actually stick within the budget you set, even if things come up (and they always do…)

    • Jashshea

      I budgeted about 13% of my total budget for miscellaneous expenses at the end of the line. That seems like a ton of money to reserve, but it was all spent by the end of the party:

      –1/4 of reserve because the ceremony site didn’t have enough chairs (when we booked the ceremony site, we didn’t plan on all 200 people being at the ceremony, so their 120 chairs should have been way too many and we couldn’t just get 80 additional chairs because their chairs were so ugly blah blah blah).
      –1/8 of reserve for the suit/shirt my husband actually wanted, rather than the ones he was trying to talk himself into
      –1/8 of reserve for grouponed photobooth – ended up with some super hilarious pictures, not something I would have jumped at w/o the reserve
      –1/8 of reserve for a COMPLETELY AMAZING guest book/photo thing
      –1/8 for space heaters when the weather report said it would be a little chilly at night
      –1/8 for venue to leave up some decor
      –1/8 for misc real life stuff during the weeks leading up to the wedding (extra dinners/drinks out, nails appts, massage so I could unclench my jaw)

      Now, I was also really realistic in my initial budget. I knew I wouldn’t spend more than $1300 on my dress, so I budgeted 2k because I couldn’t realistically know what alterations would cost. Project manage that budget, ladies! Add at least 10 percent to every estimate you see. When you get a charge per person, use the highest possible number of people.

      • Parsley

        “When you get a charge per person, use the highest possible number of people.”
        Yes! We had this totally tense period of a few weeks or so waiting for RSVPs calculating if we would have enough chairs and hoping not to have to order more food. It all worked fine, but overestimating the number of people who will come would have made that period a little less panicky.

    • http://www.mollyeverafter.com/ Molly

      I would say that we spent an extra $500 on things like:
      -lunch for the wedding party the day of
      -bagels, OJ and Champagne for the morning of
      -random things like printer ink for when you print off all your programs or whatever
      -coloring books and crayons for the kids in attendance

      Also, we spent almost $1,000 on gifts for our wedding party, parents, readers, musicians, etc. I don’t think we spent more than $50 or so on any one person, but it really added up because we had so many friends and family members involved in our day. I was really surprised by the final total for gifts.

    • Joanna

      One thing to note if you’re providing your own alcohol – your state/other vendors (catering)/etc might require you to provide liability insurance for the day. I remember this being a factor when we were comparing doing our wedding at a venue vs. at our home. Not sure what the cost is – maybe something in the $200 range?

      • Copper

        All of the venues I’m looking at require event insurance, and an extra line item of coverage included if anyone will be drinking alcohol, no matter who it is served by. Definitely keep an eye out for this.

    • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

      The thing is, the miscellaneous costs are SO subjective to each couple that they’re not really useful on a general level. Do you need fancy transportation, expensive gifts for your wedding party, pre-wedding spa treatments, a stay in a fancy hotel when you’re getting married in the city you live in, a professional manicure, etc. No. You might want them, and it might be worth it to you to drop money on them, but they’re not really going to affect the overall experience of the wedding for anyone but you.

      I also may be unusual in that I won’t include rings in a wedding budget (it’s a life expense, not a wedding expense) or honeymoons (that’s a vacation, not a wedding expense.) Prices on clothing (in particular wedding dresses) varies SO widely that again, not super useful on a larger level – I’ve had brides in $6k dresses and brides in $600 dresses that don’t look incredibly different from each other in photos.

      I also generally recommend building in about $500-1000 to spend in the last 2-3 weeks, when some problems come up that you want to throw money at instead of solve in another way.

      • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

        This post/comments is fascinating reading! I’m curious how people factor rehearsal/rehearsal dinner into wedding budgets. As a guest, I’ve always assumed they were part of the wedding budget, but haven’t noticed them listed in APW budgets or heard friends talk about them as part of the expense.

        • Laurel

          I don’t know about how other people do it, but we served people a total of 5 meals over the course of a weekend. (We were crazy. It was worth it.) 4 of those were in the primary budget: dinner the night before, which we cooked; breakfast and lunch the day of the wedding, which were basically groceries people could assemble themselves; dinner after the wedding, which was catered. Brunch the next morning was also catered because my grandmother wanted to cover that specific expense; it was budgeted totally separately.

          More generally, I think it’s pretty common to have multiple budgets for the wedding and to have situations where a relative wants to pay for an item rather than contribute a dollar amount. If my grandmother hadn’t offered to pay for that brunch we would just have had tea and toast set out for everyone; it would have come out of the general budget but the cost would have been very different.

        • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

          I generally consider the rehearsal dinner to be a separate (and optional) event, and so have it fall under a separate budget. It’s also still incredibly common to have one set of parents (often the groom’s) host the rehearsal dinner. The major exception is for destination/weekend long weddings, and in those cases it often gets folded into the larger wedding budget.

          And, like everything else, the cost of rehearsal dinners can vary WILDLY. I’ve been involved with $300 pizza-and-salad-at-home RDs, and $12k, formal, paper invitation, live music, restaurant buy out RDs, as well as everything in between.

          • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

            Thanks for the insight. It’s so fun to hear how other people sort the budget buckets (as they’re spun overhead without losing any water drops or pennies).

        • K

          We had a “non-rehearsal dinner,” since we didn’t have a rehearsal, and that’s the only thing I left out of our budget of $5K. But since we had it at our house and it consisted of us making four huge pots of soup and a few loaves of bread and having a friend bring a salad from his burgeoning pea patch, it cost practically nothing. You can make a lot of sweet-potato peanut soup for pennies. We invited immediate family and anyone involved in the wedding. We had no wedding party but there was the friend who made the cake, the cousin who offered her backyard for the wedding, the family of my college roommate whose kids played the processional on flute and guitar, my uncle who officiated, etc.

    • Diane

      Not sure if this totally applies, but the thing that blew me away when I went from looking at venues’ and caterers’ websites to getting actually proposals was the addition of gratuity. I realized very quickly that I needed to start adding about 30% to what I was seeing to get a sense for actual prices. I don’t know if this is the norm elsewhere but it appears to be in Dallas (which is, for the record, a totally wedding-crazy city and we are doing a pretty WIC-y wedding).

  • http://www.piercedwonderings.com Lynn

    Our wedding budget was originally $5000 for approximately 200 people in south Mississippi at the PA’s parents’ house. I think we came in around $6000, and that was with us doing the bulk of the work, including the catering, my mother making my dress (and scoring all of the fabric and lace on super sale…$100 dress? Hell yeah), us being able to borrow tables and chairs from the PA’s parents’ church (conveniently located about 5 miles away). Our largest expense was the close to $2000 for tents and port-a-potties.

    The PA’s parents spent about $2000 on the things that they wanted to cover…like the fee for his daddy’s band ($400), landscaping and work in the yard (since it was at their house), and the rehearsal dinner ($1000…because we had a crawfish boil, which was about 300 lbs of crawfish at $2.99/lb).

    They got sucked into the the thought that they had to x, y, and z. Towards the end, they were trying to convince me that we had to do x, y, and z. There were some pretty intense conversations in the two weeks before the wedding, particularly regarding food, one of which was me at my bitchy best saying, “You all are the ones who wanted 200 people here, wanted to be able to invite everyone you knew. When you said that’s what was important to you, there was a very thorough discussion about how much work that was going to be and how that meant this wedding couldn’t look like your typical wedding. Now that you see how much work it really is – 2 weeks before the wedding – the only way you get to change your mind is to pony up the funds to make that happen. Now if you’re not willing to pay $20 per person–all of those people you haven’t seen in forever and probably won’t have time to even talk to–to have dinner catered, I suggest we get back to work. Good? Good.”

    It’s really easy to get caught up in what you *should* do, but I just kept remembering what I was willing to do versus what I was willing to pay. That made a lot of the decisions much easier for me.

    • KEA1

      Can I just say that your “bitchy best” sounds AWESOME??? You are a rockstar for putting your foot down. %)

    • bearsfan

      What does PA stand for in this context? I feel like I’m missing something obvious.

      • http://www.piercedwonderings.com Lynn

        It’s what I call my husband…short for his nickname. At one point in time, all the men in my life were annoying me so I went through my phone and renamed each of them some version of “ass”. His mother calls him her “prince”. So. He’s the PA.

        • K

          hah! Above you mentioned a haircut for your PA and I thought, “Surely they didn’t pay for their photographer’s assistant to have a haircut….did they?”

  • http://fancystephanie.wordpress.com Stephanie

    Our budget was roughly $2000, and I think we had more of a traditional wedding. We had about 100 guests.

    Venue – $0, used our church
    Attire – $300 ($240 dress from China, $25 shoes from DSW, $10 for DIY veil, $25 for jewelry from LA Fashion District; DH’s tux was free with groomsmen rentals)
    My Dad’s Tux – $90
    Flowers – $100 ($90 for flowers at the LA Flower District, $10 for tape and wire, used my aunt’s, mother’s and grandmother’s vases)
    Photographer – $0 (used a student photographer)
    Officiant – $50
    License – $90
    Linens/Plates/etc – $100 (used paper plates and plastic utensils, used sheets for tablecloths, DIY table runners)
    Food & Drink – $500 (tea sandwiches, fruit salads, veggie platters, cupcakes, lemonade, iced tea)
    Cake – $0, made by aunt
    Decor – $500 (mostly DIY)
    Table rentals – $30
    Rings – $50 (tungsten for him, sterling silver for me)
    Invitations/Stamps/Programs Etc – $100

    Pretty sure that’s it, for a grand total of about $1880. It felt like we spent a heck of a lot more at the time!! :)

    EDIT: We live in Los Angeles – The flower district and using Mexican markets for the food totally saved a ton of money!

    • Miranda VanZ

      “used sheets for tablecloths”

      Holy crap, my mind was just blown, that is free or close to free from used stores, you are a genius! Thank you for just saving me $200.

      • http://fancystephanie.wordpress.com Stephanie

        No problem! Queen and full sized sheets work the best. IKEA sells the KNOPPA flat sheet for $4, if you need a bunch. :)

        • Jessica

          That and metallic paint just made my decor much easier!

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

        We did exactly this! Black sheets from Ikea! (Plus a few borrowed black tableclothes.) In a mood-lit venue…..no one could tell the difference, even looking specifically at it.

    • Moe

      Even in Los Angeles (a very expensive market for weddings) there are a ton of ways to save money. The flower district, and the fashion district are amazing!

      My first ceremony (a sponaneous elopment in Las Vegas) was less than $200 and happened only because my husband won a game of poker. But still, it was a good deal that included photos.

      We are planning a second ceremony for family in a few months. I made a detailed spreadsheet with all of my estimated costs based on the quotes I received. I came up with a $8000 wedding for 100 guests at a free backyard venue provided by a friend. My husband took a look at my budget with a red pen and after some difficult conversations we are now operating at slightly less than $5000.

      Some of my bargains are:

      A taco man catering service. He will set up a grill on site and cook tacos for all my guests with side dishes and agua fresca (fruit juices) for $775. Saving us about a $1000 from my previous catering quote.

      Flowers are being done by a semi-retired local florist friend, with flowers purchased at the flower mart. I also scored small steel containers at Ikea for less than a dollar each. At an estate sale I got a free box of brand new floral foam. These materials will allow for more flowers at the wedding.

      Ceremony back drop $5. I purchased large vintage picture frames at an estate sale. I’ll hang them from a backyard tree.

      My dress $400. Purchased online from mybigfatbeautifulwedding dot com. I tried on the orginal ($1100) at a salon and now I’m having it made custom for me.

      DIY invitations $70

      DIY Birdcage veil $6

      DIY photo guest book from Shutterfly FREE (there was a Groupon deal)

      Pro make-up artist FREE (she’s family)

      Pro photography $1500 (A long time friend of my husband)

      Cake FREE (she’s family) I must admit having talented family is a huge bonus.

      10 tablecloths $6 each. Purchased from another bride on Craigslist.

      96 champagne flutes $16, purchased at the Ikea year-end sale. There was a 2-case per customer limit so we recruited family and friends to go back repeatedly until we purchased all that we needed. I wasn’t the only one doing this, there were a lot of other frugal brides there too.

      Cake toppers and my jewelry less than $2 purchased at local estate sales.

      I’m really proud of the creative ways I’ve found to save money. Now it’s become an exhilarating challenge. I don’t have a lot of money but I do have time on my side. Thinking ahead, lots of planning and asking for the help from my community has been the key.

      • KJ

        May I ask which taco catering service you’re using? That’s exactly what I’m looking for! We’re probably having our wedding in Orange County (where we live) and I’m sure there’s taco vendors here but I haven’t found any yet.

    • Copper

      ooh, I’ve been looking for someone to give me a picture of what a reasonable budget for the flower mart is! Would you say that your flowers were minimal (like, one or two types of flower, not a ton of arrangements)? Or did that $90 really get you a lot?

  • LilBride

    I live in the close-in Washington DC suburbs. Invited 110, total of 88 people showed up.
    Had an overall budget of about 12K—came in a bit under.
    Invitations–$15 (Stationary bought at Target; printed at home)
    Postage $45
    Marriage license in MD $50
    Gown $370 (David’s Bridal—loved it)
    Alterations $70
    Bridal Shoes $36.00 (DSW)
    Jewelry $210 (Macy’s)
    Make up $70 (Sephora)
    Hair/make up application – Free (Friends are awesome)
    Wedding bands $50 (From Etsy—good thing they were so cheap—we both have already lost/replaced ours)
    Bridal Headpiece/veil $0 (Made by a friend)
    Groom’s Tux $167 (Men’s Warehouse rental)
    Rabbi $900 (Pricey, but willing to marry a Jew to a non-Jew)
    Flowers- $109 (ordered online)
    Ketubah $200 (made by a friend for free, but framing is expensive)
    Hoopah $50 or so for wood/cloth. Homemade.
    DJ- Free (Amazing friend)
    Photography– $1000 (Great deal—family has a professional photographer)
    Food/Open Bar for 88 (including kids) $5500 in a local restaurant. No additional charge for space rental, linens, etc. No additional decorations.

    • http://www.piercedwonderings.com Lynn

      Postage! We spent about $150 on postage between the invitations and the RSVP postcards.

      • http://nathanandlauramiller.blogspot.com/ Laura

        Postage is SO expensive! Seriously, it’s almost going to cost more to mail my invites than to print them.

        • Moe

          To save just a little on postage (and paper too) I made my return RSVP a postcard so it mails for 33 cents. I don’t need all those extra envelopes returned to me anyways.

          • Copper

            We’re doing RSVP postcards, save-the-dates as postcards, and hand-delivering in-town stuff.

          • http://www.piercedwonderings.com Lynn

            We did RSVP postcards and offered the option to RSVP online as well. Most folks sent back the postcards.

          • JessPeebs

            we did online rsvps and phone rsvps to completely save on postage and still be “traditional enough” for the over 60 crowd.

    • Caroline

      Can I just say I was flabbergasted when we started talking to rabbis bout how much it cost? I’d heard on the Internet that there were so called “mercenary rabbis” who charged an arm and a leg and would do any intermarriage and then rabbis with stipulations who only did a few. Well the rabbis we are interviewing are not the “mercenary” type, they are the picky type (ok for us), and not a single one has quoted us under $1000. This is a bit hard to swallow since if my partner were Jewish or wanted to convert, one of our two most favorite rabbis in the world would marry us for free (as dues paying members of his congregation) and the other most favorite in the world likely wouldn’t charge us a lot as she is a very dear friend, my teacher, and has known me since I was 4.

      But no, $1000. interfaith couples, take heed. Rabbis to marry you cost a lot!
      (Note: this is the Bay Area, so everything costs an arm and a leg, but we also have a lot of choices of rabbis and cantors and even a few non-clergy officiants. They all charge the same fortune.)

      • LilBride

        Yeah, the Rabbi was recommended by a friend and was very nice when we met him. We didn’t realize that “I give you the freedom to have the kind of ceremony you want” meant “You write up the whole ceremony from beginning to end, without any input from me, I show up, read it, and ask about getting paid 3 times before the ceremony. ”

        Not sure how we could have done better though–we don’t belong to any church/synagogue and hubby wanted a “real” officiant.

      • MIRA

        I’ll be adding an *awesome* interfaith rabbi to the vendor directory after our wedding (both less expensive and WAY more involved than these folks sound). If anyone’s looking for someone in the Philly area right now, I can PM you her name and email. She rocks.

        • Shiri

          I’ll do the same for the DC area.

        • One More Sara

          Vendors actually apply to be in the directory themselves, so you don’t have to wait until the wedding is over! If you think your rabbi would be a good fit for APW, tell her about the site, and she will decide if she wants to pay the fee for the advertising space. (I did this with my photographer as well over a year out for our wedding. She bought a spot in the directory a few months ago and told me that it had already paid for itself)

          • MIRA

            Thanks – good to know! I’m not really sure if she advertises at all (I got her name from a friend) but I’ll pass the word along.

        • Ariel

          Yes, please! I just got engaged (5 days ago!) and am very interested in your interfaith rabbi. Thanks so much!

      • http://bigweddingsmallbudget.wordpress.com Barbra

        The quote I got from the one Humanist Rabbi in Florida ran about the same as what you’re seeing, so I’m not sure the Bay Area is more expensive with regard to this one thing.
        I ran into the same hard-to-swallow feeling, since I am also a dues-paying member of a congregation where our Rabbis are not allowed to even attend the wedding as guests, let alone officiate. This has resulted in not only Rabbi-officiating fees being hard to swallow, but synagogue dues being hard to swallow as well. :(
        In the end, we opted to have a friend marry us (for free!). She taught Hebrew School for many years and lived in Israel, so we feel she has sufficient “spiritual authority,” for us anyway. Once I found out that you don’t have to be married by a Rabbi for a Jewish wedding, I felt much better about not paying someone who doesn’t know us loads of money. Also, I realize our wedding won’t even be recognized by most of Judaism, but that little piece of legitimacy was important to me.

        • Caroline

          Yeah, we’re considering paying 1k for a non-rabbi Jewih officiant. Talk about hard to swallow (and yep, conservative/masorti congregation for us so our rabbi can’t be a guest. He’s super excited for us at least). But we LOVE the officiant we talked to, he made Justin feel great and respected and honored for who he is, and we really liked him. Non-Jewish weddings performed by family are the norm in our family, but frankly Wecan’t think of anyone at all (other than our two rabbis who can’t) who we would want to marry us. I don’t really feel like any of our friends have enough sort of spiritual authority (love the term in this context) to marry us, we want a Jewish wedding so the non-Jewish family who know nothing about them and can’t even handle transliterated Hebrew are out and frankly I wouldn’t want to be married by any of my dad’s family (the Jewish side. I’m a Jew by choice from an interfaith family).

          • Rymenhild

            Yes, you are definitely who I suspected you were. I didn’t realize getting M. to officiate at a marriage was included in shul dues. I guess it’s time to renew, even though it’s a little hard to go to our synagogue from Philadelphia.

            I’m sorry you’re having so much trouble, Caroline! I’d be curious to hear more. I think you have my email, and if not, Facebook.

            Andrea

      • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

        I feel your pain.
        This was me: http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/06/having-faith-finding-someone-to-officiate-our-interfaith-wedding/

        We live in Houston and are getting married here. We finally found a rabbi but we have to import him from Dallas, 5 hours away. $1200, plus airfare, rental car, and overnight hotel accommodations. Awesome.

      • Alison

        Our Rabbi was expensive, and he was the “cheap” one! We ended up paying $900 total, and he then tried to tell me that he needed an additional $300 that wasn’t on our contract for travel (we did not pay for anything that was not on the original contract we had signed). I had quotes ranging upwards to $2000, however, which just seemed WRONG. We would have had the Rabbi from my home synagogue marry us, but we were married 2 hours away and he had other rabbinical duties to attend to that day, unfortunately.

        Mira, I wish I had known about your Rabbi! We were generally displeased with ours. :(

      • Rymenhild

        That’s so hard. *makes mental note* I don’t have an intermarriage coming up, but I’d like to be planning a same-sex Jewish wedding sometime soon…

        Actually, this is a totally relevant question given the details you’ve listed and my wondering how many of them apply to me. Do I know you, Caroline?

        -Andrea, Lee’s partner

    • Emma

      Thanks for this! Can I ask how you went about finding a restaurant for the venue? Right now we’re leaning towards sucking it up and doing a venue + caterer, mainly because all the restaurant venues we’ve come up with in the DC area are either too small for our guest list (around 100), insanely expensive, or too restrictive. But I love the ease of rolling the venue, food and alcohol into one bill — any tips?

      • One More Sara

        Hotels!

      • LilBride

        Emma,

        We were originally looking at about 120 person guest list, so I hear you about restaurants being mostly too small. The restaurant option did end up being the cheapest of all we were considering –not having to pay extra for the space or linens or chairs was very nice. We even had the ceremony there.

        To find it, I asked people about places where they’ve held Christmas parties and the like–and called up restaurants I heard about. I also searched for party rooms or banquet rooms on OpenTable and similar websites. We ended up in a place my family had used for fancy brunches before.

        I have mixed feelings about the place, but I can give you the pluses and the minuses if you want to e-mail me: Llevina@hotmail.com

      • Jessica

        I live in portland, so my solution was a brewery! Anywhere you can host a meeting you can host a wedding reception pretty easily.

    • Steph

      Hi, can I ask what restaurant you used for your reception. I’m also in the DC area (Arlington) and having a hard time keeping costs for just the reception for about 100 people under $12k. I always imagined having a restaurant reception but it’s hard to find one that can accommodate such a large group without a high cost buyout.
      Thanks!

  • E

    Wedding money guilt/shame is the worse because it comes from every direction! Over the course of planning our $15,000, 250 person Midwestern backyard wedding, I dealt with:

    – Going to a family member’s wedding that cost around $5000 and feeling like we were decadent snobs.
    – Going to a friend’s wedding that cost at least $25000 and feeling like cheapskates.
    – Worry that our decision to invite more people but have cheaper food was the right one (for us, it was. Food was ok, but the people were awesome)
    – Judgmental remarks about our cheap Cedar Point honeymoon from acquaintances who spent more on their honeymoon than their wedding and insisted that was the best/only way to do it
    – Guilt that my parents were paying for almost everything, even though they were really cool about it (actually conversation with my dad: “We’re giving you $15,000 to spend how you want. If you want to buy a $15,000 dress and get married at the courthouse, go for it”)
    – Panic attacks nearly every time I wrote a check for a large amount…which was a lot.

    Thank goodness for APW…I think I would have gone crazy otherwise!

    • KEA1

      OMG, Cedar Point honeymoon??? You are my kind of people. My sweetie hates heights/coasters, so if we end up getting married we won’t be copying your idea…but oh, you are brilliant.

    • http://anniecardi.com Annie

      “Panic attacks nearly every time I wrote a check for a large amount…which was a lot.”

      I totally felt that, even when I knew that it was within our budget. There’s something really scary about writing out that much money for things you don’t necessarily have yet (like the venue or the DJ).

      Also, major props to your dad’s comment. And I think my husband is going to be super jealous of your Cedar Point honeymoon.

    • Corrie

      E – Going off of your Cedar Point honeymoon, do you live in Ohio? If so – specifically Northeast Ohio – I’d be really curious to hear more specifics about your wedding and vendors, since I’m considering doing something similar, but with less people and a smaller budget.

  • Amy

    Taxes (for everything!) and Gratuity! Our venue in Eastern Washington State is $5000 and there is a requirement that we have to spend at least that much when we choose options for the mandatory in-house catering. Ok, no big deal but then I realized that this potential number ($10000) does not include the sales tax and the eventual gratuity we would pay to the staff so that was added to our overall budget.

    Somewhere that I’ve saved money during this wedding planning process is the wedding dress itself. I went to places in NYC and tried on dresses, fell in love with one with a 2200 price tag . After digging around a bit I found it online for 1200 brand new from netbride.com. All I had to do was give them a measurement (which I already had from the bridal store).

    • One More Sara

      Taxes are huge!!! My fiancé and I met while working at a summer camp on the Eastern Shore in MD, and I was debating for (what felt like) a long time about whether we should get married in Maryland or Delaware (where I grew up). I was looking at two places in particular, the MD one started $115 pp and the DE one started at $90 pp. The big difference was that the price from the MD venue didn’t include taxes or gratuity, so the price was actually 24% more than what they had listed online (roughly $145). My decision was pretty easy after that. In DE, I would almost always get more for my money since I didn’t have to tack on sales tax.

      It isn’t always an option for people to have their weddings in a tax-free state, but always read the fine print about gratuity and also specifically ask your contact at the venue. (We are using Doubletree, and their standard contract says that gratuity is not included, but our specific location does include it. Make sure any of these discrepancies are clarified BEFORE you sign a contract.)

  • kyley

    This is something I’ve been having a lot of anxiety about. Our budget is by no means small, but at the same time we are slashing things left and right. So I feel indulgent and like a capitalist-pawn and, at the same time, stressed about finding ways to cut corners and make everything work,

    For both my partner and I, our families are *huge.* 120 invitees are family members, and almost all of those are family member that we are very close to, grew up with, and see on a regular basis. And because we have been together for 9 years (anniversary is this month!), we have a very large circle of friends that know both of us well and have supported our relationship in many ways throughout the years. People talk about these lovely, intimate affairs, and sometimes I’m a little jealous, but that just isn’t an option for us. We want this wedding to be a celebration of and for our community, and so we wouldn’t have it any other way. But, dude, finding a place to fit 175 people is not easy, and feeding them is *expensive.*

    We’re having the wedding on a Sunday, we’ve cut centerpieces, favors, a DJ, and flowers all together (except for my bouquet, which will be a $20 bunch purchased from Whole Foods the morning-of), and we are very unlikely to be able to afford an open bar. When I look at all those cuts, I feel thrifty and proud of myself! Then I look at our $20,000+ budget, and I feel a little sick and guilty and shameful. Of course, I also feel guilty (as a people pleaser) that I can’t provide a shuttle from the hotel to the venue or an open bar, so there is really no winning.

    I think the greatest source of stress, for me, about all this expense is that it raises the level of expectations for me. The more time and money I put into something, the more excited I am about it and the more I want from the experience. I’m terrified, as a result, of being horribly disappointed by the whole affair.

    • Alexandra

      If it helps you feel less guilty, you’re feeding 55 more people than I am on several thousand dollars less. The venue I fell in love with just happened to be a place I completely shouldn’t have been considering. It had everything we wanted… Except the price per person was high, and they wouldn’t let us bring in another caterer. We caved and decided that it was okay to spend our whole budget on food and venue ($16,800 out of an $18,000 budget) and we’d just make the budget bigger. We raised it to $23,000, though we haven’t bought anything else yet. That’s for 120 people in Southern Ontario, for anyone who’s curious.

    • Laurel

      I really feel you on the expectations. We almost bailed on the wedding more than once for exactly that reason.

      FWIW I could never ever have imagined before we started planning that we would spend as much money as we did, or be as glad as we were to spend it. I also felt (feel? mostly felt) pretty rough about the total number, so I stopped thinking about it; I felt and feel great about each individual place the money was going. Also: there is pretty much nothing on earth I want more than all our friends and family in one place having a good time. Good thing I spent money on that rather than something I wanted less, like a trip or a house or a car.*

      *To be clear, the money would have bought a trip or a car but not actually a house.

    • EM

      Exactly to all of this.

      On the big family front: we’re at 175 with only our families. In a pretty expensive part of the country. Meaning I will probably be inviting very few friends.

      It feels INSANE, but we’ve been around and around with list, and our parents are being pretty generous with their help. That’s just the way it is.

    • Jashshea

      One thing I thought about adding to my comment below but fits better here:

      Our vendors were almost all small business owners (photog, invite printer) and the large majority were female small business owners (caterer, cake, planner, flowers, invite designer). It’s not something we did consciously, necessarily, but it’s something I feel pretty good about after the fact. Yes, I spent a ton of money and yes, that probably means I’m a capitalist pawn (totally lol’d on that, BTW). But I felt slightly less guilty because I helped support some smaller local businesses.

      • Shiri

        I like this and I feel like it was something missing from the David’s Bridal post yesterday. Sometimes, it can matter more (if the money is there) to spend it in a way that we believe in.

    • http://www.mollyeverafter.com/ Molly

      I feel for you. We had an expensive wedding (there’s really no way around it in downtown Chicago), but we still cut a lot of things out. I know it’s hard, but try not to compare your wedding to your friends’ weddings or the weddings you see on blogs or in magazines. You’re going to love your wedding because it’s *your wedding.* It will be a celebration tailored to you and your partner, so it will be perfect for you.

    • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

      Pro-tip: 80%+ of weddings in California serve beer and wine only. It’s way cheaper, and even if you have a full bar most people drink wine at weddings. Also, my rule is that if people complain about the type of free alcohol you’re providing them, they’re free to go elsewhere.

      • Amy March

        Really? I find this absolutely fascinating. How do you know? If there a survey somewhere? As a northern new jersey-ite I have never been to a wedding without a full open bar and the local variations in this custom are so interesting to me.

        • meg

          Elizabeth just does a LOT of weddings. But I’d say that’s true from my experience as well, and you’re right, totally different than back east, where I’ve also lived.

        • Miranda VanZ

          An even bigger variation in local customs is in Nova Scotia, Canada it would be very strange to have an open bar. Usually it’s a toonie bar if you can manage but if your reception is in a hotel your guests pay the $6 or so for every drink they want. I have never been to an open bar wedding, I wonder if it’s just a Nova Scotian thing or a Canadian thing.

          • Liz

            Hey Nova Scotia – it’s Alberta here! And same thing, cash bars are pretty unheard of and toonie bars are the norm. I’m actually English (lived in AB for five years) and toonie bars are unheard of in England! My UK family are clueless…!

      • Diane

        That may also be regional, however. Most of the places I’ve looked in Texas charge only slightly more for a full bar than they do for beer and wine. That really surprised me because we anticipated going the beer/wine route as a way to control costs.

      • One More Sara

        We saved $4 pp by downgrading to beer and wine (in Wilmington, DE). Also, all guests under 21 are $12 less (only a couple cousins and one sibling fall into this category, but for someone with tons of cousins under 21, this could be a huge money saver.)

  • Teresa

    We got married on a Sunday morning in August on the north shore of Long Island and spent a little over $25,000 for everything. We paid for the majority of the expenses and my mom and my husband’s parents gave us a lot of help. Our breakdown was:

    Venue (all inclusive: open bar brunch buffet for 132 people, cake, ceremony, bridal attendent, valet parking, tips for almost everyone, etc): $14,000
    Photographer: $3,100
    DJ (my mom’s best friend owns the company, so we got a sweet deal): $400
    Cake topper: $180 (this was my most favorite thing EVER–I didn’t mind spending this much money on a cake topper b/c it was one of the only things that got me seriously excited when I saw it!)
    Flowers: $625 (4 bridesmaid bouquets, bridal bouquet, and 6 corsages)
    Centerpieces: $115 (DIY from Michaels and candles from amazon.com)
    Dress, shoes, sparkly belt, veil: $1,100
    Groom’s suit, shoes, shirt: $800
    Gifts for the wedding party, day of coordinator and officiant: $500
    Day-of-Coordinator: Free–my super-organized awesome friend wanted to help
    Officiant: Free–another very good friend
    Hair and make-up for me: $225
    Transportation: My FIL got the idea of a party bus and insisted on having one–I have no idea how much it cost…they also got us a car to take us back to our apt. in Queens
    Rehearsal Dinner: My in-laws threw this because they had a lot of out of town guests coming in and wanted to treat them to dinner–I don’t know how much it was.

    There were lots of misc. things that popped up, like tips and hair trials and stuff like that, but we were mostly able to stay in our budget. This is a rather modest budget for Long Island, but I still thought our wedding was freaking awesome and didn’t miss any of the extra things that we didn’t have (chair covers! professionally done centerpieces! favors!). Also, before I got married, I really didn’t think we could afford to have a wedding (thanks, APW, for letting me know otherwise). I was so stressed because it seemed to come so easily for our friends–when it was our time, things really did just kind of fall into place. Without asking, his parents told us they wanted to give us x amount of money. My mom paid for my dress and accessories and the DJ. We had been saving money and all of our vendors worked with us to let us pay over the 6 months that we were planning. Our families also gave us engagement gifts, which helped a lot. I guess things just have a way of working out, especially if you have fairly reasonable expectations and really pay attention to what you can afford.

    • Teresa

      Also, invitations and postage were about $500! Postage was annoying! Then, you may want to budget money for Thank you cards (including postage again!) and a wedding album, should you chose to have one made.

      • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

        Postage led to one of only 2 meltdowns I have had during wedding planning (there is still 4 weeks to go though). I will call it the “but a square IS a rectangle” meltdown. Or the “I paid a non machinable surcharge, why did this go through a machine” meltdown.

        Let’s say that the local postal workers are not geometry fans or semantics fans.

        • Teresa

          Mine was inspired by: “Are you sure you don’t need postage for your RSVP cards?” When I handed her 85 ALREADY SEALED invitations. Even if I hadn’t thought of stamping the RSVP cards already (which I did, w/ flag stamps we bought from CVS so that we could avoid going to the post office!), it was a bit too late to ask me that! Like I was going to rip open all of the envelopes right there at the counter and buy more stamps! Typing this, I see how silly my meltdown was, but my husband had to drag me away from the counter and tell me to chill out. oy!

          • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

            Well, of course it’s silly now. But that was one of about 9 billion questions you had been asked in a 6 month span. (guesstimating)
            It’s not the last question that causes the meltdown, its the preceding 8 billlion nine hundred and ninety nine million all piling up at once.

          • Kristi

            As a personal friend, T, I must say, you seemed pretty damn calm everytime I saw you. Speaking of, we need to get together soon! (Sorry to blow your cover–the cake topper comment really gave it away! Glad to be of service! ;)) But most of all–thank you for telling me about APW. It’s seriously the greatest blog ever.

  • ladyJane

    I have no idea if this is a “budget” question, and I know it is super subjective, but I would love to see a sort of general “Things Couples Were GLAD to Have Splurged On vs Hindsight Sometimes Sucks, Or: Things That Did Not Have a Large Marginal Awesomeness Benefit”.

    I picture this as a pie chart, but I’m flexible :)

    • kyley

      ooo, I’d love to see this. I’m sure it would vary hugely, but it would be an interesting and helpful feature/discussion

      • Teresa

        I am glad we splurged on an all-inclusive venue…it was so wonderful not to have to worry about anything on the day of. I am glad we splurged on our shoes–they made us so freaking happy and, unlike my wedding dress, we can wear them again and again and think about how awesome our wedding was. I am glad we splurged on our cake topper–it was a detail that was quirky and totally us and it just made me really happy! Splurge on the things that bring you joy!

    • http://fancystephanie.wordpress.com Stephanie

      I wish I had splurged on a better photographer, and I wish we had invited less people and had better food! We had about 100 people come, and we don’t see half those people anymore. If we had just had our closest friends and family, we could have had a nicer reception.

      • Kara

        See…I’m glad we “splurged” on inviting everyone we wanted to invite. Not everyone could come, but it was important that they were all invited. It meant we did a lot of adjustment as we got rsvps back, but it all turned out ok.

        • http://fancystephanie.wordpress.com Stephanie

          Well, the thing was we didn’t even LIKE half the people there. They were DH’s parent’s parishioners, and I wish we had been firm and said “no”. They had been awfully mean to DH in the past.

      • One More Sara

        I have a feeling that I might never see some people again that we’ve invited to our wedding, which for me is all the more reason to invite them. But that’s just me. I get very sentimental with goodbyes, and like to know when it’s going to be the last one.

    • carrie

      I wish we had invited the 10 people on the bubble. Turns out, they could have attended b/c people back out at the last minute. We paid for 100 meals, but we didn’t have 100 people there!

    • Jashshea

      I didn’t want a guest book, but I’m glad we splurged on a totally sweet one that I will actually hang up.

      I’m so glad we had the planner – We had done a bunch of heavy lifting (venue, caterer) before hiring her and my now husband and I fought about paying the money for her. Worth twice the money just so I didn’t have to be the one fighting w/my MIL about tablecloths.

      We spent too much money on wine. It could have been less expensive per bottle and people still would have consumed. That was a decision made 1.5 weeks before the wedding in the wine store and I pretty much DGAF anymore about money, so I got the more expensive bottle the guy recommended (difference of about $2 per bottle across a few cases is a big difference).

    • Shiri

      I’m glad we splurged on our photographer. Our pictures make me happy every single time I see them, and not just because they’re beautiful, but because, as my grandmother says every time she sees them, because they make you feel like you’re at the wedding again. Also, making sure you get a CD of all the photographs is key and worth the possible extra cost.

      I’m glad I invited the folks on the bubble, too. I don’t think the table runners were worth it, but my mom does, so there you go. Ditto on the flowers.

    • http://www.mollyeverafter.com/ Molly

      Glad we splurged on:
      -our venue/caterer because they were AMAZING to work with and made the whole day easier
      -a trolley to transport us around town
      -invitations because dammit, I freaking love gorgeous paper and have one framed on our living wall

    • http://carmarblogs.blogspot.com CarMar

      Things I’m glad we splurged on because they made life easier:
      a) venue that included everything – plates, tables, chairs, silverware, glassware.
      b) wedding planner, because I have a small family and wanted them to enjoy the day, not take care of everything.

      Things I’m glad we splurged on because it made the wedding “better:”
      a) our band. they were awesome, and had everyone dancing, old and young.
      b) sound system for our outdoors ceremony. this was a last minute expense after I went to an outdoor wedding a month before mine where I couldn’t hear the vows. What’s the point of going to a wedding if you don’t hear the vows?
      c) my dress. I was obsessed with it, and honestly it really matter to me that I LOVED it. I still got a good deal on it, but it was way more expensive that I thought I’d spend.

      Things I’m glad we saved on:
      a) flowers – we spent $400 to buy them from a farm and arranged ourselves. I had so much fun doing it. Plus, our venue was already beautiful and we’d spent enough on that.
      b) our photographer was a close friend just getting started, so we had great photos AND I enjoyed spending time with her. I didn’t want “artsy” photos, just good classic ones, and she was great.

    • http://carmarblogs.blogspot.com CarMar

      OH! And the biggest one I forgot to include – I’m glad we had a 170 person wedding. We could have cut back, but having all those people in one place meant the world to me, and it will honestly never happen again.

    • Sara C.

      For my two cents, I would say SO happy that we went with a planner. My parents do not handle major events well, so it was nice to tell them they could sit back..and nice that I could do the same. The utter stress-free experience was well worth the cost of a day-of coordinator.

      I am also sooo glad that we made an open wine and beer bar work in our budget – I have a feeling that it helped the all night dance party.

      Things that in hindsight were overrated? Well, we never had programs made – and we didn’t miss them (though I was stressing about it). We should have invited more/ordered less, as we too had about 10 no-shows (grrr).

      What I wish we had? A videographer. My husband surprised me by singing his vows, and our only copy of this is an iphone video. I would pay well over what the vidoegrapher charges if I could have a better video of our ceremony now…and wish we had captured his surprise performance (with his a capella group) during our reception.

  • Tiffany In Houston

    I got married in September 2010 in Houston TX.

    Here are our final numbers, exclusive of wedding rings and our mini-honeymoon.

    Category Budget Actual Variance
    Venue 5,295 (5,295) 0
    Flowers 175 (141) 34
    Dress 739 (739) 0
    DJ 500 (500) 0
    Photos 600 (600) 0
    Cake 535 (535) 0
    Alcohol 500 (176) 324
    Invitations/Photobooks 400 (400) 0
    Misc. 475 (636) (161)
    Gifts (bridesmaids, hostesses, parents) 300 (78) 222
    Totals 9,519 (9,099) 419

    We were extremely pleased with how the wedding turned out BUT we were extremely blessed with lots of contributions from family and friends. My husband and I actually only had out of pocket costs of $4464.00. The remainder ($4645.00) was gifts to us from parents, family and friends. For example, my aunt gave me $500.00 toward my dress and one of our groomsmen gifted us our DJ. My sorority sister works at Anheuser-Busch and was able to get us 10 cases of beer for free. One of our twitter friends designed my invites for free and printed address labels for me. I selected a venue that was already very aestically pleasing and didn’t require a lot of extra decorations. I didn’t do wedding favors. I used artificial flowers. All of those choices saved us a LOT of money.

    Here’s the link to my original post about my wedding expenses: http://theunemployedbride.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/money-talks/

  • Edelweiss

    I have a question:

    Those of you that did DIY flowers – how did you keep the costs so low?

    We’re having a 40 person wedding at a rental house in the Poconos in early May. I hear stories of people going to farmer’s markets and wholesale flower places that day or the day before and getting beautiful in-season flowers. I don’t know the area and the internet hasn’t been helpful in finding farmer’s markets in the area.

    It feels like my only option is the online flower places – but I’m seeing prices of $250-$450 for a package or a bulk order of a single flower…(and the $250 is a small package – basically just enough for bouquets and boutonnieres)

    For those of you that are reporting flower budget at $100 – any ideas how I can accomplish that?

    Thank you!

    • http://fancystephanie.wordpress.com Stephanie

      I went to the LA flower district. If you don’t have a flower mart nearby, try farmer’s markets, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s.

      For my flowers, I got:
      24 cream roses – $14
      6 dozen colored roses – $12/2 dozen, so $36 total
      4 bunches Baby’s Breath – $16
      4 dozen carnations – $16 ($4/for 1 dozen)
      small purple flowers – IDK the name – $4

      Plus $2 for parking, and $4 for admission. :)

    • Nicole

      I bought all of my flowers at a local grocery store that is pretty similar to Whole Foods. I talked with someone in the floral department several weeks before the wedding to confirm what flowers the store would have in stock, and they were even willing to order some additional flowers and put several buckets of flowers/greenery on hold for me to pick up. I loved the flowers and it ended up being way cheaper than using a florist or ordering them online.

      • Joanna

        My mom has access to a wholesale pass to the Boston Flower Market because she helps arrange flowers at our church. I’d reach out to folks in your network and see if you know of anyone who might have a similar resource.

    • LN

      I got married in small town in the middle of nowhere & got flowers from Safeway (the grocery store). We lived a few hours away from where we got married, but I saw that the Safeway there had a floral department and called them up. We just needed flowers for centerpieces for tables at the reception. I think we had 10 tables, so I ordered 10 bouquets at $10 per bouquet (after looking at the Safeway near my house to see what kinds of options there were). It worked great, and I loved the flowers.

      I also got the bouquet I carried there, but that was a last-minute decision on the day of the wedding. I think that cost $25, and I was charged more because the florist there tied up the flowers prettily with ribbon.

    • http://www.mollyeverafter.com/ Molly

      We DIYed our flowers, but the only flowers we had at the whole wedding were the 3 bouquets for me and my 2 bridesmaids. We spent about $115 on hydrangeas from Whole Foods (you can call and order flowers about a week ahead of time and they’ll hold them for you).

      Part of keeping flower costs low is not being picky about what flowers you want. I knew Whole Foods had white hydrangeas year-round, and that they were $10/bunch, so that’s what we went with. If you specifically want peonies or something seasonal like that, you’re going to either pay a lot more for it or risk being disappointed if the grocery store/farmer’s market doesn’t have it when you need it.

    • Jenny

      Check out the bulk floral sections of costco.com and samsclub.com. You can get a hundred roses for $80!

    • Edelweiss

      Thank you so much! This was all helpful – particularly the ideas about calling a grocery store and to look at Costco and Wal-mart!

    • E

      This probably won’t work for your situation, but I’ll mention anyway – we used flowers from my mother’s garden! We only did bouquets for my self and my two bridesmaids (I looked up how to do boutonnieres but decided f*** that, it looks hard), so it wasn’t like we were ripping out her entire garden. I knew I wanted lilies and we were getting married right at the time they usually bloom, although we did have a backup plan just in case. We just cut them the morning of the wedding, wrapped them in floral tape and put them in vases with water until right before the ceremony. (we actually brought them with us to the hair salon because we were running late and didn’t have time to drop them off. The stylists all loved it). Right before the ceremony we wrapped them with pretty ribbon. Total cost was around $7 and I had multiple people tell me my flowers were beautiful. I loved telling them “thanks, I picked them this morning!”

  • Jashshea

    Love this! I love this and I’m already married! I’m a bit of a number nerd and during planning I really found solace is running and rerunning the numbers to make sure we really were focusing the dollars on what we’d said was really important to us initially. I’ve made the comment before, but we cared about food, booze, dancing, pictures, and keeping my head screwed on during planning.

    I’m a Yankee living in the Southeast. Relevant only because “my people” tend to expect open bars, 6 hour dance parties, and plated meals while the Southerners seem to have different expectations (4 hours seems to be the standard time for rentals, etc).

    Venues (wedding/cere/rehearsal dinner): ~5k
    Full service catering for 200: $9-10k
    Misc. rentals: $1.5k (chairs for ceremony space, Grouponed photobooth, spaceheaters)
    Decor: I have no idea, my MIL did EVERYTHING for this (it was gorgeous and she’s frugal, so probably under $1k)
    Wedding (cup)cake(s): $350 (caterer included some desserts as well)
    Alcohol: $2600* (we purchased and hired 2 people to serve)
    Pro photographer: $3200
    DJ: $1600
    Wedding planning: $2000
    Website & invites: $2k**
    Flowers, florist provided: $450 (corsage/bouts and my bouquet)**
    Hair & makeup for bride only: $150
    Transportation: $2k**

    *We WAY over-purchased. Holla at your girl if you need help figuring out how much beer/wine/liquor to buy for your event. Because the online calculator from the alcohol store? Oddly they told us to over-purchase. The guys we hired to serve ended up with all the leftover beer and everyone received a bottle or so of wine for Xmas. Does anyone need a giant bottles of Grey Goose?

    **These are the big line items that we didn’t care about. My dad really wanted the transportation so people weren’t driving after drinking $3,000 worth of booze.

    • MissStumptown

      I’d love some help with estimating alcohol! It seems like everywhere is telling me to plan to buy a metric shit ton and I feel like they are wrong, but have no experience to back up my feeling. How much beer and wine do you think would be good for a 4.5 hour casual reception with about 80 adults?

      • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

        1 drink per adult per hour of reception. Works every time, you’ll have a little left over, but not much.
        (also, 25% beer, wine split 40% red, 30% white, 30% sparkling, unless it’s *very* hot in which case up the beer, lower the red wine.)

      • Copper

        I found this calculator from Real Simple. It’s aimed at holiday parties, but seems useful for weddings as well:
        http://www.realsimple.com/holidays-entertaining/weddings/wedding-wine-liquor-calculator-00000000008314/index.html

        • Jashshea

          The calc gave me this just now:

          200 Guests/5 hours
          Red Wine: 20 bottles
          White Wine: 20 bottles
          Champagne: 40 bottles
          Beer: 240 bottles
          Vodka: 8 bottles
          Gin: 4 bottles
          Rum: 4 bottles
          Bourbon: 4 bottles
          Scotch (blended): 4 bottles

          My friends/family are pretty big drinkers. We had purchased about 6 or 7 cases of wine (72-84 bottles; more red, less white, 6 bottles of champers (no toast)). We had at least that much beer. We bought the large sized liquor bottles, so I think the numbers are about what we did (though we added tequilla).

          We gave away the beer to our servers and gave them one 1/2 full bottle of vodka. We have 2 cases of red and one mixed case of white left over.

          That vodka number is out of control – we had two of the GIANT bottles of vodka left over (not the liter standard size). We have no gin, rum or scotch left over. We had to send someone out to buy more bourbon about 45 minutes into the party and we have about 1/2 of a large bottle left over.

          Late fall wedding in the Southeast. I mention this b/c southern folk love their bourbon when it’s chilly. Your mileage may vary.

          • http://www.foreveryoungadult.com Erin

            Yeah, I feel like these things should be made regional. No way are we going to make it through a reception with that little bourbon or whiskey.

            I’m planning to serve moonshine at my wedding, but funny, I can’t get any app that tells me how much I’m supposed to make . . .

      • Jashshea

        No affiliation with this place, just love the calculator – Frugal MacDougals has an event planning calc on their site – you enter your headcount, types of alcohol and the amount you’d like to spend and they tell you what to get. Dial it back from their recommendations, IMO (and I’d also get more wine and less beer, but I don’t know your crowd).

        The site said (with your inputs minus dollars, since I didn’t know that :)):

        You are serving Wine and Beer Only.
        You are expecting 80 drinking guests to attend.
        You plan to serve drinks for 5 hours.
        Here are the estimates for how much to buy:
        Total Wine to Buy: 3.3 Cases.
        Total Beer to Buy: 8.3 Cases.

      • K

        We had a backyard picnic type reception for just under 80 people (so I would guess about 50 drinking adults??) and got a pony keg and two cases of wine, and it was plenty. That said, we got married late enough in life (mid-40s) that the friends who once would have gone through a pony keg by themselves now have kids and have mellowed a bit.

        For Seattle area folks, Esquin’s wine shop does quarterly seasonal tasting cases for $80. They’re a steal.

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      Just another note about booze — if you buy your own, some places will let you “sell” it back to them. We provided our own (beer, wine, and a couple bottle of Prosecco for me (what’s wrong with that?!?)), and at the end of the day, we had a couple cases of wine left, along with quite a bit of beer. We gave some to my brother, sold some back to the store, and kept the wine for ourselves. We don’t feel like we overspent — in fact, we felt that we got a good deal out of it because it’s kept us in pretty decent wine for quite some time.

  • Caroline

    Please do more posts like this. It’s so helpful!

  • Moz

    Elizabeth, may I ask why the wedding dress/bridal attire for both partners was excluded from the final count in all three cases? Just curious.

    • Laurel

      Attire is SUPER variable, there’s no ceiling, and it’s pretty disconnected from other costs. If you invite 300 people instead of 20, you need more chairs and food and booze and flowers and noise and wrangling and waitstaff and clean-up and square footage, but you still need the same number of outfits.

    • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

      Exactly what Laurel said. Also, as I said in an earlier comment – I’ve had brides in $6k dresses and brides in $600 dresses that don’t look incredibly different in photos.

      What you spend on a dress is SUCH a personal decision, and since it doesn’t really affect anyone else’s experience of the wedding at all, I don’t think it’s very important to know on a general level.

      • Laurel

        Can I just say that it makes me insane that $600 is CHEAP for wedding dresses? It makes me insane.

        • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

          ha, yep! I’d add that the best way to get around this is deciding to wear something other than a full length white dress.

          • Miranda VanZ

            Or buy your dress in the Fall, 70% off sales are awesome.

      • Moz

        The reason I ask is because for a lot of brides I meet as a wedding vendor myself the dress and attire seem to often be one of the most fraught financial decisions and often one of those which blow out their budgets the most. Also, surely if you’re spending less on one of the big areas you talk about, that effects how much you spend on the pretties?

        It’s just every bridal blog I’ve ever read spends a lot of time stressing over the money and resources allocated for bridal attire – this blog included.

        • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

          OK, I will say this:
          I give everyone $750-1500 for attire, no matter how large their total number, when I’m doing budgets :) And then tell them that they can totally spend more! But I’m not responsible for making more than that fit into their budget. I also always encourage mixed-gender couples to spend more on the man’s suit than on the woman’s dress, because if it’s a traditional white wedding dress you’ll never wear it again, whereas a man can get 10+ years of wear out of a nice suit. (and occasionally I have couples who actually follow this advice!)

          • K

            Hey! That was us! My dress cost $75 — amazing friends *gave* me this gorgeous fabric they had set aside for me even before I was engaged (yes, they are incredible), so all I spent money on was the lining, thread, pattern, etc. My man’s suit/tie/shirt ran almost $800 (his first suit ever I think and he just wanted to get it and get the hell out of there or it could have been less) but now he actually has one nice dress-up outfit.

          • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

            We did this. My husband’s attire … almost a grand. But we shopped at a Moore’s two for one suits sale, and he got two full suits, shirts, ties, suspenders plus alterations and he will wear both the wedding suit again AND the other suit.

            My attire? Eighty dollars on a dress (white, knee length) from a mall store when I realized two days before we eloped that I couldn’t pee in the gorgeous ball gown that had been passed on to me by a family friend.

  • Kara

    My parents punch and cake reception (at my mom’s parents home in 1973) was for around 400 for similar reasons as Elizabeth’s parents.

    I, too, have been to weddings that were all over the map budget-wise, from the 400 person wedding in a 4 star hotel, to the church basement receptions with food from Costco. They were all wonderful in their own way–except for ones where people hadn’t done a good job of dealing with their emotional garbage beforehand and it spilled into the wedding or reception. Then, the price-point doesn’t matter.

    Our story. We also did a 2-phased wedding/reception (in part so my parents could invite a larger group of people and to make it more accessible for people traveling).

    -Our wedding and formal reception in March 2012 was for about 130 people and probably 35k for everything (down to the florist, the band and shuttle buses, I’ve never asked how much my husband’s custom tux was, I don’t want to know, but he was very happy). The formal sit-down dinner was really important to my husband.

    -Our reception in July was for about another 150 people (several/many of whom I hadn’t met before), was at my parents’ home and cost probably under 2000 – including renting tables, chairs, and a tent, and hiring a family friend to run the kitchen. We had lawn games, chalk, and bubbles for the little (and big) kids, unending platters of food (some homemade, some made by my mom’s friends, and some purchased), and it was delicious. We had flowers in my mom’s unused canning jars from the farmer’s market and from my parent’s garden.

    It was lovely too, just different. I got a sense of longevity of community in a way I simply didn’t get at our formal (wonderful!) wedding. Plus, the garden party nature meant that I got to do a lot more visiting with people. It was hotter than hot, but it all worked.

    Would I have felt happily married and blessed with just the $2000 reception? Heck yeah!

  • Gail

    I’d like to share a “back-in-the-day” wedding budget.

    My 1975 wedding cost $350, or about $1200 in today’s money.

    Not included in that amount:
    My off-the-rack long, pale, dress from Marshall Fields, and flowers in my hair.
    My husband rented a tux because he wanted to please his (wonderful) mom.
    My ring was/is a simple gold band, engraved with our initials and the date.

    We had about 50 guests, a gifted h.s. violinist for the ceremony, a catered buffet dinner, loads of flowers, and a beautiful cake. We used the *free* all-glass (great view) community room at our apartment complex (uh, in the 70s we had been, in essence, “living in sin” so requested “no gifts” lol). But we were lucky enough that my husband’s boss had given him a case of various top-shelf alcohol as a pre-wedding bonus.

    The overall theme might be called “indie” now, but then it was kind of “hippie”.

    A couple of years ago we attended a fabulous 50k wedding.
    Our gift to the couple was almost equal to what we paid for our entire event.
    Sadly, their marriage ended in divorce 2 years later.

    Have the party you want, but remember that it’s the VOW you take not the
    party you throw.

    We’ve been married 38 years, so I’m figuring we got more than our money’s worth.
    I wish all new brides the same happiness.

    • One More Sara

      Can you write a wedding grad post?! Pleeeeeeeease?!?!?

  • Moe

    Even in Los Angeles (a very expensive market for weddings) there are a ton of ways to save money. The flower district, and the fashion district are amazing!

    My first ceremony (a sponaneous elopment in Las Vegas) was less than $200 and happened only because my husband won a game of poker. But still, it was a good deal that included photos.

    We are planning a second ceremony for family in a few months. I made a detailed spreadsheet with all of my estimated costs based on the quotes I received. I came up with a $8000 wedding for 100 guests at a free backyard venue provided by a friend. My husband took a look at my budget with a red pen and after some difficult conversations we are now operating at slightly less than $5000.

    Some of my bargains are:

    A taco man catering service. He will set up a grill on site and cook tacos for all my guests with side dishes and agua fresca (fruit juices) for $775. Saving us about a $1000 from my previous catering quote.

    Flowers are being done by a semi-retired local florist friend, with flowers purchased at the flower mart. I also scored small steel containers at Ikea for less than a dollar each. At an estate sale I got a free box of brand new floral foam. These materials will allow for more flowers at the wedding.

    Ceremony back drop $5. I purchased large vintage picture frames at an estate sale. I’ll hang them from a backyard tree.

    My dress $400. Purchased online from mybigfatbeautifulwedding dot com. I tried on the orginal ($1100) at a salon and now I’m having it made custom for me.

    DIY invitations $70

    DIY Birdcage veil $6

    DIY photo guest book from Shutterfly FREE (there was a Groupon deal)

    Pro make-up artist FREE (she’s family)

    Pro photography $1500 (A long time friend of my husband)

    Cake FREE (she’s family) I must admit having talented family is a huge bonus.

    10 tablecloths $6 each. Purchased from another bride on Craigslist.

    96 champagne flutes $16, purchased at the Ikea year-end sale. There was a 2-case per customer limit so we recruited family and friends to go back repeatedly until we purchased all that we needed. I wasn’t the only one doing this, there were a lot of other frugal brides there too.

    Cake toppers and my jewelry less than $2 purchased at local estate sales.

    I’m really proud of the creative ways I’ve found to save money. Now it’s become an exhilarating challenge. I don’t have a lot of money but I do have time on my side. Thinking ahead, lots of planning and asking for the help from my community has been the key

  • Jessica

    I struggled with a lot of money-related guilt during planning. First because I was uncomfortable with how much was being spent, and then because I felt very ‘poor little rich girl’ (which is hilarious, because my husband and I are pretty broke) for worrying about it. We were very fortunate to have 3 sets of parents who could afford (and wanted!) to pay for our wedding, and we ended up spending WAY more than any of the budgets mentioned so far. But there were things that were important to our parents that, other than the price, we didn’t object to (kosher catering, open bar, live band, transportation for out of town guests, rehearsal dinner to feed said out of town guests) and since it wasn’t our money, it wasn’t really our place to say no to. On the north shore of Chicago, that adds up to a LARGE price tag.

    But it’s all relative. Our wedding was much more DIT, casual, and “budget-y” than many weddings in the community I grew up in. I still have some twinges of guilt for what was spent, but we did our best to choose vendors/companies that aligned with our values, and no one went into debt, so I try to let it go. Just wanted to put this out there in case there’s anyone else feeling like I do.

  • Gail

    Another word of advice for your budget:

    You or your spouse should personally know every invitee.
    If you were to stand in a recieving line, one of you should be able
    to introduce the other to everyone (plus one’s excluded) who passes through the line.

    If your parents insist on inviting people from work, clubs, or others
    that the “owe” becaue they’re helping to pay, go for the smaller
    guest list and pay for the wedding yourself.

    Weddings, if nothing else, should be personal. IMHO.

    • Moe

      Another good rule of thumb a co-worker suggested to me was “invite people to you wedding that you have invited over for dinner at your house” a good way of eliminating people I haven’t seen in 10+years, are aquaintances, distant relatives etc.

      Of course that same co-worker was slightly hurt that we opted not to invite any co-workers to the wedding. :)

      • EM

        I love rules like this, but they don’t always work. The majority of our list is family members that only see one another at life-cycle events. They’d be hurt not to be invited, and it would feel *wrong* because that’s always been the tradition, but they’re not dinner-guest kinds of friends.

        • kyley

          I think family is always an entirely different matter, but I do think this is a really helpful rule of thumb when it comes to friends/acquaintances. For example, I used this logic when trying to decide if I should invite co-workers. The answer is no because, while I like them quite a bit, I never spend time with them outside of the office and office-related events.

          • Caroline

            It seems super helpful rule for friends. “Oh, maybe we should invite that one friend from school who I’m becoming friends with. Nope, never met them outside of school.”

    • Emma

      This is one way we’re limiting our guest list. We actually are paying for the wedding entirely on our own, and our parents have been really nice about asking if it’s okay to add their friends to the list. The hardest part has been saying no, though. Even though we have the best excuse in the world (sorry, but we just can’t afford it and we don’t know this person), it’s STILL hard to tell your parents that you don’t want to include their friend or colleague. Especially because we know that our parents are dealing with their own set of expectations — everyone assumes my parents are paying, and I think my dad is a bit ashamed that they aren’t. And they’ve been invited to their friends’ kids weddings, so they don’t want to be rude if they don’t invite them to ours. It’s tough, but everyone involved is leaning hard on the excuse that we simply can’t afford a big wedding — it’s just family and close friends.

  • http://www.lilredsbasket.com Stephanie J

    Details of our August 2012 self-catered wedding in Maryland for 85 guests. This includes everything but the rings:

    $60 invites/thank you notes
    $1,550 to rent hall (included two bartenders, water, soda, coffee, tea, “house” wine, and beer and extra rental time to decorate and hold ceremony)
    $300 for two professional servers
    $543 for linen and column rentals (columns were to set off ceremonial area)
    **$1,500 for food ingredients and our own wine (we didn’t like the “house” wine)
    $150 for cupcakes and bride/groom cake (made by friend)
    $280 disposable dishes and serving ware (Smarty had a party)
    $150 for candles, centerpiece decorations, and misc. decorations
    $150 Officiant donation
    $40 marriage license
    $300 flowers (my bouquet, two boutonnieres, two arrangements for the ceremonial area)
    $240 my attire (wedding dress, alterations, shoes, accessories)
    $370 groom’s attire (suit and alterations)
    $450 DJ
    $30 processional cutting fee (we used portion of a song)
    $60 one waltz lesson
    $0 Photographer (friends took photos)
    $0 Hair and makeup (did myself)

    $6,093

    Looking at this list, we could’ve saved money on the linens by buying them ourselves, but we didn’t want the work of ironing the linens. We had way too much food, so we could have saved there (or invited more people!). However, we took home and used up the leftovers, and we drank our “wedding wine” for 4 months after the wedding! My husband still wears his suit, and we’ve used the extra candles and disposable dishes and serving ware at home. I still wear the shoes I bought, and we still waltz :)

    I have to add that from the day he proposed to the day we said “I do” was exactly 3 months. So there wasn’t a lot of time for DIY projects. We tried to keep things as simple as possible to make set up and clean up quick and easy, as well.

    **Buffet dinner of chicken marsala, cheese-stuffed shells, grilled & chilled asparagus, Greek panzanella salad, crab salsa, salmon dip, cheese/fruit/veggie/hummus trays, and rolls with whipped butter. Dessert was cupcakes and homemade cookies.

    • http://www.lilredsbasket.com Stephanie J

      Guess I should just write my wedding graduate post, eh??

    • Emma

      Loving the MD/DC area brides on here — thanks for the info. Just a little request that if you liked your venue, please add it to the APW database! We’re struggling with it right now. At first it felt like we didn’t have any options, then we adjusted our budget/expectations and now we feel trapped in a situation where we could go a lot of different directions, but each one poses it’s own problem. So recommendations from the APW community would go a long way!

      • Amelie

        How do you add to the database?
        I’ve got a couple options for DC/Chevy Chase (including our September wedding reception venue) that I’d be happy to share!

        • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

          I think it’s on the right-hand side of the page, bright pink, “Find a Venue” and then click on the blue, “Submit a Venue.”

  • CPM

    We’re still planning our June wedding, but it’s looking like a $30-35K event. We’ll have ~135 guests. I buy services for a living, so I have spreadsheets upon spreadsheets of market research, cost breakdowns, value comparisons, and more!

    Here’s what we have so far:
    The venue is a splurge– a beautiful museum that’s walking distance from our house and close to lots of hotels ($5,200).
    The food is our other splurge– we found a fantastic caterer who sources everything locally (about $12K including drinks and dessert).
    Rentals will be another $2K or so ($15/person, including those expensive wedding chairs, which are required for our # of guests at our venue).
    As far as photographers, the one we like is $4K but we’re looking for cheaper options.
    We’re doing the music ourselves (basic sound system rental: $2-300)
    We’ll probably do the decor/flowers ourselves, too, so hopefully around $1,500.
    I got my dress for $330 during J. Crew’s 30% off sale, but I haven’t taken it for alterations yet.
    My fiance’s parents got him a suit for Christmas ($0).
    We’ll probably spend another $500 total on shoes and accessories for both of us.
    Making it legal (rings and license) will be another $900 or so.
    Invitations and postage, another $600.

    Including taxes, service charges and gratuity, that brings us up to $31,000 or so. Somehow I know that number will get higher…

    • Janet

      CPM – If you’re located in the DC Metro area, let me know as I have a recommendation for an awesome photographer whose less then $4K.

      • Amelie

        Any recommendations for an affordable DJ, Janet? I’ve already got a kitck-ass photographer…

        • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

          We used Jason Burns through Dedication DJs. He was super low-key, and the process was easy peasy. If you want to send me an email, I can give you other recommendations/tips from when were looking around the area a couple of years ago. SeekUp726 {a} gmail dot com.

  • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

    Thank you so much for this post. I have a ton of guilt over my upcoming $40,000 wedding.
    My parents gave me a budget of their money I could spend, and I’m actually going to come in under that so I’m using some of the extra budget to pay for things for some of my bridesmaids that I might have otherwise expected them to cover. (First under-budget wedding in history?)

    But I still feel guilty reading APW and Offbeat, like I’m a fraud. So I appreciate you pointing out that spending money doesn’t mean I bought into the WIC hook line and sinker.
    In fact I’ve been worried so much about retaining something from the WIC that I’ve been hypersensitive of avoiding certain traditions (no borrowed, no blue, no bouquet toss) just to prove the point. That’s not really making anyone (least of all my mother) happy.

    • carrie

      Hugs, sister. I felt the same way. In hindsight, there are only a couple of things I would have spent less on but I would have made up for that by inviting a few more people. I still didn’t do the bouquet toss, and don’t regret it. :-)

      • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

        Oh bouquet toss is still out! I’m not a fan of single shaming.

        But I have been wondering lately how much of my “unusual” choices I have good reason for and how much of it I’m doing just to be contrary, so I can prove to someone (myself) that I’m not a WIC bride.

        • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

          Things don’t have to be what people expect, either. I did a bouquet toss because we had an awesome balcony and it seemed a shame not to use it. Rather than it being “single shaming,” however, everyone was out on the floor, and the person who caught the bouquet got a bottle of wine. Win-win.

          • Kat

            Throughout planning I have been relatively anti-bouquet toss, but I LOVE the idea of a wine prize!

    • Teresa

      I was doing this as well (“I will NOT have a DJ! We will use our iPod! I will not have my wedding at a traditional place!! Who cares if there is no parking!”) Like you say, it’s like I was trying to prove a point about how not WIC I was and it made my mom upset and wound up making me crazy trying to justify why I was doing these things. Because, I kind of couldn’t actually think of a good reason. Do whatever you want, no one but you is judging you because of it. I wish someone had told me that, pre-meltdown!

      • Jess

        Totally! Even outside of the whole wedding thing, I find that if someone makes assumptions about me and tries to tell me what I am, I go soooo far in the opposite direction, just so I can tell myself that I’m not, in fact, like that assumption and that everyone will be able to tell. Needless to say, this gets tiring pretty fast. I’m feeling it in terms of wedding planning and indie vs WIC, and even getting married in the first place, and I’m trying really hard to be gracious with my responses and tempered in my planning decisions, but oh man, it’s hard sometimes.

    • http://nathanandlauramiller.blogspot.com/ Laura

      The way I see it, your parents gave you a budget they can afford and you’re being super responsible with that money coming under AND helping out your bridesmaids! That’s awesome! The most important thing is that you’re committing to your spouse and excited about your marriage. If that’s true then have an amazing time and don’t worry about guilt over spending what your parents have graciously given you to spend :)

      Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!!!

    • http://www.mollyeverafter.com/ Molly

      “But I still feel guilty reading APW and Offbeat, like I’m a fraud.”

      Oh, man, I totally feel you on this. I felt a lot of guilt over my rather large wedding budget, too. But we could afford it, and we spent it on things that we really wanted and cared about, so I’d say that’s pretty practical. :-)

    • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

      Stephanie – you’re totally not a fraud. The APW staff and vendors and I talk all the time about how funny it is that this site is seen as a place for “budget” weddings, because there are so many APW couples there are who have $50k+ weddings – which we know because they’re our clients.

      Unfortunately there’s as much shaming around “spending too much” as there is around “spending too little” in the industry – if you/your family can afford it, there is honestly NO reason to feel bad about it at all.

  • Jess

    I’m feeling conflict in so many areas over this whole budget thing. Mostly because we do have a decent amount of money to spend on our wedding. We can afford it. We have great jobs, generous gifts from our parents, good saving habits, and time to save. We want to throw a party, and we live in one of those high price point areas. It’s going to cost money. I’m a designer and have very specific tastes. My fiance family alone is larger than the rest of our guest list combined. There’s all these reasons where our budget makes sense, and then some days it feels so high. And others it feels sooooo low.
    And then there’s the specifics of the budget. Yes, I can easily say I have X amount saved and we have a gift of Y from our parents. The overall number is easy. But then dividing that up into categories? Ugh. Sure, I can just say that the venue budget will be this much, and the catering will be that much. But you don’t actually know. Your number could be completely useless, and so I’ve found the need to do all this recon style research to suss out potential cost estimates for a whole range of things just so I can make my budget and then ACTUALLY start looking at venues, and food options, and desserts and music. I feel you have to know all the things before you make a budget, but need to know the budget before you can find the information about all the things. A giant circle of nonsense.

    • kyley

      Oh, man, I hear you. I don’t know if this will help you, but the most helpful advice, for me, came from Meg’s book (surprise, surprise). She writes about how you and your partner should pick the 3 (or so) things that are really, really important to your dream vision of a wedding. In the book she may not be directly applying it to budgets, but it’s been a helpful rule of thumb for us.

      We decided the important things were:
      firstly: the people
      secondarily: a really cool venue with delicious food
      thirdly: nice clothes and good pictures
      lastly: everything else

      As a result, we set out to decide on the venue and food first. We did a lot of mock-up budgets as we looked into different venues/catering options, each staying within the grand total we’d established that we were comfortable with. When we found the venue/catering option that works best for us, we set the rest of our budget accordingly. The official rule of thumb is that venue/catering is 50% of your budget, but for us it wound up 70% or more, and we’re cutting down/cutting out all those items we established as less important.

      When we start to stress about all the additional expenses we’re feeling pressure to include, we remind ourselves that we didn’t put decor or alcohol or transportation on the priority list, so we let it go.

      • Jess

        Hmm. Good points. I had thought about that in terms of removing things from the event entirely, but not about budget proportions. I think our venue/catering/cocktail budget will take similar proportions to yours. It’s nice to have reassurance that someone else has made similar choices and the wedding planning hasn’t imploded.

        • Rebecca

          I think I saw this in a comment (or post?) a while ago, but it’s worth repeating: budgeting is an iterative process. It’s okay (normal, in fact), to make a budget, do some research, and change your budget according to what you learn. Getting your budget perfect on the first go is not required :)

  • http://namelessw0nder.blogspot.com Tasha

    I feel like there’s a lot missing in the $3500 – 20,000 wedding range! I know it’s going to vary from location to location and everything, but it would help to have something in between those. To me, anything over $5k is RIDICULOUS because I would not be able to afford that for a long time.

    Anyway, still interesting to see how it could break down.

    • Hayley

      When I first got engaged, my fiance and I figured that $5,000 was about as much as we felt comfortable spending on 1 day. It’s definitely possible to have a potluck or taco wedding for that amount in SF, but only if you’re not going to hire any staff at all. Here is our new budget:

      Venue $1000
      Buffet Catering $5500 (gift from family)
      Alcohol $1000
      Stationary $140
      Suit Rental $200
      Dress + accessories $410 (plus alterations WTF $400)
      Dishware/glassware from thrift store $250
      Photographer $550
      DIY Flowers (gift from family)
      Cake made by friend
      Used amp for ceremony/dancing $100
      Stamps $50

      Overall, around $10,000-11,000, which is both ridiculous AND barely sufficient.

    • Emma

      Agreed, I was a little surprised by this breakdown as well. Our budget is around 10K. We’d love to come under but realize that for the kind of party we want to throw, we’ll have to suck it up (I long pushed for an elopement, actually, but he held firm). We’ve even budgeted in a contingency amount set aside for emergency wedding spending, with the goal of trying not to use it (in which case we’ll spend it on our honeymoon).

      Right now, our preliminary budget for about 100 people in the DC area, based on price quotes and where we’re leaning towards booking, breaks down like this:

      Venue (includes tables and catering tent) – $2500
      BBQ catering (includes servers for buffet-style and dish rentals) – $4000
      Photography – $2000 (this is really important to us, but we also have a lot of close friends who are pros, including one who teaches photography locally — we may wind up hiring one of her students through a recommendation and cutting this in half. We haven’t decided yet)
      Beer/Wine (+ bartender) – $1000 (we have a family friend who works for a distributor, so we’re getting a deal and may even come in well under this)
      Officiant – free (our friend is doing it)
      Clothes – $300 (he’s wearing a suit he already owns and I’m on the hunt for a used/rented or otherwise very inexpensive dress, I already have suitable shoes and jewelry, no veil because I don’t want one anyway, we’ll buy him a new tie)
      Decorations – $100 (the venue we are close to booking is in a lovely natural setting, so we’re just buying string lights for the barn and tea lights for the tables, which we’re putting in jars we are currently collecting)
      Flowers – $200 (we’re doing them ourselves and really only doing flowers for my bouquet — the rest will be greenery for the tables)
      Rings – $500 (this is an overestimate but we didn’t do an engagement ring, so we’re overbudgeting here because we want to get something we really love)
      Contingency budget/honeymoon – $2500

      As you can see, even with considerable cost cutting, we’re scraping the top of our budget and we don’t even have a single deposit down yet (though we’re 20 months out still). The main reason we haven’t booked the venue is because we’re debating between a daytime or evening reception, which will really impact venue costs. We were leaning towards morning wedding/midday reception, which would cut our venue fee in half. But we’re also DIYing a lot of stuff, and I’m nervous about getting everything ready to go in time for an 11am ceremony. If we do the early ceremony, I might hire a day-of planner to make sure it all happens, which will mostly erase the savings. It’s all a balancing act.

      I have no doubt that some of these costs will balloon while others shrink (or maybe they’ll all balloon! maybe this actually IS a 20K wedding and we just don’t know it yet! what if we’re lucky enough to have everyone RSVP yes?). There’s stuff that isn’t on here (namely invitations) because we are currently thinking about going the email route unless our parents can’t deal with that and agree to pay for that themselves. We also haven’t sorted out the cake — I really want to make it myself (I’m a great baker) but we are sensibly exploring other options because while I make a great cake I cannot manufacture more time, especially the week of the wedding.

      However, it was relatively easy for us to settle on the budget and figure out how much we could reasonably spend (based on our funds and the available options in our area) on the stuff that is most important to us (good food, pretty setting, nice photography). We also quickly dispensed with other things. The thing you learn quickly is that we could easily spend 20K or 50K on a wedding, if we had it. So I wonder if one reason Elizabeth broke it out the way she did is because a 3.5K wedding budget is genuinely distinct, whereas a 20K budget is, in many ways, just a 10K budget with extra wiggle room. Once you hit a certain number of people and are hiring a caterer, you hit a cost floor. You can go up from there, but you can’t really go down without doing the food yourself or cutting your guest list.

      Or you could do what my brother did and have a potluck! That wedding taught me that no matter your budget, there’s always a solution.

  • RY

    I got married in Germany (I am German). Here’s what we spent, in case anyone is interested.

    Rings: 800€ (palladium rings, mine with three tiny diamonds – engagement rings are not traditional in Germany, so there were none of those)
    Reception venue with buffet for 50 guests, drinks and service included: 2,400€
    Ceremony: 400€ (civil ceremony – would have usually cost about 100€, but Saturdays cost extra, as does getting married in a CASTLE :))
    Dress: 570€
    Rest of bride outfit: 100€ (shoes, purse, underwear and some pins for my hair)
    Suit: 630€ (re-wearable many, many times)
    Rest of groom outfit: 130€ (shoes)
    DJ: 500€ (unfortunately, he sucked)
    Flowers: 60€ (an amazing sunflower bouquet and small boutonierre)
    Hair and make-up: 80€
    Invites and postage: 120€
    City tour to keep the guests occupied between the morning wedding and the evening reception: 70€
    Tips: 60€ (oh, and before anyone chews me out because this seems low, please remember that this is not the US and was only for two servers, who I know got a decent pay for the evening)
    Thank-you cards and postage: 120€
    Cake: 0€ (gift from a friend)
    Photographer: about 600€ (that’s him being there 1/2 hour before the ceremony, the ceremony and about 1.5 hours afterwards, plus a beautiful photo album and digital copies of about 100 pictures)

    That’s about 6,500€ I think. We received about 4500€ as gifts from our guests and also help from our family financing the wedding (my mother paid for the dress, and between our parents we received about 3500€ on top of that), so we actually had more money after the wedding.

    I didn’t include the hotel we spent the two nights after the wedding in.

  • Anonymous for now

    I approached my wedding budget the way I approach my household budget: cut ruthlessly on the things you don’t care about; spend on the things you do without feeling guilty.

    Our total wedding budget was between $20,000 and $25,000, including money from us, my parents, and his parents. That number included everything from the wedding rings to my sisters’ dresses to the lodging we paid for the wedding party at our destination wedding (but not the honeymoon). We came in comfortably under budget, and the items that would typically be considered “wedding expenses” were around $15,000.

    Things I learned:
    – Don’t forget about little charges like tax, delivery fees, gratuity. They add up fast.
    – If flowers are not on your list of “I really care about this,” find alternatives. My bridesmaids carried lanterns down the aisle at the wedding. My mom and I picked up a bunch of roses the day before the wedding and used them in the centerpieces. My grandmother put together a flower arrangement of fake flowers a couple weeks before the wedding for the front of the church. However, I really wanted a kick-ass bouquet, and the florists I checked with were out of my price range. I ended up ordering one from a website and it was perfect.
    – One word: Craigslist. I found such a community of recently-married women selling things from their own weddings. I bought a brand new unity candle set from a couple whose order didn’t get delivered in time for their wedding. One woman sold some vases I was interested in to someone else, but emailed me back with suggestions of where to find a good deal on others. We even bought my husband’s wedding ring from a still-married guy who turned out to be allergic to tungsten. Then when it was all over, I got a little money back by selling my own leftovers.
    – Borrow. I hunted high and low for the veil I pictured in my head, but couldn’t find it in a remotely reasonable price range. Then, I went to my cousin’s wedding, and she walked down the aisle in exactly the veil I had my eye on. It ended up being a very special “something borrowed” for me. Two of my bridesmaids provided their goods for the cake cutting, taking responsibility for tracking them down and getting them back after the reception. Less for me to worry about!
    – Make sure you have a place to track who you’ve paid and how much. Sometimes vendors don’t remind you of due dates until you’re late with a payment. Sometimes they offer you a discount if you pay the full amount up front. Just keep a record so on the day of, you (or your planner) knows that the trolley driver doesn’t need to be paid the amount of the rental, just a tip.

    • Copper

      I love the lantern idea, that’s so cute!

    • MTM

      This. We saved money/got discounts by having the cash up-front.

  • Nickki

    Thank you for including an under $5000 option. I live in (and plan on) getting married in San Francisco and because we don’t want a huge wedding, this is a good idea of what we can do with our “paltry” $5000 budget. Besides, isn’t the point actually getting married?

    • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

      The point is TOTALLY getting married.
      Also – we have amazing food trucks here, go to Off the Grid one Friday and try some out, it’s my favorite affordable catering options in the Bay Area.

      • Copper

        I’ve been considering this, and am in LA so we also have a big food truck scene. But I’ve heard some drawbacks that maybe you could speak to? I keep reading stories that say that food trucks don’t work because they’re not equipped to handle a large number of people at the same time, so people will wind up standing in a huge line and then eating at vastly different times throughout the evening. Has this been your experience, or what are your tips to keep that from happening?

        • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

          I’ve done a LOT of food truck weddings, and for the most part haven’t had this problem any more than I have with a buffet. I think that since generally food truck catered weddings tend to be more casual, having them open from the start of the reception so that people can go get food whenever they want works really well – if you’re going for a “traditionally” structured wedding with 1.5 hours set aside for dinner it’s probably not the best catering option for you, but if you’re having a rad party with great food being served from a truck that people are eating as they’re socializing and taking breaks from dancing/whatever? It’s a great and super affordable way to get fantastic food.

      • Nickki

        Off the Grid is wonderful! Asking the food truck vendors if they can reccomend anyone in my price (or friends just staring out) had been really sucessful.

  • Another Meg

    I can’t decide if we’re even going to make a budget. We have a few thousand in savings for it, and my partner’s parents are giving $5000. We’re getting married at a pavilion in a campground in the middle of nowhere in the midwest, but we’re having about 150 guests, so we’ll probably need it. So far, I’ve spent $280 on a dress from Anthropologie, and we’re likely going to spend $3000 on photography. The majority of food for our dinner reception is a gifted pig on a spit and deep-fried turkeys, and we’ll supplement with catered salads and rolls. I’m making the pies with my mom and bunch of friends.

    Something I know we’ll end up spending a bunch on is gifts for our party and those in the wedding. Including our officiants, we have 26 people- that’s just our brides-people and the two co-officiants. I also have eight nieces and nephews I want to include in various roles.

    How much did people spend on attendant’s gifts? I don’t want to get them all the same thing, but I’m not sure what the appropriate amount to shoot for is.

    • One More Sara

      This is kind of my budget philosophy as well. I got the important things settled early for a price I know we (ourselves and our families) can afford. Things I don’t care much about (flowers, videography) I’m procrastinating on a bit. I figure if that by 2 months out we still want one and can still afford one, then I’ll look for something then. I would just hate to book something that I don’t really care about now and then not being able to afford something I actually want.

      We are planning a church/hotel wedding for ~100 people
      Church: $500-600 (includes organist and coordinator)
      Hotel: $8100 (includes apps, dinner, cake, 5 hr open bar (closed the hour during dinner), 6 hr reception, event coordinator. We exchanged the champagne toast, floral centerpieces, and chair covers to upgrade other things. We are also saving 10% by hosting the wedding on a Sunday)
      Photography: $850 (Grouponed, added on the CD of images and printing rights, e-shoot included)
      Photobooth (hopefully): $500 (via photog, discount rate from the Groupon)
      DJ: $2300 (Includes 2 djs, uplighting and live musician for cocktail hour. I probably could’ve saved $$ here, but we live far away, and I was terrified of hiring a cheeseball DJ, so just threw money at it for my piece of mind)
      Dress: $840

      So far that puts us just over $13k. We still need to figure out what we are doing for flowers, and we’ll probably rent a school bus for shuttling to/from the church and hotel (mostly bc our foreign guests will get a kick out of it “Wow a yellow school bus! Just like in the movies!”) Everything after that will just be icing on the cake.

    • KC

      My opinion on attendant gifts:
      1. personal beats price; a handwritten letter that goes over high points in your friendship/relationship, or a bag of the kind of candy you used to eat together at summer camp, or something like that, is awesome. If you’re to spend 1 hour per bridesmaid trying to find a gift, odds are good that you could write something meaningful (it *really* doesn’t have to be perfect or even spelled correctly) in that time.
      2. if you really have to think price, then my first thought is “what’s the price range necessary to get something that they will legitimately enjoy?”, which is not great for ahead-of-time budgeting. The second (possibly more helpful) thought is “what would you deem appropriate to spend for a birthday/Christmas present for these friends” or, if you’ve been in their weddings and they’re in a comparable financial situation to you, “what’s the approximate value of the gifts they gave me”?

      But most of all: do not make yourself crazy. Attendant gifts are not why bridesmaids are bridesmaiding for you, and your friends and loved ones do not want you to suffer. (similarly, favors are not why people come to your wedding) It’s okay to get them all matching inexpensive necklaces, or funky scarves, or nothing at all (except, as mentioned above, seriously, even a short note is awesome), or something super personalized and different for each one, or a sequence of rubber ducks, or whatever. If shopping for gifts is one of the great joys in your life, then set a budget and go to town, obviously – just, if shopping=suffering for you, it’s okay to take a route that requires less of it…

      (and numbers-wise, I’ve received bridesmaiding gifts that would have ranged in cost from around $5-10 [lovely and personally-chosen but not-fancy journal bought while overseas in a not-expensive country] to probably over a hundred dollars [substantial semi-precious-stone necklace and earrings, custom-made by a friend of their family]. For gifts where the cost is the main feature, I think it has a lot more to do with the financial resources and expectations of the couple and those around them, and the general wedding budget [if your dress is covered in diamonds, then probably don't give your bridesmaids jewelry in Walmart boxes, and vice versa?], than it has to do with a “normal” value.)(I don’t remember what the bridesmaid gifts I bought actually cost, unfortunately. I do, however, remember that they were all matching necklaces, and that the ones I liked bestest of all the necklaces in the store were rather conveniently on a massive clearance sale (!), and that I then spent probably 40 minutes rooting madly around amongst the hundreds of boxes on the display table to try to find enough of them.)

    • Another Meg

      Thanks! This was actually very helpful.

    • http://www.piercedwonderings.com Lynn

      For my girls, the gifts were all different. They each got small (and in one case, large) pieces of art, personal to them, that was approximately $100-150 each. I only had three attendants, and they have been my best friends since I was 11 in some cases.

      The gaggle of groomsmen got their vests (my mom made them), their ties, and a jar of our homemade moonshine. Cheaper than for the women, but there were a total of 9 guys.

      My officiant was the only off-the-wall gift. She’s a good friend of mine, and she was along on the bachelorette party with me, which essentially consisted of shopping. When I noticed that she was wearing two bras at the same time because in her words, “that’s the only way they stay up”, I took her to be properly fitted for a bra. Her thank you gift was two new bras (which she protested mightily until she put one on and realized what she had been missing).

  • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com Rachel Wilkerson

    SO glad to see this kind of discussion happening on APW. I often find myself wishing that all weddings on blogs/Pinterest had a price tag on them, so I could know if something I like is feasible, or the result of having a huge budget. I think it’s easy to assume DIY/quirky/indie weddings were less expensive than more traditional weddings, but my suspicion is that that’s not always the case!

    Anyway, I noticed the first couple did not pay for wedding planning; is this because you weren’t actually their planner? Could a couple with a $5000 budget reasonably expect to pay for a planner? And I guess my real question for Elizabeth is this: we recently talked to a planner and she seemed amazing for a lot of reasons, in part because we feel she could help us stick to our budget and spend wisely. We are awaiting her proposal, but while I think we’ll be able to afford her services, I’m concerned what that will mean for the rest of our budget. As in, we don’t want to make having a planner eat up our entire budget, as then what money would she have to work with when it comes to planning? So I’d love some information on whether it’s OK for the cost of a planner to cut into other costs (like, say your invitations) and sort of how to make sure we have enough left over for the other big things, like music or photography or whatever if we do decide to work with her!

    • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

      The first couple were close friends of mine who I gifted heavy consulting to as a wedding present, because I knew they couldn’t afford to pay me :)

      My general rule is that you shouldn’t spend more than 10-15% of your budget on planning & coordination, and I’m super upfront with all of my potential clients about this. That said, I still have clients who choose to book packages with me that are a larger percentage of their budget than that, and they cut down on other things to make it work (which is always a giant, giant compliment for me.)

      So, with a $5000 budget, if you came to me I’d encourage you to hire me for hourly consulting (which many planners offer these days), but not for full planning or coordination, because I’d want you to spend your money on more important things, like feeding your guests (which is not to say that I don’t think what I do isn’t important, because I think it is, but I just think feeding your guests is more important!)

      • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com Rachel Wilkerson

        This is exactly what I needed, thanks so much for the reply!

  • Hannah

    We spent about $18,500 in Lexington, Kentucky in 2012 for our wedding, and that includes pretty much everything. We had a church wedding and reception in the church hall with a buffet dinner for 100 people.

    Venue (basically a 10% tithe to the church on all other expenses, includes minister): $1700
    Church staff (Organist/Music director & janitorial): $400
    Stationary, postage, printing (e.g., invites, place cards, seating poster): $850
    Décor (purchase of tablecloths/napkins, chair sashes, centerpiece supplies, flatware, paper lanterns): $925
    Rentals (china, glassware, chairs, dance floor, grill, warming & convection ovens): $1575
    Catering (passed appetizers, dinner buffet, staff, and tip): $5250
    Bar supplies (wine, beer, sodas): $1000
    Cake: $400
    Flowers (done by the church floral guild—altarpiece, 2 bouquets, 2 corsages, 6 boutonnières): $350
    DJ for 4 hour reception (with tip): $800
    Photographer (5 hours of coverage, tip, CD with high res images): $1000
    Attire (dress & veil, groom’s tux, shoes, alterations): $2150
    Hair (bride): $100
    Make-up supplies (I did it myself): $75
    Rings (bride & groom): $2775

  • Umpteenth Sarah

    Our budgeting was, like has been said here a million times, all about prioritizing what was important to us, which was emphasizing community, being inclusive, and not playing by any “rulebook,” aside from the rule of “being kind.” So, various family members (we have 3 major “units” — his parents, my father, my mother) paid for specific items — catering was covered by my mom, the venue by us, booze by his parents, and so on. We clocked in at something around 5K, including everything, which felt like a LOT of money, but doesn’t go that far in my non-contiguous western US far northern state (take a guess).
    Venue: really important to us (planning from far away, so we wanted a place that would not require decorating and came with all the bells and whistles included): $1,500 for an entire day at an abandoned gold mine. 45 guests, they kicked us out at around 10, so we migrated (more on that later)
    ~$800 for catering by a local business – only mains and sides, one person to serve, Italian-ish
    $200 for apps that we provided (LOVE apps)
    $150 for cake(s) that we both made and supplemented with additional cake (LOVE cake)
    $500 for booze, and lots of it — kegs, loads of wine, no hard alcohol per my instructions
    $100 for a temporary “speaker system” added by a neighbor to this house our guests rented from airbnb for their own accommodation, at which we had our after-party
    $800 for clothes of all sorts — my 3 dresses (one of which I already owned and changed into for dancing, one of which was a “oops i bought two dresses” accident), his suit jacket, some shoes.
    $400 for our friend/photog, who was awesome and partied with us. He’s young, and we have no pics of the after party because he was too busy being the life of it.
    $200 for our “glasses” which were also favors
    $500 for our honeymoon hotel
    and some other miscellaneous stuff.

    All in all, more expensive than we wanted since so much was DIY, but not too bad.

    I toyed with the idea of self catering everything, but settled on apps and desserts because of logistics. That ish is HARD.

  • Dawn

    I was literally looking at my budget spreadsheet in one window and saw this pop-up in my FB newsfeed in the other. Coincidence? I think not. Geographic price variability is the very reason my FH and I chose to have our wedding in my small hometown instead of the city where we live, Atlanta. It still hasn’t been easy planning for my FH’s “oh, we NEED to add this person” weekly pleas. Being the numbers person in our household, I shouldn’t be too surprised that I’m the one constantly crunching the numbers and saying “no.” I’ve planned well for the extras like alterations, tips, etc, but what I’m having the hardest time figuring out now are the DIY costs. We have an amazing florist that is providing lighting in addition to our flowers, but the signs, fabric and garland for draping are all on my plate. Any advice on how to budget for these types of things?

    • http://youlovelucy.tumblr.com youlovelucy

      Is the area you’re getting married still in Georgia? I’m also from Atlanta, but we got married in Hiawassee. I might be able to give you recommendations for things. :)

      • Dawn

        It’s in Kingsland, in Southeast Georgia. Any recommendations would be great!! Thanks!

        • http://youlovelucy.tumblr.com youlovelucy

          ACTUALLY, I used to live in Statesboro and a bunch of my friends have gotten married in Savannah/Southeast Georgia recently. My email is lguest4 at gmail dot com, so if you email me what you’re looking for I can probably get a bunch of info for you!

  • Zoe

    My husband and I live in Boston and managed to get married with a $10K budget. Here’s how:

    We held our ceremony (officiated by my father- thanks Dad!) on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon for 8 members of our immediate family. Total cost for the trip for everyone, plus costs associated with hair/makeup, food, cake and photographer: under $5K

    2 months later we had a “reception” for 80 of our friends and family back home by renting out a bar (for free- thanks Atwoods in Cambridge!), hiring a band, providing the booze and finger foods and another wedding cake: under $5K

    A couple of the ways we saved is thanks to my husband, who made the invitations and our rings himself. But the whole thing was SO easy and stress-free and didn’t cost an arm and a leg – all things that became very important to me as wedding planning went underway. I haven’t heard of many other people doing a very small destination wedding + informal reception back home, but I highly recommend it. We had money left over for a $3K honeymoon in Hawaii/San Francisco a few months later which, frankly, was very important to me!

    • kyley

      I live in Inman Square, and I love that your reception was at Atwoods! That place is amazing! We are having a wedding in Portland, ME to address the insane costs in Boston (sadly, Atwoods-type venues are too small for our giant families), but we might honeymoon in the Grand Canyon!

      • Zoe

        That’s awesome – we live right down Cambridge Street near Lechmere, so we’ve been faithful Atwoods customers for awhile and they are so nice there. I imagine a Portland wedding will be absolutely beautiful, and a nice destination for people. The Grand Canyon is a romantic place, so it would make for a great honeymoon destination! Then you can splurge for a nice room and meals at El Tovar.

  • Ros

    We got married last summer, and had a lovely wedding with 120-odd guests (my husband has a large family…) In the end, we spent slightly over 7K, which struck me as absolutely ludicrously expensive, at the time.

    In our favor, we got married in the country with a hell of a lot of DIY, and lucked out so much in terms of bargains and community help.

    In the negative, it was a rural location, so, while things are cheap, importing what isn’t in the middle of nowhere (photographer, catering if wanted, etc) is either impossible or ludicrously expensive, which requires creative solutions and a lot of DIY. Also, we’re in Quebec, which basically killed the booze budget dead (a semi-decent-but-not-great bottle of wine here is 13-14$, if you’re lucky – now provide booze for 120), and our families and friends are pretty heavy drinkers, and there were a lot of them…

    Here’s a general breakdown:
    – 300$ – Location. We rented a community hall in the small town my husband is from. It’s a 100-odd-year-old building that’s basically vintage charm incarnate, next to a pretty creek, and was 300$ for a full weekend including full kitchen and table/chairs. We lucked out.
    – 450$ – Rentals (dishes) and food dispensers (including 3 cocktail dispensers)
    – 1300$ – Food. We hired a guy to do grilled meats, and made everything else (sides, dessert table, coffee, tea, salads, vegetarian/vegan main dishes) ourselves. Yay for community! My husband’s aunt is also a pastry chef, and she made our wedding cakes as a present, which was so kind of her!
    – 1300$ish – Alcohol. We had a cocktail hour (3 drink dispensers with punches – a basil-infused whiskey punch, a tropical rum punch, and a sangria), as well as beer and wine with dinner.
    – 400$ – Servers and cleaners, 4 of them. We hired some highschool/college students to ferry plates around/refill the buffet table/gather up dirty dishes/etc, and I swear, this is the best money we spent on the entire thing. They also thought that 100$ was great for 6 hours of work, so win/win!
    – 150$ – Speaker rentals. We did ipod playlists and a friend played music for dancing, but we needed speakers!
    – 800$ – Attire, both of us. I had my dress custom made (I wanted cotton and comfy, since it was mid-August with no AC; my husband had a gorgeous vintage tux but needed nice shoes, other than that, we wore what we owned.)
    – 400$ – Decorating! Paper lanterns, candles on the tables, flowers (cheap in-season sunflowers from the farm near my parent’s place, arranged by the super-cheap small-town florist…)
    – 700$ – Wedding rings
    – 800$ – Cabin rentals for us and for out-of-town friends who needed help with accommodations
    – 1000$ – Photographer, semi-pro friend, which believe it or not was the cheapest option by far (we paid her plane ticket). The problem with rural locations is that your choices are limited, and getting people out there from the city is $$$.
    – 100$ – printable invitations, printable thank-you cards, paper, stamps…

    Overall, I think we did really well with the money we had saved. No matter how you go about it, providing a full meal and plentiful booze to 120 people costs money, never mind the rest of the costs.

    I’m glad we splurged on accommodations for us (so that we weren’t staying in my mother-in-law’s house on our wedding night…) and for out-of-town friends so that they could come, and that we got gorgeous wedding rings made from recycled gold, hand-crafted by an artisan who has made other jewelry I own.

  • Emily

    I think it’d be helpful to have a break down of some of the same costs scaled for a bigger wedding (200-250). I think keeping your guest list small is one thing many do to keep costs down, but only some of the costs scale as the guest list grows. If you want to be really inclusive, how much does that affect your bottom line?

    • Ros

      I can’t speak to how it would affect your bottom line in strictly financial terms… But I can speak as to how it narrows down on some cost-saving options.

      For example, we had 120 people at our wedding. The venue was a rural town hall (very pretty, very cheap!), maximum capacity 130 people. You need a venue that will fit that many people, and those tend to be more expensive in cities, and not necessarily easily available in non-city locations. The venue you choose is one of those doesn’t-scale-by-number-of-people things, but you have to have room to fit all the people you want to invite! Larger venues can also have restrictions on what you can do (bringing in booze, caterers, DJs and music, etc), which are worth checking since that also affects the bottom line.

      We made almost all the food ourselves. Frankly, we could have gone to 150 people just by scaling up quantities a bit without noticing the effort much, but more than that would have been problematic in terms of cooking space, time, fridge space, etc, so your DIY cost-savings options, while still possible, become more difficult. Professional catering also scales by person, but you have to have a caterer who can accomodate a 300-person meal, which means that some smaller (potentially more original and/or cheaper) options may be problematic, so at that point, it might be worth looking into non-dinner options (dessert/champagne afternoon reception, or what have you).

      Basically, what I noticed is that it isn’t even necessarily just about the number of guests, it’s that over 150-or-so people just pushes you into a different type of location, and then the choices available to you are different.

      • AnotherCourtney

        We noticed this, too! We planned for about 120 people and ended up with closer to 150. The church where we had our ceremony fit 150, so going over that number would have caused trouble.

        Actually, the town we got married in only had 2 or 3 locations that could fit a large wedding (even considering ours as large…maybe 1 or 2 if you got over 200). Since we had a relatively short engagement, we had to be really flexible on the date in order to find an opening. A smaller wedding would have had more flexibility and options.

    • Jashshea

      We booked our venue before we knew the headcount (number was always at least 150 given the size of our families), so that wasn’t a variable for us. Our venue could hold 270 seated and we invited 288. We gave the caterer 195 as our final number, but had a few no-shows (and like 3 fully empty tables).

      I had a big old spreadsheet for this, but generally speaking…

      There are very few costs that are going to sky rocket if you add a small number of people. It’s when you’re talking about adding an order of magnitude that things can get dicey. Meaning adding 2-5 people is fine, you can squeeze them into the other tables, but adding 20 people is 2 more tables, 20 more chairs, 2 more tablecloths/centerpieces, etc.

      Couple things to think about if you haven’t booked a place yet:
      –Does your venue have enough tables/chairs for your crowd? Or do they have tables & chairs for 80 people and you’ll need to rent the difference?
      –Are you doing plated or buffet style food? Squeezing in a few extra people on a buffet line is usually no big deal, but that’s tougher for plated. Also of note: Many caterers I spoke with had pricing drops as the headcount number escalated – ex. $55 pp for fewer than 100 ppl, $50 pp for 100-150, $45 pp for 200+.
      –Dinner takes longer when there’s more people to feed. Do you want a 4 hour dance party? You may have to extend the timeline – I added extra hours to the standard 4 for the venue and DJ so that we had time to throw down (Caterer didn’t charge per hour and the photog is a friend who was supposed to transition to a guest, but never stopped working).

      Not variable due to number of guests: Entertainment, Venue (though you may pay more for a venue that can hold more people), Officiant.

  • Elena

    We had a budget wedding in the middle of nowhere in Alaska (in Soldotna) on 12/12/12. It had about 20 people – parents, siblings, and a couple of friends. Since it was a destination wedding, tickets were a big part of the cost.
    Break down:

    Venue (a lodge with conference center for one day, and 4 units for 3 days/2 nights): $1250
    Food (cooked and organized by my husband’s family): $0 to us, not even sure how much they spent
    Photos: $200 to a semi-professional photographer friend
    Flowers and Decor (also homemade by my husband’s family): $0 to us
    Misc items (custom coasters that were our party favors, cake topper, ect): $100

    We also spent:
    flight tickets & rental car: $1000
    his outfit: $800
    my outfit: $350
    rings: $6000 – this was the biggest splurge, more expensive than the rest of the wedding!

    My dad still keeps telling everyone that it was the best wedding he’s ever been too – private, cozy, nobody had to do any speeches or planned activities, just a get-together with the family over home-cooked food.

    And here is our beautiful cake: http://sphotos-h.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc7/322887_10151332085551007_1560503735_o.jpg

    • Umpteenth Sarah

      MY wedding was in Alaska (I’m from there, though, and it made me crazy when people referred to it as a destination wedding). My dad lives in Soldotna.

      Small world.

    • http://youlovelucy.tumblr.com youlovelucy

      I have nothing constructive to add, but awwww look at the love bears! So cute!

  • D

    I guess being well-versed alongside my fiancé in the service industry (he’s owned two coffeeshops and helped open three restaurants), plus being a part of a very creative community in Portland leaves us a bit spoiled.

    Our original budget is listed below, but there was an unexpected windfall (silver lining of a really shitty unexpected death of a parent) we decided to put towards a really awesome pair of venues (both discounted due to affiliation) instead of courthouse and home reception; listed after.

    Makeup: $0 (a friend)
    Hair: $75 (pro friend entrusted with elaborate ‘do)
    Dress: $75 (beautiful vintage score)
    Rhinestones for dress: $14
    Vintage hairpiece: $20 on etsy
    Shoes: ~$50
    Beer/Wine/Sake Cocktail Open Bar: ~$200 (sponsored local beer & wine cuts cost)
    Groom’s outfit: $200 or less
    Flowers: $0 (from our garden)
    Invitations: ~$200 (designer friend & local discount print shop!)
    Photography/videography: $100 (awesome pro friends, editing by pro photog/videographer groom)
    Cake: $0 (team effort from mom and professional cake decorator cousin)
    Food: $600 (fresh fish for sushi + sushi chef friend, side supplies donated by sushi restaurant we’re friends with)
    Officiant: $0 (a best friend)
    Music: $0 (custom playlist we are making and friend’s Dj equipment)
    Decor: <$100 (my mom and her crafty friends are doing a lot of the work from ideas we gave them)

    Super-awesome ceremony venue: $1200 (getting married in a planetarium!… SPACE)
    Reception: $3500 ( includes two large rooms, one with full A/V set-up, other with stage and great acoustics, custom decor, all staff needed including bartenders/security/door/waitstaff, all set-up/take-down, chairs/tables, etc completely included… plus discount on rooms for any guests wishing to stay there)

    Budget pre-windfall: ~$1500 ($1,334 by this list)
    Budget with super-awesome venue capability: $6200

    Our guest list didn't change before and after the venue "upgrade" and we were planning an open bar either way, it was still solid at about 180 friends/family members (and their +1s included).

    I would definitely encourage anyone who is buying booze of any type to talk to local breweries/wineries about sponsorship. Most are more than willing to contribute something and the "trade" of their logo is honestly minimal, especially if you love what they do anyways.

    I guess I just don't personally buy that certain things need to cost so much, but I am also meticulous in finding things and have planned much more hectic and fancier parties in 2 weeks with a third of the original budget and a sold-out venue… Rushing seems to be the number one enemy in party/event/wedding planning, so thankful to have what will be an end number of 1.5 year engagement by our September nuptials. :-)

  • http://youlovelucy.tumblr.com youlovelucy

    This is the first time I’ve actually sat down and sussed out our cost. Our budget started at “under 5k” while underemployed, then jumped to “under 10k” when I got a better job and following about $2k in gifts from my dad. We had a very long lead time and I’m able to keep rough numbers in my head pretty easily, so I resolved not to track every dime and make myself crazy unless I was worried payments going out all at once.

    We had 70ish people in attendance, but technically paid for 90 (lots of no shows). I still look at that number and cringe a bit, but I’m at least cheered knowing that most of our wedding party had DELIGHTFUL leftovers. Hiawassee is a small mountain town in North Georgia, and there is literally no rental company within 50 miles, but somehow I found one that didn’t charge through the nose for mileage.

    Catering: $3,600 – This included passed appetizers, a dinner buffet line, labor, a bartender, plates, silverware, and linens. It worked out to $40 a person.

    Venue: $2,000 – The bulk of this is actually lodging. We paid for use of the area grounds, pavillion and conference center for Friday and Saturday, and paid a chunk of the cost to rent out 4 cabins for the wedding party, their significant others, and us.

    Photography: $1,500
    Attire: $1,000 – About 40% of this was buying Bryan a very jazzy new suit, but also includes anything I bought for hair/makeup, etc while I was still keeping track.

    Flowers: $400 – Our florist (a family friend) put together bouquets, and gave us two buckets of flowers to use for centerpieces. When we picked them up she ended up giving us two more buckets of daisies that “weren’t good” but looked fine to us.

    Paper Things: $350 – Invitations, programs, table books that I made, paper flags, and welcome notes. I designed these, so this was the cost of paper (I’m a paper snob), ink, postage, and random tools I bought.

    Officiant: $300 – We paid for my friend’s dad’s gas and lodging.
    DJ: $300

    Planner: $250 – This wasn’t originally a line item, but about two months before the wedding I went to a craft fair on a whim and ended up winning a $500 planning package. I paid an extra $250 for day-of things. Best decision of my life.

    Cake: $125
    Rental: $100

    Total: $9,925

    I think the “real” total is probably around $12,000 because our parents paid for a few other things: liquor, rehearsal cook out, etc. In my head, it seems like it’s on the higher end of budgets for under 100 people, but I wouldn’t take back a dime.

    • http://youlovelucy.tumblr.com youlovelucy

      Also a side note: you would be surprised what you can afford when you want it enough. We live rather cheaply but still have a tendency to fritter away money on things without realizing it.

      For example: I had a bad habit of eating out by myself (at not great places, so not even worth it) and a near daily frilly coffee habit. That’s about $20 to $30 a week on relatively non-essential expenditures, or more.

      Dropping those hardly registered as a blip in my brain, but they made a huge difference (and continue to make a difference) in the amount we’re able to put towards other things.

      • One More Sara

        My BFF is in my wedding and another one a month after mine. She has made lots of money saving games. Like one week every time they heard Poker Face, they put a dollar in the jar. Another weeks she saved a buck for every person she saw wearing camo. It doesn’t really feel major as you are doing it, but she said she was surprised at how quickly and easily she (and her boyfriend) were able to save money.

        • revooca

          What a cool idea!

  • Carly

    We got married in NYC with 30 people and it cost about 5000. There were some splurges my husband made that drove our costs up, so it could have been less.
    Venue = free (Central Park)
    Reception = 3000 brunch in a private room at a restaurant included open bar, cake, gratuity, a million candles decorating the room
    Flowers = 100 (bouquets, etc.) no need for ceremony decor
    hair = 40 (I got a blowout at drybar)
    makeup = free, I did it myself
    dress = kind of free (It was 650 at a sample sale, and my mom bought it for me as a gift, I paid 430 for alterations, and after the wedding I sold it for $500)
    rings = 500
    mini cooper rental = 100
    helicopter ride over manhattan for our wedding party gift= 600
    groom’s suit = 700
    photos = 200 (favor from semi-pro friend)
    officiant = free (a friend got ordained)
    favors = 100 (a charity donation)
    stationery = 20: online invites (we had to get married on 3 weeks notice (long story), so didn’t have time to send paper invites
    30: thank you cards
    5: place cards that I made

    • http://carmarblogs.blogspot.com CarMar

      Can I just say that is an awesome wedding party gift!

      • Carly

        thank you!

  • http://www.dailyorg.com Meghen

    Elizabeth, thank you so much for this post! My parents did a punch and cake church parish hall reception in the 70s for over 300 people as well. It’s been hard to juxtapose that against current expectations! My fiance and I have decided to follow in their footsteps and use the church’s parish hall for our late afternoon cocktail reception, and we’re calling in as many favors as we can. I’m hoping that all our spin on a modern wedding reception will be as fun for our guests as it was for my parents’. Thanks again!

    • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

      Yay! I’m personally in favor of the traditional church-hall reception making a come back (and suspect that if I ever get married I’d do something similar to what my parents did, although they’d never ask to invite people who I’d never met ;)

      Call in those favors! People love to help with weddings, and if you’re part of a church community, they’re likely used to coming together to throw large events on the cheap. My church can throw one hell of a party – it may not fancy, but we’re never lacking in people who will bring a platter of cookies, or come early and set up tables, or stay after to stack chairs.

  • Fay

    We had started with our budget at the $15K mark, but once we started looking into actual vendor prices in the DC Metro area for a June wedding that number went right out the window. Right now we’re settling into the $20-25K mark when all is said and done. We can afford it (lots of saving, cutting back on dinners out, no splurging between now and the wedding, etc.) and we are getting some small gifts from family to help pay.

    I can’t say I’m thrilled with the bottom line price tag and neither is my FH, but we decided it was more important to us to spend the money on vendors we knew would give us the “bang for our buck”. All of our vendors have fallen in the middle ground price range for our area. Naturally had we not chosen to get married at the end of peak wedding season, on a Saturday, and in the DC Metro area this would probably be several thousand dollars cheaper.

    We did look at less expensive venues (especially historical town halls, etc) away from the DC sprawl, but found many of the venues lacked handicap accessible ramps and bathrooms for our older guests. In addition many were not close to hotels or main roads and as the majority of our guests are out-of-towners it would have been a huge hassle for them to get out to the wedding site. We also looked at a Sunday event, but many of our guests advised they wouldn’t be able to make a Sunday wedding.

    So we’ve compromised about our budget and raised it to accommodate our guests and to do so we’ve had to tighten our belts some. We should be able to pay everything for the wedding in cash by mid June; though we may have to postpone a full blown honeymoon until the fall to keep from putting something on a credit card. A mini-moon to a Groupon deal B&B for a few days after the wedding sounds great to us if that’s the case.

    • dcengaged

      Thanks for posting this – it’s so hard to compare prices from region to region – I’ve seen lots of weddings posted that look exactly like ours will be that are outside the DC area and they come in almost $10,000 cheaper! We don’t want to spend a lot, but it seems like everything that’s $800 or less in someone else’s budget is $1,000+ in our area – and that adds up!

  • E

    I remember there was a great post on APW a while back where people listed the real cost of their weddings, and it was SO helpful during the early stages of my planning, just to get an idea of the range of options.

    So I’m happy to share budget details for my recent wedding. We got married in a major city in Texas (where vendors are way less expensive than New York or SF). We worked really hard to throw a fun, meaningful celebration that was also affordable.

    The $13,700 wedding

    What it looked like: Church ceremony, then reception at events hall with full-service, buffet-style catering for 120 and a DJ-provided dance party

    Church fee: $800
    Reception venue: $2000
    Full service catering for 120 (including food, linens, tableware, servers, bartenders): $4000
    Decorations: $500
    Wedding cake: $800
    Alcohol: $1000
    Pro photographer: $1400
    DJ: $700
    Save-the-dates & invites: $300
    Flowers from florist: $950
    Hair & makeup for bride, hair for bridesmaids: $650
    Transportation for out-of-town guests: $600

    Other costs included: my dress, shoes and accessories (my husband wore a suit he already had), his and hers wedding rings, our plane tickets, a hotel room for the wedding night, tips for vendors, and gifts for the wedding party. We included all these items in our budget.

    My parents generously offered to help pay for the wedding. They ended up paying for about half of the total costs, and we paid for the other half. My husband and I started a savings account when we got engaged and set up automatic deposit so that we each contributed about $300 a month. We were able to save for the wedding and honeymoon over ten months.

  • Edelweiss

    Because the replies to my earlier question was so amazing (thank you!) – I’m going to try for another – the guilt about not having a Day of Coordinator. Or can I have a workaround?

    We’re having a very casual wedding with just 40 people. We’re having the ceremony at a rental house, taking a bus to a restaurant for dinner and then taking a bus back to the rental house for coffee, cake, dancing and pool at the end of the night. I really don’t think I need a “DOC” for this – especially at the price range I’m getting quoted ($750-$1,000 – which I understand since my wedding is a Saturday, but at the same time that’s almost 1/5th of my whole budget).

    My only concern is I don’t want my future mother-in-law trapped in the kitchen for the wedding and I’m worried she will be because I know no one will “let” me lend a hand and she’s the kind of person to just jump in.

    Really I just need someone to:
    – make the coffee
    – stack the dirty coffee cups and cake plates so they can get washed the next day but aren’t in the way (or wash them!)
    – encourage people to reuse their bar glasses, but have a few extra on the ready
    – jump up if my mother-in-law starts getting into another chore (ie collecting trash, filling up ice, etc)

    Ideally this person could also help:
    – take the chairs from the ceremony space and distribute them to the hang out space
    – put out cheese and crackers while everyone’s waiting for the bus
    – neaten up napkins and abandoned glasses before we return the house
    – set-up chairs for the ceremony
    – test the sound system for the ceremony and then move it indoors for the hang out music time
    But that stuff isn’t even necessary I could ask friends to help and trust they would do it. I’m just worried that after people start having drinks and fun, they won’t be as attentive to making sure my mother-in-law isn’t overworking.

    I really don’t even think I need a DOC as much as a freelance waitress. But how do you hire someone like that (in the Poconos?)? Would they be less expensive?

    • kyley

      I think that you could easily hire someone with catering experience to do this for your for cheap. We ended up going with a diff venue and, as a result, a very different wedding, but at one point we were going to hire 2 people to do exactly the sort of thing you are describing. They were both in their early 20s and had worked for catering companies for years, and we were going to pay them about $20/hour for their help–a great rate for them and a great savings for us. Maybe you could look around on craigslist or call a local caterer and see if they had any individuals from their staff they could recommend?

    • CW

      While it’s still probably a good idea you to deputize a friend or two with pertinent info (where are things in the house, emergency phone numbers, etc), I think you could get away with hiring an “event assistant”. If you live in the area, or know people who do, try asking around if anyone knows a responsible high school or college student. You could also try asking the restaurant that you’re going to, if they have any staff that might be willing to do outside work. You could even split it between 2 people- someone for set-up and ceremony, and someone for hang-out/coffee. Let’s guess that you pay them, let’s say $15/hour (which is what my office pays our summer graduate student assistant/receptionist), at 4 hours would be $60, 8 hours would be $120. If worst comes to worst, try asking a temp agency for an event assistant for the day.

    • Laurel

      Here’s what I’d do: get friends to help with set-up. People don’t mind if the tasks are pretty manageable. You can put the cheese out before the ceremony (cheese is better at room temperature!) so it’s ready while you’re waiting.

      You are absolutely right that people will lose track of what your mother-in-law is and isn’t doing, and will forget to clean up themselves. Hire 1-2 people to clean up: college kids are great, or someone with waitress experience. Budget $200 for one person or $150/person for 2 people. It sounds like you need about 5-7 hours of work (4 pm – 11 pm?), so you might be able to get away with less by paying hourly ($20/hour), but that budget will let you tip or extend the hours if necessary. Don’t drop the rate too much or you won’t get competent people.

      The tricky part is finding the right person or people. People don’t advertise this service: there’s not enough demand to make it anyone’s full time gig. You need a restaurant or establishment you trust who can recommend someone who used to work there, or maybe a friend who knows people. I could find you someone great in Philly or the Bay Area, but not in the Poconos. Experience is way less important than general competence and work ethic. Do you get a good feeling about the competence/work ethic/judgment of any of the vendors you’re already working with? The rental house owner, the restaurant? Don’t ask flaky people for this recommendation.

    • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

      I’m with the others who are saying “college kids”! I did work like this in high school and college, and still hire college kids (well, honestly, I often now hire my own event assistants) when I throw big parties – they’re pumped to make $15-20/hr cash, and it is SO worth it to me to spend $80-100 paying people to make sure that drinks are filled, trash is picked up, coffee is out, and dishes are washed at the end of the night.

      Give a friend you trust a copy of your schedule, and tell the hired college/high school kids to report to them, and you’ll be good to go.

      • Rowany

        Something I haven’t seen discussed on APW is the use of newer on-line service sites besides Craigslist, like taskrabbit, where you have the advantage of reading reviews of the workers (who are often college-aged kids). I’m thinking of using something like that for things I’d like to “DIY+” (like guard a pre-made mp3 playlist, wash dishes, making sure under-aged guests don’t partake of the kegs we provide, etc).

    • Libby

      I say hire someone if at all possible. We only had 50 people, and I ultimately hired a DOC because I didn’t want my parents and family scrambling around, stressing out and arguing and working on my wedding night. I had the same worries about assigning people tasks – and then, do you really want to be the task manager nagging your bridesmaids to put your overnight bag in the car and pack the gifts?

      I found our DOC on Craigslist. We were her first professional clients (she’d done friend’s weddings), and we paid her $200, dinner and a recommendation. In addition to making all the little things run smoothly, she also helped cue us down the aisle, which was enormously helpful to not have to think about these things. My parents are still raving about her.

  • Louise

    Ours is a UK wedding so somewhat different. Not finished the planning yet but think we’re looking at about £7,000 in total which a quick round of Google-fu tells me is $11.000 and a bit. We originally budgeted to pay for it all but parents on both sides have unexpectedly and wonderfully chipped in which has made our financial life a LOT easier as it would have required a fair bit of belt-tightening.

    This is for a ceremony and afternoon sandwich/cake/Pimms reception for about 60, with 120 guests in total attending the early evening onwards shindig.

    Ceremony venue hire- £700 (but it is a castle :D )
    Ceremony officiant- £575
    Misc. bureaucracy costs- £100 (registering intent to marry, certificates etc)
    Reception venue: Barn, Field, Portable toilets (glamorous this countryside lark), Security Deposit and accommodation in a cottage for 2 nights- £2590
    Evening Hog Roast: 750
    Afternoon sandwiches and cakes etc: 500
    Wedding cake: Free (future mother-in-law)
    Bar- £100 (cash bar run by a friend in the LRPing community)
    Barrel of Mead- £120
    Table wine- Free from parents
    Flowers- £500
    DJ- Free, a friend is a theatre sound technician
    Photographer- Free, friends with cameras
    Hair/Makeup- £200
    Wedding Dress- £1200 (mum paying for alterations)
    Shoes and Accessories- £200
    Bridesmaids and Ushers- Own outfits/paying for own dresses
    Groom- Borrowing a “new” suit.

    Still under investigation: Final quote for invites (getting them printed by a friend’s relative) and the table sundries such as linens and plates etc. And the wedding rings- which I just utterly forgot about. Going to be on the hunt for Fairmined or second hand most probably.

    It’s terrifying when you look at it but we have had the benefit of spreading some costs out over the year as the wedding isn’t until July. I’m the first on my Dad’s side of the family to get married in an age, but on my Mum’s side there’s been a couple of very traditional church/country house/ marquee weddings, so trying not to compare is the only sane thing to do! My thinking is, so long as there’s music, good conversation and enough booze and food for my Nan to take some leftovers home in her handbag it will all be fine!

    • Mel

      It makes me so happy that your budget includes ‘barrel of mead’. I wish I was getting married in the UK!

  • Ashley

    I had a fairly traditional wedding for 75 guests in Los Angeles with a sit down dinner on a Saturday night for roughly $18,000.

    Key cost savings for me were:

    1) Picking a restaurant for our reception with no rental fees and if we had 75 people they allowed us to have the whole restaurant for Saturday evening to ourselves (for locals it is in South Pasadena). Also, the restaurant only had a beer/wine license so it kept our alcohol cost to under $1,000
    2) I didn’t really decorate the church – it is too beautiful to cover up – also in Pasadena
    3) I only had 75 people

    Here is how it broke down:

    Church $1,200
    photography $3,200
    DJ $1,500
    food/bev/cake $5,500
    Attire $2,000
    Decoration $500
    Flowers $900
    Event Planner $1,750
    Gifts $400
    invites/program $700

    Hope this helps.

    • Libby

      Let’s hear it for the restaurant reception! We had around 50 for our reception in Austin at a restaurant with a beautiful room and attached courtyard with similar cost for the food/beverage cake. I did very little decoration, and saved. One of the best parts was not having to coordinate beverages, catering and the cake separately.

  • mari

    The thing that has been the most shocking to me so far is the cost/restrictions on behalf of churches! We met & went to school in SF, live in Chicago, but are planning a wedding in SF this December and I’ve called 13 parishes asking about getting married and have TWO possible leads under $1,500, not including music! Then those 2 don’t allow just about everything I had envisioned. You can’t pick your own musicians, florist, and you cannot have guests throw birdseed, rose petals, lavender or anything that will make any sort of mess.

    Holy Lord! (Literally.)

    • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

      Most parishes that I know of are super restrictive specifically with non-parishioners. If you are a regular (and pledging) member of the congregation it’s a lot cheaper (generally at least half the cost, although often much less than that) to get married there and they tend to be a lot more flexible.

      • mari

        Yes. The difference in price between what they’ll charge me vs a pledging/restricted member is usually at least $700. Even our Alma Mater, St. Ignatius, charges Alums almost $2,000 not including PreCana or music…

        • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

          I feel you, Mari. After serving on my church’s finance committee and finding out how much it costs to get married there (the fee for members is just under my annual 10% tithe), I decided that I would not get married there unless my pretend future spouse and I met through the church.

          But I also recognize that my church is the large church (for my domination) in the city, that it’s super well-located, and that the fees for weddings help pay for the ministry of the church. (And I know that my parent’s church out in the boonies requests minimal amount to help clean. Location dude.)

          • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

            PS Also, if I decided that getting married in my church was important to me, I bet I could talk to the ministerial staff about the fees. But that’s the perk of being an active, pledging member.

  • Helen

    In the interest of adding another data point for you planners out there, here’s my breakdown for a moderate sized (160 invited, only 100 able to attend) Sunday wedding in a medium sized city in Eastern Canada.

    We never really followed a budget beyond trying to be reasonable about each line item as it came up and running on the general idea that we’d like to end up under 10K in the end.

    We had two receptions one casual in the ceremony venue with children and one (also casual) In a bar/restaurant with no children.

    Ceremony venue:
    Rental: 1000 (Friday-Monday rental of a totally gorgeous building that was very bare bones, we needed every minute of that time)
    Decoration: ~1000 (including aisle runner, table cloths, serving trays, coffee and tea urns, cake topper, plates, napkins, wedding favors etc this is basically my miscellaneous category)
    Food: 180 (plus untold hours of work… We self catered cold apps for 100 people, plus we made about 3x as much as we needed)
    Drinks: 300 (five kinds of boozy punch, lemonade, bottled water, coffee, tea)
    Officiant: 150
    Music: 250 (harpist played pre ceremony, while I walked down the aisle and during the ceremony, all the rest was iPod playlist)
    Wedding cake: 40 (all ingredients, we borrowed baking pans and used my husbands parents’ plate and cutting set)
    Flowers: 50 (just for centerpieces, bought from a whole foods equivalent fancy grocery store and arranged by me)
    Bouquets: 0! (my amazing friend made our bouquets out of tissue paper and book flowers. I can never thank her enough!)
    Second venue:
    Rental: 0! (required guaranteed sales but nothing else! This was a very exciting discovery for us)
    Food: 950 (again just appetizers, all told we served our guests a massive amount of food but no actual meal. I liked not having the formality of a sit down meal but occaisionally felt guilty about not giving people the meat and two veg expected at a wedding)
    Drinks: 1200 (on drink tickets + subsidizing our favorite beer -essentially it was on special all night)
    Surprise open bar paid by my new father in law: 1000
    Music: 0 (iPod playlist, worked great!)
    My outfits: 850 (including wedding dress, fancy shoes I’ve already worn to 3 more events, veil I made and comfy much-more-me lace sundress I wore to the second reception)
    Husband’s outfit: 750 (suit and shirt, he wore shoes and a tie that he already owned)
    Rings: 600 (amazing custom made by local artist)
    Photography: 1500 (I honestly feel like we could have spent less but we felt a lot of pressure to splurge here)
    Invitations: 420 (drawn by a local artist, printed and assembled by me- this figure includes nice paper, printing at staples, postage)
    Website: 95
    Attendant gifts: 350
    Rehearsal dinner hosted by my in laws (at their house): probably more expensive than I’d like to think, so I’ll try not to think about it.

    Total: almost 11000 (including the 1000 that my super generous FIL dropped at the bar, effectively making our entire wedding open bar, something we never thought we could afford).

    Overall, I think we did pretty well financially and aside from that one contribution, we paid for everything ourselves and didn’t exceed what we could afford.

    • Carmen

      It’s amazing how frugal your venue costs are. I really like that you kept the costs down to a minimum. I live in Ontario and am organizing my wedding to be in the Spring of this year. If you don’t mind mentioning, where did you hold your ceremony and reception?

  • april

    Wedding budgets…. ::SHUDDER::

    We live in San Diego and our wedding was in 2009. We were a bit older (late 30s) and really wanted our “dream wedding”, so we had a longer engagement and just saved $$$. In the end, the entire wedding (and I mean EVERYTHING from beginning to end and also including rings and honeymoon) we paid for ourselves and generously hosted 65 people over three days with total around $28,000. Does that number make me nauseated at times? Yes. Was it worth it? HELL YES.

  • K

    Using Elizabeth’s model:

    *The $5,000 Wedding*

    *What it looked like:* Family property, with full ceremony and buffet picnic for 85 guests.

    Venue (cousin’s backyard): $0

    Marriage license: $64

    Rings: $197

    Dress & shoes: $119

    Groom’s suit: $800, yikes. Only thing I think we overspent on.

    Reception food (spiral sliced hams and fancy grocery store catering dept food platters): $1045

    Rentals (tables, chairs, tents, glasses): $1230

    College girl help for the reception: $120

    Cake, made by a friend: $0

    Alcohol & beverages: (wine donated by cousins, cost $175) plus an amount I can’t remember for a pony keg

    Photographer (cousin and friend): $0

    Officiant (uncle): $0

    Music (processional only, played by best friend’s children): $0

    Invitations & plain rsvp cards that we used for thank you cards: $35

    Postage: $35

    Flowers & decor: $105

    Makeup/hair, self: $0

    Drinks and food at wedding planning meetings with friends: $115

    Thank you gifts for those who donated their time, home, talents, hard work etc.: $1216

    The thing I’m most proud of about my budget is that the thank you gifts are just about the biggest line item. I take that to mean we have pretty amazingly fabulous friends and family.

  • http://www.emmy-ray.com emmy-ray

    I’d love to chime in as a professional floral designer who reads A Practical Wedding, and is a big DIY supporter as well. I read through most of the comments where flowers were discussed and my main thought is flowers are expensive, more expensive than most people realize. I think the problem that I encounter most often with clients is that their expectations are much higher than their budgets, or they are ashamed that they can’t spend more on flowers and won’t tell me their budgets up front.

    I think it’s unfortunate that there are a lot of sources out there (not this blog) that perpetuate the idea that wedding vendors up-charge extra just because it’s a wedding, and try to rip clients off. Since we only do weddings and events, we try to stick to charging the industry standard so we aren’t undercutting all our colleagues, and I always try to make flowers work within a clients budget, and give them their vision if at all possible.

    My main words of advice, pick vendors you really like and trust, be honest about how much you can spend up front, and be flexible!

  • http://asweetstart.com maria – a sweet start

    i noticed that the cost of an officiant is not listed in your budgets. just a reminder for folks to budget for our services, too! :)

    • http://lowehousecreative.com/ Elizabeth @ Lowe House

      Good call! The truth is, I’ve only ever worked with… maybe two? professional officiants who weren’t religious leaders – in California the most common choice by far is to have a friend or family member officiate!

      • Carla

        Yes, you do have the option in California. My first marriage was officiated by a friend (in CA).

      • Lizzie

        It’s an option here in Massachusetts, too. However, as the spouse of a religious professional, I’ve got to say – don’t discount the value of having the professional do your service. These people plan and deliver services for a living and know how to make things run well, and they have public speaking skills. It’s also a boon to have a pastoral presence with you on your wedding day, who can advocate for the couple and who is skilled in negotiating high emotions and complication relationships on the day-of. Speaking broadly, officiant fees are fairly affordable – usually around $250 – 400 for the service, around $30-50/hour for the minister’s time.

  • http://www.montaz.gr Fotografos gamou

    Hi,
    This is my first time in your blog and the first article I read. Off course, I find it very interesting because I am getting married this summer in Greece and the budget is a big thing in the whole organization. Our wedding is going to be in Greece and we will have about 200 people invited in the church and the diner. This number is not very high for Greek habits where people use to invite more than 300 people especially in the small countries and islands. Our budget is 15.000€ but we are almost disappointed to discover that everything is far more expensive than out first estimation!
    Thank you for this article!

  • Pingback: Hey January

  • Mandy

    My parents wedding was pretty much entirely a DIY wedding. They got married in my Grandmas backyard (and only accommodated for extremely close family members and a few friends), my Dad wore a suit that he previously owned, my Mom couldn’t afford a wedding dress so she wore a much cheaper pastel blue dress (that still looked just as beautiful), the food was all made by the guests, they didn’t have a professional photographer… the only thing they paid for were the wedding rings. This was in Virginia, but a wedding like this could be done practically anywhere. According to them, it was just as great as any big, fancy wedding would have been because at the end of the day, being together with friends and family having a good time, and more importantly knowing you’ll be with the one you love for the rest of your life, is the most important thing.

  • Carla

    Being a Bay Area native I do understand the high cost of…everything! I now live in Portland, OR where things are naturally cheaper and no sales tax with comparable (if not better in some cases) quality.

    I am planning an October wedding that’s going to be under $5,000 – no exception. I’ve noticed a lot of cheaper weddings have the benefits of free labor (photography, catering, musician friends) and donations (someone’s home or backyard). Unfortunately we don’t have that advantage so being super creative will be the only way to do it; even if we have to play MP3s all evening!

    I can’t wait to read the other comments!

    • Lilian

      Yeah, I agree Carla. I would say that 60% of the blogs I saw within our budget ($5000 in Philadelphia) included “gifted” items. Friends who were musicians or caterers or photographers. Unfortunately, most of our friends are the non-creative types.

    • flyingOlive

      If you’re not married yet and looking for some great wedding photographers in Portland shoot me a message. I know some who are just building portfolio!

  • alexandra

    Our wedding budget for our September 2013 wedding in Hawaii (where we live) was $10,000, and the total cost was around $10,500 for a wedding for 130 guests. I kept costs low by being super flexible about almost everything except my guest list. Lots and lots of people chipped in to donate their time and talents. We had a Sunday afternoon/early evening dinner wedding.

    The budget breakdown:
    Ceremony venue: my church, so it was free
    Officiant: my pastor, $100 honorarium
    Musician: the pastor’s wife, $100 honorarium
    Ceremony flowers: $75 for farmer’s market tropicals
    Attendant bouquets, bridal bouquets, and leis (we got the flowers wholesale in Honolulu, and got the leis from the airport lei stands): $125
    Reception decorations: $75 for Costco pineapples (they make such pretty decorations!) and farmer’s market tropicals
    Reception venue: free–we were sponsored by members at the town country club
    Reception food (poolside grill burgers, fries and chicken with salads): $4500
    Reception booze (beer and wine only): $1000
    Square dance band and dance caller: $500
    Guitar player for cocktail hour and early dinner music: $400
    Photographer: $1500
    Dress (JCrew): $510 (but then I sold it afterwards on preowned wedding dresses.com for $275)
    Alterations (a friend who didn’t charge me, so I donated $200 to her favorite charity)
    Bridesmaids gifts: I paid the rental fee for their “littleborroweddresses” and figured them not having to buy a dress was the best gift of all
    Hair/makeup for me and Mom: $260
    Shoes from ebay: $135 (simple Vera Wang peep-toe flats that I wear now to dress up skinny jeans)
    Underwear to make the dress look nice: $110
    My hubby’s suit: $175 on sale from Macy’s
    His shoes: $120 (he wears them to work every day, now)
    Cake: donated by the church secretary
    STDs/Invitations/thank you notes plus postage: wedding paper divas for around $600 for all that stuff combined
    Transportation: the church youth group van! Free and driven by the youth pastor
    Wedding planner: donated by a good friend from church who also did all the flowers (she loves weddings!)
    Rings: Hubby’s $45 from Etsy, mine $150 from a jeweler in Honolulu. He bought the engagement ring before I had any idea he was going to propose, so my cheapness hadn’t rubbed off on him yet and I think he spent way more than I would have.
    Loose plumerias from Molokai for flower girls to toss, decorations at the reception, and for people to throw at us when we left the reception: $130 for 1800 blossoms.

    We skipped wedding favors. Instead, when we got the pictures back from the photographer, we made prints of everybody she took pictures of and mailed their pictures to them later. I’ve been to so many weddings and never seen the pictures afterwards!

  • Nick

    Respectfully, as a 11-month very happily married guy, I think these figures are grossly understated. We had a great small (50) person wedding and we did a bunch of things ourselves inc flowers, etc. I’d add easily a 30 percent cushion for contingencies. Trust me, the fastest way to ruin your wedding is to have to explain why Starwood is demanding another ten gran on a prepaid event.

  • Holly

    This post makes me feel so much better! As of now, my parents have told me that they can give me $5,000 for a wedding. There might be a chance that they could give a little more, but probably no more than $6000. My guest list has 150 people right now, which includes 18 young children/babies. Where I am from, sit down dinners are very rare at weddings. People usually have buffets with finger foods, pasta, something like that. I also plan on only serving beer and wine, not doing a champagne toast, and hiring a DJ. My fiance’s uncle owns a beautiful venue that I know he will give us a good deal on, and possibly even let us use it for free. He will also provide the catering for a good price. I’m looking into hiring a photographer for only a couple of hours to take pictures during the ceremony and family pictures afterwards. I want to have pies rather than a wedding cake, which I can buy at Sam’s for pretty cheap. I don’t plan on doing favors. I’m going to email my save the dates, and I also plan on doing flower arrangements myself. Apparently you can also order flowers from Sam’s, and my fiance’s mom has several beautiful blue and white vases that she has told me I can use. Since we will have a very small wedding party (my sister and my fiance’s sister will be bridesmaids and fiance’s two brothers will be groomsmen), I plan on asking my fiance’s parents if we can forgo the large rehearsal dinner that his family typically does and just have a simple dinner at their home with both of our families. That way, the money that they would have spent on the rehearsal dinner can go toward our wedding. I am pretty confident that fiance’s parents would be perfectly fine with this and would be willing to give $2,000 or $3,000 for the wedding in lieu of having a big rehearsal dinner. After all, their family consists of 60 people on the guest list. So, I am hoping that altogether we will have a possible budget of $7000 or $8000. Is this possible?????

  • albert

    Wasp dudes! Amazing stuff continues the good work.
    pakistani tv