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How To Create A Perfect (For You) Wedding Budget


Expert tips and real wedding budgets from $2K to $30K

by Alyssa Griffith, Contributor

budget shock no text

For most couples, a wedding is the first time you’ll ever have to think about planning a huge event, let alone creating a wedding budget. That means lots of people start planning a similar way. First you think about the wedding you want. Then you think about how much you’re comfortable spending. And then you hope really hard that the two concepts match up. The problem is, it’s almost impossible to know how much the event you’re envision is going to cost until you start getting into the nitty-gritty of planning. Which is how you end up reading things on APW that start with, “We set a budget of $5,000 but once we started actually planning, that number quickly tripled.”

The media would like us to think that these couples just got caught up in the expectations of the wedding industry and spent $10,000 on crystal vases. (Silly them. You would know better.) In reality? The culprit was that they thought chair rentals cost $1 when they really cost $2. Or they found out their dad would be heartbroken if they just served sandwiches. Then it turns out that the only wedding photographers in their area who didn’t call them “sweetie” during the initial meeting charged $3,000 instead of the $2,500 they were hoping to spend, and not being talked down to felt like it was worth finding an extra $500 in the budget. Next thing they knew, the combined total of those surprises was $5,000 and rising.

We’ve all read and researched the tips and tricks for how to save money, how to have a budget wedding, and even how to stick to a budget.  But how do you figure out what that budget is in the first place? And how do you do it in a way that’s not going to give you sticker shock later?

What follows is a breakdown of how to even set a budget, and then eleven sample wedding budgets, ranging from $2,000 to $30,000, in a variety of styles and sizes. Because no matter what anyone tells you, it really is possible to have a perfect (for you) wedding on whatever budget you have.

THINK ABOUT THE KIND OF WEDDING YOU WANT TO HAVE

This may be the one part of wedding planning that you’ve already knocked out of the park. But if not, it’s time to get to dreaming. Do you and your partner want a picnic in the park, an intimate urban party, or a huge shindig with all your friends and family? There are so many different kinds of weddings out there, and so much inspiration, that it can get overwhelming quickly. You shouldn’t spend too much time on specifics initially, but you should determine the general feel you want for your wedding. Think about the look, the style, the people, and the emotions—all the pieces that will make your wedding unique to you two. I often tell couples to think about weddings they’ve been to or seen, and figure out the words to describe them. Because while fun and fancy can coexist, they don’t always. For example, you may want your wedding to be low key and relaxed like your cousin’s last year—but a little more formal, while still avoiding a stuffy feeling.  You can even start to get more specific, think: “Low-key ceremony, with a relaxed upbeat dance party, and a family-style dinner that feels casual but looks kind of fancy-ish.”

CRUNCH SOME NUMBERS

Here’s where it’s time to get serious about figuring out how much you have to spend. Not everyone sets a clear and strict wedding budget total and sticks to it, and that’s okay. However, for most people in need of a wedding budget there is some discussion that needs to take place. Sit down with your partner and figure out how much money you are ready, willing, and comfortable spending on your wedding. Are other people going to be contributing financially to your wedding? This is also the key time to discuss with them what and how they will be helping. Sometimes this is a dollar amount that you can build right into your budget, and other times it’s a particular portion of the wedding that they’re going to pay (up to a certain amount) on your behalf. Either way it is important for you to know before you dive into budgeting and planning.

I know that talking to our families about money isn’t always the easiest or the most comfortable thing to do, but sometimes it just must be done. Generally I think it’s helpful to start with the mindset that your families may or may not be able/willing to contribute, but that you are asking because it’s better to ask than to miss out. The conversation could start a little something like: “Hey Mom, _____ and I have been engaged for a few months and we’ve decided to start thinking about planning a wedding. We are really hoping to have a fun, laid-back gathering for all the people that are closest to us. I’m not sure if you’ve thought about it yet, so no need to answer today, but I was wondering if you and Dad are willing and able to contribute in some monetary way to our plans? Whatever you’re able to offer would be beyond helpful!”

Another number that needs to be crunched at this point is your guest count. This is the time when you and your partner should open up an Excel file and start inputting names of people that you want to invite to your wedding. No matter where you are, or what kind of wedding you’re planning, the number of guests you plan to invite will make a huge impact on your wedding budget.

PRIORITIZE

You and your partner should each pick your top three priorities for the wedding day. These could be just about anything: Rocking music, an open bar, that photographer your cousin’s friend’s sister had, a four-tier cake, late night tacos, a live string quartet, tons of flowers, or any other detail you each feel strongly about. Having this short list of priorities is just a good idea so that you can focus a little more money, or time, or energy, on the things that are most important to the two of you. I recommend making these lists separately and then sitting down together—you don’t want to be tempted to write down the same things your partner wrote down; it’s better to have an honest idea of your priorities!

An example of how this could play out:

budget priority chart

GET REAL

You should now have a starting number of guests, an idea of how much money you’ll spend, and a vision of what your wedding might look and feel like. With these pieces of information, it’s time to start finding out if it’s all possible. The unfair truth about weddings (and money in general) is that sometimes the things we wish would work, just won’t. This is the “getting real” phase. Maybe you dreamt of a huge sit-down dinner for your 250 closest friends and family, but you only have $4,000 to spend. How’s that going to play out? Tip: while most websites don’t list budgets on the real weddings they publish, you can start to get a feel for how weddings come together by reading the APW How We Did It Series. What does $4,000 mean when you want to feed 200 people? When you start seeing how other couples sacrificed and compromised in their weddings, it can be easier to imagine how you’ll do the same for yours.

RE-EVALUATE, ESTIMATE, AND CREATE

If your original plans and your numbers don’t match after doing some quick research, take some time to re-evaluate. Can you spend more money to make your ideal wedding happen? (And more importantly, do you want to?) Can you change the type of venue or overall look and feel of your wedding to make it fit your budget? Can you DIY or even remove some elements to save? While there are always ways to save money, if your budget and your vision are in direct contradiction, you have to find ways to level out the plan.

A note on DIY: Making elements of your wedding is a great way to add your personal touch to things, especially when you can’t get your desired look anywhere else. But it doesn’t always save money or time. So be realistic about what you want to DIY, and don’t fall into the trap of setting yourself up for hours of crafting if it’s not worth it. You’re better served by cutting things that aren’t important to you, because making things that aren’t important to you is a version of hell you don’t want to live in.

KEEP YOURSELF (AND YOUR MONEY) ACCOUNTABLE

I’ve created a template for you to use when building a budget for your wedding. It is important to note that there is absolutely no way to create a wedding budget worksheet that fits every one of your weddings. There are simply too many variables, and suddenly this document would be twelve pages long. I have included some industry standard percentages so that you can have a place to start, but you should by no means feel locked into those numbers—adjust them to fit your priorities and your event. Getting married in Mom’s backyard? Your venue now costs zero percent! Is your cousin baking your cake as a wedding gift? Cut that down to zero! Just remember that this is your budget, and your wedding, so make adjustments that fit. (Note some things that are not included: honeymoon, other parties, hotel accommodations, rings, wedding party gifts, super specific items like rentals, ceremony items, or decorations for the getaway car.)

DOWNLOAD THE APW Free Wedding BUDGET SPREADSHEET

Here are some steps for using the worksheet in a personal and useful way:

  • Input your current planned “Total Budget.”
  • Use the industry percentages outlined to break up your budget by category. Insert the corresponding dollar amounts under “Budgeted Estimate $.” (This should give you a basic guideline so you don’t accidentally spend eighty-five percent of your funds on your caterer and then need to increase your budget drastically—but remember not to feel trapped by these numbers!)
  • Strike out or remove any pieces that you won’t be having or won’t be paying for, and reallocate that money. (Example: Your parents have agreed to pay for the DJ, you can just remove that line item and not worry about it!)
  • Add in any line items that aren’t here but that you know you want to have. This budget worksheet is specific to the wedding day—if you need to include the rehearsal dinner or a morning-after brunch, you’ll need to add that in! You can also add a lot of specifics for your event that aren’t here so that you can keep track of money spent in a more detailed fashion.
  • Update as you go. When you get proposals from vendors, you can add the costs into “Actual Estimate $.” As you sign contracts and pay deposits, add those amounts and due dates into “Deposit Amount Paid $,” “Balance Due $,” and “Final Payment Due Date.” And don’t hesitate to reallocate the amounts as you go so that you have an up-to-date visual of your wedding budget and money spent. This way, you end up with no surprises.

A couple looking at each other with a double exposure, with text reading "wedding budget breakdown"

Real Wedding Budget Breakdowns

The most important thing to remember when you’re putting together your budget is that no two weddings are alike. Your budget, and how money is allocated, is fluid and will undoubtedly change and need adjusting throughout the planning process. But what kinds of weddings can you actually throw at various price points? Where can you get creative with the money you’ve got? To answer those questions, here’s broad overview at what some different wedding budget breakdowns might look like in practice. While these are meant to serve as sample wedding budgets, they come from years of seeing real couples plan weddings on similar budgets in similar circumstances. These budgets are not meant to limit you, but instead to help you start brainstorming ideas. Mix and match. Let them inspire you. Forget the hotel wedding (unless of course, you want the hotel wedding!); wedding ideas come in all shapes and sizes.

A $2,000 WEdding Budget Breakdown

The City Hall Elopement/Super Small Wedding

  • Venue/Officiant: $150 for a thirty minute slot at City Hall for you and up to six guests, officiant included
  • Attire: $200 dress; $100 suit
  • Flowers: $100 for one bouquet and one boutonnière
  • Photographer: $800 for a quick one-hour session of ceremony plus portraits
  • Delicious restaurant lunch and drinks for eight: $600

GRAND TOTAL: $1,950

The Backyard Dessert Party

  • Venue: $0
  • Invites: $0 evites
  • Officiant (family/friend): $30 to be ordained
  • Flowers and decor: $250 DIY
  • Rentals: $300 for a few supplemental chairs, tables, and linens
  • Dessert for 50: $200, plus donated by family and friends
  • Photographer: $1000
  • Champagne and iced tea for 50: $200
  • Casual backyard party attire: $100
  • Music: $0 for iPod and borrowed speakers

GRAND TOTAL: $2,080

Other options for the $2,000 budget:

  • Elope to Colorado and marry yourselves in the woods. Plus, it can be an awesome honeymoon!
  • The backyard dessert party could become a potluck with the participation of your awesome family and friends. In which case, maybe throw some more money at the booze budget!

A $5,000 Wedding Budget Breakdown

The Backyard Food Truck Extravaganza

  • Venue: $0
  • Attire: $200 for two dresses; $50 for shoes
  • Invites: $80, DIY’d (don’t forget about stamps!)
  • Decor: $800 for string lights, flowers, and table and chair rentals
  • Flowers: $200 for two bridal bouquets and two smaller bouquets
  • Catering: $2000 for delicious food truck eats for 50 people (including compostable dishware!)
  • Beer and Wine: $500
  • Dessert: $300 for pies from a local bakery
  • Music: $150 for your iPod, your seventeen-year-old cousin/aspiring DJ, and rented speakers
  • Photography: $500, by a local art student

GRAND TOTAL: $5,030

A $10,000 Wedding Budget Breakdown

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The Outdoor Venue with a Full Meal

  • Venue: $2200 including chairs and tables
  • DJ: $800
  • Food and Alcohol: $3800 (Sample how-to: restaurant delivered food or affordable catering at $30 per person, booze at $20 per person, with 75 guests)
  • Attire: $350 dress; $150 suit
  • Decor: $500 for string lights purchased on sale and DIY flowers
  • Photographer: $1200
  • Day-of Wedding Coordinator: $900
  • Dessert: $250 for cupcakes

GRAND TOTAL: $10,150

The Mid-Day Party with the Dream Dress

  • Venue: $1100 (12:30pm ceremony, 1:00pm cocktails and appetizers, 5:30pm end time)
  • Rentals: $800 for chairs and a few cocktail tables plus linens
  • Attire: $1200 dress and shoes; $200 suit
  • Invitations: $300
  • Catering and Alcohol: $3500, including heavy appetizers served from 1:00pm–4:00pm
  • Cake: $500
  • Photographer: $2000
  • Music: $200 for a live guitarist during the ceremony, $200 for rented speakers plus iPod
  • Decor: $150 for one bouquet, one boutonniere from a professional; $300 for DIY centerpiece flowers

GRAND TOTAL: $10,250

A $15,000 Wedding Budget Breakdown

The Art Gallery All Night Party

  • Venue: $800 (You can often save a ton by thinking outside the “wedding venue” box!)
  • Rentals: $1500 for chairs, tables, linens, and basic lighting
  • Attire: $700 dress and shoes; $250 suit
  • Alcohol: $900
  • Catering: $5,000 for a full buffet plus a late night snack 
  • DJ: $2,000
  • Photographer: $3000
  • Decor: $500 for candles spread around the space
  • Planning: $500 for consulting with a wedding planner to ensure the details are in place

GRAND TOTAL: $15,150

The Intimate Hawaii Extravaganza (like this one)

  • Venue: $7000 for a house for the weekend
  • Rentals: $800 for tables, chairs, linens, and lights for 35 people
  • Catering: $3900 for a full meal plus for 35 people
  • Alcohol: $700, self purchased
  • Invitations: $75, using an online service and evites
  • Attire: Two rented suits at $200 each
  • Photographer: $2500
  • Cake: $400
  • Music: $0, DIY’d by a friend
  • Flowers: $0, greenery and flowers from the Hawaii landscape

GRAND TOTAL: $15,775

A $20,000 Wedding Budget Breakdown

The Brooklyn Bash

  • Venue and Full-Service Catering: $12,000, including food, alcohol, tables, chairs, and service staff for 55 guests
  • Photography: $2,000
  • Wedding Planner: $2,000
  • Invitations: $800
  • Attire: $800 dress; $150 suit
  • Flowers and Decor: $1,200
  • DJ: $1,000

GRAND TOTAL: $19,950

The Barn Party

  • Venue: $1,000
  • Full-Service Catering: $11,400 for food, alcohol, rentals, and staff for 120 guests
  • Wedding Planner: $2,500
  • Photographer: $3,000
  • Flowers: $2,000
  • Attire: $1,100 dress; $200 suit
  • DJ: $1,200

GRAND TOTAL: $20,600

A $30,000 Wedding Budget Breakdown

The Big Church Ceremony with Hotel Party to Follow

  • Church/Ceremony Rental: $400
  • Wedding Planner: $2,800
  • Reception Venue and Full-Service Catering: $17,000, including all food, alcohol, rentals, and staff for 140 guests
  • Flowers: $2,500
  • Photography and Videography: $4,000
  • Attire: $1,400 dress; $250 suit
  • Live Band: $3,000

GRAND TOTAL: $31,350

Jonas-Seaman-AG-A-Practical-Wedding-_10701-780x520

The Mountain Weekend Retreat

  • Venue: $6,000 for a whole weekend at a summer camp in the woods
  • Attire: $600 dress; $140 groom’s attire
  • Friday Night Potluck: $800 for alcohol and appetizers
  • Saturday Breakfast and Lunch: $3,000
  • Music: $500 live strings during ceremony; $1,200 DJ
  • Saturday Night Full-Service Catering: $10,000, including all food and alcohol
  • Decor: $3,000 for flowers and extra rental items
  • Sunday Morning Brunch: $2,000
  • Photographer: $2,800

GRAND TOTAL: $30,040

Try to remember—while having a budget worked out is important, and helpful, and down right necessary in the wedding planning process, what’s really important is that you and your partner end up somewhere with all of your favorite people (or none of your favorite people), committing yourselves to each other, and starting a marriage.

How did you creatively solve your wedding budget breakdown? Who’s game for sharing their real wedding budget? Dish!

Alyssa Griffith

Alyssa is the owner and lead event planner for Rose Gold Events in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s been rocking the wedding industry for the last four years after becoming a Certified Wedding Planner in 2011. In her free time, you’ll find her traveling, reading, and training CrossFit. Alyssa loves love, macaroons, logistics, and a good party dress. And she still cries at every wedding.

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  • Candice

    I’m kinda disappointed that the photography budget is right around 1-3k (not counting the ballroom wedding). Some of the best photographers can make a 10k wedding look like a 40k wedding and most photographers can’t make a living charging those prices if they include a 2nd photographer, files and an engagement session. Just a thought!

    • Sarah E

      I think that largely depends on location, and whether the photographer is new to the biz. For example, I had engagement photos taken by a supremely talented photographer in Lincoln, NE where we currently live. We aren’t flying him to PA to shoot our wedding, but his packages for local weddings fall at the $1950, $3300, and $4800 price points. Since I knew him personally, I also know that he feels strongly about his pricing and making sure he can earn a decent living without apology. While you’re right that including more in your package can often take you about $3000, I think there’s wide availability to choose packages that fall in the $1-3k range.

      • Candice

        I totally agree with you on the location! Most of the photographers I know live in the larger cities, and even if they shoot every weekend (which would make them want to quit after only a few months – I see though them how hard it is!) it would be hard to make a living charging anything less than 2,500. That’s if you don’t count a partners income. ;)

        • Amy March

          ? $2500 * 30 weddings is $75,000. Some of which will be lost to costs, some of which can likely be regained by non-wedding work. How much money a year is really required to call something making a living? 75k for a job that doesn’t require a degree sounds not horrible to me.

          • Hannah Paige Woodard

            Totally agree that there’s nothing wrong with hiring a $1000 photographer if that’s all you can afford! Just to throw it out there though, most of those ‘togs are not taking home anywhere NEAR $75k. I know because I am one and that’s around what I charge… and I ain’t makin’ no 75K, let’s just say. Most photographers charging $1k aren’t going to make it at those prices in the long run unless they are delivering extremely baseline customer service and shooting every single weekend with no breaks.

            That said – I was in that price range not too long ago, when I was portfolio building. My work wasn’t as good then, but my couples all appreciated it and thought I was fair for the price at the time. You can definitely find good, if not world class, up and coming photographers for $1k. It just takes a little bit of work! There really is a photographer for every price range, and you get what you’re willing to pay for.

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            THIS.

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            So I think there’s a lot of room in wedding photographer for lots of different budgets. Every photographer’s gotta start somewhere, and not every photographer is looking to make a full time living off their art, and I don’t necessarily believe that is undercutting people who are doing photographer full time.

            THAT said. As someone who just quit her photography job, hoo boy did I never make ANY money. And I was shooting 25 or more weddings a year. It’s a terribly expensive job. Once upon a time a photographer did a fantastic breakdown of how much she actually makes a year, but basically, a photographer who is good with money and is working full time probably takes home around $30K a year? Would be my guess. Nothing to sneeze at obviously. But it’s rarely the “let’s multiply x by x and see how much that works out to be!” Because that calculation doesn’t take into account any of the operating costs of running that business. Which are high.

            Anyway, sort of neither here nor there. But I learned the hard way and felt like sharing my two cents. :)

          • Whitney S.

            As someone who is currently looking for a new job and one of these positions is a “contractor” AKA self employed, folks are not bringing in that much cash. Talk about the wake up call with that math.

            Go ahead a take of 20% for taxes and SS. Oops. Gotta have health insurance so that comes out, too. Wanna retire some day? Take that out, too. You’d like a sick day? Too bad. No PTO. Add in all the equipment to maintain/buy, website work, continuing education, travel, advertising. Yeah. IDK that a week ago I wouldn’t have been with Amy on this one. I had NO IDEA how much hidden cost and labor there was to being self employed. By my math, about 30% of my income would be going to other things that an employer handles and sometimes subsidizes even with tax breaks.

            All of that said, I’m also not hating on anyone getting a good deal either. :)

          • KBride2Be2015

            This comment made me so annoyed I signed up for a Disqus account! No one is asking you to “prop up a job” with charity, but what people are saying is that $3,000 or higher is not unreasonable for a professional, and that’s because of the work involved in creating the images. It’s not just the weekend, it’s meeting with potential clients, it’s being available for customer service before and after, it’s travel, it’s editing, it’s overhead for supply and professional development and taxes, all of which eats a HUGE chunk into gross income.

            I’m also not sure what you’re saying with your comment about photography “not requiring a degree.” Personally, I think highly honed creative skill is more valuable than a college degree—anyone can get a college degree, but not everyone can take amazing photos AND have the great people skills it takes to be an awesome photographer.

            Bottom line, it’s your budget and up to you what you want to pay. But I hate when people balk at cost or think it’s “propping up” a hobby when it’s artistic skill that requires a ton of work! If you want to pay $1,000, then you get what you pay for—it may be an awesome photog in training or someone trying to transition into full-time photography, but then you might not be getting their A Game. Personally, I’m really wary of people who try to bargain with my prices, because I just know they’re not valuing my skills and know they’re likely to be more trouble and drama than they’re worth. And again, that “it doesn’t even require a college degree!” is just icky to me.

          • Amy March

            I am simultaneously sorry to have annoyed you and glad you’re joining the convo!

            For me the comment wasn’t about whether photography is objectively worth 1k, 3k, 5k or one million dollars. It was the suggestion that in proposing budgets it was somehow wrong or offensive to photography to suggest couples spending less than 20k total plan on allocating 1-3k of that to photography. There are photographers available in that price range. The fact that not every photographer can work with that doesn’t make it wrong anymore than a couple who chooses a CostCo cake should somehow feel guilty for depriving a baker of a solid living. Similarly you’re right, in many ways a degree is easier to get than innate visual talent, but it comes with a hefty price tag that is typically rewarded with a higher salary in the job market.

            Fundamentally though I think we still disagree. If no one wants to spend 5k on wedding photography, and that’s what it takes to be able to support yourself, and that means wedding photography becomes something only people with other sources of income persue, that wouldn’t really be a crisis in my mind.

          • KBride2Be2015

            Thanks for replying and clarifying. And I don’t think we essentially disagree. Definitely, there are different price points for photographers. I have friends who’ve foregone a photographer all together because they had one friend responsible for the posed photos, then used Instagram and crowd-sourced photos for the rest. I don’t think that’s bad or tacky. The images can be awesome. Like you said, it depends on what you want!

            What I’m saying is, if you DO want to hire a professional photographer, paying $3,000 or however much they charge isn’t propping up a charity or paying for some lavish lifestyle. It’s paying the photographer what s/he feels his or her time is worth. Absolutely, if you disagree with the services/quality you’ll get, you can definitely look somewhere else and find a cheaper price point, but I think what some of the other commenters and I were trying to say is that a photographer who is charging $1,000 or less may be AMAZING but likely may not be doing wedding photos as his or her full-time gig, because it would simply be economically impossible in certain areas.

            Anyway, don’t want to get into a fight, I’m just really passionate about paying artists what their work is worth. A lot of people (not saying you) think that because someone’s work seems “fun,” it’s a privilege to do it and getting paid is a bonus. What I’ve found (and again, not saying this is you!) through hard trial and error is that people who question or try to haggle my prices are generally people who just aren’t worth it as clients in the long run. I’ve thought hard about my fee, and it allows me to enjoy my work and life. People definitely don’t have to use my services, but I hate the idea that people think I’m somehow exploiting them by the price I am charging.

          • Thank you for explaining this! I feel the same way as a vendor. I totally understand when people are on a tight budget, and I can sometimes suggest other, cheaper options to them if they bring up their concerns with me. Its not charity, its just how much a service costs. Just like people with employers get a paid a wage for their work, so do self-employed people.

          • KJS

            It’s not just a time job – it’s equipment, travel expenses, website costs etc. etc.

      • Leah

        Yes, location for sure. We were able to get an amazing photographer here in Montana for prices that probably would not be possible elsewhere. Also, for those looking to get good pics for less money, here’s what we ended up doing: There is an amazing wedding photog out in Big Sky who shoots crazy beautiful expensive weddings, and his photos are totally to die for – love his style, tone, everything. We couldn’t afford him, but I called him up to ask if he could recommend someone with a similar approach, and he pointed us to a guy who had been his second shooter for years, who had JUST started his own venture, for CHEAP money (~$2000 for a good package). We never would have found him on our own, since he didn’t have much online presence yet. So it can’t hurt to talk to expensive photogs and see what happens!

        • Sarah E

          That’s such a great strategy!

        • Such an awesome story!

    • Definitely a fair point, Candice! My thinking was just that most people spending under $20-25k total would probably need to lean on the lower end of the photography budget. Unless of course that’s one of their top priorities (it is mine)! And my thought with this post was that people would be able to mix and match with the different budgets – think high end photographer and a picnic style reception!

    • Amy March

      Why would anyone’s goal be making their 10k wedding look like a 50k wedding? Thought we just saw how beautiful weddings of all budgets can be. And I really dislike treating a second photographer and engagement sessions as necessary. Nice, sure. But not necessary.

      • A.

        It also places higher priority on the look of the wedding after the fact (in the pictures) rather than on the experience, which is totally fine if photography is your priority. But sometimes it seems like there’s an assumption that the photos are ALWAYS everyone’s MAIN priority. Personally I’d rather have better food or more booze when my budget is tight (or someone else might want a different dress, or comfier chairs, or a DJ instead of an iPod…) rather than pictures that make it look like my budget wasn’t that tight.

        • Amy March

          Right. I think I’m very influenced by my parents here. They couldn’t afford a photographer, so there are 2 photos from their wedding. They are extraordinary and special because of what they record, not because they’re awesome art photography. Which is great if you value it and can afford it, but I think sometimes having 2000 pictures of everything from multiple angles is less special than a handful of images to cherish.

        • AnneBonny

          Thanks–I was really surprised when I started wedding planning and discovered that EVERYONE listed photography as an important splurge. We’re theater people, and while I’d love some great photos, I definitely care most about the experience while we were there. I’ve been to weddings of close friends where I never even saw a photo (including a wedding I was IN), and I don’t remember them less fondly than the ones where I clicked through a hundred photos looking for myself.

          • Kara E

            It’s a selection bias IMO. Blog/pinterest worthy weddings tend to have have great photography with a certain style. Ergo, probably expensive photographs. We hired a friend of a friend who’s a photojournalist (and does some weddings as his dirty little secret). 2700 in DC, no second shooter (except our best man, who used to be a pro), included some engagement photos (which I frankly like better than many of our wedding ones, since we’re just our normal selves). Our formal pictures aren’t perfect (to me), but he got some stunningly amazing candid photos (like of my grandfather hovering over the string trio listening intently — the trio was a surprise from my now-husband and my grandfather was entranced). There’s another picture of my other grandpa and I dancing (6 months post stroke) that I will treasure forever.

      • Kelly

        A second photographer and engagement session is totally not needed, the problem starts when people expect it to be included in lower rates. I think that’s what she meant.

    • Meg Keene

      There are photographers at tons of price points (our sponsors have tons of price points). And different price points work for different people. They’re also going to fit into different budgets differently, based on what you want and your values.

    • sbc

      I would like to put in a plug for George Street Photos, which I used in 2012 and found through, of all things, a facebook ad. They are a company that hires lots of different photographers to do the actual wedding/engagement and handles the marketing and processing in-house. We met with them and they showed us 3 portfolios, we picked our favorite, and the engagement and wedding (no second shooter; we got ready together and didn’t really want it anyway) cost $1985 in the DC area, which was MUCH less than other places, and even less than the photographer we used charges to shoot and process her own photos.

      Some things to note:
      * their “shot selection” website was incredibly user-unfriendly and didn’t really work for same-sex couples. Since we’d been emailing our photographer directly to set up the engagement shoot, we just sent her a list. This was one of several reasons I was glad to have gotten engagement pix when we didn’t really think we’d want them.

      * you can pay less for a package where it takes longer to get your photos, but we were impatient.

      * we loved that they give you a flash drive with all the pictures so we could print them anywhere we wanted. a lot of places retain the rights to the pictures and you have to buy prints from them–which is super pricey, and very inconvenient when your mom wants a wallet print 2 years after the wedding (just for example!)
      * having a Sunday morning wedding worked to our advantage in lots of ways, but one was that vendors didn’t charge as much because they could do our wedding in addition to a Saturday night one. We got a cheaper bartender and DJ too (and brunch food is way cheaper, vegetarian-friendly, and delicious!)

  • neighborhoodmap

    “The amount of money you can spend and the amount you want to/are comfortable spending may be different. That is totally okay.”

    This was such a weird part of wedding planning. I work in non-profits, so my salary is fairly low. My now-husband does not, and his salary is multiples (yes, plural) of mine, plus our parents were all incredibly generous. Throwing a big wedding in an urban environment meant that our wedding budget was creeping uncomfortably close to my yearly salary, which freaked me out so hard. We took an honest look at all of our spending choices and confirmed that we weren’t being extravagant with any of them, it just really cost that much to host all of our people together in a way that ensured that everyone would be comfortable, and that all of our priorities were met (second that bit above so, so hard — talk priorities FIRST!).

    We were obviously incredibly lucky to have that money to spend, but yeah, lots of soul searching on what it meant to be a couple who had a “$xx,000” wedding. Lots of angst about “who are we that we’re spending this much on just one night?” APW was actually really helpful in its reminders that it’s not just that one night, it’s also the entire planning process, and if spending a bit more to have more peace of mind while pulling together this gigantic event, to be able to enjoy the engagement period together without killing ourselves and each other over choices that might have cost less money but would ultimately cost more in our time, energy, effort, and relationship, then by all means — do it. It still took a long time for me not to feel guilty about the money, though. Money issues are so weird.

    • CoastalCreature

      “Monday issues are so weird”.

      Wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments and I was in the EXACT same situation. If you factor in every cost of our wedding it was over $70,000. OVER SEVENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. That is about $20K more than my annual salary. And all I could do (and still do) was feel incredible guilt and shame. Guilt at the feeling of extravagance, guilt at the rest of the world in poverty, guilt at putting on such an expensive event when my core values tell me that it should have been a low-key hangout. I felt like I wasn’t be true to myself.

      But another core value was sustainability and using local vendors. Let me tell you something – living in Boston and finding a sustainable caterer to make dinner for 140 people costs A LOT of money. And having two sets of parents and my husband’s salary support such a big budget allowed me to pay that caterer and keep things local and sustainable.

      The APW genuinely supports everyone, from every corner of the wedding world, and that support was essential during the planning process.

      My family enjoyed themselves, my husband’s family felt the event was “up to snuff” (which is a large reason for the extravagance of some decisions), and everyone had a great time. And I enjoyed the parts of the budget I could control, like the decorations (which came in under $1,800 and were DIT and DIY) and choosing a local bakery for three delicious cakes that cost $120.

      • CoastalCreature

        “MONEY issues are so weird”

        Monday issues are weird, too :)

        • neighborhoodmap

          Haha, yes, in a totally different way! I’m glad you brought up the idea of liking what your vendors stand for, because that was also something important to us. We used friends of friends as much as possible (not friends themselves, because we wanted them to enjoy being guests at the weddings), and local people as much as we could if there weren’t friends of friends. Our photographer was friends of friends and ALSO lived right in our neighborhood (not to mention incredibly talented!), so she was totally worth the $3700 we paid her for her mid-line package.

      • Money and Monday… both weird!
        And try to subside that guilt – it sounds like you did what you could, you and your people enjoyed yourselves, and boom – married! :)

      • macaroni

        Right there with you, sister. Our wedding was ~$70-75k, which felt so, so huge and awful and I still fudge a bit when non close friends ask about what our budget was. However, in the end we felt like we were supporting amazing small businesses and giving our family and friends (many of whom had traveled hundreds, if not thousands of miles to be there) a really amazing experience/awesome dance party/boatload of good food and booze. I was so thankful for APW during planning because there was/is no budget shaming, but there’s also not that “BUY ALL THE STUFF!!!” mentality that the rest of the WIC has. Helped curb my magpie/”SHINY! BUY IT!” tendencies.

    • Money issues are the weirdest – but it sounds like you had a wonderful party with your people! Thanks for sharing! :)

  • Belle Starr

    I would love to know where you got the numbers for the Brooklyn Bash!

    • Hey Belle,
      I unfortunately haven’t been able to coordinate or plan a wedding in Brooklyn as of yet myself – but I’ve seen lots of rad weddings all over the internet from there. Most of these budgets were rough breakdowns based on weddings I’ve done or seen. So, unfortunately, I don’t have an exact link to send you, but I think with a smaller wedding and some research, it could be done!

      • AnneBonny

        I just can’t imagine getting a bash-able Brooklyn venue for that price, with everything included.

        • It definitely wouldn’t be easy… but I believe it could be possible! Especially if you look outside the ‘norm’ for wedding venues – AirBnB, lofts, industrial buildings, etc. And for a smaller wedding, I would venture to say the $20k budget has been done. Albeit not often or easy!

          • Amy March

            But, why do you believe it’s possible? If you can’t actually point to a venue you found or specific wedding you saw where it happened? I really dislike budget unicorns- those things that everyone thinks should totes be possible with just a little more research! But, actually, aren’t. Puts a lot of pressure on people. That’s why I like the How We Did It columns so much- you know they actually made it happen.

          • Absolutely…

            Okay, with a quick search I found this wedding:
            http://thebudgetsavvybride.com/budget-savvy-brooklyn-wedding/
            (Which had 75 guests, at a venue that ranges. The venue from this wedding costs between $1,000-$2500 for non members!!)

            And this one: http://m.theknot.com/wedding-planning/wedding-budget/articles/cheap-wedding-in-new-york-city.aspx?page=2
            (Which magically came in around $10k)

            Here’s another venue, which on weekdays in the offseason is $5k/day – leaving $125+ per person for creative catering, etc. http://www.thebellhouseny.com/private-events/

            So, I am in no way saying that $20k would be an easy budget to work with in Brooklyn, or any other metropolitan area, but I do believe that with research, open mindedness, and willing to adjust your budget according to what is available (ie cutting out things you don’t need, going a more creative catering route, etc) it is possible!

          • Marie

            the comments on that knot page are priceless! “this is the worst idea i have ever heard” LOL.

          • AnneBonny

            Wow you’re right, that’s priceless. They CANNOT handle that someone else might want a wedding they wouldn’t themselves want.

          • Leah

            Wow. Seriously people, those comments on the knot page are the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while. Take a work break, go read them, and feel way better about yourself :)

          • AnneBonny

            I may have just become an internet troll, but exclusively on The Knot.

          • AnneBonny

            I thought these were supposed to be basically representative, though–for people just setting out getting a ballpark idea, right? Or these supposed to be technically-possible, holy grail-type budgets? The framing makes it a little unclear.

          • I definitely wasn’t going for a ‘holy grail’ type budget post. Just hoping to give people some sort of tangible idea of how they could end up spending $X. There are so many posts and articles out there that tell you “you should spend 14% on ____ and 39% on _____.” I don’t plan weddings that way, and I just wanted to show people some examples of how their chunk of money could spend.

    • ZRT

      I got married in Brooklyn and our budget was larger than the “Brooklyn Bash” but a breakdown for a 120 person wedding was as follows:

      venue – 6600
      catering/rentals/booze – 25,000
      photographer – 3000
      save the Dates and invites: 300
      make up – 350
      hair (for 3) – 600
      day Of Coord/some planning – 5500
      dress – 1000
      flowers – 5500

  • SB bride

    So our wedding hasn’t happened yet, but I’m game to share our budget *gulp* – I echo the sentiment though that a “A $15K wedding in Oklahoma is going to look totally different then a wedding with the same budget in Manhattan” (I’ll add, or the same wedding in Santa Barbara. Because weddings here aren’t cheap, even though most of are vendors are friendors who are giving us discounts (but our friends are awesome at what they do, so we want to support them too) )

    Breakdown:

    – Venue with full service catering, rentals, a DJ and open bar for 150 people – $14,300
    – Apparel (Dress was a gift, and the suit the groom already has, so this is for alterations, shoes, and headpiece) – $380
    – Flowers (8 bouquets, 9 boutonnieres, archway flowers, and 15 centerpieces) – $1,200
    – Photography and Videography (friends, who are also professionals) – $6,200 ($4,000 photography, 2,200 videography)
    – Cellist and Violinist for ceremony + cocktail hour (friends) – $150
    – Cake – Gifted from a friend, materials will be approx – $100
    – Stationary (STDs, Invites (I had Thomas Printers letter press mine!), programs, escort cards and postage for all) – $628
    – Wedding Rings – $700
    – Misc – Photobooth – $400
    – Misc – Dance instructors (we’ve been taking ballroom dancing lessons for over 2 years and wanted to share with our guests) – $300
    – Misc – Sparklers and DIY personalized matchboxes (I am super proud of that DIY) – $154
    – Misc – Gifts (for bridesmaids, groomsmen and parents) – $300- Misc – Decor I’ve bought + made over the past year (wax paper backdrop, candles on sale, gold sequins tablecloth because why not, and some signs I’ve made) – $300

    The grand total comes in at around $25,112. Which really is more than I thought I’d spend on a wedding, but at the end of the day, the vast majority of it is either to A) help our guests have a good time, and B) to friends of ours. And when I put it in that light, I’m really much more okay with it.

    • The difference in wedding budgets and how they spend in different locales is huge! Thanks for sharing your budget – it sounds like your wedding is going be a GREAT time!

  • lildutchgrrl

    We had a wedding on a small budget (under $3K, looked like the backyard dessert party), and I realized the other day how that experience affected my perspective of cost. 2 and a half years down the line, I’m considering hosting a celebratory restaurant dinner with 8-10 people, and $40pp is a number that at the same time makes me frown at the total and also seems completely doable (and reasonable for the places I’d choose). Then I realize that blows my WEDDING budget out of the water — we spent $200 on supplies for a self-catered afternoon tea for 25. Food — good food, prepared by someone else — costs money!

    • Both your afternoon tea and your restaurant dinner sound rad! It is crazy how quick the $$ adds up!

  • Lindsey d.

    I’ll add my “We blew it all on photography and music” budget for our small town wedding:

    Ceremony venue: $400
    Reception venue, buffet catering, booze, staff, tables, chairs, linens for 100 guests: $7,500
    Photographer with second shooter and assistant, seven hours: $4,000
    Ceremony music – $0 for family friend playing guitar
    Reception music – $4,000 for seven piece band for four hours
    Ceremony decor: $125 for chuppah building supplies
    Ketubah: $225
    Reception decor: $150 for non-floral table decor
    Attire: $1500 ($800 for dress and shoes; $700 for bespoke suit and shoes)
    Other attire: $90 (bridesmaid dress from Little Borrowed Dress, two flower girl dresses from Zara)
    Florals: $130 for 8 boutonnieres, seven corsages, roses to make two bouquets
    Cake: $150
    Gifts for attendants: $200 for two officiants, one bridesmaid, two flower girls, three groomsman and four parents
    Wedding coordinator: $1,500
    Printed materials: $500 (invitations, save the dates, postage, programs, other printables)
    Other: $200 (License, hair stylists/makeup, guest book, etc)

    Total: $20,670

    • I love a good wedding with fun music and a great photographer to capture it! Thanks for sharing!

  • MA Bride

    My fiance and I are having a $15,000 wedding for 75 in Massachusetts. We’re spending ~$5,000 on venue and catering, $3,000 on photography, and we’re in the process of figuring out the rest. It seems to be doable, but honestly it all cam down to finding a venue and catering combo that left enough for the rest of things — so many venues around here have $9000 food minimums, etc. We’re in the midst of it all, and it is insane that in the budgeting tool I’m using, all those thousands are whittled away so quickly while still being stretched thin.

    • You’re absolutely right! Finding a venue and/or caterer, anywhere, that can leave you some money to play with for everything else is key!

  • justme

    I’m having a barn wedding that is very similar in budget items to the one listed, but you left out many items. Like table and chair rentals, bathroom rentals, dish rentals, etc. Very few barns would come with any of those things, they aren’t really optional, and they significantly impact the budget.

    • carolynprobably

      Agreed. A friend and I got married the same year with about the same number of guests. We rented a museum, and she had a garden party backyard wedding. Perhaps surprisingly, our budgets came out about the same. She had to rent tables, chairs, security guards, restrooms, electricity – all things that were included in our venue.

      • I looked into a backyard wedding, and it was surprisingly similar in budget to some of our other options. TENTS ($200-$400), tables and chairs are expensive, at least in my area. Also, there’s the logistics of figuring out where guests can park, which can be a problem depending on your local bylaws. I think there’s a misconception that backyard weddings are inexpensive simply because the venue is $0.

    • That is very true! I definitely was using a full service catering option that includes those needs. But it’s key to keep in mind – thanks for that!

    • Leah

      Yes, for sure. Our barn venue included tables & chairs, and things like portapotty rentals and garbage pickup, but not dishware, linens, speakers/sound system, and other things. Definitely all those little things add up to a LOT in the budget. Our venue had actually just started to add those things in (garbage, bathrooms) because they knew darn well what a difference they make in terms of making it a desirable space to throw a party. In the budget I posted for our wedding last summer
      somewhere down in this thread – I tried to show where some of those
      things came in.

    • Meg Keene

      Oh, for sure, yes. These are SUPER general templates. More detail is here; http://apracticalwedding.com/category/toolkit/logistics/ And more detail will also be in tons of upcoming posts. This is REALLY big picture, which is important in a different way. But for more on rentals you can start here: http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/09/event-rentals/ Though we have even more posts coming in the next few months.

    • jubeee

      Well, it might be included in the barn venue fee. I’m having a stone pavillion wedding and actual bathrooms and tables and included in the nominal venue fee. So these really just samples, everyone’s cases will be different. I haven’t begun to look into rentals for dishes, glasses, ceremony chairs etc!!!

  • Michigan Sara

    We were aiming for $10K, but ended up closer to $11K (we had budgeted in an extra $2K when putting together our savings plan, so we had the money available). $5K was gifted to us by our families and we covered the rest. We had 120 people for a 4 pm wedding, appetizers, dinner, and dancing. Here is where the money went:
    $2800 Venue rental (B&B), included tables, chairs, linens, dishes, chair covers, chairs for outside ceremony, 6 rooms at the B&B for one night.
    $2500 Food, catering by a local restaurant, light appetizers, buffet style dinner, included homemade biscuits, fruit sauce, and whipped cream for shortcakes in place of a traditional wedding cake
    $500 Beverages (brewed our own beer, our friends brought some of their homebrew, bought wine from nice grocery store, bought 3 types of soda)

    $1100 Attire ($900 wedding dress, undergarments, shoes, alterations; $200 tux)
    $2000 Photography
    $750 DJ
    $120 Flowers ($80 for corsages & boutennieres from a florist, $25 my bouquet from nice grocery store, $15 for sunflowers from nice grocery store that my mom put together for bridesmaids)
    $200 decorations (we had a wedding at the end of September with a fall theme (apples/leaves) and all the fall-themed stuff was on sale at Michael’s at the beginning of September when I finally remembered I needed to decorate) plus $50 for fresh apples from the nice grocery store that also doubled as centerpieces and favors.
    $150 invites and programs

    $100 babysitter
    $300-ish miscellaneous expenses (toys for the kids who hung out with the babysitter, gifts for wedding party)

    • Sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing!

    • This sounds really close to what our wedding will be like! It sounds like it was amazing. Ours is also a fall B & B wedding!

  • Lauren from NH

    What do people think about the recent articles on the study claiming a link between wedding cost and length of marriage? Here’s one from NPR as an example ( http://www.npr.org/2015/01/08/375756298/want-your-marriage-to-last-start-with-a-huge-cheap-wedding ). I am not trying to start a fire or in anyway shame people with higher budgets, it just seems odd to me that this trend would exist given that I think wedding budgets high and low, are determined in very different ways.

    • SoontobeNatalieN

      Ooh, this one gets me kind of pissed. Because as if you weren’t under *enough* pressure during this time of “buy this thing” or “do this DIY, which will be totally easy because your BFF’s will help”, or “be organized” but “not a brideszilla”, we now have “have a tasteful classy wedding” but “don’t spend to much or you’ll get a divorce”. Uhm…. wait, WHAT?

      I think that people can get divorced after having paid $1,000 on a wedding just as easily as a couple who paid $50,000. The difference might be that most couples can afford a $1,000 wedding, but not all couples can afford 50k (even some of the ones who have them). While there is something to be said about the possibility of couples getting married to one another just because they want a wedding, and added stress that can be involved in a marriage that is starting in debt because a couple paid more than they should have on a wedding, I don’t think that any couple can or should be judged on the amount of money they spend on their wedding, which is what statistics like this cause.

      (side note: Statistics can be used to say pretty much anything you want them to)

      • KateS

        AMEN.

    • Marie

      The authors present a bunch of fun correlations, but that paper is pretty fluffy, and makes no causal claims about the impact of expenditures on marriage duration (I mean, they *can’t* make causal claims, given the nature of the data and the study).

    • CoastalCreature

      Agreed that wedding budgets are all depending on a huge array of factors, and I also wonder if the study took into account socioeconomic status as well. I can see how a wedding budget of $50,000 spent by a couple who received no extra parental gifts and combined only net $50,000 a year might be an incredibly ill-advised and stressful plan. Same idea goes for the engagement ring – folks who make $3,000 a month and have no savings might not want to spend $15,000 on a ring (or anything, for that matter).

      And how else can socioeconomic status effect weddings and relationships? I’m not really sure, but I imagine it might matter.

      I’m coming from a place where my parents, my husband’s parents, and my husband and I all split our $70K+ wedding budget between us.

    • This has definitely been a hot topic flying around the internet. Personally, my main thought on the topic is: there may be some sort of correlation (based on reading the statistics whichever way), but it is not causal!

    • Sarah E

      I scanned the article you linked, but I think it makes some big generalizations that, like you said, have little to do with the actual number in the end. A huge, cheap wedding is going to involve major problem-solving skills, creativity, and input from friends and family, all of which can strengthen a relationship. If a couple doesn’t have those skills or that support, and have the money to just make things happen without talking through priorities and values, I can see where it might be an indicator. You’re exactly right, though: the number itself says absolutely nothing about how much thought and care a couple has put in to their relationship.

    • Amy March

      The paper also says that divorce decreases when the engagement ring costs more than $8,000. I find it interesting but see no evidence to conclude that how much money you spend on your wedding causes you to divorce or not.

    • A.

      I always assumed (and I think it’s a common assumption) that it probably has more to do with the fact that a lot of higher budget couples can’t actually afford their weddings and it is an indicator of extended money issues (#1 cause of divorce). But that’s totally conjecture; I’d be interested to see the income and education level of contributors to those high-budget weddings that end in divorce.

  • Audrey

    Here’s our SF Bay Area (but not SF proper) budget for 150. ~$20k, although I think I later went through and added rings and rehearsal dinner (not paid for by us) and a few other things and that brought it closer to $25k.

    Venue (ceremony + reception, included tables/chairs): $2.2k
    Catering (Buffet, included silverware, linens, etc): $9.5k
    Booze (we bought, caterer served): $1.7k
    Flowers & Decor: $250 (self-made bouquets, unusual centerpieces made mostly with our own stuff)
    Photography: $2.7k
    Cake (delicious!): $1k
    Dress & Tux: $900 (trunk sale for the win!)
    Invites: $35 (friend’s mom designed and printed… SO grateful)
    Officiant, gifts, hair (I did a $250 splurge on day-of hair): $1k

    We definitely could have cut this down – got a more basic cake, got less expensive booze, etcetera. We ended up pretty happy.

    • Thank you for sharing!

    • Alynae

      Thank you! I am in SF city so these budgets are really helpful. May I ask, did you serve a full bar an do you know what part of catering went to food vs rentals?

      • Audrey

        We did beer and wine only (and a champagne toast). We had lots of beer leftover, but that probably would have only saved us around $100-$200 (most of the expense was the wine).

        I found the old invoice in my email… looks like it was about half and half – half food, half rentals and service (including the linens, silverware, bartender, captain, etcetera).

        This was almost 5 years ago, so it’s possible prices have gone up a little since then (but it shouldn’t be TOO much).

        • Alynae

          Thanks! that is really helpful as we are trying to figure out those parts of the budget.

      • Caroline

        Our wedding this summer in Tiburon, catering was $7000 (for 65 people), and rentals were $2000 (tables, chairs, plates, glasses, etc). That’s Sunday lunch, and doesn’t include drinks, which were another $900 (DIY: bought wine and champagne, homebrewed beer, TJ’s lemonade and sparkling water). The catering does include a bartender to serve said drinks.

  • Regular Commenter

    Our wedding is in May, and we’re on-budget so far (I think?) but rentals are my main financial anxiety, as I’m not sure how that will shake out yet.

    For a South-central PA wedding with dessert reception for 220 invited guests:

    Venue (farmers’ market): $500
    Photographer (mom’s sports journalist friends): $800
    Rings (bands only, no engagement ring): ~$1000
    License: $60
    Dessert (baked goods by a friend): ~$1000
    Dress (mom’s wedding dress, purchased cocktail dress for reception): $60
    Suit: ~$500
    Invitations (Paper from local stationary store clearance, Paperless Post design): $160
    Hotel room for us, night before and after: $260
    Spotify premium playlist: $15
    Booze (beer and wine, self serve bar): $700
    Rentals (extra chairs, forks, spoons, plates, glasses, PA system): ~$700?
    Headpiece (planned silk flower crown): $40?
    Contingency: $700

    Total planned: $6500

    APW made a huge difference in figuring out how much things actually cost so we could accurately budget, from introducing me to Bario-Neal, so I knew exactly how much my band would cost, down to rough numbers on how much booze our guests might need.

    • Thank you for sharing. And yay for APW helping make it tangible and executable!

  • Leah

    Adding in our $25,000 fantastic barn wedding for 120 people from this past summer. Includes ‘rehearsal’ dinner, Sunday brunch, lodging for 2 nights for us, our families, and our wedding party and their people. Also includes a tent which it turns out is crazy expensive to rent, but which my mother insisted on.
    • Venue ($4500) – amazing barn and grounds for 3 days, including 2 houses which lodged us, our families, and the wedding party for 2 nights, and also included tables, chairs, garbage service, portapotty rentals, and other useful things.
    • Food & Catering ($6600) for 120 people, including bartending, passed apps, and family-style sit-down dinner, which was crazy delish.
    • Beer & Wine ($800)
    • Rentals ($2500) – tent, dancefloor, linens, dishware)
    • Photography ($2250) – including rehearsal dinner, and 10 hours on the day of the wedding
    • Band ($2000) – 6 piece funk band for ~4 hours
    • Décor ($600) – bulk flowers from a local farm, bouquets & boutenniers from local florist, and some DIY odds and ends from craft stores.
    • Invitations and Thank you notes ($450) – from locally owned small business
    • Ketubah ($300) – Made by a friend of the family
    • Rabbi fees & travel ($1200) – including 6 premarital counseling sessions
    • Rehearsal dinner food and booze ($600) – for about 100 people, partly potluck, in a local park
    • Dress, suit, and alterations ($1500)
    • Sunday morning bagels, coffee, etc ($200)
    • Cake ($250)
    Total: Hovering right around $25,000.

    • Can I ask where this barn is? This sounds like a super fantastic party!

      • Leah

        It was awfully fun.
        It was at the Teller Wildlife Refuge – http://bitterrootcabins.com/bitterroot-barn-wedding/
        Here are a few pics, cause I can’t help myself

        • Oh my goodness that looks amazing! I love Montana and quite frankly, I want my wedding right… there!! :)

          • Leah

            Thanks! We were totally in love with the location and the space. They were also super easy to work with, and I’d recommend them to anybody.

    • This sounds awesome! Our venue also includes accommodations for a bunch of people (up to 20) so its good to see a budget with that in it. I have been sort of mentally subtracting the accommodation cost, because I figure if it wasn’t included then we would have all been paying for hotel rooms anyway.

  • AGCourtney

    Never before have I been so grateful to live in the Midwest. (Except, perhaps, during hurricanes and earthquakes.) Sure, the wedding industry is still pretty ridiculous, but it’s not nearly so expensive as the prices I’ve been seeing for weddings in California and NYC. Yay! I suspect our wedding will look somewhat like the backyard dessert wedding. We strongly suspect my fiance’s family’s church will loan us chairs and the neighbors will loan us tents, for free, just as they’ve done for the family’s last couple grad parties. And self-catering will be borderline free for us as well. Already have the wedding dress for $99, and all-day photography (with a second shooter!) for $1700. So far, so good!

    • Yay Midwest! Sounds like it’s going to be awesome!

    • kcaudad

      Agreed! We had a relatively new wedding photographer who was just starting out in the biz and only charged us $800 for about 6 hours of coverage and gave us rights to the images! She didn’t get everything exactly perfect, but we have many wonderful images of our wedding and families for about 1/2 the minimum price of other photographers in our area. I even bought prints off her website to support her business.
      My advise: Look into people just starting out in the business or ask around for referrals.

  • enfp

    My wedding budget ended up being about $25,000, even though it was a DIY’d casual outside BBQ type event, almost entirely due to the cost of the venue, catering and staffing. We had about 180 guests (including children) in Toronto, Canada. I never thought I would spend so much on a wedding, but in a big city, with big numbers, that’s where we ended up.
    – The venue, which included most rentals and staffing, topped out at $6000. VENUE ALONE OMG.
    – Catering (appetizers, simple BBQ buffet, ice cream sundaes, and a late night snack, linen rentals, bartenders and servers): $10,000.
    – Photographer: $2500
    – Dress: $1000
    – Transportation for guests: $1200 (because venue was not easy to get to)
    – Flowers and decorations: $600 (all DIY, except for my bouquet)
    – (non professional) day of coordinator: $350
    – Booze and non-alcoholic drinks for our DIY bar: maybe $1500? Guessing here.
    – The rest of the money went to: sound equipment rental, postage for invitations, printing invitations at local print shop, my husband’s suit, some new makeup for me, $80 for a trip to the salon to have my hair done the morning of, marriage license and booze license.

    We still did a ton of things ourselves, on the cheap, and relied on friends and family. Our officiant, DJ, and ceremony music were all friends or family, who we didn’t pay (other than thank you gifts). We bought bulk flowers and arranged them ourselves, and a friend made some bunting for us to hang. We did the bar ourselves, though we paid to have bartenders. We made the invitations ourselves. My friend did my make up. We did not have any favours, or any wedding cake. Venues in Toronto are tough, particularly if you have more than about 120 guests. Standard pricing seems to be about $2500 for a Saturday night, not including staffing or taxes. Staffing, particularly if you have lots of guests, really adds up. For us, having a venue we loved was worth it, but yeah major sticker shock there.

    • Sarah

      My venue was also $6k alone! I have been sitting here shaking my head at everyone who didn’t have a venue fee, haha :(

    • The venue cost being high happens pretty often – but like you said, having a venue you truly love can be totally worth it!

  • Marmoset

    I’m game to share the budget for my wedding coming up in June. I live in a small city in Atlantic Canada and we are having the ceremony in the morning with buffet lunch reception, 50 guests.

    Invitations: $100 including postage, DIT from boxed cards.
    Venue: $250 ($20 an hour to rent the lodge in city park, 3 hours the night before for setup and 8 hours the day of, plus SOCAN licensing fees for music). Tables and chairs included.
    Food: $2000 for buffet-style catered lunch for 50, including plates/cutlery/etc, and 2 setup/serving/cleanup staff.
    Dessert: $0, gift from my mom
    Alcohol: $0, not allowed at the venue
    Photography: $1100 including engagement session and 8 hours on the day.
    Decorations: $250, mostly tulle ribbon and tissue paper for DIT tissue paper flowers
    Officiant: $200
    Flowers: $100 for DIT grocery store bouquets for me and our two honor attendants.
    Prelude/Ceremony music: $150 for solo violin
    Reception music: $0 for mp3 player and our sound system from home.
    Rings: $1000. Instead of an engagement ring, we are each wearing the other’s wedding band on a necklace for the duration of our engagement. <3
    Dress: $150, David's Bridal (including shipping to a friend in the US then having them send it to me, ha)
    Bride's other attire (hair clip, shoes, etc): $300
    Groom's attire: $250
    Car rental for the weekend: $250
    Gifts for parents, honor attendants, other helpers: $400
    Slush fund for whatever I've forgotten: $500

    Total: $7000 counting rings, $6000 not counting rings.

  • Juliet

    Here’s our breakdown for a $10,000 picnic reception for 125 plus a welcome dinner in Austin, TX. The biggest thing that kept our budget down while still serving a full meal to 125 people? Serving them lunch! We got to enjoy the sunshine and everyone got a big meal, lunch is just cheaper. Win-win for us.

    Welcome Event (appetizers and rental space at food truck park for 100): $1,600
    Apparel: $750
    Flowers: $410
    Photography: $1,250
    Invites and Paper goods: $250
    Rings: $50
    Inclusive venue with BBQ lunch: $4,150
    Pies: $275
    Beer and wine (for both the rehearsal and the reception): $633
    Décor and Misc odds and ends: $421
    Transportation for guests to and from the venue: $435

    Grand total: $10,175

    • I love the lunch idea and recommend it to clients all the time! Yay BBQ and pie – sounds like my kind of party!

  • carolynprobably

    These budgets are great jumping off points, but I feel like they’re a bit oversimplified. I think it’s really important that we talk about unforeseen and (more importantly sometimes unavoidable) costs. Things like event permits, insurance riders, cleaning fees, ring resizing, hotels/flights, etc. etc. i.e. things I wish I had known to leave room for in a budget.

    • Sarah E

      You’re right, but any sample or template is going to be simplified. It also comes down to what you consider “wedding budget” vs. “life budget.” Are the dance lessons you take part of wedding money or monthly entertainment money? Are the travel expenses to get to your wedding part of that budget, or an annual cost? Is a new suit a wedding expense or a soon-to-be-interviewing need? Everyone will make different choices, so I can understand starting from a generalized template before accounting for the things you mention.

      • Greta

        Here here, I haven’t been able to wear my dress again (though I wish I could!) but the suit my husband bought for our wedding is now the best one he owns. He’s worn it to work parties and lots of other weddings since then, so I feel like the money we spent on it was well worth it!

        I’ve also gifted a lot of the things I bought for my wedding that I couldn’t really use again to friends who are now getting married. I’m glad these items get to be used again (and again!)

    • Lauren from NH

      I think its can be tricky to think of all of these little (relative) items and they may be very different for different people’s circumstances. I think it is more useful for couples starting off to make sure they hold over some percentage of their budget for unforeseen expenses. For example, at first I held over 25% (I was pretty nervous), and then as I did more research and narrowed my options I dropped it to a 10% contingency fund.

      • Kara E

        I think the idea of a contingency fund (10-20 %) is REALLY important and is a good budgetary move in any case — not just a wedding. Any major project I review (since that’s what I do for work) needs to have a substantial one–and a wedding is generally/often a major event. It’s sort of like having a “life happens” and an untouchable emergency fund for one’s normal life. Both are super important.

    • Definitely true, Carolyn! And it’s true that people should have an emergency fund – maybe that should have been included. But hopefully having a starting point is helpful for people out there wading through the wedding planning sea!

      • carolynprobably

        Sure, agreed. I definitely think these are really great as inspiration. I definitely had no idea of how far $5K or $50K would go when I started out.

        I was coming from the perspective that when I started out planning, I didn’t need to hear, “good photography can be expensive,” so much as, “did you think about needing to pay a security guard?” A different issue altogether, but one I think is overlooked because it’s so so so specific to each event that it becomes hard to even quantify the types or costs of things that can creep up. (But maybe we should still try!)

        • neighborhoodmap

          You raise a really great point — It’s also really important to read venue contracts very, very carefully — they might require things like security guards and insurance riders that aren’t included in what they ostensibly “charge” to rent their space. Their rental fee might not be their entire actual *cost* — we learned this the hard way.

          • carolynprobably

            Right and these are the unsexy, un-pinteresty things that sometimes just have to be done!

          • Meg Keene

            They always need to be done!!

        • Meg Keene

          I think those are different issues, and it’s important to talk about both. I think most people need BOTH conversations, and at different points. We try not to shove all conversations into one post, because it’s too much. When FIRST starting, I think it’s way less about “do you need a security guard” and more “OMG what are my general options.” And once I got into it, I needed to talk details. (Though everyone plans differently.)

          We’re going to get into more of those details as we get going this year, but our logistics section is a great place to start and covers a lot of that: http://apracticalwedding.com/category/toolkit/logistics/

          Also, my second book (next year!!) covers literally every detail of that level of planning. It just takes at least 60,000 words to cover all of that!!

          • carolynprobably

            ROCK AND ROLL. If only you’d written it five years ago when I needed it ;) At least all my family and friends can still benefit from the pitch-perfect advice I’ve come to expect from apw.

    • Lindsey d.

      This is a good point and there were definitely costs associated with my wedding that aren’t line itemed in my budget. Things like special pens to sign the Shutterfly photo guest book without smearing and a new bold red lipstick. Most of those just came out of my everyday spending money that I normally have budgeted and didn’t impact the bottom line.

      But things like security guards and linens are the reasons why we chose to go with venues that provide all of those things. Not only did we not have to worry about the additional unexpected costs, we didn’t have to organize and research them all.

      Like any major project (home renovation, for example), weddings deserve a minimum of 10% tacked on for those types of costs.

    • emilyg25

      This is why we tried to build in a 20% buffer into our budget.

    • Meg Keene

      These are VERY oversimplified budgets. This about envisioning general ideas of outside of the box ways you can do weddings, as you’re getting started planning. This actually ISN’T a post about wedding budgeting (we have some of those coming up). This is a post about very general ideas of very different weddings you can have at very different price points.

      • carolynprobably

        Fair enough! I don’t meant to come off as saying this isn’t a useful exercise in brainstorming ideas and determining realistic expectations and limits. Rather, just to point out that I’d add that (and maybe this is obvious, but) ymmv and that even in an fun made up sample budget one would be wise to build in a buffer (and I think Alyssa commented elsewhere to this effect). I imagine that even glitter-soaked daydreaming Meg builds in a 10% contingency :)

  • AM_StPaul

    I’ll add my Lowertown Saint Paul wedding budget. I have a lot more categories than others, but this is the way we set up our spreadsheet.
    Groom Accessories (new shoes, tie, pocket square, socks): $200
    Wedding Dress: $800 (cause I was silly and put a deposit on a dress that was several sizes too big thinking it would save me $$ it didn’t)
    Hair/Makeup/Nails (bonding time with MIL and paid for hair for MOH and sister): $488
    Tux/Suit (Bestman and Groom): $311.90
    Ceremony Location (including music): $675
    Officiant fee/donation: $175
    Flowers (MIL wanted them and paid because they were important to us): $592
    Reception Decor (uplighting is amazing!): $814.50
    Attendant gifts (hotel room for 1 night): $300
    Reception Music: $695
    Photographer (8 hrs with second shooter ~600 pics and digital files): $3551.63
    Reception Venue: $3400
    Day of Coordinator (venue condition): $455
    Security (venue condition): $255
    Food (apps, served dinner for 62 people): $3037.63
    Bar/bartender (1 keg, 10 bottles of wine): $1218.43
    Desserts (1 overpriced cake (still a little mad) and bite sized desserts from local Italian bakery): $523
    Save the dates (postcards): $14.52
    Stamps for Save the dates: 17.05
    Invitations (stamps from MIL): $114.00
    Thank yous: $51.00
    His ring: $3428
    Her ring: $1000
    Honeymoon: $4070.37
    Wedsafe (venue insurance): $185
    Total: 27,157.08
    I still feel a little silly about how much we spent, but when we started planning the wedding we said we wanted to make it easy/worth it for everyone flying in ( we are the only ones who live here, everyone else has to travel). Everyone had a fun weekend and no one complained about getting around. One of the few complaints we had was our pizza party rehearsal dinner (lovingly donated by an aunt) had too many beer choices.

  • anon

    Adding in our (much) higher budget wedding for some additional context. It was in London and all line items are in pounds sterling (paid for generously by my parents and parents-in-law since my husband and I are both students).

    Venue: 3870
    Catering: 17410 (passed hors d’oeuvres, champagne, three course meal, open wine/beer bar + 2 signature cocktails, cheese plate + dessert. No wedding cake).
    Officiant: free (family member who is clergy)
    Ketubah: free (made by aunt)
    Reception live music: 580
    Chuppah: ? 4 simple wooden poles constructed the week before by my father-in-law, covered by prayer shawl
    Flowers/decor: 800 (minimal floral centerpieces, vines to wrap around chuppah poles, bouquet for me, boutonnieres for husband, father, father-in-law, brother + LED candles on table)
    Photographer: 1650 (eight hours? two photographers)
    Videography: 495 (no editing, and pretty poor quality as it turned out)
    Band: 5760
    Invitations/stationary/programs: 558 (we designed the invitations, printed by Catprint, also includes printed programs and thank you cards)
    Wedding insurance: 85
    Hotel room for two nights: 400
    Cabs: 75
    Whisky table: 85
    Dress/alterations/shoes: 1500

    Veil: free – borrowed from friend
    Hair/makeup: 150 (friend just starting out, includes me and my mum, trial and day of)
    Suit/shirt/shoes: 668 (custom made suit)
    Rings: 482
    Books with grace after meals: 388

    Total: £34806 – for reference this is approaching $60,000.

    My in-laws hosted dinner and lunch for about 40 people the weekend of the wedding which was approximately £2000 (including copious wine!). We also rented out a pub the night before for a pub quiz – they required a £600 pound deposit which we used to order shared plates for every table and let everyone spend down the rest of the tab.

    For those of you out there with very generous and only slightly pushy families, let this reassure you that spending way more than you ever anticipated can be a wonderful and meaningful experience. Stick up for what you believe in and don’t be afraid to direct their generosity to those local and sustainable vendors that need our support!

    • “Let this reassure you that spending way more than you ever anticipated can be a wonderful and meaningful experience.” I LOVE IT!

      • Caroline

        I agree! Our budget was smaller than this, but at the same time, we spent what was a huge amount of money for us. (My parents paid for the wedding, and the wedding cost would pay for our rent for more than a year). That said, it was an amazing, meaningful wedding, and I’m glad we spent the money.

  • Sarah

    My budget is starting to get a bit cray cray, but I really only have to find money to get my makeup and hair done now, I THINK. Its split between us ($10k), his parent’s ($21k), and my parents ($3k-ish, plus lots of logistical help). We’re in Pittsburgh, which ended up being more expensive than I anticipated, but will always be more budget friendly than where we live in NYC. This is for our 100 person wedding in June.

    Venue: $6,500. Yes, I know, but its a contemporary art museum which will have all the exhibits open to guests, with an amazing outdoor and indoor space…its fucking awesome.

    Food, table and chair rentals, booze, bartenders, staff: $13,126.24

    3 piece jazz band for 3 hours and friend DJ: $1,200

    Photographer: $3,400

    Officiant: $400.00

    One bridesmaid dress for pregnant bridesmaid: $200

    Tux: $165.00

    Dress: $2,200

    Hotel Room: $610

    Save the Dates & Invitations: $265

    Honeymoon: $8,000 (gift from his parents)

    Rings: $1,958

    Decor and 6 buckets of DIY flowers from a flower farm: $1,000

    And right now I’m projecting that we’ll have a zero dollar budget deficit, of which I am pretttty proud. One of our biggest priorities was food and booze, which you can see is where most of our spending is. We got a local sustainable caterer that is making some very seriously creative wedding food. That just plain ol’ costs a lot of money. Other than that, I think in the beginning we weren’t super realistic about what the things we wanted would cost, which we’ve had to sort of scramble to find money for. But we are pretty on track at this point. There will probably be some odds and ends that I’m not accounting for.

    • Awesome. Thanks for sharing.

      Regarding your venue: “its fucking awesome.” is all you had to say! YAY for that.

    • carolynprobably

      former yinzer dying to know- which gallery?!?!

      • Sarah

        Its the Mattress Factory!

  • I found last year’s budget open thread to be so helpful when I started our Pi Day (3/14/15) wedding.

    We’re having an off-season Saturday wedding in Minneapolis. Here’s our breakdown so far:
    Venue: $1800 (10hrs rental/tables/chairs/room flip/coordinator)
    Photographer: $2000 (2 shooters/7hrs coverage/all photos on DVD/engagement session)
    DJ: $550
    Day of Coordinator: $550
    Flowers & Decor: $875
    Gown: $0 (purchased as gift from Mom)
    Tux: $0 (free with 5 tux reservations)
    Save the Dates: $150
    Invitations: $240
    Bridesmaid gifts: $180
    Officiant: $0 (friend)

    Estimates for things we still need to pay for:
    Escort cards/programs/menus: $300
    Food: $6000
    Alcohol: $1500
    Groomsman gifts: $200
    Bride hair & makeup: $125
    Bride accessories: $150

    Total: $$14,620; we’ve budgeted for $18,000 and I think we’ll end up closer to that.
    All of my actuals are also post tax & post service charge…taxes & service charges have been one of the most shocking things in this whole process.

    • “Taxes & service charges have been one of the most shocking things in this whole process.”

      Absolutely! That extra 18-30% can sure sneak up!

    • C_Gold

      Hi, Pi Day Wedding Twin!

      So far, our costs for a Madison WI nighttime appetizers/pie/dancing hotel wedding:

      room rental (including a mix of tall and normal tables, chairs, and love seats–and adding a wooden dance floor): $750
      dress: $880
      flowers (bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages): $550
      hair: $65
      hair trial: $60
      makeup: $50
      DJ: $800
      food and drink minimum (but I think we’ll end up going over by perhaps a grand): $2000
      invitations printing and postage: $100
      photographer (my brother-in-law’s cousin): $700
      20 pies: $400 (because it’s pi day!)

      then i’m guessing we’ll spend the following:
      dress alterations: $150
      suit for fiancé (who needs a new one anyway: $300
      rings: $150
      printing programs: $60

      Total: $7060 (or more like $8000, when all the appetizers are added up)
      A friend is officiating for free, and another friend designed our invitations and programs for free. We got a super good deal on the hotel space because Wisconsin is nasty in March and no one wants to get married then, apparently.

      • Megan

        Serious respect for doing a March wedding in Wisco! I’m in MKE and thought about it, thinking it’d help get some good deals, but then I got caught up in the allure of a fall wedding like so many others! But I bet having a fabulous wedding to look forward to is making Wisconsin winter a little more bearable. :)

  • eve

    Hi all!

    We did a wedding in a historic restaurant in Virginia, for 140 people for $15000– afternoon wedding with dancing, alcohol, and a mid-afternoon buffet meal.

    Here are our figures:

    Venue: 1250 (included tablecloths, plates, venue coordinator)
    Ceremony Fee: 300 (to hold ceremony at venue)
    Decoration Fee: 200 (they set up the decorations for us)
    Microphone Rental: 200 (they set up a table, and we self DJed)
    Spotify Premium: free (1 month)
    Food: 3150
    Alcohol: 3036 (unlimited beer & wine for 3 hours out of the 4 hour reception)
    Service fee (25%!): 1237
    Tax: $327
    Cake: 115 (from a warehouse store)
    Gluten free cupcakes: 17
    Photographer (8 hours + second shooter): 2200
    Day of coordinator: $45 (a friend– just gave her a gift)
    Tux: $160
    Dress & shoes: $350 (including alterations)
    Veil: Borrowed
    Guest book: 20 (from shutterfly)
    Flowers: $650 (self arranged, ordered from Costco, etsy, and a floral website, including buckets to arrange in)– 9 bridesmaid bouquets, 1 bridal bouquet, 8 boutonnieres, jar centerpieces for approx 15 tables
    Programs: 50 (self designed, printed at FedEx Kinkos on paper purchased when I purchased the invitation paper)
    Rehearsal dinner: 650 (informal buffet at a local pizza place)
    Invitations: 500 (printed at Fedex Kinkos, paper from papersource, mostly self designed, but paid $50 for one template from empapers)
    Hair & makeup: 250
    Bridal party gifts: $400

    We originally budgeted around $12 – $13K, but things just added up!

    • Such a great (and detailed) breakdown! Thanks for sharing.

  • Lisa

    I’ll throw mine out there! I keep meaning to submit a “How We Did It,” and who knows if my lazy butt will ever get around to it.

    We had a budget of $25,000 for our downtown Chicago wedding.

    Ceremony space: $1500 (includes church/officiant, Pre-Cana fees, organist bench fee)
    Reception: ~$16,000 (includes cocktail hour, bar package, 2 course family-style dinner for 85 people, plus the in-house event coordinator, waitstaff, tip, and tax)
    Photography: $3700 (includes 10 hours of coverage, engagement session, and a second shooter)
    Attire: ~$1000 for the materials for my dress and veil, his tux was free with everyone’s rentals
    Accessories: $100 for tie/pocket square combos for groom, attendants, FOB, FOG; $100 for bride
    Ceremony Decor: $125
    Programs: $50 (I worked with the printer a lot at my old job so they gave me a discount)
    Save the Dates: $125
    Invitations: $370
    Postage: $130
    Favors: $300
    Make-up: $400 (for bride, MOB, and 2 MOHs plus one trial)
    Day-of Coordinator: $600
    Guest book: $100
    Cake: $270
    License: $60
    Hair: $0 (DIY)
    Nails: $0 (a gift from the MOB and MOG)
    Flowers: $0 (a gift from my husband’s godmother)
    Musicians: $60 (Our many talented musical friends gifted us their services, but we hired a pianist.)
    Reception Music: $0 (a gift from a friend who is a DJ hobbyist)
    Videographer: $1400 (This was not factored into the overall budget as we were planning to cut it, and my father offered to take it out of the budget since it was so important to him.)

    Grand total: $24,930

    I might be missing a few little details here and there, but for the most part, we really tried as hard as we could to stick to our budget. My parents generously offered to pay for the wedding, and while they gave us $25k as a starting point with the option to increase if we found it necessary, we wanted to honor their gift by not spending anything over what they gave us at the onset.

    We were incredibly fortunate for and grateful to our wonderful friends and family who donated their time, talent, and treasure to making our wedding fabulous. We’re still looking at the photos from our photographer, finally hanging the guest book and family wedding photos on our wall, and just thinking back to how special our day was.

  • Another Meg

    How long you have to plan can make an impact on your budget as well. A $3000 wedding planned in 3 months can look very different from a $3000 wedding planned in 18 months. Not only do vendors charge more when they have to rush, but you can do more on your own to stretch pennies when you have lots of time.

    • Greta

      I wholeheartedly agree! Plus, if you’re planning a wedding in 3 months you don’t have the luxury of time to compare lots of different options and find the best price/value.

      On the flip side though, the longer the actual planning takes, the more time you have to add things on that you originally didn’t think you needed. I had a 19 month engagement and I got so many things done early that I did more (and spent more) than I would have otherwise on little bits of decor, etc. It can definitely go both ways.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      Interesting! I’ll throw in the opposing viewpoint that sometimes you can get a deal if it’s last minute. As a photographer, if my options were not working one weekend, or working at a discounted rate, I was always more willing to make that call as the weekend drew nearer. I was much more wary of cutting deals far enough out in the process that I might fill that slot at my normal rate. So I guess the moral of the story is…it’s always worth asking?

      • EF

        I’m so happy I’d seen Maddie mention ‘it’s always worth asking!’ with photographers before. We booked ours, like, 6 weeks before the wedding. I wrote to the photographer explaining our (low) budget and how quirky we were and how much we liked her photography, but didn’t want to like, insult her by asking to pay a fraction of what she usually charges, so could she maybe recommend someone up-and-coming instead?

        She emailed back offering to do it for what we could afford because she had the weekend open (yay january weddings?) and loved our quirkiness. And the pictures are amazing. So yeah, asking definitely doesn’t hurt!

      • Kara E

        Yes, definitely! It’s ALWAYS worth asking. And frankly, whether my wedding planning time had been 6 months (which is was) or 18 months, I still would have had about the same budget. I think more time gives you more time to spend money, to second guess yourself and other things. Yes, you may have fewer choices planning later, but sometimes that helps (at least for me). For food, it’s not like they’re buying more than a week in advance, ditto flowers and other stuff.

      • Sarah

        A friend of mine planned a wedding in 6 weeks, and found this to be very true. The reality was, if venues, photographers, etc. weren’t booked for a wedding at that point, they were very unlikely to get any business at all for that date (at least, not wedding business). So she really leveraged that to get some great deals. Though I absolutely agree with Another Meg that you have less time to figure out creative solutions to things and may be more likely to throw money at problems just to get them taken care of.

        • Hope

          We didn’t book our ceremony venue until a few months out. We really loved one place but they wanted us to book the wedding package which was for 5 hours and several thousand dollars. We knew they had a party package which was 2 hours for $500. As the day approached and they didn’t have any big bookings (and the road outside was being dug up) they took our offer.

  • Anna

    Chiming in with my San Francisco city hall/courthouse wedding budget. We spent ~$2000 on the day itself with photography making up a whopping 80% of the costs. I excluded the cost of our rings because we would have got them regardless of type of wedding/budget. Also excluded our clothing as he already owned a suit and I bought a dress I plan on wearing again and again. We did not have a party but we may have some sort of celebration later on where I expect to spend $1000-3000 (for 12 to 45 people) in a private dining room at one of my favorite restaurants.

    venue: $0
    wedding day jewelry: $40
    bouquet & boutonnière: $80
    photographers (elopement pricing + film add-on): $1800
    license: $103
    tips for vendors: $150

  • Greta

    Joining in with a weekend wedding near Seattle, WA for 165 people:

    Venue: $32,000 (included amazing summer-camp style venue for the whole weekend, Friday dinner, Saturday breakfast and lunch, Saturday family-style dinner, Sunday brunch) Alcohol for both Friday and Saturday night (beer and wine only, champagne toast) lodging for myself and husband, exclusive use of 275 acres of site, 3 planned activities run by venue on Saturday for guests, campfire with s’mores at the end of night, and a coordinator at the venue.
    Dress/Suit: $1700/$800
    Photography: $1700 (for the whole weekend! Score!)
    Shuttle: $750
    Decor: under $300, DIY
    Invitations/Save the Dates: $300 DIY
    5-piece blue grass band: $2500 for 3 hours
    string trio for ceremony: $400 for 1 hour
    officiant: $30
    Gifts/Favors: $1000
    Flowers: $1450
    Lawn Games: $300 DIY
    Doughnut Dessert Buffet: $275

    Everything ended up being more expensive than we thought, or at least the venue did, but that’s mostly because we had about 30 more people come than we expected. I imagine we would have come much closer to our goal budget of $25-30 had those extra 30 people not come. Also, be forewarned: A weekend wedding = paying for the equivalent of two weddings (essentially). Especially if you intend to feed your guests for the whole weekend. Yikes, it adds up fast! Best weekend of my life, but holy cow!

  • mystified

    Where are all of you finding photographers so cheap?? And are any of you including the actual photo packages in your budget or just the coverage?

    • mystified

      I mean. I’d love to get photography and videography for 4k. Seems more likely to get them for 4k EACH. And that wouldn’t cover the actual products.

      • Ellen

        I spent a *huge* amount of time looking, and ended up finding someone when I expanded my search to include photographers (we didn’t want videography) in metro areas roughly 2 hours away from our small town wedding location. It really opened up the universe of possibilities. We got really wonderful photos at an unbelievable price; much better and much cheaper than the local options.

    • Lian

      We had a photographer for 1000 dollars, including all digital images (so when we get around to it we’ll have to add costs for printing). We found her on Craigslist, she was a photojournalist looking to get into shooting weddings, so she didn’t have a huge portfolio yet (although she had at least 10 weddings on her site then, I think). She has since raised her price to 1500, still affordable but more in line with what she should earn I think, because she was amazing! But for our second wedding party (in my country of origin) we found a similar photographer, someone affordable looking to build her portfolio, and her pictures are meh. Not terrible but certainly not great. So its a risk to hire someone less experienced, you might get great pictures for a bargain, and you might get not-great pictures (but still for a bargain ;-) )

    • Eve

      It was hard! Ours was 2200 fo 8 hours & a second shooter & full printing rights & we randomly found her on Facebook- a friend had used her. from the quality of her photos, I didn’t think we could afford her. She didn’t have prices posted, but on a whim I emailed her.

      So I’d say keep reaching out to people. You never know if someone will end up working out.

      • Eve

        And try not to be discouraged. Some ppl without prices posted were uber expensive. So just keep going! I also asked an amateur friend, who wasn’t interested, and some ppl I contacted never responded. I would just provide my date & ask for pricing, to shoot my shot.

      • Eve

        I also found that looking on local photographers’ face books was helpful. A lot of times they’ll be fans of other local photographers who aren’t always listed elsewhere.

  • These are great to look at to get a general idea. The only thing I think is really missing is that the outdoor venues should include tent rental! I don’t know about everywhere, but at least in Houston getting a big tent is $500-$1000. I guess if you live in Arizona you could skip it, but it seems pretty essential otherwise? Our budget is kind of a moving target right now, but it was pretty scary when we realized that a low key, backyard wedding at a bed and breakfast could still put us in the $10,000 + range.

  • Plum

    Daytime wedding with cocktail hour, lunch and photobooth for 95 people in Wellington, New Zealand. Prices in New Zealand Dollars (NZ$1=US$0.75)

    Ceremony space: $0 – we had our ceremony and reception in the same lovely restaurant on Wellington’s waterfront
    Reception: ~$7,000 (includes cocktail hour, bar package of selected wines and beer, pass around appetizers, plated lunch, plus the in-house event coordinator and waitstaff)
    Photography: $2,900 (includes 5 hours of coverage, and online slideshow, 50 prints and all digital files)
    Photobooth $600 for three hours, including attendant, props, prints and digital files
    Attire: $1000 for dress and sash, $600 for suit and shirt. $50 for shoes. $80 for clutch. $30 for strapless bra.
    Flowers: $1050 (includes bridal bouquet, 5 corsages, 5 boutonieres, table centrepieces)
    Save the Dates and invites: $120, paperlessweddings.co.nz
    Make-up and hair: $600 (makeup and trial for bride, hair for bride, MOB, and 2 sisters, plus one trial)
    Cake: free – MOB made cupcakes
    Nails: $40
    Music: $0 – one month’s free trail Spotify premium, and use of PA system included in venue package)
    Officant: free – friend.
    Rings: $1400
    Honeymoon Registry fee: $150 (notanothertoaster.com)

    Grand total: $15,620 New Zealand dollars (around $11,800 US)

  • JD Quills

    Are we not going to see the small wedding budget roundup? When I saw all the recent roundups I was looking forward to that one. Like, weddings for 50 or more people in the 5-10,000 range

  • Lindsay

    We got married last fall at a small winery (just outside the Finger Lakes, for those familiar with the area). We had an outdoor ceremony at 5:45pm with a BBQ buffet and barn reception afterward.

    Our original budget was $7,000, not including my dress or the rehearsal dinner since our parents gifted us these things. We failed to consider a few other costs in our original budget like a shuttle for our guests and ceremony chairs that appeared because of the venue we picked. We also increased our guest list from 65 to almost 100.

    Including absolutely everything, our wedding cost $12,000. You could call it a $10,000 wedding if you
    don’t count the gifts from our parents and some of the incidental costs like the marriage license, rings, and hotel room.

    Our priorities were a venue for the ceremony and reception in the same place and easily accessible by our guests, good beer, and good food. We later realized live music was important to us and spent a lot of money for a top-notch wedding band and ceremony musician; they were both wonderful and I don’t regret a single penny. Because the venue was 15 minutes from the hotel, we made things easier on our guests by providing a shuttle and starting things late enough that they could check into the hotel first. The winery included a lot for a fairly low price, plus they catered a great BBQ for $18/person. The markup on their wine was high, but they allowed us to pick any kegs we wanted that their distributer carried, so we got
    to serve beer we love. The cupcakes were the cheapest ones I could find. Photography wasn’t important to us so we asked my FIL to do it, and we got lots of great pictures. They’re not Pinterest-worthy, but we saved a lot of money and I put Shutterfly books together as Christmas gifts for our moms. I did my own flowers
    with help from friends and found it easy since I used only hydrangeas for the centerpieces, and the APW tutorials helped with the rest.

    Venue: $1,500 for use of a winery’s grounds for the ceremony and historic barn for the reception, including tables, chairs, tablecloths, and chair covers
    Food: $2,250 for a BBQ prepared by the winery and cupcakes for 100 from a local bakery, plus compostable plates and disposable napkins and silverware
    Drinks: $1,450 for wine and kegs of craft beer supplied by the winery, and tea, lemonade, soda, and water provided by us, plus the bartender fee charged by the winery
    Music: $2,750 for a guitarist for the ceremony and a 7-piece band at the reception, plus all amplification equipment provided by both
    Shuttle: $600 including tip for a school bus to take guests to and from the hotel
    Photography: Free, gifted by my FIL who has shot some weddings as a hobby and supplemented by a couple generous friends
    Officiant: $100 for a local mayor
    Rentals: $250 for ceremony chairs
    Attire: $900 for the dress ($430 gifted by my mom), alterations, slip, veil, and the tux rental
    Invitations: $275 for save the date postcards from Etsy, invitations from Ann’s Bridal Bargains, and postage
    Flowers: $215 for 60 hydrangeas from BJs, additional flowers ordered from the grocery store for bouts and corsages, and floral supplies like shears, alum powder, tape, and pins
    Decorations: $250 for satin table runners and chair ties, mason jar centerpieces, baskets for the restrooms, picture frames, etc.
    Gift Bags: $65 for hotel guests (30 rooms)

    Our total budget also includes these costs, which are probably necessary for most weddings but I don’t often see included in budgets:

    Marriage License: $40
    Wedding Bands: $585
    Rehearsal Dinner: $700 for a sit-down dinner for 18 at a local restaurant (gifted by my in-laws)
    Hotel: $140 for wedding night

  • emilyg25

    The advice to list your top three priorities is so important. That’s what we did at the outset and it resulted in a fairly unusual wedding budget. Photography was our top priority and we ended up spending way more on that than on anything else. And we were able to save a boatload on catering by using a nontraditional venue where we could hire whomever we wanted.

    Here’s our rough budget so you can see how things shift around according to priorities and values. Our top things were photography, good food and booze, and having all our close family and friends there (guest list). Our least important things were my dress and decor. And we didn’t have an officiant.

    Key details: Backyard wedding and pig roast for 90 people outside of Philadelphia
    Total: $13,000

    Photography: $4800
    Dinner: $1800
    Beverages: $800 (beer, wine, two cocktails, nonalcoholic options)
    Rentals: $1,100 (chairs, tables, pop-up tents)
    Flowers: $1,100 (centerpieces, bride’s bouquet, groom’s bout)
    Custom suit for the groom: $1,000

    Gown and alterations: $400
    Invitations: $250
    Favors: $200 (I went a little crazy making cute jars of jam; no regrets)
    Hair and makeup: $300 (DIY makeup = Sephora shopping spree)
    Cake: $200 (made it myself, this was for ingredients and tools)

  • anonCat

    We had a Sunday daytime, intimate, elegant outdoor wedding on the patio and meadow of a Victorian house on the beach with a view of San Francisco with 60 guests which cost $25k+ (plus because we DIYed a bunch, and received some things as extra budgetary gifts outside the $25k budget, so it might be more like 28k to have our exact wedding without those). This was in August 2014.

    Not all the details but the budget main points:
    Bride’s attire: $1800 (a 1100 dress with custom sizing, adding a yoke so it wasn’t strapless, hemming, and other alterations, plus bra and shoes)
    Groom’s attire: $600 (altering a suit he already had, new shoes, custom shirt)
    Venue: $5000 (just the space for 8-10 hours, nothing at all else included)
    Rentals: $1900 (tables, chairs, linens, speakers, plates, glasses, etc)
    Photographer: $3200 (two amazing photographers, 6 hours, digital files)
    Rabbi: $1000 (a rabbi whose congregation we don’t belong to, who performed our Jewish ceremony for us as an interfaith couple. Included a number of hours of premarital counseling)
    Flowers: $1800
    Invitations: $200 (Totally DIY, includes postage)
    Food: $7000 (appetizers and lunch, amazing locally sourced food)
    Drinks: $900 (DIY: Homebrewed beer, decent wine and champagne, trader joes lemonade and sparkling water. We had a ton of leftovers)
    Cake: $650 (This is why you have a slush fund. We decided my mom would DIY because we wanted a specific recipe, and quotes we were getting were 400-500 for cake, which was just too much in my mind. By the time she bought pans, tools, ingredients for multiple test batches, and the cake itself, and then paid a friend of my sister’s who is a talented amatuer baker to assemble and decorate after we realized my mom could either decorate the cake or help me get ready but not both. It was special, and delicious, and I’m glad we did it, but it was neither cheap nor easy, and buying the same cake would have cost less).

    Not included: vases for the flowers, which were a gift from my mom (everyone painted them at my bridal shower), day of coordinating (a gift from a friend), rings (we paid for them ourselves), honeymoon.

    Also, give yourself a 15% slush fund. We ended up using all of ours, it prevented a lot of stress, and meant we stayed in budget.

    • anonCat

      Also, possibly helpful, we had a welcome party the night before, which very well could have made for an awesome wedding reception, at a different budget and standard. (This is not included in the 25k number above). 45 people
      Venue: Free: my dad’s backyard
      Food: $800 amazing BBQ catered from a local restaurant, including 2 servers, paper plates
      Dessert: $100-200 root beer floats (I have no idea on price, just guessing)
      Beverages: $200 I’m guessing wine, a case or two of beer, sparkling water
      Rentals: $400 Tables, Chairs, Tableclothes
      Lighting for backyard: $100ish

      So a grand total of $1500 or thereabouts.

    • Alynae

      Thank you!!!! This is helping me flesh out me budget so much! I am planning a 75 person SF wedding with the ceremony at city hall and reception at Fort Mason. We are catering an Italian dinner which is cheaper by default of being largely vegetarian. Your numbers are really close to the rough estimates I am working with, but this is the detail I need to start moving into. Thank you for sharing! May I ask, who did you work with for rentals and staffing if you don’t mind sharing?

  • Our Norwegian barn wedding last summer came out to a total of almost 80.000 NOK (about 11.000 $ right now). We prioritized good food and a venue we liked, and are very lucky to have friends gift us a day of photography! I will give an estimate in USD for the biggest expenses. We were very lucky to have a lot of help, and the wedding would not have been possible without our amazing friends and family.

    At the time, we both worked in a non-profit, and 11.000$ seemed like a crazy amount of money. We were gifted money from our parents for the wedding and the honeymoon, and managed to save up enough to cover the last bit, and get what we wanted!

    Barn Wedding in Norway with 45 guests

    Ceremony: 630$ (church rental + organ player)
    Officiant: Free (my dad!)
    Other music: 100$ (gift for a friend who played the violin)
    Venue: 1600$ (no extra rentals necessary)
    Food and drinks: 3000$ (no alcohol)
    Dessert/cakes: as custom, gifted by friends and family
    Decor: 220$
    Flowers: 580$ (bridal bouquet, 4 boutonnieres, some flowers for decor at the venue)
    Photography: 100$ for gifts for friends + a cousin
    Hair and make up: 470$ (including trial)
    Invitations and other paper goods: 460$ (including thank you cards and postage)
    Attire for the bride: 600$
    Attire for the groom: 1050$ (a suit he can wear again and again)
    Travels: 180$
    Gifts: 480$ (for attendants and people who helped with dishes, serving and babysitting)
    Hotel rooms: 540$ (one night with the bridal party + two nights for us)
    Rehearsal dinner: 1000$ (Mainly for the venue – an old lighthouse! And dinner for 20 people)

    Wedding bands and the honeymoon are not included.

  • AnneBonny

    We’re not getting married until November, but our NYC wedding is shaping up to be $27,000-30,000 for 100-110 guests, with dinner and dancing.

    Venue/food/drink: $20,000 (ceremony and reception both at Alger House)
    Photography: $2-3K (we’re still meeting with people but we’ve found several in this range. I should mention that photography is NOT our biggest priority, and options really open up if you’re able to spend $3-5K instead)
    Dress: $160 on Etsy including shipping (we’ll see if it needs alterations)
    Groom’s attire: ~$500 on Gentleman’s Emporium
    Invitations: ~$400 on Zazzle or Wedding Paper Divas (70 invites, RSVP cards, Thank You cards, 30 StDs for family while non-family gets emailed)
    Decor: ~$200. The venue is very decorative, artist friends are making our chuppah and our centerpieces, and we’re not into flowers, but I’m probably getting some string lights off Etsy)
    Cake: ~$200 from Veneiro’s.
    Wedding planner: $2000 (a friend is cutting us a deal)
    Music: $0, my partner’s been working on a playlist for more than a year
    Officiant: $25 to ordain a friend
    Postage: $100 (the RSVPs are postcards so we’re pre-stamping them. $22.40 is pretty cheap to feel so classy!)

    The other 4k is for stuff we’ve barely thought about and don’t have firm expectations about: favors, hotel bags, wedding party gifts, photo albums, bridal accessories. Hopefully we’ll have enough left over for a honeymoon!

  • Stacy {Woodsy Weddings}

    I really, really love the idea of having a food truck do the catering at a wedding! With that said, I was able to have a wedding for 3k with my dream dress, unforeseen expenses, catering, and renting a beach house. So if you are a deal finder, you can get what you want for less.

  • Megan

    Our wedding hasn’t happened yet, but I’ll chime in with how our budget is shaping up so far! We’re getting help from both sets of parents, which is making the expense possible. At the end of the day, I think we’ll probably end up around $30k (including rehearsal dinner) for our October wedding in Milwaukee, WI for about 100 people (on a Friday):

    – Ceremony: $1,425 (church, officiant and musician)
    – Reception venue: $750 (private event space at a local restaurant, so all tables, chairs, dishes, etc. are included – even candles and flowers on the tables!)
    – Appetizers, dinner, dessert & late-night snack: approx. $6k
    – Open bar: $4.5k
    – Flowers: $500 (just bouquets and boutonnieres)
    – DJ: $900
    – Photographer: $3,225 (two shooters for 8 hours – one of our biggest splurges, but she’s amazing)
    – Videographer: $1,100 (an APW find!)
    – Print materials & Technology: $1,500 (we’re using Squarespace for our website for RSVPs, which cut down on costs for invites – another APW find!)
    – Dress: $650
    – Hair/Makeup: $300 (including trials)
    – Transportation: TBD but budgeting $1,000 for shuttles for guests and transportation for us
    – Hotel suite for us/getting ready: $750 for 2 nights (we’re staying an amazing local boutique hotel we would have never otherwise justified staying!)

    Deciding early on what’s important to us has been a huge help. Photography was big, so we splurged there, but I don’t really care about flowers, so we’re keeping that relatively low.

    I wish there would be more open discussion about these sorts of things – when my parents first gave us our budget it seemed crazy extravagant, but then as soon as we both started researching, we realized that money wouldn’t go quite as far as we would have thought! Just not being in the biz, I had no idea how much anything would cost!

  • The Adventures Of

    As a wedding filmmaker, I’m a little disappointed that only one budget (the traditional-sounding “big church/hotel wedding”) included videography at all, and most of them lowball the video/photo budget. I’m passionate about this not because it’s my business, but because I realized after my own wedding just how amazing it is to revisit the day with movement and audio. I know that everyone has different priorities, but I want to urge couples to think about what will last after the cake is eaten and the flowers have wilted. If you don’t have a quality video, all of the words from the day are gone forever. I think that can be especially important for non-traditional ceremonies (my favorite), where the couple has put a lot of thought into what is done and said to communicate their commitment.

    • The Adventures Of

      I’m also curious where these numbers come from. Real brides from one region? General estimates? It would be interesting to base prices on a survey of APW-approved vendors.

  • jubeee

    I have a $10K budget for my September 15 wedding. The biggest advice I would give anyone is to use your friends/family members as much as possible. Use those personal networks and you will find how much you can get out of it. Our photography is being gifted, my friend’s sister is bartending, my friend’s cousin band is playing. People give friend/family discounts!

  • Lucy

    I thought I will get some ideas but its useless as most of the budget apps etc.:(
    And I wish I found dress for 300..:D

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  • Andrea

    Some of these venue and food estimates are pretty… optimistic

  • Samantha Grain

    We registered our marriage in the USA and celebrated it in Dominican
    Republic. In general it costed not expensive. The most expensive parts
    of our wedding were my dress and photographers. For me these things were
    very important especially photographers. I think that wedding photos
    are very significant because they’re your memories about this great day.
    So searching for wedding photographer was long and difficult for us. At
    last we found two local photographers in Dominican Republic. This is
    their site http://www.pinkfilm.org if somebody wants great photos. I was pleased for their work, good luck to them)

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  • Celia Milton, Celebrant

    Most of these budgets don’t even have an officiant in them.

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  • Jane

    Great tips for wedding budgets http://www.fancyflyingfox.com

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