What Is Your Wedding Budget?

This isn't Fight Club, people. Let's chat.

The tricky thing about wedding budgets is that nobody likes to talk about wedding budgets. They’re a little Fight Club like that. And in a total absence of information, it can be really hard to get started planning. I was lucky, because when we got engaged, I’d just spent years planning events that were supposed to look luxe for theatre companies that had no money. I had a pretty good idea of what things cost and was delighted to get to pull off the same pain-in-the-ass project as always (feed all these people, make the money go far enough) without working for an asshole boss. You know, like the one who asked me to throw a dinner reception for fifty people in Manhattan for $500, who later told me, “It really looked unacceptably minimal.” I, meanwhile, was pleased that I’d fed them more than gumdrops and water. Jerk.

Long story short: when I got engaged, I had a sense of what events cost. (Hint: kinda more than you want them to.) So armed with the outlines of what our families’ expectations were, I was able to set a budget that worked on day one and mostly stick to it. But if you’re only relying on the wedding internet for information on what things cost, it’s easy to get in trouble fast. Because you don’t know that awesome super indie venue costs $20K just to walk in the door (looking indie is hot right now). You think that awesome rooftop pizza party wedding in Brooklyn was probably $5K… when in fact it cost $27K. (Brooklyn be ‘spensive.)

The fact of the matter is, if you can afford a marriage license (and it’s legal for you to have one, but let’s not get STARTED with that nonsense), you can afford to get married. And getting married to someone you love is awesome, period. Every time I hear some wedding planner say something like, “You can’t have a $10K wedding for less than $30K” or “If you’re going to spend $10K or less, don’t even bother with a wedding,” (sad story, both of these quotes are real examples), I fly into a blind rage. BECAUSE OF COURSE YOU CAN HAVE AN AWESOME WEDDING ON WHATEVER YOUR BUDGET IS. But all that said, it helps to know what things actually cost. Because no, you’re probably not going to exactly replicate that awesome rooftop pizza party wedding in Brooklyn for $5K, because things cost what they cost. (Though you will do something totally kick ass and awesome for $5K in Brooklyn, trust me.)

Every year, we try to lead with an open thread on real wedding budgets. For those of you just getting down to the business of planning, looking at other people’s real numbers is the sanest possible place to start. (That, and the budget chapter in the APW book.) So today, we’re inviting people to share their budget numbers. If you wish to do so anonymously, leave a comment using the guest posting feature of Disqus.

To be as helpful as possible, consider giving:

  • Your goal budget
  • Your actual budget if you’re already hitched (Let’s take the shame away from the idea that yeah, sometimes you spend more than originally intended. Or hell, less.)
  • A general breakdown of what you spent
  • What was worth it and what wasn’t (again, if already hitched)
  • And most importantly, your location (Because you cannot compare prices in Manhattan Kansas to Manhattan. You just can’t.)

Let’s do it!

Photo by Gabriel Harber 

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  • Katie M

    We’re aiming for $35k for a 200 person wedding in a boutique hotel in downtown Houston, Texas.

    We like to drink, we like to eat, and we definitely like to dance.

    I didn’t have a set budget from my parents before we started planning, and only got the roundabout goal amount about 4 months into planning, after we had the venue, dj, dress, photographer, flowers, guest list, and cake.

    All in all, it’s going fine, but we will probably end up over budget by $5-10k.

  • Jessica

    I was just thinking about this earlier today. The actual cost of the wedding isn’t something I know off the top of my head, but we planned between 10k-15k (husband and I could do 7k, so the variables were parents and their wants for the wedding/realities of what they would chip in). Luckily for us my parents agreed to pay for the reception and when my mom insisted on extra decorations for the ceremony site she paid for them. I know that my parents paid about $10k in total, J and I paid about $5k, and some random stuff ended up being an extra 1-2k. This is in Saint Paul, Minnesota, with the ceremony at a park and the reception at a restaurant.

    The tricky part about wedding planning and sticking to a budget is that things take time. We were planning over 9 months, and that was plenty of time for me to think “oh, this little thing is only $X.XX, we can afford that!” and before I knew it my budget had gone over.

    J and I also kind of screwed up when we set our budget, because we didn’t agree on who was covering what. So I thought I ended up paying for a rather lot of it and assumed he would cover some other things, and he had thought he had covered a lot of stuff and thought I was going to pay for some other things…but anyway, communication is important! Having a spreadsheet with what we wanted, the budget we had, and who was paying for what, etc, and having that in a google doc would have been a good idea for us, just so we had a better idea of what each of us was spending.

    • Jessica

      I’ll put the breakdown here too:
      Reception (plated dinner for 110, open bar for 1.5 hours, dessert): $7,500
      DJ: $500
      Photographers: $2800 (9 hours, 2 photographers)
      Ceremony site: $300
      Ceremony equipment (chairs, speaker system): unknown, parents covered it
      Decor (flowers, candles, random): $300-ish
      Dress: $500
      Suit: $300
      Accessories for couple + wedding party: $300-ish
      Invitations: $250-ish
      Shuttle Service from hotel: $300-ish

      And then there was a lot of random stuff that I can’t remember.

      • honeycomehome

        This is so helpful, says a girl in the Twin Cities. Which restaurant did you choose?

        • Jessica

          Faces Mears Park. They were…less than what we wanted. They promised a lot and delivered only on the fact that we had the space and everyone was fed a meal. Not everyone got dessert, not everyone got wine service, and they didn’t have enough waitstaff on hand to handle everyone guest we had.

          If you were doing a wedding of around 50, they could probably go that well, but I wouldn’t use them if you have more than that.

  • steffanyf

    My wedding budget was in the book, the 10k San Francisco wedding. And the reception outlined in the book did, in fact, cost about 10k when all was said and done. However, we actually spent more like 25k because we were living in Baltimore at the time of the wedding and we had to fly back multiple times, plus we stayed in a hotel for the week of the wedding. I also count our honeymoon flights and hotel, mini-reception (at Little Star Pizza!) after our City Hall ceremony, gifts for the people who threw my shower, and the pre-marital counseling we decided to do. Basically, everything involved in wedding shenanigans came out of the budget. I have a whole spreadsheet! I shared it with my sister when she got engaged in July. Fun times.

    • taygete05

      Can I ask about what premarital counseling you chose? I’m looking into options now and haven’t found anything that jumped out at me yet …

      • steffanyf

        I honestly googled “premarital counseling” and picked someone who had a package and whose theoretical orientation I liked. I’m a counselor too so that was relatively easy for me. I liked that she had a set number of sessions and the details of what was included in the premarital counseling package were all online. If you’re in the Baltimore area her name is Dawn Lewis at Contemplative Counseling. Also, remember that it is completely ok to stop seeing someone if you don’t like their approach. I went in to our first session knowing that I would find someone else if she didn’t “click” with the two of us, you know? I hope that helps!

        • Laura

          Yes, any counselor worth their salt will prefer you find a different counselor if we don’t click.

        • taygete05


    • Ashley R

      man, flights for an OOT wedding are a bitch. We’re from/getting married in St. Louis, but a promotion unexpectedly lande us in the Philly area (south Jersey). The flights back and forth added another 2k on to our bottom line! Which was definitely unexpected, so we’re not counting it towards our “official” budget. I’m glad I had the chance to book everything before we moved, otherwise I don’t know what I’d do. I’m going back one weekend for my hair trial/bridal shower, and then we’re both flying back for the actual wedding – it just costs too much otherwise.

      • steffanyf

        Seriously! I booked the big stuff before we moved but everything else was done on the opposite side of the country. Thankfully everything worked out and (thanks to Meg’s day of timeline!) progressed smoothly the day of. I’m telling you! Spreadsheets! Key!

      • Emma Klues

        If you want some local STL help, say the word!

  • Laura C

    Oh, boy. I don’t know what our final budget will have been. I know that my initial view was that $30,000 would be acceptable, only to come up against the harsh reality that is a 250-person wedding in the northeast (ultimately Boston, but we considered my hometown in Western Mass as well). I also don’t quite know what to include in the budget — for instance, is the honeymoon part of the wedding budget? Because in that case I’d have to give you a budget in dollars, frequent flyer miles, and Starpoints. Or the rehearsal dinner?

    Our venue, catering, cake, clothes, photographer, my ring (still don’t know how much his will cost), and rehearsal dinner will come to around $55,000, I think. I have tried to avoid adding all that up until right this minute. It’s overwhelmingly the catering, because, again, 250 people, including a whole lot of vegetarians plus gluten-intolerant me, and because an open bar is pretty much non-negotiable for us. Though we are talking about knocking it down to just beer and wine depending how much that will save. It’s weird, though, because our budget concerns are internal. Both of us have parents who can afford to and are happy to contribute large sums of money, and both of us have significant savings. So we can do it all — no one will really feel it as a sacrifice. But are we comfortable with that? I’m not, so I’m trying to balance that against the hosting expectations of not just our upper-middle-class American friends but A’s Indian family. And becoming very familiar with how compromise means no one is entirely happy.

    • BostonAnon

      Just chiming in to say: it’s expensive to get married in Boston! And if you’ve thought carefully about your choices and done what works for you and your family, no more room for guilt! Hope your wedding is everything you hope it will be. :)

      • Laura C

        It’s really the number of people that screws our budget. If we had even 175, a whole new world of venues would have been possible, which would have meant we could have chosen our caterer rather than being stuck with an in-house one (which is a fine caterer, we did a tasting before we booked), etc. It just sort of cascades from there. So it is what it is, but it’s definitely weird for me.

      • Cathi

        Chiming in to say it’s expensive to do ANYTHING in Boston. I thought Chicago was pricey until my sister moved to Boston and showed me what actually high cost of living is.

  • Trinity

    Our goal budget: About $5K for an intimate (40-ish people) backyard ceremony and large open-house reception for about 120 people in West Michigan.

    Our actual budget: About $6K (including attire and wedding bands)

    Breakdown of what we spent:
    Bride’s attire, alterations, and jewelry: $750
    Groom’s attire: $200
    Wedding bands: $700
    Ceremony venue: Free (in-laws’ backyard)
    Reception venue (VFW): $450 (would have been $400, but we paid an extra $50 to be able to use their kitchen)
    Alcohol (open bar for beer and wine): $400
    Decorations: $100
    Food: $1,500 (made by bride and groom and friends)
    Photography: $1,900

    What was worth it: Photography and the food (the only two things we really wanted to spend money on).

    Since we wanted to serve our guests great food and couldn’t afford a great caterer (and my husband is a cook and we knew we could self-cater), we had to settle for a cheap venue that would allow us to bring in our own food, and fit up to 150 people. The VFW wasn’t pretty, but it fit the bill!

  • Hello

    Budget 20k (most likely 25-30k afterwards, we’re planning for accidental over budget spending)
    Head count 250
    Location seattle, wa
    We are saving and paying for the wedding ourselves. Reception will be at a small local restaurant for a sit down dinner, which we compromised with the expectation that we can splurge a little on decorations/drapeping. Can’t tell what I’ll regret yet so.. More to come

  • Amy Sigmon

    We were (incredibly, generously, holy cow) gifted upwards of $30K by my parents for our wedding, to spend how we’d like and the rest could be the start of a nest egg. Of course, money comes with expectations- we were not gifted that much money so we could elope, a church wedding with an awesome reception was expected and that’s what we wanted as well. So, we ended up spending around $17.5K for a wedding for 90-some people in Milwaukee, WI. That included the ceremony at our church and the reception at a very nice venue- big ticket items included our reception venue, photographers and the caterer. I know my parents ended up throwing money at some issues that I considered unimportant – a veil and favors are two things I’m remembering. My mom REALLY wanted me to wear a veil. We also had a second reception in rural NC for my husband’s family – about 60 people, beautiful venue, BBQ, space heaters because it was unseasonably cold. Part of the reason we saved so much out of the original wedding budget because that went to the second party too- I think we ended paying around $4K there because his parents picked up the tab on a number of items including booze, the space heaters and decorations. We paid for the venue and catering. All in all, we threw 2 great parties for our families and friends and still kept a little as the start of a healthy nest egg towards a house someday.

  • GG

    Goal: 10-12K
    Actual: Closer to 14K
    No. of Guests: 75
    Location: Upstate NY

    Photography (APW vendor, totally worth it): 3000
    Food and Drinks (food truck, minimal staffing and appetizers through catering company, self bought wine and kegs): 3000
    Rehearsal Dinner for 35 people: 2000
    Venue (indoor/outdoor for the whole weekend, a steal!): 400
    Rentals (everything but tables): 2000
    Invitations and other paper: 300
    DJ (only ended up paying for the 100 deposit because the DJ the company sent ended up drinking a ton and replaying the same songs over again??!!): 100
    Random stuff including hotel for 2 nights, all craft supplies, gifts, attire, flowers (self arranged), etc.: ~2000

  • Our budget breakdown is below and includes absolutely everything except the honeymoon. Our venue was the Reading Public Museum’s gardens (ceremony) and planetarium (reception). The museum is in Reading, Pennsylvania (Northeast PA). We had 115 guests.

    Worth It: Working our asses off doing DIY to get what we wanted within our budget. Biggest DIY areas of savings – cupcakes instead of traditional cake, decorations, favors.
    Worth It: Buying instead of renting linens. Yes it was extra work, but the linens have already been re-used in some capacity 3 times since the wedding 6 months ago.
    Worth It: Photography – second biggest expense, but, yes, worth it

    Honestly, I think everything we spent money on was worth. My only gripe when all was said and done was that our caterer came in over her quote and didn’t (IMO) live up to what she promised. She was supposed to be our DOC, but did zilch in terms of coordinating and I had to stage manage the whole reception which was a PITA.

    Goal Budget: $21K
    Actually Spent: $19K
    – Catering: $6,000
    – Photography: $3,200
    – Venue: $2,800
    – Linens (purchased) & Tableware (rented): $1,000
    – Bride & Groom Attire: $1,800
    – Invites (Engagment Party, STD, Wedding): $650
    – Wedding Party/Parent Thank You Gifts: $650
    – DJ: $600
    – Flowers: $600
    – Decorations: $575
    – Wedding Rings: $470
    – Hotel night before, night after: $300
    – Hair & Makeup: $220
    – Officiant: $170
    – Ceremony Musicians: $150
    – Cupcakes: $50
    – Favors: $50

    • Pictures of some of the DIY stuff (flowers, dessert, decor), and a general idea of what the event was like

  • Laura

    Delving back into wedding Google Docs that haven’t been opened in ages….

    We had a Chicago (city, not the burbs) wedding for 80 people in June. Morning ceremony at our church, followed by an afternoon reception at our favorite wine bar. We served a small plates-style lunch (bacon wrapped dates, cheese plate, green salad, pasta salad, risotto, crab cakes, lamb skewers, etc.). We also had a full bar, which was very well used despite our concerns about people not drinking a ton midday.

    Goal budget was $10,000. Rough actual budget as follows:

    Church (rental, premarital counseling, decorations, etc.): $1,105
    Reception (rental, all food and drink including cake): $5,545
    Photography: $1,200
    DIY flowers: $250
    Attire (my dress, husband’s suit, hair): $980
    DIY invitations and thank yous: $150
    Wedding bands: $630
    Attendant/parent gifts: $250
    Music: free (iPod with 30-day Spotify free trial)

    TOTAL: $10,000ish

    Worth it: renting out our favorite wine bar/restaurant as a venue. They don’t typically host events but were a joy to work with, have amazing food and wine, came pre-decorated, and had a free sound system set-up for dancing.

    Other note: we had a rehearsal dinner that was generously paid for by my in-laws. We originally had budgeted an extra $1,500 for that.

    • Cathi

      I’d been scrolling to see if there were other Chicagoans :) Our weddings sound super similar, actually.

      Ours was a Sunday evening, wealthy suburban Chicago event for 90 guests. Church ceremony, local Spanish tapas restaurant reception.

      Goal: “As little as possible” aka: under $10K
      Final: ~$10,000, including incidentals I definitely didn’t keep track of.

      Our philosophy was “Does this seem reasonable? Are we willing to pay it? Can we pay for it RIGHT NOW? Good.”

      Church: $200 building maintenance fee + $100 White Sox gift card for my pastor as thanks
      Attire: $900
      Photographer: $1,000 for 4 hours coverage
      Ceremony music: Free (CD + my sister’s talented bf on piano)
      iPod “DJ” and borrowed travel PA system: free
      Invitations: $40 from Hobby Lobby
      Postage: A gift from my mom’s BFF
      Flowers: None. Free.
      Hair: $100
      Makeup: $30
      Rings: $410
      Limo: $75
      Cake: $135
      Reception: ~$6500.

      We were lucky to have some nice, skilled friends who did my hair and designed our invitations. We were lucky to have accommodating friends who helped transport the 8 cakes I bought from Portillo’s the day before to the restaurant, and who were capable of setting up the PA system. We were super lucky to have found a limo company who didn’t care we were “a wedding” and were more than happy to just charge us for an hour of their time to get us from my church to the restaurant 4 miles away.

      The reception included
      -The space for five hours (no fee for Sunday nights)
      -Servers (incl. 18% gratuity + an additional $200 in cash from us on top)
      -Tax (8.5%)
      -Four cocktail hour passed appetizers
      -Three cold and three hot tapas choices for a family-style dinner
      -Open bar with house made sangria for five hours
      -Centerpieces (the ones in use all the time for the restaurant)
      -Linens in our choice of white or ivory

      -Cake cutting, tea and coffee

      • oh gosh I am so relieved to see that someone with the “as little as possible” budget stuck to 10 000 ish, I was getting nervous haha

        • Laura

          As someone who set a budget of $10,000 and stuck to it as well, I honestly didn’t find it as challenging as I thought it would be. We did, however, have to be a bit ruthless about what was and was not important to us. We set our priorities as: 1) inviting our extended families; 2) good food and wine; and 3) having a meaningful ceremony. Everything else was deemed much less important and, frankly, half-assed in a number of situations (i.e., no ceremony decorations, DIY bouquets that were a bit lopsided, a barely-more-glam-than-usual makeup routine, iPod DJ, etc.). You totally can do it!

          • thank you all for sharing! I am planning to skip flowers as well (aside from my DIY bouquet), and have already gotten quite a few incredulous “but, you MUST!” reactions from friends and family. we are planning to be quite ruthless about saying no to what has been pushed to us as a “must” by our well meaning friends, e.g a pro make up artist, tons of flower decor etc. feeling a bit more encouraged that it can be done!

          • Stacey

            I had a bouquet because my grandma did, and I wore her dress – we wanted to re-create her formal wedding portrait. We also got $50 of baby’s breath from Sam’s, which are hard to kill – so we stuffed them in recycled jars the day before. My $60 bouquet came from the local grocery store. I didn’t have attendants so no bridesmaid bouquets, and my groom hates to wear flowers. Proof that “floral design” is not needed to have a few pretty flowers!

        • Cathi

          To be perfectly honest, “under 10k” was our super-duper high end. We started off puffed up about our own senses of priorities/thrifyness thinking “pft. We can do this for like, 5 grand, easy.” As long as we stayed under the 10 mark, we felt comfortable with what we were spending.

          As Laura says (below? above? also.), it honestly wasn’t all that challenging, since we weren’t trying to have ALL THE THINGS. We had great food and a meaningful ceremony, and pretty much ignored the rest. Our photographer (10% of the “budget”!) was a last-minute addition because I was super covetous of my bff’s beautiful pro photos from her wedding three months before. I think where people end up driving themselves batty is when they’re trying to fit a specific vision into an unrealistic budget. We didn’t have a vision, outside of “Get married at church. Wear formal clothes because when else will we? Eat good food. Get very drunk.”

          • anon

            So glad to hear about another bride who’s skipping flowers!

            And I totally agree with you about the dangers of having an unrealistic wedding vision. Mine is basically identical to yours, and once we figured out how much it would cost to wear fancy clothes and buy enough booze to get 80 people drunk, the rest of wedding planning was a cake-walk.

      • Adelaidey

        Please be my Cheap Chicago Wedding sensei. Our budget is currently under 8k, and I am terrified that it’s going to swell.

    • CinDC

      We used our favorite bar/restaurant as a venue, too! They’d never done a wedding but were thrilled and had SO much fun putting things together with us. Plus, it was so much fun to look around our favorite hang-out and see it filled with our closest family and friends.

      • Cathi

        Plus you have the built-in anniversary date venue :)

        The restaurant we had our reception at (which does do weddings on the regular) gives you a 30% discount on your anniversary, which is awesome.

        • KEA1

          THAT is an absolutely brilliant strategy on the part of the restaurant, as well as being really sweet.

    • N

      Hey – I’m in the process of planning a Chicago-area, Sunday morning ceremony and reception – in a little bit of looking for photographers, I haven’t seen yet anyone under $1500, even for half a day. Can you share who your photographer was? Thanks!

      • Cathi

        I know you were commenting to Laura, but Shane Welch (shanewelchweddings.com. He has also a blog of his amazing photojournalism stuff) was our photographer. He did both my best friend’s and my own wedding. For bff, he charged ~$3K for a full day, engagement session, and a 2nd shooter. For me, he charged $1K for 4 hours which was PLENTY of time. He got a ton of great getting ready shots, the ceremony, family groups, beautiful “portraits” of the wedding party/us outside, and then ~30 minutes of the cocktail hour. These are some of our photos, which weren’t the “blog worthy” type you see on his site.

        • N

          Cathi – thanks, I’ve actually worked with Shane Welch at work a little bit (he does pro-bono work for my nonprofit) but when I saw the prices on his website I didn’t think it was worth contacting him…now I will, though. Thanks for the idea.

  • Ashley R

    Our budget was a moving target (which…means it technically wasn’t a budget, but I digress). At first we were looking at a 10k goal, then, thanks to a generous contribution from my parents (one of those “take this money and do whatever you want with it, but we’d like it if you’d use it towards the wedding), we started using a working budget of 20k.
    So, I’ll say – budget, 20k
    actual (we aren’t getting married until June, but, at my best estimation) – 25k
    We are spending:
    2.5k on photography
    2k on videography
    1k on photobooth
    1k on ceremony venue
    $500 on reception venue
    $800 on attire (his and mine)
    $500 on paper (save the dates, invitations, postage, menus, etc)
    1.5k on flowers
    $500 on ceremony music
    1k on DJ
    1.5k on a DOC
    $800 on transport
    around 3.5k on food and drink for 140
    $600 on rings
    and the rest is going to things like candles and other silly stuff
    And I love every penny of it. My thing was – if we’re going to spend more money than I’ve ever spent on my life on dinner/clothes/whatever, I want to freaking love the shiz out of it. So…while we don’t have the biggest (or the smallest) budget in the world, I freaking love our reception venue (Schlafly microbrewery, for those familar), our DJ is my second favorite person in the wedding world (after my photographers, who I’d gladly be BFFs with, and our florist makes me want to cry with her vision and skill. Spend it, love it, savor it, ya’ll!
    Our wedding is in St. Louis, MO (a midwestern city decidedly cheaper than Chicago, but definitely more expensive than, say, KC or OKC).

  • ML

    Before actually looking at what anything cost, the budget I had in mind was $10,000. We actually spent around $19,000 for a San Francisco wedding.

    $1,200: City Hall private space, with chairs
    $13,000: Seated meal for 110 at a restaurant
    $1,500: Photography
    $1,300: Videography
    $200: Flowers
    $120: Invitations, programs, thank yous
    $800: Bride and groom attire
    A few hundred on misc., such as family meals the night before, parking, mom and sister manicures, thank you gifts for friends who offered free services, etc.

    I would say everything was worth it. The cost of the meal was the biggest ticket item, but it was plenty of food, all organic and local, and so many people told me they enjoyed it. Part of me wishes I had spent more time and money looking for the “perfect” dress, rather than just keeping the first one that fit and was good enough, but I have a feeling it would have been a drain of my energy, i.e. NOT worth it. I still felt pretty and confident, and that’s what’s important. Video was WELL worth it. So many people forgo it these days, but it truly does capture feelings and memories differently than photos. Relatives who couldn’t make it treasure it too.

    Good luck and hugs to everyone out there just starting their planning and budgeting process!

  • Anon

    Goal: $10-$15k
    Actual: ~$16k
    Guests: 125
    Location: Big Bear Lake, CA

    The first venue we walked into wanted $14k just for the space. We walked out. We ended up renting out a B&B for the whole weekend for $3k, which included accommodations for 14 family members/wedding party. We had the ceremony and reception in the beautiful outdoor space behind the B&B. The rest of our money went to:

    Really good band: $3,000
    Food, rentals, and cake: $6,000
    Dress/tux: $550
    Beer and wine we bought ourselves: $1k (most beer was brewed by a friend and wedding-gifted to us!)
    Flowers: $1,100
    Photography: $1,800
    Invitations: $150

    I felt okay about the amount we ended up spending because my parents paid for the venue and half the food, and we paid for the rest. I shopped around a lot to find vendors that I trusted but were also within my price range. Spread out over a year, we had some $$ saved up but we tried not to touch it until right before the wedding, just paying for things as we went. Honestly, looking at this now, I’m surprised it was so much. It didn’t feel like that much!

  • BostonAnon

    Budget: $35k
    Guests: 85

    Location: Boston, MA (married in a church on Newbury Street, reception in a private club – it was a fancy, formal, and traditional day)
    We splurged on (relative to our budget): accommodation for all of our wedding party and immediate family (a lot of overlap there) at the club, photography ($5,000 – worth it one hundred times over), the church (once we realized how much it cost to get married in a church downtown we took time to find a church we were really excited about making that kind of donation too – no regrets), the food (but then, doesn’t everyone? It’s not cheap to feed that many people!).
    We were more frugal with: paper products (we did all of this ourselves, and I think it was worth the hours and hours and hours I spent writing personal notes to every guest), the DJ ($1000: cheapest we could find), and many other things we just did without (videographer, wedding planning, etc.).

    I didn’t miss anything we didn’t do, and, in general, the things we paid more for were amazing (photography, location, etc.) and the things we paid less for (DJ) were okay. A band would have been fun, but we really chose to spend where it mattered most to us: people, food, and memories of the day.

  • Anon.

    Our budget is 32k (including honeymoon) for a 140 person wedding on the Central Coast of California. About half of that will be paid by the two of us, and the other half is a combination of help from my family and his. We splurged on a fantastic venue ($8300) that is a vacation rental of sorts, so we (and family and wedding party) will be able to stay there for the weekend, as well as hold our rehearsal dinner there (pizza and beer). We are doing inexpensive (relatively) catering in the form of a taco bar ($15/guest…$2100). Other big ticket item was photography at $3500 (unlimited day of and engagement photos). Our final number will also include dress (1k), suit, invitations, postage, dessert (potluck), alcohol, flowers/decor, DJ ($1100), casual breakfast for overnight guests, rentals, gifts for wedding party, and some $ for miscellaneous expenses. So far we’re doing well at not going over budget, but we’ll see what happens as we get closer…

  • Leila

    We spent $~18000 on a 60 person wedding in Ann Arbor, MI, with an initial budget of 15,000. We could have slashed costs by going with a less high end caterer, but we used Zingermans and let me tell you they were worth every penny.
    General Cost breakdown:
    tux: 200
    Flowers: $800 (minimal flowers at ceremony/we had a friendor who is learning to do flower arrangements)
    Photography: $1800 (the Amazing Yana Benjamin who at the time was new to town and so we got a steal)
    Ceremony: Michigan theater $2000 This includes rent, chairs, music/sound system and piano rental, and after ceremony mini reception of champagne and cake truffles
    Reception-Zingerman’s on fourth: $7500
    Cakes (6 cakes): $500 (deep discount by friendor)
    Welcome reception night before: 1000 (again deep discount)
    This gets us to around $14000 and all of the random odds and ends got us up to about 18,000.

    What I loved: the food, the photos, and the atmosphere of both locations. We needed and wanted a small wedding. I’m not so great at being the center of attention and get really obssessed with making sure everyone else is okay. So I didn’t need a room full of people I barely knew. I needed to be surrounded by who showed up when I day dreamed about the wedding in my head. Also, my husband’s family and a lot of his friends were flying in from Europe so it was important to be able to spend time with them. My biggest piece of advice is to just ignore any and all traditions that are getting in your way to plan the wedding you want. We invited more guests to the ceremony than the wedding reception. After the ceremony with did a champagne toast with everyone and then a lot of local friends were essentially sent home for the night. This is really odd for America, but much more common in Europe. But doing this allowed us to have sense of community we wanted for the ceremony and the intimacy we wanted at dinner.

    Finally, I honestly wish I had gotten a DJ or out sourced the dance song list duties. I’m a people pleasing, high anxiety control freak and frankly did not enjoy dancing as much as I should have because I was obsessing over if the play list was working.

    • LC

      I just wanted to say that your wedding is absolutely one of my dream weddings. I spent a good portion of early wedding planning daydreaming that our guest list would fit in the Zingerman’s on Fourth space. I love Zingerman’s food, and that space looks amazing! The Michigan Theater is also such a gorgeous place. It sounds like you had a wonderful event that fit you and your husband!

  • Our original budget was 10K. This was the number my parents gave us and did not include my dress. Mom gave me a separate budget for my dress, which we stayed well below.

    Real budget? Probably closer to $11,500. I don’t have an exact number per say, but I know for a fact we went over the alcohol budget (which was just under 3k. I know this because it was exactly what was remaining of our 10K after all the other bills had been paid. The rehearsal dinner was hosted by my in-laws; I do not know what was spent on it, but my guess is about $800 (not part of my 10K budget for the wedding).

    Our wedding was in south-central Pennsylvania, in a small town west of Gettysburg. So a smaller area, but not teeny-tiny. We had an initial guest list of just over 200 and ended up with about 155 (thank God. Or then we really could have shot the budget in the foot). We cut a huge expense by having a family friend take our wedding photos. When researching photographers I found they were pretty expensive by my budget standards and could eat up about 30% of my budget. The funny thing is, I have more framed wedding photos on my walls than my sister, who had a paid professional for her wedding.

    Any who. Back to the budget. Our caterer was just below $5,000, the venue (the small local Country Club) was just a rental fee of $500, the florist was about $850 (this included our bouquets, boutonnieres, etc, and cut flowers for our centerpieces which we assembled ourselves). The limo was $400. The church was free. The DJ was $750 and everything else was spent on booze. My husband and I did the invitations, programs, and paper goods ourselves. I’m not really sure how much we spent on that to be honest. The invitation supplies, paper, and ink probably ran us about $150 and we used leftover paper to make the programs and other miscellaneous paper things.

    To be honest there aren’t any budget items I regret. I regret not taking more photos outside (we were blessed with amazing weather) of just my husband and I. Perhaps had we used a professional photographer those would have happened, but our guy was so nice he would have taken them had we asked. It just slipped our mind that day. We had a really great salon do our hair and I owe my lack of stress that morning to them. I planned the morning down to the minute because of the time we needed to decorate and was initially worried we would be pressed for time, but the salon was on point that day. Everyone’s hair looked great and all 6 of us were done within an hour and a half.

    We feel very lucky, retrospectively, to have our wedding the way we did. My sister married almost four years before us and at the time my parents lived in a much bigger town (York, PA). Fast forward and my parents moved and since we didn’t live in the state at the time, a lot of the planning was done long distance. We chose to have it in my parents small town since they’d be doing some coordinating for us and we wanted it to be easier on them. We looked in to having it in our true “hometown” where my sister did, but the prices were out of our budget. My parents move ended up really benefiting us in the long run.

  • Keri

    Our final wedding budget is a bit fuzzy, since I did a LOT of DIY and didn’t keep track of the hundreds of visits to JoAnn and Michaels very well, but overall:

    We had a wedding for 75 people in central MA (near, but outside, Worcester). We originally budgeted a total of $22,000 for everything, not including the rings (we both felt that those are an investment in our marriage, not in the wedding itself), the honeymoon (we paid for that largely with a honeymoon registry), or the rehearsal dinner (his parents covered that). Our final budget came in as follows:

    Reception Venue + Food/alcohol + Linens/Setup + Cake + Centerpiece flowers for all tables: $9,800
    Ceremony Venue: $300
    Catholic church-associated costs (Engaged Encounter, etc): $400
    Marriage license: $25 (shop around, central-MA brides! Sterling was cheaper than our hometown)
    Officiant: Free (his uncle is a deacon)

    Day-of Coordinators (ceremony only): $350

    Classic car for ceremony to reception: $220 (family friend – much more expensive elsewhere!)
    Stationery + Postage : $600

    Ceremony music: $300

    DJ: $600

    Photobooth: $300 (we had a Groupon)
    Additional cake accessories (topper, forks): $32

    Misc Decorations – ceremony + reception (mostly DIY): $500
    Hair + makeup (hair for me, makeup for me, two bridesmaids, and my mom): $542

    Dress + Alterations: $1,011

    Bride Veil/Accessories/Shoes: $372
    Groom Suit + Accessories/Shoes: $500 (not counting cufflinks, which were a Christmas gift)
    Bouquets (from florist) + Boutonnieres (DIY, non-floral) + flower girl/ring bearer accessories: $952

    Favors for all + Gifts for bridal party/parents: $300
    Hotel – 2 nights (for us + bridal party): $884

    Photography: $3878 (included engagement session + 8 hrs with 2 shooters)
    Video: $800 (included 2 shooters all day + edited video + raw footage – we went with a company that’s just starting out!)

    The total? $22,666, so pretty close to our estimate.

    I’m sure we went a little over beyond what we kept record of here and there, but then we have yet to sell most of our decorations, so we’ll make a little back, too. And we definitely added some things on (hello, photo booth + video) when we saw that we were far under budget in a few areas, so we could have come in under if we’d tried!

  • Sharing budget anonymously

    Our budget is 20,000 in Marin (wealthy suburb of San Francisco).
    We are having between 60-80 people at a DIT at-home wedding on my mom’s patio. We’re getting married on a Sunday jn August, a daytime wedding, and serving lunch, wine, beer and mead. My parents are paying for the wedding.
    Some major line items:
    1800 for my clothes
    900 for his
    350 for ketubah and framing
    500 for flowers, my mom and sis are going to the farmer’s market or flower mart and getting as many flowers as possible for this much, and making me and sis bouquets
    700 wine ( we brewed mead and will brew beer, paid for not from wedding budget)
    3900 for catering. We wanted to self cater, but agreed to hire a caterer for my mom’s peace of mind. Haven’t found a caterer (not a restaurant takeout which mom doesn’t want to do, but on site caterer) for less than 75-90 a head, so I anticipate being several thousand dollars over on this. Since it is for my mom’s peace of mind, and she’s paying, I’ll let her decide if that is acceptable.
    1000 for rentals (tables, chairs, linens, plates, etc
    1000 for the rabbi- this is what it costs in the Bay Area for a rabbi to marry an interfaith couple, or a couple who aren’t a member of their congregation. If my partner were Jewish, our rabbi would do it for free (part of our membership) but he can’t marry us. We talked to 10 rabbis, they all charged about this, although if we couldn’t afford it, some might have worked with us.
    2700 for 5 hours of photography and digital files, two shooters, and a clause in the contract that they will ask permission before using the photos anywhere including their website or facebook
    200 for cake: my mom is baking it
    500 for housecleaning before and after
    700 for day of coordinator-not sure what we are doing. This is not enough for this in the Bay Area so either we will try to find a friend and not spend this or hire someone for about 1000
    125 Music for iPod DJing
    100 marriage license
    200 DIY invites
    A few other things and 15 percent contingency

    Not included in the 20k:
    900 on rings (two plain palladium bands, same price as white gold would have been)
    500-700 for pizza or BBQ rehearsal dinner at my dad’s house
    300-400 for kiddish lunch for celebration (aufruf) at my synagogue

    • SLW

      Just wanted to say that I am getting married in Marin (Stinson Beach) this August, too! And I have the same budget as you. We spent forever trying to find catering that wasn’t ridiculously expensive, and settled on paella (the “Paella Guy”, specifically): http://www.paelladelreyes.com/. I view it as an unconventional, fun, delicious (we’ve done tastings already) idea, particularly because they cook the paella on-site. What we’re paying is within your $3900 budget. Assuming you don’t have the same wedding date as me (August 9th), it might be a good option for you, too!

      • Sarah

        I love Stinson Beach. And I love paella. Can I come? Bonus: I’ll lead guests on a pre-wedding hike on Mt. Tam. Then it would basically be my dream wedding (well, if the one I already had wasn’t perfect, which it was). OMG your flowers could be AMAZING. You could totally just use the flowers that bloom on Mt. Tam: forget-me-nots, poppies (if that’s legal), lupine…

        • SLW

          Yay! Thank you!! You totally get it. :) And we definitely talked about a pre-wedding Mt. Tam hike, but I don’t know if our guests are as outdoors-inclined as we are. ;) I LOVE YOUR FLOWER IDEA. Hopefully the SF Flower Mart will have some of those… (?) (I still need to go there and do a trial run. I’m not sure whether they carry wildflowers and the like, but I am hopeful!) Thanks again!

    • Sharing Budget Anonymously

      I should probably add, we originally planned to spend about 8k, for this wedding (60 people at home for lunch). Then we realized that was unrealistic, for what we wanted. And my parents offered us 20k to pay for the wedding, so we get to have spend money on things that are important to us and our families.

    • Rachel

      Who is your Rabbi? We are looking for a Rabbi willing to do an interfaith wedding for 2015

  • Fall Bride in Maryland

    Well, well. I got married last fall in Maryland, about an hour south of Washington, D.C., and aimed to spend around $18,000 for the whole shebang. We invited 220 guests and had 140 attend, and our ACTUAL working total — if I get seriously serious about it — was probably about $20,000, butttt . . . I’m not entirely sure about that! Bad bride, I know.

    It’s really scary to type that. Less scary to have paid for it gradually, ourselves, over the course of a year.

    Our breakdown was something like this . . .

    • Venue (country club) fee: $1,000
    • Dinner and nonalcoholic beverages for 145 people: $9,000
    • Alcohol: $0 (we decided early on to veto booze, which I know folks have super-dee-duper mixed feelings about, but we couldn’t pony up another few thousand for drinks)
    • Videography: $1,100
    • Photography: $2,900
    • DJ: $600
    • Baker for small wedding cake and cupcakes: $600
    • Pianist for ceremony and cocktail hour: $400
    • My dress and accessories: $800
    • His tux: $200
    • Invitations: $300-ish
    • Flowers: $200 (bought wholesale from an Amish market, bouquets and other arrangements put together by a dear friend)
    • Decor: $300-ish
    • Guestbook print: $100
    • Wedding bookmark favors (designed, ordered by me): $50
    • Wedding gifts for bridal party, parents, etc.: $300-ish
    • Makeup, hair and nails for bridal party, etc.: $400-ish

    And probably lots of other things I’m forgetting!

    Honestly, I stopped meticulously tracking after the first few months — I knew we needed to stay in budget for the “big” items, like our catering, but I didn’t necessarily watch every penny for the smaller items like decor. We did as much as we could ourselves but, in the interests of our time and sanity, knew when to simply pay for things as opposed to making ourselves completely insane over them.

    What was worth it? The photography. We loved — loved! — our photographers, a mother/daughter team, and wouldn’t trade the images they captured for anything. I was also incredibly happy with our venue and the food, which was amazing, and our DJ did an outstanding job at the ceremony.

    What was okay, but maybe not necessarily worth it? The pianist, honestly. Though I hear she did a nice job, it was hard to hear her at our ceremony site — and I can say truthfully that I never heard piano music at all. Like, AT ALL. Probably because I was getting married and freaking out, etc., but I was told the foyer was so loud and crowded with folks chatting during cocktail hour that no one could even hear the piano. I probably would have just asked our DJ to come a bit early (which he was willing to do anyway) and play some music for us. No offense, pianists of the world.

    But that was small potatoes compared to our overall budget! There really isn’t anything else I regret or would caution others against . . . it’s all such a personal choice. Because we financed our wedding ourselves, I was conscious of our choices — but also knew we wanted to have a beautiful day without trying to cut corners on every little thing. We probably went above and beyond at points, but I don’t regret it at all.

    • Fall Bride in Maryland

      I should also add we had both our ceremony and reception at the same venue, so we had no separate fee/donation for a church or other facility, and we had no transportation/limo costs. We did hire an officiant to perform the ceremony — about $200.

    • MD bride

      Ooh, I need a good DJ rec — do you mind sharing? What kind of music did you all do/how involved was he? Thanks!

  • AnnonyCath

    Fun to pull out my spreadsheet again. And kind of scary.

    Your goal budget: In my head 25K sounded like a nice number but we never set an actual budget.

    Your actual budget if you’re already hitched: ~40K for what I kept track of. So, didn’t include thank you
    money my mom gave my aunt for doing the ceremony, hotels for our cake baker…ruining 200 rental chairs, etc.

    A general breakdown of what you spent (for our “classy delicious backyard pig roast” for 200)

    – Tent – 6,500

    – Pig roast – 3,200

    – Caterer (staff, bartenders, appetizers, side dishes, dishes, sanity): 10,500

    – Liquor – 2,900 (lots left over, so fun to drink wedding wine though! And almost everything was returnable)

    -DJ – 1,625

    -Shuttle from hotel to house – 1,000

    -Décor – 500

    -String Trio for Ceremony – 525

    -Gown – 2000, custom made by the wonderful Kpoene at Mingnonette

    -Other apparel, suit, shoes, veil 2,000

    -Flowers – 1000, bought wholesale, amazing friend arranged

    -Photography – 3000, 6 hours of coverage by the lovely Christy Tyler

    -Stationary – 850

    -Gifts – 400

    -Misc. (license, counseling, etc) 650

    -Wedding bands, ~2000

    -Tips, $960

    -Gifted: Floral arranging, Cake, Officiant,

    What was worth it and what wasn’t
    Caterers sooooo worth it, they were wonderful and took care of so much. Photography definitely worth it!

    Not worth it – Not paying for a Day of Coordinator/not making expectations clear to Stage Manager.

    I was happy with everything we spent money on and how we allocated it towards individuals who supported things we do, local food etc. I just wish we’d had a DOC to handle the rain plan and chair moving and take some of the stress off my family and me.

    And most importantly, your location: Chicago North Shore

  • Emilie

    We are getting married this July in Nashville in the company 100 of our nearest and dearest, followed by brunch reception. My side of the family is covering almost all wedding day expenses. G’s family paying for the rehearsal dinner, honeymoon, and my spouse’s attire (which I did not include in my breakdown below).

    Goal Budget: $7500

    Actual Budget (so far): More like $10,000

    Brunch: $3231
    Reception Venue: Free because we are spending so much on food.
    Alcohol: $600+? (Undecided about this)
    Jazz Trio: $618
    Dress: $720
    Flowers (bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres): $672
    Reception Decor: $200-ish
    Stationary: $300-ish
    Photography: $1485
    Church Fee: $950
    Accommodations for Wedding Party and Officiant: $450
    Miscilaneous Gifts: $200-ish

    What I’m currently struggling with:
    -We’re been seriously discussing cutting alcohol. Yes mimosas would be a nice touch, but do we really want to spend $600+ dollars on them for a reception that starts at 10a? Also feeling a lot of guilt for going over the budget my family and I discussed.
    -Normally I would totally do my hair and makeup myself, but because it’s a 9a reception, I’m not sure I trust myself to get it done. I imagine I’ll feel very rushed in the morning, so am thinking about splurging on some extra help.
    -I feel like I’m in a constant state of trying to figure out how to cut things, and my partner’s in a constant state of trying to figure out how to add things. And it’s hard because it’s me (not G) that has to hit my family up for more cash every time we decide to go over budget. Anybody else struggling with this?

  • Berkshire Bride

    We were really lucky to be gifted our wedding by his parents ($10k ish) and mine (whatever else it took). Part of what that meant was that we did have to take our parents expectations into account, and also their desires, to a certain extent. We built our wedding – we got married in a backyard in the Berkshires, to had to figure out everything from the electricity to the cutlery – and my mom’s perspective on how to do that was to hire someone who had done it before and did it well.

    We had 127 people, and I’m going to guess spent somewhere between $48k and $53k, with my husband and I paying about $5k of that (clothes, rings, gifts, bridal party’s hair/makeup/hotel, etc). I haven’t added it up exactly, and I’m not even sure I could completely. It was a gorgeous wedding, and a lot more luxurious than I’d planned on it being.

    Worth it? It wasn’t my money, and if it had been, I would have done it smaller and cheaper, but it was wonderful. Our priorities were food, photography, and everyone being as happy as possible that day (which included, for me, feeling beautiful).

    Some actuals (of what I actually know) – Berkshire backyard wedding, extended family home

    – Catering, family style, with vegan and veg options for 127, extensive passed apps, and no cake (pies, etc, instead). – $9,039 – worth it, every penny.

    – Labor – $5,700

    – Planner’s Fee – $3,900 (she coordinated all the other vendors, including the rentals and even the electrician, dealt with permits, etc)

    – Rentals – $14,400 – tents, tables, chairs, restrooms (!), trash, golf cart for mobility impaired guests, bus pickups from the hotel (this was the best thing we did!) for guests before and after, etc.

    – Photography – $4,400 – I’ll be grateful for these for the rest of my life

    – DJ – $1,700, including tip, for 5 hours (this was a steal)

    – Flowers – No idea. I told my mom I didn’t care about flowers/didn’t really want them, so if she wanted them, all of it was up to her. She wanted them, they were beautiful.

    – Hair and makeup – I paid for my whole bridal party to have their hair and makeup done, the moms and grandmas included. It came to $1,900 including tips, and I was SO glad I did it.

    – Bride and groom clothes – my dress was $2,400, a sample, and his suit was from Men’s Warehouse. I don’t want to remember what I paid for alterations, which was probably $450.

    Writing this out makes me feel super grateful, really lucky, and also incredibly spoiled.

    • Berkshire Bride

      Forgot: a friend did all the paper, my sister did all the caligraphy and the veil kind of stuff, a friend officiated, and it was my aunt’s house. We got invitation printing and supplies from Cards & Pockets and they rocked and were well-priced.

      Also, my parents are divorced, and I think part of wanting to create this gorgeous and luxe (but still very “us”) wedding was about them having had an idea before the divorce of what a wedding for their daughter would look like, and not wanting to give that up. I got my mom to put aside a lot of “so-and-so’s daughter’s wedding had this [band, plated meal, etc]” but there was still a lot of pride in place.

  • We had a bit of an unusual wedding, given that we were married in my husband’s home town and had a big reception there with his (very large) extended family, then returned home and had a second reception for our friends and some of my family who couldn’t travel to Hawaii.
    Goal: 15K
    Actual: ~16K
    Location: Honolulu (Wedding + Reception), Tucson (2nd Reception)
    No. of Guests: Hawaii- 220, AZ- 90


    My parents graciously gifted us $10K for our wedding, which we put toward our wedding day in Hawaii.

    We could not have done the wedding for as little as we did without the generous contributions of labor and love from my husband’s family and old family friends. My MIL planned, coordinated, and crafted most of it, a family friend lent his sound system and technical skills for music, other family friends played live music, an uncle donated his catering service at mere the cost of food, a dear auntie baked a beautiful cake, another family friend served as day-of-coordinator, numerous friends helped with decorating and set-up and tear-down and more. Our photographer was an old friend who is in the process of setting up her own wedding photography business and needed material for her website.

    We paid $300 for our venue (a historic mountain estate-turned school) for the day, which was a steal in Honolulu. About $3000 went towards flights for us and our pastor who officiated. Another $3000 went towards food and decorations and other various expenses. We were able to use the remaining balance to pay for our honeymoon in Kauai immediately following the wedding (another friend who works for an inter-island airline helped us out with free flights!).

    Tucson, AZ:
    My dear grandmother gave us $5K for our Tucson reception, which was much smaller and low-key, but gave us a wonderful opportunity to celebrate with our local community.

    Venue (including some tables and chairs, sound system, security, and projector): $2000 for the evening [Tucson people- I highly recommend the Art Museum. It is gorgeous, affordable, and the staff are fantastic]
    Additional tables, chairs, and linens: $200
    Servingware (nice disposables from Costco): $60
    Centerpieces (Trader Joe’s flowers, glassware from thrift shops, Target frames): $100
    Wine and Craft Beer: $300
    Favors (treats from Hawaii): $40
    Catering and Staff for the night (Heaps vegetarian hors d’ouevres plus plating/serving homemade desserts from my mom): $2800
    (Cafe a la C’art gets a shout-out here– not only is the food delicious, but the staff was incredibly thoughtful and helpful throughout the whole night.
    Bartender: $150 with tip

    Total: ~$5600

    Worth it; Professional catering. It made everything so smooth in both cases, and guests still talk about the food (it was that good). Plus, at the Tucson reception, having professional staff around to help made set-up and clean-up a piece of cake and stress-free. Also worth it- supporting local businesses/venues you love. I really liked that we were able to support the Art Museum, which is one of my favorite Tucson museums. I am so glad we decided to do a reception in Tucson that could really be a low-key, fun, evening for us and our people to celebrate after the stress of the actual wedding was over.

  • HannahESmith

    Goal budget: Less Than $10K
    Actual budget: ~9-10K
    * Food and Drink: $2,800
    * Venue: $1,400
    * Decor and Flowers: $500
    * Photography: $1,300
    * Attire (including hair and makeup): $1,300
    * Officiant: $325
    * DIY Invitations and Wedding website: $200
    * Wedding Coordinator: $1,250

    Location: Hood River, Oregon (APW Wordless Wedding: http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/10/oregon-hood-river-wedding/)

    What was worth it: Our coordinators were amazing. They also own a vintage rental agency, so we got most of our decor through them.

    I don’t regret spending very little on flowers. My friends and family created arrangements and bouquets I loved more than if a florist created them, but people worked hard on them. Their time on this really was a gift.

    While I loved our DIY venue, I ended up spending a large chunk of my budget on catering staff and coordinators, two things that might have been included if I had gone with a more inclusive venue. Granted, I still loved it, but the actual cost of our $1,400 DIY venue was probably closer to $3,500 when you include catering staff and coordinators.

  • meleyna


    Oh gosh. Can you please explain this to my fiance? Our original budget was $20k for 80-100 in Phoenix, which I felt was more than generous. Right now we are about $10k over that, unless we really start pulling back. My fiance is a former wedding DJ, and spent every weekend of the late 90s/early 00s at a wedding. WIC runs through his blood. While I appreciate everything he wants to do for our guests, and we technically can afford it, I just don’t want to spend this much. I have a feeling once we narrow down the guest list (which is now up to 125) for save-the-dates this month, we will be having a serious conversation about where things are headed.

    • Keep the conversation on Values, not on stuff. WHY do you feel like $30k is too much? Does it feel okay to spend money on one thing but not another? (Delicious food but not beautiful flowers? Great music but not great photography?) Why is that? Dig down to what you’re really going for. It’ll make it a lot easier to meet his goals (help our guests feel taken care of and appreciated) without compromising yours if you can be more specific than “I’m okay spending $20k but not $30k.”

    • itsaprocess

      Yay- Phoenix brides! I have absolutely nothing helpful to contribute here but I’m sure its going to be wonderful because who doesn’t need to here that once in a while?

  • anon

    *gulp* Definitely going anon for this.

    Goal: $40k (generous offering of $30k from my parents, 10k from us…not including honeymoon)
    Actual: $45-50k. (Hasn’t happened yet but this is likely because my wedding dress cost…more than most people here would spend (and was the first thing we bought, so it’s not included in our “budget”). Also my parents said that they would help us make up any “incidental” difference of about 5k (so they’d be fine with covering 35k, but not 45k). They also might be throwing the rehearsal dinner outside of the budget if my mom continues to balk at our house party idea, but that’s another thing.)

    Guests: 120 invites, expecting 65-80
    Reception Venue (Food, Alcohol, Space, Tax, Grat): $18k
    Ceremony Venue + Chairs: $3k
    Photographer: $3k
    DOC: $1k
    Cake: $1k
    Floral Design + Rentals: $3k
    Music: $2k
    Lighting: $2.5k
    Post-party, hotel rooms, VRBOs, attire, beauty, extra decor, wedding rings, stds/invites, etc: Whatever is left and relatively reasonable

    Clearly, we are astronomically lucky and privileged, which makes me feel both blessed (in an atheistic way) and uncomfortable/guilty at the same time. Our hope is that we create a very authentic, loving wedding that honors our family and friends…and looks really pretty/has amazing food, since for the price it had better.

    • Anon for budget stuff

      Hey, can you share where the wedding is? It’s really helpful when figuring out budget costs

      • anon

        Sorry, yes. St. Augustine, FL.

    • Catherine McK

      No shame lady!!!! It’s going to be wonderful and yours!

    • apwteam

      STOP APOLOGIZING. New rule: no apologizing for your budget.

    • anon2

      Dealing with the guilt of spending huge amounts of money was probably the hardest part of the wedding for me. It required me to step back and realize our families were eager and excited to spend the money and that they could afford to do so. (We spent around $26k on our wedding day for 150 people in Seattle with an additional $10k spent on wedding related festivities. My husband and I contributed less than $4k with the rest coming from our families.)

      • Winny the Elephant

        If you made your family happy by letting them help you throw a big bash, then you’ve done some good spending that money

  • Emma Klues

    We were aiming for keeping under $10K but decided to go slightly over to make our honeymoon kickass. We ended up at $11,500 including honeymoon. We live in St. Louis, MO but had our wedding in southern Illinois in May 2011 at our beloved summer camp, and basically spent $3K on honeymoon, $3K on food, $1K on drinks, $1500 on photographer, and under $1K for everything else. For example, my ring was $90 and his was $75 to get a family one resized. We had friendors DJ, officiate, play music, make my dress, and bake our main cake, basically for free (but we bought everyone gifts). Our venue rental was almost nothing, we chose a place we loved and barely decorated. We invited about 400 but had 240 show up (ish) because it was slightly destination (ish) meaning not in a major city.

    Professional photographer = totally worth it. Friendors being involved = totally worth it. I don’t really have any regrets budget-wise.

  • Chris

    We spent about $22k on a backyard wedding with 107 guests just outside of Seattle, WA. $10k was food, $3k was transportation from the hotel to my Uncles house (no parking meant no one could drive there meant we needed to rent busses….) which was a late surprise and hurt! $3k was a rental tent (Seattle = rain) and tables and chairs and glasses. We used disposable plates and flatware- which turned out to be not much cheaper than renting basic stuff. The rest was … Other stuff.

    I thought that having it at my uncles house would save us a lot of money, but it didn’t. There were actually a lot of extra hassles, and while the place was personal and very very pretty, I’m not sure it was worth all of the extra work. I DO wish we would have hired a planner or coordinator instead of trying to save money by doing it all ourselves.

    • BD

      I was going to add in my post, but forgot to, that hiring a coordinator or planner would have been a wise decision, in hindsight. In the end, the money we save by DIYing wasn’t worth the hassle and wasted time and stress we had to go through to pull off our wedding.

  • BD

    Our budget was $10,000 (we live in rural TX, and it is possible to have a nice, small wedding for that much), but ended up spending about $12,000. More if you include my dress, but honestly I consider that to be totally different (I got my dress because I wanted it, not because I believe I needed it for a decent wedding). We had the reception at our home, which we really thought would save us some cash compared to a venue, but when we added in the cost of certain necessary updates that needed to be done, and catering, and the rentals (tent plus tables plus chairs), it ended up being about the same as the cost of a typical vendor wedding.

    Things that weren’t worth the money:
    – The cost of flowers and decor, which actually wasn’t too bad because we DIYed our flowers and decor. But it still cost a pretty penny and in the end, didn’t matter much. Also, I would have rather used that time drinking wine and chillin’ with my girls.
    – In the end we spent way too much on alcohol. People drank only about half of what we purchased. I think this came from us wanting to get “a little bit of everything” so we could please everyone, which of course is impossible anyway.

    Things that were worth the money:
    – The catering. My now-brother-in-law roasted a large pig on a bed of coals at the reception, and also made all the traditional BBQ fixings. It was probably the most expensive thing we did for our wedding (about 20% of our budget) but the food was awesome, and the roasting pig was something most people don’t see everyday.
    – The live quartet at the ceremony. At $500 it was a bit of a splurge, but it was so worth it and raised the atmosphere to the ‘nth degree. One of the things we got the most compliments on.

  • Violet

    I don’t have my spreadsheet on me for the breakdowns, but a northern NJ church wedding & restaurant reception for 75 ended up being $19,500ish. We originally budgeted $15,000. I’m including even the nitty gritty like stamps for thank you cards (’cause I’m Type A like that, what can I do?), but I was SHOCKED how much we went over. Shocked, I tell you! It can happen to even the most careful of planners. I, errrrr, hadn’t read that you should build in a certain percentage of overage into your budget until we were already in the thick of it. Well, it’s true. If I could do it again, I’d work off of the assumption we’d go over budget, and scale back accordingly. (Although on what, I’m not sure because I loved every aspect and so did my partner. Hmmm.) Anyway, no one went into debt, and everyone heartily enjoyed the day. If anyone in the Northern NJ area is curious and replies, I’d be happy to yank out the ‘ole spreadsheet tonight and give the run-down.

    • Kate

      I am in Central NJ and having a similar issue. I’d love to compare notes, Type-A gal to Type-A gal :) We are in the process of planning our September 2014 wedding at the Jersey Shore (the real one, not the tacky one you see on TV).

      The smallish (100 or so) guest list I initially had in mind has ballooned to 200. I’m joining a big family and we both have lots of professional must-invites, so it is what it is. I hope we can cut, and if the 10% rule holds true we’ll end up around 185. My goal is to cut 20.

      Budget: my parents are contributing $30k, in-laws are handling the rehearsal dinner, fiance and I committed to paying for stationery, the church and our rings. I thought that would cover everything. But the $30k is already accounted for and we haven’t booked half of our vendors. It’s causing a lot of stress and fights and crying (on my part). Now we’re afraid we won’t be able to afford a honeymoon. ACK! Okay, deep breath….. Here goes:

      Church: $600 + $100 pre cana fee + tips for musicians (fiance is paying)
      Reception venue: TBD, $112/person + tax and tip, includes open bar and cake, plus free hotel suite at an adjacent inn for the night
      Rehearsal dinner: approx $3k for 40 people, includes rentals. Venue is free (in-laws’ house). We are DIYing wine, beer and soda and nixing any/all decorations.
      Photographer: $2500
      Videographer: $2250
      Stationery & postage: approx $1200 (I am paying)
      To be determined: car service, florist, band/DJ, hair & makeup, bridal party gifts, accessories, RINGS.

      I negotiated what I think are really good deals for photo and video. Photographers often pay second shooters by the hour, so we’re only having one for getting ready and the ceremony. Also we cut out the prints and will pay out of pocket for them after the fact. The videographer is sending his long-time second shooter, who he stands by 100%, but still doing the editing at a savings of $700. Negotiating is KEY to saving money.

      The woman who does my hair is going to take the off day for her “friend’s” wedding and charge me a small fraction of what the salon would have ($350 for me alone, plus $125 per bridesmaid!) Frankly, I’d rather give her the cash anyway. I may end up doing my own makeup but haven’t looked into that yet.

      I am going CHEAP on the flowers and DIYing non-floral centerpieces using dollar store and craft items purchased in bulk online. We are not doing favors. I never notice them as a guest and it is a really easy way to save a lot of money.

      At the end of the day, we live in the most expensive part of the country and have a big family and lots of friends we want to share the day with. So it’s going to be pricey, but I thought we could do it for $30k. Right now my all-inclusive budget tool (WeddingWire) is telling me I’ve budgeted for $45k. How the f**k did that happen?!?! OMG I need a cocktail……

      • Violet

        Hi Kate!
        “How the f**k did that happen?!?!” was exactly my response!

        You’re absolutely right that negotiating is a good way to go (Have you read “Getting to Yes”? Fascinating book.). For me, a big shock was the tax associated with the venue. I should’ve thought about it ahead of time, but I didn’t until all the paperwork was drawn up. So what I had budgeted was the food&drink minimum, and I didn’t tack on for 18% gratuity plus NJ taxes. Uhh, tax on a lot of money is a lot of money. Accccck. But yes, the 10% rule on guests holds, even in my experience with a much smaller guest list. The bigger items are really where the money goes. You can definitely scrimp and save on smaller items (hair, makeup, etc), but the venue will likely be what ends up having the most impact. If you feel strongly about inviting the 200 (and it sounds like you do), you could look into a less-expensive per person venue, if at all possible. Ours has a food&drink minimum for 76 people, so we did that, and on a Friday instead of a Saturday.

        Obviously everyone prioritizes what’s important for them. We used: “Would be very upset if we didn’t have” / “Would like to have but it’s fine if budget doesn’t allow it” / “Don’t really care about it” as the categories we used to sift through before allocating funds. Our expenses don’t map onto yours because we had a smaller headcount and nixed some things outright that we knew we couldn’t afford given the area (videographer, transportation, centerpieces, favors, extravagant gifts for attendants, DJ/band). A family member owns a salon so that covered hair/makeup for me, and that family member worked often with a florist who did our three bouquets and two altar arrangements for a bit of a discount (and I used mostly greens rather than blooms, which cuts the price a lot).

        Don’t worry, I’m from south Jersey so I knew what you meant by “the shore.” ; )
        I’ll be taking deep breaths and having a cocktail for you. You can do this!

        • Kate

          Thank you so much for sharing! The fiance and I recognize that we’ve made some more expensive choices (Saturday sit-down dinner, for one), but that’s what we wanted to do and what was best for us. I was prepared for the tax and gratuity to add a lot to the bill, but I wasn’t prepared to run out of my parents’ $30k so quickly. We have decided to make other choices – DJ instead of a band, hiring a Town Car instead of the beautiful vintage Rolls Royce I dreamed of, eliminating favors and other “extras” – to cut our expenses.

          I have faith that it will all work out in the end. And if it doesn’t we’ll deal with it. My new motto, to borrow from bar exam review, is: I’m doing this once and I’m doing it right, because I’m never doing this again. NO REGRETS.

          Fingers crossed and bottoms up! ;)

  • jmkoni

    Goal budget: $5K
    Actual budget: $4610K
    – Food & Drink: $1500K
    – Dessert: $350
    – Officiant: $400
    – Attire (dress + hair): $560
    – Photography: $600
    – Venue: $1000
    – Invitations: $200
    Worth it: Food & Booze. We had a small wedding, but food for even 60 people apparently costs a lot. But it also makes everyone really happy and makes for a ballin’ party. Also worth it: skipping out on a ton of decorations and favors.
    Not worth it: skimping on photographer. Our photographer was great, but I think if I did it again I would hire two photographers.
    Location: Somerville, MA

    We didn’t include the cost of the rings in the cost of the wedding. Wedding is one day, the ring is for life :)

    • Allie

      Would you mind sharing your food, venue, and photographer info? I’m just starting to plan a wedding in Cambridge, and I didn’t think I could get anything for those numbers! Thanks!

      • jmkoni

        Sure thing!

        Venue: http://www.griffinmuseum.org/

        Food: http://www.cafepolonia.com/

        Desserts: Shira Melen, http://shiramelen.wordpress.com/

        Photographer: http://matthansonphotography.com/

        Couple notes: The venue is in Winchester. Still super close, but I think we saved some money since it wasn’t “in town”. Also, it holds about 75 people comfortably, I think you could get up to 100 if you planned the space carefully. WRT the food, I doubt you also want authentic Polish cuisine (maybe you do! if so, Cafe Polonia is amazing). However, if you’re trying to keep the budget low, it helps to find a restaurant you really like that does catering (without service) to large groups. The photographer was great, but part of the way we got the cost down was to edit our own photos. If you can do that or find a friend who will help you out, that tends to be the bulk of the cost for a photographer. Though really, Matt was about to edit our photos anyway :). So he’d probably still give you a good deal. You can find Shira’s macaroons at Boston Cocoa Nuts in the North End. She’s pretty amazing and did all of this (boxes, signs and set up): http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmorton429/11352216123/in/set-72157638634398253


        • Allie

          Thank you for the info! Those macaroons look amazing, and I’ll definitely look into them. Good tip on the restaurant catering too, I’ll have to keep that in mind…

  • anon

    Location, Brooklyn (April)
    Size: 125 people
    Total costs (wedding, Out of Town guests dinner, brunch): 54,500
    Wedding costs: $39,279
    OoTG dinner, morning brunch: $15,000
    Budget: We were very lucky to have our parents pay for the wedding. We didn’t have a strict budget, but more of a sense of what felt like too much money to us.
    Biggest costs: Catering, by far (25,210), followed by venue (6600), flowers (5500), rehearsal dinner/wedding coordination (5500), photography (3000)
    Other costs: hair/make up, dress, rings
    What was worth it: Catering. Food was a big priority for us, and I was thrilled with how it turned out. Same with venue and Day of Coordination. I loved the flowers, and working with the florist, but I am sure I would have liked them if we ended up going with someone less expensive.
    Biggest savings: Save the Date postcards ($65), invitations ($250), plus we had a relative who printed up a bunch of things for us as a gift (name cards, menus, programs)

  • Glen

    Saturday evening wedding in Palm Springs, CA for 75 people at $25k (about $2500 over budget)

    Venue (both ceremony and reception) + Food + Open Bar: $12300
    We wanted some place where we could have both an outdoor wedding and an indoor reception (it can be and was hot in PS in May) and found a lovely restaurant that had a separate group space with an adjacent lawn. People still rave about the food. My mother insisted on an open bar, and my husband insisted on closing it an hour before the party ended so that no one would be tempted to drive drunk. It ended up being about $700 over budget, in part because I forgot the tax on the “gratuity” in my calcs.
    Attire: $2600
    I ended up with a more formal wedding gown than I wanted to please my mother — it is a beautiful dress, but I think I would have been just as happy with a $500 Sue Wong dress. Hubby bought his tux. $1000 over budget.
    Flowers & Decorations: $1000
    DJ: $1100
    Photography: $3100 (about $500 over budget, but worth it)
    Gifts for wedding party and out-of-town guests: $600
    Officiant & License: $350
    Our officiant was wonderful and we would have willingly paid a lot more for his services; unfortunately for others, we were his last wedding.
    Invitations/Save the Dates: $600
    Rehearsal Dinner: $1200
    We had a wonderful bar-b-q dinner for about 30 people. Still slightly annoyed at the people who canceled last minute because we had ordered food for 40 and we rented chairs and tables. About $200 over budget.
    Hotel and Car: $800
    Brunches for family and friends: $400

  • TC

    Haven’t gotten married yet (March 28th) but this is the topic I struggled with the most at the very beginning of planning (have moved onto deeper emotional/family issues at this point) so I wanted to post.

    Live/getting married in San Francisco – ceremony at rented space in SF city hall, reception at private room in restaurant, 30ish guests

    Goal budget: we said $2,000 when we first got engaged. Realized we probably couldn’t even rent a private room in a restaurant for that amount. I estimate that we will spend in total around $9,000 at the end of the day. That includes a potential in-state 3 day honeymoon, our rings, and airfare/accommodations for my MIL for three days so she can be part of the event.

    We were going to do the “free” ($75) ceremony at SF City Hall until my fiancee’s aunts invited themselves to the wedding. We realized we’d feel less stressed if we had a rented space, so we chose to reserve a gallery in City Hall for an hour. The gallery + officiant + chairs will cost about $1,300. Though this is way more than our intended $75 ceremony, I have a feeling I’ll think this was the most worth-it thing.

    The thing I’ve regretted the most so far is my $480 dress from David’s Bridal. I was originally thinking of just getting a nice cocktail-style dress, but was having a hard time deciding and my best friend encouraged me to go to DB. I found a dress that fits and is nice, but is kind of plain and about $200 more than I wanted to spend. I just feel like I should be more excited about it when my whole outfit will come to over $500. We’ll see — maybe there will be something else I regret more at the ceremony.

    Also, I should mention we’re having a friend take photographs, which eliminates a huge expense. We’ll still get him a nice thank-you gift.

    • Meg Keene

      Can I advise? No Regrets really has it’s place in wedding planning. The whole world pretty much makes you afraid you’ll regret something, makes you feel guilty about other things, and pushes you towards regret. FUCK IT.

      Seriously. FUCK IT. You god a dress at David’s Bridal for $480. I don’t hear you saying that you won’t be able to pay rent this month because of it, so FUCK IT. $480 over the course of a lifetime is going to be fine. Damn the regrets, full speed ahead.

      I’m *constantly* asked in interviews what I regret about wedding planning, and my answer is always: “Non, je ne regrette rien.” Would I plan a different wedding now? Yeah. Do I regret anything? NO WAY.

      Let’s take it out with a song.


    • ML

      Wow, your wedding thoughts sound a lot like mine, though my wedding was much bigger (I commented below with full breakdown.)

      Having the private space for City Hall is really nice. They rope it off, so it feels like yours. Plus you can get nicer photos without people walking by. I’m sure you won’t regret it!

      We also did a 3-day in-state honeymoon :)

  • Adriana

    We planned our wedding (just over a week ago, 12/31!) in about a month so we didn’t really have time to set a specific goal for our budget before we started having to make purchases. We ended up spending $2,755. We had an outdoor civil ceremony in San Diego and most of our budget (~1,200) went toward lunch at The Prado, which was worth it since it was a lovely atmosphere, good food, and convenient for beautiful pictures before and after in Balboa Park. Next biggest expenses were the rings and his suit (which I was iffy about counting in the budget as it’s a navy suit which I’m sure will see other occasions). We saved money by holding the ceremony at the County Administration Building, encouraging our friends to take pictures instead of hiring a professional photographer, and making the vibe very casual and DIY. (For example, the cake was a Chantilly Lace Cake from Whole Foods, I put together the bouquet myself with tape and leftover Christmas ribbon, and DIY’ed the hair, makeup, and nails.) I would say all of the expenses were worth it since we didn’t really spend too much on anything. One thing I did miss out on having was dancing but we burned CDs and packaged them nicely to give out as Thank You favors for the 30 guests we had so hopefully they are enjoying our favorite love tunes anyway.

  • Sarah Kern

    My husband and I got married in October 2012 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and my parents lovingly offered to cover the cost of our wedding. The initial goal was to spend approximately $10k, but we changed our goal to approximately $15k after it was determined that we couldn’t feed 275 people at our initial estimate. We chose several categories that were “worth it” to us to spend more on (photographer, florist, venue) and were smart/creative in planning the rest (we handled our own music, DIY decorations, a graphic
    designer friend designed the paper goods, etc).

    Here’s our basic cost breakdown:
    – Venue (large art gallery space downtown) – $3000
    – Flowers – $1400
    – Photography – $1850
    – Catering and Rentals (informal hors d’oeuvres style dinner, servers, bartenders, tables, chairs, tablecloths, misc rentals) – $6300
    – Paper Goods (save the dates, invitations, programs, misc ceremony signs) – $800
    – Alcohol (wine and beer) – $900
    – Total – $14250 (that’s without miscellaneous items added in, which probably would have been several hundred more, but the total was kept at or below the planned budget)

    My husband covered the cost of his suit (purchased from Zara) and I covered the cost of my attire (custom gown, veil, shoes, makeup and nails) – as well as professionally done makeup for my mom and my future mother-in-law as a day-of gift, and bridesmaid gifts, which totaled about $1500.

    We used Google Docs to keep track of everything – it was really helpful to have a spreadsheet that could be updated via the internet as needed.

    All in all, our wedding was a dream and I couldn’t have asked for better vendors (and friends/family who bent over backwards for us). We’re also pretty lucky that the wedding was in Tulsa – there aren’t many other places where you can have a large wedding, in an art gallery downtown, with a meal and alcohol, for the money we spent!

    If anyone would like a visual aid for this wedding, we are the featured wedding for Ely Fair Photography’s website (http://elyfairphotos.com/weddings/featured/). It was a blast.

  • Our original budget was about $13k, which is what we knew we’d be able to save by the time we got married (our wedding date is in mid November of this year). We’re now looking at about $23k; we’re overestimating in several categories, but given that there are always little extras, we’re pretty sure that $23k is going to be the minimum budget. So far, our venue (with food and booze) is about $13k by itself, attire is about $1500 minus alterations for my dress (which could end up being as much as the dress itself). Photography and DJ cost $4k.

    We live in Boston, but could not find an affordable venue that met our needs within the city limits. Together, we have about 80 family members we have to invite (that’s immediate family and grandparents, aunts, uncles, and first cousins), and we had to decide between getting married in Boston and inviting only a handful of friends, or finding a venue outside the city so we could afford a 130 person guest list. Next, we had to decide if we wanted an all-inclusive venue, or if we wanted to rent a space, and then find a caterer and get rentals. At that point, I was feeling overwhelmed, and although my partner has had to plan events a lot, he didn’t want to play event planner at our own wedding (coordinating all of the vendors). We ended up going with an all-inclusive venue that gave us a generous discount for our off-season Sunday wedding.

    I’m already feeling silly for spending more than $400 on a dress, especially since it’s navy blue and I’m terrified I’ll second-guess my decision to be boldly offbeat. I also feel silly for spending money on save the dates that were NOT the cheapest ones we could have gotten. But in the end, we’re not risking debt for this wedding (nor will we drain our savings), and people have been very supportive and not critical about what we’re deciding to pay for.

    • BostonAnon

      I planned a wedding for a friend who wore a navy blue dress and it was THE BEST. Seriously, one of the most fun, stylish, and happy weddings I’ve ever been to. Own that dress!

      • Thank you! :D That actually really makes me so happy to hear!

  • Rachel

    Thank you so much for this thread! I am currently planning a wedding in Eastern NC. This is our current budget figures, though I am sure it will change as the wedding approaches.

    Goal budget: 8-10K, preferably more in the 8K range (though that’s not happening now!.
    Current projection: 10605
    Currently budgeted for 125 guests. (estimated 80% attendance rate from 156 people invited)

    Here are our categories:
    Marriage Certificate: 70
    Officiant: 350
    Venue: 750
    Catering & Drink: 4,400
    Rentals (dance floor, tent, chairs, tables, speaker equipment): 1400 est.
    Attire & Prep: 1500
    Flowers: 60
    Photography: 1300
    Stationary, Guest Book, Postage: 250
    Gifts for Wedding Party: 75
    Rehearsal Dinner: 300
    Hotel rooms (wedding is out of town for us): 150

    Costs not included: rings & honeymoon

    We prioritized being a location that was easy for NC family and friends to get to, but far for us (We live near DC). We are skipping a DJ and skimping on flowers. Also doing a budget-friendly rehearsal dinner of breakfast food probably in a local part (TBD).

    We ended up committed to a place that had catering tied to the location. As you can see, this is where 40% of our money is going. At the time, we highly debated between the location we chose and an alternative. The alternative was an hour away from where family lives, and ultimately decided on this location for convenience.

    The convenience & “atmosphere” is going to cost us the difference between catering prices (current estimate is 33.5 dollars a person (estimate includes food, tax, and tip) and restaruants-that-cater prices (quoted at 12 dollars a person including ) for all 125 estimated guests, or 2687.5 dollars.

    My mistake was not calculating the additional cost of tax and an obligatory tip of 18% into the original comparisons. I don’t think I would have been willing pay an additional 2.7K for ambiance & convenience if I did it again. Or maybe I would have.? The vendors in the other location were not nearly as accommodating.

    We will see if our choices were correct this upcoming June!

    Feel free to ask any questions if you want to know how we are doing things and how we are saving (or not) saving money!

    • Nikki

      Hello Eastern NC! I’ve felt so lonely. Funny because I’m originally from the ex-burbs of D.C.

      I have a rough budget of around $6000, for venue, food, D.J. and photography, the jury is still out on flowers.
      I did include the service charge and I just found a place that might work with our budget. We want to get married this year and we’re just getting started, ugh. Must schedule some tastings or something.

      Anywho, I do hope to hear back from you in June!

  • 39bride

    Our first budget was what we had on-hand when we got engaged: $4000. That was our goal budget until our mothers miraculously pulled together about $3000 more between them for a total of $7000, which we pretty much stuck too–we tracked receipts and stopped spending when we hit about $7000.

    We hosted 65 people in our church overlooking the hills north of San Diego (August 2012), with an afternoon picnic-themed reception in the fellowship hall. We had only four months to plan, which made it very difficult to wait for sales or to craft things to save money. That time crunch affected everything from how much I spent on dresses for the bridal party, to being unable to find affordable hair/makeup. We quickly learned that we could do the semi-“traditional” wedding we wanted ultra-cheap or in four months, but not both.

    Here’s the estimated breakdown:

    Site (ceremony & reception, w/ access to industrial kitchen): $650
    Clothing: $1800
    Hair/Makeup: $300
    String Quartet: $450
    Flowers: $420* (half-DIY)
    Faux-to Booth: $100 (fabric backdrop, misc. props)
    Photography: $1200 (incl. engagement)
    Cakes: $300
    Food: $500 (self-catered)
    Decor/Rentals for Ceremony & Reception: $820 (mostly DIY)
    Rings: $600 (thank you, Internet!)

    Totally Worth It: I really don’t regret anything, but I do have some favorites… The clothing–everyone looked/felt fantastic. Decor–we turned what was essentially a wide hallway into what felt like an intimate chapel with faux stained-glass windows, and the reception was beautiful, too. Cake/Food–people still talk about it. Faux-to Booth–People LOVED it for both silly and serious pictures; many
    used one or more of their pictures on holiday cards, etc. String Quartet–I’m a classical musician, so we put a high priority on live music. What we got for $450 (El Real Chamber Players, 1.5 hours of music) was probably worth twice that. Opening the door before my walk down the aisle and feeling that waterfall of amazing music pouring over me is one of my top memories of the day.

    Not Worth It: Our only frustrations were photography and location because we simply couldn’t afford what we wanted. Our photographers were wonderful people to work with and gave us some great shots, but we knew going in that they weren’t our first choice. Our budget simply wouldn’t allow the going rate for amazing journalistic-style photographers in this area ($2000+). We also desperately wanted to have the wedding outside, but August in the Inland areas of Southern California can easily be in the upper 90s. The Coast is cooler, but we couldn’t find something there within our budget.

    I still have very difficult feelings about the dress, which was our
    big splurge; I loved it, but I feel bad about what we spent. I’m
    terribly insecure and have a
    difficult shape to dress, so I knew we’d have to pay through the nose to
    get a dress that made me feel fantastic in a limited time frame–I
    didn’t want to spend my day being self-conscious, thinking about how
    my arms looked, whether things laid flat, if it stayed up, etc. The
    $2100 included a wedding dress on rush order, new suit for him because
    he’d lost 30 pounds since he’d last worn one, and dresses with major
    alterations for attendants. After the wedding, I sold my dress for 75% of it’s value, which helps me feel better. If we’d had more time, maybe I could’ve found a steal somewhere…

    Basically, $7000 is a huge bargain for this area (particularly for the site rental, dishes/linens, and flowers). Our families pitched in to help, and we focused on the things that mattered the most to us (dress, music, food and family) in order to keep the budget down.

    • Rachelle Reese

      “Faux-to booth” is such a great name for it! Amazing work on your budget for a California wedding!

      • 39bride

        Thanks. We were simply brutally logical with ourselves and refused to do anything on credit–looked at it as, “Here’s what we have to spend, so what will we spend it on and what will go by the wayside?” I had just dug myself out of the financial consequences of a period of extended
        unemployment and he’d had a similar experience,
        so we were committed to entering our marriage free and clear. In the moments that I realized we couldn’t have our dream, I just kept thinking about the WWII brides who got married in their parents’ homes on two-weeks’ notice because he was about to deploy (and be gone for years if he was lucky enough to return) and reminded myself that, “It’s about the marriage, not the wedding” is absolutely true. It also helped that one of my friends lost her husband to an accident about two weeks before we got engaged. Puts it all in perspective…

    • 39bride

      I forgot to add: We spent about $70 on invitations (incl. postage, slef-designed). Thank you, VistaPrint! We also spent a small amount on individually-written VistaPrint thank you notes that we placed at each plate for reception favors. We had a information/welcome sign we placed on each reception table and a poster-size print of the seating arrangement, all self-designed. We also self-designed our double-sided programs with an insert (which were vital because of a number of limited English speakers). Total, we probably spent about $200 or so on paper.

      • 39bride

        I keep forgetting things…

        We spent about $150 on bridal party/helper gifts (caught Harry & David on a semi-annual sale and got further discounts by signing up for their “club.” I also hit the wall and burst into tears when they didn’t have the most important sale items on my list in stock; the manager was so sweet that she wrapped all the gifts for free when she realized I was a bride and we were trying to do the financially impossible with our budget). My Aunt & Uncle kindly offered to host a rehearsal dinner for us. My cousin and her husband gave us a luxury hotel room for the wedding night, and a friend did day-off coordination with perfection–she could have a second career if she ever got bored being a nurse, haha.

  • this conversation is so necessary. i just wrote a post on my blog ) (http://colormegreenanew.blogspot.com/2013/12/on-cost-of-weddings.html) about how i thought i knew how much weddings cost based on 10k wedding bloggers, but when i actually started to plan mine i realized that what i want is going to cost around $25k because of the reality of how much rentals and caterers cost. i had to search and search to even find catering prices this low. i went ahead and put the number on my blog because everyone says “weddings are expensive” but no one says how expensive they actually are and people should know. this is how i’m now projecting my budget to break out for a farm wedding in NJ for 140 people:

    0 venue rental (family property)
    7k rentals for tents, bathroom, tables, chairs, plates etc
    8k catering
    2k alcohol
    2k photographer
    1,300 DJ
    1k bridal dress and accessories
    1,500 groom attire (up to that)
    500 rings
    900 wedding party and family gifts
    500 feeding people staying on property for weekend
    900 rehearsal dinner
    300 flowers (florist in the family)
    300? decor
    400 hotel shuttle
    500? for property prep and cleanup
    200 invitations (DIY online)

    • Stacey

      Your décor seems a little low, unless you’re going to let the farm’s beauty shine through. And the photography seems REALLY low to me, unless you know a photographer that’s giving you a good deal or photography isn’t that important to you. Not sure how far along you are… just thought you should know. Photography was easily 25% of my wedding budget and we did the backyard/farm thing too.

      • we are getting a deal on photography through a friend of a friend who’s still building her portfolio. we joked that after us she’ll be able to put a “cool” farm wedding in her portfolio and charge more. as for decor, it’s not important to me. i’m figuring out decor after everything else is figured out. of course budgets are changing things…i wrote that only two weeks ago and already some things have changed (catering/rentals a little lower than i thought…rings are more, etc)

  • Lizzie

    Ceremony and dinner reception for about 100 guests in Seattle on a Saturday in April.
    -Original budget: $10k (ha, good joke, self)
    -Final budget: $17k
    -General breakdown: $5k food, $4k venue, $3.5k photographer, $1.5k day-of coordinator, $3k everything else.

    Everything was worth it, and after looking at alternatives I felt like the prices were reasonable. I used Google Doc’s wedding planner budget to keep a handle on all the numbers, and though the categories didn’t always suit our event it was a life-saver.

    Also, if not for APW’s booze estimating tool and straight-talk about wedding expectations I would have been a giant ugly-cry mess. For reals.

    • mackenzie

      The google docs wedding spreadsheet is just the bees knees. It was just so nice to have everything in one spot that we could access from anywhere. And APW’s day-of planning sheets (which I turned into google docs) were a godsend, too! Spreadsheets!

      • JM

        Completely agree about the spreadsheet. My fiance loves spreadsheets for everything, so I created one wedding spreadsheet with a budget tab, venue detail tab, bridal party members tab, contacts, etc. And then I found APW! :) I pulled some of the column ideas etc so thanks for that!

  • Amy

    Whoo boy. I am smack dab in the middle of planning, with the big things out of the way and the little things left to go, but here goes.

    In Pittsburgh, PA, my fiance and had planned on a budget of $10K. We’d each contribute half, and if our parents could afford to contribute anything, that was going to be icing on the cake.

    We were doing fairly well as we booked our ceremony venue ($1250) and our photographer ($2500), but those were the Important Things, so I didn’t mind how much of our budget was allocated to them.

    But reception venues threw a wrench in the works. What was in our arbitrary budget was decidedly Not Us, and the one we liked the best was a minimum of $12K (before tax and service charges) but included a lot of things like linens, food, bar, and decor (including centerpieces).

    I quietly started panicking as my mister and I walked out the door after our appointment, but he simply looked at me and said “look, if we have to pay a little bit more and stress a little bit less, to me, it’s worth it. The place is beautiful, we won’t have to decorate, hire bartenders and worry about the booze, and you’re not going to be stressing the week of the wedding when you’re burning yourself on hot glue trying to assemble centerpieces. We can do this.”

    And we sat down that night and figured out that yes, we actually could afford more than we’d planned, we wouldn’t have to pauper ourselves in the meantime, and it would save us time and effort by not having to go several other places for the services included in our package.

    Plus, added bonus: We’re putting our reception payments on a branded credit card for that hotel, and earning about a million loyalty points, so we’re not going to have to pay for hotel rooms when we go on our honeymoon.

    So, we did. And as a result, our budget is now closer to $25K, but I’m not panicking about it. Not too much, anyway.

    Ceremony venue: $1250
    Photographer: $2500
    Reception Venue: $15,500
    DJ: $1500
    Dress + veil: $1600 (but not included in budget as that’s my expense, not ours.)

    • springday123

      I love this:

      “look, if we have to pay a little bit more and stress a little bit less, to me, it’s worth it. The place is beautiful, we won’t have to decorate, hire bartenders and worry about the booze, and you’re not going to be stressing the week of the wedding when you’re burning yourself on hot glue trying to assemble centerpieces. We can do this.”

      So true, and such an adult decision. I can almost hear my guy saying this!

    • Jennifer

      Another Pittsburgh bride here! As someone born and raised in rural NC, it was hard to come to terms with the costs of having a wedding in Pittsburgh. I am getting married this weekend (and using APW as a way to take my mind off the frantic worrying of whether or not I am forgetting to do something). I will also say we received some decent discounts thanks to our January wedding. Here’s to a rainy wedding in Pittsburgh!

      Hopeful (naive) budget: $5,000
      Actual costs: Closer to $10,000
      Amount of guests: 50

      Ceremony site: $500
      Reception: (Which includes open bar, centerpieces, cake, and venue): $4,400
      DJ: $800
      Dress, including alterations: $940
      Veil: $150 (from Etsy and I *love* it)
      Flowers: $350
      Photographer: $1650
      Invitations, Save the Dates, Thank You Cards: $160
      Cookies $130
      Makeup & Hair: 200
      Misc. (Bags for cookies, welcome bags, tie for groom, decoration for venue, etc.): approx. $150

      • GuestPitt,PA

        That’s a great price – mind sharing the venue?

        • Jennifer

          The reception is being held at the Embassy Suites! I never wanted a hotel reception, but every single one of our guests are traveling from 3 different states to be here and it seemed easiest for everyone. We were able to book the hotel for the 2013 rate, as opposed to 2014, plus an extra (small, but still) discount for booking in January.

      • Amy

        Happy wedding week!!

        If you’re not too frantic, would you mind sharing where you’re getting your makeup and hair done? I don’t really have a salon to call my own anymore (my stylist has moved on) and I really don’t know what to do about it.

        • Jennifer

          Sure! For my hair, the business is Shear Convenience. The owner is Kay and is super friendly and travels to you. She is also highly reasonable in pricing. For make-up, I went with a friend of a friend who does make-up on the side.

          • Amy

            Oh, thanks so much! Having on-site hair service would make things SO much easier!

    • GuestPitt,PA

      Pittsburgh is a deceptively expensive ‘small’ big city.
      Sounds like you made a good decision on the all inclusive thinking. I loved your explanation of the logic behind it!

      • Amy

        Thank you! I really was surprised by some of the quotes we got from vendors, and definitely remember thinking “Where do they think we are, Philadelphia?”

    • Sarah

      I’m a Pittsburgh bride as well. Still in the early planning process. To me, Pittsburgh is very inexpensive, but I live in NYC and chose Pittsburgh for our wedding because my family lives there…and its waaay cheaper than NYC. Would you mind sharing your venue and photographer? Right now we’re looking at non-inclusive venues…but I’m not too sure about that decision. Things are adding up quickly as we get estimates for everything!

      • Amy

        Yay, Pittsburgh brides! Congrats!!

        I don’t mind sharing at all:
        Ceremony venue: Phipps Conservatory in Oakland, in the outdoor garden. (SO PRETTY.)
        Reception venue: Double Tree hotel in Greentree (Kelly, our contact, is really really great to work with. And they just finished an enormous remodel and ugh I should send you a picture of their ballroom, it’s so pretty. Draped gossamer and twinkle lights on the ceiling!)
        Photographer: Ryan Zarichnak Photography. (I really cannot say enough good things about him. I am totally going to suggest that he become an APW sponsor.)

        When I was doing my searching, I found that non-inclusive venues were deceptively expensive. One place I loved was only $750 for rental of the hall, and it was gorgeous! BUT the fine print said that you HAD to use their bar packages (and no dry weddings allowed!) and you HAD to use one of their approved caterers, and you HAD to rent linens from a certain company… and just like you said, things started adding up quickly! More of the non-inclusives were like that than I would have liked. And the idea of having to track down one person for this thing and another person for that thing and a third for something else… I am glad that we made the decision that we did.

        • Sarah

          Thanks for the info!! That’s exactly what I’m finding with venues! I was looking at this one theater venue, really cool, in my favorite part of PGH, but they required that you use their bar package which didn’t even include glassware (!!), that started at two types of beer and two types of wine for, get this, $25 a head. You didn’t even get liquor until you hit $40 a head. So…that’s a definite no-go. I’ll be gravy if I can find a space to rent that will allow whatever caterer I want, and will allow me to purchase my own alcohol. So far I’ve found two contenders for that, but for one of those I’ll have to rent tables and chairs…so we’ll see.

          • Amy

            Ha! That sounds familiar — it wasn’t the New Hazlett Theater, was it?

            I referenced this Ask Metafilter Thread when I did some early venue-searching, and it helped me think a little outside the box:


            And if you’re going to go with your own booze, this answer from another thread might help with your numbers:


            If you want, I can see if I still have my venue spreadsheet saved; I think it’s on my work computer. Might give you some more places to investigate.

          • Sarah

            It sure was the New Hazlett Theater. The idea of spending $4500 (before tax tip and glassware rental) on just beer and wine for 150 people made me want to cry.

            That would be fantastic. I would love some ideas. We’re deep into price/budget estimates, and the venue search so this thread and our conversation is coming at the perfect time! Thank you so much :)

          • Amy

            I don’t still have my beautiful venue spreadsheet with contacts and price information, but I did pull a bunch that I was in contact with from my email, as well as some that were suggested by a photographer that I was vetting.


            I hope it helps!

        • Jennifer

          Hey, hey! My ceremony will be in the Broderie Room within Phipps. Great minds. ;)

          • Amy

            High fives for Phipps brides! I would have LOVED the Broderie Room, but it just wasn’t big enough for us.

  • GinaC

    After lurking
    for 2 years, it’s finally going to be the budget that prompts my first comment.

    We first thought we would spend $20K on our wedding in the San Francisco area, but after
    deciding on a venue (ranch in Los Gatos) and putting things in excel, our target
    was $29,235. We ended up at $33,037 for 134 people, and I am so happy we did it!
    I’ve included the breakdown below.

    More than half was spent on the venue and catering, which included an awesome space on a
    working ranch, delicious food, flowers (!), linens, some decor and non-alcoholic
    drinks. We were able to bring our own beer and wine, and had an oyster shucker
    during the cocktail hour.

    The best money we spent was on guest transportation from the hotels 30 minutes away. I
    was also very happy we ended up hiring a professional photographer (APW
    sponsor!) and am just fine with the video my cousin shot for free.

    Since many of our guests were from out of town we included a Friday night dessert reception
    and a Sunday brunch picnic. My husband’s family especially enjoyed the mini-reunion
    with family that lives all over the country.

    We used Vistaprint for the stationary – save-the-dates, invites with response cards, and thank
    yous – and while they may not have been the best quality, the value was

    I didn’t include the rings because we will be wearing these long after the wedding, or
    honeymoon because I considered that a vacation.


    Band/Entertainment: $1,160 – including $160 in dance lessons which in retrospect we could have done
    without, but did give me a bit of confidence.
    Hair/Makeup: $200 spend on a thank-you dinner for my cousin /hair dresser/makeup artist
    Favors: $420
    Gifts: $405
    Attire: $1329 my once-worn dress was $425 +$100 cleaning. My husband’s suit was $600 and he
    has already worn is twice since our July wedding.
    Drinks: $2779 beer, wine and TJ’s prosecco
    Food: $14,342 including $1000 for the oysters and shucker and $270 for cookies to supplement
    the cake my aunt made for us.
    Gratuity: $600
    Lodging: $482 Airbnb
    Stationary & postage: $612
    Photographer: $2555
    Guest transportation: $1973
    Venue: $4500
    Friday & Sunday events: $1682

    • Janelle

      Would you mind divulging which APW sponsor you used for photography? I’m in the middle of planning and I would be so thankful to know :)

      • GinaC

        Not at all, we went with Allison Andres – she was awesome!

  • Allison

    saturday night wedding in downtown washington DC at an old embassy for 150 people, this august, just under $40K. our parents are putting in just about $10K.

    originally, i really wanted to spend no more than $25K… then my fiance drew up his guestlist and here we are. but in the end we each got what we wanted: me, a certain photographer and video, him, 40 more to the guestlist.

    this is our estimated actuals based on our signed contracts.
    venue: $4,500 (includes all the tables/chiavari chairs)
    food, booze & remaining rentals: $16,500 (full open bar, cocktail hour and sit down dinner)
    flowers: $2,750
    DJ: $1,400
    photographer: $4,700
    video: $1,500
    invitations & paper goods: $600
    hotel rooms and shuttles: $600
    thank you gifts and favors: $500
    planner: $1,700
    rehearsal dinner: $1,000
    attire & beauty: $3,500 (my dress, his tux, makeup/hair, plus our attendants’ attire which we are gifting them)

    • Ooh, which embassy? That sounds amazing (I am curently planning).

  • anon

    Portland OR – 70 Guests
    Budget – Under 10K
    Actual – Around 8K (Not including rings or honeymoon)

    – Venue – $775 (Private Residence)
    – Food – $2,000 (Paella, Sangria, Salad, Apps)
    – Booze – $300 (Beer was a gift from brewer friend)
    – Photography – $0 (Gift from photographer friend)
    – Officiant – $0 (Friend)
    – Band – $1,200 (Worth every penny)
    – Attire – $2,500 (Custom Suit / Off the rack dress)
    – Flowers – $300 (Purchased flowers form local grower, arranged ourselves)
    – Gifts – $500 (Gifts for friends who helped out)
    – Misc – $625 (Invites / Rentals / PediCab / Marriage Cert)

    I don’t regret any of the money spent. It was a fantastic celebration! We are incredibly lucky to have such talented & generous friends. If a someone offers their help, take them up on it!

    • Beth R

      We had paella, too and it was awesome! Even our gluten free friends were able to enjoy it.

  • Mezza

    As the post mentions, Manhattan is an incredibly expensive place to get married – so even though we live there, we got married in our hometown of Indianapolis. I was unemployed when we started planning, so we figured that we could reasonably contribute $4000. My parents generously offered $5000, and her (quite well-off) parents said something like “just put whichever things on the credit card.” So, we didn’t have a strict budget as such.

    $2000 – rings (including engagement rings)
    $400 – rehearsal dinner (Cajun takeout at in-laws’ house for 30)
    $2119 – reception venue
    $320 – dresses and accessories (one dress was free)
    $300 – invitations from Etsy vendor
    $6600 – catering (brunch buffet w/open beer & wine)
    $650 – DJ
    $200 – wedding party flowers from Etsy vendor
    $400 – miscellaneous (new makeup, coffee for ceremony guests, thank-you gifts)

    So that comes in at about $13K, for a backyard ceremony with 50 guests and a brunch reception for 90, located in downtown Indianapolis.

    We got so many things for free from amazing friends and family – my wife’s former nanny made our wedding cake, my mother made my dress, all ceremony music was provided by my amazingly talented brother- and sister-in-law, the ceremony venue was my in-laws’ backyard (and they decorated above and beyond our expectations), all jewelry was already in our families, and our wonderful photographer did the photos for free in exchange for permission to use them in a book she’s creating. I don’t know how much the reception flowers cost because my mother wouldn’t tell me, and my sister-in-law DIY-ed the other reception decorations. This budget does not reflect our flights to and from the location, both for prep and for the wedding itself, or the hotel room we got for the night following.

    Worth it: the rings, the venue, all the little splurges like nice makeup, hotel, cabs. As someone very used to living on a tight budget, it was fun to have an excuse to buy nice things!

  • Sarah

    These cost breakdowns are going to be really rough because at some point I buried my head in the sand and hoped we weren’t totally overspending, but might have.

    Location: Sacramento, CA
    No. of Guests: 225 invited, 130 attended
    Goal budget: $20,000
    Actually spent: more like $25,000 ish

    We paid for the majority of the wedding, but our parents paid for the church, cake, videographer, and dress. Oh, and this isn’t counting the rings (about $1500) or honeymoon (about $5k)

    Church: $2500 but worth every penny. Gorgeous, reverent ceremony.
    Reception venue, including food (3 passed appetizers at cocktail hour, a salad and entree, dessert bar), drinks (beer, wine, 2 signature cocktails, sangria, champagne, soda/tea/coffee), rentals, service, and tip: about $9,000
    Flowers: $1000
    Photography: $2500
    Videography: $550?
    Parking: $750
    DJ: $550
    Design (we couldn’t figure out reception decorations to save our lives): $600
    Invitations: probasbly $500ish?
    Gifts for bridal party:$350
    Bride’s look (dress, veil, alterations, jewelry, hair, makeup, nails): $3,000
    Groom’s look: way less, probably like $300 or less
    Cake: $600?
    Decor: let’s say $1000.
    Rehearsal dinner: $500
    Hotel: $500 (2 nights at a nice place for us, 1 night for parents)

    All told that’s a little less than $25k.

    • Sarah

      I forgot the “what was worth it and what wasn’t.” Like I said, the church fees, although ridiculously expensive, were totally worth it. It was a beautiful cathedral, the best in town for sure, and we felt like royalty. There is a pipe organ, beautiful cantor, and the best priest. Wouldn’t change a thing.
      I think we got a good deal on our reception venue, so it was worth it.
      If it were up to me I’d have spent $5,000 on flowers because I love them, but I’m not sure everyone else is quite as obsessed. I was proud of myself for getting outta there around $1,000.
      We got a STEAL on our photographer, and she was worth it. She was above OUR budget, but we came into a good deal for HER prices, and she is pretty much the best around. Most of her caliber cost $3-5K.We could have hired someone perfectly fine for $1k but wouldn’t have gotten quite as many beautiful portraits.
      Video: meh. I think it’s important to have it documented, but the quality we got was pretty crappy. We should have hired a cousin with an iphone, honestly.
      DJ: glad we didn’t spend more, as music/dancing wasn’t a huge focus of the wedding. He was perfectly fine.
      parking: worth it. There’s nowhere to park near the venue.
      Design: worth it, as my husband and I have no sense of style.
      invites and gifts: seems like pretty standard pricing?
      My $3k bridal look: worth it. I never wear makeup, never get fancy, so I needed the best help I could get. Professional hair and makeup were totally worth it. The dress was $2k before alterations, which was about $800 over my initial budget, but I easily could have gone to $3k after seeing how beautiful they were. My mom helped with the dress though. If she hadn’t, I’d have paid far less I’m sure.
      Groom’s look: we got a good deal on his suit and stuff. Seems like reasonable pricing.
      Cake: Worth it, surprisingly. Our parents insisted on cake. We thought it was too much with the dessert bar we’d already gotten through the caterer. But cutting the cake (and eating the cake) was a highlight. So, worth it. Thanks mom.
      Rehearsal dinner: also a steal. It actually came to about $300 for 30 people so we left a tip for the rest of our budget.
      Hotel: worth it. We were just going to stay at home and save the money but I’m glad we didn’t.

      • L

        Could you share who your photographer was and how you got an awesome deal on her? I am currently planning a Sacramento wedding and photography is one of the only big decisions we haven’t made yet. I have a friend who is an AMAZING professional wedding photographer and was hoping to book her, but for totally legit reasons she is unable to schedule the weekend we ended up going with. Thanks!

    • Meg Keene

      I am a firm believer in the fact that if sticking your head in the sand a little is what makes wedding planning sane for you, then more power to you.

      Also, hello, I’m pretty sure most of us do that right at the end. “Just write the check. Just write it. Just, I never want to hear about it again, SHHHH.”

      • mackenzie

        I was so thrifty for so long and then showed up to our wedding with an envelope of cash and just started handing it out whenever a *crisis* arose. By that time, it was too late to care about cost and shit just had to get done. Shhhhh!

  • MEM

    We had 27 people attend our wedding in Keene, NH on 12/21/2013
    Goal: 3k
    Actual: 4k-ish? a lot of small things slipped through the cracks. we also had a lot of help from family and i’m not sure exactly what they spent on their contributions (hotel, decorations, odds and ends)
    The reason we went over is that I completely forgot to include a few things in the budget (like gifts for wedding party) and because most of it was way more expensive than I was anticipating!

    -the church, minister and related fees: $1000 and the most expensive part.
    -reception dinner: $800
    -cake: $60
    -rehearsal dinner: $600
    -attire: $500
    -Flowers: $40. I made paper flowers from pages of shakespeare and then spent $7 on greenery to go with them. totally worth it because they were absolutely beautiful.
    -photography: $625 (did not cover the reception)
    -invitations: $40 from zazzle
    -wedding party gifts: $100
    -rings: $800

    – worth it: Photographer- we were going to cut costs and have my cousin take pictures, but I’m really glad we spent the extra money. I sort of wish we’d sprung for a longer time so that she would be able to cover the reception as well.

    -not worth it: The minister was worth the $450 but I’m not sure the church and all the extra fees were worth the $550

    • Amy

      Paper Shakespeare flowers?! SWOON.

      • MEM

        thanks! here’s a picture of them!The only thing I may have done differently is be more selective about which plays I used…I’m pretty sure one of them is from Titus Andronicus…

        • Meg

          So lovely! We made book flowers for our books-and-science-themed wedding, too, and I’m also a total Shakespeare buff (and even named one of our tables for him!). We used vintage hardcovers rescued from a local library for the roses, and I absolutely LOVED them — both making them with a super close friend and seeing how they brought everything together on our wedding day! Rock on!

          • MEM

            books and science theme sounds amazing!!! and I agree- making them with my friends was tons of fun

        • Amy

          Those are really, truly gorgeous! I did giggle a little about including Titus in there… :)

        • Kayjayoh

          Titus Andronicus? I’m laughing my ass off, here. Awkward, to say the least. But hilarious. :)

        • MisterEHolmes

          What method did you use? I have started making paper flowers (Old dictionary ftw!) but it’s just taking forever and the slow pace is killing me. Clearly I need to Get On It. But yours are beautiful. Link to the process?

          • MEM

            my friend taught me, but this link is pretty close- I did not cut out the middle, but instead just pushed the wire through the middle and then put a dab of glue to hold it in place. once I got used to it, they didn’t take too long but I also had a lot of help. if it makes you feel better, 90% of them were made about a week beforehand…


            good luck!

          • MisterEHolmes

            Thank you!

        • Marcela

          This was my original plan for flowers before my MIL hijacked the flower arrangements. My heart weeps for the paper flowers that never were.

    • Meg Keene


      Carry on.

  • Anon

    Initial Goal Budget 1: $10K

    Goal Budget 2 (after pricing out every option we could): 20-25K

    Actual Budget: $25,550 (not including reception booze and rehearsal food/booze, which were gifts for which I have no numbers)

    Location: East Coast Small Town (a NYC “bedroom community,” planned from out of state)

    Guests: 125 (225 invited)

    Budget Breakdown:

    Outfits: $500 ($200 dress, $250 Etsy shrug, $50 tie for groom)

    Rings: $500
    Photographer: $2300

    Printed Stuff: $1400 (invitations, escort cards, menus, and programs)

    Flowers: $550 ($465 loose flowers from local florist, $85 thrifted vases, floral supplies, & ribbon)

    Ceremony: $1800 ($750 officiant, $250 Huppah, $500 ketubah, $300 AV rental)

    Reception Venue: $3300

    Reception Catering, Tables, Linens, etc (incl tax and gratuity): $14,000
    Hotel Expenses, Rental Car, Plane Tickets (Bride + Groom) $1100

    What was worth it:

    The Ketubah. It is a beautiful piece of original artwork, and the one non-living thing we’d rescue from our home in a natural disaster.

    The Photographer: I was skeptical about hiring a professional (wanted to DIT) but even though we had many wonderful photos taken by friends, the peace of mind in hiring a professional was totally worth it.

    The Inclusive Venue: cost only slightly more than the rent-the-bathrooms-DIY wedding I had envisioned and priced out, and the latter would not have been possible to pull off (we planned it from out of state, and had only two weekend visits to get things in order,between the engagement and arriving in town 4 days before the wedding)

    • Amy

      I am SO GLAD to see another $10K East Cost wedding that became a $25K East Coast wedding, especially because of the inclusive venue. I’m okay with the same thing happening to our wedding, but seeing how similar your budget and important things are to my budget and important things makes me feel even better.

      • Anon

        Glad it helped, Amy! I don’t regret one penny we spent (even expenditures that I know could have easily been lower if I hadn’t delegated the decision. WORTH IT). However, if you’re thinking of DIY flowers — I was totally clueless about how many to buy.

        We got 200 stems for centerpieces on 12 tables, and 200 stems for bouquets and bouts (4 bouquets, 3 smaller bouquets for younger cousins, and 10-12 bouts).

        This was easily twice as many flowers as we needed. We put the extras in buckets around the venue, and they looked lovely, but they were absolutely not necessary and I felt a bit wasteful about it.

        For centerpieces, we did 12 stems per table, but 8-10 would have been plenty.
        Bouquets and bouts: we ended up using 6 stems per small bouquet and 12 per bridesmaid bouquet (my bouquet had ~20 because we had them and THEY SHOULDN’T GO TO WASTE, DAMMIT but my arms — and my MOH’s — hurt by the end of ceremony.)

        • Amy

          Ohhh, so good to know, thank you!!

          I haven’t really figured out how to do flowers yet. I’ve thought about silks and DIY, so I am SO grateful for your numbers; now I can sort of use that as a guide.

        • Kathleen

          What size were the blooms you were using.. Roses (or bigger, peonies? garden roses?) I’ve been obsessing over how many stems I need, this is really helpful.

          • anon

            Tulips for the tables, irises for the bouts and bouquets (with a bit of baby’s breath to supplement).
            Comparable to medium sized roses.

            Flowers were SO overwhelming for me that I had to go with a single type of flower in a si glue color to reduce the variables. Ended up being very easy.

            We thrifted vases 2 days before the wedding (visited 3 thrift stores) and planned to buy Mason jars if we didn’t find em. Found 20 vases for $20, and returned em to the same store four days later.

        • Kelsey

          I am newly engaged and nothing is more mysterious about this whole process than flowers–how much you need, what they’re going to cost (aside from “a lot”) so thanks for posting.

  • TeaforTwo

    We just got married in Toronto, and Toronto is…pricey. I initially told my fiance that we were to spend “no more than $5K of our own money” on the wedding, and suggested either a cake and punch reception for everyone we know, or a sit-down fancy meal for our immediate families (which total 25 people). Both sets of parents surprised us with very generous contributions to the wedding, and so we wound up having 150 people for afternoon tea. It cost us about $35K all told.

    It…could have been a lot cheaper. I got caught up in a lot of “little” things like wanting to have a fancy cake and wanting a brass quintet for the ceremony that really added up. The big pieces were:

    Venue: $3K (historic schoolhouse)

    Ceremony location: $1K (local church)

    Caterer: $9K (English tea party for 150 guests)

    Booze: $2400 (It was a daytime wedding, so while we provided wine, mulled wine and champagne, folks weren’t drinking to win. Because we knew that consumption would be lower, and because we had no corkage fee on BYO wine, we bought pretty nice stuff.)

    Wedding outfit (mine): $3K for custom-made dress, sparkly shoes, veil and foundation garments

    Wedding outfit (his): $3K for custom-made suit with 2 shirts and 2 pairs of pants. (Great investment, he’s a lawyer and will wear it once a week for the rest of his life.)

    Ring (his): $2K, made from fair-trade 18K gold

    Ring (mine): Free. My mother’s wedding band, purchased for $35 in 1972.

    Photographer $1500

    Rehearsal dinner: $3500 (3-course meal at our favourite restaurant for 25 people with lots of wine)

    Cake: $700 (ridiculous, but I wanted a croquembouche and it was beautiful and delicious)

    Musicians: $650

    Day-of-Coordinator: $400

    Invitations and Paper: $400

    And then miscellaneous expenses like cabs, hotel room for the wedding night, makeup artist, gifts for wedding party, gratuities etc.

    • TeaforTwo

      And, because I think this might be helpful, if I could have a do-over, here is where we could have saved and still had a perfectly wonderful wedding that felt pretty much the same:

      -Cut the booze in half – my in-laws love wine, and the bottles they chose were $20 white, $25 red and $40 sparkling…we could have served tasty wines that cost half as much.
      -My outfit.I loved designing and wearing it, but when my husband was unbuttoning it at 7pm on our wedding night, I realized that I would never wear it again, and it started to feel VERY expensive.
      -Ring (his) – I think we could have found fair trade gold that was less pure (14 or 16K) and it would have been cheaper and still looked nice and been ethical.
      -Rehearsal dinner – I was so excited to buy out our favourite wine bar for the night, but then I was too nervous to taste the food. I would have had a local meatball shop bring in loads of delicious cheap food to the party room in our condo for a total cost of $500 instead.
      -Cake – we ordered enough for each of our guests, and had HALF OF THE CAKE leftover. It’s in my in-laws freezer, but I wish we had just paid half as much for a smaller one.

      • Laura C

        So, one of the fun things about this whole thread is seeing other people’s priorities and getting a sense of different weddings, overall budgets aside. And I have to say, yours is one of the weddings I read about and think “this sounds awesome and I would love it.” No judgment on anyone else, we just all have different priorities for spending, and while my wedding will be very different from yours, yours sounds like I’d love it.

  • BeccaC

    I’m only a few big budgest decisions in (venue, dress, photographer) so I don’t quite know where I will end up, but what I would like to mention is thank you so much for these kinds of honest discussions (I read the discussion like this that happened in 2010 and it was so useful). It helps me feel much better knowing that I’m not the only one who was completely surprised with how much the wedding I want will actually cost in my area. My initial budget felt like so much, but now barely coveres the cost of my venue (with food and drinks). I’ve upped my budget, but it was embarassing to admit to my FH that the wedding would for sure be more than we had planned.

  • Beth R

    Wedding location: Bay Area (Pacifica, specifically)

    We had 70 guests for an evening wedding.

    Your goal budget: I would have loved to stay under 10k, but living in the Bay Area, I knew that would probably be difficult for the number of guests we wanted, etc. Both our parents contributed and we ended up with a total budget of $18k.

    Your actual budget if you’re already hitched: We managed to stay under budget at $13,600! This includes half my dress cost (my grandma got the rest) and a picnic breakfast the next day. We had planned to pay for the rehearsal dinner, which would have added, I think, about $500 to the total, but my husband’s parents grabbed the check before we could. I was so proud of our spending decisions. We went on some awesome honeymoon adventures with some of the leftovers that we might not have done otherwise (ziplining! helicopter ride! lots of drinks!)

    A general breakdown of what you spent:

    Photography: $3000 (2 photographers, 6 hrs)
    Caterer: $2800 (less than half of what other people quoted us and the food/service was awesome – these people are out there, you just have to find them)
    Wedding bands (the rings not the music): $995
    Venue: $850
    Plates/chairs/linens/various other rentals: $820
    Breakfast picnic catering + locations: $770
    Dress: $750
    Gifts for our wedding party: $650 (they did a lot of work for us, including setting up/transitioning the spaces, stage managing the whole day, running sound/music, and doing my hair/make-up, among other things.)
    Alcohol: $595
    Hotel: $520
    Cake: $420
    Suit: $335
    Sound system: $200
    Invitations/envelopes: about $100
    Flowers: $100 (made my own bouquet/wedding party bouquets and that was it – we got married in a greenhouse, so that pretty much took care of the decorations)

    The rest were smaller expenses.

    What was worth it and what wasn’t (again, if already hitched): I think it was all worth the money, but, of the things we purchased, the photographer, the food and the venue were what made the biggest impact on our guests’ experience and our memories of the day. I wouldn’t change any of the big details, maybe a few little ones, but overall, I am happy with the choices we made. We put a lot of thought into each decision (probably too much) and only hired someone/bought something if we felt strongly about it. I was determined not to fall into the WIC trap and, with some minor exceptions, I felt like I succeeded.

    • Auryn

      O.M.G. Thank you for posting this! So many great ideas, I don’t even know where to begin… Actually, I’ll begin at checking out the venue! That sounds like the coolest place ever to have a wedding.

      • Beth R

        It is a really magical place! It’s a bit more hands-on than a normal wedding venue, though, because most of the time it’s a working greenhouse, so keep that in mind. There is no kitchen on site, one bathroom, plants everywhere that you’ll need to move, and somewhat limited space inside for the main events (more than 70 people for a seated dinner would have been…difficult). But Nancy, the woman who runs it is the most laid back person ever and gave us access the day before and the day after at no extra charge. If you contact them, make sure you talk to her and not the guy who works there. It can be really amazing, you just have to get creative!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I’ve lived in Pacifica for 25 years and never heard of a wedding at Shelldance. Did you find caterer research really hard, too? I did, but maybe I was doing something wrong.

      Where did you get your dress?

      • Beth R

        Finding a caterer was the hardest part of planning. It was a nightmare and took us about a month of solid searching, tons of phone calls and meetings, and one awful tasting. I am so glad we found Hola Paella. We didn’t even try their food before booking them – just met with them and went off yelp reviews. Thankfully they were awesome. There has to be a better way to find caterers. Seriously, it’s such a terrible process.

        I got my dress at Lilac Boutique in Alameda – it’s Nicole Miller. Great shop, just don’t use their recommended seamstress.

  • tennymo

    Goal budget: 15,000
    Actual budget: 15,000 give or take $500 or so
    105 guests
    Breakdown: $13,000 on a gorgeous venue (The Mountain Terrace in Woodside, CA) that included tables, linens, food, alcohol, etc. $250 on my dress and shoes, $250 on his suit, $250 on flowers (from the wholesale flower mart in San Francisco), about $400 on cakes from Tartine and Pie’s from Mission Pie, $300 for some rental vans, $200 for a bunch of lawn games. A couple nights in a hotel near the venue and our flights to SF made up the rest of the cost.

    I designed the invites and STDs and we emailed them. Friends arranged flowers, took pictures, DJ’d, played ceremony music, and set up the space gratis. This doesn’t include the rehearsal dinner – I have no idea what the bill was, because my in-laws paid. It was a cocktail reception and buffet for 40 – maybe $3000? I am also not including the wedding jumpsuit I bought for $400 before realizing my now husband finds jumpsuits ridiculous on any occasion. I’m still planning to return it or find another chance to rock it. :)

    Worth it: An all inclusive venue. I resisted this for a long time because I thought it would be corny. But I was planning long distance and having to think about food, drink, rentals and venue all separately would have driven me mad. I loved just picking the venue and having everything taken care of. Not worth it: I wish I had paid for a pro photographer. My friends pictures are lovely, but they didn’t catch everything a pro would have. I just got my frugal face on at a certain point and wouldn’t budge even though it would have been worth a splurge in retrospect.

    • Sophie

      Hi there – my fiance and I are considering The Mountain Terrace. It’s gorgeous! Can I ask what time of year / day of week you were married? We are thinking about an off-season Saturday because it’s just SO much less expensive. Would also love any other thoughts you’re willing to share about MT. Thanks!!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Mountain Terrace was another venue I was sad to turn down (too far from ceremony venue, uncertain weather for November weather).

  • Jessica

    We are planning a 75-person wedding in the metro Detroit area (Pinckney) next fall with a goal of $20k not including our own expenses. Here’s the breakdown so far:

    Venue: $3500 (wayyyy too much, but it’s so beautiful and it was so tough finding something that I gave up)
    Catering + rentals: $4000
    DJ: $500 (friend discount)
    Photographers: $3200 (splurge, but my #1 priority)
    Attire: $2000 (most of that will be dress; fiance wearing a suit he owns; going with cheap shoes and accessories)
    Flowers: $800 planned (diy-ing, with all vessels/vases borrowed, and only 2 bouquets and 10 small arrangements needed)
    Hair: $100
    Alcohol + bartender: $1500
    Lighting: $400

    I am all doing my own makeup, my mom and I are baking all the desserts, my brother is making a cake topper and designing all of the invites and signage, a friend is officiating, and we are not doing favors or transportation for ourselves/bridal party.

  • anon

    Central Coast California (68 guests)
    Planned: $10,000 Actual: $9620
    Venue, tables, chairs, linens: $ 1700
    Food, wine, beer (from our favorite food truck): $2500
    DJ: $600
    Flowers: $350 (bought from a nearby flower farm the day before, I had no idea what kind of flowers I would end up with, but they were beautiful and my friend put together the bouquets)
    Dress, shoes, jewelry, and accessories: $1600
    Photography: $2000
    Grooms attire: $250
    Ceremony: $ 75 for marriage license (wedding was on the beach and our friend was the officient)
    Invitations: $25 Paperless Post
    Make-up: $150
    Cake: $70 – for ingredients only. I baked and decorated our Chipotle Dark Chocolate three tier cake myself : ) I was a cake decorator in a previous life, but baking a tiered cake was a new one for me.
    Decorations: tea lights and luminaria $50
    Wedding bands: $1200
    Hotel, night of: $350
    Weekend house: $350
    Attendants gifts: 350
    We cut costs by forgoing paper invitations and keeping the decorations very simple and inexpensive. A few candles and flowers in recycled jars (thanks APW!) and a few luminaria was it. I don’t regret that at all. I do wish I would have paid the few extra hundred dollars for a second photographer. Our photos took a long time! We didn’t plan a reception dinner, but my in-laws decided a month before that they would like to host one for us, so I don’t know what that cost.

    • KerryMarie

      I am on the Central Coast as well (San Luis)…would you mind sharing the name of the flower farm you bought from? I’m planning on doing my own flowers, but haven’t yet figured out where to buy them. thanks in advance!

  • Hello

    St. Paul, MN — June 2014
    Guests: Max of 189 invited (incl small children); debating lowering it

    Dream budget: $10k
    More likely: $15k

    My parents have generously given us a high number to use towards the wedding with the remainder as a wedding gift, so we are motivated to spend less.

    Ceremony Venue: $900 (I am a member of the church and floored at/uncomfortable with how high this number is)
    Reception Venue: $680, city park pavilions
    Food: max $4k, local organic catering or famous local Italian restaurant
    Booze: max $2k
    Cake: likely Costco, $60?
    Dress: my mom is making it; likely $250 for materials
    His suit: up to $800, but not actually part of the wedding budget b/c he needs a nice one
    Photography: $2250 (hoped for a max of $2k; he hates photography but was surprised by how much he liked this guy; we had talked about only doing 4 hrs but my partner said might as well do 8 hr, which surprised me!)
    Music: tbd, likely playlist, $0
    Rings: $1k max
    Printed stuff: most likely to run over the $400 I have budgeted
    Flowers: bouquet only for me, no clue on cost yet!
    Hair: Probably $100, from a lady I’ve known 20 years (own makeup)
    Games: the park kicks us out at 9:30 and we aren’t big dancers, so instead we’ll have board games and lawn games to buy. Maybe $400?
    DOC/Stage Manager: Thinking of hiring the woman who cleans my parents’ house to watch over the site, keep an eye out for crashers, and set up the reception and manage vendors while the ceremony happens — $400?
    Transportation: tbd
    Honeymoon: We were going to take a big trip anyways, so we aren’t including it in the budget

    Nixing: getting my nails done, favors, lots of flowers, any decorations or centerpieces at the reception

    • Ani

      w00t w00t Saint Paul! I live here too, but am getting married in June in my hometown in southern MN. Your budget sounds reasonable, I was thinking for flowers in June the best thing to do might be to have some friend swing by the farmer’s market downtown that morning– I bet you could get something gorgeous and local for $7, easy. I am hoping to either by bulk flowers from a local farm or get some from the farmer’s market on the day of.

      • Fellow Minnesotan

        Market Flowers next to the downtown Minneapolis farmers market! I did all my flowers (TONS of peonies and greenery, all local) for $300. We arranged ours ourselves, but they also do design and arrangements! 2 bouquets and 3 dozen small table arrangements.

      • Brittany

        Also was a Twin Cities bride! We did our flowers day before at the farmers market by the Basilica, and spent around $100 for seven bouquets of sunflowers, ten pin corsages and the (minimal) flowers we needed for our mostly non-floral centerpieces. I will say that I was spoiled in the floral department though, because my and my fiance’s childhood best friend had just finished a degree in landscaping and floral design and is starting her own floral business, so she knew what she was doing and really took charge to get it done. In other words, I think I would have spent more w/o her help.

    • KC

      I thought our “church” fee was appallingly high until I realized it included: someone setting up and running the sound (and us being able to use the full sound system and piano) in the church the day of, who I think also attended the wedding rehearsal, a sort-of coordinator (who flags in when bridesmaids are supposed to start marching and such, but who also covers what’s allowed vs. not allowed in the church with you beforehand, indicates where things normally go, pins on corsages, and who knows what else), the officiant’s time for the day of and the wedding rehearsal and premarital counseling, and custodial services to keep things okay during the wedding (everything unlocked that should be unlocked, everything locked that should be locked, toilet paper supplied, etc.) and then to get the church back into Sunday-morning-ready shape after the wedding (including re-arranging the sound system and getting the “getting ready” rooms back into their normal state, in addition to probably a full vacuum and whatnot on the real-cleaning side). It worked out to a lot of people for a lot of hours!

      Your church may have substantially fewer people doing things, but they still have to at least unlock/lock everything, make sure that things don’t get damaged (or cover minor damages), and make sure that bits of paper shredded by small guests or used kleenex or random dropped flower petals are cleaned up after the wedding, etc.

      Also, Costco cake is delicious!

      • Cathi

        For comparison, my Chicagoland church’s “building and maintenance fee” for me (a member since birth) was $250, and it included everything you mentioned. $900 for an established member feels uncomfortably high to me too.

        On the other hand! We are a super wealthy congregation with a lot of resources, doing weddings on the regular is part of my pastor’s decent salary (so he was technically “free”), and the coordinator is a cheerful volunteer who just loves our members and loves weddings.

        • 39bride

          Ours was $650 for members; non-members start at about $1800. That includes rehearsal, setup time and access to all areas needed. The facilities manager said a huge part of the cost is air-conditioning, since you can’t turn it on in just the rooms you use (it’s a huge complex there are three systems that can be turned
          on/off. We used two, unfortunately). That was for both ceremony and
          reception, and also included access to the industrial kitchen. I imagine higher prices also reflect demand, maybe?

      • Mary Beth

        Thanks for offering this explanation! I’ve always been shocked when friends are shocked at how much it costs to have a wedding in a church (esp. Catholic church, in my experience) but there really are dozens of things that need to be done at the church (as many or more than secular spaces) that even regular church-goers don’t think about!

    • Anon

      Yeah Twin Cities budget brides! I got married in October 2013 in northeast Minneapolis. We did a fairly traditional ceremony at our church followed by dinner/dancing/drinking at an event hall in our neighborhood.

      Guests: 200
      Budget: $12,500 ($10,000 given from parents)
      Actual budget: $16,000

      Flowers: $1100 (bouquets, bouts, corsages, centerpieces)
      Officiant: $200 (our church was kind enough to waive their $500 fee)
      Reception Venue Rental: $1500
      Reception Decor/Rentals: $900 (chairs and tables were provided for free)
      Photography: $2300 (2 photographers for 8 hours)
      Invitations/Postage/Other Print: $400 (designed and printed for free by friends)
      Buffet Dinner for 200: $3500 (included 5 servers and 2 bartenders)
      Cake: $200
      Beer, liquor, wine, soda, ice: $1000
      Tips: $400
      Other misc. food and snacks for wedding/rehearsal: $600
      Attire, alterations, wedding bands, beauty stuff: $3100
      Musicians: $500 (singer/pianist for ceremony, emcee, DJ, and live band for reception)
      Marriage license, event insurance: $300

      This does not include hotel bill, gifts for wedding party, our two night honeymoon in Duluth, etc. But it gives an idea of what our costs were.

      Ways we saved money:

      – Invitations designed and printed by friends.
      – Table centerpieces created by a relative with wholesale flowers. No favors.
      – Casual rehearsal dinner with pizza and beer.
      – No videographer, just had a relative film the ceremony and parts of the reception.
      – Catering from a neighborhood restaurant and cake from a neighborhood bakery.
      – We brought in our own alcohol and disposable dinnerware.
      – Musicians and emcee were friends and charged us very little.
      – No wedding planner or day-of coordinator (this is maybe the one thing I would splurge on, if I could do it again!)

      We spent more than we initially planned, but I think we did pretty well considering we pulled of a really nice wedding and a fun party for 200 guests, with open bar to boot!

      • Cassie

        I’ll say! I’m amazed you pulled all that off for so many guests on that budget. The food cost seems unbelievably low. Congrats!

        • Anon

          Thank you! We worked with an amazing family-owned Mexican restaurant in our neighborhood that was just getting their catering business started. So they offered us a really good deal, especially considering the high quality of the food and the service that they offered. We also saved money by using disposable dinnerware and silverware, and by serving dinner buffet style. It was definitely less formal than many weddings that I’ve been to, but everyone loved the food. And the most important thing to us was that all of our friends and our huge family could be there. So in the end, it was a bit stressful to make it happen, but everyone had a great time!

    • A.

      As another (future) Twin Cities bride, I wanted to jump in and add my budget (and a few recommendations :-) Our total invited list is 70 people, our likely number is 60ish and we are getting married in May.
      Dream budget: $13k
      More likely budget: $15k
      Our costs for food, alcohol, and flowers are being covered by my parents.

      Church fee is $650 (includes day-of wedding coordinator and making and printing programs for the ceremony) and music fee is $250.
      Reception is $1000 for 11 hour rental (includes on-site coordinator, does not include ~$300 to rent a cop since we are serving alcohol in a venue owned by the county park system)
      Food and alcohol: $5000 (Common Roots Catering has been great to work with so far, especially since we have some food allergies that require special attention; this number includes all labor costs for a buffet dinner and five hours of open bar as well as our cake)
      Clothing: $1000 for my dress, ~$300 more for alterations to the black suit he already owns and my dress.
      Marriage prep classes: $250
      Rentals: ~$750 for linens and flatware since our venue includes tables, chairs, and sound system
      Invitations and Postage: $250 (Designed and printed by APW sponsor A Printable Press)
      Save the Dates and Postage: ~$50 (Designed by a friend, printed at FedEx)
      Photos: $1600 for 12 hours of photography and our engagement photos. I HIGHLY recommend Erin Dahlin; we loved our engagement photos, she has been great to work with, and her rates are incredibly reasonable!
      Flowers, rings, and license costs are still TBD. For flowers I’m hoping to come in under $1000 with a combination of bulk flowers arranged in simple vases on the tables and using a florist to make the bouquet and flowers for the wedding party. Hope this is helpful and happy planning to all!

  • m. lopshire

    Goal budget: $13,000

    Actual budget $13,600 (of which $800 was a gift)

    Location: Ipswich MA

    Number of guests attended: 123

    Ceremony site, reception facility, and cake cutting fees were waived
    Food & Beverage: $8,300
    Champagne toast: $800 (gifted by parents)

    Music (DJ plus pianist): $900
    Photography: $600 (went with a photographer friend and was his first wedding.)
    Flowers: $120 (DYI using an online wholesaler)
    Rings: $315
    Cake and pastries: $200
    Stationary: $120 (made our own invites using paper stock from Staples and Microsoft Publisher)

    Wedding Dress and accessories: $730 (made by a friend)

    Tuxedo: $500 (purchased)
    Wedding party and officiant gifts: $600
    Favors (wedding and rehearsal dinner): $150

    Decorations: $150

    Marriage License: $25

    What worked: We made all the invitations, floral arrangements, and table centerpieces. The facility and their events planner made the day in more ways than one. Having a fiance willing to shop around for the best price. Having friends who worked well as vendors.

    What didn’t: Doing everything ourselves and not taking up offers for help.

  • twofishgirl14

    Your goal budget = originally $6,000, upped to $9,000 when we realized that we had no idea what things actually cost.

    A general breakdown of what you spent = we’re still 8 months out from the date, but we’ve booked our venues and made the major money choices. So far we’re on track.
    The church costs $450.
    The reception venue has a $700 room fee and then we anticipate spending about $4500 on food for 100 – 115 guests (we’re inviting 130, mostly local and family, so we anticipate very high turn out) which breaks down to about $30 per plate and then $700 – $1000 on appetizers. With tax and gratuity and cake and all that mess the total for the reception is about $6000.
    My dress cost $1,100, one of our few splurges because OMG guys this dress.
    I’ve found a seller who makes wooden and paper flowers (Accents and Petals) and can get the bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres through her for about $300.
    We’re using the table settings that come with the venue, but we’ve decided to put a blue wine glass at every setting to act as both decor and guest favor. We found them on the dollar tree website, which allows you to do free shipping if you ship to one of their store. 132 wine glasses = $139. Bam.
    We’re going with Little Borrowed Dress for the bridesmaids, which is cheap enough that they can cover their own dresses. We don’t have any groomsmen.
    The groom’s family is paying for his suit.
    A dear friend of ours is a semi-pro photographer and he’ll take our photos for about $400 (a steal!).
    We’re DJing ourselves and borrowing speakers from a friend. I’ll be doing my own make up. We’re using Honeyfund to have people help us pay for the honeymoon, since we don’t need any home furnishings. My uncle is the officiant. We expect to spend about $600 on miscellaneous shit — my hair, a hotel room, table numbers, candles, whatever.

    And most importantly, your location = Portland, Maine

    • twofishgirl14

      Oh, I forgot to say that we’re doing Paperless Post for invites and Save the Dates, and my mother has offered to cover the cost of alcohol. We haven’t budgeted for wedding bands yet but really should.

      • Jenna

        If you don’t mind driving a bit, Emily and Greg at North Country Fair Jewelers in North Conway do fabulous work for reasonable prices. They’re going to be making our bands, and Emily made me an absolutely stunning engagement ring. Highly recommend talking to them!

    • KC

      Amen on the “realizing we have no idea what things actually cost”. I haven’t posted a budget here, since we actually didn’t know how much things cost in the end (partly due to reimbursing a lot of friendors who were doing things at-cost as a wedding gift, partly due to Wedding Insanity, partly because my parents paid for some things and I paid for some things and my husband paid for some things, and a lot of it was hand-done and therefore purchased here and there [invitations: paper store, office supply store, copy shop, post office, craft store], and none of us kept track and at this point there’s no way we could reconstruct it).

      However, I can definitely say there were Surprises, some of which could have been extrapolated logically just by thinking through things like “punch for several hundred people is really quite a lot of punch” (my parents were drinking leftover cranberry juice from frozen concentrate for possibly six years after the wedding, and I think they *still* have some of the leftover fancy parmesan cheese frozen…) and some of which were more “oh, I didn’t think about there being custodial charges”, “wait, gold is *how* expensive?” sorts of things.

    • aurelius042

      I can’t figure out how to order flowers from Accents and Petals? Could you post a link?

      • twofishgirl14

        You know what, I haven’t actually ordered the flowers and my two emails to her to try to place my custom order have gone unanswered. I love her work and hope that I can use it, but right now I’m not sure if she’s up and running. Either way, here’s the link to her store: http://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/studio/AccentsandPetals

    • Jenna

      Hooray, Portland! Where did you get your dress?

      • twofishgirl14

        Andrea’s Bridal. They were super nice! Their store felt like a good compromise between affordable-with-big-selection (David’s Bridal) and designer-brands-with-personal-attention (hella expensive boutiques).

  • MisterEHolmes

    Planning a DFW, Texas wedding for June now. Est. 120 guests.

    Goal budget: $10,000.
    Actual budget: probably more than that. We can’t keep things within our target breakouts, even though we are really trying.

    Ceremony/officiant: My church, free.
    Reception: $2600. We have to decorate the interior. ($100 over budget)
    Dinner at reception: $1720, from a down-home-cooking restaurant ($220 over budget)
    DJ: $800. Exactly budget.
    Photographer: $1400; $600 over budget except we got a $1000 gift from his grandmother which we applied to the photography, giving us a small surplus.
    Dress: $754 before alterations. $4 over budget…so far.
    My ring: $320. Over budget but fiance insisted this was worth it, so we “aren’t counting” that over budget part.
    Save the Dates: $25 printing (Vistaprint); $47 in stamps.

    Invites will be $50 for rights to image, then estimated at $250 to print/etc., plus $120 in stamps (invite, RSVP, 1 thank you). This would have been over budget by about $300. But this “doesn’t count’ because his parents offered to pay for it. They are also paying for the rehearsal dinner or appetizer feast. We didn’t do engagement photos because of the cost.

    I will say *how* we are paying also matters. We got a travel-points credit card, with plans to use any points gained for honeymoon/first-year-married travel, and put *everything wedding-related* on that (I just put *everything* on it, as it is in my name, and we get more points that way). We are saving upfront to pay for the wedding, and pay off the credit card in full every month.

  • Moe

    First we eloped. Total cost $129. $60 for a marriage license and $69 for a wedding chapel package a few blocks away that included a bouquet of silk flowers from their collection, photographs on a CD we took home, a souvenir certificate, and the photographer doubled as our witness for no extra cost because it was a slow day.
    Then, we came home and planned a wedding for family and friends. We had 100 guests in my friend’s backyard for a total cost of about $6k. We had a little bit of help from our parents but not much. A taco man grilled on site, and we made a large batch of sangria from wine bought in bulk at Fresh n Easy.

    • Aubrey

      This gives me so much hope! We’re planning a So Cal backyard wedding with a taco man too. Everyone says our $10,000 budget is crazy, but I really think we can pull it off! Who made your tacos? :)

  • VermontAnon

    Location: Outside of Burlington, VT in a lovely event barn.
    Goal Budget: 20k
    Actual Budget: Nearly 28k
    Expenditure Breakdown: Venue rental for Saturday wedding plus Friday setup and rehearsal dinner – 5.5k, Rentals (chairs and some catering equip.) – $670, Catering (food, drinks, and service) – nearly 15k including gratuity, Photography – 3k, Cupcakes – $400, Flowers – 1.1k, Invitations and STDs – $350 PLUS over $100 in stamps, Officiant fee – $500, Rings – $650, Shuttle for guests – $175, Attire – $800, Decorations – maybe $100, Attendant gifts – around $400 (we had 11 attendants). We also received very generous gifts of maple syrup favors from one aunt, burlap and lace table runners from another aunt, and yet another aunt emceed for us! Also, one set of parents paid for BBQ rehearsal dinner and the other set paid for Sunday brunch, the costs of which are not included in the above budget.
    What WAS worth it: We had SO much trouble deciding on a caterer… after much researching, e-mailing, and several interviews, we knew it was going to totally bust our budget if we went with someone we had confidence in, but it really was worth it. Food and drinks were awesome, but what might have been even better was the service – not something I thought would have mattered much, but then I found out about a month after the wedding that the caterers had swiftly and very quickly cleaned up some under the table vomit and never mentioned it! Also worth it, self-DJing using my laptop, Spotify, and borrowed sound equipment.
    What WASN’T worth it: Having my very busy mother in law alter my dress for free – I didn’t have much of a choice, but I really wasn’t happy with the final fit :-/ The only other thing I might reconsider if I had to do it all over again are e-vites or at least virtual RSVPs.

  • Not actually sure what my overall wedding budget was… but the breakdown:

    ceremony – $400, plus a box of chocolates for everyone who helped out (3 musicians, 2 sound/powerpoint people, 2 ushers, 3 tea-and-coffee people). We didn’t have any food after the ceremony, because just having a packet of biscuits would have meant that our event was now a totally different thing, tax-wise, and the church would have had to charge us another $300.

    reception – $120 a head, for a three-course sit-down meal, DJ included, plus all decorations, and overnight accommodation for the two of us.

    dresses – Mine cost very little, because my mother made it. (By “very little” I mean $1000 for a dressmaker’s pattern and about $2000 in fabric. In the shops, the same dress was nearly $8000.) My bridesmaid dresses were bought from a standard range, but made in the colour/fabric we chose. They cost about $300 each, including alterations.

    flowers – About $1000, which covered 4 bouquets, 4 corsages, and 4 buttonholes. Beautiful, and definitely worth it. (We looked into doing it with artificial flowers and arranging them ourselves, but there actually wasn’t much of a price difference.)

    cars – Nothing. We were driven by friends of the family – who put ribbon on the cars, so I guess they cost $10 for ribbon…

    invites – $100. We bought nice paper, designed an invite in Word, printed them out at Officeworks, and stamped them.

    photography – Nothing. Two friends did the photos.

    hair/makeup – $800, but mainly because it was a morning wedding and I needed to pay early start fees. It would have been much cheaper to marry in the afternoon.

    child minding – $200 for a reception babysitter. She brought activities for all 8 kids, who could stay with her or come into the reception room at any point.

    other expenses that I have no idea of the cost of: suit hire, cake, honeymoon

  • jhs

    Ok, here’s how ours is breaking down, inviting 150 to a wedding in Long Island City, New York. Very lucky to have family budget for this.

    Venue: $6k, including tables and chairs
    Day-of Coordinator: $1800
    Hair/Makeup: $1210, for me, mom, MIL, sister, SIL and aunt
    Catering: About $10k, for a full, family-style dinner, all locally sourced when possible, plus a full bar.
    Dress: $2k, and something I will hem and wear again
    Suit: I think about $1k, and something he will definitely wear again
    Invitations: Not sure yet, but only paying for paper since a friend is designing them
    Music: $1750, for a DJ
    Ceremony Music: Free, friend playing guitar
    Officiant: Free, friend
    Flowers: Mom is buying some narcissus plants and cutting them for a casual bouquet day-of
    Decorations: Yet to be seen, but venue doesn’t need much
    Silverware/Linen rental: Not sure yet
    Photography: $2000

    Hope that helps!

  • macrain

    There is not a lot that is fun about budgeting, but I will say it feels liberating to be ruthless about slashing things from our budget we don’t care about and will happily use on something else. We’re not having a cake. No champagne toast. No favors. No hotel bags. No programs. We did hire a day of coordinator, which I can already tell will be worth every penny.
    The other thing I will say about budgeting is that we quickly realized we couldn’t have the kind of wedding we wanted in New York, where we lived. It felt so stressful to give that up, but now I’m so glad that we did. It’s an APW cliche but it’s true- once you prioritize what really matters to you, things start to make sense and fall into place.

    • CinDC

      Slashing is exhilarating. And zen. Best of luck, you can do it! I promise, people won’t remember what “wasn’t” there.

    • Nikki

      I didn’t even know hotel bags were a thing until I started looking in to getting married! I’m not doing that, or favors, or toasts. I may print up some programs though…just because that can be done quite inexpensively.

    • JM

      Agree! I love eliminating the parts that just don’t fit my fiance and me. Talking about what to leave out of our budget has been more eye-opening for my relationship with him than discussing where to put bigger percentages of the wedding budget since those are more overt (for us venue comes in as the top cost). Like, I loved hearing how much he looks forward to our first dance as husband and wife so it’s a tradition we will keep.

  • MisterEHolmes

    I’d just like to say how awesome it is to see a post about how expensive weddings can be and NOT ONE COMMENT telling people to never get married, just elope and not tell anyone, or complaining that we’ll all be divorced by next year. Someone should bottle APW — it’s one refreshing place.

    • Liz

      It is AMAZING! I can’t believe a place like this exists, but I’m glad I know about it.

    • Laura C

      Or my favorite, the completely false “how long a marriage lasts is inversely proportional to the cost of the wedding.” If that was true, Vegas marriages would last forever, among other things.

      • Meg Keene

        Is this my favorite comment of all time? Maybe.

    • Winny the Elephant

      My cousin posted on facebook today an article ridiculing women who choose to get engaged at 23 because the divorce rate is so high and listing other things they should do like “eating a jar of nutella in one sitting” and “making out with a stranger”. Given that she JUST RSVP’d to my wedding and I’m 23 I can’t help but be a little insulted… Really nice huh?

      • MisterEHolmes

        Ouch. That’s not very nice, even when it’s not so close.

        • C_Gold

          As if you can’t enjoy eating obscene amounts of Nutella with your spouse! That’s one of me and my fiance’s favorite things!

          More generally, there’s something truly icky about the sentiment that, basically, once you get married your fun life is over. Whatevs, author of that piece.

          I was not ready to get engaged at 23. Now, at 32, I am. My sister has one of the happiest marriages I know, and she got engaged at 22, married at 23. People just have to know themselves. My sister, now married for several years, also continues to eat plenty of Nutella.

      • Jen

        One of my friends posted that last week too! (eI just got married at 21 and 22.) My favorite part of that article is that all of those things she lists to do at twenty three instead of getting married can very well be done as a married person anyway, and maybe even better enjoyed that way, like traveling or eating a jar of Nutella.

        • lp

          I second (and third, and fourth) all these comments on that ludicrous “23 things..” article circulating around facebook lately. As a 21 year old happily engaged to a 22 year old (who have been together 5 years and counting) I find it absurd. I sat down with my fiance to show that list to him (because I am human and sometimes I doubt being engaged young) and turns out I have already completed 20 of them….

          I could sit here and divulge in how much I have accomplished at 21 and how much more I have awaiting for me in an attempt to justify my young engagement (but 2.5 year pending nuptials, no rush here) but I am (and still learning) to be content with who I am and my decisions. We are all different and society deems what is appropriate and taboo in America. Going against the grain is what is being done for educated, young and strong females (and males!) I hope that woman who wrote that article learned something by it and I do not wish bad upon her but enlightenment. All our lives take different paths, let’s continue to respect that.

          This is why I love APW! xoxo

      • Lauren from NH

        Yep, saw that article last week too. I am turning 24 next month and probably getting engaged for my birthday or there abouts. The worst part I thought was just how petty her reasoning was. Especially her sign off, “But then I realize that those friends are going to get knocked up and fat soon sssoooo in retrospect, who really is winning here?” Just what a yucky attitude? It’s one thing if you think young marriage is ill advised or wrong for you, but you can back it up with class, this is just heaps and heaps of judgement and coming from a place of me vs them, for me to be okay they have to be doing it all wrong because we both can’t be right. That’s just not how it works.

      • Emily Ardoin

        I read that article too, and was so disappointed! I did, however, find some great responses to the article that took a much more level headed approach. I especially love this article (http://justaylored.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/24-things-to-do-instead-of-getting-married-before-youre-24-a-response/) because it stipulates that even though this is a list of things to do before you get married, it’s also really fun to do all of those things WITH a person you love as well. I was pretty disappointed with the first article, but the responses were (mostly) great.

    • Meg

      They wouldn’t be a very good wedding planning website if they told people to not get married :)

  • Kelsey

    We’re getting married in Denver in September. Our original budget was the $10,000 we figured out that we could save together- which was super empowering because we feel like we live from (social worker) paycheck to (nonprofit employee) paycheck most of the time. Both sets of parents generously offered to assist so we upped the budget to $15,000. I think, really, we’ll end up closer to $20,000, not including the honeymoon.
    So far we’ve got…

    Venue: Art Gallery (Artwork Network) I believe ended up being $3200
    Food Truck (Steubens): Almost $3000 (not being intentinally vague, just not looking at the contract!)
    Photographer (moodeous photography): $2800
    Day of Coordinator (Hourglass events): $500

    So we’ve still got a few big ticket items to look at, but I’m not feeling panicky. Yet…?

    • Gina

      Fellow Denver-ite here– just wanted to say a Steubens food truck caterer= brilliant!! Love their food.

      • Kelsey

        Thanks Gina! We knew before we got engaged- burgers and roasted brussels sprouts= wedding food! I’m also hoping for Voodoo Donuts in lieu of wedding cake, but I need them to keep some regular f’ing hours already so I can go and try!!

  • Kiki P-D

    Our small ceremony cost $2240. That includes: license, location, our clothing and rings, the officiant, and the photographer. We had ten guests, and the location was a pavilion in a city park in the Oklahoma City metro. After, we all went to lunch at a hibachi place. That ran $355 with tip.

    A few days later we threw a party for about 70 people in an American Legion hall. That ran $2052, including the location, food and drinks (no alcohol), decorations, invitations, and two students to act as waiters and general helpers. We wore the same clothes.

    Add in the $100 we paid for cleaners to come do our house because we’d been too distracted to mess with it in far too long, the total was $4747. More than we would have liked, but we could afford it and it was worth it. The ceremony, especially, was everything we’d hoped for. The only thing I’d have done differently is not buy so much food for the party. Months later and we still have stuff in our freezer.

    • CinDC


  • Jacquelyn

    Rancho Cucamonga, CA

    Original: $10k
    Actual: $16k

    Guests: 200

    Venue: $3650
    Food: $2300
    Rentals: $2500
    Attire: $1500
    Photography: $1900
    Decorations: $500
    Coffee bar: $500
    Photo booth: $500
    Favors: $875
    Set up/clean up: $800

    I too used the Google Docs Wedding Planner in conjunction with APW’s spreadsheets. Life savers!! First thing I did with the budget was delete the items I was not needing/wanting (aisle runner, parking attendant, etc.) We based our original budget on what we could save/afford and were blessed with our parents contributing additional dough.

    Worth it:

    Set up/clean up; this is something we totally could have organized and accomplished but opted for the time-is-money logic and paid the venue to handle everything

    Coffee bar/photo booth; people are still raving about the lattes and photo strips

    Our day; it was perfect to us

  • Naomi

    I got married in Maidenhead, Berkshire, UK, in October 2012. We had a wedding for 65, with canapés and a three course sit down dinner plus cheese buffet in the evening. We provided champagne and soft drinks for the drinks reception and wine for the wedding breakfast. We had paid for bar in the evening. Our wedding in total cost £14,500, approximately. We didn’t really have a budget, just paid for things as we went along and as each pay day came. We also had a £1000 contribution from my in laws and my parents paid for my dress and contributed about £4000 on top of this. Part of this was after the wedding when we were still paying off (interest free) credit card debt and had not been able to have the honeymoon we would have liked in an ideal world.

    Breakdown is as follows:
    Catering: £4847
    Venue- beautiful small barn for ceremony and threshing barn
    And animal engine room for reception at manor house dating from 14th century: £1570
    Registrar: £420
    giving notice of intention to marry: £70
    Booze (champagne and wine, all bought in supermarket when on offer): £600
    harpist at ceremony and drinks reception: £420
    live five piece band for reception: £1140
    Photography (day of, pre wedding shoot, all photos on disc for us to print) :£996 – got this as a deal on groupon
    Wedding cake- 3 tier, all chocolate, discount as mil used to work for John Lewis- £200
    My dress (much more than I would have ever spent, mum
    Bought this for me or I would have wed in jeans!)- £1300
    Sister’s bridesmaid dress- £150
    morning suits for husband, best man and my dad: £300 ish- best man gifted this to us
    Rings:£1500(Inc engagement ring)
    Wedding car( Mark 2 jaguar): £340. Also used our land rover defender!
    Accessories, shoes etc: £75
    Decor: pretend flowers, vintage books, handmade by us signs, homemade bunting, plants, etc: £300.
    £100 on making cakes for a dessert table for the evening.
    Probably about £300 ish on vintage crockery which we used to decorate the tables

    I spent a lot of time crafting making and ebaying to make the decor and individual touches come together, did my own hair and make up and we volunteered in Northumberland for our honeymoon with the volunteer group we met through. I loved our wedding but it certainly cost more than I originally anticipated!

    I put a lot of work

    • Notice of intention to marry? I’ve never heard of that…mind enlightening me a little?

      • Naomi

        In England you have to give notice of your intention to marry at your local register office at least 14 days before you intend to marry. This can be done up to a year before the marriage happens. This is the case for all civil marriage ceremonies, civil partnerships and for most religious wedding ceremonies, although not for church of England weddings as they will read the banns for you in the church where you are going to marry in the weeks leading up to the wedding.

        We had to go to our local register office with identity documents where they talked Tonys separately and together to make sure we hadn’t been married before and that it was s genuine and not a sham marriage (for immigration or Other purposes). My husband couldn’t remember my exact job title through nerves and had to pop out and ask me during his part of the interview. Fortunately the registrar saw the funny side!

        Once you’ve given notice they display publicly a notice of your intention to marry or enter into a civil partnership ( for same sex couples, but same sex marriage will be legal here from march so guess these will not be used so much!). This is so anyone who objects because they know you are not legally entitled to marry, one of you already being married for instance can let the authorities know or object at the ceremony.

        Displayed publicly just means outside the register office do not really that public! And just another little expense and another thing to do before you get married in this country.

  • SaMant1s

    I knew I was saving my budget spreadsheet for a post like this.

    Location: Anchorage, Alaska

    Goal budget: $5,000
    Actual budget: $7,100

    About $1,500 of that was on apparel, like our rings and my dress and his suit. The suit we justified because he needed one and he’s already used it for other weddings and funerals. The dress was a nightmarish situation and I overbought because of peer pressure from my mom. The reception including venue rental and the catering was just over $3,600 because the golf club (not the original choice) had an all-in-one deal that we picked to throw money at the problem and not have to think about it anymore. The cheapest photography package we could find was $1,600. Flowers and decorations were just over $200. And the remainder, which was stuff like invitations and the license was about another $200.

    Was it all worth it? I don’t know. Not really. If I’d known more about weddings in general (my family is a courthouse elopement family) I think I could’ve prepared better and not given into the pressure to spend, spend, spend. The license was worth it and the flowers were gorgeous and I adore the wedding bands I picked out. Plus, my husband really *really* needed a suit. But if I could go back in time I would do things differently.

  • enfp

    This is such a helpful and needed discussion, thank you APW! We are planning for 150-175 guests in Toronto, Ontario. Our goal budget was initially 15,000 but when we tallied up our guest list and realized how much things actually cost that we had not thought about (eg staffing) we’re now planning for 25,000. Here’s the current goal budget broken down. We’ve booked the venue, catering, transportation and photographer at this point. Everything else we haven’t got to yet and the costs are our own guesses/self-imposed limitations.
    – venue 5300 (this was a big shock to me but I did a ton of research… and this seemed like industry standard in Toronto for comparable venues once all their secret hidden fees were revealed)
    – transportation for guests 1000
    – catering (including staffing) 8000
    – DIY booze (cost of bartenders included in catering) 1500
    – photographer 2500
    – dress/clothing 1000
    – invitations 300
    – sound rentals 200
    – turntable rentals 200
    – decoration 1400
    – rings 2000
    – Unanticipated incidentals 1000
    We are having a friend DJ and I think our officiant will be also be a friend, so we haven’t budgeted for that, though will need to budget for gifts, hmm. Decorations/flowers will be minimal/DIY. Our priority was the venue and the food. As for other things, if it’s not on the budget above we’re not doing it, or DIY’ing (eg the rest of our music will be ipod, no videographer, doing own hair and makeup). I actually can’t believe that a wedding costs this much, but there it is.

  • anonima

    We had a goal of about $35k because my husband’s parents gave us $26k (because that’s the maximum allowable gift amount without having to pay taxes on it) and would have given us more if we so much as blinked in that direction. We made sure not to take anything else from them, because $26k is a massive amount of money. (They also paid for the rehearsal dinner, as well as all gratuities on the actual day.)

    The wedding ended up costing about $40k overall, for 85 people, in Philadelphia, PA.

    Venue rental (ceremony and reception in the same place): $4500
    Catering: $17,000
    Photographer: $3,200
    Dress: $1,400
    A/V: $4,500
    Invitiations etc.: $600
    DJ: $1,000
    String quartet: $1,500
    Cake: $300 (Whole Foods!)
    And the rest is just a big jumble of numbers.

    I do feel enormously grateful that we had a larger budget to work with. It made it massively easier to plan a wedding (while going to school and working full time), but as a result, I now no longer know what a dollar is. I’m just going to say it. I don’t even know how to answer the question “What was worth it?” because while a $17,000 catering bill would previously have made me swoon, on the other end, all I can think is, “I’m married and I don’t have to think about it anymore so yes, it was worth it.”

    The food was incredible, though, I’ll say that. So I guess maybe, WIC-wise, it was worth it.

    The one thing that was SUPER DUPER WORTH IT was the photographer. He was magnificent, and as I sit here, typing from my work desk, I’m smiling at an 8×10 print of my favorite wedding picture. This is what we’ll have in our later years as our memories of the garlic chicken fade, so if I had to advise anyone to splurge on something, splurge on that!

    • guest

      Suburban Philly bride here – would you mind sharing the info on your photographer? Did your cost include prints/books or just the time for shooting? We got a quote of 4200 for 8 hrs, 2 photographers, plus 2 parent books, 1 book for us, plus a few large prints.

      Love the cake idea from WF!

  • CinDC

    Ooof, budget was the HARDEST part of dealing with everything. We both live in Washington, DC and work in fields where it doesn’t pay you any more than national average salary. Neither of us had any savings to speak of, and neither of our families were in a position to help financially.

    WHERE WE STARTED: we both lived separately in teeny tiny studio apartments for roughly the same rent, so we moved in together put what we would have used for the other half of rent into a savings account. We picked a date (early spring 2013) that aligned with friend-and-family school breaks/finals, and worked backwards to see how much we could reasonably save. Amount we estimated? About $10,500.

    NEXT STEPS: how to fit a wedding into the budget… We realized most family wouldn’t be able to travel and stay in DC near the Cherry Blossom Festival, so we cut down the guest list to just family, siblings/their spouses, and close friends. Small guest list = our favorite pub upstairs became reception venue. We realized that we could slash prices across the board with a weekday wedding, and that all of our close friends/family would be open to come during the week if we asked. We then found a park that would let us hold a reception, and were off to the races…

    PRIORITIES: great photography and custom designed wedding bands for me, open bar for him, minimal fuss for both of us

    HOW IT BROKE DOWN (roughly):

    Estimated budget – $10,500
    Guests invited – 30

    Courthouse marriage license – $45
    Ceremony venue – $200 for wedding permit within the DC park system
    Reception (food + open bar for 4 hours + tax/tips) – $4,000 (! for real !)
    Photographer – $2,100 (an APW fabulous vendor lady that gave us a great discount for a weekday wedding)
    Rings – $2,300
    *Dress – $300 for material, NOT INCLUDED IN TOTAL (see below)*
    Shoes/necklace – $60 (Etsy = baller)
    Flowers – $350 (wholesale varieties in season, DIY with wedding party night before)
    Gifts for wedding party – $170
    Invitations – $180 (designed/printed at home on my Epson 1400 printer; ink, paper, address stamp, envelopes)
    Cake & cupcakes – $100 for ingredients/supplies (baked ’em myself; small layer cake + 3 dozen cupcakes)
    Decorations – $420 (cafe lights, candles/holders, paper-based craft decor: tissue paper for pinwheels, paper punch for garland, etc.)
    Reception decor setup – $400 (another APW fabulous vendor lady was FANTASTIC and handled reception setup day-of, gave us a great deal for weekday wedding)
    Guest gifts – wrapped in with above (printed poster of cool graphic from invites + homemade cookies)

    Actually spent (roughly) – about $10,700
    Guests attended – 27

    *My mom is a professional costume designer and made my dress… We found a gorgeous lustrous brushed cotton that I loved better than all the other expensive fabrics for $7.50/yard on sale, which allowed for us to splurge on a $50/yard silk for a sash with pearl beading. Ladies, look outside the bridal section! White fabric exists in surprising places!*

    ACTUAL COST: when you factor in a flight home for a dress fitting, a week-long honeymoon (MN off-season cabin on Lake Superior!), a nice dinner for the two BFFs that accompanied us to our super secret courthouse marriage three months beforehand, rehearsal dinner (pizzas delivered for our wedding party that helped with the night-before-madness) and other craziness… Probably closer to $15,000 when all is said and done. We didn’t include honeymoon in the initial wedding budget, since it took place after the ceremony/we saved a bit more for it after. His parents also graciously chipped in a surprise amount that helped with this.

    WHAT HELPED: DIY everything, and realize when you can’t. Baked goods = yummy, full of love, and inexpensive. Pick an in-season flower that can be arranged simply by you and friends. Letterpress is awesome and graphic-designer porn, but making something beautiful and using a quality printer/paper at home still packed a punch. Same with homemade favors for the guests. We also picked having a buffet style dinner in an intimate pub on H Street (grittier area of DC, great for foodies) to keep costs down.

    BIGGEST IMPACT: off-season weekday wedding made all the difference. Our vendors (who shall remain nameless) cut us great deals because we got married during the week. The cost of our reception venue was much less (we had to make up their average dinner/bar revenue for a weeknight during our window of time; much less than a Friday or Saturday). Early in the spring meant a better deal too, including for our honeymoon. And finally, a small guest list made all of the above possible.

    DC can be scary and intimidatingly expensive for events. Think about places and sights that are special to you, and see if you can make things fit for venues. More likely than not, a small pub filled with wonderful people and hilarious, favorite bartenders will make you happier than renting out some gallery or museum space. Get real with what parameters you have: there’s beauty within it, I promise.

    (((APW, I promise I’m working on a “How We Did It” post to go into more detail!)))

    • CinDC

      Forgot to add:

      Guests transported themselves to reception, husband typed in measurements and purchased vintage designer suit on Ebay for $250, not in the budget. Fit like a glove!

      • CinDC

        Forgot forgot to add:

        No DJ… just the usual Pandora station that’s always playing, as the bartenders at this particular pub have always had great music taste. Plus, didn’t even notice.

    • Laura C

      Are you willing to say what was the reception venue? Just idle curiosity from a former DC resident.

      • CinDC

        Sure, The Queen Vic on H Street, NE… Ryan (owner) is HILARIOUS and amazing, and they’ve never had a wedding there before. They do have private parties all the time, so they know how to handle catering. Check ’em out!

        • meagan

          I’m pretty sure I was at the Queen Vic the night of your wedding! Amazing! We are planning an on-the-cheaps, early spring, restaurant/pub-reception DC wedding, too! A weeknight is pretty much out of the question for us, but I’m definitely tucking away your other brilliant ideas. Did you check out any other reception options? We’re looking at a place in Bloomingdale, but we live in Capitol Hill and love H Street.

    • mackenzie

      Woohoo for 30 person weddings! I loved our 30 person wedding!

    • anon

      I’m also getting married in DC (well, we’re actually doing it just outside DC in the ‘burbs to make things a bit cheaper for us and our guests). Our budget was $10K for approximately 80 guests.

      We’re getting married at our church, which will cost us around $1050 for the officiant and piano player.

      Reception will be brunch at a local hotel. We are getting a ton of food for less than $30/person. We’re having an open bar also. We estimate with tax and gratuity the total will be around $3500.

      My dress was $3300 and I’ll probably spend another few hundred on alterations. (This was the budget-buster!)

      My husband-to-be will spend another $800 or so on a nice suit.

      Our photographer costs $1250. And the photos in their portfolio are gorgeous.

      Other miscellaneous expenses…I’ll buy accessories and I’m paying for hair/makeup to be done for me and 2 of my girlfriends, all of which will come out to around $600 or so. (I got a great deal!) We bought our invitation pattern on Etsy and had them printed up at an Office Max for $42. Including the pattern, paper, and postage the invites will probably come out to around $200 or $250.

      We aren’t doing flowers. At all. Period. I went back and forth on this 802348 times…I talked to several florists but could never give a clear picture of my “vision” for the flowers, so they all stopped talking to me (seriously!) and I realized it’s not worth all the stress and money to have flowers that will be tossed out after a few hours. Our venue is providing us with free centerpieces (mirrors and candles) and that’s good enough for me.

      Someone is making the cake for us as a gift, but we’ll pay our venue $1/slice for cake-cutting (included in my reception budget above).

      Total: $10,750. Which is way better than I ever thought I could do in DC for a party the size of ours.

      Note – I didn’t include rings in this budget, but between the two of us we spent around another $3,000 on rings.

      • CinDC

        Yeah, we had been looking at a few places outside DC and we decided on a small party/favorite pub rather than larger wedding. Rock on for making yours work in the area: that’s no small feat! I bet it was beautiful :)

        • Rachel

          As a DC-area resident, our approach was to run! and plan it long-distance to where our family lives in NC. but man, how lovely would it be to have it in the area!

          • Anon

            We did the same! We live in DC, but got married in southwestern Virginia.

          • MDBethann

            We did the same thing. We live between Baltimore & DC but our families are all in PA so we did the distance wedding planning & got married in much cheaper (but not as cheap as I thought it would be) Pennsylvania.

      • dc in dc

        anon, if you get this I could use some tips. Feeling so overwhelmed by how expensive food is in DC– we’re thinking 100-120 probably. How did you go about tracking down affordable brunch places that could seat a crowd?

    • Brit

      I wish my guy and I could plan a wedding for only 30 people, but just between our immediate families (both our parents are divorced and remarried with step- and half-siblings out the wazoo – 6 on each side!) we come to about 30 people!

  • Peekayla

    Our ideal budget is 10K, but we’re aiming to save 13K, just in case. Luckily my parents are paying for my dress ($700 before fittings) and his brother is going to pay for the rehearsal dinner (both things we had originally planned on paying for ourselves), so we have a bit more leeway than we originally thought!
    Our venue is about 1,500 for renting the space for both the ceremony and reception, includes set up, breakdown, cleaning, and day-of wedding coordinator
    I splurged on our photographer, almost 2k and our engagment shoot photos were $150 (for all rights) and it’ll be the same for our wedding photos
    DJ is about 800 (or 850, my paperwork isn’t with me right now), and he also does tuxes, so we’ll get a discount on my honey’s tux since we’re using him for both services (and the groomsmen can change after the reception and give them to the DJ directly, no figuring out how to get them back!)
    Looking at our guest list (133, with probably 110 showing up) and the basic food prices from our venue, our buffet dinner should cost us around 4k
    I don’t care much for flowers and as long as the cake tastes good I don’t really are how it looks, so we’re going to check out our local grocery stores
    Decorations, Oriental Trading will be my go-to place. I bought canning jars for the flower centerpieces (reusable and with a Jo-Ann’s coupon!) and I want a few paper lanterns and Christmas lights in the rafters to lighten the place up a bit (outside covered pavilion)
    The linens will be an extra cost that comes with the catering bill, not sure how much that’ll be yet
    Booze, we want open bar (wine/beer/soda only) for as long as possible and I think we’re going to just throw however much money we have left in the budget towards that and see how far it’ll get us (it’s a daytime wedding, so it may not be as much as I’m worried it will be)
    Hotel, we booked a room at the B&B on the premises for 2 nights, ~$250

    I’m located in Berkshire County, Massachusetts and am having my wedding just over the border in Franklin County.

    • Peekayla

      I forgot to add, our Save the Dates were about $110 (not including postage) and our invites I got at Michael’s during a sale and were about $90 (not including postage and we will need to print them out at home, which requires buying a printer to do so)

    • CinDC

      Sounds a lot like our budget, too! Good luck: you can totally do it.

    • Laura C

      You might look at the co-op in Northampton for cakes. I’ve only had their gluten-free stuff, but they have some very good GF cakes, so I’m assuming their regular cakes are also very good. A little more than average grocery store prices probably, but baked in-house and very high-quality.

    • Peekayla

      Since I’ve written this we tried a local BBQ place that also caters and LOVED their food. Looked up their prices and we could feed 130 guest for about a grand! 2,000 less than if we went through our venue! We have a tough choice ahead of us because our venue’s food is very good AND the pork, beef, and many of the veggies are raised and grown right on the farm (I never mentioned that our venue is a working farm with a B&B, restaurant, hiking trails, and llama picnic treks).

    • Hannah

      Would you mind sharing your venue? We’re in the Berkshires and it seems like most of the venues in this area are geared toward a higher budget. Thanks!

      • Peekayla

        Of course! I’ll tell you all the vendors we’ve picked out so far. And, after we booked our florist we redid our math and we’re currently at a little over 12k allotted to items. We’ll probably be close to 13k when all is said and done.

        Our venue is the Warfield House & Inn in Charlemont, MA (www.warfieldhouseinn.com). They have a gazebo, B&B, and restaurant right on the premises. They have a covered pavilion and inside rooms you can rent for the reception. Depending on what day you have it and which room you choose to rent the place will be between 1,200 and 2,00. This includes setup, breakdown, clean up, and the wedding coordinator. We’re getting married in the gazebo ($100).

        I’m located in North Adams, so we picked people/things in the northern and central berkshires.

        We’re going with MadJacks BBQ in Pittsfield for food. For preceremony snacks, cocktail hour stationary food and 2 passed appetizers, and the main meal for 120 people we’re looking at about $3,500.

        We went with Mark Swirsky for photography (http://markswirskyphoto.com). He’s located in Pittsfield. We opted for a 2nd photographer for about 2 hours and his fee includes the engagement shoot and his travel costs. Paying him about $2,000.

        Our florist is Jeannie from Flowers by Jona in Pittsfield (www.pittsfieldflowersbyjona.com). I think she’s the one vendor I’m the most excited to work with. She has my style down pat after just 1 meeting. She’s also not just going to bring the flowers, but will also set up each tablescape and decorate the cake/dessert table, candy bar table, and welcome table with flowers and other items from her shop. She’s a bit more expensive than I was hoping to pay for flowers. But her enthusiasm, attention to detail, and willingness to not just delivery but decorate takes a load off my mind. We’re looking at just under 2k for her as well (4 bridesmaids, 1 bride, 1 groom, 5 groomsmen, a boutonniere for my dad, and 4 corsages for the mothers and grandmothers, plus at least 12 table centerpieces).

        We’re having a dessert bar with 4 cheesecakes, 80 rumballs, and 70 buckeyes (1/2 in dark chocolate and 1/2 in white chocolate), and a 12 inch single-layer margarita flavored cake. All total: $250! We’re going with Shannon from Cakes Galore. She makes desserts and cakes as a hobby out of her house in Adams, while also providing many of the desserts for CJs Pub in Adams. You can find her on FB as Cakes Galore (www.facebook.com/cakesgalore123)

        We’re going with Pulse Entertainment and Tux Express for our DJ and tuxes. Since they’re owned by the same person we’re getting a deal. Our DJ will about about 850 and Dan’s tux will be free since he has 5 groomsmen =)

        I got my dress at a small shop in Stoneham, MA while visiting my mom. My parents are paying for it, so its price is not included in my budget.

        I can’t think of any other big expenses right now. But if you have any questions definitely feel free to ask!

        • Hannah

          Thank you so much for sharing – I’ve heard great things about every single one of your vendors! Congratulations!

          • Peekayla

            No problem. I’m always happy to help. Jerrid from Berkshire Bride/Tux Express has been a huge help to me in regards to vendors. I’d tell him who I was thinking of talking to and he’d give me his honest opinion. I told him that I was having a hard time getting in touch with MadJacks, which was making me very nervous. He let me know they were having internet problems and personally got in contact with Jabari and asked him to get in touch with me =) I can’t say enough good things about being a part of BerkshireBride.com.

            I also just took a trip into AP Home Decor & More on Ashland St. here in NA and I think I’ll be getting quite a few of my bridesmaid gifts there! Very nice stuff!

            We’ve been trying to be careful about who we’ve contracted with. But even still, I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I read that you’d heard good things as well. Thank you. =)

            Best of luck with your planning! I’m glad I’m ahead of the game with planning, because the family drama has started up again and I’m so happy to not have to worry about interviewing florists, caterers, etc. any more =)

  • oh geez. here we go. we live in LA but are getting married in Boulder, CO. My dream budget would be ten but I think all in all it’s going to be more like 20….

    venue which includes catering and alcohol – 8000
    my dress – 2250
    photographer 2800
    …no wait, who am i kidding. probably more than 20- like 23? geez.

  • Alex

    In my planning, I keep finding that through all my efforts at trying to do things on the cheap, it’s all still expensive anyway. We’re over a year into planning and 4 months from the wedding, in the Hudson Valley, NY:

    Original goal budget: $10,000
    Actual budget: between $15,00-$20,00 (this is a combination of our contributions, my inlaws, and my mother’s gift of my wedding dress)

    Breakdown so far:
    Venue: brewery taproom: $1250
    Open bar: about $4,000
    Catering: $8,000
    Save the dates: $90
    postage for save the dates: $30
    Dress: $1,600
    Ceremony site: Free
    Photography: mostly a gift from my wedding photographer sister in law, but we’re paying her assistant $500 to handle most of it that day.
    DJ: $1500
    Flowers: so far about $350

    Although ask me again in 4 months and I can tell you how far over everything is. meh.

  • boardersarita

    I really appreciate this conversation, because budgeting for our wedding was a HUGE headache (and heartache) for me. Ultimately, we spent more than I originally felt comfortable with, but once we realized both sets of parents were really wanting to pitch in, I think we made some great decisions. We really wanted to support LOCAL artists/businesses, and sometimes that cost a little more, but it felt really awesome to be putting our money into our city (Oakland, CA) instead of San Francisco!
    So, our goal budget initially was about $10K, and including things like our wedding bands, and the rehearsal lunch we held, we ended up around $22K which is A LOT MORE! Yikes.
    We had a Sunday wedding in September, in the East Bay, Bay Area, CA for ~100 people. Being on a Sunday did make the price cheaper for a few things. Here’s a general breakdown of our expenditures:
    -Venue for ceremony and reception: $2,500, plus about $200 in permits/fees for things like alcohol and parking
    -Marriage license (and actual secret wedding for insurance reasons months before at city hall): $100
    -Catering: $9,000 for a buffet meal, no dessert. THIS WAS WAAAAY more expensive than I had thought. In fact, all the catering options were expensive! I wanted to go the taco truck route, but the venue wouldn’t allow it, plus the logistics would have been awfully complicated and stressful. Ultimately, the food was delicious, but if there would have been a way to cut corners more with this, I would have loved to!
    – Ceremony music: $100 – we hired a friend of a friend to play violin
    – cocktail hour music: $200 – we hired friends to play in their band just for 50 minutes
    – reception dance music: ~$200 – self-DJd, but with rented amps/speakers/microphones etc. Had a friend in the music industry set it all up. This was definitely awesome and the way to go. I loved putting together our dance mix for the night!
    – Flowers: free. A friend grew flowers in her garden for us, and was generous enough to donate her time to do arrangements. We went thrifting for glass containers for them, and probably spent like $50 or less total on a million different cups/vases/bud vases/etc to spread around the reception area
    – Decor: ~$100 – I bought some battery operated candles from CostPlus/World Market since we weren’t allowed real flame at our venue, plus some thrifted photo frames and white spraypaint for DIY-ing some signage and guestbooking.
    – Photography: $4,200 – this was on the expensive side, even for our area, but we LOVED our photographer’s style and my husband is a designer so having good photos was a very important thing for us. He’ll be designing our own albums to give as gifts in the future to our family.
    – Wedding dress: $600 at David’s Bridal. So proud of that! Loved my dress, and it was affordable! Probably $40 on shoes from modcloth, and $100 on a cardigan from Anthropologie that I honestly barely even wore that night, but now love because I can wear it and remember it always as part of my wedding outfit!
    – Wedding Rings: ~$500 for both – we got plain white gold bands, my partner’s cost more since he was a guy with bigger fingers and wanted a thicker ring, hence, more gold. We bought each other the rings, but I think in total it was about $500 combined, maybe a little less.
    – Invitations: $300. We took an incredible private workshop on letterpressing to make our invitations, and it was so great to work with a local artist, and competely design, and print by hand, each of our 60 or so invitations (for 100 guests, almost all coupled). Definitely worth the money to us, and again, my husband’s a designer, so he really wanted to do this. The workshop was like couple’s bonding too, and something fun and truly creative to do together in the middle of the planning madness.
    – Ketubah: $15 or less – husband designed it and printed it at home, plus a frame we just bought from amazon to hang it.
    -Officiant: $200 donation to temple where Rabbi works
    -bridal hair/makeup: $200 – these folks I had come up from my small town for the day, so they were much cheaper than anyone in the Bay Area, even with a $60 travel fee!
    – ties for groomsmen: $60 total for 6 from the Tie Bar
    – gifts for bridesmaids: $80 for earrings and bracelets for 4, off etsy and from sears
    – Groom’s suit: $300 from IndoChino, online custom suiting
    – presents for parents: ~$400 total – got one set paddleboarding lessons, another a night at a fancy beachside resort
    – Rehearsal lunch: $2,000 at a local brewery, for a do-it-yourself taco bar, and some pitchers of beer out on a private patio. Totally recommend going the casual rehearsal lunch route, instead of a stuffy and expensive dinner! Plus, it gave us time to relax together as a couple that night before our wedding the next day.
    – Dessert: $300 for a small cake for cutting from a local pop-up bakery working out of a communal industrial kitchen. Plus about $100 in pies from whole foods to feed everyone else. :)
    Whew, that’s a lot! Hope it’s helpful to someone out there.
    Your goal budget
    Your actual budget if you’re already hitched (Let’s take the shame away from the idea that yeah, sometimes you spend more than originally intended. Or hell, less.)
    A general breakdown of what you spent
    What was worth it and what wasn’t (again, if already hitched)
    And most importantly, your location (Because you cannot compare prices in Manhattan Kansas to Manhattan. You just can’t.)

    • boardersarita

      Oh, and forgot to say we borrowed a chuppah from a family friend who had made one for his daughter’s wedding, so that was free too!

      • boardersarita

        Yikes and we spent about $800 on drinks from bevmo, beer, wine, champagne, gin and whiskey (although the champagne mysteriously never arrived, and so we ended up getting reimbursed for it!).

    • Jackie

      High five for Sunday Bay Area brides! (I’m doing mine in SJ this summer.)

      Where did you guys do that letterpress workshop?! Sounds amazing.

      And I agree – small local vendors are awesome (and cost-effective)!

      • boardersarita

        Sunday made it so much easier – ours was labor day weekend, so it was actually still a ‘weekend’ night with no one having to go to work hungover the next day. This worked out for us to be a)cheaper, and b)Jewish, which we nominally are, knew we wanted a Jew-ish ceremony. We used Rebecca Peters press, out of West Oakland to do the workshop. We designed our own invitation first, then sent it to her and she made the letterpress stuff we needed for it. We spent a few hours on a Saturday working with her to mix colors, choose and cut paper, then use the big ole’ machinery to press our invitations. It was awesome! I’d definitely recommend her, and also recommend booking her pretty far in advance as I think she’s pretty busy these days.

        • Jackie

          So helpful – thanks so much!!

        • Gwen

          This is such a cool idea! I love letterpress and the projects on the Reb Peters Press website look creative and amazing. If I can think of another excuse to use letterpress I will definitely look into booking with her!

    • Sophie

      Can I ask what your venue was? Working on finding an affordable East Bay venue too!

      • Jade

        I’m not the original poster, but have you considered Mills College in Oakland? Really reasonable rates and it is a beautiful (small) campus.

      • Gwen

        My husband and I got married in San Pablo, CA at Rockefeller Lodge – absolutely beautiful location. We did get married in the off-season but even at regular rates their prices were better than anywhere else we looked at. The venue is also the most beautiful location of all the ones we looked at in the area. They are primarily a catering company (Party Time Catering) so you have to go with their food, and they don’t do tastings. Their food was good but not overwhelmingly amazingly wonderful, but we also handicapped them by asking them not to use black pepper, white pepper, or garlic because of one of our guest’s allergies.

    • Caroline

      What did you think of the Indochino suit? We’ve considered getting my fellow a suit through them but online reviews are mixed.

      • Jasmine

        My now-husband LOVES the Indochino three-piece suit he got for our wedding. It’s basically his favorite thing in the closet.

    • Hannah

      What artist did you work with on the invitations? That workshop sounds awesome!

  • Jackie

    Goal budget when we got engaged: $10k, $15k MAX. BOTTOM LINE.
    Budget right now (5 months out): $35-40k.
    Location: San Jose, CA.

    Number of guests: 200-225.

    This budget gave me a lot of stress in the beginning. I had a bit of a breakdown looking at the bottom line number – the number that could buy me a BMW, or pay off a huge chunk of student loans. But for 200 people, in peak season, with 10 courses and a whole bunch of alcohol, in one of the most expensive parts of the country… I’m starting to realize that we’re actually not doing so bad. And it’s what we want – to throw an amazing party for all our beautiful family and friends – so we’re gonna do it!

    So here’s our budget breakdown so far:

    – Apparel & beauty $4000
    (A break-the-bank dress… a pair of Louboutins I’ve always wanted and will wear every day of my life thereafter… and hair/makeup for me and my girls).
    – Flowers $100
    – Photography $4000
    (Super important to me and our photographers’ prices have already gone up $1000!)
    – Stationery $1000
    (I’m a graphic designer but I HAVE to have letterpress!)
    – Rings $500
    – Ceremony $3000
    – Rehearsal dinner $400
    (party trays our favorite local restaurants, in my parents’ backyard. Beer & marg mix from Costco.)
    – Reception $20,000
    (Includes food, decor, DJ, and a lion dancer. Food is 11 courses + cake at a Chinese restaurant that we’re paying a decorator $4000 to transform, plus $1800 of alcohol from Costco.)
    – Favors & gifts $200
    – Misc $200 (marriage licenses etc)

    • EF

      a graphic designer with letterpress stationary?! *swoon* I do hope you can share the beauty you created with paper!

      • Jackie

        I’ll try my best – I’ve been putting it off because I put so much pressure on myself to make them PERFECT. I will, however, share our wedding website which I’m so proud of (though it’s like 98% complete): http://www.floykie.com

        • EF

          ahhh the website is PERFECT.

    • Liz

      I’m happy to see another silicon valley bride with a higher budget too… things just cost so much here!

      • Jackie

        Thanks, glad I could help! I know, everything is sooo expensive – but at the same time I feel lucky to live somewhere where there are so many resources and options!

    • Janelle

      Just like Liz I’m happy to see this as well! (I’m in Santa Clara) I just got engaged so planning has just started… thank you for sharing & enlightening me :D

      • Jackie

        So glad I could help! The Bay Area is kind of ridic sometime but we also have so many resources :)

  • Liz

    I grew up middle class and my parents still are, my husband grew up middle class but his family became wealthy when he was in high school. His parents were more of the “what’s the big deal about having a wedding?” mindset, whereas mine were definitely much more traditional around that. Talking about who was paying for what was probably THE HARDEST part of our wedding planning, given class backgrounds and current income levels of our families.

    We had 150 guests in Santa Cruz, CA for a wedding retreat weekend which we thought would be a super great deal and ended up being an okay deal. But 150 guests for a Bay Area wedding is expensive, and my parents really wanted to pay for all of it at first per tradition, but it didn’t work out that way and I think (hope) they were okay with that. They ended up paying just over 50%, with my husband’s parents kicking in probably another 40% and us putting in 10%.

    Here’s a rough breakdown:

    $32,000 to venue, included: rehearsal dinner, ceremony site, reception site, lodging for Friday and Saturday for 70 people, food, tables, chairs, linens, glassware and bar set up plus bartenders, table settings, lighting, dance floor, heaters, umbrellas, security guards, Sunday brunch
    $3000 – dress (way way more than I thought I’d spend, but it happened)
    $60 – Shoes
    $1025 – hair and make up for me and all my attendants plus my mom (was part of my gift to them)
    $315 – my gifts to my side of the bridal party
    $1000 – Alex’s suit

    $5150 – photography and videography
    $600 – stationary – save the date, invitations, programs, thank you cards
    $150 – favors
    $750 – sound equipment
    $1500 – DJs
    $900 – shuttles from venue to hotels for folks not staying
    $3100 – flowers (very very important to my mom or I would have spent less)
    $350 – Marriage License
    $1500 – wedding rings
    $1095 – photobooth
    $150 – fire spinners
    $150 – yoga instructor
    $900 – camping equipment rental (rented for people that came from out of town)
    $500 – trail mix bar
    $650 – dessert (pie)
    $2000 – other incidentals that I didn’t track like other decor/craft projects, kid’s activities, plus my husband’s gifts to his side of the bridal party which I don’t even know what it cost – might have been more than this)

    This comes to a grand total of $56,000. It doesn’t include booze, of which we had a LOT, or the honeymoon, because my husband’s parents gave them both to us as gifts and weren’t included in our “budget.” If I had to guess though, I would guess another $2000 on booze, and probably $15,000 on the honeymoon (we went far away for a long time, but didn’t do anything crazy fancy – it costs a lot to rent an SUV to drive through the Australian outback, it turns out).

    This is a little hard to swallow for me, but it feels good to put it out there too, because we had such a kick ass time and we weren’t spending beyond our means, or the means of those helping us. We had tons of pie and booze leftover, so we could have spent less there. We also went local and sustainable with a lot of things, which jacked up the cost for things, like the flowers and my dress. (Obviously there are aways to be sustainable and not spend so much money – like just have fewer flowers or buy a vintage dress, but that’s not what happened, so…there you go.)

    Although it seemed like a good idea at the time, having a weekend retreat in the mountains definitely cost us more because we rented camping equipment and didn’t charge people for it, and had to get shuttles. If we’d had it somewhere more accessible, we probably could have avoided that. But anyway, like I said, we had so much fun and it was worth it and yes, I’m trying to rationalize to myself as much as to all of you.

    • Kathleen

      I haven’t posted, because I can’t really remember our breakdown, but we were in the neighborhood of $50K (almost entirely paid for by my parents, and within the budget of what they said they could afford) and I was beginning to feel bad that I was the only one in that range. I’m glad to see you here!

      • Liz

        *high five!* glad we can support each other.

        • Ella

          I’m there, too! No shame, ladies. :)

          • Jen

            Oh thank heavens. I’ve been feeling guilty about our $30-50k budget (we’re aiming for 30 but could go up to 50 if needed), which is coming entirely from my very generous parents, and I’m going to stop now. :)

    • Cassie

      It’s sounds like the weekend was totally worth it! Sounds amazing. :)

    • Edmo

      any chance you can share where you had your wedding?

      • Liz

        Sure! We got married at Pema Osel Ling in the Santa Cruz mountains. Loved it!

  • JBax

    Yes, let’s get real up in here.

    We had a Labor Day weekend wedding in Boston for about 115 people. Initially we were aiming for a low key affair around $13K, but my parents and Grandmother wanted to pitch in a lot, and very graciously gifted us about half our final total of about $26K. Our breakdown looked roughly like this:

    — Catering/Alcohol: $10,000 for passed appetizers and a hearty comfort food buffet, and an open beer/wine bar with two signature cocktails. We purchased all the alcohol from a great wholesale vendor that bought back what wasn’t opened.
    — Venue: $3500 at the Endicott Estate, just outside the city. We had
    six hours of time, including our ceremony and set up/breakdown.
    — Photography: $5000 total for an engagement session with a local friend (APW sponsor Kelly Benvenuto!) and wedding day coverage from a husband/wife duo that flew in. They included travel in the rate and had no hour maximum. This was our biggest splurge, and hardest sell to the parents, but also a top priority for us from the start. I’m glad we stuck to our guns.
    — Flowers: $1100. By far the cheapest price I found from an eco-friendly vendor. We got one bridal bouquet, a bouquet for my Best Lady, two boutonnieres, and small-ish arrangements for 12 tables.
    — My attire: $1800 for my lace dress and alterations, plus $40 for shoes on
    ModCloth, plus about $80 for nice make-up that I could do myself. I paid about $200, including tip, for my stylist to do my hair onsite.
    — Husband’s attire: $950 for a swank Brooks Brother’s suit, plus another $95 for a custom shirt from ProperCloth, plus $80 for suspenders and a tie.
    — Music: $500. We created our playlists, rented speakers, and hired a friend who is a DJ to set up the sound system and DJ off his equipment.
    — Coordinator: $600 for the amazing Karen Murphy, seriously the best money we spent. She was really more like a month-of coordinator and was a lifesaver when some crazy stuff popped up.
    — Invites/paper goods: $250. I purchased really nice paper and
    envelopes, then my Best Lady and I designed and printed the Save the
    Dates, invites, programs, escort cards, and menus at home.
    — Decorations: $300 or so? We made most of the decor ourselves, but purchased the materials — mostly lots of fabric, embroidery hoops (for our ceremony backdrop), and photo frames, etc.
    — Officiant: $200. We used a family pastor who came in from out of town
    — The rest went toward small stuff like our guest book, gifts for our bridal party, the marriage license, etc.

    We saved money with some DIT elements (makeup, all the decor), by cutting way back on what the “standard” amount of service is (flowers, music) or by eliminating things entirely (jewelry, favors).

    Could we have had a great wedding for less money? Absolutely. But value is subjective. My husband’s parents were actually pretty surprised that we were having, from their perspective, what seemed like an
    “extravagant” event. By city standards though, we had a budget wedding (barf, that term). My parents, who contributed the most, actually felt really comfortable with how we used the money — I was especially touched when my mom told me how proud she was about how rational we were being with our spending.

    • Marina

      Could I ask what florist you used? We’re getting married on Mother’s Day weekend on the North Shore and have been getting crazy floral quotes due to the holiday (plus Boston is just expensive).

      • JBax

        Totally — we used Faxon Green: http://www.faxongreen.com/
        She’s a totally quirky, free spirit type, which was pretty refreshing after speaking with so many other intense vendors. She is also one of the only florists that brings you to the wholesale flower market to actually pick out the flowers you like in person, which was really fun.

        • Marina

          Thanks! We’ll definitely check her out.

        • Marina


    • Lolauren

      I’m getting married in Boston on May 3rd but I’m a bit behind planning. This was super helpful- thanks so much. I definitely looked up your DOC and will reach out to her- I really appreciate the info!

    • Vanessa

      THANK YOU! We are looking at a September 2014 wedding in Boston for about 100 people (50% from out of state) and the cost of a city wedding has me in knots. I love that you were able to keep it under $30,000- an inspiration. Happy marriage!

  • EF

    Well, I’m going to sound like a cheapskate. Buuuuuut I’m a non-profit lawyer who’s back doing an advanced law degree right now, and my fiance is a lab scientist.

    We don’t exactly have a strict goal budget, but a ‘that seems reasonable’ and a ‘we don’t really need that’ and a ‘we have people who can make that’ sort of budget. Also we’re not going into any debt.

    Location, time: Oxford, UK. January 2015. 65ish people.

    Ceremony/reception venue: £420. This was a jaw-droppingly amazing find. We’d actually had appointments to look at two hotels in a town just outside of Oxford, and were a little disappointed. On a whim we stopped into the town Guildhall, saw the rooms, saw the cost, thought it was by hour, and it wasn’t. So we booked that day and love the venue more all the time. It’s cheap because it’s a public building — it won’t technically be closed for the wedding or anything, but the British are a polite folk and we’re not concerned about crashers or anything. A friend is performing the ceremony. The venue also includes tables, chairs, set-up, etc, and has great ambiance so we don’t really need decorations.
    Food: about £800. We’re doing a high-tea kind of service rather than full dinner.
    Booze: £400 for wine, there will be a cash bar available.
    DJ: Ipod! Docking+speakers at the venue: £20.
    Photographer: We have 2 good friends who are photographers, they’ll be doing informal pictures for us. In return we’re helping one of them with their flight from america, so £200ish.
    Dress: Haven’t decided exactly yet, but my eye is on a bridesmaid dress from j.crew, and that would be the most I spend, at $365 (£200ish). Wearing shoes I already have, and my sister’s wedding jewelry.
    Tux: About the same as the dress, at around £200.
    Rings: We’re being given old family rings that we’re melting down and getting made into new ones, expecting that to cost £150 at a local jewelry maker.
    Save the Dates: £20 postcards from vistaprint. Another £20 to send a pack of them to the USA, where my man-of-honour is using US stamps on them to make it cheaper than international. About £15 for UK/other international stamps.
    Invites: Expecting £40, doing the printing on our own, with recycled cotton paper and envelopes. Another £35 for postage etc.
    Cake: Free-ish. The fiance is making it, as he is an avid baker. So we’ll pay for supplies, maybe £10.
    Flowers: £20, at the local market. We’re assigning groomsmen to do flowers the day before, and only doing limited bouquets because of allergies.
    Miscellaneous small decor, etc: £150.

    That’s £2500 even, configured this way. We want it under £3000. The groom’s parents are paying for food, we’re paying for the rest of it. We’re also having an afterparty pub crawl in Oxford (the wedding/reception is in the afternoon), but people can buy their own drinks. And we’ll have reservations for brunch the next day, but not paying for everyone, particularly because it comes included in the hotel we got a block of rooms in so those people get it anyway, and there will only be a handful of others there.

    As for a honeymoon, we’re taking three days or so unplugged in a cabin in the Cotswolds — that’ll be a bit under £200.

    I’m from the USA, and we originally wanted to have a separate big reception there, but it’s just not feasible right now. However, some months after the wedding we hope to make it across the atlantic, and we’ll probably rent out a room in my favourite pub (owned by a cousin, so it’ll actually not cost anything to rent) and have a cocktail party or something, nothing too big. Or a garden party at a friend’s house in the suburbs, depending on time of year. Either way, very low key.

  • Kayjayoh

    We didn’t set a budget, but have been deciding what we can afford as we go along (and started planning a while back). Dinner for about 200 in Madison, WI. (About half of the guests are from way out of town, so it may be a much smaller group, which will trim the food and drink budgets a bit.)

    The venue was the most expensive part, but it includes the tables and chairs and is for both the ceremony and reception, and will need very little in the way of decoration: $3,500, half of which we have already paid. Fiance is covering that.

    The photographer is going to run just over $3K, with taxes. That is my big responsibility, pay-wise.

    For food, we are doing a massive amount of vegetarian pizzas, plus finger food: $2k

    Drinks are a big ticket, since we are beer snobs, and wanted *good* Wisconsin beer for our guests: $5k.

    I got Groupons for Vistaprint, and designed my own stationery, so save the dates, invites, rsvps, thank yous, etc. are just over $300. Postage is about $170.

    We are self-DJing, with a friend and an iPod. The museum will charge us about $50 for a speaker.

    Tablecloths were an annoying expense. I bought them for $300 online, and will need to wash and iron them myself, but hopefully I can resell them after.

    My (custom) shoes were $230 and my dress (also custom) is going to run about $1.5k. It is not going to look “wedding” per se, so I *might* be able to wear it again for something, but I won’t cry if I can’t. I suppose I should also count my travel expenses, since I am going to Seattle (this weekend!) to visit the dressmaker’s studio and get the ball rolling, but I’ve always wanted to visit Seattle *and* I’m using frequent flyer miles, so this is also sort of a mini-vacation for me. I don’t know what my fiance is going to wear, but I imagine he might spend up to $1k on clothes, since he wants to buy a new suit (none of his current suits fit him well). A suit is *definitely* a reusable expense. :)

    I’m probably going to spend $25 for flowers at the farmers market.

    There there are things like rehearsal dinner, our hotel for the wedding night, babysitters for the kids at the reception… We haven’t gotten every expense nailed down. We basically look at a thing and ask, is this something I can afford right now (like the stationery and the tablecloths) and/or is this something I will be able to afford by June of 2014? I think it is going to be a little over $20k when all is said and done, but we will have split it up between us and over the course of a year and a half, so it feels less pinchy. And, as a “Christmas” present, his parents gave us each $5K, for spending on the wedding. very generous and very appreciated. (My family can’t contribute, but I’m given that we didn’t *ask* anyone to contribute, I am not worried about any “imbalance.” If something is given as a Christmas gift, I will take it in that spirit and say thank you.)

    • Kelly

      Hey there, fellow June 2014 Madison-area bride! Good to see a local pal here :)

      • gingerbeer

        Late May Madison (Olin Park) bride here! We’re working with a $9K budget and 120 guests. It can be done (I hope!). I’ve been fantasizing about a DOC-swap with another Wisconsin couple or a Michigan couple– I do yours, you do ours– reply if you want to email about it!

        • Kelly

          You are brilliant. I’m not sure if I could actually be helpful (I’m traveling a bunch in May, live in Milwaukee, and my wedding is actually in Spring Green, I have a sort-of-coordinator…) but I’d love to talk about it. kellymknox @ gmail.com :)

          But seriously, brilliant.

          • gingerbeer

            damn! But it is a good idea if two couples are getting married where they actually live!

  • Jacky Speck

    Getting married in June. Non-church ceremony followed by cocktails + dinner + dance party for 100-110 guests in Philadelphia, PA (neighborhood: Manayunk).

    Goal budget: $27,000 for EVERYTHING purchased specifically for the wedding
    Actual budget: probably more than that, as we’re not done buying stuff.

    All-inclusive venue: $17,500 for ceremony and reception. Includes venue coordinator to oversee the whole day, use of bridal suite, ceremony space and chairs, DJ to press “play” on the aisle-walking music, 5 hours of open bar, passed hors d’ouevres during cocktail reception, buffet dinner, staff and service for food/bar, DJ for reception, cake cutting and service, setup and breakdown of all ceremony/reception components (including any decorations we bring in).

    Officiant: free. He’s a close friend of ours.

    Cake: free. My wonderful sister-in-law is making it.

    Florals and decor: $650. Includes rented candle centerpieces, bouquets for me and 5 bridesmaids, and a corsage for my mother-in-law from a flower shop, Etsy boutonnieres for 4 groomsmen and 2 dads, and a paper crane ceremony backdrop that I’m making myself.

    Hair and beauty: $250, hair and makeup for me from a local salon. Bridesmaids who wish to have theirs professionally done are paying for their own, and some are opting out.

    Bride’s attire: $2,200… SO FAR. Includes dress, all alterations, feathers for my hair, a garter belt, a bouquet charm (in memory of my mom), veils (I bought several thanks to indecisiveness and impulse spending… crazy, I know), and fancy sparkly ballet flats. Undergarments TBD and therefore not included.

    Groom’s suit: TBD, not included

    Bridesmaid dresses: $0, as they are buying their own

    Groomsman attire: $0, same as above

    Photographer: $3,500 for 8 hours of coverage, an engagement session, editing, and all digital photos on a CD and web album. We also get printing rights and rights to post online for personal use (e.g., Facebook).

    Save-the-dates: $70 for a large stack of 5.47×4.21 refrigerator magnets that I designed myself.

    Invitations, RSVP cards, and direction cards: TBD, not included. A friend is designing them and we’ll print them with Vistaprint.

    Guest book: free! Got a free canvas print from the photographer for mentioning Offbeat Bride. People will sign this with sparkly sharpies.

    Transportation: TBD, not included. Figuring we’ll just arrange rides with someone we know, honestly.

    Bridesmaid/groomsman gifts: TBD, not included

    Parent gifts: TBD, not included

  • Ceremony and buffet dinner reception for about 100 guests at a winery in the Finger Lakes in upstate NY on a Saturday in September 2012
    -Original budget: $24K (thanks, Mom & Dad!)
    -Final budget: $27K (again, thanks Mom and Dad–who kept adding things!)
    -General breakdown: Venue & Lodging $3.5K, Food & Bev $6K, Photography $2.5K, Decor $1.2K, Attire $1.5K, Transport $1K, DJ $800

    Accepting the (very generous) help of my parents meant capitulating to their demands, which included transportation for guests from lodging, a DJ (that was a big compromise: they wanted a band, we wanted an iPod), and having the wedding on Saturday instead of Sunday. We came up with $4K and my parents supplied the rest. The DJ was cheap and we definitely got what we paid for there–he wasn’t that great. The setting was gorgeous, the venue was totally on their game, the photographers were awesome and we were able to host our entire wedding party at a vacation house nearby for the week prior, so in all, totally worth the expense. (My parents agree.)

  • Sarah LW

    From just a few weeks ago…

    Location: Downtown Chicago
    Guests: planned for 150, invited 169, ended up with 113 (weekend before xmas)
    Evening ceremony and reception with sit down dinner and open bar at an urban loft (meaning we had to rent everything)

    Pre-engagement fantasy: $5k. Actual Initial budget: $30k, Upped budget: $43k (40k from my parents, bar (3k) from his, not counting rehearsal dinner or honeymoon).
    Actual spend, probably somewhere in the $43ish range

    I will actually give my 3 main points up front in case you don’t want to read the list.

    1. In 2 major cases, I tried to save money and honor loved ones by asking them to make critical elements for the wedding – I asked my brother who is a craftsman to build our huppah and we asked a good friend to do the art on our ketubah. In both cases, even with 6+ months notice they failed to deliver, causing last minute scrambling and really hurt feelings. I did NOT expect that having people we loved involved would be the absolute hardest part of the planning process, but it was. I guess I was doing it for my values of having them involved as well, but if you’re doing it to save money, DON’T.

    2. In looking at venues, I knew we wanted to bring in our own booze, so we were looking more at spaces than hotels and stuff, but what I didn’t consider was that transforming a raw space is not inherently more cost effective than a hotel ballroom. I wish I had realized that I wasn’t comparing apples to apples when I was looking at spaces because while $4,000 sounded like a total deal in Chicago (actually still not bad, but I wasn’t thinking correctly), I didn’t factor in that a venue without furniture would add to our catering/rental costs just in a different place in the budget.

    3. we rented 2 chairs with arms on them for the horah. The only chairs the caterer could find were $150 each, something called “french country arm chairs.” This was the expense that I felt was most unreasonable and questioned, but our awesome wedding planner talked us into it. I am 100% certain that those 2 expensive chairs protected our lives. COMPLETELY WORTH IT.

    Okay, the budget:

    Venue: $4k
    Catering: $16k – we went outside our budget for some really amazing food – we got a few quotes in the $12-14k range)
    Bar: $3k
    Floral: $2.5k (had NO idea flowers cost so much, and I still don’t understand them or why I spent so much money on them. but? seeing my bouquet was the first time I cried on my wedding day (from happiness))
    Lighting/draping/huppah: $1.8k
    Invitations: $600 (including postage and rsvp postage that had pics of our cat :) )
    Wedding day paper (programs, seating, etc): $350
    Photographer: $3k (does NOT include album, so add another 1200 or so)
    DJ: $1350
    Ceremony (donation to rabbi): $180
    Ketubah calligraphy: $250 then sent to friend to do the art
    Limo bus for wedding party: $400
    Dress: came in around $2000 with alterations. alterations are expensive :(
    Hair and makeup for bride and all of bridal party: $1k (didn’t expect to pay for that for everyone but my mom decided to day of)
    Favors: $300 for some awesome pint glasses
    Partial wedding planning and DOC: $3k
    random other stuff: whatever the difference is

    We haven’t seen the photos yet, but that was the decision we spent the most time on. I hope they capture how truly amazing the day was. Honestly, I didn’t expect that I would love our wedding nearly as much as I did. I felt weird about spending the money at the time, but the day was so perfect and going through the list I’m not sure what I didn’t feel was worth it, or what I wanted more of.

  • emilyg25

    We got married in Chester County, outside Philadelphia, this past August, in a backyard BBQ. Budget goal was $12K. Actual budget was roughly $15K. It broke down like this:

    Photography: $4,800 (two shooters for 8 hours, plus engagement session, plus photo booth)
    Food: $2,000 (~$20 pp, pig roast with sides)
    Rentals: $1,400 (tables and chairs, mostly)
    Flowers: $1,100 (centerpieces for 10 tables, bout for groom, bouquet for bride)
    Groom’s outfit: $1,000 (custom suit, etc.)
    Beverages: $800 (self-stocked, DIY bar with beer, wine, sangria, and two cocktails)
    Wedding dress and accessories: $400 (bridesmaids dress!)
    Invitations: $230 + $50 postage

    The rest was other decor, favors, hotel for the night, and such.

    Our venue was free. I made the cake myself (about $200 for supplies and such).

    Everything was worth it. We set our priorities at the beginning, and our budget mapped exactly to them (hellooo, 30% on photography). We carefully selected vendors who really understood what we wanted. We skipped a lot of stuff, like a full bar, shuttle and other transportation, tent, and most decorations. And we gave most of our money to small, local, women-owned businesses, people who set out on their own to do their own thang. It showed.

    • Amber

      Emily, How many guests did you have?

      • emilyg25

        Ah yes, a key detail. We had about 100 guests.

    • Jennie

      Hey Emily,

      I’m planning a similar size wedding in Bucks County and would love to know who did your food in that price range.


      • emilyg25

        Blooming Glen Catering, which is actually located in Bucks! They have more traditional menus too if the pig roast ain’t your thang. Their food is delicious and they were absolutely lovely to work with.

  • Melody

    We’re real self-sufficiency, homesteader-types in Northampton, MA. We’re also still in the early stages of planning, so it’s hard to say what will actually happen, but our plan is this:

    Super DIY backyard picnic-style wedding for 100 guests

    One big splurge. Dixieland band: $1000. Can’t get enough of it!
    Food: Pig roast + potluck: $300
    Canopy & dance floor rental: $400
    Straw bale seating: $300, although we’d be buying them anyway to winter the animals!
    Homemade wedding garb: $350
    Homemade invitations + postage: $100
    Homegrown flowers: $50
    Crowd-sourced photography: free!

    Total: $2.5K

    Let’s see how it goes!

    • Kay

      I was so excited to see my college town represented here! I’ve always held onto it as a possible location so thanks for this info. Good luck!

    • August

      I’m in Northampton, too! I’m not planning a wedding…yet, but hopefully soon. Nice to see what someone else is doing wedding wise here.

  • Kelsey

    I live in northern Kentucky (aka greater Cincinnati). Wedding is in Cincinnati, OH.

    Initially budget: 8 thousand (a close friend had catered dinner for 250 people with that.)

    New budget: hoping for 10,000, but preparing for 12,000.

    I’m contributing 2,000, my parents are covering the rest. My fiancé’s dad is paying for the rehearsal ($1000 max, but we’ll probably spend less.) and his mom is covering the honeymoon to Maine ($1500). Those costs aren’t included in the budget. Also, my fiancé bought my engagement and wedding ring together, and his will be cheap, so rings are not included. Fiancé is paying for his own clothing, and for his grooms men gifts, so they’re also not included.

    A friend is officiating.

    We’re not having alcohol: none of our friends drink (asked not to, as we do ministry with high schoolers), my sister is a recovering opiate addict, it’s a day wedding and semantics are hard (we would have to hire a licensed bartender, and buy overpriced booze from the parks system ahead of time).

    Breakdown: (most numbers are rounded)

    Maple ridge 3300 (includes ceremony and reception location, police detail, linens, table and chairs inc. set-up and move to reception)

    food 1500??? (This is the one big question mark) My fiancé’s uncle used to be a chef and has catered for 450 people before, so he’s catering for the cost of food (they bought all the serving dishes/catering gear they needed when they did the another wedding, so no rentals there.)

    invitations/thnk 300 (a graphic designer friend is designing them, then we’re printing ourselves)

    china and flatware rental 350

    dress/veil 885 (my dress was 600 from bhldn and it is lovely. Splurged on a silk tulle veil from Erica Elizabeth for 285)

    jewelry/shoes 75


    Marriage certificate 20

    flowers 750 (Going to be a DIY. Priced from fifty flowers. I’m meeting with a local florist who does wholesale, to see if they’re better priced.)

    Other décor 250 (All centerpieces include old books borrowed from grandmas, 2/3 of “vases” will be 16 china teacups that were given as an early wedding gift. Add in some table number frames (sourced from goodwill) and a few extras.)

    DJ 250 we’re hiring a friend who djs on the side. We have access to lots of tech stuff and people who know how to use it because of our volunteering.

    Music 75 A friend’s brother has a great voice and can play the banjo and the guitar. Sufjan Steven’s version of “Come Thou Fount” here we come. Added plus? He’s 17 so $75 sounds like a lot to him.

    gifts 300? (the smaller question mark)

    cake/desserts 350 (dad’s step mom is making the cake, then we’re getting some other desserts (pie? cookies?) from a bakery and then diying some candy. Haven’t sourced it yet, but we’re just going to be upfront with our budget and see how much we can get)

    photographer 1450 for 7 hours, digital prints and printing rights, with engagement session. We will go over this for prints/album, but we don’t know what we want yet.

    Subtotal 9,380

    With Tax 10,036.6

  • Kat Robertson

    Goal Budget: $20,000
    Actual Budget: Probably more like $22,000-$23,000
    Location: Houston, TX
    Number of Guests: 275 invited, 200-215 will probably show

    Most of this is going to the food, drink and venue. Our venue is a country club that doesn’t allow outside catering, and the reception price is $46/person plus whatever we decide to provide our guests in the alcohol department. I decided on keg beer and margarita machines as the cheapest possible option to give everyone a drink, but Fiance’s parents want wine, and that will drive things up quite a bit (they’re paying for the increase though, so not complaining!). Not having our final guest list or order in yet, I’m estimating Venue, Food, Fees, Tax and Alcohol will be in the $15,000 – $16,000 range.

    My dress, accessories, undergarments and alterations will probably be about $1,100 altogether.

    Photography: $2,000
    DJ: $850
    Flowers: $300ish – We are using a grocery store for our floral, and we only need bouts, corsages, stems for bouquets (we’re doing the arranging) and ceremony decoration. Maybe cake embellishments.
    Cake: $200ish – Using the same grocery store we are using for the flowers.
    Centerpieces – Used books, paper flowers and tea lights are nice and cheap. $200
    Ceremony Musicians – (Splurge!) $400
    Invitations – By the time they’re done, probably at least $450.
    Rings: $500 (My engagement ring was a family ring! Yay!)

    There are also things like guest book, favors, something for the ring bearer to carry, beauty stuff for me and my girls, gifts, tips, etc… Not even sure what that will look like yet.

    We’re fortunate that we have three loving, generous sets of parents contributing to the cost as well as ourselves (to a much lesser extent). Fortunately, they were supportive of our desire to invite our church communities and extended family. The WIC has been miserably judgy about that. Everyone from the fancy venues to the fancy bakery kept telling us flat out that we needed to cut our guest list so we could afford fancier things, and I am so glad we didn’t listen. There is always a vendor out there who will be gracious and accommodating, and if that is the grocery store, so be it!

  • ah! this is so helpful for someone just beginning wedding planning. thank you all for sharing :)

  • JGL (now)

    LOCATION: San Francisco Bay Area – specifically Oakland.

    WEDDING STYLE (also key to understanding the $$): Outdoors in a park, BBQ catering, afternoon wedding

    GOAL: $12,500 —- ACTUAL: $14,500

    We aimed for $12,500 knowing that we could absorb if we did the class approx 10% overage – and to have a little wiggle room for something we loved. My original thought was no more than $10k, but I realized that there were some things I wanted and some things my Ben wanted that pushed us over, and we talked about it first and we ok with it.

    BIG ITEMS: Site (spent $600 of $750 budget); Photographer ($1750); Catering (spent $5000 of $5500 budget); Booze ($1500); Wedding bands (spent $600 of $750 budget); Van/shuttle ($500); Cake (spent $600 of $750 budget); Flowers (spent $300 of $500); Favors (spent $500 of $300 budget); STD/Invites (spent $450 of $300 budget). While you can see there were several where we were under, that was absorbed (and then some) by little things that went over or we forgot to include in the outline budget – invites went over a bit, gifts for bridal party went over, things like a staple gun, scotch tape, various “supplies” etc. added up. Also, we ended up putting about $500 toward the rehearsal dinner when my MIL backed out of paying for anything when we had to put the deposit down (eventually she covered the remainder).

    WORTH IT: For us, our friends enjoy good beer and wine a lot, so the booze budget was pretty much worth it and going a bit over our favors budget so we could have customized pint glasses was awesome – though I think if you’re not actually tying the favor to someone’s placecard, you can probably go a little under on the numbers because people forget to take it. We have like 40 pint glasses to use for parties forever. The unexpected money for the rehearsal dinner was totally worth it – I did not have 35 people in my house the night before the wedding and a need to cook/clean for them which would have stressed me out. I did, however, really want to see people and share a meal with family. So, for me, the money was well worth it. The wedding site was perfect and ended up keeping our budget in perfect order – East Bay Regional Parks (despite some las minute permit drama) are a bargain and so beautiful. Bonus: the picnic tables with benches mean no need to rent tambles and chairs and figure out a way to return/pick up when the entire picnic site must be empty by sundown.

    NOT WORTH IT I should not have bothered with the shuttle van in retrospect – lots of stress and a non-insignificant budget item, though not huge. A few people used it, but some carpooled anyway and everyone said that it was nice but unnecessary. I will say that doing the flowers myself using tutorials from online (including APW) was well worth keeping that item under budget…not sure if that fits in worth it or not worth it…in general, other than “ooh pretty” at the wedding, flowers are never a lasting or key part of the event. If you want to keep that budget small and flowers are important to you, spend it on your bouquet if you want a keep sake and spare the table arrangements.

    • JGL (now)

      Sorry – forgot to say: this was about 105 people in August, provided an “early dinner” meal, no champagne toast, and ceremoy/reception were at the same place. Also, since I always wondered about these pieces in people’s budgets: my parents paid for the dress ($500) which isn’t included above, and I covered alterations (is included in the $14,500 final cost), and this does not include honeymoon (not yet taken) or engagement ring.

    • Auryn

      Cool! I didn’t know that weddings could be held in the East Bay Regional Parks. I will definitely keep this in mind for our wedding planning. Just out of curiosity, though — how many guests did you have? Thanks for all the info! It’s super, super helpful.

      • JGL (now)

        I updated below – 105 people. The site was actually “officially” rate for 300 but not all sitting together. I think we could have had about 175-200 sitting in relatively close proximity. They have a variety of sites from 50 people to 300 people, with a sliding scale of cost and deposit. If you know 1-2 parks that you like, talk to the rangers – the specific site we used (Bay Vista at Roberts Rec. Area) was a suggestion from a ranger when we were looking at a totally different park (Briones).

    • Jade

      Who did you have cater? We are planning a May wedding in the area and are having a difficult time finding a good caterer that doesn’t want 10k. (We are having a lunch wedding for ~50).

  • Jenny

    Your goal budget: Ks goal was 2000, but given what we had talked about I put our budget at around 6000 and after showing him what things cost, he agreed that we couldn’t do what we wanted for 2000.
    Your actual budget if you’re already hitched: Around 8000, but part of that were things that my mom decided we had to have (like chicken), and additional glasses (other than water, wine, and beer) which added about 1000. And things she spent on things that I said I didn’t care about, like decorations (we got married outside, it was gorgeous), favors and bubbles, plus additional food for the rest of the weekend, even though I’d told people which meals we would provide, and most people weren’t staying onsite.
    A general breakdown of what you spent:

    Venue: 4,800 Sat noon to Monday at 2 included all of Sugar Hollow retreat. This meant that we had access to 4 cabins and 10 additional rooms in the lodge. We chose to offer these to our friends, parents, siblings and grandparents for 180 dollars for both nights (which was cheaper than the average hotel rates near by). This basically let use spend 500 dollars for our venue, which was our goal. It was a little more work and stress since we were betting that people would want to stay there, and that they would pay us. There was also plenty of room to camp on the grounds (with showers and a kitchen to use), which we wanted for our broke friends. The venue let us use their sound system for a 200 dollar deposit, which we got back.

    Catering: 3000, we had to lock in our guest count, and we missed by 15, but that was ok. It was suppose to be 18 a person (two kinds of chili a meat and a white vegan chili, plus salad, bread and a baked potato bar), but my mom wanted grilled chicken at the semi last minute, which added another 4 per person. this included the price for renting champagne glasses, and a bar tender (which was another last minute request), and table linens.

    Rentals- 2500 this was a tent, 11 tables and 115 chairs, .

    Dish Rentals- 400

    Photography- 1500- Amanda was Awesome, her prices were a steal then, but still totally worth it! http://www.amandasummerlin.com/blog/2013/06/jenny-and-kyle-tennessee-mountain-top-wedding/

    Clothes- My dress was 176, I borrowed my veil, Kyle’s suit was about 350, but we usually don’t count it as a wedding expense, since he needed a suit and dress shoes anyway. I also bought shoes for about 100, but again usually don’t count that as a

    Cake- 220, several Gooey Butter Cakes from St Louis, where we met and went on our first date.

    Booze- 1300 2 kegs and a mini keg, a case of champagne, 48 bottles of wine (we over bought and used a discount that we had from K’s bartending days), plus soda and water and ice and some buckets to hold the kegs

    Other- 1000? Flowers, invitations, food my mom bought to feed the whole wedding plus an invading army should that occur, food for breakfast the next day (I said stop by to grab a granola bar or some muffins and a bowl of cereal, my mom bought eggs, make coffee cakes etc), donation to our officiant. I bought a white board and some poster frames to display the program and the escort cards. I printed pictures and put them on a scrap book page with markers as center pieces. Bought some pearl trim that my mom attached to my dress. some lawn games. bought some songs that I wanted to add, but didn’t have for the ipod DJ.

    The rehearsal dinner was pizza and salad. It probably cost about 800-1000.

    What was worth it and what wasn’t (again, if already hitched):

    Stressing about the budget wasn’t worth it. I wish we had had more frequent communication about budgets, we got help from my mom. Photography was totally worth it. We overspent on booze, but we got to take all the extra wine champagne and canned/bottle beer home, so it’s not a big deal because we drink it. The Venue was totally worth it, it was awesome and we loved staying on the grounds and having our rowdy friends have a safe place to crash (and being able to get rowdy).
    And most importantly, your location: Planned it in Chapel Hill and St Louis (bought many things in those locations), actually took place in Butler, TN.

    Here’s what it looked like: http://www.amandasummerlin.com/blog/2013/06/jenny-and-kyle-tennessee-mountain-top-wedding/

  • La_Venus

    65 Guests; Boulder, CO.
    What we thought we might spend – $5000
    What we actually spent – $10,000 (including a lasagna welcome dinner the night before at my parents house for 30 people)
    Spent the most on – Food (venue: organic farm)

    Budget breakdown
    Venue – $2000
    Food – $3000
    Photographer – $2500
    Rentals (tables, chairs, odds & ends) – $900
    Centerpieces – $50
    Clothes for bride and groom – $350
    Spa day for bride, mother of bride, groom’s aunt and cousin – $400
    Toys for kids – $50

    I think everything was worth it. We were pretty minimalist. And the truth is this was actually the reception. We got married 6 months earlier in our apartment with homemade cookies and some friends – that cost about $150. My parents paid for the reception and it was a great experience for our family and community and they were very happy, so it was worth it.

    • La_Venus

      And now I am remembering other things that I didn’t include.

      Clothes for bride and groom – $300
      Invites – $150
      Hammer Dulcimer player – $200

  • Tania

    Goal budget £9000
    Actual budget £8100! (so we returned to the venue a few days later and left an additional big ass tip for the venue staff and also paid for the pub lunch for our nearest and dearest the day after the wedding)
    Venue: a pub in a Victorian market in Central London. We got married in the market. It was basically a flash mob wedding so the venue was free – we just had the odd tourist wander past
    Main expenses:
    Reception for 55 people for a buffet finger food meal, and open bar: £2500
    My dress: £1000
    His suit: £200
    Photographer: £800
    Videographer £450
    DJ: £500
    Flowers: £200
    Celebrant: £400

    • EF

      yay for UK weddings! very impressed you managed to do this in london!

    • JPS

      How nice to hear about a London wedding. Do you mind sharing the photographer and if you were happy? We have our venue figured out, but I have no idea about the photographer. Also, would love to hear which pub/market, but mostly just out of curiosity.

  • Anonymous

    We had a wedding with 90 guests on the East coast of Canada. The ceremony was in my family’s church and the buffet reception was held at the local Holiday Inn. We wanted to stay under $15K which we were able to do (we invited 150 people, so the low acceptance rate helped stay under budget).

    – Food ( reception venue included) – $3100
    – Drink tickets (1 per person) – $650
    – Wine (bought cheap bottles at the liquor store then paid corking fee at the hotel) – $440
    – Photographer – $1750
    – Dress and veil – $800
    – Church/minister – $450
    – Dress alterations – $150
    – Bride’s hair piece and shoes (borrowed jewellery) – $100
    – Groom’s suit, tie, shoes, etc. (purchased, not rented) – $500
    – Ties for 3 attendants – $110
    – Bride’s hair – $73
    – Bride’s makeup – $85
    – Invitations and envelope addressing – $200
    – Programs – $50
    – DJ – $700
    – Socan and re-sound fee – $70
    – Reception decorator and florist (including all flowers) – $540
    – Wedding bands – $790
    – Attendant and MC gifts – $230
    – Marriage license – $130
    – Hotel room for night before wedding – $130
    – Place cards – $35
    – Guestbook – $6 (Shutterfly promotion!)
    – Videographer – $200 (it was a friend, so a really cheap rate)
    – Favours – $100

    I think this all adds up to around $12K. We were happy with what we spent money on. We splurged a bit on the DJ but that was important to us. We didn’t spend money on: a cake (dessert came with the meal), flowers at the church, bridesmaid bouquets (no bridesmaids!), boutonnières for the dads or corsages for the moms.

  • ABC

    Location: San Juan Island (mini-destination from Seattle)
    Guests: 110
    Budget: $80k
    Spent: around $55k (doesn’t include rehearsal, honeymoon)

    got married at the resort that is our favorite place in the whole world
    but also extremely popular for weddings, on a Saturday in late June.
    Those factors plus an open bar made it pricey. My parents could afford
    it and I spent it on things that were important to us. I paid more than I
    probably should have on a DJ that was a friend from high school that we loved and
    wanted to support. Same with a family friend and flowers. I spent a lot
    of money on beautiful invitations that I bought at a charity auction (http://www.gethitchedgivehope.com/). My mom bought my garter for $5
    at a church rummage sale because I didn’t care if I had one or not.

    6 months out and I don’t regret spending a dime (I know that’s easier to
    say when it wasn’t my money to begin with). I wish i would have spent
    less time feeling guilty about it at the time.

    Wish had spent more on-
    This is only semi-money related, but the photo booth we hired did
    not work and I am still so upset. It seems silly but they are my
    FAVORITE things at weddings and I was so excited to have one at ours. I
    spent the dollars to get my favorite one in Seattle up to
    the island. Long story short, they plugged it in and somehow the power
    fried the computer. They didn’t have a backup and just had to leave. I
    would have paid their whole fee twice over if it would have helped get
    that thing going. I was counting on it for our guest book and pics of
    all the guests as well which made it extra sad. I should have bought the instax cameras i wanted but decided were redundant with the booth. As great as our
    photographer was, we didn’t have her take pictures of us WITH our
    friends, they show up on the dance floor so most of them were captured,
    but I would have loved to be in some with people that weren’t our
    wedding party.

    Wasn’t worth it-
    I wish we had dissuaded the servers from clearing drinks so quickly. Every time I got up from the table my drink was cleared. This drives me crazy. I bet we could have paid for half as many drinks if people hadn’t had to go get a new one every time they left the dance floor.

  • PhDYogi

    My husband-to-be and I are both graduate students with very little money, but we are trying to pay for as much of our wedding ourselves as possible (his parents have generously offered us 3,000 to do with as we wish and I’m sure we’ll take advantage of that).
    Location: farm wedding outside of Rochester, MN in June 2014 for 120 guests (160 invited but it’s out of town for many)

    Intended budget: 8,000
    Actual budget: TBD, hopefully under 9,000

    Ceremony venue: 0, a family member’s farm
    Reception venue: 0, the same place
    Officiant: free, a friend
    Rentals for the farm (tables, chairs, tents, etc.): 3,000
    Dinner: 3,000
    Dress: 180 but purchased by my mother as a gift (mainly because it was so far underneath my budget for the dress, which was 500, that she was happy to buy it for me)
    Suit: fiancé’s own pants, vest, shoes, and tie, probably spend 50 on a shirt for him
    Music: free, we are iPod DJing and the speakers are part of the rental fee
    Cake: budgeted 300 but have yet to order, will probably be slightly under
    Invites, etc.: 650
    Favors: 50 max
    Drinks: Budgeted 350, we’ll see how that goes
    Flowers: meh, this is not a thing we care too much about and we have plenty of beautiful nature surrounding us, so if this is a thing that his or my parents want to buy, then fine, but I can’t see us spending any money on it.
    Rings: free, we both have family heirlooms (mine from great-grandmother, his from grandfather)

    Decorations: our favors are doubling as centerpieces and we’re borrowing extra lights, mason jars (because you apparently cannot have a farm wedding without them), etc. from friends. 20 for citronella votives
    Photography: 500 (a very generous family friend is gifting us his professional photography skillz as a wedding present)

    We are registered at Honeyfund for our honeymoon so hopefully won’t be shelling out for that.

    I am planning this wedding from the East Coast (where we live) and that is sometimes stressful, but so far I have been blown away by how little baggage of expectations our families have put on us. They seem to genuinely want us to do whatever we want, and are willing to help us without any strings attached (KNOCK ON WOOD).

    • Ani

      Yay, MN farm weddings! It sounds lovely.

  • Gwen

    My now-husband and I were pretty clueless when we started trying to figure out budget, and we arbitrarily set out with $10k – and pretty much made it work.

    Initial budget: $10,000
    Actual cost: $10,000, give or take (does not include bridal or groomal clothes, or rehearsal lunch)
    Location: San Pablo, CA (East Bay)
    Invited guests: 150
    Attendees: 40 (including 100% of the California residents on our guest list)

    Wedding coordinator: 10% ($1,000)
    Our wedding coordinator was a critical part of our wedding and fully justified in receiving 10% of our budget. This is very contextual. I am Canadian and immigrating to California on a fiancée visa, which means that while wedding planning I was also filling out lots of immigration forms. We also couldn’t finalize our date until it was less than three months away, and once I entered the US we had to marry within 90 days or… well, there was no alternative, really! On top of all that, I was hurrying to finish a 2-year Master’s Degree in one year. All of this meant we had one weekend in which to visit venues and make a decision, and no time at all for me to visit local vendors. I did not have a support network in California beyond my now-husband. So having a wedding coordinator to do venue research and find something within our budget and our dreams, to know the local vendors and online options, and to take care of day-of coordination and decoration made a HUGE difference.

    Ceremony, officiant, license: 4% ($433.50)
    Our ceremony and reception venue were the same, but there was a fee to set up the ceremony area. One of our friends officiated.

    Reception site and catering: 38% ($3,750)
    When we booked the venue we guaranteed that we would pay for food for at least 50 guests, regardless of attendance. Unfortunately not as many people were able to fly down from Canada as we had hoped, but the price was still most certainly right!

    Cake and wine: 2% ($248)
    We bought a chocolate peanut butter cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, picked up 50 pieces of manju (Japanese dessert) from a little shop in San Francisco, bought 10 bottles of wine at the grocery store, and ordered cake toppers from Etsy (one Team Fortress 2 turret, and one Portal turret to which I added a veil).

    Flowers and decor: 12% ($1,213)
    We spent $500 on paper flowers from Etsy, which are BEAUTIFUL and will grace my house for a lifetime, as well as quite a bit on board games for centrepieces. We also ordered uplights online and they were a breeze to set up with our own custom colour choices.

    Gifts and favours: 5% ($500)
    We spent around $50 for a personalized gift for each member of our wedding party, including our photographer and Flower Grandma (who needs a little girl when you can have your grandma!), and spent $120 on cards with attached seed paper hearts for guest favours.

    Other attire: 6% ($570)
    Note that this does not include my wedding dress, a $1700 gift from my mom, nor my husband’s suit, which we bought at Men’s Warehouse when everything was buy-one-get-one so he got two suits (jacket, pants, shirt, vest, tie, belt, shoes) for $420. Instead it includes hair ($350 for me, my mom, my MOH, and one bridesmaid), manicures ($100 for me, my mom, my mom-in-law, and my sister-in-law/bridesmaid), and one vest and tie for groomsmen who didn’t have them ($120).

    Invitations and printed materials: 4% ($385)
    Guest book, pens, invitations and postage, wedding programs, mad libs, seating chart, card boxes, and thank you cards.

    Music: 1% ($120)
    Microphone card, mixer, cords and a bottle of wine while I did a lot of the prep work on the playlist, like setting up crossfade in a way that sounded good. My husband has amazing speakers that he invested in a few years back which let us avoid the need for rentals.

    Photography: 6% ($590)
    One of my friends is working on expanding her photography skills, but I knew she had an amazing eye for photos, so we decided to see if she would be willing to do our wedding in exchange for us covering her airfare and any rental equipment. She said yes! Airfare $340, camera rentals (flash, extra camera body, tripod, a couple of lenses, insurance – $250).

    Miscellaneous: 11% ($1,120)
    One night in the hotel for my husband and I ($120 which let us play D&D with my mom and brother the night before our wedding!); wedding bands ($180 on Etsy); plane ticket for my cash-strapped MOH ($340); minivan rental to ease transportation for out-of-country guests for a week ($380); car rental for other out-of-country guests for a day ($100).

    • Sophie

      Hi – would you be willing to share the name / contact info for your coordinator? I’m planning an East Bay wedding and interested in hiring an affordable day-of coordinator. Thanks!!

      • Gwen

        Yes! Melanie from MSH Events. I found her on APW. :D

        • Gwen

          Also just to add, her price for us was probably lower than usual because of our overall budget, which we told her before she named her fee, and our number of guests.

        • Sophie

          Thanks, Gwen!

  • Erin Walser

    Planned events: a small (20 person) ceremony with a cocktail party in a private room at a local bar/restaurant, a backyard BBQ reception for ~125 people.

    Goal budget: $8,000

    Small party breakdown:
    Marriage License – $75
    His ring (mine is a family heirloom) – $400
    Photography – $750
    Wedding Party Gifts – $350
    Projected cost of food/drinks/room – $1500
    Dessert (macarons from local bakery) – $100
    Transportation – $250
    Total ~$3500

    Large Reception Breakdown:
    Catering – $2500
    Tent etc. rentals – $1000 (this is an overestimate)
    Alcohol – $900
    Other costs (decor, etc) – $500
    Total ~$5000

    And it looks like we’re already over budget. That $8000 figure comes from the amount of money that my father is ponying up. I’m comfortable with paying a bit over that if necessary – hoping to stay under $10k!

  • Caro

    Goal: $10K ish… though this was more of a guess than a budget
    Actual: About 15K for the reception
    Not counted: rehearsal dinner, hotels for wedding party, gifts
    No. of Guests: 125
    Location: Cleveland, Ohio

    Where did it go?
    $2500 for museum venue (including tables and chairs, parking, security, piano tuning and musician, and planetarium show)
    $5000 for catered family-style dinner, accidental day of coordinator, bar, cake and ice cream
    $3500 for photography and photobooth (oh hey 2011!)
    $2000 for both attire, including alterations, accessories, and DIY(?) hair and makeup
    $1000 for transportation, DJ, favors and incidentals
    $700 for church “donation,” organist, alter servers, pre-marital retreat
    $500 for decor, centerpieces, and flowers (all done at cost by awesomesauce former florist ladyfriend)
    $250 for DIY stationery (invites, escort cards, table numbers) and postage

    Worth it:
    The planetarium show!!
    Live music for the ceremony, cocktail hour and dinner
    Choosing a venue and caterer that obviated the need for any rentals (chairs, linens, etc.)
    Choosing a venue and vendors that were kind, supportive and deserving of our business

    Not worth it:
    Worrying about the “Catholic gap”
    Maybe the photobooth, but only because I’m not sure it was as good of a value as other things
    Maybe favors. I liked them, but if there had been none, no one would have noticed. That said, my mom and I enjoyed preparing them.

    All in all, I think of the day often and have no regrets. We spent our money thoughtfully, and I feel good about every dollar we spent. My husband and I frequently (still) pat ourselves on the back for throwing a wedding that we really, really enjoyed.

    • Leslie

      Planetarium show!! So jealous!

    • Nope.

      Hi, Caro, mind my asking which caterer you used? Sounds like you were in the Natural History Museum. I’m also looking for downtown (or Near West) caterers and venues, and I haven’t come across any Natural History weddings yet!

  • Winny the Elephant

    Ceremony and Reception for 50 guests in London, Ontario (2.5 hours outside of Toronto- Toronto brides, you should seriously consider moving things out to London WAY cheaper)

    Date: July 12, 2014 Goal Budget: $5000

    Wedding Bands: $500.00 (simple white gold for me, Tungsten for him)
    Dress: $900 (Provonias sample dress, purchased in Toronto, needs another $300 in alterations- My mom very kindly paid for it)
    Shoes: $227 (a splurge on a custom pair of sparkly shoes)
    Venue: No fee for members at Highland Country Club (grandfather a member)
    Food: $26 per person (venues in Toronto quoted between $80-130 pp)
    Bar: venue said to budget $20-25 per person
    Photography: $1950 (BEST INVESTMENT SO FAR! Photobox photography)
    Invitations: $150.60 (including postage- did all the invitations myself with my silhouette cameo)
    Flowers: $400 (bought the vases from dollar tree, no bridal party)
    Stage Manager for the day: $250.00
    Dog Kennel: $40 for 2 days
    Cupcakes and Wedding Cake: $150 (doing them myself, includes cake stands, ingredients, transport)
    Miscellaneous: $52
    Officiant: $353
    License: $140

    Our goal was cheap and cheerful for under 5k. Even after doing the invites and baking myself, picking a venue that had no fee and forgoing a DJ, we’re still going to be over budget. If we had cut the guest list, the open bar or the photography we probably would have come in on budget. But hell even just the legal stuff comes to $493 big ones. Ouch. Thanks Ontario.

    Info on budgets are what brought me to APW for the first time, so glad I can contribute!

    • Winny the Elephant

      I should note that in Ontario, officiants are highly regulated so having a friend officiate was not an option.

  • Florida Bride

    I love this conversation.

    Barn wedding in Jacksonville, FL, coming this summer (which I found out through planning, no one gets married in the summer in Jacksonville, FL. I have not hit one vendor who said they were not available on my day. Probably because I’m the only crazy bride who picks the hot/hurricane season as a great wedding time. FYI fellow FL brides, March/October I’m told are the popular months)

    Budget: Groom thought 10000, I figured it would be more like 15000
    Actual: 20,000 with some misc things to go
    Guests: Invited 200, expecting 150ish

    Venue: 2500
    Catering (Includes Apps and BBQ Buffet, Staff, Bar Service): 6300
    Alcohol: 1000 budgeted, haven’t bought yet
    Small Cake and Cupcakes: 675
    Chair/Table Rentals: 700
    Tablecloths and Napkin Linens : 330 (bought not rented)
    Dress: 1250 for dress, belt, jewelry, shoes…haven’t done alterations
    Makeup: 350 (for me and 4 bridesmaids, not doing hair)
    Invitations: 300 (and half of this is postage…used groupon deals for save the dates and invites, this was the lowest priority on my list)
    Photography: $1712 (found on craigslist and they are awesome)
    DJ: Free (Family Friend is a DJ)
    Flowers: 1650
    Officiant: 250
    Day of Coordinator: 800
    That totals to 17817. We anticipate we will probably spend another 2-3k on groom suit, decor, alterations, hotels, attendant gifts, license, other misc things.
    Obviously can’t say what was worth it and not worth it yet, but I’m not too jazz about 1650 for flowers. I reaaaaaally wanted to DIT based on the tutorials here on APW, but no one wants to help me do it. Like, all my family and bridesmaids were terrified I was considering it and asking for their help. So, my future MIL insisted she pay for my flowers, and recommended I use the same florist my future SILs used, and here I am.

  • J

    We got really lucky with some great vendors, and I think we got a great value

    LOCATION: About an hour outside Boston, MA. 90-100 guests.
    ORIGINAL goal budget: $10,000
    ACTUAL budget: about $13,500. Below amounts all include tips.
    Venue: $500 (historic barn, with nearby garden for ceremony)

    Food: $4400 (got a local restaurant to bring their brick oven pizza truck to venue)
    Alcohol: $756 (a few beers, a couple wines, ingredients for three cocktails)
    Dessert: $312 (cupcakes from a local bakery)
    Staff: $1000 (included set up, clean up, serving and bussing during party, bartenders)
    Rentals: $1175 (venue provided chairs and tables, we rented everything else)
    Bluegrass band: $1400
    Photography: $1280
    Clothing: $1596 (dress for me and suit for my husband)
    Favors: $60
    Invitations, etc: $135
    Gifts for attendants and officiant: $500
    Bouquet: $106

    Overall I’m really happy with the choices we made. We handled everything ourselves, no package deals (every item on the list above represents a different vendor), which was a lot of work but probably saved us money. And we definitely lucked with the venue, which was super cheap for the area and raised its prices soon after we booked. Sort of the same deal with the photographer.

    • Lauren_CG

      Hi! We are also planning a Metro-Boston wedding. We just got engaged last week and I am just dipping my toes into the terror that is budgeting for the event. Do you mind if I ask what venue you used? I know that all of the prices have gone up in the past few years, but am still curious. Also – having a live band sounds fabulous!

    • Allie

      Sorry this is late– but would you mind sharing your band and photographer? We are getting married in Boston next spring, and your prices are totally reasonable!

  • Ariel

    Starting budget: $5,000 (we had NO Idea)
    Budget now: $15,000

    Venue: $1300
    Catering (including rentals): $8000
    Booze: $1000 (maybe? I have to price this out)
    Photography: $1700
    Dress: $1150 (gift from my mom)
    Hair & Makeup: $150
    Paper (invites, save the dates, place cards, maybe menus, including postage if necessary): $150
    DJ: free (family friend)
    Flowers: I’m thinking less than $500… my friend and her mom are helping to arrange them so I’ll just buy from either the grocery store or Costco

    We’re planning on 100 people in Northern New Jersey in June.

    • Kate

      hi Ariel! also from the Northern NJ area. Wondering where your venue is, we’re looking for something around that range in the summertime. Thanks :)

      • Ariel


        I’m getting married at The Women’s Club of Englewood in Bergen county… it’s the old mayor’s pretty stone carriage house. The woman who rents out the place is Maria and she’s awesome and has tons of stuff that other brides have donated that you can use for your wedding, for free.

  • Eh

    Date: October 2013
    Guests: 80
    Location: the town where my husband grew up about an hour from Ottawa, Ontario (where we live)
    Budget: $17,500

    Break down:
    Reception (Venue/Food/Table Wine/Open Bar) – $5000
    Ceremony (Venue/Officiant/License) – $1300
    Photographer (Engagement and Wedding pictures) – $2500
    Cake – $540
    Music (DJ and Bag piper) – $350
    My attire (dress including alterations, jewelry and makeup for me, our moms, the MOH and the MC) – $1200 (excludes hair as my MOH did my hair)
    My Husband’s attire (purchased suit, shirt, tie, and straight razor shave on the morning of wedding for my husband and two guys)- $500
    Wedding Bands – $1200
    Paper (Invites/RSVPs/Thanks you cards and postage) – $500
    Gifts (to each other/our parents/MOH/BM/MC) – $750
    Decorations (Including flowers) – $750
    Wedding accommodations and transportation – $400
    Honeymoon – $2000 (we also used points for our airfare and train tickets)
    (The rest was miscellaneous stuff. Excludes rehearsal as my in-laws hosted it.)

    Getting married in the town my husband grew up in saved us a lot of money on the reception (and the marriage license fee was only $100 – compared to $170 in Ottawa). We spent money on things that were really important to us, for example, food and an open bar at the reception, a great venue for our ceremony, an awesome officiant, and an amazing photographer. Music, flowers and decorations were less important to us so we spent less on those things. And we didn’t have a cocktail reception, favours or programs (because these things were not important to us), and the centerpieces were board games that we already owned.

    We have no regrets on how much we spent (too much or too little) but I have been given some grief over not spending more because we could afford more. I was pretty much told that we should have spent twice the amount on food (for a four course sit down meal instead of a buffet) and three times as much on the music (for a DJ with laser lights) for “the comfort of our guests”, and there was no excuse for not spending the money because we could afford it. We were called selfish (by this person who didn’t attend our wedding) because we didn’t spend more on our guests because we felt that we were spending a sufficient amount (i.e., everyone would have food and alcohol, be entertained and be comfortable) and we wanted to buy a house (and spending more would cut into our down payment).

  • anonymousCA

    CA Central Valley, Sunday of a 3-day Weekend Spring 2014. 125 people invited at the moment, we’re hoping for around 100 attending.

    Original budget (morning after the engagement when we were very first talking about it): $10-12K

    Actual budget (most of it is already committed, though we still have to choose a photog and ceremony music): $18-20K

    Sources of funding: more than 3/4 of our actual budget has been generously contributed by our families. The rest is coming from us.

    Biggest place we’re allocating funds: reception venue; which includes $600 venue fee; tables; chairs; plates; glasses; linens; food (except dessert) and alcohol for 100; a lot of staffing including someone in a quasi-coordinator capacity for the 5-hour party time we’ve reserved, plus access to the space earlier in the day to decorate and receive deliveries; some décor (a lot of candles); tax; and gratuity: based on the contract we signed, I’m estimating this at around $12K and up to $13K, depending on our final headcount and alcohol consumption. For just the food, the per-plate cost is $55.

    Other significant costs:
    Dress: $1100, estimating that alterations will take it up to $1500
    Photographer: not yet committed, but we’re budgeting up to $2000
    Rentals: the ceremony will be at a different location that the reception and we will have to rent chairs and audio equipment — I’m budgeting up to $500 for this.
    Ceremony music: my parents are contributing significantly to the wedding and it’s important to them to have live music during the ceremony. Again, we haven’t committed yet on this one but are budgeting $1000-1200
    Hotel room for the two of us: $250
    Misc (attendant and parent gifts, postage, incidentals, oh-shit-we-didn’t-think-of-that expenses.): $1000

    Places where we’re skimping/saving:
    Dessert: several guests have agreed to contribute home-baked desserts. Venue will charge $2/head to serve them.
    Officiant: a friend who is a minister. Free, but we plan to make a donation to his church (which is not our church)
    Paper goods: designed by a friend, printed at Kinkos
    Flowers: neither of us cares much and we plan to go the farmer’s market/Trader Joe’s route
    Bride’s makeup: a talented friend
    Reception décor: some is included with the venue. I’m sure I’ll end up with some last-minute crafty projects, but the plan is to keep it pretty minimalist.
    Ceremony venue: free (public park)

    Things I’m not counting as part of the budget: wedding rings — we’ll wear these forever, and as such, I don’t think they should be counted. Also the rehearsal dinner.

  • Wendy G.

    Location: Suburban Denver, Colorado.
    Type of wedding: Casual and thrifted, cake and punch reception with a DIY book theme.

    Goal: $4,500 including honeymoon. In reality, probably closer to $6,000.
    Six months out and this is what we’ve estimated it to be. We’ve booked most of the stuff but haven’t bought a lot. I can kind of see what’s going to cost us more or less.

    Ceremony and reception site: $1093
    Cake and punch reception with lemonade bar and snack-type munchies: $350ish. I know we’ll go over budget on this, but we’re paying for the excess out of tax returns.
    Photography: $550 for six hours (got a great deal)
    DIY flowers: Free. A friend of mine is also having a book-themed wedding about six weeks prior to mine and has offered all of her flowersAttire (Including my $100 Modcloth dress, engagement session outfits, accessories, his suit, my hair and makeup): $315
    Vistaprint STDs, postage, thank you and invitations: $315 (will probably come in under budget on this!)

    Wedding bands: Free, since we’re using family rings
    Marriage License: $30
    Officiant: Free. Is friend.

    Attendant/parent gifts: Free or under $30 for initial offering, though we may splurge on a Shutterfly photobook for the ‘rents and some cool accessories for the MOH and BM (no one really expects gifts.)
    Music: $100 for friends to do the cocktail hour music live, the rest will be canned music from my iPod with borrowed speakers.
    Cakes, plural: We’re having 4 cakes. I asked a good friend to make them, and she agreed to do it for the cost of the ingredients, plus a case of beer and pack of cigarettes. We’ll say $30
    Disposable dishes and flatware: $75 (thinking Costco chinette)
    Linens: $100, CL and thrifted… may go up to $120, we’re still hunting for the food table linens.
    Transportation: We don’t have changing rooms at our venue. So the fiancee’s folks are lending us their motor home, and I’m giving them about $60 for gas money.
    In-home rehearsal cook-out: $150
    Decorations: $140, mostly DIY, thrifted, and borrowed from other friends who are marrying in 2014. May be a touch over budget on this one, we’ll say likely closer to $200.
    Engagement Session with Other Photographer: $79 via Groupon.

    Things I think will be worth it: Music, food, and a really awesome venue.
    Things I can kinda already tell might be not: Linens. It seemed really important to have matching linens, but it’s mostly a mingling reception and everyone knows we’re not having a fancy party. I probably could have gotten away with Ikea sheets instead of table cloths, and no one would have known!
    Note: Why the hell do I have a line in the budget for “Groom and BM socks?” Seriously, they’re just socks! Oh, how priorities change in 6 months…

  • Anonymous in Ohio

    Location: small town in southeastern Ohio

    Goal budget: $5,000-$8,000 (technically, we have more we could spend, but having an emergency fund and working on paying down student loans rate higher)

    Number of people who we’re planning to invite: ~425ish (large extended families on both sides, plus many dear friends), but we already know that our actual number will probably be between 200-250. We’ll have a separate, very casual reception in Michigan later, which my parents are willing to provide the food for and the location will be free, so that’s not part of our budget.

    Estimates so far:
    ~Food: 3,500 (local barbeque joint providing buffet; no alcohol)
    ~Photography: 800 (friendor)
    ~Venue: 500 (church is free, reception will be in school cafeteria)
    ~Clothing: 500 (my parents bought my dress and veil, so this is the groom’s clothing plus alterations and shoes for me)
    ~Flowers/decorations: 300 (DIY flowers plus old books and tea cups I already own)
    ~Paper products (invites, programs, postage, etc.): 300 (DIY)
    ~Fees (pastor, musicians, marriage license, etc.): 200
    ~Cake: 800 (but possibly may be free)
    ~Music: 100 (iPod or computer)
    ~Favors: 75

    ~Miscellaneous: 500 (for all the stuff it hasn’t occurred to me that we may need yet)

    Stuff that’s not in the official wedding budget:
    ~My dress

    ~Rings (he has his grandfather’s wedding ring, and we’re using money my grandmother left me for mine)
    ~Honeymoon (may be a gift from family; if not, tax refunds will be in by then!)
    ~Rehearsal dinner (groom’s family; we’re hoping to do a pizza party in the church all-purpose room)

    Money we have officially spent on wedding stuff so far:
    $6 (for 2 used copies of “Anne of Green Gables” to cut up for part of the wedding invitations)
    $26 (for 2 copies of the book we’ll be using for premarital counseling)
    I find trying to be frugal and have a wedding that says “us” at the same time to be a fun challenge. For me, paying for the food to be catered rather than have family and friends help out is totally worth it (my sister and brother-in-law self-catered and told us in no uncertain terms that they didn’t recommend it), but I’m willing to do DIY for invitations, because getting some of my friends together on a Saturday and setting up an assembly line to knock those out just sounds like fun.

    Other things that have been helpful: sitting down with my fiance early on in our engagement and deciding what was important to us (the ceremony itself, choosing the music, making sure that everyone was fed [me], what the groomsmen are wearing [him]). Other things, while we want to have them and will spend time and money on them, are of secondary importance (example: I don’t really care if the church is particularly decorated or not). Also, the phrase “the perfect is the enemy of the good” has been helpful when trying to make decisions.

    • Anon

      I’m planning an extremely similar wedding in southwest ohio, with basically the same budget and headcount. We’re having 200-250 guests, a budget of 5-7k, held in a church and the reception in the church’s school’s gym. I’m curious, how are you planning on decorating the cafeteria? And what type of place are buying your flowers from? Sam’s club, online, a local florist?

  • Minnie

    Glastonbury, CT
    147 guests: August, 2013
    reception venue= $850 (we cleaned up and decorated)
    food= $5,500 (included all table settings, servers, dinner served family style, and buffet style appetizers)
    ceremony= $550 (included church donation, piano player and church sexton fee, but the reverend’s services, which would have been $450, were donated)
    booze=$2000 (included two bar tenders)
    music=$3,500 (5 piece band)
    photography=$0 (crowd sourced, photographer friends)
    the look= $700 (dress, bridal hair dresser who traveled to my house, undergarments, shoes and new make-up, husband’s tux came free with the groomsman’s rentals)
    other=$1000 (gifts for wedding party, minimal flowers, DIY center pieces)

    Including the things I am forgetting, the whole wedding cost less than $15,000 and was AWESOME. It is worth noting though, that $4,500 of that came from having a Jack and Jill party, which i think are only popular in New England, but can be very fun and helpful!

    • Sara

      I’m from CT too! Just wondering what was your venue?

  • Jenni Kissinger

    We started with a ballpark of $20k, which increased to $23k. We are getting some help from our parents. That’s the number we’re currently working with, but I know we’re going to go over to around $27k (I hope no more than that … and I already feel horrible about that amount). We’ve had a couple fights already about the budget, but after the last one I think we’re closer to the same page. I figured out that whereas I’m projecting out costs and totaling how much we’ll end up paying based on what we’ve already paid for, etc, he prefers to keep the $23k number as our “firm” number in all conversations and then allow things “slip” up towards the end.

    Our wedding will be in the fall in New Hampshire, at a ski resort. Here’s a breakdown of where we are at the moment including guestimates:

    Venue: $3100 ($400 rental fee, $2200 for ski lift to the mountain top ceremony site, $500 dance floor)
    Food and Drink: $9500 for 100 people (using the highest plate cost, includes 9% NH food tax and 18% gratuity)
    Cake: $400 (probably cupcakes. Realistic?)

    Photography: $4350 (I LOVE our photographer and knew I wanted to splurge. Includes 8 hrs, 2nd shooter, a photo album, digital image rights, and a photobooth. Our engagement photos were ‘free’ by my sister’s boyfriend; we paid for their gas and meals)
    Dress: $1917.30 (More than I wanted to spend, but my mom was paying for this and hell-bent on me having the dress I liked most as she didn’t get hers for her wedding)
    Other attire: $1000 (Groom’s tux $250 [?], alternations $300 [?], misc clothing/jewelry/hair …)

    Wedding Planner: $2500 (full planning and DOC. I really wanted this as we’re in MD & SC planning a NH wedding. My parents paid for this.)
    Officiant: $200 [?]
    DJ: $945-1450 (Currently doing our DJ search now. Which is really hard.)

    Flowers/Decor: $800 [Realistic?]
    Invitations/paper: $450 [?]
    Videography: $500 (currently an ongoing argument about whether we hire someone or not…)

    Rings: $500 (I have no idea if this is reasonable)
    Marriage license: $60
    Honeymoon: not included in this tally as we’ll figure that out separately
    Rehearsal dinner: $700 [? His parents want to pay for this]

    Yeah … that’s all $27k. Most of the big items are already locked in place (we could lower the food a bit); I just really hope that other categories don’t go up much. :-/

  • YPI

    Holy moly, I’ve been waiting for this thread!

    I’m mid-planning, but have catered many events, so went in with a decent idea of cost. Living in Brooklyn, planning a wedding in CA.

    Goal budget: $15-20K
    Seeming actual: $20-29k, though still working it out

    What we know:
    Guests: Estimated 60-85
    Food: $3.7k (re: catered, my dad is a chef, we got a verrrry good deal)
    Venue: $2.4k Victorian House in a public park in San Francisco
    DOC: $1600
    Photog: $2500 (hiring friends, husband and wife- got a reallllly good deal for a 2-shooter, 10 hour booking. I can give details if Bay Area folks want a recommendation. They are freelancing pros.)
    Flowers: $950 (might be less)
    Other decor: Might hire for chalkboard signs, pending. Quoted $350- we are lucky to have a naturally beautiful location, going minimal on decor
    Ketubah: $300 (Etsy)
    Rabbi: $1000 (co-officiating with my best friend)
    Cake: Gifted by Bay Area bakery (did I mention we got lucky? Having been in the “industry” helped us a lot)
    Dress: TBD, budgeted $1000
    Suit: Budgeted $600
    Photobooth: Pending, quoted $1500
    Rings: $1000 for both (Sarah Perlis in NY, highly recommend!!)
    Other expenses: Setting aside about $10-$12k for honeymoon and travel to see out of country family for second party (both a pro and con when having a large family abroad)

    Location: San Francisco Bay Area; wedding site Stern Grove

    There are a lot of other expenses not here- sound system, huppah, rings- that add up too.

    I hope this helps someone- LOVE this thread idea. So… Practical!

    • Sophie

      Hi there – I’d definitely be interested in details about your Bay Area photographer!

      • YPI

        Hi Sophie,

        Great! I emailed her for permission to share her info- she just had a baby, and while she’ll for sure be back on this summer, I am not sure if she is taking a business break right now, so just want the go ahead before sharing.

        • Sophie

          Thanks! We are in the very early planning stages – not looking at any dates before September – so wouldn’t necessarily need to get in touch with her immediately, if that makes a difference.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Love the Tocadero House! It was the first venue we considered, but wouldn’t quite work for us, but I’m always happy to hear it worked for someone.

  • Samantha

    I’m having a wedding on Saturday. (we had a private elopement ceremony last week so we’re already married the wedding is this weekend in West Lafayette, Indiana).
    Goal budget: $5,000
    45 Guests
    Actual spent: approx. $7,500
    Photography: 1200
    Food and drink: 1300 (brunch, open mimosa bar)
    Dress: 600 (sample sale)
    Suit 900 (purchased)
    Flowers: 250 (no bouquets for BM or bouts for GM)
    Not sure what is worth it or not yet… TBD!

  • mackenz

    We had a small wedding + reception on Cape Cod for 30 people, followed by “hometown” receptions in Brooklyn, Boston, and Seattle all over the course of six weeks.

    Cape Cod
    rehearsal dinner (buffet dinner + wine/beer for 30 people)
    estimate: $3350 actual: $3200
    ceremony (musician, transportation, church, guest book, decor):
    estimate: $1500 actual: $800
    reception (plated dinner + open bar for 30 people, rentals, non-floral decorations, childcare, guitar duo, etc)
    estimate: $7600 actual: $7500
    florals (1 bride, 2 bridesmaid bouquets, 5 boutonnieres 100s of tiny antique bottles full of pretty flowers, delivery, etc.)
    estimate: $1500 actual: $1200
    photography (7 hours of coverage, engagement sesh, and a new bff)
    estimate: $3000 actual: 2400
    apparel (dress, alterations, new suit for him, rehearsal dinner dress, shoes, jewelry, veil, hairpiece, etc)
    estimate: $3200 actual: $2600

    Brooklyn Party
    passed apps and open bar (mid-shelf) for 60 people, donuts, photog
    estimated: $5000 actual: $4200

    Seattle Party
    passed + stationary apps, beer/wine for 40 people, wedding cake, photog
    estimate: $3300 actual: $3500

    Boston Party
    passed + stationary apps, beer/wine for 40 people, photog
    estimate: $3000 actual: $3700

    gifts (welcome bags, favors, thank you gifts): $2000
    day-of coordinator: $700
    misc (hair, license, mani/pedi, travel for bride + groom, yoga for bridal party, hotel for parents): $2300
    wedding rings: $1500
    honeymoon: $4600
    stationary (save-the-dates for parties and wedding, invitations for parties and wedding, thank you notes, programs, postage): $2200

    We had a cigar roller (an actual woman rolling cigars) as our “favor” at
    our wedding. She was more than I had planned to spend on favors, but a)
    my husband thought it was just the coolest thing ever, and b) turns out
    it was pretty much the coolest thing ever. Nice job, honey!

    I really tried to budget for everything (even the gas in the car to drive to/from the wedding 5 hours away), so though our total is a lot of money (estimate: $50,000; actual: $44,000), we were able to take that money and have 1 wedding/reception/rehearsal dinner, 3 parties, and a kick-ass honeymoon. We invited over 270 people to our events, and could never, ever, have had an invite list that large and inclusive had we had one single wedding and reception at one single venue. Planning 4 big events was certainly exhausting, but being able to include long-lost friends from all across the country, was really something special.

    Oh, and thanks to some ruthless haggling and bargain shopping
    throughout the planning process, we were able to shave $6,000 off the
    cost of the whole shebang. That money is now safely residing in our
    get-the-hell-out-of-nyc savings account. We are on our way!

  • Red

    Goal Budget: <$10K of our money
    Actual Budget: $7600 of our money; $2500 from my parents; $XX from my in laws
    Location: Alaska, in a small fishing town on the road system

    Date: August 2013, planned in around 3 months.

    We invited around 230 people; 110 people RSVPed; probably 130 attended.

    My parents hosted the rehearsal dinner and wedding ceremony in their yard and covered rentals for a tent, tables, and chairs ($900), my dress and alterations ($575), and the flower girl dresses and shoes ($200), along with wine and beer for the party purchased from a local brewery and liquor store ($750). At the last minute, my mom bought an extra bucket of peonies ($60) and I know they tipped some vendors, but have no idea how much.

    We covered:
    Reception venue (lodge, commercial kitchen, 2 yurts for people to stay over, linens): $600
    Catering, Servers, & Bartender: $3075
    Day of help for wedding and reception (day of helpers, violin player, babysitters, etc): $850
    Hair & makeup for wedding part & my mom: $550 (my MIL opted out)
    A trip across a Bay for 35 friends and family on a classic wooden boat the day before the rehearsal: $725
    Marriage License and copies: $270
    Our lodging for three nights: $600
    Photographer's plane ticket: $640 (she is an old friend)
    Glo wedding website and online invitations for 3 months: $105
    Printed invitations / thank yous / postage: $300

    My in laws covered the rehearsal dinner, the groom's custom suit, and some attire for the groomsmen. I have a general idea that those things cost a lot, but they wanted to do make sure they were done in certain ways and were generous about paying for them.

    What we didn't pay for, but received anyway:
    – gorgeous peony bouquets, bouts, and table flowers, from my aunt
    – amazing glass-infused decorations and favors (made by my mother, who sent the table sculptures home with our guests)
    – a lovely cake, from my mom's best friend
    – a great photographer (I invited a photographer friend, who insisted on shooting our wedding if she was flying across the country to attend)
    – a friend completed the paperwork to be a State of Alaska marriage commissioner and officiated for us
    – 60 pounds of salmon filets, caught by my uncle. This dropped our catering price by a significant margin and made my family really happy, to feed people fish caught by us.

    My draft "Wedding Graduate" post (never submitted) talked about our realization that "our day" belonged to our community as much as it belonged to us, and how the ways we spent our money and accepted others' help reflected that. Sometimes the things you pay for are the cheap ones and sometimes the best gift you can give someone is accepting their generosity…

    We had booked a band that would have cost $2000 for four hours of live music; we would have paid it happily. Unfortunately one of their members was not well, so they cancelled on us two weeks out and we couldn't find another band we liked enough (read: my new husband liked enough, this was his area) for our date. We had an ipod playlist instead, which was okay.

    What was worth it:
    – Some of the Day Of help. The person I hired as my day of coordinator was not much help, even though I had everything ready for her. The woman who cleans my mom's house was a huge help and I am really grateful my folks had asked her to chip in.

    – Pretty much everything else – we planned fast and as a satisficer I was happy with the good enough option. We could have spent more money easily, but it is hard to identify where we could have shaved the budget without giving up the ease and confidence I wanted to buy (see: catering and servers, someone to do hair and makeup so I didn't have to, a venue with a roof in case the weather went to hell).

  • Anne

    We married in April 2011 when the recession was still going strong. Many vendors were flexible. We married on a beautiful Saturday morning in the Bay Area. We had about 75 guests. We aimed to spend $5,000 and spent around $6,378. We had to economize in many places, but felt like we had a special and meaningful wedding. We had friends and family who were generous with their talents too. We got married through Wedgewood Banquet and would recommend them.

    *Mindfulness class: $175 (through Kaiser)
    *Ceremony Site: $0—The $750 fee was waived because we got married in the “off” season and held our reception at the same venue.
    *Invites from Costco (plus postage): $208
    *Wedding Band: $500
    *Reception: $3502 — Rental, lunch buffet, wine on tables, champagne toast, simple appetizer hour
    *Donation to Officiant’s church: $100
    *Music: $0 Family members performed; iPod for the rest

    *Wedding dress from Nordstroms: $138
    *Lingerie! $100
    *Shoes from Zappos: $70
    *Hair: $100
    *Makeup: $75 (bought at Mac)
    *Suit rental for husband: $90

    *Flowers: $70 — from greenhouse in Half Moon Bay. Just a simple bouquet for me and flowers for the cake
    *Odds and ends at Michaels — $50
    *Cake $400
    *Photography: $600 semi-professional woman we found on Craigslist. She was awesome!
    Hotel: $200

  • MM

    Our goal budget for our Scottsdale, AZ wedding this past October was $12K. We ended up spending about $12,800. This budget did not include either of our wedding outfits as they were gifts. It also does not include our DOC, which was another gift, but we would have paid about $500-750. We had a cocktail reception at the same venue as the ceremony.

    Catering (6 hors d’oeuvres) & Alcohol (beer, wine, 2 cocktails) for 80 people: $4000
    Wedding cakes (2) and 5 desserts: $435
    Rentals (30 chairs for ceremony and 10 cocktail tables): $345
    Venue (buying out B&B for 2 nights): $2572
    Hair for me, mom and 4 bridesmaids: $290
    Makeup for me and 4 bridesmaids: $315
    Dress alterations: $220
    Stationery (save the dates, invites, RSVPs, postage): $340
    Gifts for attendants and officiant: $317
    Favors (homemade vanilla extract): $248
    Flowers (all dried): $96
    All other decor: $333
    Photographer (8 hours, 2 photographers, engagement session): $2600
    Marriage license: $76
    Wedding bands: $846
    Custom guest book poster: $114
    iPod self DJ: $0

    I feel like everything was a good value, but our photography was particularly worth it, and was my number one priority for vendors. I don’t think there’s anything we regret spending money on.

  • Sarah

    My (mostly) misguided initial budget was $5000, but once we priced out some venues and caterers we knew that wasn’t going to happen. I had a couple of weeks of frantic brainstorming about how we could have a wedding and notfeed anyone, but thankfully our families were able to help us financially. We ended up spending just over $10,000. Two thousand of that went to our venue, which had a great location and let us BYOB. All said and done, we spent $3500 on our buffet meal. I spent $500 on my dress plus $300 on alterations. Flowers cost $800. The cake was $350. The beer and booze was $750. His suit and shoes was $700. I spent a couple hundred on decorations and vases for the tables. The DJ was $650. Our brilliant officiant was $500. Oh course there was always something else to buy; shoes, hair, hotel room, etc. But I made all the paper pieces with my mom with materials she had on hand. His brother did our photos, which saved us a lot of money that honestly we didn’t have, but I sort of regret that decision now. What was worth it: having a party with our best friends and families. I sometimes daydream about the courthouse wedding we didn’t have, but it was so FUN to dress up, promise ourselves to each other and then party with everyone we love. I’m genuinely glad we did it the way we did, even if we spent more than I really wanted to. Oh, and we live in the great city of Chicago :)

  • Katelyn

    Wedding Location: Las Vegas (destination)

    Guests expected: 65
    Original Planned Budget: $15K
    Actual probable range: $20K – $25K, depending on attendance
    Who’s paying: His parents, My parents, Us

    Ceremony Package and surcharges at Caesar’s Palace: $3000

    Dinner Reception for 65 guests ($68 pp + tax + gratuity): $6000
    Consumption Bar allowance: $2000
    Additional wine for tables: $500
    Wedding Cake: $500
    Other Decor (centerpieces, etc): $500

    Bridal Gown and Accessories: $2000
    Hair and makeup artist for bride, 3 bridesmaids, and MOB: $1000
    Bouquets: $300
    Groom Clothing and Accessories: $500

    Photographer: $1500
    Stationary Design, Paper, and Website: $850
    Wedding Planner/Day of Coordinator (Friendor): $1000
    Fancy Hotel Suite and Refreshments for Open House/Afterparty: $2500

    Total: $22,150

  • Melise

    We live in Atlanta but saved a ton of money by having our wedding in a small town about 1.5 hours from the city. Our initial budget idea was $10,000ish, adjusted to “under $15,000 but as low as we can get it” once we figured out how much stuff actually cost. My parents generously gave us a number and told us we could keep whatever was left as a gift, so we definitely tried to play a balancing game.

    Attendees: 185
    Venue: $2,800
    Food: $1,800 (Delicious fajitas for $8/person through a connection to a restaurant)
    Photographer: $1,200 (one shooter all day and engagement pics – we got an amazing deal)
    Dress: $900
    Alcohol: $1200
    Pies: $400
    Flowers: $400 (ordered in bulk and did bouquets and centerpieces ourselves)
    DJ: $400

    Total: ~$13,800

    The total includes a lot of little things (gifts, day-of food, etc), but doesn’t include our rehearsal dinner, honeymoon, or officiant.

  • Sewassbe

    Anyone else pretty much broke in a very expensive area of the country? We are museum professionals with student loans who don’t make that much money (meaning, most of the time we can pay all our bills on time and still have money for food and gas). Parents and family all live far away and at least one pair of parents is not able to contribute much money wise at all. We’re aiming for $10,000 in the Hudson Valley of NY (where we live and work – west side of the river, thank god), but every time I look at venues I cry. They’re so expensive! We’re big into the outdoors, not religious at all, and I really want to get married in a beautiful outdoor space. We’re also historians, so we like pretty houses and barns. One set of parents has agreed to contribute $5,000 and probably would give more, but I hate asking. But a lot of venues in our area run $5,000 just to have the wedding there – that doesn’t necessarily include tables and chairs, food, or anything else.

    Any ideas? My two biggest wants are great photos and I’m a huge foodie and scratch cook, so I’m picky about food, but it definitely does NOT have to be fancy. Anyone have any suggestions for finding decent caterers who will work with you and whether or not renting a tent and tables/chairs is any cheaper than going with a venue that provides all that?

    I would self-cater, but our guest list is about 150 and while I LOVE to cook for people, I’d like to be able to actually relax and enjoy my wedding…

    • Jessica Nelson

      Have you seen http://www.hudsonvalley.org/about/site-rentals/faqs?
      I’m not super familiar with the Hudson Valley region, but I know that almost every historical society (whether on the state, county, or city/town level) has some kind of old house that they have to preserve, and you can often rent them. (I’m an historian too, so yay for preserving old houses…but my experience is that these places are often a financial drain for historical societies b/c not many people pay to come see it, so they’re usually willing to rent for fairly cheap.) The challenge might be finding a place that holds 150.

      • Sewassbe

        The hilarious thing is that we could have a gorgeous wedding at either of our historic sites/museums, but neither of us want to get married at work! Lol. We may end up renting a lawn and getting a tent, but I doubt that’s much cheaper than finding an indoor place.

    • UpstateNYBride

      I am getting married in Upstate NY this June in a lovely barn with a historic house on site for the bridal party to get ready and a one room school house on the grounds as well for the groomsmen to get ready in. The venue comes with tables and chairs for the barn reception and is costing roughly $2500 (and the money goes to the historic site so its a good cause)…it is about 30-40 minutes away from Hudson in Latham, NY if you don’t mind going a bit further north. They also give you access to the site the day before so you can set up the barn in advance. If you are interested it is called the Pruyn House.
      And here’s our budget breakdown so far for our June 2014 wedding for 100 people:
      Estimated budget: $10,000 (will probably be more like $12,000 in the end)
      Venue: $3000 (including insurance)
      Catering: $1625 (Local food struck – gourmet sliders)
      Photography: $1600 (2 photographers for entire day)
      Alcohol: $450 (supplies for homebrew that we brew and selection of whiskeys for a whiskey bar)
      Save-the-Dates: $80
      Desserts: DIY, made by family
      Décor: DIY (haven’t totaled supplies yet)
      Flowers: Grown and Picked from friends/families gardens – free
      Dress: $1600 (not including alterations)

      • Sewassbe

        Pruyn House is totally on our to-visit list! Nice to know that catering can be done reasonably. Care to share your photographers? We live in Orange County, so it’s hard to know how far photographers will travel if we end up going north for the wedding.

        • UpstateNYBride

          Here are the photographers we are using. I found them through a friend’s wedding. And they’ve photographed a wedding at the Pruyn House before so they know the lay of the land.

          It looks like their pricing and packages have changed since we booked them a year ago! Glad we booked them before the price change. yikes.

  • Remy

    October afternoon wedding in Oakland, CA, 25 guests
    Budgeted $2500 for the “day”, and stuck to that. With rings, honeymoon, staying at a B&B for 2 nights even though we’re local, dinner for half a dozen travelers the night before, and a cupcake reception for ~100 the next evening after church, it came to under $5000 (also planned and saved in advance). I ended up not tracking costs as strictly as I thought I would, once I realized we were at or under budget.

    Our venue was free. This was unexpected — we had decided to rent a city park venue, and when their prices went way up just before we booked, we switched to an AirBnB plan… which fell through. Two acquaintances were getting married at their home (a condo building with a communal patio) the week before, and they were immensely kind to offer us the same space for our gathering when they heard how our plans had been overturned. That was a relief.

    We self-catered, with the help of our wonderful friends who got together the day before and made sandwiches, baked cookies and scones, and sliced fruit. Food was served buffet-style on tiered cake platters and mismatched china we had thrifted in the months before the wedding. Beverage dispensers held water, lemonade, and iced tea, and there was a large urn of water for hot tea (no booze, just cider for toasts). The wedding party and my mom pitched in afterward to wash the dishes. I would not recommend doing this for more that 20-30 people max, or without at least one person who has made finger food in large quantities before!

    We hired local independent professionals where possible — an indie jeweler made our rings in one of her standard designs we found on Etsy; we booked our photographer WAY in advance and were rewarded by keeping our very low price when her rates went up once she went full-time. My fairy godfather is a licensed secular officiant, and he let us write our own ceremony just the way we wanted it. My dress was bought online, though (unique-vintage.com, $131 w/ tax and shipping), and my wife rented a vest and tie from Men’s Wearhouse because there was also a location in her hometown where her buddies could get theirs.

    The best money we spent was for the services of a friend-of-a-friend who set out all the food, kept an eye on refills, and carted things to the staging area/sink. I tipped her generously (on top of the admittedly low flat amount we offered) and wish we could have afforded more. She was perfect and took all the worry off my mind — much as I’d hoped the wedding coordinator would (that wasn’t such a success, sadly). I think *a* day-of coordinator or stage manager is very much worth their fee, if you can afford one. It has to be the right person, though.

    Our cake was a BIG hit, and it came from Whole Foods. I do not regret that. We could have gotten lovely and delicious cake from an independent baker, but I couldn’t justify the extra expense.

    I did less DIY than I thought I might — after a while I just wasn’t interested enough in having cute crafty stuff to spend money or time on making it happen. I did make my own bouquet and floral wreath (fake flowers, so I could do it in advance) and some things for the wedding party to carry down the aisle instead of flowers.

    I stressed too much about the ipod playlist. We didn’t have dancing, so it was just background music, and it could have been eliminated entirely after the ceremony without anyone noticing. The half-dozen songs in the ceremony were key, though, and so was having someone to cue them.

    That’s what’s important to say at the moment, I guess. I’m happy to answer questions if you want more detail.

    • Remy

      I went and looked up the budget. After adding in a few final costs from Mint, the best number I have for absolutely everything is $3,991.29.

  • channamasala

    Guests: 98
    Location: Poughkeepsie,

    Venue – $6,000 including ceremony venue, chairs, tables, catering kitchen, lighting, bathrooms etc.
    Food – $10,000 including tiramisu “cake”, coffee, tea, truffles and tablecloth/plateware/glassware/cutlery rentals – buffet meal and appetizers and help with setup
    Bar – $800 with wine, beer, vodka, gin, rum, whiskey and basic mixers as well as soft drinks and juice (We were allowed to self-stock and went to discount liquor stores)
    Decorations including paper napkins, table cards etc. – $300
    Invitations – maybe $300 including postage, all DIY with paper from a Japanese paper store in Taipei
    Dress – $500 (made by a tailor in Taiwan)
    Suit – $700 maybe? I don’t know but it’s a very nice light wool suit
    Wedding party attire: $0 (most people wore what they had, no matching)
    Wedding party gifts: $600 ($50 per person including parents, invitation designer and musician)
    Officiant: $250
    Favors: $30 for assorted candy from Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan in $5 fake lacquer bowl from Marshall’s
    Photography $500+$75 tip with photos edited a little on CD
    DJ $600+$100 tip (we had them stay an extra hour and paid in cash on the spot)
    Musician (free), sheet music $25
    Hotel – our hotel room was $110/night, upgraded to a suite, stayed for 2 nights so we could get ready there
    My hair – $80 ($60 from a high school friend who owns a salon in my hometown, $20 tip)
    Makeup – $100 for my own makeup from MAC, no artist
    Jewelry – all DIY, I spent maybe $50 on the materials, earrings I already had
    Shoes – $25

    Are we including rehearsal dinner ($2300) or honeymoon ($5000) or album made a year later ($150 DIY)?

    • channamasala

      I’ll add that it was in September, and I forgot our wedding bands (about $500 total, bought in Taiwan)

      Total: $21,760 not including rehearsal dinner (which was a gift from his parents as it wasn’t cheap), honeymoon or the album that got made a year later. The total plus all of that is closer to $30,000.

      If I included our flight home that raises it to $32,000, $1000 for each plane ticket from Taipei to my hometown.

      Budget: $10,000 initially, until my parents insisted we invite the “WHOLE FAMILY”, at which point we told them that would be fine if they’d finance the extra cost of making that happen. We could afford 50 people in a small venue like a restaurant, they wanted more like 100 people which required a larger venue and access to good seating, shade and bathrooms for elderly guests. Revised to $20,000 with parents’ help and blessing. So not that far from the revised budget.

      We also paid $400 so a good friend could come from Seattle (she couldn’t afford the plane ticket), but I don’t count that in the ‘wedding budget’, it was a personal decision paid for with personal cash.

      We paid for everything but the venue and food (from my parents – $16,000) – although I think we did pay the deposits for those so who knows. And rehearsal dinner (his parents) and his suit (his parents). The honeymoon was paid for with wedding gift money.

      Was it worth it? YES. Every minute. It was SO MUCH FUN, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I saw people I’d never see again (two wedding guests have since passed on, one expected, the other not) and people I hadn’t seen in years but cared about. I really think that while events are expensive, these kinds of events are what builds the memories that help bind families and communities.

      What would I change? We really didn’t need to spend that much on food – I might have done restaurant catering, had it in a restaurant (although then there would have had to have been a ceremony venue) or something, but really it was not necessary to spend that much on food. I would have paid a bit more to have the photographer there for an extra hour or so, too.

      So I think we did OK.

  • Sofia

    Our budget breakdown may be a bit confusing because we are having it in Johannesburg, South Africa., where we live. So we are paying in Rands (which is extremely weak against the dollar right now!)
    and the cost of living is lower in South Africa. Also, we will be having a traditional Swazi wedding and a
    “white wedding”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_wedding.

    So far we’ve only locked in the reception venue and catering, so all of this is quite theoretical. Already my fiancé is pushing on our target attendee number of 100 guests like whoah, so things may change a lot.

    Here is the breakdown – for USD divide by 10, even though the xrate is much worse right now :(

    Total budget (white wedding, traditional wedding and honeymoon): R244,950/$24,495

    White Wedding for 100 people: R164,450/$16,445
    – Reception: R65,000 – we are already up to R65,200, without renting a canopy, 40 chairs and
    getting a cake
    – Attire: R13,000
    – Decorations: R13,000
    – Music: R13,000
    – Photography and prints: R13,000
    – Gifts: R3,900
    – Ceremony: R2,600
    – Stationery: R1,300 (Appycouple wedsite and free paperless post email save the dates and
    – Rings: R3,900
    – Transportation: R6,500
    – Misc: R1,300
    – Contingency: R19,500
    – Coordinator: R14,950

    Traditional Wedding for 75 people: R34,500/$3,450 (this will likely come
    in well under)

    Honeymoon: R46,000/$4,600

    • NZer

      Love having a South African perspective ! (Also, I totally read your post in a SA accent!)

    • Courtney Ellis

      Thank you Sofia, so pleased to see another South African on APW! I was hoping to get some Cape Town rates: we’re newly engaged and will be having budget discussions soon. When is your wedding(s)?

      Any Cape Townians out there?

  • anon

    We got married this past summer in Portland, Oregon, with 100 people in attendance. My mom insisted on paying for most of our big-ticket items, and though she honestly could have afforded more than what we ended up spending, it was important to me to not “take advantage” of my mom and to pay for what we could. I’m also not the kind of person who has dreamed about my wedding since childhood, so I cut out a lot of things that I didn’t care about (matching colors/color theme, wedding favors, full-length veil, etc), and threw in some things that were kinda crazy but so fun (llama/alpaca, pedicabs!). That said, I definitely ended up getting excited about some aspects of the wedding that I never imagined I would have before (dress shopping, whoa!).

    Our goal budget was $12K, and our actual budget was about $15,500. I’m still riding a high from our wedding and I have no regrets for overspending — most of the places where we went over budget were things that saved us time/energy. Did I mention I opened a wine bar two weeks before my wedding, and was thus working 80 hours a week for a full month before I got married? Every place we could save ourselves work and time by paying a little extra was totally worth it. I simply did not have the time to do the DIY projects I had hoped to when we first started planning, but I was glad to pay extra to have things done. We also got very lucky as both my husband and I have been in the restaurant industry for years, and it’s seriously one of the best industries to be in when calling in favors for a wedding. We also have a number of really talented friends and family who gifted us their services. I feel like our wedding looked and felt much more expensive than it actually was, largely because of the things we were gifted. Most importantly though, we had such an amazing time, and were told by so many friends and family that it was one of the best weddings they’d ever attended.

    Day-of coordinator: $350. Friend of a friend, gave us a friend discount.
    Invites: $115. Design was a gift from my brother, who’s a graphic designer. Invite and RSVP printed by a local printer. Envelopes purchased online. They looked great!
    Ceremony venue: $600. Peninsula Park Rose Garden, which is one of many public parks in Portland. It was perfect and gorgeous, and the weather was spectacular.
    Reception venue: $0. The restaurant where I worked gifted me their space as long as I had the wedding on a Sunday, when they’re normally closed. Seriously, this saved us so much.
    Catering: $5500, including gratuity. Some friends of ours own a paella catering company, so we had them do a classic seafood paella as well as a vegetable paella, with salad and bread, as well as pre-dinner passed apps. The vegetable paella was vegan and all of it was gluten free, so our guests varied dietary restrictions were covered. The cost included a full bar staff and service staff, as well as all rentals and linens. We were originally going to use the restaurant’s plateware and silverware and supplement it with rentals, but it was easier to just rent it all so we didn’t get anything mixed up. We also upped the staff a little more than we originally planned, and I’m so glad we did.
    Booze: $700. 4 cases of wine, a keg of beer and a giant bulk batch of Boulevardiers (bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth). All of this was purchased at wholesale cost through my employers.
    Cheese and cookies: $400. We did a wheel of Creme Du Borgogne cheese, which is delicious and looks like a fondant-covered cake, and we CUT THE CHEESE (ha! Still makes me giggle!) instead of cake-cutting. We also had a cookie buffet of about a dozen types of cookies made by a good friend who also owns a bakery.
    My dress: $2500. $1500 more than I was planning to spend, but I got the deal of a lifetime for a custom gown by a dressmaker family friend. It was based on a $6500 Jenny Packham dress (my dream dress), so I basically got my dream dress for a fraction of the cost. My mom was really excited to pay extra to have this dress made, and I was really happy with the dress.
    Shoes: $40. Zappos FTW!
    Groom’s suit and shoes: $700, from J.Crew (shoes from Amazon). My husband is not a suit-and-tie kind of guy, so it took some persuasion for him to spend this much on clothing, but he was really, really happy with it in the end, and he now has a great suit that he can wear to anything.
    Venue flowers: $300. Flowers were $250 from the farmer’s market, and vases I purchased for $50 from a friend who had them from her wedding – she had about 30 vases that she had thrifted from every Goodwill around. We picked up the flowers at the farmer’s market Saturday morning, and my aunts knocked out 25 arrangements in an hour. They looked amazing.
    Bouquet: $0. Gift from my best friend who used to be a florist. Gorgeous!
    DJ and equipment: $0. The DJ was a good friend of ours who volunteered his services, and he knocked it out of the ballpark! Equipment we borrowed from a friend who owns a catering and DJ company.
    Photography: $3800 for 12 hours with 2 shooters.
    Pedicabs from the ceremony to the reception: $500 for 7 pedicabs, including gratuity. This was so great for our close family, especially since we have a number of family who have small kids who LOVED this.
    Llama/alpaca rental: $300 (suggested donation) for 2 hours. SO GLAD WE DID THIS. They greeted everyone in the courtyard of the reception venue, and we only told a handful of people about it beforehand. It was an awesome surprise!
    Photobooth: $50. We purchased an iPad app and some great felt props on Etsy, and borrowed the stand and backdrop from my wedding planner (her husband made it for $100). We brought a clip lamp from home for lighting.
    Miscellaneous: $200. Picture frames, license, bar menus, cab ride back to the hotel.

    I felt like basically everything was worth it, but if I were to list the top 3 most-worth-it expenses, I’d say:
    1. Day-of wedding coordinator. I’m normally the one responsible for event planning parties, and it was WONDERFUL to not be in charge. She also helped us so much to stay on top of our to-do list, and to have a reasonable timeline as the wedding approached.
    2. Photographer. SO BEYOND WORTH IT. They did a wonderful job and we got over 700 stunning photos from the wedding day!
    3. Caterer. The food was amazing, but more importantly, the owners of the catering company, who are also good friends of ours, did such a stellar job of helping to run the event smoothly. They were true professionals and worked with the wedding coordinator to stay on top of the schedule, and kept myself and my now-husband well-hydrated while we danced our asses off. :)

    I know this seems nit-picky, but the only thing that wasn’t worth it was the iPad app. It’s called Wedding Booth, and I didn’t love that the photos ended up being so small. I would have picked another app if I had had the time but it was one of a number of things I had to delegate. It was still fun to have the photobooth photos though!

    • anon

      Eeps! I forgot to add hair and makeup! The cost for hair/makeup for myself, my mom and my sister (MOH) was $600. The hair/makeup artist was really great, though if I had to do it all over again I would have taken my photog’s advice and booked a hair person and a makeup person so they could tag-team us… We started at 9am and barely got out the door in time for our 3pm ceremony. We made it, but I was hoping to be at the ceremony site a little earlier for our first look. It all worked out fine though!

  • Anon for this

    So, a bit late to the party, but for any Continental European readers out there (amounts in US$ though):

    Location: European Capital

    Goal Budget: $20,000

    Actual Budget: approx $33,000

    Guests: 80


    Ceremony (City Hall + Church): $1,000

    Rings: $2,500

    Dress: $2,200

    Bridal Party: $670

    Flowers: $450 (DIY/flower market)

    Venue: $4,000

    Food+Drink: $12,000

    Invites/Dave the dates/Random Stationary: $400

    Wedding hair/make-up: $200

    Bridal car + Guest Bus: $950

    DJ: $600

    Band: $800

    Photographer: $2,300

    Day of coordinator: $1,000

    Random bits and pieces (hire cars for picking people up/taxis/odds and ends): $500

    Honeymoon: $3500

    As well as the above (and not included in the total) we had lunch party after the Civil Ceremony, and my dress for that (in the country where we had the wedding you have to have a city hall wedding), which probably came to around $600 and the rehearsal dinner, which was probably around $1,000. But I didn’t budget very carefully over those.

    So, in the end, more than we really wanted (the numbers actually made me feel quite sick at first) but since we’re really lucky we could actually afford it (between us and both sets of parents) and I didn’t actually regret spending it (which I *really* expected to, honestly)… We basically spent a lot of money on things that really mattered to us – venue/food mainly, and DIY’d a fair bit ourselves – stationary, flowers, and suchlike for things we thought we could manage/were less fussed over.

  • Marlena

    We are shooting for $8-9K
    I have some experience in the wedding industry as we do cakes ( so yes I am making my own) And am fortunate to know so many wonderful and talented people in this area of San Luis Obispo, California. It is somewhat challenging planning a wedding in a destination wedding area being a local, I still can’t believe what the going rate is for some things $$$$$$
    Most of our funds are being allotted to venue (which was a huge score…Jack House for anyone in the area..it is the best deal around), photography,,and food. We are partially self-catering,by self I mean several friends and their respective refrigerators, and also getting a few things from our favorite restaurants around town, more organization required but definitely helps with the budget. We have having a dressed-up 8bit gamer wedding :) D.IT. sessions have already begun with our wonderful friend group! I am sure more things will come up as we get closer, but so far it is working out! Just have to watch the craft budget area..I can get carried away in those stores!

    • KerryMarie

      I am in San Luis Obispo! While I’m not getting married there, I’ll second the Jack House as a total score! It’s such a cool venue (we recently did the nighttime Christmas tour and it was awesome). Your wedding sounds fantastic!

      • Marlena

        :) Have you found a reasonable photographer or a day of coordinator in the area? still looking to fill some vendor gaps!

        • KerryMarie

          I wouldn’t exactly call our photographer reasonable, (at $3500, he was a splurge for us…http://www.bluephoto.biz/) BUT I do know two fantastic ladies who run Inktree Photography. They take great photos and are awesome to work with (they did my friend’s “lumberjack” wedding, which you can see on their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/inktreephotography). I think their least expensive package is around $2500.

          Unfortunately, I don’t have any day of coordinators to recommend, as we’re doing the “have a friend stage manage” route…

          good luck!

  • Bee

    We got married last June in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Amsterdam in general is quite a pricey location but our wedding was at a local community center which gave us lots of freedom. We had 60 people for the ceremony and dinner and 120 guests in total at the party after dinner. We didn’t have a budget to start out with, we just intuitively decided whether things were worth it or not. I’ve converted our costs to USD for your convenience.

    Food, appetizers etc: $2700
    Wedding cake: $240
    Drinks (incl. bubbles):$2700
    Dress, shoes etc. bride: $2800
    Suit, shoes etc. groom: $1000
    Photographer: $3000 (incl love shoot, entire day of wedding)
    Videographer: $500
    Decoration: $130
    Flowers (incl bouquet): $130
    Honeymoon (South Africa): $6600
    Rings: $4100
    Venue: $3000
    DJ: $550
    Legal stuff (license, prenup etc): $1300
    Gifts: $270
    Invites etc: $250

    Total: ~$30K

    As I sum it all up it does sound like a lot, especially in dollars :). However, we felt like everything was worth it. It is quite expensive to get married in Holland and we decided to spend the most on things that we felt were important to get right like photography, honeymoon, rings, dress and most importantly making sure our guests were well fed including drinks… We did however save on the cake (got a wide selection from a great Dutch grocery store), decoration (ordered basic stuff online and had friends help us decorate + our venue was quite lovely by itself) and favors (skipped those cause we didnt feel we could find something that was really worth the effort or money).We were lucky enough to be able to pay for the entire thing ourselves (which I guess is also most common in the Netherlands), without having to go into debt.

  • clairekfromtheuk

    My UK wedding was budgeted at c£12k and came in at about £15k (I think, we haven’t done the final reconciliation yet)

    By far the biggest expense was the food and booze (we picked a great but expensive venue but hey, the food was amazeballs) http://www.crazybeargroup.co.uk/stadhampton/

    Round up for 70 people who got fed and watered with an open bar up to a ££ limit.

    Venue hire £2.5k
    Dress £2.5k (more than budgeted, will be selling if anyone’s interested – Suzanne Neville, Love Affair, UK size 14)
    Photog – £2k (for pics on a disc only)
    Bar £500
    Food ummm, I think £2.5k – there was WAAAAYYY too much food which broke my heart both financially and environmentally, we could have catered for 50 peeps and still had leftovers
    Boozes (toasts and wine etc) – I think around £1k (that was 1.5 glasses of bubbles and half a bottle of wine each)
    Other clothing (groom, best woman, maids) was about £1 i think

    I made my own cake which wasn’t in the budget though obviously did cost something (you can totally make a professional looking tiered cake btw, it just takes absolutely bloody ages)

    the rest is random stuff I have clearly forgotten even though it was only 6 weeks ago. It was 2nd time around for both of us so we paid for it all ourselves from a mix of monthly saving beforehand and 0% credit cards.

    Oh yeah, honeymoon was in there too but the hubs booked it so I have no idea

    • clairekfromtheuk

      forgot to say, we dispensed with a bunch of shit you’re ‘meant’ to have (favours, table plan, order of service, handcrafted dried rose petal confetti etc) and guess what??


      Oh, also florist was £750. I had a crown made of flowers, it was totally kick ass

  • Vanessa

    For Canadian brides in a major city (for me – Ottawa) — 2012 wedding in Cdn $

    We did a Saturday brunch wedding (w family) + second wine/canape reception (w friends) + private dinner for us in the evening (we love our food).

    Guests: plated brunch – 40 ppl; wine/canape afternoon – 30 ppl; dinner – 2
    Expected budget (excl. honeymoon): $10 000
    Actual budget: $10,018 (or $14140 when the honeymoon was added)

    breakdown: ceremony and brunch was at one location (Wakefield Inn) – rental: $300 (other fees were waived given the food we were eating)
    brunch food/wine: $4200
    canape/wine: $1160
    dinner for 2: $150
    hotel stay overnight (with g/fs first night; husband second night): $250
    dress: gifted
    flowers: online order – assembled by family: $360
    invites: $20 local printer (self-designed on Photoshop)
    photography: $1400 (engagement + wedding + photobook)
    cake: $80 (we had cheese from our local cheese shop made up into rounds to look like a tiered cake with crackers etc. since there was already dessert with the brunch)
    misc: whatever remains.

    ALL the food was worth it. The driving around to get people on board with what we wanted (plated brunch) and work with what we were able to afford was worth it!
    Paying for make-up and rooms for my friends who travelled cross-country worth it.
    Not paying to re-fit my dress – a minor regret (it was ill-made)

  • Rachael

    Our budget was pretty abnormally low, but it was held in our hometown in a really rural area of PA (think much cheaper everything), it was very low key/ casual, we had a lot of physical help from family, and it was mostly DIY.

    I think our total was around $11K for 300 people, including dinner and open bar (craft beer and wine) AND our wedding attire and wedding rings.

    The rough breakdown:
    Food and alcohol: $5K
    Wedding attire for the two of us plus our wedding rings: $2000
    Transportation for the guests: $800
    Lodge where we (and some friends) stayed that week: $600
    DJ: $550
    Photographer: $500 (an amateur, friend of a friend)
    Invitations / RSVPs / Thank you cards, etc.: $500
    Decorations: $300
    Thank you gifts for family: $250
    no real honeymoon, but a really nice dinner and then camping later in the summer: $400

    And then the things we caught a break on:
    Venue: free through family connections
    cake: free – my Mom made it
    flowers: free – my aunt did them and harvested them all from friends and relatives gardens
    videographer: free – my brother did this for a gift

    What was most worth the money:
    Spending extra for craft beer
    Hiring a bus to transport guests to and from the reception, keeping everyone safe
    The lodge where we stayed with our friends, giving us some space from family and having more time to spend with our long distance friends

    What is ridiculous is that I initially thought we could do it for $5K, and I was in a bit of shock at first at how much things cost. Our parents thought we were ridiculous for spending as much as we did, but I am not sure how much cheaper we could have done it for that many guests.

    • Rachael

      Forgot to add:
      Hair for the bride: free, my sister did it

    • Sarah E

      Might I ask what region of PA? We’re getting married May 2015 in South Central PA- not really rural, but if you have any good rec’s from the area, I’m all ears :-) Thanks!

      • Rachael

        Congratulations! I don’t think I’ll be of much help to you – we got married in north western PA (the area on the map that is completely green) and we used all local vendors.
        Good luck with the planning!

  • tashamoes

    We’re getting married July 12, 2014 outside of Toronto (Oakville) and are inviting 370, thinking around 275 will attend (including a whole bunch of wild kids that we love).

    Total: $22,500

    Reception venue: 1,500 (private high school with a patio and beautiful atrium)
    Food: $6,000 (appetizers, then food trucks – any other GTA couples doing food trucks? recommend any?)
    Alcohol: $2,300 (open wine/beer/signature cocktail bar)
    Dress: $850
    Other clothes: $1,200
    Flowers and decor: $1,000 (DIT bouquets, simple table decor – hoping to make gold sequin table runners! mmmm sequins.)
    Photography: $2,900
    Ceremony venue, officiant, punch: $1,500
    Stationery: $720 (my brother built me a hydraulic letterpress, fiance wants to DIT invites and thank-you cards, and we’re planning kickass “guide to the wedding” programs, because we like copious amounts of information)
    Other: rings, gifts, honeymoon, etc…those are in the 22k as well. Haven’t made a plan for the rehearsal dinner yet, but hopefully we can do that inexpensively.

    We’re trying to keep things low key and casual, and hoping to use lots of help that has been offered. The biggest surprise/making me feel teary all the time since we got engaged is how many people want to help. I have to remind myself not to turn down their offers – they love us and are so excited…and we really do need the help!

  • Leslie

    I found these immensely helpful when I was getting to the sane stages of my wedding so I want to contribute now. I actually planned 1.5 weddings, which where very different from each other, so I learned a lot.

    Goal budget: $12-15K (arbitrary number we came up with that felt okay)

    Wedding #1: The Wedding That Didn’t Happen

    Location: On the water in Maine, near Boothbay, but in an area not nearly as popular

    This was going to be an outdoor tented reception for 65 people at a group of family-run cottages on the water.

    Final estimated budget based on what I booked and thorough research: $22K
    Venue: $3,000
    Photog: $1,150
    Reception Music (band who are friends of a friend): $2,000
    Ceremony Music: $500
    Caterer: $4,900
    Drinks (beer/wine/some hard alcohol bought by us): $1,500
    Day-of Coordinator: $700
    Flowers (DIY Trader Joe’s): $200
    Rings: $1,500
    My Attire (dress, alterations, shoes, jewelry): $450
    His Attire (suit, alterations, tie, belt, shoes): $450
    Plates, Glasses, Etc. $250
    Tent/Table/Chair Rentals: $1,500
    Decorations: $200
    Invitatations/StDs: $300
    Welcome BBQ: $300
    Bridesmaid/Groomsmen Gifts (for seven people): $400
    Hair/Nails(for me, bridesmaids, moms): $415
    Tips: $800

    You will notice this doesn’t add up to $22,000, but I learned that at the end I just started throwing money at problems, so I assume I would have done the same.
    Lesson for this wedding: When doing a wedding from the ground up, it is going to be expensive. Seriously. I didn’t believe anyone when they told me this. I’m thrifty! I clip coupons! I don’t care about elaborate decorations! None of it mattered. Whenever the wedding websites talk about saving money, they always talk about how to cut back on decorations. I learned pretty fast that it’s not the decorations that cost money (although they can!). A decent portapotty would have cost us $1,500!

    Wedding #2 (The One We Had When We Got Fed Up)
    We planned this in three weeks. It was a work of art, We worked together like two pieces of a symphony. I have a lot of love for this wedding.
    It was a late December wedding, on a Sunday, held in coastal NH, with the ceremony at a public park and reception at a restaurant across the street. Total guest count was 33 including us.
    Total budget (kind of fuzzy, see: throwing money at stuff at the end)
    Ceremony location: free. We were supposed to pay $250 and we planned to until the city told us we had t shovel it ourselves. My husband spent 12 hours (literally) in total shoveling 18 inches of wet snow and trying to de-ice in the week leading up to the wedding. Let’s just say we “forgot” to mail that check.
    Reception: $6,000. This included exclusive use of the restaurant, passed apps, a three-course dinner, dessert, an open bar, and coordinator. It wasn’t cheap but the food was AMAZING, the bar was generous, and the coordinator was the best I’ve encountered. It was worth every.single.penny.
    Ceremony musicians: $200. They deserved more. I got them for cheap through my friend’s brother-in-law, they normally charge $500-600. They stood under an umbrella in rain to make sure we could hold our ceremony outside as to not waste the hours of shoveling.
    My attire: $660 — $315 for my dress, $40 for alterations, $140 for shoes (I splurged after getting a raise at work), $50 for rented jewelry, $15 for makeup, wrap for outdoor ceremony
    His attire: Not really sure, I would say somewhere around $400
    Hotel room: $400 — two nights in suites in a downtown hotel. We live literally 3 miles away, but I wanted to feel like we were in the wedding bubble. I got two nights when I realized I didn’t want to face my messy house the next day.
    Invitations: $20. Seriously. Zazzle was having a sale. The fact that we sent invites was a miracle
    DJ: $450. He normally charges $900 but the restaurant coordinator got us a deal because it was last minute and because it was a Sunday. I was ready to forgo it, but glad I didn’t because my 10-year-old niece tore up the dance floor and was the life of the party.
    Flowers: $25 (TJs flowers and lace ribbon from Michaels)
    Hair: $100
    Tips: $100 (coordinator)
    Photog: free, done by a friend
    Rings: $1,500 (just wedding bands, I’m not sure how much my engagement ring cost)
    Total cost: $9,855
    We also lost about $2,000 in deposits with our change in plans, but still came out way ahead.
    This also does not include a dinner for the night before thrown by my in-laws so our families could meet before the wedding day. It ended up being my favorite part of the whole thing. Also not included is our once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon to Europe that we are planning with all the money we saved.

    • anonymousCA

      “Whenever the wedding websites talk about saving money, they always talk about how to cut back on decorations.”
      SO TRUE. and SO frustrating.

    • Leslie

      I also want to add $20 for a boutonniere. Not because it was a big expense, but because I like to remember how my husband bought it on the day of our wedding (I failed at thinking I would have time to make one), on his motorcycle (in December!) because his car broke down that day — twice. The first time I was behind him in my car, with the car packed with my wedding dress and everything else, and we had to jump it on a small one-way street in my slippers while TV personality Tom Bergeron was getting into his car next to us. This is one of my favorite stories from our wedding day.

  • Amanda L

    The math nerd in me loves breaking this down!

    Your goal budget – $20,000 ($5k from my parents, $5k from very generous friends of MIL, the rest us)
    Your actual budget if you’re already hitched (Let’s take the shame away from the idea that yeah, sometimes you spend more than originally intended. Or hell, less.) – if you include HM, rings, and hotel for the night before the wedding, we were at $30,000 (I wasn’t factoring any of that into my goal budget, though)
    A general breakdown of what you spent
    Ceremony and reception for 102 (plated dinner + open bar) – $9,400
    Photography – $2,200
    Flowers – $180 (thankfully I love carnations and Costco delivers!)
    Entertainment (DJ) – $654
    Attire (dress, shoes, alterations, jewelry) – $1,522
    Cake – $425
    Transportation for guests – $400
    Invitations (incl. postage) – $310
    Misc.(decor, BM gifts, etc) – $2,200
    What was worth it and what wasn’t (again, if already hitched) – I wish I had spent more on photography. With all the money we spent, spending another $1,000 to have the photographer that I still drool over would have been the smart decision. At the time, it seemed like a ‘waste’…
    And most importantly, your location (Because you cannot compare prices in Manhattan Kansas to Manhattan. You just can’t.) – Scottsdale, Arizona in March (because getting married in June is MUCH cheaper).

  • Sarah

    We’re hopeful we can keep our budget down to 6,000. We’re in Indiana and having a state park reception so it’s only 35 dollars to rent our reception venue (including tables!) Our biggest chunk is going towards our photographer but I’m a wedding photog too so I knew coming in I wouldn’t settle. Right now it looks like we may come in well under budget, fingers crossed!

    • Sarah

      I’ll break this down a little more for fun. We’re getting married July 4th this year in a very poor and cheap area of Indiana. Our wedding is a casual picnic style affair for ~90 people.
      We’re paying for most stuff, his parents are paying for food and mine are paying for my dress and flowers.
      Ceremony venue – $200 donation to the church his family has been attending forever
      Reception venue -$35 state parks are the bomb if you’re broke! This includes picnic tables too.
      Officiant – free, grooms best friend.
      Photographer – 2500 plus 388 travel fees. 10 hours, two photogs. totally worth it.
      Cabin rental in state park for three days to get ready and store stuff – $105
      Dress – $420 off etsy and it’s custom so that’s a great deal to me. It has a peter pan collar, y’all!
      My shoes – $215 I had to have them, I don’t care.
      Our rings – $200, thin rose gold band for me and wood for him
      His suit – no clue, hoping around $400 or less
      Flowers – $250 from sam’s club and my yard for dit bouquets and centerpieces
      Décor – $400, a lot is recycled glass coke bottles and jars with little flags and flowers as well as a million miles of handmade bunting and vintage pieces I already owned
      Food – ~$700 we are doing pulled pork, my brother is catering it for free, just have to pay for meat and we’re just having chips and cole slaw as sides. Paper plates and wood cutlery to keep it green since we’ll be outside Cheap and very 4th of July!
      Cake – $200, future sister in law works at a bakery so we’re getting a deal (and she’s making pies!)
      We still have a little wiggle room under our $6000 roof and honesty if we go over $1000 or so I’m okay with it. It’s low key and casual and perfect for us so we’re happy no matter what we spend.

  • SafroniaB

    There are a LOT of comments, but that’s not why I’m NOT going to get too deep and detailed into my numbers… We got married on a Saturday in October 2010 in Washington, DC. My goal budget was $10k. For 120 people. In DC. Even my then-fiance-now-husband laughed. I just really didn’t realize how much certain things cost in this location. So we came up with a more realistic budget for our area, which ended up being 1.5x my Fantasy Land Budget ($25k including rings/tux rental for all the boys and dress buying for the girls/not including honeymoon). And were able to stick to it.
    But here’s why I’m going to get to crazy with a breakdown for you — bear with me:
    Our (beautiful, historic, just outside town) venue was a deal at $2,500 (part of which was even tax deductible as it’s owned by the National Historic Trust). We love where we got married and many of our guests loved the location as well, so much so that one dear friend got engaged in 2012 and wanted very much to get married in the same place. I gave her all the information I had archived and the venue’s lovely events coordinator’s contact information. And she called me back 15 minutes later practically in tears.
    In less than two years time, the price to get married there had doubled.
    Just for grins, I checked it again in the middle of writing this and I can’t even tell you how much our set up would cost at “our” venue now because it’s been chopped up into an odd menu of only portions of the grounds. But since we had the run of the property for $2,500, it looks like to do things just as we did them would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $6,250. Plus the $250/hour additional set up/clean up fee. Plus the $100 membership fee (included in our 2010 price).
    Also, October has been moved from their “off-season” to “hot season” price point. And they lock you into their only caterer (we had many options), a company with great food we had to unfortunately reject because they simply don’t do weddings for under $80/pp. Good times.
    There is no way we would have been able to replicate our 2010 wedding in 2014. There’s inflation and then there’s WIC inflation. That’s a 164 percent increase in venue alone (and probably at least a 77 percent jump in catering but that’s just a guess).
    I’m not saying we couldn’t get married in DC for $25k in 2014. I’m just saying it would be completely different from the wedding we actually had less than four years ago.
    Just a little heads up/warning that things change and they change fast, especially when you’re talking budget.
    Good luck out there.

    • pistachio gelato

      I can relate! I live in New York City and remember 7 years ago when my friend married at The Foundry, that it was considered a relatively affordable venue. Not anymore! The site fee alone (for the building only, courtyard and greenhouse will cost thousands extra) is around $9000-$10,000 for 2014 so that’s $100/pp before you add catering. Each year, they add $1000 to the site fees and each year, the catering costs go up. So do the gratuities. 18% to 20% used to be the norm but now we’re seeing more caterers asking for 22-23% gratuities and you’re taxed 8.875% after the gratuities are added to the total.

    • Linda Chang

      Safronia, I am working on getting married this October and was wondering if you minded sharing your venue.

  • lady brett

    numbers in a moment, but first thing first – i have a confession: as a finance nerd, handler of all family budgets, excel nerd, and someone who gets sick spending more than about $30 on anything, i don’t know what we spent on our wedding.

    and, actually, i’m fine with that. it helps that i do know the ballpark, and more importantly that we didn’t spend more than we could afford. (i also don’t know how many people were there – i think it was 70, though.)

    we’re in a small southern city, so stuff is fairly cheap here
    goal budget: $5000 (that is, we decided $5k was the most we would be comfortable with, which meant i was trying to keep it under $4000 in all the budgety planning)
    i think we spent right around $5000, but then again maybe not.
    in order of expense (all rounded, some more exact than others):

    catering: $1500
    my spouse’s custom suit: $800
    wedding and engagement rings: $600
    gifts: $500 (we didn’t have a wedding party, but we got celebratory gifts for our families and a lot of our friends, our officiant, our flower boy and usher boy – mostly awesome scree-printed ties)
    photographer: $300
    venues: $300
    stationary and stamps: $250 (my favorite part of the whole planning process! mmm, letters.)
    my dress: $250 (a bridesmaid dress)
    my shoes: $75
    decorations: $25
    beer and chairs: ??? i’m sure it belongs farther up the list, but my dad and bro took care of this for us at the last minute.

    worth it:
    everything was awesome, but i think the wedding would have been nearly as wonderful if the catering and venues were the only things we paid for. the catering was done by a restaurant, and it was so good and so easy (plus, we can go there for our anniversary). we had the ceremony at a public park (rented), and the reception at a local community art gallery that was a serious stroke of luck to find (free art decoration, cheap space, supporting the community!).

    not worth it:
    the suit, it turns out, was lovely, but has not been useful in the long run, which was our reason for getting it. maybe worth it, but a little disappointing.
    the photographer was a last-minute decision when my spouse panicked that we wouldn’t have any pictures if we relied on friends. they aren’t anything special, but they did guarantee we would have them, and we got them quickly – my brother-in-law’s pictures are at least as good, but we didn’t see them for a while. so, again, maybe worth it for the peace of mind, but not great.

  • Lindsay Woodward

    Ooh boy. Our budget was about $7K for 40 people in Manhattan, New York. I think we stayed fairly close to it? I somewhat gave up and never totaled it up at the end, because yay! we were married and I didn’t care any more. Obviously, a lot of DIY and gracious people were involved.

    Locale: Manhattan
    Attending: 40 (including us)
    Budget: $7K
    dress: $400 for me (mom made my dress… and then I had it altered)
    suit: $750 custom suit for him (obviously not just a one-time-thing)
    accessories: $200 for tie, pocket squares, my earrings
    invites: $350 including stamps (used Vistaprint, sister designed them)
    flowers: $120 from online, arranged myself
    food: $2300, our “reception” consisted of 3-course dinner at a restaurant uptown (and many of us don’t drink…much to the restaurant’s chagrin, I’m sure)
    cake: we went with donuts (from the amazing Donut Plant) for $180
    rings: $320 (not including my engagement ring)
    photos: $360 inluding engagements (we have many dear friends who are actual photographers who were happy to help out. Yes, the pictures turned out great)
    ceremony location: $25 park fee
    license: $35
    thank-you gifts: $200
    hotel: (before and after) $1250

    total: $6490. So, I guess we did it!

    note: we live in Manhattan, we really did search for the deals.
    It was a wonderful day, exactly what we wanted.

    • IdRatherNotSay

      We kinda did the same thing of never looking at it “because yay! we are married!” I think my husband would vomit if he looked at the actual numbers.

    • msanon

      Can I ask where you got the custom suit for $750, and whether you were happy with it?

  • shockandaudrey

    Our goal budget was $15,000. As time went on, we got some help to the tune of $2,000 from family, and we wanted to invite more people, we increased our wedding savings goals and our personal budget became $18,000 (plus $2,000 of family assistance, so $20,000 total).

    Surprisingly, in a turnaround from every wedding story I’ve ever heard, our entire wedding came in under budget at $16,500. After the return of the venue deposit, we only spent $13,500 of our personal money, meaning we came in $1,500 less than our initial goal. Crazy! This was mostly because far fewer attendees were able to come than we had expected, which was sad, but we still had a sizable party, with 90 attending. Our wedding location was in Old City Philadelphia, PA.

    General breakdown:

    Venue: $3,500 (plus $1,000 refunded security deposit)
    Catering (heavy hors d’oeuvres, not sit down, although everyone apparently had plenty to eat with our pasta station): $6,400
    Alcohol: $680
    DJ: $975
    Photography: $1,600
    Decorations and flowers: $953
    Marriage License: $90
    Save the Dates, invitations, tux rental, hotel rooms, gifts, etc: $1,290

    Cost saving measures:

    We chose a venue with a pretty expensive rental cost, but made sure to choose one that would let us pick whatever caterer we wanted. Then we picked an affordable caterer who would let us pay for and bring our own alcohol (after the wedding, we were able to return unopened alcohol and got about $250 back!)

    For flowers we just had bouquets and bouts, but also, all our decorations were purchased by family, and if they had not helped us there, we would have gone without flowers or cool lanterns entirely.

    After a disastrous attempt at getting things letterpressed, we printed our own awesome save-the-dates and invitations, as well as gift bag info pamphlets (I used some of our leftover savings to make 35 gift bags, for about $200)

    We spent $10 extra on a “self-uniting” marriage license, something you can do in Pennsylvania. This meant not only did we get to do the ceremony exactly how we wanted, we also did not have to hire an officiant.

    I spent $0 on my gorgeous dress, which was made for me by friends.

    My now mother-in-law, who’s great at cake decorating and frequently makes wedding cakes for family friends, made our wedding cake, which looked fantastic and tasted delicious to boot.

    I would say everything we paid for was worth it, but especially our DJ (http://www.nomacarena.com/ ), who was amazingly good.

    • shockandaudrey

      After writing this I realized I should have included the cost of rings in my calculations, but I never had them in my various wedding spreadsheets because I bought them out of pocket and not from wedding savings! They were $700.

  • Littleone

    Our wedding was on a Sunday afternoon/early evening, for about 85 guests, in Chicago. We had the goal of spending under $12,000 and ended up actually spending less than $7,000 because we used all the resources we could find in our local religious community, which gets really excited about throwing people weddings. The potential downside of letting people in your community run things for you is some loss of personalization and ability to control all the details, but in my opinion it was WAY worth it, both because of the much-more-reasonable budget and because I let other people take the reins on the day of.

    General breakdown:
    Venue (synagogue), catering, set-up/takedown: $2750 package deal (more like $4-5 grand for non-members)
    Alcohol: $220 just wine (red and white) for each table
    Flowers (minimal, just a bouquet, corsages and very simple centerpieces): $300
    Decorations: $0, the space was pretty and we used items/linens that the synagogue already had. My florist donated a ton of slightly-burnt (no one noticed) floating candles that she could not reuse. She also lent us vases.
    Music: $500 for dance band and then $200 for a harpist. We also had a “free” string quartet made up of my husband’s students (we’re both classical musicians)
    Officiant: $0, our rabbi (we’ll donate a bit to say thank you)
    Make-up, hair: $150, done by local, less well-known artists (but still was great!!!)
    Dress: $230 off Etsy with $150 of alterations
    Shoes, accessories etc: $200. Made my own veil and borrowed a headpiece
    Photographer: $1400 custom package
    Paper stuff (invites, programs, etc): $575
    Rings: $585, plain rose gold bands from local jeweler

    What was worth it:
    -Buying a dress with “potential” and then getting a ton of alterations. This seems a little risky but it worked out wonderfully for me.
    -THE PHOTOGRAPHER. He was the only “indie-mainstream”, full-scale shiny blogworthy resource we used, but he was AMAZING and crafted a package just for us within our budget. We asked for fewer hours and no frills (no second shooter, no album, etc). The pictures are so beautiful and I’m so happy we sprung for it.

  • CPT

    Washington, DC wedding, May 2012.

    Goal budget: uhhhhhh, it was 30K (40% My Parents, 40% His Parents, 20% Us).
    Actually spent: approx 32K

    We got married just outside of DC, near Rockville MD, at an awesome venue – a big ol 110-year-old barn kept in those working conditions. Legit goats on hand.

    There were so many things our parents wanted to do that we didn’t exactly want, but when we discussed it with them, they pulled the ol’ “We want it so we’re paying for it!” card. We put our foot down on a LOT of things that we really weren’t comfortable with, but in the end we were really happy with our parents, families, and friends who all pitched in in their own ways to celebrate our marriage.

    We just decided, we know what we want to be BEAUTIFUL, but that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Examples: The flowers were spendy but they were quite possibly my favorite part of the whole decor. I had an eight pound all-peony bouquet, people. Shit was rullllll nice. And then our $32 cake was from Whole Foods (purchased with my sister’s employee discount no less) so we had something “to cut” and had little chocolates/lemon squares/raspberry bars for everyone.

    Point is that you shouldn’t look at anyone’s numbers and think you have to match them – you should figure out what you want to spend and then find ways to make it meaningful and special and amazing and all yours.

    Now onto the dirt! All of these numbers are rounded up/down/I was an English major/don’t hate if they don’t add up precisely.

    *Catering (including tip) = $11,500 >> 35% of our total budget
    *Alcohol = $1,000 >> 3% (we could only have beer/wine at our venue)
    *Venue = $2,800 >> 9%
    *Tables/Linens/Chairs/Glasses/Plates/Speakers/Lighting = $2,800 >> 9%
    *Flowers = $1,800 >> 5.5%
    *Photography = $2,650 (taxes included) >> 8%
    *Invites/Programs/Paper Goods/Chalkboards/Stamps/Etc = $1000 >> 3%
    **We saved here by doing almost all of this ourselves; we paid a friend to design our invites, programs, etc, and then printed everything ourselves. It does not hurt to both work in creative web design. Built our own website etc.
    *Games / Fun Stuff for the cocktail hour/kid “toy” bags with fake tattoos/games/etc= $300 >> 1%
    *Music = $800 >> 2.5%
    **We had a live string trio who played the ceremony and the first half of the reception; we then did our own free playlist from Spotify and played it through iPad)
    *Transportation (Shuttle) = $1,000 >> 3.5%
    *Clothing/Makeup/Hair = $1,500 >> 5%
    **Hair was free (a gift from a cousin), this includes dress, alterations, additions, dudes’ ties, things like that. My “gift” to my girls was jewelry and cute little clutches; husband gifted the dudes Chuck Taylors
    *Wedding Planners= $1,000 >> 3%
    **THIS WAS THE BEST MONEY WE SPENT ON THE WHOLE DAMN WEDDING (not counting the $60 marriage license)
    *Officiant = Zero! >> 0%
    **My uncle is a judge and performed our ceremony. This was the most amazing gift ever.
    *Rehearsal Dinner = $700 >> 2%
    *Farewell Breakfast the Sunday after = $3,500 >> 10%
    **This was one of those things our parents insisted on, and we just threw our hands up and said “go for it”

    • Candace Butler

      If you don’t mind me asking, who did your catering?

      • CPT

        Of course not! We worked with Eat & Smile Foods. The owner’s name is Oliver Friendly and he really is super-friendly. They do all organic/local/natural/homemade and EVERYTHING was delicious (except for when my husband accidentally drank the honey mustard dipping sauce because he thought it was one of the three “soup shots” we had …).


        We did “heavy passed apps” with lots of “stations” so people could make big plates, and unless everyone’s been lying to me for the last year and a half, no one went hungry. I also really liked that it was much less formal than a sit-down dinner. It worked really well for our venue and guests.

    • Laura

      lolz to “legit goats”

  • Dresswayshop

    Weddings are really expensive.But there are ways that you can have a beautiful wedding without spending too much. For me celebrating the wedding with few people like families and closest friends is enough to make it memorable.

  • Amelia

    We’re still just over 5 months out from our wedding in Iowa City, Iowa, but here is our breakdown so far:

    Size: approx. 200 guests
    Budget: around $10,000 (my mom generously started a bank account for us with no real cap, knowing that I am uncomfortable spending lots of money and, therefore, would not overspend if at all possible)

    Dress: $550 (no alterations needed & am hoping a sewing-proficient aunt is going to be able to bustle it for me)
    Veil: free (borrowed from a cousin)
    Slip: $3 at a resale shop
    Shoes: free (rewearing some I already own)
    Headpiece: $20 from Etsy
    Ceremony venue: $600
    Officiant: $250
    Reception venue: $2500
    Tablecloths & napkins (purchased): ~$300 (hoping to resell them after the fact)
    Groom’s attire: $90 (rented from Men’s wearhouse without a jacket and with a $40 off coupon…plus a free suit for my guy with 5 paid rentals)
    Food: $1400 (including full dinner and appetizers!)
    Music: free (iPod dj)
    Cake: $343 (a 2 layer cake for cutting & sheetcake for the rest)
    Flowers: ~$400 (bouquets, corsages, bouts, and loose flowers for centerpieces that we will arrange ourselves)
    Wedding bands: $800 for both
    Photography: $2900 (includes engagement pics, a canvas print, 6 hours on wedding day, and engagement album plus travel)
    Bridesmaid gifts: ~$150 (tote bags, makeup bags, bathrobes, lotion)

    So in reality we are already a little over budget and still have some expenses yet to come, but overall I feel like we have tried to stick as close as possible to the budget and make wise choices that we can feel comfortable with– using vendors we love when they’re slightly more expensive, buying a preowned dress because I am not that concerned about it, etc.

  • Sarah

    Budget, by percentage, for a 147 person (including us and the photographer) wedding on Cape Cod

    38% – food + wine (prepaid)
    15% – photographer
    11% – booze (this wound up getting paid by my wife’s family)
    9% – venue
    5% – dresses and makeup

    Everything else got covered in the remaining 22% of the budget. This included rings, cupcakes, invites (vistaprint, people!!), gifts for folks involved with the wedding, chuppah (from a florist going out of business), flowers (bought directly from a farm) etc. We budgeted about $20K and probably spent about $22K. If we had not had some support from our families (wife’s family paid for the booze, my mom paid for my dress, my parents hosted and paid for a welcome reception the day before), we probably would have spent more in the $25K to $30K range. I was grateful that friends served in various roles (hair dresser, flower arranger, officiant, etc).

    I loved our wedding and had a fantastic time at it. I do not regret spending the money (and am aware/grateful that our privilege afforded us the opportunity to have a big wedding without going into debt). If I had wanted to make it cheaper, I could have done so extremely easily by simply inviting fewer people. That was by far the biggest factor in our cost, but… I loved everyone so much!

  • Girl in Louisiana

    March 2014 – St. Francisville, LA (45 minutes north of Baton Rouge) – 130 invited, 110 expected

    Goal budget: I wanted $10k, Fiance thought $15k.
    Actual: Will be more like $18 or $19k when all is said and done.
    Contributions: My parents are contributing $7,000 + most of my dress and miscellaneous little stuff, like thrifted vases. In-laws and his aunt and grandmother have thrown in about $1,000. His parents also paying for rehearsal dinner, not included in our budget. We’ve got the rest.

    Breakdown of BIG STUFF:
    Photographer: $4000 (this is my splurge and I have some buyer’s remorse right now)
    Ceremony venue: $400 – Two day rental of recently restored white clapboard church turned community venue.
    Reception venue: $1,450 – Four hours at local country club. Includes servers, set-up, clean up, tables, chairs etc, greenery for buffet and more
    Food: $3000 ($21.95 a head brunch buffet. Total with tax/gratuity for 100+ will be around $2,800)
    Booze: $2500 estimate. Will know day of based on actual consumption. Open bar, but we will pay per drink (mimosas and bloody marys) and by case for wine and domestic beer.
    Band: $3,000 (this is his splurge)
    Cake: $300 for a cake that will feed 200 (14 in, 12 in, and 10 in tiers) by an in-home baker.
    Invites: $315 ($285 for 90 invites, inner envelopes and inserts from WeddingPaperDivas + postage)
    Bride’s Attire: $750 for my dress ($250 in lace + $500 in alterations to my grandmother’s dress)
    Groom’s Attire: $750? Hopefully ordering this this weekend.
    Flowers: $300? Four TJs bouquets + 8 corsages and 9 boutonnieres from florist.
    Rings: No idea yet. Anywhere from $500 – $2,000.
    Two nights hotel: $250

    Other stuff:
    Favors: $106 for 150 custom coozies.
    Directional signs: $100 for custom stencil of a logo his brother designed for us and signs with stakes + paint.
    Ketubah: $250 for semi-custom from Etsy
    Chuppah: $150?
    Programs and other paper products: $50 – designing myself, so just paying for paper and ink.
    Reception centerpieces: $150? Ghetto terrariums from thrifted vases, soil and monkey grass.
    Guest book: $30 – Shutterfly photo album with big coupon + $10 for archival pens.
    License: $27.50
    Hair: $100?
    Attendant gifts: $100?

    That adds up to about $17,750 without rings.

  • bsc

    Love APW and the new look to the site! This blog has been SO helpful for planning my wedding and brightens my day to read new posts and comments!
    I will say that I, too, was surprised when I found out how much things cost for weddings! It has been challenging but rewarding to plan our wedding on a budget and I it would be a lie if I said I haven’t enjoyed the whole process thoroughly!!
    Our wedding is coming up this May and will be in Eastern Iowa.
    Goal Budget: $7500
    Actual Budget: closer to $7000 … I overbudgetd in a few areas and we’ve rethought some of our original plans! Surplus wedding budget will go toward honeymoon!
    Breakdown: $2k venue (doing ceremony and reception at same place); $2k food; $100/hr photog (scored a GREAT deal with an AWESOME new photographer that is a friend of a friend – her pics are amazing and she is just starting out so willing to negotiate); $1k dress; $2k everything else
    Planning this has sparked some great discussion between my fiance and I about what we really want the day to be like – I keep coming back to the article on here that our wedding “is not an imposition” and just because we are more frugal than others doesn’t mean our wedding will be any less awesome. We’ve also cut out a lot of the small details that often seem so big in the moment but in reality no one might remember – which has been hard because I’m a detail person! We’re also doing a lot of DIY (invites, wedding website, centerpieces, guest favors).

  • Elizabear

    Goal budget–$18,000
    Actual budget–$20,000 (approximately, I didn’t really keep track of things, which just made me happier than tracking every penny)

    A general breakdown (wedding for 165 people):
    Catering ~ $6000
    Venue ~ $1450
    Church (member fees) ~ $860
    Photography ~ $3500
    DJ ~ $645
    Linens ~ $650
    Flowers ~ $1250
    Trolley ~ $300
    Stationary (we also won a $250 gift certificate not included in this cost) ~ $300
    Dress and alterations ~ $1300
    Candy Bar ~ $800

    The church fees, which I was upset about in the beginning because my family has been members there my entire life and my mom is the Sunday School Director, were worth it! They came with two vergers–which acted as day-of coordinators for the ceremony. I wish that I had gone with a different caterer only because she was hard to deal with. She was super cheap and the food was good though! The photography was totally worth it too. That price includes our 150 save-the-dates, engagement photos, wedding photos, album, and canvas print (plus all printing rights to photos). I can’t think of anything that I would get rid of!

    Location: Grand Haven, MI (West Michigan–tourist town right on Lake Michigan)

    • Elizabear

      My parents gifted us $11,000 of the total budget and we paid the rest (minus the $1200 for the open bar paid for by the groom’s family). Our honeymoon was not included in that breakdown and our honeymoon was the best part! We went to Greece for two weeks (one week in Athens and one week on Santorini) and it cost around $9,000, which we paid for.

  • joy

    Not married yet but I’ll be getting married in France at the courthouse this February and the church wedding will be held in May.
    Courthouse expenses-
    Translator by a court certified translator- 250€
    Birth certificate translation- 40€
    Certificate de cotume and certificate de célibat- $150 from the US consulate
    Dress- 190€
    Shoes- 65$
    Miscellaneous- 60€
    Hair and make-up- doing it myself
    Grooms suit- already owned
    Shoes- already owned
    Cake and coffee for 10 at the local tea room- 150€
    Photos- no professional photographer.
    Sorry for the mix of dollars and euros. So it’ll end up being a bit more than 700 for the courthouse bit. I’ll have to figure out the cost of the church wedding later.

    • joy

      The church wedding in Chantilly France in May- budget 2-3,000€ 100 guests
      Church- 0€ since we attend regularly and are members
      Organist- 0€- gifted to us from the organist
      Premarital course-gifted to us from the pastor
      Reception venue- a community room in the village I live in. 400€ for the weekend
      Food- we’re not entirely sure, there’s a chance we’ll end up doing it ourselves but we’re hoping to stay around 500€
      Decorations- grooms mom is gifting and doing the flowers, maybe 150€ for other decor?
      Plates napkins etc- 150€
      Photographer- friend of friend who’s looking to get into wedding photography- 500€
      Invites- grooms brother designed as gift, 100€ in postage 50€ in printing, 15£ for paper and envelopes
      Dress-to be made by my mother- 200$
      Alcohol- 500€
      Music- iPod dj- 0€
      Cakes and desserts- 0€ gifted by the ladies of the church.

  • Kater

    October 2013 wedding in rural Vermont for 160; we rented a family camp from Friday to Sunday and many of our guests stayed on-site with us in unheated cabins. Anticipated budget: $20,000ish. Actual budget: $30,000ish.

    Events included: Friday night brick oven pizza & bonfire, casual buffet breakfast on Saturday am, outdoor ceremony Saturday afternoon (we got VERY lucky with the weather!), cocktail hour / buffet dinner / reception Saturday night, and Sunday brunch.

    Venue rental & misc. fees (tables, wood for fire, etc.): $6700
    Glasses & chair rentals: $635
    Save the dates: $174
    Invitations: $307
    Cake/dessert: $305
    Catering (Saturday night vegetarian buffet dinner for 160 & Sunday vegetarian brunch buffet for 100-120): $12,200
    DJ: $513 (a friend dj’ed for us; we reimbursed him for hotel costs)
    Registry website: $30 (thankfulregistry.com)
    Ladies’ gifts: $290
    Insurance: $185 (required by our venue)
    Wedding bands: $1830
    Flowers: $590
    Officiant: free (a friend)
    Sound system: free (borrowed from our officiant)
    Day-of coordinator: $1460 (worth.every.penny)
    Photographer: $1250 (discounted rate from a friend)
    Hair & makeup for bride, bridesmaids, moms, flowergirl, etc: $683
    School bus shuttle from hotels to venue Sat night: $375
    Food for Fri night pizza & Saturday breakfast: $955
    Labor for Fri night pizza & Saturday breakfast: free (friends did this for us)
    Programs: $36
    Flashlights (in welcome bags): $72
    Welcome bags: my parents bought & assembled
    Dress: my mom bought (approx $150)
    Dress alterations/underwear/shoes: $226
    Groom/groomsmen clothes: $350
    Marriage license: $55
    Groomsmen gifts: $157
    Groceries/papergoods (incl. soft drinks): $283
    Misc hardware store stuff: $214
    Keg beer/box wine: approx $1200 (my parents bought some add’l wine, and my aunt & uncle gifted us with 10 gallons of a “signature cocktail”), some people brought their own add’l booze
    Short honeymoon: $600 (3 nights in the Adirondacks)

  • Julia

    So glad to be part of such a REASONABLE and USEFUL discussion (which, as we all know, are hard to find in the wedding industry). So, without further ado:

    Goal: $4K (HA)
    Spent: $5,500
    What the wedding actually cost: $7,000
    (this includes what my and his parents chipped in for)

    The details:
    We got married in a medium-sized city just north of Boston in the middle of winter (hurray, winter wedding discounts). We budgeted for 50 attendees and ended up with closer to 45.

    The ceremony and reception all took place in the same venue. We used one room for the (very brief, secular) ceremony and then moved to another space for the reception. We held the ceremony at around 3:00 and then did a four-hour cocktail party with hors d’oeuvres and a range of mixed drinks, beer, and wine. We hired a pianist for three of the four hours – this was the only entertainment. The space for the reception was beautiful all by itself, so all we added were some simple candle arrangements on each of the tables (a couple banquet tables but mostly bar height). That was it – it was very simple and low key. And fabulous. If you ask me. : ) We did online invitations only – so no costs around invites or save the dates.

    WHAT WAS WORTH IT: The venue! I was originally thinking a hotel but for a number of reasons we paid for a beautiful venue (details below) and it make everything come together in the most amazing way. And having a live pianist was amazing – our original plan was to just hook up an iPhone but when we realized the venue had it’s own piano we tried to find a live musician. For the vibe we were going for it was so perfect – no regrets!
    WHAT WASN’T: I actually really regret the hair and makeup. I wasn’t as forceful as I should have been when they were doing it and I ended up looking not much like myself, which I really didn’t like. I mean, it wasn’t terrible or anything, but it just didn’t feel like “me”. And it was hella expensive.
    Ok – cost breakdown (and what we paid for and what we didn’t). This is super detailed (sorry!) but I hope it’s helpful for someone!
    Caterer: $2,100 (this included the food for everyone, the wait staff, the bar tender, as well as rentals for tables, linens, plates, and barware. We only had a few chairs and didn’t have to rent them as the venue had them on hand)
    Liquor: We bought a mix of things – white and red wine, beer, and liquor. In addition to two “signature” drinks (Blood and Sand, Dark and Stormy), we had a mix of your usual liquors and mixers. We overspent here – everyone was drinking freely but we had SO MUCH left over. Not like we didn’t drink it in the months that followed, though. : )
    The venue: We did not pay for this – my mother did. We were originally wanting to do it at a hotel (where it would be easier to get venue costs waived if we ordered food) but were struggling with finding the right place. My mother offered to pay for my dream venue (House of Seven Gables!) and it was perfect. We only paid for the room we used for the reception – while they usually charge for the space we used for pictures and for the ceremony, since it was mid-winter they gave us a deal and we got to use those spaces for free.
    The rings: His father paid for these, and the cost was around $600 for both of us.
    Wardrobe: Between the two of us we spent around $750. I wore a white cocktail dress off-the-rack from Nordstroms, and he wore dress pants, a white shirt, and a vest.
    Décor: Was very limited – and no regrets. Our venue was beautiful so it was easy. I spent $180 for materials to make simple candle centerpieces (in glass holders with faux cranberries) as well as my own bouquet and his boutonnière.
    License & officiant: $200
    CAKE!: $200 Which was, in fact, 50 cupcakes + two tiny cake tiers for us to cut and then take home (we weren’t renting silverware so had to be hands-free!).
    Photographer: $500 BEST DEAL EVER. Used a listserv to find current students / recent grads at a nearby photography school who were willing to shoot inexpensively as a way to build their portfolio. The girl I found was AMAZING. This was one of the costs that I was willing to skip altogether – I didn’t think we could afford it and I hate photos of myself. Seemed like an easy tradeoff. But our families really were excited to have some photos of us as a couple and we found a lower-cost way to do it, so everyone wins!
    Hair & makeup: $500 This included my own makeup and hair, as well as the hair for my mother-in-law, sister, and sister-in-law.
    Pianist: $200
    Hotel room for wedding night: $200

    • Julia

      Oh no – sorry for the terrible spacing on this. I tried to do paragraph breaks but it looks like I failed. : (

  • Angela

    I am recently engaged in Tacoma,WA just starting to piece together our wedding. We are getting married this summer, short engagement, we are ready to DO IT. The goal is 5K or less. I work in the food industry, so I have a discount friend caterer, and discount booze. We have friends in bands, photog is 2K for unlimited wedding day coverage. Reception in the backyard, YES there will be a trampoline photo booth.

    Any tips on cutting any corners on table and chair rentals?Also, we like the idea of having the ceremony in another location, but as soon as we say WEDDING the cost is bonkers. We would literally be standing in an event space for an hour for the ceremony, can we get around this?

    • JGL (now)

      If you’re doing things in backyard-appropriate weather, you might check out a park. We did ours in a park with 1/2 the guests seated at the built-in picnic tables, 1/4 in camp chairs, and 1/4 standing. Ceremony was short, no real clean up needed, etc.
      There are also sometimes little “bandstand” like things nearby that are cheap/free. Or, frankly, just do the ceremony in the backyard to avoid the need for relocation for all your guests. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but our seating was kind of oddly arranged and it totally didn’t matter. Wherever you do it, it will be great!

      • Angela

        Thanks for the encouragement JGL!

    • Casey

      A lot of people request to use our community garden for their ceremony. We do charge for the use but it is based on how many guests and the usage (depending what they want set up, if they are bringing things in or using our power etc). Perhaps you could find a similar situation near you.

      • Angela

        Thanks Casey! I will research in my town.

  • AG

    Oooh this discussion is so timely. After we first got engaged, B and I had lots of lofty ideas about only spending money on the important things (experience over looks), making sure we enjoyed the whole planning process, making sure it all felt like “us”. The wedding is in April, and so far we’ve stuck to most of those goals, most of the time. But. There was a very dark moment where I panicked that people would hate our wedding because we’re having folding garden chairs instead of chiavari chairs.
    Now that we’ve accomplished the big things (venue! caterer! band! BAR!), I’m starting to think about decor, and I’m finding that it’s a lot harder than I thought it would be to stay sane. My parents are generously giving us about 90% of the wedding funds (I wanted to pay for things like my dress and some odds and ends), and I want it to look nice because I want them to be able to see what their generosity did for us. Did anyone else start feeling like this as the wedding approached? Like suddenly if you didn’t spend that thousand dollars on rented cafe lights (why is it so much?!) the wedding somehow would be lacking? And what did you do?

  • guest

    We are in the process of planning our wedding, therefore many of our expenses have yet to be finalized. With no expected ability of our family to contribute, the target budget is $5000, with a 50 – ish person guest list, in rural New Hampshire.
    So far, the expenditures we’ve made or committed to are as follows:

    $1100 for photography (my BIG important splurge priority)
    $700 for venue (outdoor garden, includes chairs. tables, and time for rehearsal the night before)
    $250 for officiant, if my gut feeling on a candidate pans out. Maybe less if not.
    $135 so far on wardrobe (bridesmaid dresses, my dress & shoes, his suit, flower girl dress)
    $50 on table linens
    $75 on decor including centerpieces (YAY for DIY)
    $50 – ish estimated on invitations, mostly postage since I DIY’d them with materials I already had on-hand
    $70 quoted for the cake.
    $290 for our rings (custom-ordered from etsy)
    = $2720!

    Hoping we can keep the menu budget under or close to $1000, but it may be his BIG important priority so we’ll see. We still may want to hire a musician of some sort, and probably will be renting audio equipment for music too. Still undecided on the flowers, I may try and grow some. His grandmother grows a patch of beautiful flowers every summer, so I’m thinking of asking whether we could cut some of hers.

    If you factor in the engagement ring ($1500) and honeymoon ($1000-ish), we’re already over budget, but for some reason those don’t “count” to me since they aren’t for the wedding day itself. Not too sure we’ll stick to the intended target, but I think we’re in pretty good shape so far spending where it’s most important to us, and not shelling out for the things we don’t care as much about.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    San Mateo County, California, November 2012; invited over 200; caterer bill for 100-150; 80 attended

    Proposed Budget, from my parents: $15,000
    Proposed Budget, from his parents: $2,500
    Actual Budget: $13,000 from my parents, about $2,000 of our own [either stuff we felt silly asking for reimbursement for, or stuff that wasn’t part of our budget with our parents], about $3,000 from the groom’s parents

    Breakdown from memory [I’ll repost with details if I have the time this weekend.]

    Invitations [double envelopes, invitation, RSVP card]: $1,000
    Organist at church: $250
    License: $80
    Bride’s dress, veil, and shoes: $500
    Bridesmaids’ dresses and shoes: $30×2 bridesmaids
    Professional hair and make-up for bride and bridesmaids: $300
    Reception venue: $4,000 (included tables, chairs)
    DJs: $1,000
    Photographer: $2,000
    Town car: $1,000
    Caterer: $3,000-$4,000 (buffet chicken dinner, with wine; included linens, plates, etc.)
    Cake: $800
    Flowers: $2,000
    Ketubah: $100
    Tux rentals: $100-200 x 3 (groom and 2 groomsmen)
    His ring: $450
    My ring: ?
    Rehearsal dinner: ? (steak dinners with wines for about 10 people)
    Postage: $100

    The photographer was a great decision because we had budgeted $4,000, and that was the first vendor we hired, so it took a lot of pressure off.

    The reception venue felt like a splurge, but was important to my husband, so worth it.

    We obviously had low turnout, but I don’t think we could have saved on catering even had we known we’d have fewer than 100 people; I think we would have been looking at different caterers who charged more per person.

    There’s no officiant fee or church fee because there wasn’t any. I made an extra-large annual donation to my tiny church and told the treasurer to enter it however he wanted (special event donation v. regular member donation).

    My dress never fit right, and I have mixed feelings about how much I saved there.

    I felt we paid too much for the limo, but I really researched it and couldn’t find a better option. Uber wasn’t quite on the scene yet.

    The florist and cake vendors were higher-end than the rest. The cake was definitely worth it; people raved. The florist was in-budget and hassle-free, so I guess worth it; flowers were important to me.

    The wedding was on a Monday, and that didn’t save us any money, and we did ask for discounts. It did give us lots of flexibility, though. Vendors held our date with no deposit for months, which was very helpful when Mom got sick and planning was put on hold for about 3 months. [She’s all better, thanks.]

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Tips were about $1,000
      [If the numbers aren’t adding up, it’s cause I’m rounding in strange ways and can’t remember. I love spreadsheets and have the numbers to the penny on another computer.]

  • Meaghan

    Our elopement and post-elopement party came together for about $4000. We saved in a lot of places though, like using air miles for our plane tickets to NYC and winning a photography session (we negotiated to pay an extra cost for the photographer to spend the whole day with us).

    This is still way more than we thought eloping would cost, but our parents paid for most of the party and our travel was something that we had planned before we decided to get married anyways so I don’t factor that in. No regrets at all!

    wedding rings – $1200
    photography – $600
    marriage licence – $50

    venue – $1000 (a barn in a provincial park)
    food and booze – $1000 (this is an estimate as our parents cooked everything and paid for the booze)
    baklava – $100 (I bought this off a Lebanese lady I found and it was awesome)
    decorations – $150

  • Marcela

    Orlando FL wedding

    Goal: 2k. based on the graduation party I had thrown two years previously.
    New Goal after being doused with reality: 10k
    What we really spent: close to 15k (guessing here, don’t know all the numbers)

    Breakdown(at least for the things I paid for):
    Photography $1,300 (2 shooters, 6 hours, 1 2-hour engagement shoot, 3 free prints and a photo album)
    Venue and Catering/Bar: $7,000 (buffet dinner for 75ish people, beer and wine, bartenders, free parking, bridal suite for the night, linens, chairs for ceremony)
    DJ: $700 (6.5 hours, also provided 6 uplights for the dance floor)
    Cake: $300 (Publix, enormous. We clearly could have had half the cake and been fine)
    Dessert bar: $200
    Invites, programs, Save the Dates, postage: $300 (?) our postage costs were high because we had a lot of international guests, but invites were cheap because we printed ourselves and bought the kit on sale
    Bride’s outfit: $500 (dress, veil, bustier, shoes)
    Officiant, marriage license: $350
    Bridesmaid’s purses: $90 (Doubled as gifts and didn’t need bouquets)
    Bride’s makeup: $60
    Bride’s hair: $60
    Various tips: $500

    Numbers I don’t know (I didn’t pay for them)
    Flowers: gift from my MIL
    Groom’s attire: He owned his own tux, but bought new shirt and vest
    Groomsmen gifts/attire: shirts and vests, nerdy cufflinks
    Pedicab exit: Surprise gift from groom

    Ok, so doing the math it looks like we spent around $12k, not $15k. Yay!

    I swear I’m gonna do a how we did it post soon. I still have all the spreadsheets somewhere. Honestly once we got to about 6 months before the wedding and all the big purchases were done, there were a bunch of little expenses that I just didn’t care about tracking anymore. My parents paid for the catering and the dessert table, Hubby’s family paid for the officiant and flowers and groomsmen gifts, I paid for the rest.

    • Marcela

      Only things I would have changed, I would have had less flowers and added videography.
      But I didn’t have control over the flower decision and had decided early on that my brother could do just as good a job on my wedding video as a pro could have. I was wrong. Regrets, I haz them.

  • Chasity

    Our wedding cost around $17,000 (including the rehearsal dinner and dress).
    Venue – $3,000 – worth it!
    Photographer – $2,000 – sort of worth it. I wish we’d just paid for the photographer and not the albums. You can make your own awesome album with Shutterfly or Costco that’s less stressful. Would have saved us several hundred dollars.
    Alcohol, cups, bartender, etc. – $1,600 – worth it
    Food – $2,100. I wish we’d spent more because we ran out a little early.
    Dress – $1,300 originally but I sold it online for $700 after the wedding was over
    Decorations – $1,500
    DJ – $650. Worth it.

    I have an excel spreadsheet breaking down exactly what we spent and on what if anyone is interested in seeing it. Email me at chasitywedding@gmail dot com and I’ll happily send it to you! There were a lot of things that added up. Most of the decorations were DIY but supplies add up after a while.

  • J. Driver

    Love to see the variety of budgets and awesome brides making it happen however they can! All of these celebrations sound fantastic!

    Our downtown Sacramento, CA wedding isn’t until November, but we’ve already booked all of the big ticket items and ordered our invitations. Because for me, having open to-do list items = anxiety.

    Guests: 150

    Goal budget: $15,000 (split 3 ways with me/D, mom, and dad) – does not include honeymoon, as we registered for Honeyfund to help offset flights and such

    Breakdown so far:

    Venue (Masonic Temple ballroom – includes ceremony location, tables, chairs, and basically 24 hour access): $2800
    Caterer, including waitstaff and rentals: $5400 (delicious pasta buffet dinner)
    Appetizers (sushi platters): $900
    Booze (wine and beer): $1000
    DJ: $1200, including lighting – we got a total steal by looking for out-of-town vendors.
    Photobooth: $1000 approx.
    Dessert (pies and a cutting cake): $200
    Flowers/decor: $350
    Save the Dates/Invites: $200 – bought printable PDFs from Etsy and printed ourselves.
    Accessories: $300, mom is generously purchasing my dress and one of my fashonista besties offered to buy my wedding shoes
    Other (hotel, insurance, etc): $400

    D already has a suit, but might choose to splurge on something gorgeous and tailored when the time comes. Our priorities were 1) a space big enough for our people, 2) delicious food, and 3) a fun time – hence the photobooth and plenty of wine. We really saved by doing a buffet, buying our own booze, getting printable invites on Etsy, finding an out-of-town DJ (Sacramento DJs were 2-3x that price, and this guy gets us – also a huge Game of Thrones fan), and my mom’s amazing offer to purchase my wedding dress up to $1000. I’m feeling pretty confident we will be able to stick to our budget.

  • IdRatherNotSay

    Oh god. We didn’t ever set an actual “budget.” We talked about it. We discussed when to have the wedding and where our budget should fall. Because we couldn’t handle big numbers (without wanting to vomit)evenutally it just came to talking over prices together as we spent it when we did something. We asked each other things like “is this reasonable? How badly do we want this? Is there an acceptable alternative? Will people notice if it’s missing? Will we be upset if we don’t have this?” There were a few things where we were like “eff it!” (mostly my dress, which he helped me pick out). So until this moment, we didn’t know how much our wedding cost. I’m not sure if that’s super responsible of us or not.

    Our goal was to have no bills after the wedding for the wedding. I do have a credit card I used for the wedding dress. I plan on selling it once I have it cleaned. We are also selling the décor we paid for that can’t be returned. We live just outside DC but chose to have our wedding in PA just an hour north of the Harrisburg because 1. His family lived there. 2. It was closer for my family then to come to DC. 3. Our money would stretch a lot further – and did it! I didn’t include honeymoon. We haven’t taken it yet, but we did book it for March and it’s fully paid for. (And I don’t feel like we should include the rings, but they’re in there too.)

    We were previously married before, and make decent money separately so we paid for our entire wedding ourselves. I loved everything about our wedding. If I had to pick – the only thing I would change, was the real flowers. I would still get real flowers for the attendants, family, groomsmen, etc. but not for my bouquet or the centerpieces. I was thinking they were going to be amazing, and they were just meh. That was a lot of money for meh. We ended up donating the centerpiece flowers the day after the wedding to the retirement home where my MIL used to work. They loved them and it made the residents happy.

    Guests: Invited 115, Showed 86 (including ourselves and vendors)

    Ceremony and Reception venue (same place): food (includes a cocktail hour, full buffet with 3 meats and 3 sides, plus salads and all that other stuff, and an ice cream bar in lieu of cake because me and my immediate family are allergic to gluten, place settings), alcohol (all soda, coffee, and tea unlimited, 1 ½ keg of beer, and wine for the toast, bartender services), space, taxes, gratuity, linens – $3800

    Décor + other wedding related fluff: about $760 – 860

    Dress: (dress, alterations, stupid hoop thingy) = $1590 – I didn’t include spanx and the bra because those were not wedding only purchases (otherwise that adds another $150 to it)
    My Wedding gear (JC Penney, Charming Charlie, DSW, etsy): $300
    His and my son’s (best man’s) wedding gear (masks and tuxes and shoes):$275

    Music: $360
    Flowers: $1100
    Photographer: $1700 (BEST MONEY EVER SPENT!!) – included photobooth and 8 hours of photos, with DVD and rights

    Rehearsal dinner and Day after Brunch: $450 (ish – I don’t recall the actual bill)

    Hotel suite for us for the week: $500 (yes, week – he went up early to spend time with family)

    Beauty (supplies, I don’t normally wear makeup on a regular basis so I had to buy stuff. I watched a lot of youtube videos and practiced. I did my bridesmaid’s makeup and my own. We had his cousin do our hair and she did a phenomenal job): $250

    Rings: (Engagement ring: $3500, and I know we got a discount on mine and his but I don’t know what they were – original price: My ring: $1000, His ring: $300)

    Gifts to bridesmaids and groomsmen: $650

    Save the Date: FREE – used FB and email, because we’re classy like that. :)
    Paper and envelopes + stamps: about 300 total
    Invites (etsy and then staples with my own paper – totally recommend Staples!) $150
    Programs: $150 (because we used Office Depot and they were ridiculous with price, though the paper was fairly decent)

    First Goal: 10k
    Actual approximated cost: $17340 (and I think it was actually more than that…) :S

    So , yeah we went over budget. A lot.

  • anon

    Wedding location – Bucks County, PA December 2013
    Goal budget – in the first month of being engaged, I said $20k. haha, silly me! The real goal ended up being $35-40K
    Actual spent – $41K
    Reception (included cocktail hr, seated dinner, open bar, cake, and all rentals, plus staff coordinators) – $135 pp for 162 guests = approx. $26K including tax and gratuity. ($135 pp was the off-season price for this very popular and very well-run venue. Yay for winter weddings!)
    DJ – $1400
    Photographer – $3700
    Video – $2800
    Dress – David’s bridal $500
    Tux – purchased on a major sale at Men’s Warehouse for $400
    Rings – $2500 We made them ourselves with the help of a metalsmith/jeweler!
    Ceremony site was our church, so there was a small donation. Musicians were about $300 total.
    Flowers/centerpieces – went local and seasonal, and had a small bridal party = less than $1500
    Invitations – designed by a friend, printed online for $300
    Brides hair/makeup – $200ish
    Day-Of Coordinator – Our venue had three full-time event planners on staff that we communicated with during the process, and one is assigned to the actual wedding day. This is included in the reception cost. Since we had a separate ceremony site and lots of other logistics to deal with, we opted to hire an additional Day-Of Coordinator. This was a friend who has a wedding coordination visit, so we paid $750, but that was deeply discounted.

    What was worth it?
    Making the rings!
    The videographer was a last minute splurge. We haven’t gotten the edited footage back so I can’t say for sure that it will be worth it, but I am pretty sure we will be thrilled to have video of the day, regardless. The Day-Of Coordinator was 100% worth it. She was a huge weight off my shoulders. I planned and executed most of the wedding myself, but it was wonderful to have someone else deal with the timeline and vendor communication and everything else on the actual wedding day. Definitely worth it.

    What wasn’t worth it?
    Right now, I can’t think of anything we regret. But we’re only one month from the wedding, so I’m still blissed out. We spent our money according to what we felt most important and simply eliminated extraneous stuff we knew we wouldn’t need.

    We paid about $15K ourselves, with an assist from his parents and the majority coming from my parents. We were incredibly lucky to have such an excited and generous family.

    • Casey

      Can I ask what venue you used? I am in the area as well and that seems like a great price

      • anon

        Holly Hedge Estate! Very highly recommended. If there is a way to share contact info privately, I’m happy to talk about it more in depth if you’d like.

        • anon

          Keep in mind, that was a December Saturday price. It’s probably more like $160 for more popular months.

  • Hope

    Goal Budget – $10,000
    Actual Budget – c.$11,000
    No. of guests – 80
    Location – NJ (right outside NYC)
    Summer 2011. We paid for it all.


    Outdoor Ceremony Venue – $500
    Chair rental – $175
    Gift to Pastor – ?
    Reception in a restaurant/music venue – $5600 includes appetisers, barbecue buffet, beer and wine bar for 4 hours, staff, soundman, tax and tip.
    Roast Pig/Lechon – $200
    Decorations – $100
    Favors – $350
    Photographers – $1500
    Cake to cut – $50
    My outfit – $600
    Groom’s outfit – $200
    Hair for bride and groom – $200
    Bride’s bouquet – $80
    Bridesmaid dress – $200
    Invitations and programs – $250
    Rings – $500

    Not included:
    ipod DJ
    Sound system borrowed from church for ceremony.
    Huppah, make up, cupcakes, photobooth, Day of Coordinator, gifted by friends.
    Rehearsal dinner paid for by in-laws, 15 people at Tapas restaurant.
    3 week honeymoon in Europe. This would double the wedding budget ;)

    Worth it: We made a judgement on how much we wanted to pay, and on what, and I’m still happy with everything.
    Wasn’t worth it: Making the programs resulted in being an hour late for our rehearsal dinner! I should have paid to not have that last minute stress.
    If we had a do-over I would invite more of his extended family. I was so worried about the inequality of numbers and the cost. As time passes that seems less important. I’d also ask my in-laws if there was anything they would like included.

    • BKNJ

      Hi Hope! Would love to know where you had your reception – I am looking in New Jersey (this NY sales tax is RIDIC). Thanks!

      • Hope

        It was at Maxwell’s in Hoboken. Sadly their music venue is no longer functioning but it might be worth enquiring to find out if they can still host receptions.

      • Hope

        It was at Maxwell’s in Hoboken. Sadly ownership is changing at the venue but you could still check with them.

  • JSwen

    July 2014 Wedding in Portland, OR. Most numbers are the budget based on quotes where we’ve yet to decide on the vendor. Numbers with asterisk are real, booked, settled (yay, decisions!).

    Budget $16,000, 110 invited, quotes for 90 guests, single location for all events. We would have done something smaller if we weren’t asking all of our family and so many friends to travel across the country to where we live. We want to “show them Oregon” in our wedding, for sure.

    Photographer: $1500* (associate “2nd shooter” photographer, 5 hrs shooting, disk of unrestricted full res photos)
    Venue: $2700* (includes oversight for deliveries and set-up, along with some tables and chairs)
    Caterer: $5500 (Dinner buffet, service, decorating, coordinating, rentals)
    Alcohol: $750 (We’ll provide and the caterer will pour. Beer and Wine. Ours to keep what isn’t consumed.)
    Officiant: $350 (estimated based on quotes)
    Cake: $150 (local patisserie, minimal decorations)
    Gown and accessories: max $600
    Bridal and MOB Hair: max $120
    Suit: alterations on owned suit
    Groom Hair/Shave: max $30
    S-T-D and Invitations with postage: $235* (yay, Vistaprint!)
    Jewelry/Rings: $1400
    Music: Can’t decide between live band and DJ! This could be a budget buster.
    Gratuity: Depends on the caterer… some have it included and some allow cash tips to the servers.
    Fringe stuff is $TBD after the big things are decided: Flowers, decorations, favors, etc

    More likely budget: $17,000

    Our focus was good food, hand picked beer and wine, and a beautiful venue so we wouldn’t have to decorate much. The rings will be nice because neither of us wear any other jewelry. Otherwise, it’s all tasteful budget items. I don’t know why but the DJs I talk to make me cringe… Anyone else have that problem?

    • J. Driver

      I definitely got a strong sense of smarm from some of the DJs we looked into…my guess is that many times since they are also the emcee, they have that “it’s showtime!” persona. Our DJ didn’t come off like that at all, he’s very chill and a fellow geek so we bonded instantly. Zero cheesiness. Maybe in-person meetings would be helpful for finding someone who “clicks.”

      • JSwen

        I think you are right. I probably need to get over it and just find someone who clicks with us! Thanks!

    • YOQ

      We’re getting married in PDX in July ’14 too! If your date doesn’t conflict with ours, I’ll happily pass along the name of our DJ, who is a good friend… :)

      • JSwen

        Oooh. Last Saturday of the month is our date. :)

        • YOQ

          Hooray! We’re getting married on the 12th. Our DJ is DJ Short Change (www.djshortchange.com). My sweetie says: “the website is not the greatest, but trust us, he’s fantastic.” I’ve been to two events that he has DJed, and he’s great. Also, I don’t think he played any reggae at either one of them, even though by looking at his website you would think that was all he played. Cheers!

          • JSwen

            Thanks! Can I tell him who recommended him to me? :)

          • YOQ

            Just tell him it’s the couple whose wedding he’s doing on July 12. He knows us. :)

    • Anna

      If I may, what venue and who’s catering?

      • JSwen

        Hi! Sorry, I don’t feel comfortable sharing the venue before the date (strange things happen on the internet).

  • LCA

    Goal: $10k originally, $12k eventually
    Actual: $10,000ish
    110 guests

    Somerville, MA

    Venue: $3,000 – it was exactly what we wanted, so it was worth it. We had it the whole day, and the events coordinator was there almost the entire time to help out and answer questions. Bar staff was included.
    Food: $2,100 – we did pizza and it was the BEST decision. Everyone loved it, vegetarians were happy (no vegans, but we still could have done some dairy free pies if needed). We also had salads, cokes, and san pelligrinos. It was perfect!
    Booze: $1680 – A HUGE surprise, but we had really overbudgeted (see the eventual budget) based on horror stories from other weddings. We just served beer and wine (no liquor) which kept costs down. We served either in the bottle/can or with clear plastic cups provided by the venue.
    Rentals: (Tables, chairs, water glasses, water pitchers, plates, forks, knives) – $800
    Dress: $300 – the dress was a gift from my mother, so my costs were alterations, shoes, and a jacket.
    Suit: $500 – Husband used a suit he already owned, but had it tailored and bought new shoes, tie, shirt.
    Photographer: $600 – we used a woman who was just getting into the business, so she came much cheaper than others. But she was great and we got great shots. The cost was just for digital files, so we can print on our own.
    Invitations: $250 – Vistaprint! And we used postcards for RSVP cards, so we saved a little on postage.
    Officiant: $150
    Tips: $110 (for caterers, photographer) we left a tip jar out for bar staff. Our contract said that if they made less than 20%, we would need to make it up, but they came out over 20% – plus leftover pizza
    Cake: gifted
    Honeymoon: $800ish – we drove to Maine and stayed a B&B, so no airfare. The rest of the week was spent blissfully at home.
    Decor: $200+??? – I have no idea. I made my own bouquet and saved jars and got candles and gift bags for out-of-towners, but everything was purchased a little at a time, so it could be much more – Michaels can get you that way!

    We were engaged for about 8 months and put a few hundred aside each month to save up. Our parents also chipped in and I used a CD that I’d had for years. We got the wedding we wanted, and so it felt okay to spend five figures.

    • nyc_to_ma

      Hi – I also live near Somerville… do you mind me asking what venue you used?


      • LCA

        Of course! It was the Center for Arts at the Armory. The $3000 covered the hall from 3-11 (we were able to get in early because there wasn’t an event that morning), bar staff, sound guy, and coordinator. The coordinator was there the whole time to help out and answer any questions. We had plenty of room for 11 tables, food areas, ceremony cite (we used the stage) and a dance floor. There’s also a balcony area where our friends drew charactatures for guests and non-dancers could sit and chat. They don’t have a kitchen, so if you do use it, you need to coordinate VERY WELL with your caterers. We had pizza, which was able to be delivered hot right when we wanted to eat. It’s about a half a mile from Davis (so walkable in good weather and comfy shoes), and on the 88 and 90 bus routes. Small parking lot in the back and street parking if you can find it.

        • nyc_to_ma

          Awesome – thanks! I know the armory well… I go to their farmer’s market sometimes.

  • RKD

    This post made me realize that while I’d kept track of our costs during the first 3/4 of our six-month engagement, I kind of stopped keeping track somewhere around month five. We’d planned meticulously, but of course, random issues pop up without any regard for whatever your plan was (Random issues are very rude that way). I was exhausted from dealing with job uncertainty, the opinions of many family members, moving, and being MOH in my best friend’s wedding, so the closer we were to the wedding day, the more willing I was to hand out fistfuls of money to whoever would solve the Issue of the Day in the quickest and easiest way possible (“Fifty bucks an hour to drive my grandma to our wedding because my brothers are ‘too busy’ to help out? You’re not a serial killer? Okay, DONE.”). Think Oprah “YOU GET A CAR! AND YOU GET A CAR!” Winfrey, but on a slightly smaller scale.

    We knew we wanted a small wedding, and miraculously, we were able to stick to our vision, despite the many opinions of our families (okay, my family). We ended up inviting 50 guests, 46 of whom attended. We had a Maid of Honor and a Best Man, and one reader. It was, in our estimation, perfect.

    Venue (a non-traditional rooftop deck which suited us perfectly, included rental space, chairs, tables, service, dinner, non-alcoholic beverages, and a “coordinator” I saw twice) – $3,100
    Photography (a talented couple of friends who had never shot a wedding before, and a gamble that really paid off) – $500
    Secular officiant – $300
    Cake (MY GOD, THE CAKE. It was amazing.) – $284
    Flowers (six centerpieces, two bouquets, two boutonnieres) – $0, a wedding gift from my parents.
    Wedding dress and accessories – $1,000
    Ceremony area decorations (including vases from Dollar Tree, you guys! ONE DOLLAR VASES!) – $20
    Driver for my grandmother (One of those last-minute expenses they tell you about.) – $200
    Invitations (My friend designed our invites for free, so we just paid for printing and stamps) – $80
    Music (My lovely husband wrote our ceremony music and we had an iPod on shuffle for our reception.) – $0
    Favors (CDs of the music written for our ceremony) – $20
    Pre-wedding beautifying (hairstyling for me, my MOH, and my mom; makeup for me) – $150
    Wedding night hotel room (Our apartments were empty and we were only half moved into our new place, so this was kind of a necessity.) – $200

    Final budget (hey, not as bad as I thought!): $5,854

    WORTH IT: The cake and the flowers, both of which we talk about too often. My dress and the accessories were also a splurge, but (wo)man, I loved all of it. I am also kind of an idiot about makeup, so that uncharacteristic bit of pampering was totally worth it so I can look back at our wedding photos and think I looked pretty next to my super-handsome husband. Having the ceremony and reception in the same spot was also nice, even though it was on the expensive side, because I really didn’t want to deal with the logistics of a second location. Our photographers were a steal, and I’m so glad we trusted them to take our photos. Obviously, that could’ve really gone badly, but we lucked out. Basically, I’d put everything that made our wedding beautiful and easy on this list.

    MAYBE NOT SO MUCH: I have mixed feelings about our officiant. He was kind of presented to us as someone who would get to know us and help write our ceremony, and that’s not really what ended up happening. The money we paid went to the organization with which he was affiliated, so at the end of the day, we can view it as a donation. My APW mindset on this: He showed up, read what we asked, didn’t say anything that upset my husband’s Very Catholic grandmother, and now my husband and I are legally married, so that’s a win.

    REALLY, REALLY WORTH IT: Marrying a dude who was willing to be an active participant in every aspect of the wedding planning process, including those dumb discussions you end up having over trivial minutiae like napkin folds. Whatever was important to me about our wedding day was important to him, and vice versa. Plus, did I mention he wrote and recorded all of the music for our ceremony? I mean, come on. Whatta guy.

    • RKD

      Whoops, I neglected to mention in the Longest Post Ever above that the original budget was $5,000.

      • JM

        Thanks for sharing! I have some of the same priorities and we’re trying to keep our budget down so this was super helpful to read!!

        • RKD

          Good luck with your planning!

  • Steph

    Our wedding was in Sonoma, CA in fall 2012, with 115 guests

    Goal budget: $50k
    Actual budget, all-in: just under $70k

    Rehearsal dinner and welcome reception: $9k
    Wedding venue (site fee, all rentals, all food, all beverages, all service): $26k
    Wedding planner/coordinator: $5k
    Photographer (engagement shoot, rehearsal dinner, wedding): $5k
    Band (ceremony music, cocktail hour music, dinner music, reception/dance party music): $5,400
    Bride and groom attire and wedding bands: $6k
    Hair and makeup for bride, moms, bridesmaids: $2k
    Wedding party and family gifts: $900
    Website, digital invitations, printable thank-you design and supplies including postage: $500
    Flowers and on-site decor: $1200
    Wedding week travel and lodging: $2k
    Marriage license: $129
    Officiant: family friend volunteered his services
    Honeymoon: $5k

    What was worth it: planner! photographer! band!
    What wasn’t worth it: I probably would have been happy in a cheaper outfit. My now-husband still looks pretty slammin’ in his wedding suit, though, and I attribute that to it being a well-made bespoke suit (worth it). We probably could have spent less on the welcome reception but it was nice having that time to catch up with people we hadn’t seen in years.

    Overall, we spent a lot of money on the wedding and satellite events (including a lot of money that was gifted to us to spend on the wedding–we were very lucky and were the recipients of some extreme generosity!) and I don’t regret it.

  • Kirstin

    We are getting married this May in downtown Milwaukee, WI, so we don’t have actual numbers for everything yet. But with an anticipated 75-100, here’s where we are at with at least the bigger stuff:

    Goal Budget: $15K (Likely closer to $17K)

    Gown: $445 (Great sale from Ann Taylor online, alterations TBA but not much needed)
    Shoes: $170 (My splurge and more than I would ever normally spend on shoes)
    My accessories: $60
    Groom’s Suit: $400 budget (still determining rent or buy)

    Flowers: $1,000 (budgeted, but no specific plan yet, may go over)
    Photography: $3,400 (engagement photos included, plus album)
    Invitations: $150 (cheap invites from Vistaprint with a Groupon, and a little craftiness to gussy them up)
    Save the Dates: $25 (Vistaprint/Groupon again)
    Postage: $200 (save the date, invite, rsvp, thank you)
    Programs: $75 (budgeted, still deciding if we actually need these but would DIY)
    Wedding Bands: $750 (budgeted)
    Marriage License: $110 (actual)
    Hotel for Us (two nights) $366
    Ceremony: $225 (Fee for location and set up of chairs)
    Reception Location: $800
    Linen Rental: $100
    Bartenders: $200
    Food: $3000
    Beer/Wine: $2000
    DJ: $600 (family friend, so we got the family rate)
    Decor Items: $300
    Dessert: $300 (budgeted for non-traditional dessert, and then a cheap cut cake from the grocery store – thanks APW!)
    Donation in lieu of Favors: $150
    Attendant/Family Gifts: $300

    Still to be decided – if we have a rehearsal dinner. That will certainly add on a bit more.

  • anon

    First of all, I love that people are actually talking about this!
    I’m in Toronto, and we will probably spend around $35,000 to get married in the city. (All still approximate)
    That includes:
    – about 150ish guests
    – dinner and an open bar
    – venue
    – rentals etc.
    – photographer
    It doesn’t include (mainly because we don’t want these things):
    – a DJ
    – a wedding cake
    – any flowers other than a bouquet

    • Winny the Elephant

      If you’re looking to get more for less- consider getting married just outside of Toronto. I’m getting married in London (we live in Toronto) and EVERYTHING is cheaper. Venue, photography, hair and makeup, florist. Check out Guelph, Waterloo etc

  • anon

    I am 6 months into engaged life and wedding planning, and we have set a wedding date in October 2015. So while I have a budget number, we haven’t spent a lot of money from it yet. We are getting married in the Poconos, PA.

    Goal budget: $25,000 – my parents are gifting us this amount. Although my dad did say that there is a little bit of wiggle room if we happen to go over the 100 people we are planning for. Right now there are around 160 people on the guest list, but I know this will change because we are so far out from the actual wedding date.

    Actual budget: I’d love to keep it to the $25,000, but my fiancé and I have determined that we will probably be able to contribute $3,000 to $4,000 if we need/want to.

    Ceremony and reception site: $14,670
    This includes a $1,250 ceremony site fee, all food and alcohol costs, basic centerpieces for the tables, the cake, and the honeymoon suite on site for us to stay in the night of our wedding. We saved money by choosing to have our wedding on a Sunday and by choosing to serve our meal family style. This saved $25 per person off the total cost.

    Our currently budgeted numbers for the other items are:
    Photography/Videography: $4,000
    Invitations and printed materials: $500 (we plan to do them ourselves)
    Bride’s Attire: $3000

    Brunch the following morning: $2000 (still deciding if we want to offer this for guests staying onsite)

    What’s missing:
    Music: we’ve decided to go the iPod playlist route for the reception. Our venue has an iPod jack in the wall placed next to where the bride and groom’s table will go. To me it was a sign – go with the iPod, skip the weird DJ. We are still deciding what to do for the ceremony.
    Flowers: my brother has a client at work who is a florist and has said if we use his client he will gift us the flowers. Not sure he knows how much that might cost, but I’m going in that direction for sure so it doesn’t have to come out of our budget.
    Welcome baskets: my mom is really excited about this part of wedding planning and wants to gift this to us as well.
    Favors: we decided not to have them.
    Groom’s Attire: my fiancé’s grandparents want to pay for him to have a custom suit made.
    Rehearsal Dinner: my fiancé’s parents have offered to cover this cost.

    So far, wedding budget planning hasn’t stressed me out too much. But I am trying to be really intentional about not thinking much about wedding planning since we have so much time. My goad was to determine our venue and date and sign the contract before the end of 2013. We accomplished that and now I’m ready to take a break until my fiancé comes back to the United States (he is currently living abroad in Austria as a Fulbright scholar and doesn’t get back until June 2014).

  • KS

    Anyone from Vancouver have a budget to add to the mix? :)

  • E

    One more data point: wedding in Houston for about 110 people: $15,000 budget. That included a reception with a buffet dinner, DJ, dancing, cake, etc. That doesn’t include wedding rings & honeymoon, which were about $4500. We split the wedding costs with my parents (thankfully!)

  • Natasha Olsen

    Invited # 130
    Expected # 90

    My dream budget – $6K – kind of picked this number of the thin air BUT I have planned and managed several weddings for friends and my mom is a professional musician whose bread and butter is wedding gigs.

    Estimated final budget – $8K to $9K (excluding honeymoon, which probably isn’t happening at this point)

    Biggest splurges my wedding dress and rings.

    Venue: $98 (Local park, biggest win by far, the location is between two very popular wedding venues in town where the cost is 20x-30x times this)

    Invitations + Wedding website: $178 (digital invites besides a couple paper for close and older fam)

    Hair/Make-up/Pre-Wedding Prep: $320 (This includes the 1/2 marathon and spartan race entry fees I’m training for as pre-wedding fitness, that works, right?)

    Cake/Desserts: $0 (won my cake and extra desserts in a local contest – ENTER EVERY CONTEST)

    Food/Booze/Tables/Chairs: $2,750

    Ceremony Musicians/DJ: $100 (Calling in favors from friend and family, also my mother is insisting on playing, is her way)

    Wedding Dress/Undergarments (those can be spendy)/Accessories/Head Piece/Shoes: $1350

    Grooms Outfit + new boots (his only wish): $300

    Rings: $1,000

    Flowers: $400 (Going to be completely DIY)

    Officiant: $300

    Photographer: $500 (Again calling in favors from friends)

    Extra linens (white tablecloths provided), decorations, etc: $300

    My parents are helping some it will probably breakdown to about 30% them and 70% us. Both my finance and I plus both of our families have had a rough couple years financially – we are just really excited to be pulling this off.

    Hope this helps any current and future planners out there ;)

  • Kaity

    Budget: $10 000
    Breakdown so far:
    Reception: $4900
    Ceremony: $1200
    Photography: $2000
    Everything else (dress, suit, rings,invitations etc): $1900
    Really hoping to come out on budget, but I’m sure something will come up (it always seems to). I’m planning in a different context from most of you – South East Queensland, Australia, in a smallish town that’s not very touristy, which helps. It’s great to see what all of you are doing.

  • anon

    Location: medium sized Ontario, Canada town (1 hour from Toronto), specifically a golf course.
    Size: 130 guests
    Target: 30K (10K from each set of parents + 10K from us; does not include honeymoon)
    Actual: slightly higher (I think closer to 32K)
    Venue (inc. ceremony, all food, unlimited bar): 22K (worth it given the incredible service and quality of food/drink we got)
    DJ: $600
    Flowers & Decor: $800 (that’s mostly flowers, I made all other decorations myself and that was mostly free, yay for borrowing! We did bouquets + floral centerpieces for 16 tables – I think I could have spent less here)
    Dress/Suit: $1200 (groom’s suit was free as a result of groomsmen purchasing)
    Rings: $2000 (we decided to spend more here as we figured it’s the one physical thing that we will carry forward)
    Photographer: $2500 (worth it!)
    Stationery: $300
    Extras/Random: $2000 (bridal party gifts (inc. hair & make up for ladies), upgrading wine package, etc)

    Rehearsal dinner was covered by groom’s parents and was not inc. in budget.

  • Diane

    We got married in Fairfield County, CT (yes one of the most expensive areas of the country)

    Goal Buget: $10,000

    Actual: $13000

    We invited about 100 and had 83 people come


    Food: $5000- small local italian place, also handled linens and dinnerware, thankfully we were not picky about these so it could have been more. This also included the waitstaff and a bartender

    Booze- $1000

    Photographer- $2000- love our pictures, so worth it

    DJ- $2000 (?) also worth it, he really helped get the party atmosphere we wanted for later in the evening

    Officiant- free, family friend

    Dress- $100- yay ebay!

    Suit for Mr- $300

    Flowers- $200- I feel silly but I wish I’d gotten a nicer bouquet. I didn’t think I would care but I was rather disappointed with it. The table flowers we did ourselves and went with a wildflower look which I did like.

    Venue- I forgot if it was 500 or 1000 but either way it was worth it. Seriously, check out Terrywile in Danbury if you’re getting hitched in this area!

    I can’t remember where the rest of the money went, I think miscellaneous decorations and chairs for our outdoor ceremony.

  • M from NS

    I don’t have my info in in front of me, so I will do my best!
    about 150 people in Nova Scotia, Canada
    Projected Budget: 6K
    Actual Budget: estimated 7K (because at the end I didn’t really care how much more had been spent)
    Venue: about 600, and nova scotia may possibly be the only place on earth you could rent an entire historic church, repurposed as a concert space and art gallery for an entire day, for this.
    Food and drink: I believe we managed under 3K, but we supplied our own beef. And there were some very awesome leftovers. Some of the food was quite labor intensive, because we wanted it to be a sandwich, appetizer, yummy mini lemon meringue pie kind of reception.
    Flowers and décor: 1K ish
    Attire: 1.5K ish
    Photographer: 0.5K
    The rest was in rings, a couple of rentals, and some fees.

    • M from NS

      And absolutely all of it was worth it!

    • Carly

      I’m from NS, now living away, but we’re planning on getting hitched there – where was your venue, if you don’t mind me asking?

      • M from NS

        Hey! So we got married at Celtic Circle (cultural center and catering ) in New Glasgow. Jannine was amazing. It’s actually a converted church, so we used the chapel upstairs (stained glass! acoustics!) and had the reception downstairs.

        • Carly

          Thanks so much, M!

  • amelie

    September 2013 DC wedding!
    Guests: 140 invites, 120 attended
    Reception Venue: 3.5K
    Catering (4 passed appetizers and a buffet meal with chicken, fish, and vegetarian entrees) and chairs: 13K
    Wedding cake: $300 through a Washingtonian Deal
    Bought our own full bar, middle-shelf: 2K
    Photographer: $2k
    DIY flowers and Ikea candleholders: 1K
    Lighting: $1.5k
    Invites: $600 through Minted
    Total: Approx $24K
    (Not including the rehearsal dinner, which the groom’s family picked up, which was about 10K at a very well-known DC restaurant for 65 people)

    • What was your venue, if you don’t mind sharing? I’m a DC area bride-to-be currently venue hunting, and your guest list is the same size as mine. Thanks!

      • A

        Hearst Hall, in the National Cathedral School (on the grounds of the National Cathedral). It’s a stunning view!

  • We got married in Berkeley, California in August 2013. So happy to share, as real budgets were awesomely helpful when we were planning! Apparently the Bay Area is one of the most expensive places to get married, but we really wanted redwoods, so we made it work :)

    Guests: 65 (a little over 100 invited, our friends and families live all over the place, so it was a pseudo-destination wedding)
    Goal budget: $15K (about $11K came from our families, the rest from us)
    Actual budget: not quite sure, but a couple thousand more… in the $16-18K range (not including honeymoon, which we haven’t taken yet, and the rehearsal dinner, which was planned and paid for by the groom’s family)
    Venue: $3000 (UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, Sunday afternoon/evening)
    Catering: $6,400 (we didn’t do an official seated dinner time, but had lots of small plate options so people could pick and choose to make a full meal, including sushi, steak, salmon, and lots of tasty side dishes. Also included lovely servers, bartender to serve our booze, sales tax, and rentals: tables, linens, dishes, etc)
    Alcohol: $400 (beer, wine, and prosecco from Trader Joe’s)
    Dessert: $400 (tons of cupcakes and parisian macarons)
    Photographer: $3000
    DIY flowers and other decor: $400
    DIY invites and save the dates: $200
    Sound system: $200 (to be used with our iPod)
    Clothes: $1300 (including everything that went on our bodies that we bought new for the day)
    Rings: $700
    License: $100
    Officiant: free (friend “ordained” online)

    Well, that’s everything I can think of (all approximated and rounded to the nearest hundred), and I’m at $16K. Honestly, I can’t think of anything that wasn’t totally worth it. I loved all our vendors to death. We blogged about the whole process, so you can see what we got for our money here: http://www.alivingspace.com/search/label/The%20Wedding%20Ones

    • SLW

      Thanks for this — your blog is truly fantastic!

  • Anon

    Denver wedding, Wedding Season. This budget includes things we’re “excluding” for our “contributor” budget at the bottom. We’re so blessed, grateful, confused, and sheepish that our parents want to contribute to our lives this way. The weirdest thing about planning a wedding, for me, is how much everyone loves us. We’re so, so, grateful. And we’ve been able to keep a very, very simple ceremony which was our priority (and why we paid for the church ourselves).

    Initially: we told our parents (three sets of actively involved parents) we didn’t want to spend more than $20,000, tops.
    Current Reality: We were budgeted for $30,000, expecting to hit $40,000. My dads are expecting for the whole thing to hit $50,000. Our “current” budget is:

    Saturday noon church wedding 70 guests: $675 (we paid ourselves)
    Saturday afternoon Tea Reception 70 guests: $3,000
    Saturday Cocktail Reception 150 guests food: $10,000
    Saturday Cocktail Reception Alcohol: $2,000
    Saturday Cocktail Reception DJ: $2,000
    Flowers: None except what my mom insists on
    Decor/design for cocktail reception: $4,000
    Paper/Website/STD: $500 (designed and produced by a friend)
    Venue: $4,000
    Partial Planner: $3,150 (including day of and partial planner (so helping some in advance but not everything))
    Videographer: $1,500
    Photographer: $6,500

    Not included in the global budget but paid individually by individual parents/us:
    Dress: my personal budget is sub $2,000; my mom’s budget is $5,000 (her treat). She’s a seamstress and has always sewn so she doesn’t want to make my gown, but she wants to be really, really particular about material, fabric, seems, etc. The shops pull both my and her budgets for me :)
    Shoes: $675 (Louboutins I bought all by myself, so empowering in this whole process!)
    Jewelry: personal heirlooms/gifts from major life events
    His suit: $1000 (paid by his family)
    Rings: $1000 ish, designed by us with our jeweler
    Hair/Makeup for only me: $150
    Rehearsal Food the day before: $3,000 for 4 course dinner and wine service (discounted by restaurant owner)
    Drinks on our Roof the night before: BYOB… Free.
    Honeymoon to Asian: $7,000(ish)

  • StevenPortland

    Here’s my first ever post. I’m in an unusual spot. Over Thanksgiving, we had a small (10 adults and 9 kids) wedding in Vancouver, Washington (since gay couples can’t yet get married here in Portland). Now I’m planning our Portland reception party for August 2014. We’ll be sending out invites for 110 with perhaps 90 attending. Because of having two separate events, some costs are higher since we need them twice.

    WEDDING CEREMONY (for 15 people):
    Flowers $45
    Rings $1800 (this was our big spend. We had handmade rings from a local goldsmith)
    Two suits $700
    Officiant $350
    Invitations $50 (hand made from an Etsy designer)
    Cake $80 (I made the cake but bought supplies and laser-cut topper)
    Dinner (the adults went to a nice restaurant and we left the kids with a babysitter) $400
    Photographer $150 (We hired a photographer just for the short ceremony. It would have been nice to have the money to hire a full photographer.)
    Total Wedding Ceremony Cost: just under $4000

    RECEPTION (inviting 110, expecting perhaps 90)
    Food and alcohol $6000 (I wish we had more money because as foodies I would love to have more)
    Save-the-date, Invitations, Thank You cards: $300 (hand made form an Etsy designer, really happy to spend money on this)
    Room rental at our church: $1000
    Rentals of linens, glasses, etc.: $1000
    Entertainment for the kids: $300
    Saxophone Quartet: $1300
    Total Reception Cost: just under $10,000 (which is our original budget!!!)
    Grand total of ceremony and reception: $14,000.

    • YOQ

      Steven, we’re doing almost exactly the same thing, but doing both our ceremonies on the same day this summer. (I don’t want to have to remember two anniversaries!) One of our current challenges is to find a venue in Vancouver–do you mind telling me where you did your legal ceremony?

      • StevenPortland

        Our ceremony was at the Unitarian Universalist church (http://msuuf.org). The minister there only marries congregants, but is happy to rent the church out, especially to gay and lesbian couples from Oregon. The lesbian Unitarian minister who was the officiant was Patti Pomerantz (http://www.pattipomerantz.com/). Really super happy with both the place and Patti.

        • YOQ


  • A DC Bride (kind-of)

    These threads on APW were so helpful to me as I imagined my wedding, so I feel like I owe it to lay out how things went for us!

    Location: Eastern Shore of Maryland (we live in Washington, D.C.), September 2013

    Wedding goals: simple, beautiful, communal, non-urban, fun

    We had a “wedding weekend” in an area where we both grew up spending the summers. My dad used to teach at a retreat center right on the Chesapeake Bay, and my husband’s extended family owns a farm on the Choptank River. I’d been part of a crazy wedding weekend as a teenager in Chincoteague (truly rustic Virginia beach town) that was always “how I wanted my wedding to be.”

    Our bridal party and both families stayed at the retreat center for the weekend; we subsidized cost of lodging there to the note of about $7000 (but still asked people to pay $125/ night for a room), and would have been in-budget if that had not been the case. I think that doing all the vendor coordination ourselves and having the ceremony and reception at my husband’s family farm saved a bit of money over other local outdoor options, but it still ended up being about $50 per guest!

    Anticipated budget: $15-20K ($10K from the parents)
    Actual budget: $25K

    – gown $800 (from pre-owned wedding dresses) + $250 for alterations
    – veil $20 (made by aunt from APW tutorial)
    – groom’s suit $1000 (pricey, but he’s worn it > 10 times in the 4 months since)
    – hair/ make-up: done myself. I tried to find a professional but they were all out of my price range!
    – flowers $600 (combo of local flower farm and blooms by the box); a friend took charge of arranging
    – photography $2200 (family friend from Denver with professional creds)
    – invitations, web site, programs etc $850
    – retreat center accommodation and meals $6800
    – Irish band for ceremony and reception $1650 (paid for by aunt and uncle)
    – other ceremony music/ sound $600 (paid for by aunt and uncle)

    – food (appetizers and iced tea/ lemonade with servers – Kerri Out Catering) $2800
    – ice cream (from a local creamery, complete with mobile stand and server in kilt :) $1000
    – cakes and “official” cake provided by friends
    – alcohol $35 (for wine from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods; a friend ended up covering beer expenses which were about $180)
    – tents + tables + chairs + dance floor $3600
    – portable restrooms $1300
    – tableware $210
    – 2 servers (friends’ children) $120

    What was worth it and what wasn’t: Though accommodating people for the weekend was so expensive, it really was the core of our celebration, so it was worth it to us. The ice cream was probably unnecessary. We wouldn’t have done a live band if someone else hadn’t paid for it. I can’t think of anything else I would have changed!

    • A DC bride (kind-of)

      oops… guest numbers. We invited 350, expected 200, and about 185 came.

  • Boston

    Our wedding weekend was in Boston. 145 guests.

    Original budget: 40K (gift from parent)
    Actual budget: closer to 60K (about 10K of the difference was additional gifts from family members who paid for specific parts of the wedding as gifts, the rest we paid ourselves). That doesn’t include some extras like accommodation for the wedding party, dress we bought for a bridesmaid, or the honeymoon (which we paid for ourselves).

    Biggest expenses (not including tips):
    Rehearsal dinner (venue, food, booze for 80 people): 6K
    Venue (ceremony and reception): 6000 (we paid $500 extra to extend the rental time for an hour which was really worth it)
    Photography: 5100
    Dress (plus alterations): 4000
    Tux etc: 1250
    Hair/Makeup for bridal party: 1000
    Band/ceremony music: 5200 (including extending the band rental time)
    Rings: 7300 (I still feel bad about this amount but I’m glad I convinced my husband to get something he really liked, we paid for them ourselves)
    Catering+ rentals: 25,000
    booze (self provided): 4000
    Transport for guests to venue: 1000 (this was one of those things we just sucked up and paid the week of the wedding and it was so worth it)
    Invitations: 1200
    Flowers: 1500 (this was probably not worth it)
    Wedding coordinator: 2500 (not worth a cent and sadly she is an APW vendor)
    Supplies for decorations/favors: 500ish. We made them all ourselves.

    At times I have felt guilty about the amount spent on our wedding but it was within our/our family’s means, comparable to many weddings in our area and allowed us to work with vendors we really liked/wanted to support. Also it was a spectacular success and our guests are still raving about it. So in hindsight I’d do it all over again. While planning I felt out of place at APW at times in light of our budget so it has been refreshing to see people post in this threat with similar budgets.

    • Allie

      Hi, would you mind sharing your vendors? I’m just starting to plan a Boston area wedding. I’m especially wondering about your venue, photographer, flowers, and coordinator (so I can avoid her!). Thanks!

  • StillSmiling

    Austin, TX Wedding for 165 people:

    Goal budget $5000

    Real Cost: Probably about $6500

    We came close, and worked really hard to keep to a budget that reflected our values, our priorities, and the reality of my parents’/our finances. What we saved in money all happened because of an investment in time and effort, from us and from so many people who love us. In many ways that was the best part- it was a gorgeous and joyful wedding, while maintaining a simplicity that suited us. Best. Day. Ever. (Or, so far, at least.)

    Here’s the breakdown.

    $250 for the church (our gorgeous home parish), musicians, officiant AND reception venue- the lovely, bright, sunny Parish Activity Center. I’m sure this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it perfectly fit our personality, priorities, needs (simplicity for out-of-town-guests? Yes!), and budget.

    $1500 on food – delicious BBQ, sides, plus all the details like plates, napkins, non-alcoholic drinks, etc. We originally were looking into some more name-brand BBQ places, but then we found this small, family-owned place with an amazing price and even more amazing customer service. They were a delight to work with and everyone raved about the BBQ, even the Texans who are picky about these things. Also, my parent’s were initially very skeptical about paper goods for a wedding, but we found ways to make it look rustic and reasonable (blue gingham-print napkins a little bit of twine go a long way!).

    $500 beer and wine

    $800 – dress (the one thing I would do differently if I could do it over. It was beautiful, but not at all comfortable. It was one of the first things I bought, and I wish I had a better sense of the rest of the budget before I spent this kind of money on a dress I’ll never wear again. Sigh. But it was fun to feel so fancy for this special day!)

    $300 – his suit, shirt, etc.

    $0 – Save the Dates (we created them ourselves and then emailed them to save paper, time, and money

    $0 – Music – My friend + my computer = awesome. Grandma still talks about how great our DJ was.

    $200 – other paper supplies. I met a woman at a party who designs stuff and she designed the most beautiful, simple, “us” invitations for $10 and we just had them printed at a local place. We designed our own thank-you cards and programs (the biggest chunk of the budget, ’cause I made it a book trying to explain everything that would happen at a Catholic Mass for those less familiar with such things. One of our goals was that everyone feel comfortable, welcomed and able to celebrate fully with us, so it was a no-brainer to spend this money here).

    $1500 – Photographer – Probably where I invested the most time. I knew I didn’t have the budget to hire most of the very established photographers in the area that I’d been eyeing since before we got engaged. So, I researched enough to get a sense of what I really liked and wanted, then scoured the internet for someone whose shots resonated with that, but who was new in the business. She was awesome, but is just getting into professional photography, so her prices were much more accessible. The pictures turned out so well, and I loved working with her, so in the end it was worth the hours and hours of research.

    $700 – Flowers. Gorgeous, simple, and very us. One of my favorite parts of the whole deal.

    $100 – Cake – Not a wedding cake. It was beautiful and delicious, and looked as wedding-y as I would ever want it to look once our lovely florist put a little somethin-something on top.

    $500 – other details like welcome bags for folks coming in from out of town, thank-you gifts for the bridal party and our parents, shoes, accessories like his cuff-links and my earnings, the above-mentioned napkins and twine, and a lot of random blue glass bottles from Goodwill or our wine-drinking that we used for vases on the tables.

  • Tahlia Kirk

    I ummmmm….didn’t actually give myself a budget. I got engaged during my first year living on my own and having a full time job, so I really didn’t have a clue how much money I had available for a wedding. It ended up being around $4200 (not counting the honeymoon). In some ways, I wish I’d spent more money in some areas (especially wish I could’ve hired a caterer), but I was terrified of overspending so it all worked out.

    I live in Camarillo, CA which is between LA and Santa Barbara.

    In case you’re curious, here’s what I paid on the big-ticket items:

    $900 for 10 hours of Photography

    $550 Ceremony Site

    $40 veil and blue dye = Can’t beat prices in the LA fashion district

    $215 on wedding dress (David’s Bridal)

    $195 on alterations (NOT David’s Bridal)

    $45 Groom’s vest (made by his mother)

    $1200 Reception Venue ($300 returned after event)

    $250 on Food (bread, snacks, lemonade)

    $160 Cupcakes

    $100 Hair and Makeup

    $380 Rentals

  • MissManners

    I’m so thrilled to be reading all these comments. It’s all further proof that I’ll be able to keep on budget, even though we don’t have much money to spend at all (in the grand scheme on comparing our numbers to others). One way we quickly realized we’d save a lot of money is to have the wedding on a weekday. We’re opting for a Friday afternoon wedding, which is saving us more than $10,000.

    San Francisco, CA
    2014 – Early summer

    Budget: $10,000
    What we’re actually spending (so far): $13,500
    Guests: 55-65

    Ceremony venue: $1,200 (City Hall mezzanine with chairs for one hour on a weekday)
    Bride’s dress & shoes: $750 (David’s Bridal on sale–and I opened an account with them so I can pay it off over six months with zero interest)
    Save the date cards: $118
    Bride’s hair: $150
    Groom’s outfit: $350 (60% off for their annual menswear sale + 20% off for opening a Macy’s account)
    Website: $90 (thankful registry + square space)
    Transportation: $20 (we’re cabbing + taking public transportation)
    Wedding bands: $500
    Photography: $1,500 (half day package from a friend who’s giving us a deal)

    Reception: $8,500 (full restaurant buyout includes happy hour and 3-course dinner)
    Cake: $250

    What we absolutely had to slash from the budget:
    – Hotel rooms for both bride and the groom
    – Fancy transportation
    – Honeymoon
    – About 50 friends and co-workers. We’re now having an intimate wedding with close friends and family
    – Formal invitations – we’re doing everything online

    What we were blessed to get great deals/hooks on:
    – Best friend is a make-up artist
    – Mother of the bride is a gardener who’s growing all the wedding’s flowers
    – WE HAVE A WEDDING PLANNER! I REPEAT: WE HAVE A WEDDING PLANNER! She originally gave us an incredible and reasonable price, and then my mother offered to pay the remainder in trade for gardening

    • Rachel

      What restaurant are you using? We are considering a similar size wedding in San Francisco.

  • Aubry

    Piping up from the great white north:

    Vancouver, BC
    110 invited, probably 90 – 100 coming
    initial budget 5k – likely 6 – 7K after all is said and done. 5k gifted from my mom, rest from us as it comes.
    Venue(2): free – friends yard and family business for after party
    Food: I’m hoping $500 or so. Appies done by us, pulled pork sliders out of the crock pot and gifted desserts/whole foods cake.
    booze: $1200 est, hopefully made-up mostly with twoonie bar

    dress: $1200-$1500 ridiculously cheap custom. not really included in budget as my mom is paying separately

    officiant: $735
    Photographer: $1800 6 hours + some prints and digital copies. engagement shoot done by a friend for free.
    invites/STDs: $140. thanks glosite
    thank yous: TBD I’ll probably design and print for $100-$150

    craig suit: probably $500 or so
    rentals: $500 ish for 90 chairs, some tables in various sizes with linens, plus glasses
    flowers: maybe $100? made by me from some cheap source like a flower market. Not a priority.
    rest is crafts and miscellaneous things like amplification rentals and…

    We are doing a honeymoon registry, so will cover the cost of it. No money left, so as much as we get is as much as we have!

    We are doing very few traditional things that cost money and basically banking on the thought that people will want to celebrate with us and can deal with not really getting fed. We have a free venue, and little food costs. I would say for my area that at least double my budget would be required if you didn’t happen to have a friend with a lovely yard and/or wanted a sit down dinner.

  • karyn_arden

    Well, I’m a little late to the table here, but I’m going to contribute anyways.

    Location: Edmonton, AB
    Date: August 31, 2012
    Total Guests: 33 (including bride & groom)
    Thought we’d spend: $7,000-8,000

    Breakdown –
    My dress: $1,600 (gift from my mom)
    His suit/shoes: $450
    My ring: $0 (purchased when we bought my engagement ring set)
    His ring: $400
    Ceremony venue (Muttart Conservatory): $700
    Reception venue (Vons Steak and Oyster Bar – including venue fees, food, tax and gratuity): $3,600 ($2,000 paid by my aunt as a gift)
    Cakes: $175 (we had five small cakes from a local bakery – Wild Earth Cafe & Bakery)
    Invitations & Favours: $250 (invitations from Etsy, favours from Costco (jelly beans) and Michael’s craft store (little boxes and ribbons))
    Transportation: $450
    Flowers: $525 (Akiko Floral Artistry)
    Photography: $2,500 (Ryan & Beth Photographers – they were EXCELLENT, we had them for 7 hours during the daytime/early evening and we have 100% control of our photos in RAW format)
    Wedding Coordinator (month-of): $1,250 (A Modern Proposal)

    Actually spent: about $12,000, including contributions from family members; but we paid for just over $8000 ourselves

    We also used the APW Google Doc spreadsheet for keeping track of our budget and about a zilion other things. It was STUPID helpful for a person who didn’t know where to start but likes to be as organized as possible (read: me).

  • We got married for about the cost of a marriage license last week, and we are getting recepted in West Marin, in the Bay Area, Northern California, at my parents’ home in May 2014, with about 200 guests, including about 10-20 children (down from initial list of 315 people we wanted to invite).

    My parents gave us $30K — $5K of that is going to my fiance’s family for our wedding in India (leaving next week!). His parents are spending I have no idea how much on the Indian wedding, but that’s really a whole ‘nother ballgame.

    We were planning to spend about $30K on the American reception, putting about $5000 on top of my parents’ gift so we could have all the friends we wanted to invite. Looking at the costs I listed below, it looks like we’ll go over that, but hopefully some of that is $$ we can get back.

    Our clothes + alterations for suit and dress: $1900 — I am planning to immediately resell my dress, and am hoping to recoup at least $400.
    Venue: Zero. Yay parents’ backyard. They did pay to get some of the bumpier areas smoothed out and the trees trimmed. A contractor friend is doing the lighting as a gift.
    Photography+ video: $900 (won a giveaway, paying only for transport and lodging for a photog and videographer)
    Flowers: Maybe $100? A friend is doing them and we’re using the garden as an excuse to not buy many.
    Catering including staff, some rentals, and tip: $22,000 (pig roast, all local, organic, etc in West Marin). This is $60 a head for food with no cake. Yes I know this is excessive. Yes I love food too much to skimp on it, and this was the cheapest we could find that I liked)
    Wedding planner/day of coordinator: $1500? She’s hourly at about $60 an hour.
    Music: planning on hiring a Cal student to wo/man our ipod. So hopefully like $200, max.
    Wine and Beer: $2000
    Shuttle from parking lot to parents’ house: $1K
    Deposit on 10 booked rooms (10 only! and no discount!): $1500.
    Scavenged decorations and vintage plates: $500 ish? — planning to resell to caterers.

  • Stephanie Collins

    I’ve read through most of the responses and I’m feeling quite nervous now about my budget. Here goes:

    Northern Virginia suburb near Washington DC (a generally rather expensive place to try to have a wedding)
    This coming August, 2014
    Our goal budget: $4,000 is what I say when talking about spending, $5,000 when saving, so that our savings account will have a 25% “contingency” when the overspending happens. We can’t really overspend over that $5,000 because we have no sort of safety net to do so (other people with money to help us).
    Guests: not locked down yet, but our venue’s max capacity is 110, and we’d love to have as many of our loved ones as possible, because the idea of “the one time in your life when you get to gather most of your loved friends and family in one place” is the reason we decided to have a capital-W “Wedding” instead of just eloping. So we’re aiming to fill the place as close to that 110 as we can (I guess that makes it 107 when you subtract out us and an officiant!).

    So far we have spent:
    $1471.62 – Reception. This includes the rental, which is also going to be the venue for the ceremony, and 11 sets of string lights to decorate with. We have already “allocated” an additional $265 to be spent on a state-required liquor license and renting some of the outdoor area around our venue, for lawn games.

    $995.75 – Attire. Right now we’re about 50/50 on the spending for his suit and my dress. Both items still need tailoring at an additional cost. I’m considering returning the dress or selling it, because I feel like the tailoring will be too expensive and that will make it too expensive overall. This is probably the biggest source of stress relating to the wedding and my budget right now. (His suit doesn’t stress me out because it will have utility after the wedding, but it freaks me out to have spent just as much as his suit on a dress that I cannot re-wear.) If I do decide to keep the dress, I estimate $350 total for tailoring both, but I have no idea if that’s realistic.

    $43.36 – Flowers and Centerpieces. The groom (an artsy sort of guy who likes fiddling with things) has volunteered to DIY both (paper flower bouquets and geeky terrarium centerpieces). The amount already spent has been for practice materials so that he can do a few examples/trial runs. No idea how much the rest of the materials will cost, but trying to keep the total at less than $180.

    $50 – Music. The $50 is for use of the sound system at our venue, so we’re going to iPod/Laptop DJ. I’ve allocated an additional $30 to getting a Spotify Premium account for the month of the wedding and buying downloads of any super-important songs we can’t get on Spotify.

    $25.68 – “Photography.” I don’t think we’ll be able to afford a professional photographer with our budget in our area. (The “budget” photogs around here seems to start at $2000.) I’ve bought a few props for whatever pictures end up taken by our friends and family. I’d like to set up a DIY photobooth as well, but I’m not certain we’ll be able to pull that off.

    $171.05 – Stationary. We were going to do electronic invitations to save money originally, but I found an AMAZING deal for WeddingPaperDivas on Gilt City that let me buy a $200 gift cert for only $60. My sister-in-law is an amazing graphic designer who’ll be designing the invitations, so we decided to go for it. It’ll cost up to $40 in postage to mail them. We also bought a printer in order to do our DIY projects and materials to DIY a card box.

    We’ve also paid $375 in security deposits for the venue, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’ll get all of that back, so I’m not including it in our budget.

    Total spent so far: $2757.46
    Total spent+allocated so far: $3580.85

    So we have less than $500 left over from the “spending” budget and less than $1500 left over from the “saving/maximum budget.” A keen observer will see why this is stressing me out: we haven’t spent anything for the officiant yet, nor anything on food or alcohol! Catering around here is really expensive, so there’s about a 98% possibility that we will do a potluck for the food, and then buy the alcohol ourselves. (And yes, looking at the numbers right now, I’m even more strongly considering returning the dress.)

    I do keep reminding myself that once we book the officiant (next thing on the to-do list), we’re done. Everything else is just gravy, and is not necessary. If there’s money left for other things, cool, but the officiant is literally the only required thing left to pay for. Once we book that, we are truly going to get married, no matter what else we pay for (or don’t pay for).

    • Nope.

      Hi Stephanie, I’m in DC and was just thinking about getting that Gilt deal for invites. Can you tell me a little more about how you used them? Did you have your SIL design the invite and then use Wedding Paper Divas’ printing services?

      • Stephanie Collins

        Sure! So sometimes Gilt City has offers for 50% off gift certificates for Wedding Paper Divas. Sometimes they also have offers for 40% off your first purchase if you sign up with a referral link. And usually these two times seem to overlap – I’ve seen it happen twice now, where both offers were up. So the $200 Wedding Paper Divas gift certs cost $100 on Gilt City, and then I used the 40% off coupon to only pay $60 for it. I haven’t actually used the gift cert yet (the one I bought is good until April), but yes, the plan is to have my SIL design the invites and have them printed via Wedding Paper Divas.

    • Mary


      I was wondering what venue you’re using – it seems impossible to get anyone that cheap in NoVA!


      • Stephanie Collins

        Hi Mary,
        No problem whatsoever! We’re going with the visitor’s center at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon. They have tables and chairs available, but everything else you have to bring in yourself. But it’s actually a really pretty space, because it was originally a barn, then briefly a church, and now it’s an auditorium space. I know what you mean about having trouble finding a venue that cheap in NoVA – we searched for about 6 weeks before deciding on that one, and cost was a major influence in the decision!

  • Annejieun

    Our budget is 30k in regional Australia. We picked that figure to start with because I read ~37k was the ‘national average’ and my fiance and I are both somewhere in the middle class and we wanted a semi-traditional wedding, so it seemed a logical place to start (even if the figure did and still does induce some mental dry-retching of my usually spend-thrift brain). We picked a venue halfway between my parents and his, which is 1.5h drive from Sydney or Canberra, so a mini-destination day trip for most people. With four months to go, we’re at our target (uh oh), having bioked all of our major vendors:

    NB- all in AUD$
    Venue (berry farm that does weddings; 10% discount for Sunday booking): 3k
    Caterers (canapes and plated lunch, inc staffing for my diy dessert buffet): 10k
    Outfit (sale dress, korean hanbok for reception): 1.5k
    Groom (suit he already owns, but is saving it so had to buy other to wear to work): $500
    Flowers: Still negotiating with florist to bring it down to 2k… Her first quote was 3k! I have a special (pricey) request, tho… I’d love hanging florals over my reception tables
    Celebrant $500
    Music (jazz band + amateur string quartet) 2.25k
    Wedding planner, inc DOC: 3k
    Bridal party makeup/hair/suit hire: 1.5k
    Wedding rings: 1.5k
    Accommodation for bridesmaids and a few out-of-town friends the night before wedding: 1k
    Stationery (letterpress because I LURVE it and this is my chance): 1.2k
    Equipment hire (chairs, glassware, buffet items): 1k
    Costs of diy craft items (signage, garland for car, garden games, photobooth): bit scared to add it up, so haven’t started! Hopefully less than 1k

    • annejieun

      Forgot to add that our guestlist is 80. Also that we budgeted within our means because despite both sets of parents offering to help pay, neither gave us any guidelines of what they were comfortable with, and there was an added complication … One parent is loving but vehemently opposed to the marriage. They will definitely be hurt if they don’t contribute, but at the same time they don’t want to contribute… This conversation has obviously stalled for a while. If they end up helping, it’ll be a wonderful bonus but we aren’t stressing about relying on it, which I think was a wise move.

  • KM

    We got married on the Eastern shore of Maryland in September 2013 as well. We wanted to have a wedding weekend, so these costs factor in costs for the weekend as well, which included food/supplies and staying at the venue from Thursday-Monday with the bridal party and both of our families (yep, including two sets of divorced parents). We got about $15,000 from our parents and paid for the rest ourselves. I also used google docs to keep track which was very easy and helpful!

    Goal budget: $20,000
    Actual budget: (roughly) $26,500
    Guests: Invited 175 which turned into 195 when people starting coupling up/asking about plus ones…135 actually came
    Venue (including lodging for families and bridal party Thurs-Mon): $4,491 ($5241 deposit, received $750 for security deposit)
    Catering (including bartender, buffet dinner, water, lemonade, great app spread): $3,500 (we also tipped a couple hundred at the end of the night but I’m not sure how much)
    Wedding Alcohol (beer/wine/prosecco brought in ourselves from TJs and local beer store): $1,500
    Weekend Alcohol (kegs, extra wine, etc): $400
    Dessert: Free! (Groom’s sister made everything, caterer provided serving trays)
    Music/Sound: Free! (we used Spotify Premium which we already had, and a family friend owns an A/V company so he brought everything in)
    Photography: $2,920 (SO worth it! she was amazing)
    Attire (my dress, accessories, and alterations): $990
    Rentals: $4,233 (had to bring everything in: tables, dishes, chairs, dance floor, lighting)
    Porta potties: $700
    Stationary: $200 (Dad designed, used Zazzle to print)
    Flowers: $1,000 (from local farm, including bouquets and centerpieces for 18 tables)
    Decorations/gifts: $500
    Rehearsal dinner: $200 (mostly was a potluck/cookout, we provided burgers/hot dogs and people brought sides)
    Wedding bands: $750
    Day of hair and makeup: $1,500 (this includes hair and makeup for 9…I originally intended to only pay for one or the other, but haven’t gotten money back from everyone…)
    Shuttle transportation for hotel guests not onsite: $1,850

    Whew, that is a lot but overall, I’m really, really happy with how we spent our money. I loved our flowers, but if you don’t care about them it would likely be a good place to save. The shuttle transportation was also a huge expense but people wouldn’t have stayed as long otherwise (they went until like 2 am which was way longer than we had reserved them. The day of hair and makeup is also, of course, not essential but we had such a blast just hanging out and getting ready the day of — not worrying about having to do anything ourselves was wonderful. For me this was totally worth it, but I can see it as a place to save for some. We also paid for the lodging for 40+ people (bridal party + significant others, immediate families, and some stray campers). You could try to recoup this cost but we wanted to gift it to our attendees for making the trip out to such a remote location!

  • Mrs SPB

    Delurking after 2 years to add to this conversation as a HUGE thank you
    for how much this website has helped me! I found APW 2 days after I got married and wished I
    had found it in the planning stages.

    Not exact numbers as got married 2 years ago and I now have a 1 yr old distracting me!

    Location: London, UK
    Guests: 75 expected, 2 no shows (venue generously put their food budget behind the bar)
    Style: Outdoor ceremony, BBQ reception in same venue, dancing til midnight

    Planned budget: £3000
    Actual budget £4000 ish

    and reception: £3000ish (including venue hire, food, tables, chairs,
    glasses, staff etc. Also included 2 champagne cocktails per person plus
    2 bottles each of red, white and rose wine on the tables (max 10
    people) with food. After that it was a pay bar.

    Wedding dress: £220
    My shoes: £40
    Husbands suit: £100
    and buttonholes: £10 max I DIY’d with ribbon and fabric flowers from
    IKEA that cost 13p each – ridiciulous – plus foliage from the garden
    and Makeup: a wonderful gift from my friends who couldn’t believe I was
    planning on doing this myself – so glad they did I was crazy to think
    that was a good idea
    Rings: £325

    Bridesmaids and best men – we
    had two of each and they got their own outfits – we simply told them
    the theme and colours and gave them free reign to choose what they
    wanted. The bridesmaids particularly appreciated this!

    £10.99 for a spotify account and we created a play list of our favs and
    asked the guests to send their requests ahead of time. Making the
    playlist was one of my fav parts of wedding planning

    The cost of a return flight to the UK from Spain – hubby’s friend is a
    spanish photographer and did us the most amazing favour by doing this
    for us

    Invites: £50 ish probably less. We designed them and made
    them ourselves so costs were for materials, stamps, envelopes, a wax
    seal gun and ribbon

    Cake £30 from Waitrose – 5 cakes piled on top
    of eachother with a topper. It was delicious. Technically a wedding
    gift as it was bought with a gift voucher

    Table numbers: £45 for 10 solid wood numbers

    Place settings doubled up as favours – each place setting was a fabric
    flower matching the bouquets with the person name and note saying to
    take them home

    Other things: Whatever’s left of the budget: Lego
    bride and groom cake toppers, fake flowers for mine and bridesmaids’
    hair, veil, disposable cameras for the tables, fabric and vases for
    centre pieces, materials for table plans

    Worth it: All the cheap stuff tbh! The cake, the bouquets, the song list etc were so us and felt right.

    worth it: I was never 100% happy with my dress. By locking into a
    really low budget I couldn’t get exactly what I wanted and that makes me a
    bit sad sometimes.

    This has turned out really long… I hope it’s helpful and doesn’t bore everyone!

    x x x

  • We’re getting married in Quebec, which is already more expensive for certain things because most people here earn an actual livable wage for low-skilled jobs. That being said, we’re don’t require a whole lot of vendors because we’re having an intimate wedding of 30 people. Our budget will be around $5K, not including rings or honeymoon.

    Photography (e-session included): $1500
    Food and Venue (a small inn): $750
    Booze (very expensive in Canada): $750
    Attire (not buying new): $750
    Music (self-DJ): $0

    And then the rest of the smaller things add up to $5K or more.

  • Emily

    I am getting married in May in San Diego, so I can’t yet comment on the full budget. I decided the things that were important to me and booked those first so I didn’t need to cut corners on them. Now I’m basically riding a “whatever is the cheapest” train for the rest of the decisions. Our original budget was $20,000, mostly from my parents. So far, we are still under but we are planning on paying any overages ourselves.

    Right now we have:
    Venue (some tables and chairs included): $2500
    Photographers (probably the most important thing to me): $3200
    My Dress: $1200 (no alterations included yet)
    Invitations: $500
    Wine and Beer: Both are being made by family friends so it’s not really free but free for us.
    Magician for cocktail hour: $500 (nothing says cocktail hour like close-up magic, right?)
    Rings: I have my grandmother’s $0

    Planned budget:
    Food and non-alcoholic drinks (hamburgers grilled on site): $7500
    Flowers (from whole-sale market and self arranged): $700
    Hair/make-up: $300
    Groom’s suit: $400
    Cake: $250
    Coordinator (day of): $1000
    Ceremony site (beach permit from the city): $90
    Insurance: ???
    Other decor (DIY including photo booth): $700

    DJ: Friend managing a playlist: $150 for some speaker rentals and gas
    Gifts: $500

    Things not budgeted for but will definitely add: hotel rooms, extra meals for vendors, tips, license, additional rentals like heaters and a tent if it rains.

    I will also just quickly add that the budget has definitely been a difficult subject. I have people around me with opinions that range from “any money on a wedding is a waste” to “it’s rude not to spend more on you’re guests”. Sometimes with so many opinions flying around, I forget what I even want. What has helped me, is thinking about and talking to close friends. Picking a friend that most mimics my values, but is outside the heat of the decision making, and getting their opinion actually reminds me of what I wanted in the first place. I also didn’t plan my “book the most important things first” strategy, but it really helps that I didn’t have to cut what I wanted and now I can just pick the cheapest for everything because I know it’s not a priority for me. And if I keep going in order of importance, I can just cut whatever puts me over the budget. Easier said than done, I know!

    • Carin

      Hi Emily! I’m in the beginning stages of planning a wedding in San Diego also…and feeling pretty overwhelmed by the cost of everything right now. Would you be willing to share some of your vendors- at least the ones you’ve decided? I’m so relieved to finally see someone share their budget for an SD wedding! Good luck with the rest of your planning!

      • calikhar

        Carin, I’m also planning in SD.

        Give me a contact and I can share my caterer, who comes very recommended by people I trust value GOOD FOOD at a decent price. My budget is medium (for me) but feeding/watering my guests well is my personal priority.

        GOAL BUDGET – $7000
        EST SO FAR – $6300
        40-45 Guest

        Ceremony – 275 (public park/beach)
        Reception venue – private home -0
        Catering – ‘heavy apps that will feed them like dinner’ 3200 (includes 2 servers, and the chefs time, for 5 hours; and tip)
        Drinks – 600
        Random crap (tables, cushions) -250
        Dumb chairs and stuff at ceremony – 1000? (I’m scared of this one, and don’t know the real price yet)
        Photographer – none (Yep.)
        Vans to transport guests around (200)
        Ringz – 500
        Afterparty (putting cash behind a bar) – 500
        Dress (100 – just alterations)

        *San Diego brides, would appreciate your advice on seating people at a beach venue, and vendor reccies.

  • V Tron

    I just want to say thank you all for sharing this! I am in the middle of planning a wedding for this August. Since I don’t have everything booked yet I can’t put my numbers yet but I can already see my original budget ain’t gonna happen. At least I’m not alone!

  • GettingMarriedinVT

    Hi all!
    We are getting married in Burlington, Vermont on a Saturday in June this year, and I am so excited! My fiancé and I are financing the majority of the wedding, but our families have graciously offered substantial gifts here and there to help (my twin paid for my dress, my mom gave us a gift of $1000, and his parents paid the first deposit on our venue and will also be covering the rehearsal dinner and alcohol on the big day – we are so lucky to have loving and generous people in our lives).
    Goal budget: $10,000 for 100-120 guests
    Current tally: $13720.17 (I’ve got a spreadsheet, can you tell?), about $11,000 of that out of our pockets after the gifts mentioned above.
    Likely final budget: ~$15000, $12500 out of our pockets
    The breakdown thus far:
    Venue/catering: ~8200. We’ve rented a private boat that does their own catering and I think that this is an incredible deal for our area. We are having the ceremony and reception on board, on different decks (the ceremony area will then become the dance floor while folks eat!)
    Photography: ~2500
    Stationary and postage: ~130 so far. Our invites have been designed (gorgeously) by a friend and we’ll pay for the printing and stamps soon
    Flowers: ~1500
    Cake: ~575
    Other décor: 3.25 so far (fabric swatches – planning to make some table runners with my mom)
    Dress: ~650 before alterations
    Gifts for attendants: TBD
    Groom’s attire: TBD, will likely wear a suit he already has but get alterations if needed
    Accessories (veil, shoes, underthings!): TBD
    Hair and make-up: TBD
    Okay, wish us luck in keeping our budget reined in. I’ll be relieved when everything is paid for and we don’t have to be so strict with our money!

  • CPJ

    We spent about $12,000 for a back yard BBQ for ~115 people in my in-law’s backyard, including tent, chairs, catered food, alcohol (serve yourself), regular photography & a green screen, dress, suit, hair, invitations, gifts, centerpieces, DJ, etc. Our parents gave us about $7200 between them, and we saved the rest and paid for everything in advance.

    We lucked out in in a lot of areas. Our honeymoon was at the family vacation home of a friend. My dress was second hand and utterly affordable. The beer was brewed by my husband and a friend. My bouquet & brides-matron’s bouquets were a gift. Our wedding bands were gifts, saved when my husband’s grandfather’s jewelry store was liquidated 20+ years ago. My in-laws have a beautiful back yard and were thrilled to host. Our siblings jumped at the chance to marry us. Our family and friends are over 21 and responsible folk, and the state law doesn’t require a bartender at private functions. We found an amazing BBQ caterer who was astoundingly affordable at $14/head for delicious pulled pork and chicken and sides. The tent/chairs were discounted because of my husband’s job. It could have been a lot more expensive (or we’d have had a much shorter guest list).

    It was important to me not to go into debt for one day, no matter how important that day might be, and we made a lot of decisions towards that end. There are enough celebrities out there proving that the cost of the wedding has nothing to do with the success of a marriage…

  • Mrs TNC

    Meg’s book and this website allowed me to keep my sanity while I was planning my wedding for August 2012. I went to the bookstore the same night my mother called me about a book review on NPR. I’d been planning for about 6 months and was getting a little panicky about how to get what we wanted for our budget.

    Our place: Lakewood, CO
    Our budget: $10,000
    Priorities: family, friends, food and a party!
    Things that were paid for by family: my dress, bridesmaids dresses, rehearsal dinner

    I had a friend who does (amazing) photography as a hobby. He gave me the friends and family discount and only charged me $1600 for both an engagement shoot and the entire wedding day.

    He also provided printing services and put an assortment of our engagement photos on 160 postcards I found at an office supply store. I took those and printed a save the date message on the back I also made our invitations with a kit I bought at Target. We only sent formal invites to those we were inviting to the wedding in the morning. Everyone else got an e-vite to the reception that evening. Total cost (including postage): $300

    Blooms by the Box was a life saver for my flowers. I couldn’t stomach dropping $150 on a bridal bouquet so I ordered their medium Wholesalers Choice pack, watched their wedding
    bouquet demo, bought some ribbon and cheap vases and had an absolute
    blast the day before the wedding putting together 4 bouquets with my
    bridesmaids. I had no idea what flowers I was getting, or what colors they were going to be, but they turned out beautiful (because really, what flowers aren’t?). Total cost: $180

    We had a morning wedding at a beautiful outdoor venue on top of a mountain and a potluck picnic lunch with ~60 of our closest friends and family. Total cost (venue, decorations, parking fees, etc.) – $700

    We had an evening reception for 150 people at a hotel in Denver with heavy hors d’oeuvres (with a carving station), didn’t have a seating chart, and hosted only beer and wine (we got two kegs from a local brewery). My sister-in-law made our cake for our wedding gift, and we had a DJ until 11pm. Total Cost: $9000

    Total Wedding Cost: $12,000

    While we went a little over budget, where we spent extra was the things that were really important to us – food, beer, and an awesome party. The only regret we have is that we didn’t get to eat more of the awesome food at our reception!

    • madeln

      Do you mind if I ask who you had cater (if you were happy with it that is!)? I’m getting married in Denver and struggling SO hard to find a caterer right now!

      • Mrs TNC

        The Embassey Suites hotel where we had the reception did the catering, but they did an amazing job. Some friends of ours just got married and they used Breadwinners out of Arvada and absolutely loved them.

    • Hailey

      Hi – I’m getting married in Colorado in August and was wondering if you would be willing to share your venue? I’m looking for a relaxed, outdoor, ceremony site and it sounds like that’s exactly what you had! Thank you!

      • Mrs TNC

        Absolutely! We got married at the Sunrise Amphitheater at the top of Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder.

        • Hailey

          Thank you! What a great venue, I hadn’t previously seen it! Did you have any sort of indoor backup? (sorry for all the questions)

          • Mrs TNC

            No indoor back-up, but we did have it in the morning to avoid the common summer afternoon showers in Colorado. We told everyone that it would be happening rain or shine and to dress accordingly.

  • NYC Reader

    Woohoo! NYC Wedding!

    Location: NYC

    Guests: ~50

    Gorgeous outdoor/indoor venue

    Venue, Food & Beverage $10,992.50
    Flowers $872.25
    Arch $400.00
    Photographer $2,407.50
    Dress & Hair Ornament $720.00
    Groom’s Tux* $400.00
    Vendor Meals $253.50
    Videographer $625.00
    Hair & Makeup $400.00
    Miscellaneous $500.00
    Sound system rental $250.00
    Total $17,820.75

    I have a hang-up on trying to make sure my final budget starts with a 17. I am still on the fence about hiring a DOC which I’m sure would make my life much easier, but the venue has a quasi-DOC person so I’m wondering if I can make do with that + a little help from my MOH? Other than that, there’s nothing else I can think of that I’d want at my wedding.

    • Amy

      I’m planning in NYC! I have about 100 people so mine will look different from yours, but I’d love to know what venue you’re using!

  • Maypea

    To be completely honest, maybe I’m a cheapskate, I don’t even want to spent over $3k on my wedding…and would prefer $2k. My car was $5k cash. I don’t own land or a house yet, and have $21 in student loan debt so why would I spend money all willy nilly like that on a party to turn my wedding into a commercial holiday when I can do so much more useful things with that money?

    I understand many brides have help from family or more well-endowed family members, or credit cards, or inheritances, or amazing jobs and savings abilities, and I don’t think it’s stupid to spend a ridiculous amount on one day…sorry ok yes I kinda do, but why is it nearly impossible NOT to? I can barely even find a venue that fits within what I want to spend on the entire thing.

    On top of that, people are telling me perhaps I should wait until after I graduate (May) to start planning (wedding in June) but that sounds like an even worse idea. Student loan repayment and a wedding? No thanks. My family is willing to help but I don’t have exact numbers from them, so I have no idea what amount of wiggle-room to expect. I just want to marry my fiancé and have a nice, delightful day. Why does everyone have to have a $100 crappy catered meal to enjoy it with me?

    I know some people just have more money and won’t be starting out their marriage in debt after a blowout wedding and it’s just tradition and I’m sure it’s fun to play “Princess” for a day and there’s nothing wrong with that…but it almost seems like that’s the only demographic the wedding culture is willing to serve.

    I know, why don’t I just elope? Thought about it. Plenty of times. However, I want to have nice pictures of our wedding day with family to show our kids. I want my dad to have the chance to walk his baby girl down the aisle. I’m feeling like such a low-budget wedding will turn out trashy and I’d rather not do it at all than have it be cheap and trashy.
    I LOVE that other people can spent $10-$30k but I don’t have that amount of money in my bank account right now…but even if I did, I couldn’t possibly bring myself to spend it on a wedding vs a down payment on a house.

    • anon

      Girl, take a deep breath! Of course you can do it! You need to try to get the idea of what a wedding is “supposed to be” out of your head. There’s a lot of room between “just eloping” and a $10,000 wedding (Side note: in my opinion there’s nothing “just” about eloping…).

      There a tons of people who do it. Check out $2000 wedding (blog or book) for ideas/inspiriation/reassurance/confidence. You can have a wedding in your living room (even a tiny one), you can go to a park, you can get tacos, or self-cater. One of the best weddings I ever went to was a pot luck! Think about parties you’ve thrown or been to. I’ve thrown tons of parties in my small apartment for a few hundred bucks. The thing people (and you!) will remember about your wedding is the feeling. If you and your partner are happy, your guests will be too. Good luck! You’re getting married!

      But also, while I understand your frustration and how overwhelming wedding planning can be, I think you’re being too judgmental. Judgmental of yourself (and the wedding your picturing) and of others. People make different choices, and sometimes have different priorities as well as resources. If you spend too much time comparing yourself to other people’s weddings you might not end up enjoying yours.

    • NZSaffa

      Maypea, I feel your pain and am very much on your wavelength. I’m not sure where you are located but I’m in New Zealand – in Auckland, which happens to be probably the most expensive place to live in the country. I’ve been engaged for just over six months and have done a bit of half-hearted investigation – it comes to a crashing halt when I find out just how expensive everything is (most venues have ‘wedding’ packages and they don’t come cheap)! My partner and I don’t want a big, flashy wedding. My initial thought was that I don’t want to spend more than $5k … but I can see that it will probably mushroom to at least $10k (see below). What’s most important to us is celebrating our marriage with our family and friends. This works out to probably 20 pax if we just have closest family and friends and no more than 60-70 if we we invite family and an extended list of friends…however, when I consulted a wedding planner about costs, including a venue we really like, for the close family wedding (25 pax )she cheerfully crunched some numbers and told me we could probably do it all – ceremony, reception, cake, flowers photography) for between NZ$10-12K. Eek. So we have gone back to the drawing board to really work out what’s important to us – and I think this is the key. We’re now thinking a very intimate and relaxed family wedding, followed by a celebration party at a favourite bar to include everyone else… A friend of mine decided the whole WIC was something she wasn’t even going to contemplate. She and her partner and their immediate families hired a beach house a few hours from Auckland during the late Summer, with a pool and stunning views over a beautiful ocean beach. The guys wore shorts and open-neck shirts and sandals; she wore a simple cotton strapless dress. And they had a BBQ and drinks. She says it was the best decision they made and it was just so relaxed and initmate, with the most important people of their lives there. Sounds perfect to me :). At the end of the day, it’s about marrying the person you love and celebrating with the people that love you most – and I agree you don’t need to spend a fortune to do it. Don’t let the WIC suck you in – there are definitely options out there if you think outside the narrow confines of WIC glitz. Good luck :)

    • anonyJ

      I felt that way once. I wanted a small (ok, tiny) wedding outdoors
      somewhere (at the camp where I worked, perhaps) with simple, delicious
      food that I’d maybe make myself. Then I met my fiance and his huge,
      wonderful family, and I realized there was no way we were doing this day
      without all of them…and all of our friends…and all of my
      family…and that
      is a LOT of people. We want to throw a comfortable wedding, one that
      will be fun and relaxed and romantic, and one with enough food that
      people will not end up hangry. Before we began planning, I thought it
      was absurd and awful how much money people spent on this stuff.
      Surely, I naively and somewhat arrogantly told
      myself, I can do it differently. I will save that money for something
      far less frivolous. But celebrating the commitment and love I share
      with my partner isn’t frivolous, and neither is doing so in a way that
      feels right for us. Plus, as it turns out, the type of venue that
      suits our tastes and logistical needs is waaaaaaay more expensive than I

      realized. And we have a ton of people to feed. And we will have a lot
      of folks flying in from far away, so we need to provide transportation
      from our home-city to our rural venue (plus, we’re hoping the locals
      will avail themselves of this also, so no one is driving after
      drinking). We are very fortunate to have financial support from my
      who, it turns out, have been saving for their only child’s wedding day
      since before said child could even walk. My family isn’t Wealthy, but
      they have been very wise with their financial planning, so we have a lot
      more to work with than we expected to…which is really nice, because
      we’re going to need it for all the reasons listed above. I do not want
      to play “Princess” for a day. Our wedding will not be some overblown,
      extravagant shrine to consumerist excess, nor will it be a shabby chic,
      DIY hipster affair. That’s not who we are. Our day will be simple,
      fun, relaxed, love-filled, and silly, because we are all those things.
      We want the people we love to share that with us, and we’re fortunate
      enough to be able to throw a big party that reflects all of that.

    • Mrs TNC

      A low-budget wedding won’t be trashy and you CAN do it! What helped me was to figure out where our priorities were and then nix everything that wasn’t.

      Since photos sound like they’re important to you (and photography is
      easily one of the top wedding expenses), ask your guests to bring
      cameras and take pictures to share with you. If there are specific
      pictures you want, designate someone(s) to take them. Some of our
      favorite photos came from our guests that had a totally different
      vantage point from our photographers. Also, look around for
      photographers that would work with you on an hourly rate.

      Don’t want to pay for catering? Ask friends or family that love to cook if they’d help out, throw a pot-luck, or have your celebration at a non-meal time and just have light refreshments. You can celebrate a marriage with champagne and cake or punch and pretzels just as much as with a sit down meal.

      Get creative with your venue: We have some friends in Seattle that got married at their favorite park for free. They had a few friends “reserve” a spot with flowers and decorations a couple hours before the ceremony. My cousin had her wedding in the back yard of her parents home and we all sat on bales of hay. A close friend borrowed my back yard for their reception and brought Chipotle burritos for everyone.

      Find items you want at non-wedding stores: I found my tiara at a little gift store for $12 when the exact same tiara was $45 at David’s Bridal. Check out office supply stores or copy stores for nice paper or stationary for DIY invites, programs, etc. We used evite for most of our invites which drastically saved on printing and postage.

      The most important thing is to define what a special day is to you and your fiance and make sure your wedding fulfills that, not what WIC tells you it should be. Your friends and family will help you celebrate regardless of how much you spend.

  • Maypea

    and sorry to post twice…but am I just completely delusional? I haven’t seen a budget on these comments anywhere near mine. This is a “practical” wedding page, right? I know there are variances in what “practical” and “low-budget” are but I never thought anyone short of celebrity status saw $25k as a practical budget. I definitely don’t want to shame anyone or make anyone feel guilty, I love that you can somehow do it, but I can’t imagine how I would be able to in a million years, unless I won the lottery. I honestly need to know if my perception is completely deluded because I’ll call off the whole thing and elope right now if the smallest original budget I’ve seen on APW comments is $10k. Please tell me there are other brides who spent less.

    • RKD

      The best advice I was given (courtesy of APW) is before you start planning, stop thinking about what *A* wedding needs and start thinking about what you and your S.O. want at *YOUR* wedding. If you don’t care about fancy linens and favors, don’t have them. If you don’t want a sit-down dinner, don’t have one. There are no requirements!

      The APW blog is obviously great, but I also can’t recommend the APW book enough for some extra help. Pick it up if you get a chance!

      Also, for what it’s worth, I posted about my $5,000 budget wedding here (of course, like many
      people, I went over; but I could’ve spent less on some things!):

      I realize that’s larger than your intended budget of $2-3k, but at least it’s evidence that a $25k wedding isn’t the only kind.

    • Marcela

      While my wedding was over your desired budget (we spent close to $12k, all from savings and a generous gift from my parents), some friends of mine got married a few years ago for under $5k. I don’t know all the details but they got married at their university’s activity hall, served iced tea and lemonade, and had BBQ for the lunch. The decorations were simple and homemade and the entire place was lovely. It was not “trashy” and I feel blessed that I was able to be there with them.

      Figure out what’s important to you and then make the money work. You could look at local parks or historic houses for a more affordable venue, or your favourite restaurant. Food can be brought in from a catering service that usually does executive meals. Maybe you’ll just have cake and punch. Maybe you’ll have delicious pizza. Rent some speakers and do an ipod playlist. Hire a photographer to just shoot the ceremony and a few formal shots. Send your invites as a cute postcard and have people RSVP to an email address or phone number. Buy your dress online. Use nonfloral centerpieces.

      You are not delusional. You can do this!

    • There are at least some weddings on here that are for $5k or below, but the reality is that feeding/serving a large number of people can get really expensive. FWIW, one of my close friends planned a wedding within about a month for somewhere between $2-3K which included a lot of the traditional stuff like linens, dinner, dancing, and music (but was able to get catering at cost through a friend, had a friend officiate, fb invites, DIY and minimal decor, asked friends to do music, photography, and help make the dress more bridal). It is possible! But it was made possible by having a lot of her/ her partner’s community come together to help- I think if you want to do something more traditional for less money you have to be willing to ask for help (and be willing to accept that your friends abilities aren’t going to match up to professionals- having live music was pretty awesome, but definitely not on par with a professional band, the dress was an inexpensive white department store dress we spent hours working with to alter and as the primary seamstress, I can tell you it was not the kind of quality you’d get for a few hundred or thousand dollars because I’m not very experienced in garment making/altering). Another possibility is doing something less traditional if your people are up for it- like a potluck for food, someone’s backyard for venue, flowers from the grocery store or paper flowers that you/your people make, but those things can be risky. It’s been hard for me to accept the creep up in budget as someone who considers herself pretty darn practical, but for us, we have more access to the money to spend on paying other people to feed us than to a backyard (city problems), and while I can be the crafty-let-me-help-you make a dress or dozens of cupcakes for someone else, I’ve decided/been persuaded that for us and this wedding it’s a better decision to spend the money in exchange for an outcome that is less stressful (not trying to make 150 minipies the week before the wedding) or less risky (going for a pretty venue that has an outdoor area And a closed room so that if it’s rains we’re not completely effed). The other factor that has influenced how we’re spending money/how much we’re willing to spend is the knowledge that almost all our family is coming in from out of town. Getting to an out of town wedding can be crazy expensive. I don’t feel we owe our guests anything, since the decision to spend that money is theirs, but that knowledge does make me want to honor the people who come by spending as much time with them as we can (which means doing less myself) and feeding them delicious food and drinks in a comfortable setting. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to have a wedding- if we weren’t getting financial help from my dad we would do something that’s within our personal means- probably buying up a lot of tacos and tamales from one of our favorite Tex-mex places and asking everyone to meet us in the park (which would probably mildly appall my dad), which would be a totally awesome wedding too.

  • EDM

    My fiance and I are currently planning to get married and quite honestly, these budgets seem so high to me. We had to drop our photographer because my mother, who originally said she could afford the 2,000 dollars, actually couldn’t (as I’m sure you know, 2,000 is dead cheap for a photographer. We were planning on getting the bare minimum–photos on a disc and 8 hours of shooting). My fiance’s parents are paying for the venue (which will be about 4k.) We aren’t having flowers. My dress was 190. Our rings, BOTH, were 178 including shipping. We aren’t having center pieces. My bouquet will be of mint grown in my garden. I only have bridesmen, so the boutonnieres will be mint as well. Our DJ will be an ipod played over a PA system, borrowed from an uncle. Our “cake” will be a pastry tray and a very large eclair, about 90 dollars.

    I know our wedding is going to be amazing. I think I’m actually just really upset about the photographer. I have tried to be so realistic about everything. I really thought we’d just be able to have professional photos.

    • EDM

      And this is for ~130 guests.

    • StevenPortland

      We decided against a photographer due to budget constraints. But then the week of the wedding I reconsidered. I checked Craigslist and found several photographers willing to charge by the hour. Our wedding was small and quick, which allowed me to only spend $150 for 1 hour of the photographer’s time. He then just sent me all of the JPGs afterwards. It wasn’t the same as having a full-blown photography session, but it is the best $150 I spent on the wedding!

  • ClareHB

    Wedding over Christmas in Dublin, Ireland.
    Goal: €20k (€10k from my very generous parents, €10k from us)
    Actual: €20k

    Venue: €4.5k, exclusive hire, staff and 12 bedroom suites. This was a TOUGH one for me, it seemed like a huge amount to spend with little to show for it. In hindsight, given the amazing standard, the service, and the unbelievably spectacular venue, this was 100% worth it and I would have paid more.

    Food and drinks: €10k dinner and wine for 70, finger food and champagne/mulled wine reception for 180. The venue hire meant that we could be flexible about what else we did with food. Lots of venues here have minimum numbers of 100 and a package price per head of about €100-120, so food gets expensive fast!

    Attire: €2000 wedding dress and accessories including custom jewellery, bridesmaid’s dress, suits for groom, best man and father of the bride. Worth it.

    Music: €1700 including five-piece swing band, sound systems and engineer for the day and night, two burlesque dancers and choir for ceremony and evening (all performers are friends, we got most of this either free or at cost)

    Celebrant and marriage licence: €500. Obviously worth it, and our celebrant was wonderful.

    Photographer and videographer: €500, again, friends.

    RIngs: €1000, custom made.

    All of the wonderful details – the 1000 cranes my sister folded, the ivy from my bridesmaid’s garden, the Christmas baubles our guests signed, the photobooth made for another friend’s wedding, the stunning cake from the best man’s mother and the cupcakes from two beautiful friends, the calligraphy name places out of suitcase tags, my bouquet of roses (both bridesmaid, again) the materials for our unity ceremony (my dad), the cinema in one room (my dad, again) and the unbelievable, glittering beauty, music and joy of all of our guests, without which it would have been the drabbest of drab days: free and full of love.

    Our wedding was very unusual and almost totally stress-free because of the people involved. Every wedding is different and we were extremely fortunate, both financially and more importantly with our friends.

  • So, a little late to the discussion, but I find talking about the money involved in a wedding pretty fascinating (although it can be awkward in person when you know that you have different priorities/resources than people you’re talking to). We’re in Houston (not as expensive as some big cities, but definitely more than other places) and decided we wanted to get married here instead of choosing between where our families live/ it’ll make it doable for a lot of our friends to come, plus less stressful for us! We’re getting married at a neat event space/restaurant downtown that is basically a gorgeous grown-up treehouse and has a food/beverage minimum rather than a venue fee (I feel much better spending the money of food/drinks than just the space, and they take care of a lot of stuff. Funding is generously being offered by my dad- it’s been hard for both of us to accept this money, but in some ways I think it’s easier to spend than our own money, since it’s money earmarked for the wedding vs. money we could be putting in savings/retirement/awesome trip to Europe.

    Location: Houston
    Guests: est between 70-120 (many out of town invites)
    Budget we came up when first talking about it: we both decided that spending more than 10k on any one day was crazy talk, so I wanted to plan for 7k and have the rest as backup- hah.
    Actual budget once I researched somewhere other than Pintrest: Likely between 15-20k depending on what you include
    Venue, food, drinks: prob between $8676 and $10k. There’s a $6500 f/b minimum (this is for a sunday afternoon/evening, so much lower than saturday, could go higher if we get a large turnout), tax and service charges, includes tables/chairs/linens and set up for this stuff, we’re paying an extra fee to have the space for extra time for the ceremony.
    Photographer: $3869.94 (incl engagement session, 8 hr day of, photobooth!, photo album, photobooth album, print credits, and tax). Big splurge, but this was the biggest priority after food and a stress-free, pretty venue. More than I thought we’d spend, but good value for what we’re getting and a photobooth was the only thing fiance really, really wanted.
    Paper goods: est. cost is about $300, huzzah for groupon for zazzle to do STD cards with
    Decor/floral: est $300, purchasing flowers from Central market and making bouquets with inexpensive flowers, planning to use books, flower, and succulents for centerpieces, make things like tissue paper flowers and garlands with punched out hearts (from the MLA style manual, couldn’t bear to cut up a book someone might read even though my half price bookstore friend says they have to throw out stuff all the time and that much of it is pretty terrible).
    Desert: est 4-500, would really like to get a combination of mini-pies and cupcakes

    Attire/hair: est $1600 for both of us, makeup for me and bridal party gifted from my brother and sis in law. I’m tempted to get a nice bridesmaids dress and just go simple, but the more traditional dresses are more appealing than I expected.

    License: $72, ceremony officiated by my cousin, so we will probably put money earmarked for officiant towards a gift for her and her family
    DJ: est $500
    Police officer if we have more than 100 guests: $150
    Hotel: est $2-300 (would be nice, but not strictly necessary).

    This adds up to around 16k already- things still up for debate in my head are whether I should give in to the well meaning suggestions of those around me a find a florist so that flowers aren’t my problem to deal with, hiring a videographer vs. asking someone to video the ceremony since I’d like to have a recording of at least that, hiring a DOC instead of asking a friend who’s organized and loves to be bossy (there aren’t a ton of moving parts since it’s all in one place and the venue takes care of a lot, we don’t have a ton of vendors, but we won’t be able to help set-up since we only have access a couple hours before and we want to do photos before the ceremony, so it would have to be done by friends). We’ve also played around with the idea of self-DJing since I have access to sound equipment and I think putting together playlists/crowdsourcing from our guests sounds fun. These all fit in the wiggle room….but it just seems like a silly amount of money when it’s totaled up.

    We also will be paying for the rehearsal dinner (hopefully only 500- 1k), which will be inexpensive, inclusive, and fairly informal. Fiance’s family has not offered to do anything (and I don’t think we’d be comfortable accepting). Gifts for helpers/attendants will probably be another few hundred. Rings- I have no clue whether we’ll do something really nice (we’ll have them forever and this is the physical symbol of our marriage) or something inexpensive (not really the diamond encrusted infinity band type). We’ve also talked about possibly doing an informal after party (how great would a live band karaoke after party be? My friends are pretty goofy and I’m in an acapella group, so totally great).

  • JackieD

    Our budget was small. We had help. And we got incredibly lucky with vendors (gifted and generous friends and family). Here it is:
    Goal budget: 5-6,000
    Actual: ~ 6000
    Dress: 500
    Accessories: (shoes, birdcage veil, boustier, jewelry (kate spade flash sale, woot!)): 100
    Favors and deco: 150
    Venue: 250 (190 + 40 for lights strung + 20 for trash removal – included bathrooms, chairs, kitchen)
    Sound system: 60
    Photos: 135
    Officiant: 200
    Groom: 120
    Rings: 260
    Flowers/centerpieces: 0 (gift)
    Food: 2300 total, we paid ~ 750
    Beer/wine: 100
    Honeymoon: 200
    Travel (bride and groom traveled to different state): 1200
    Gifts: 215
    Papergoods: 100
    License: 135
    Rehearsal: 0 (picked up by FIL)
    Lodging for night before: 175
    How we did it: My number one priority for the venue was “borrowed scenery.” I wanted a place that was beautiful on it’s own rather than needing a lot of decoration. We were open to parks and found a beautiful park building with a big stone fireplace, high celings, a copper bandshell, fantastic playground for the kiddos and plenty of parking (pamperin park – terrible name, awesome place). We were married in Green Bay, Wisconsin; definitely a factor in keeping prices low. The other factor that kept prices low was that we decided on a daytime wedding (ceremony at 12:30). That immediately cut prices as we didn’t feel the need to have a DJ/dancing or an open bar and limited the amount of beer/wine we needed. Sound system was 60$ for 3 days from a nearby conference center. Our parents helped by paying for ~ 2/3 of the catering cost (the biggest and most important (to me) expense). Mom paid for the wine (about a case of red and white). The caterer did crudite/cheese/homemade pickles (about 8 varieties – mushrooms, beets, carrots, watermelon radish, etc.), bread/jam (both homeade), salad, 2 entrees (pork tenderloin and chicken in wine), roasted red potatoes, mint iced tea and wedding cake (buttermint! people raved!) and provided the cups/plates/silver for 75 people. She owns a CSA and all the food was local and/or grown on the farm and prepared by hand. It was an incredible value. Incredible. And perfect. Everyone was blown away by the food. My uncle made the cake platter out of Ash wood from our grandparent’s land. My aunt was previously a florist and grew/bought/arranged our centerpieces and flowers as her gift to us. Practically the whole family pitched in and set up the morning of. We only had 2 in our wedding party; best man and matron of honor. We stayed with my FIL the days before and only paid for night before and wedding night out of pocket. Our photographer was a friend of mine who offered to do it for gas money and hotel (unbelievable, right?). Dress was tea length from David’s (appropriate for time of day and no alterations needed). Husband’s suit was one of his (cleaned and pressed) with a new tie and shined shoes. Our honeymoon was nearby (Door County! Woot!) on off season (though we had absolutely perfect weather) – monetary gifts from the wedding pretty much covered the whole thing. Husby’s uncle designed our invites and rsvp’s. Our rings were simple tungsten and white gold bands. I grew rosemary and did infused salts for our favors with personalized labels.
    The thing is, is that being financially prudent is one of our values and one of our priorities. I would sometimes feel jealous of other’s’ weddings/pinterests/etc, however, I realized that even if I’d had more money I still would have made the same choices because they were true to who we are and how we live, as well as our aesthetic and where we are in our lives now. I acknowledge that they may not be the same case for everyone. I also acknowledge that not everyone has access to family/friends who are willing/able to contribute not just money but skills/talents and I’m so grateful. I’m also really proud of us for taking on no additional debt for our wedding. We were actually able to not only pay down debt last year but save as well! I’m proud of us and happy that we started our marriage in such a positive, (happy! beautiful!) but prudent way.

    • BCC

      I realize that I’m replying much later, but would you mind sharing the name of your caterer? I’m looking at doing a Door County wedding next year!

  • hannahsmom32808

    We had a ceremony and dinner reception dance part for ~160 people in Houston, TX. Initial budget was between 16k-17k (we were feeling flexible) with an absolute firm max of 20k. Our actual spent total [including tips, which we failed to initially account for] was $18,700.

    Reception Venue rental $1850
    Catering $3500
    Bar $2100
    Cake with cutting fee $460
    Wedding gown, groom’s suit, hair and makeup, and both of our accessories $3900 (I will willfully admit that I blew my budget right here, but sometimes you love a dress)
    Ceremony venue $600
    Misc associated expenses for the church and ceremony (musician fees, ceremonial accessories etc) totaled about $350
    Florals – $650-ish (FH’s parents initially offered to cover $2k, but due to an unforeseen family emergency were unable to cover the total amount the promised, so we covered the difference)
    DJ – $1,000
    Photographer – $2100
    ALL stationary and postage – $600 (included STDs, invitations, reply cards with postage, programs, table numbers, and sinage at the venues)
    Limo $600
    Hotel room for wedding night $280 (we splurged)
    Gifts for the bridal party, parents, and other VIPs $1200 (we had 6 attendants each and my parents are divorced)
    Sparklers for exit $80 (take my advice and order HALF what you think you need. My daughter will be wielding 2ft long sparklers at New Years’ and 4th of July for years to come)
    Wedding Day of Coordinator $500 and worth her weight in gold!!!
    TIPS – oh my goodness, please don’t forget to budget for these. We did, and it tacked another like $1000 to our total budget.

    • hannahsmom32808

      I forgot to add what was worth it and what wasn’t –

      Overall I don’t regret any of the money we spent. When his parents were unable to contribute the previously agreed-upon amount there was some discussion about cutting back on flowers, but I love flowers and we could afford it. We also talked about cutting the limo. In retrospect, I don’t think the limo added anything special to the day, and we rented it almost solely based on the fact that some of our bridal party members have been known to be less-than-timely. We could have easily nixed it and lost nothing. It was fun to drink beer on the way to the reception though!

    • Heather

      A Houston here! I’ve been debating whether or not to hire a pro DOC, so I’d love to know the name of yours since that seems a reasonable price and itsounds like she was really great!

  • ZS

    Goal budget: $20k
    Actual budget: $18k? We lost count.
    Location: New Haven, CT
    What was worth it: food, location, kippot, cheap flowers
    What wasn’t: welcome bags–most guests didn’t get even end up getting them b/c they didn’t know to ask for them from the hotel and we weren’t organized enough to ensure they got passed out. We ended up with lots of extra small cloth bags with bottled water, granola, candy, and local maps.

    Two dykey suits, dress shirts, dress shoes (one woman’s suit from the outlets, one boy’s suit from a discount store; both tailored to fit better): $550 total
    knit kippot for all our guests with iron-on labels on the inside: $100
    flowers: about $300? 13 boutineers, 2 corsages, 2 small arrangements, a bunch of uncut flowers our relatives cut and put into small glass bottles (from our caffeine habit, frappucinnos) on the tables. Mostly mums, which were in season.
    maple sugar candy favors, ~$120
    invitations from budget wedding invites, $250 plus stamps
    save the dates $70
    pawnshop rings + engraving $300
    fancy pizza place rehearsal dinner + lots of beer $800
    photographer: $750 (ie, the cost of her hotel + the fancy lens we rented for her. This was a good friend just starting her photography business, so we covered her expenses instead of paying her).
    reception food $8,000– Kosher, dairy, included cake.
    reception alcohol $1500
    reception space rental (dining hall of my fancy schmancy law school)
    chair rental for ceremony in law school courtyard — $1000?

    labor for chair set-up, some clean-up — $800?
    bathroom baskets — $40?
    plus little stuff I am forgetting, like some craft supplies.
    welcome bags: $70

  • Teagan L

    First off, I am in Adelaide, Australia, so probably not much help to anyone. Secondly this was a wedding done backwards, had a sit down lunch for 50 followed by the wedding ceremony and drinks and cake for 75. Thirdly had amazing family and friends who helped out a lot, from cooking all the food, stage managing, making my dress and hair piece, to helping set up and clean up afterwards. This was a real community effort and wouldn’t have been pulled off with out them.

    Goal budget: 5,000
    Actual budget: 5,500 ish
    Rings: 860.00
    Dress/ hair/ makeup: $370.00 (My sister made my dress, she is a dress maker by trade)
    Suit etc: $820.00
    Sound system: $120.00 (went the ipod route)
    Photography: $160.00 (polariods, a friend donated her time and skills to photograph the ceremony)
    Stationary: $165.00
    Venue: $123.00 (Community centre)
    Tables/ Chairs/ plates/ cutlery/ decorations etc: $1250.00
    Cleaners: $490.00
    Celebrant: $610.00
    Food and drinks: $1150.00 (A’s mother bought most of the alcohol, my mother and sister cooked)
    Misc: $175.00

    The venue was perfect and so accommodating, ended up trying to give them more money. Too much food and drinks, ended up having leftovers, but my mother always over cooks. Wouldn’t have changed anything else.

  • Gabe

    Terribly late to this, but our DIY regional park wedding cost about $4.5K when we’d aimed to have it be about $5K – and we also had a little family party near that probably cost around $300-400, too. We are both pretty young and live around the poverty line; to make matters more serious, my father suddenly lost his job the summer before we got married.

    A little background: We’re gay and have family on opposite costs. Decided it made the most sense to have the big ceremony/reception in California, but we weren’t sure if the Prop 8 decision was going to go our way, so we tied the knot legally at my grandfather’s apartment in DC – which meant that we also got to celebrate with them, as they were not going to be able to make it to CA.

    This was in Berkeley, and these are the costs for that ceremony.

    Venue: $400, not including the (returned) deposit – a picnic site at a regional park.
    Flights for both of us (NYC->SF, found on incredible sale): $420.
    STDs, invitations: $400
    Clothes for both of us: $200
    AirBnB: $335
    Food and Drink: ~$1000 – sandwiches from a local restaurant, a big homemade salad, a keg, some nonalcoholic beverages.
    Flowers, decor: $375 – flowers from a flower market, fruit from a supermarket, bowls from IKEA
    Photographer: $140 – a friend
    Cake: $258

    There were some miscellaneous other expenses – dry cleaning, ice, haircuts, composting plates, etc., and we wouldn’t’ve been able to do it without help from our parents and their rental cars. We also borrowed a lot of stuff from friends for free (chairs, big bowls we used, tablecloths) and did the possibly unethical thing of buying a good speaker set and returning them post-ceremony (my MIL did the same with some vases). A mentor minister waived the fee for premarital counseling. At both the legal ceremony and the actual wedding, friends officiated and didn’t charge.

    Honestly, it was perfect. If we had more money I’d’ve hired a pro photographer, but the shots are totally fine as they are and capture the spirit of the event. People said it was very “us,” and honestly it was one of the best times of my life – and spending days before the wedding with family running around and making it happen was one of the best parts. :)

    • Gabe

      Oh, and there were about 75 guests. We also continued to use our engagement bands, just polished them up.

  • Amie Melnychuk

    Alright, the budget! Thank goodness I still have the Wedding folder on my Google Drive, haha.

    Guests: 120 guests, including 12 bridesmaids and groomsmen and a flowergirl
    Location: Guelph, Ontario
    Date: August 3, 2013

    Venue: 8K (included tables, alcohol, bar staff and assistance from house manager)
    Food: 11K (included all rentals linens, serving ware, cutlery and drinking glasses, tip and 3 meal options. Served meal)
    Chairs: 1.7K (we had basic folding chairs at the ceremony, Chiavari at the reception, also included dance floor as that was not included with venue)
    Photographer: 1.7K
    Music: 150$ (rented speakers, used iPod)
    Ceremony location: 100$
    Flowers: 1.7K (included 1 bridal bouquet, 6 bridesmaid bouquets, 6 groomsmen boutonnieres, 4 dad boutonnieres and 4 mom corsages)
    Invitation Suite: 735$ (Save the Dates, RSVP, Invites, map drawing)
    Cake: 360$ (3 tiered cake, also bought 4 other single tier cakes from the grocery store, not included)
    Officiant and licence: 500$

    Total: 26K
    Original budget was 20K. The food and flowers were what put us over budget.

  • Petra

    We’re still in the planning phase but I thought I’d add my own planned budget to the mix. Our concept is a DC-area summercamp-style weekend (party only, as we’ll have the actual civil ceremony ahead of time) for about 125.

    We don’t have a set budget. At first I could see myself spending no more than $5000 on it, but it’s become clear that won’t be possible. My fiance and I both make good money and could certainly ‘afford’ to spend more, but we really wrestle with the idea of dropping a bunch of money on just one weekend–something that is really just a celebration of ‘us.’ But we’ve also accepted that we want this to be an awesome weekend and ‘good enough’ to satisfy our guests coming from out of town (I know that’s kind of a whacked out way to think of it, but the last think I’d want is for someone to fly in and end up disappointed!). That said, we know the rustic nature of the weekend won’t be for everyone, and sort of hope people self-select and come only if this is the type of think they’d enjoy.

    The breakdown so far, totaling about $8500

    Summer camp location rental: $1500
    Food, servingware, for two dinners, two breakfasts, and a lunch: $4000
    Decor/favors/fun stuff: $750
    Band: $1500
    Booze: $750

    Things we’re not spending money on:
    Invitations + website: Will do free email invites and are building our own site
    Fancy catering (just seems silly to me in the context of the rustic weekend)
    Linens, flowers, rentals of any kind (craft paper on picnic tables, biodegradable plates and utensils; favors will include glasses for guests to use all weekend and take home)
    Fancy dress (I bought one for our ceremony for $100 and I am SO excited to wear it then and again at the party)
    DJ (hello, iTunes)
    Planner/Coordinator (I suspect we will be taking a lot of friends up on their offers for help!)

    I’m pretty happy with where we are concept and budget-wise, although even early in the process it’s become clear that things will continue to come up that we haven’t even thought of yet!

  • tallgirl

    Goal budget: $10k
    Final* round of re-adjusting budget: $16k (*wedding hasn’t happened yet)
    Location: Logan Square, Chicago
    Guests: 115-125

    Venue (all-inclusive of food, basic cutting cake, drinks, stage, candles, coat check, coordinator): $10.5k
    DJ: $500 plus tip
    Dress: $1.3k, not yet altered though
    Other bridal accessories: $200
    Professional Hair Do: $110 (that includes a trial)
    DIY flower arrangements: $300
    Photographer: $1.5k plus tip for about 11 hours
    Shuttle from wedding to hotel: $366
    Assorted items make up the rest. We saved a lot of money by doing emailed save-the-dates and invites. I am doing my own make up. And perhaps most importantly we are having an off-season wedding in March (although it is still on a Saturday) and we were set on having a wedding with less than 130 people. We are also not including rings or my fiance’s suit in our “wedding budget” as those items would have been purchased regardless of whether we had a big party.
    Reasonably-priced Chicago weddings are possible!! They just take work and compromises.

  • Anon in Utah

    This is the best post/feed ever! I’ve really struggled off and on with our wedding budget (as my fiance so lovingly knows). The original budget was $15k (with my dad offering up all $15K but I wanted to contribute some thereby saving him some money; fiance’s mother has offered to fund/plan the rehearsal dinner. period). After finding out what things really cost the budget is now at $17.5k (including honeymoon) and mostly likely will go over. I’ve been feeling guilty about spending so much on a *wedding* — especially when I’m surrounded by posts/friends who keep bragging about their “budget” weddings. So let me say again: THIS IS THE BEST POST EVER! I feel totally normal and unguilty about our budget now … for a medium sized (ceremony invites: 85, reception invites: 210), Salt Lake CIty wedding I think it’s totally reasonable.

  • Christine

    I’m getting married this September in Sedona, AZ and my original budget has already been raised a few times as I see more and more things I want to add!

    Goal Budget: $10k
    Actual Budget: Not sure yet, but looking like it will be approximately $12k
    Total Guests: Max of 20 (including us)
    Venues/Food/Drinks: Approximately $3800
    Photo: $0 – my sister is a photographer ;)
    Florals/Decorations: About $1000
    Welcome Dinner/Post Wedding Brunch: $2000

    Our wedding is somewhat destination for everyone (only my parents live near us), and we are 2 hours from the nearest airport, so we are covering some costs including our parents hotel rooms, and a couple rental cars to shuttle everyone around.

  • Sheba

    Be forewarned: I like to talk and this will be long. I thought you deserved the notice. Just read the highlighted stuff if you prefer to skim.

    I really enjoyed this article and the comments. It seems the community here is very supportive and non-judgmental. It was refreshing to be reminded weddings come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and prices but all couples can end up having the day of their dreams with the right priorities in mind.

    We spent about $11K on our wedding which is astronomical to me, but that’s because I’m a penny pincher and I teeter between frugal and cheap. I wanted to do the whole thing for $5K originally but doubled the budget when I chose the venue–a choice I don’t regret at all even with the expense of it. After that jump we anticipated spending about $15K. We wedded just outside of Memphis, TN before 69 guests. (We invited 270, but they reside all over the US and we expected many of them to decline. A third of those who attended were related to me!)

    Here’s the breakdown:
    Venue – $4800 covered the site for ceremony and reception for 6 hours; included in the rate was all decor, tables, chairs, linens, and lighting plus a planner/coordinator (fulfilling whichever or both roles based on need; I basically used her as a day of coordinator)
    Food – $2800 covered cocktail hour, buffet style meal, 2 cakes, alcohol, 3 attendants, 1 bartender, tax, and gratuity
    Photography/Videography – $1000; our photographer was just coming out of a team to strike into independent practice. His fee covered 6 hours with him as the sole photo/video person plus hi-res raw and edited photo/video post wedding. He’ll probably be a lot more expensive in years to come. I admittedly would have spent more here if we would have been able to (for included books, more hours of coverage, etc.), but I’m actually quite pleased with what we got for what we paid. (Since I am so nitpicky about everything I found myself being upset about something even the most expensive photographers did with their photos anyway, so I guess it was for the best that I didn’t end up paying more and still finding something “wrong” with my pictures. I’m a bit of a pain that way.)
    Dress and shoes – $1000 covered my gown and bustle as well as Dyeable peep-toes
    DJ – $375 covered ceremony and reception music
    Stationery – $320 for invites, reply cards, programs, envelopes, and stamps
    Gifts – $260: we bought decanters for the groomsmen and shoes for the bridesmaids (This will increase when we finish wedding albums for parents, but it won’t drive the overall spending above the $11K I originally quoted)
    Ring – $230 for his ring (My engagement ring was one of those big styles, so it was engagement and wedding all in one.)
    My “look” – $40 for OTC makeup and nails painted in the mall
    These numbers are all rounded to the nearest whole 10 for ease of reading.

    Why our wedding was actually more expensive:
    1. My husband’s parents rock, and they covered the rehearsal dinner (which I know some people include in their costs while others focus specifically on costs related to “day of”), several hotel rooms, and wine to accompany the beer we bought. (The wine also doubled as favors as his mom had a photo of us printed on the label, and we had enough for guests [couples] to take a bottle home if they chose.)
    2. One of my bridesmaids did my makeup and my aunt did my hair
    3. My dad’s wife handled jewelry for myself and the bridesmaids as well as the lanterns we carried and the unity cord he and I braided.
    4. The above does not include our honeymoon (which again I recognize is one of those maybe you count it maybe you don’t areas) which we will not take until our 1 year anniversary due to schedules/military.
    5. We got a (very small but still notable flat rate) discount on the venue because my husband is in the military

    I couldn’t guess if I tried how much those things might have tacked on to what we would have spent. I just appreciate the blessing of having a few resources to help reign in costs. Personally, the way the WIC can play to our emotions and in so doing inflate the cost of things that might otherwise be 1/2 as much or less makes me cringe. I recognize sometimes we get what we pay for, but other times we get what they tell us we ought pay for. That said, we’re all willing to spend on some things of import. I guess by the numbers the venue was most important to us. *Laughs* Actually the venue was the most important because we needed a place that was convenient for travel and had some accessible activities since most people (husband and I included) would have to travel for the ceremony and planned to make a vacation out of the trip. (Long story short, I’m from MS but people have to fly into TN and drive to my hometown, so we did a “destination” wedding in TN to make things easier.) Though we spent more than I would have liked in that area, the convenience was worth it.

    Congratulations. You have reached the end.

    • Sheba

      Well… nothing is highlighted. (I.e. Boldface. I put specific points in boldface for readability, but the bod didn’t stick.) Sorry. I tried. I guess you’ll all have to suffer through it.

  • Amanda Otto

    In the middle of this process, but just wanted to share some info, since I have been doing TONS of research! I am in the DC area, which is expensive and anyway I love nature so we are getting married in Frederick, MD.

    Goal: $7,000
    Already at: $7,182.62
    Probably will be: $8,000-9,000
    Guests: 75

    Venue: $226.31(Tea Room in Gambrill State Park)
    Additional Rental Area: $41.31 (Pavillion for overflow)
    Alcohol Permit: $30.00
    Caterer: $4,762.50 (Zeffert & Gold, vegan entrees!)
    Dress: $200.00 (Etsy vintage)
    Engagement Ring: $200.00 (Etsy, uncut diamond… still real and natural!)
    Cleaning Service: $100.00
    Tent: $100.00 (to cover balcony if it rains)
    Save the Dates: $100.00 (Etsy, stamp invites to DIY!)
    Invitations: $150.00 (Etsy, stamp invites to DIY!)
    Stamps: $60.00
    Chairs: $862.50 (This is where I spoiled myself. I am NOT sitting on metal on my wedding day!)
    Cupcakes: $350.00 (Vegan from Sticky Fingers!)
    Music: Free (I’m a DJ.)
    Photography: TBD (A friend who is also a professional.)
    License: ?
    Officiant: ?
    Flowers: ? (Lowes and Safeway, DIY!)
    Wedding Ring: ? (Less than engagement.)
    Alcohol: ?

  • Stacey

    Your goal budget: $12,000 ($6K that I saved myself, $6K that my parents saved since I was born). This was not originally intended to include the Honeymoon, but ended up being mostly enough for both the honeymoon and wedding because of our low response rate (see: catering). We invited 102 family members (no friends) and had 45 show up. Our brothers were our witnesses and we did not have a traditional “wedding party”.
    Your actual budget if you’re already hitched: $10,500 wedding/$2200 honeymoon (Jackson Hole & Grand Teton National Park in early June)/$12K for my rings (groom paid). So yeah, my rings cost as much as the whole rest of the wedding. The groom wanted to put a blingy ring on it.
    A general breakdown of what you spent: $1350 tent/table/linen rental, $1500 catering (plus the groom’s parents purchased and roasted a pig for us, and his grandma made the wedding cake), $750 alcohol, $2400 photography & albums, $1100 gifts for groom and four female family members (groom bought gifts for his four guys; not included), $100 invites (Etsy + Vistaprint), $110 flowers (Sam’s Club), $1000 travel expenses (we live in Denver; wedding was in Billings), $100 port-a-potty, $100 sound system rental, $750 décor/games/plastic silverware, dishes, and napkins, $650 officiant/license/planning fees, $200 groom’s wedding band, $400 dress, $50 new makeup (did myself). My mom paid for my hair and nails, and for deli sandwiches on wedding day. My groom’s family hosted at their house and I’m sure incurred some other random expenses in addition to the roast pig and the food they supplied for a Friday night BBQ dinner for those who were already in town (sorta like a very informal rehearsal dinner with no speeches/ public gift presentations/planned events – just two families getting to know each other before the big day).
    What was worth it and what wasn’t: Um, we bought some bug zappers we didn’t need? And some board games and a set of horseshoes that nobody played. Also, we didn’t drink all the alcohol. This was fine with me because A) We drank 4-5 bottles of leftover wine in the cabin on our honeymoon, and B) We left the rest at my in-laws’ house for them to drink. It was totally worth it to make our own albums on Adorama’s site. They are beautiful Leather Lux albums. We bought the digital negatives from our photographer, which she had already edited and color-corrected. Building our album was time-consuming, but I just don’t think we would have been happy with the way someone else “told our story”. I thought our photographer’s albums were expensive, but given the time we spent tweaking our *own* work, she probably wouldn’t have made any profit from us, to be honest. And ultimately, it was worth it to DIY the big day in the backyard. The weather was GORGEOUS so maybe the necessity of a $1000 tent was questionable, but I would have felt like a terrible hostess if the weather had been crappy, so it bought peace of mind. There was something so lovely about just chilling with family in the backyard. We had ONE friendor (of my groom’s parents, not our friend) serving drinks and running our music for the ceremony – which was an immense help. In retrospect, I also wish I had gotten a day-of coordinator because some of the decorations didn’t make it back out into the ceremony space after the “trial run” the day before. And because my mom was trapped at her hotel without a car when it was time to get me into my dress. Most people thought that since they helped decorate the day before, they were free the day of the wedding until half an hour before the ceremony. I didn’t do a good enough job sharing my wedding day timeline, although I used the APW spreadsheet! So it was a little hairy on wedding morning, but it all came together.
    And most importantly, your location: Billings, MT – backyard of groom’s parents’ house, June 8th 2013

  • Erica

    We’re getting married on May 11th (a Sunday) in Weatherford, Texas (outside Fort Worth) with 50 guests.

    Original budget: I wanted to stick to $5k tops but FI (more realistically) said $7-8k.
    Actual budget: $7k. We received a generous gift of $2k from my parents, so we were still able to keep it at $5k out of pocket.

    Not everything is set in stone quite yet. We still have to finalize our catering plans (eek!) but that’s about it. This is the break down so far:

    Ceremony space: $742.50. Having the ceremony at a church/chapel was a priority so we spent quite a bit here.
    Reception space: $500. We chose to have it at a Bed and Breakfast and this fee includes tables, chairs, linens, and staff. Score!
    Renting out the entire B&B: $1300 for 9 rooms. We thought it would be awesome to have the entire place to ourselves and with my parents’ gift, we could make that happen. With the 9 rooms, we’ll be able to put up the whole wedding party and our parents for the night.
    Cake: $150. We went with a baker who is just starting to venture into the wedding scene. The photos of her other cakes were great though, so we took a chance.
    Dress: $97 from David’s Bridal online outlet.
    Alterations:$133. The hem on the dress is the perfect length, so I’ll just have to have it taken in some.
    Accessories. $278.80. This is where I splurged a little. I found a veil and shoes I absolutely loved at David’s Bridal, so I figured that since I saved so much on the dress, I could afford to spend a little more here.
    Photography: $1000 for 2 photographers for 8 hours. This is another area that we were able to upgrade, thanks to my parents’ help. I literally scoured craigslist for WEEKS until I found the perfect photographer. She was running a special because she’s new to the area and looking to build her client base. There was NO WAY we could have ever afforded her regular prices. Never underestimate the power of craigslist.
    Bridesmaids dresses: $257.64 for two dresses. I know it’s not customary to pay for your bridesmaid dresses but both my FI and I felt strongly about it.
    Groomsmen attire: $150. Renting two suits and buying ties and super awesome colorful socks to match the bridesmaids. Again, this was something we felt strongly about so we made room for it.
    Food: $550. We haven’t signed a contract yet, but we found a caterer who does a pasta bar, salad, and bread for less than $10pp. Yay!!!
    Alcohol: $200. We are only providing beer and wine BUT! there will be plenty of it. Most of our guests are cheap drunks so I doubt they’ll mind.
    Decorations: $100. I have scoured craigslist, Goodwill, and other thrift shops over the past few months to collect various vintage-y things. As an added bonus, FMIL has a gorgeous antique sofa and chair set that she’s letting us borrow. Score!
    Flowers: $100. I’m not huge on flowers so we’re just doing a bulk order from Sam’s Club and making our own centerpieces and bouquets.
    Invitations: $30. I found a free template that I adore so this is just for postage and the cost of printing them.
    Marriage license: $22.
    Officiant: 0. FI’s uncle is a pastor and will be marrying us as a gift.
    Rings: $1375. This was another HUGE expenditure. It was really important to FI that our rings come from the same jeweler who designed my engagement ring, so we made it work. It just meant that other things had to go. Such as…
    DJ: 0. We decided it wasn’t terribly important to us, so we’re just going to do an iTunes playlist instead.

    Total: $7000 (almost to the penny)

    The only thing that this doesn’t cover is the rehearsal dinner, which my FI’s family is paying for. We’ve estimated that will run about $200-250.

    I was a little (ok, quite a bit) sad and frustrated to be going substantially over our initial budget, but once I realized what we were getting for that price, I came to terms with it. I mean, we’re able to cover the wedding parties’ attire and put our family and friends in a beautiful B&B for the night. Not to mention that we’ll all be able to have breakfast together the next morning. All in all, I’m happy with the way things turned out.

    My advice is to stick to a hard number that you and your FI feel comfortable spending. If you receive money from family, that’s just an added bonus. Once you have a budget in mind, start with what’s important to you first. For us, it was finding a good (but reasonably priced) photographer. We shuffled our budgets for each category around as we went. For example, I initially budgeted $500 for my dress. Because we ended up spending $400 more on photography than I had accounted for, I adjusted my dress budget accordingly. Ultimately, I ended up finding a $100 dress that I loved just as much as any of the $500 ones. You have to make up for the overages somewhere if staying on a strict budget is important to you.

    Phew! That was long-winded but hopefully helpful to someone out there. Good luck! :)

  • SF 2014

    I found the APW book and the open threads incredibly helpful when first, engaged, so I’m paying it forward by listing our breakdown here. We live in San Francisco and decided to do the wedding in downtown SF. We are having 200 guests for an afternoon cake & prosecco reception with medium-heavy appetizers, followed by dinner with our families.

    Our original goal was $35,000 but we expect to spend $40,000. We had multiple vendors tell us they “didn’t work at our price point” and that “your budget is not reasonable”. We also had two catering quotes that came in OVER our entire budget – for appetizers for goodness sakes! (SF prices are insane!) The caterer we found in the end is amazing and helpful and we were actually able to increase the amount of food planned and still stay in budget. (She’s not on APW but I’m going to recommend she apply – the philosophies totally match!)

    In the end, our sanity has been saved thanks to APW vendors, multiple discussions about our priorities so we knew where we could & couldn’t compromise, and lots and lots of research to find vendors/supplies within our budget!!

    The wedding hasn’t happened yet but all the contracts are signed & numbers are set, so I think this is a pretty close to realistic breakdown:

    Bride shoes, hair, nails (dress was a gift; sister doing my makeup) $200
    Groom suit rental $250

    Photography (APW vendor whom we love) $4500
    Reception Music (Jukebox rental) $500
    Lion Dance (local amateur dance troupe) $500
    Photo booth (with Groupon for half price) $500

    All weekend alcohol (beer, wine, prosecco for rehearsal dinner, reception, & family dinner) $3000
    Rehearsal dinner for 125 (Paxti’s pizza in church dining hall; friend providing dessert) $2000
    Light refreshments for 200 (5 different passed appetizers, fruit & veggie platter, iced tea, lemonade, coffee, & servers) $6500
    Plated dinner with family (for 75 people; price includes servers) $4500
    Cake (from our favorite Asian bakery, caterer doesn’t charge a cutting fee) $250

    Invitations & postage (paperless post flat printed invites; envelopes from Amazon) $600
    Save the dates (paperless post – electronic mainly, with 30 paper copies for aunt’s fridges & family friends who don’t use email) $100

    Week-of coordinator w/ event design help (APW vendor here too!) $1500
    Reception venue rental (church auditorium; $100/hr) $1000
    Venue Decorations ($800 lighting & installation; $400 other decor such as lanterns, draping, centerpieces, etc) $1200
    Flowers (APW vendor who passes along wholesale price!) $1400
    Tables, chairs, linen & glassware rentals $4000
    Favors (Italian-style Jordan almonds in Chinese red envelopes) $300

    Ceremony (includes officiant & organist) $1200 (Disclaimer: regular price for ceremonies in our church – it’s gorgeous and therefore popular – is $3K. Because I’m a member I get it for about 1/3 the price.)
    Wedding License + copies $150
    Rings $1800
    Transportation (grandparents & parents to & from the church – we’re walking back to the hotel!) $50
    Gratuity (spread out across items, estimated after detailed perusal of APW posts on the topic) $2500
    Extras/Contingency $1500

    Total $40,000

    Good luck to everyone!!

    • Janelle

      I would love to know which APW sponsor you used for the flowers :) Please and thank you! :D

      • SF 2014

        Of course! We’re working with Emily from Green Snapdragon. :)

    • Rachel

      Would love to know who your caterer is! We are planning an SF wedding for 2015

  • Anony-ME

    Funds Available: $50,000
    Goal Budget: $30,000 (or less!)
    Current Estimated Spending: $27,500
    Guests Invited: 200
    Guests Likely to Attend: 125

    I used to feel like I had to apologize for our budget and our wedding, because other people (even on here–sad!) were getting upset and/or being unkind about how much money we, and people like us, were spending on “just one day”…..but then I realized that I don’t have to apologize for any of it. We are fortunate, to be sure, but our wedding is going to be a celebration and a reflection of us, our families & friends, and the incredible love we share for one another. I’m not even a little bit sorry about that. :)

    • K

      I agree. My fiance and I (and the majority of our friends and relatives) live in a very expensive part of the country to get married, we are not the crafting type and we have a lot of friends and family who we want to include in our day. To me, that is money well spent. Would I like it to be cheaper? Absolutely! But just because it isn’t, doesn’t mean we are spending frivolously or making bad decisions when it comes to our budget. Our parents are thankfully contributing their fair share, but we are also covering a large portion of it ourselves.

      Since I am posting:
      Location: Northern NJ (just outside of NYC)
      Max budget: $70,000
      Guests invited: 200
      Guests likely to attend: 180 (the majority are local and/or related and/or friends who have been waiting for our wedding day longer than I have, which is a long time.)
      *Saturday Evening in June 2015

      The majority of our budget is allocated to the venue and catering which is by far the biggest expense. Since we were able to get to a number that our budget allowed, we chose to go with a Saturday evening in June. There was the possibility of further savings going with a Sunday or Friday, but we are happy that we can host our guests during the weekend and minimize the amount of people who will need to use vacation time for our event.

      The next expensive items and the next two priorities for us are our (amazing!) photographer and then entertainment. I think with other items we will be able to find savings either because we have friends who can lend their talents or because they aren’t as big of a deal to us.

      APW really helped me with the pre-engaged blues and I think a lot of the principles here can apply to ANY wedding, even if it isn’t the typical (and by that I mean unique but generally costing less than what I am planning) APW event.

  • Amber

    So, does that mean that a budget of $1500 is being unrealistic? I intend to do a lot of diy, but anything more just isn’t in our budget. We live in NC and are hoping to avoid a lot of big costs like wedding planner, dj, and florist by getting a friend to dj, doing the planning ourselves, and arranging our own fake flowers. The guest list is also bare bones, probably about 30-35 people. Given that, do you think it’s possible to still pull off a wedding with only $1500?

  • Amber

    So, is it unrealistic to try to plan a wedding for $1500? My partner and I are on a tight budget, but want to get married in June. I have plans to diy a lot, and his sister is ecstatic about helping out. We’re keeping the guest list small, about 30-35 people, but I still wonder if it’ll be enough.

  • Adelaidey

    I’m stressing out about my budget for the least sane reasons, and so I guess I’m going to vent to you guys on my lunch break at work about it????

    My parents divorced when I was a little kid. My father had a lot more money than my mother when I was growing up, but you’d never really know- he buys a used car once every eight years, he doesn’t have cable, and so on.

    But I remember one night when my dad was going to take me out to dinner for my birthday- I think I was eight or so?- and my mom asked me where we were going. We were going to The Olive Garden, at my request, and when my mother heard, she said “You should ask your father to take you somewhere more expensive- he can afford it!”

    Until that moment, I had never noticed any income/lifestyle disparity between my parents or, in fact, anybody. I knew money was Impolite To Discuss, and so I never thought about it at all. After that I thought about it a lot, and was always embarrassed about thinking about it. It was such a little, offhanded comment, but it made me feel deeply ashamed of something I didn’t understand.

    So I grew up into a frugal adult who still doesn’t save a ton of money because I don’t like thinking about money. And now I’m getting married, and my dad has explicitly said “Let me give you money for the wedding please.”, and my fiancee’s parents, who make less money than my father, are contributing money already, and there is no reason on earth not to accept money from my father, with whom I have a great relationship, but I cannot get over this hangup that accepting money from my father means that I am taking advantage of him or that I love him less or something.


  • Danielle

    Totally not a plug, but I just picked up my FH’s ring (titanium) on Amazon for $2.99 (yep, that’s where the decimal goes). Figured it was worth the risk of it not being great, we could always get a different one, but he loves it! And I just saved like $300. Amazing! (just search titanium ring in amazon, it should pull up right away if they still have them)

  • Need more posts

    Well l the responses thus far have been off topic except one , very disappointing you all. No info of any use yet. Thanks for nothing:-(

  • Left wanting

    There’s is nothing on topic except one post this far, very disappointing you guys. Not to diminish your comments but what’s the age your getting married at have to do with budget? I came here for info on real life experiance a of people’s budget & got none


    I haven’t been able to read the entire thread on here but I wanted to give my budget. Our wedding is a Friday wedding for 200 people in Iowa/Illinois/Quad Cities Area. I tend to think of myself and VERY crafty and I am doing a lot of DIY stuff.

    Initial Goal Budget:: $5000

    Realistic/Actual Budget:: At the moment 6 months before the wedding we are under budget but we still have things to book and pay for and I have a feeling that the closer we get the more things will come up so I would be happy if we didn’t go over $6000

    Breakdown So Far::

    Venue, we are getting married and having the reception at the same place so there was only one fee for our venue. — $800

    Food, a casual grilled themed dinner will cost us $7 a plate for 200 people will run us $1400

    Cake, we are having cake balls and a small cake to cut. I still need to meet with the cake baker but our cake balls will run us $150 for 300 balls on sticks

    Dress, my dress was double what I wanted to spend but I won’t have to pay for alterations or a veil because I have an AMAZINGLY talented aunt that can do all of that — $600

    Bridal Party Dresses, I bought these are part of asking them to be in the wedding but I found SUPER good deals at Kohls and spend $22 a girl x 4 1/2 girls — $100ish

    Flowers, I’m still determining this. Our original thought was to go pick our own flowers but I’m not sure that will work so this may be something that pushes us over.

    Officiant, My fiance’s cousin an an officiant so we got this for free as a wedding present! — $0!

    DJ/Music, because our wedding is on a Friday and because of a special they were running at the time we got our DJ for $540 for the night.

    Photographer, this may be the biggest regret I have, I wish we could have spent more on a photographer but unfortunately it just wasn’t there. Our photographer was $500 for all wedding day pictures and major reception events.

    Stationary, I designed all of our save the dates, invitations, programs and any other paper products. The designs were free and the printing for everything ran around $150

    Decoration, We got a lot of stuff at yard sales, and antique stores, things from great grandparent’s basements. That is the benefit of having a “vintage” themed wedding. All together I bet we spent $500 on all decorations.

  • Goldie14

    I LOVE this site. I’m almost finished with Meg Keene’s book and it has been my go-to read everyday, really puts things into perspective. Question — has anyone had a wedding where they were required to buyout a hotel? We have finally found a venue we love which is reasonably priced considering all that is included and have heard great things from people who have attended weddings there. Not to mention, the venue has sentimental/personal meaning to my fiance and I. However, there are 55 rooms that we are required to fill for 2 nights during our wedding weekend. I’m an eternal optimist so, I feel like it won’t be a problem. My fiance is much more of a realist and is afraid that we may get stuck with ten or more empty rooms which we will have to pay for. It is a mini-destination wedding, meaning the hotel is two hours away from our city, so everyone will be traveling. My family is from the other side of the country and will be traveling. Thoughts?

  • Shy

    Budget: $3500 + $500 just in case.

    Church: $150
    Reception/catering: $500 (the local Legion where some nice old grandmas cater)
    Photographer: $800
    Bride: $400
    Groom: $200
    Flowers: $200
    All that other stuff: $1250

    My reasoning: The place I am getting married in is quaint and somewhat remote, surrounded by nature. Only 75 invitees and my entire family lives an 8 hour plane ride away and his family lives a 4 hour drive away so realistically many wont come.

    What I am making myself: Bouquets and boutineers of lavender, babysbreath (bulk from costco), and (free) wild flowers from the area. Decor will be mostly free using nature such as bow wreaths, log slice centre pieces (and cake stand) with wild flowers in a pack of mason jars ($1 each), pines cones (that a nephew will be sent out to find) used as well. Programs, guestbook, and invites will be made by me. I will also be sewing my own dress and baking my own cake.

    Photography: It pains me to say this as I am a photography buff myself but I chose the cheapest photographer in the area. While I don’t love their photographs they were almost half the price as anyone else. I had to get real with myself on this. All I really want is photos of the ceremony and family photos afterwards. Anything else is a bonus. Lets be honest. Other than a few family photos hanging around most of these will be in a album rarely to be seen. My wedding isn’t special to anyone other then us and our friends and family. I asked myself “who am I trying to impress?” and “am I showing off?” when imagining glamourous photos of myself loaded onto facebook. Those questions brought me back to reality when I was contemplating going way over budget for the sake of a photograph.

    Another note is that we both were raised by single mom’s who are still living pay-cheque to pay-cheque and cannot expect them to contribute at all. We don’t want to go into our marriage with piles of debt.

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