It’s Time to Share Secrets: What Is Your Wedding Budget?

We’re all friends here

by Stephanie Kaloi

bride holding bouquet

You want to know what’s a super fun paradox? Trying to figure out how much your wedding might cost when you’ve never planned a major event before. Then shake, and add the twist of the fact that modern society it is not considered polite to ask people how much money they just spent on their wedding.

So, what then? Are you just supposed to manifest that information from thin air? If you’re like me (aka you have no real sense of what throwing an event costs) and you’re planning a wedding, trying to make heads or tails of what’s realistic can get overwhelming real quick. When it comes down to it, if you can buy your wedding license, you can pay for a wedding—because you can have an amazing wedding even if it only costs you $60 on a Thursday. But if you’re planning a capital letters Wedding, then this open thread is for you.

We like to bring up this topic every few years because of wedding budget changes over time. Feel free to go anon (or not) for this one (just remember to log out of Disqus), because we get that sharing your budget might make you feel sticky. That’s fine! But when discussing, please try to include:

  • Your goal budget (and your realistic budget, if they differ)
  • Your actual budget if you’re already married (and what turned out to be worth it)
  • What your priorities were for spending
  • How many people came to your wedding
  • Where you live (a state or region is fine!), because we all know that all wedding venues and locations are not created equal

Tell us, APW: What is your wedding budget? What has most surprised you about planning a wedding? What has been worth it, budget-wise, and what hasn’t?

Stephanie Kaloi

Stephanie is a photographer, writer, and Ravenclaw living in California with her family. She is super into reading, road trips, and adopting animals on a whim. Forewarning: all correspondence will probably include a lot of punctuation and emoji (!!! ? ? ?).

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  • janie

    Love this idea! I’ll kick off honesty.

    I was initially hoping to spend about $20,000 but it’s looking like it’s going to be more around $25-30,000 for ~130 guests. I live on the Virginia side of the DMV, and my parents are paying for the big ticket items, and fiancee’s family kicked in a lump sum (I feel like that’s helpful to know too!).

    Priorities for spending:

    The first biggest spending hurdle was venue, and when I realized that to stay close to Washington DC and have a picturesque venue it was going to cost between several to many thousands of dollars, we decided to get married in my church (free) which is picturesque in its own way. I’m still kind of staggered at how expensive the manor houses that are very popular in this area are (even the state subsidized ones) – for a popular weekend in September or May it could be more than 15,000 dollars just to rent the place (and they’re booked more than a year and a half in advance, woof).

    Our biggest spending area will be food for sure – and the food service. All told it’ll probably be about a third of my budget. I’m not very interested in DIYing because I think it’s too stressful for my personality, so everything else (florist, photographer, DJ, rentals) seems to come in at around $2000 for each vendor (and I did shop around for prices there).

    • Lisa

      The prices around major metropolitan areas are a wake up call for sure. My sister got married six months after we did in her Ohio college town, and I’m guessing it cost at least $10k less than ours did. Husband and I just decided to embrace at some point that we were having an “average” or “budget” city wedding and ran with it.

      • janie

        It was really similar for us! At first my attitude was, this is ridiculous I shouldn’t have to pay this much, and eventually came to a place of pseudo-acceptance.

        It was also important to me that my wedding be easy to get to, for the sake of being able to plan with ease and for my guests. I guess that’s something you have to budget for.

      • Brooke

        This exactly. My sister got married in a small town in Kansas and her wedding was probably half the cost of ours. That’s all fine and dandy, but it would literally be impossible to have that quality of wedding in a city without spending close to what we are spending.

      • idkmybffjill

        For real. Our whole wedding we were told how budget our choices were compared to our friends…. our wedding cost like $20K. lol

    • louise danger

      DC-area sticker shock solidarity high-five, from the other side of the Potomac in Baltimore

      • Lexipedia

        Ugh, I know. We live in DC now, and even though I grew up in another city with pretty high wedding prices, I was floored by some of the venue prices alone. Like, if I’m paying $10,000 to rent a space that has no tables/chairs/etc. included, for only 6 hours, what the hell am I paying for?!

        It has me seriously considering having the wedding in my hometown.

        • louise danger

          the only vendor i couldn’t think of a lower-cost alternative for was the photographer, so i wound up looking outside the metro area for that. everything else, though, we were able to compromise – gorgeous church, a cute restaurant, and on etc. the solutions are there if you look hard enough, which i know can be frustrating but if getting married in dc is your priority, there’s ways to do it without breaking the bank or the look-feel, i promise

          • Lexipedia

            Do you guys have a car? We live downtown and only use zipcar, and so I feel like a venue would have to be metro/uber/something accessible for planning. I guess we could have a shuttle for guests…

          • louise danger

            yes, we have a car. a zipcar should work for planning purposes – you’re only going to need to visit the venue once or twice or so while you’re planning (once to see it, once maybe to do a walkthrough with a vendor or something); weekend-of, you could likely carpool or just zipcar it for the rehearsal and the day-of transport.

            an accessible venue is really helpful and considerate for out of town guests, but i guess it just comes down to y’all’s priorities: is accessibility and convenience worth the cost that comes with that, or would you be willing to save potentially a lot [by having the venue be outside the metro bubble] and have to make transportation arrangements?

          • toomanybooks

            My fiancée and I don’t have cars, and we’ve been able to get by pretty well. We ended up choosing a venue in Montgomery County ($3600) that’s a five minute drive from the nearest metro station and hotels, so it’ll be easy/cheap enough to Uber there. Though also, it’s where I’m from and my parents still live here, so my dad has driven me anywhere that would be inconvenient (like our catering tasting coming up – but hey, they’re coming to us for the day of the wedding).

        • lizzers

          Hello! and I feel you! As a single data point, we got married last November in DC proper and don’t have a car. I don’t think we needed a single uber ride for any wedding planning functions (though we took uber to the wedding.) After finding the prices on any downtown venues to be out of our budget, we then focused only on restaurants. Many offer full buy outs for a Saturday night for a minimum food and drink spend (I found the range to be $10K – 20K). The restaurant we went with was about half mile from the hotel where most guests stayed, so people just walked.

          • Lexipedia

            Oooh – can I ask what restaurants you looked at?

          • lizzers

            Somewhere along the way there was a huge list but the ones that we looked at most seriously were: Tabard Inn, Elizabeth’s on L, Chez Billy (RIP), Roofers Union, Iron Gate, and Big Bear Cafe. This is super niche to DC obviously, but there were a few wedding threads on the Prince of Petworth blog that were a bit outdated but helpful – I think you can search the archives and find them. Someone had posted a giant spreadsheet of their venue research and it was really helpful.

      • lamarsh

        Yes, good luck! We live in DC, but after I was involved in planning a few (weeknight) events for work and saw what venues + catering cost, I got my fiance on board with marrying in my home state of Wisconsin very quickly.

        • Lexipedia

          How many of your DC friends are traveling for the wedding? Most of our VIPs (family, wedding party, etc.) don’t live here, and it feels like we’ll have about the same number traveling whether we have it in the city or in my hometown, but it worries me a little that I’ll lose out on having friends there because it’s far away.

          • lamarsh

            We do not have RSVPs in yet (so take this with a grain of salt) but unofficially, almost all of our DC/East Coast friends have told us they are coming to the wedding and seem very excited. My fiance’s extended family sadly, will mostly not be attending. His family is all from the DC area, mine are all from the Upper Midwest. I am much closer to my extended family than he is, so he was fine with this trade-off. And to be honest, his family is flaky enough that they might not even have come even if it was in a convenient location for them. For us, it mostly came down to the fact that our invitees with the means to travel mostly live on the east coast and the ones who have less means to travel live in the Midwest. (I also toyed with the idea of getting married in Charlottesville until I realized that basically none of my family and many of my HS friends would be able to come.) Long story short, definitely understand the dilemma!

          • My sister claims that she wants a destination wedding as a way of being a ‘care level threshhold’. While not everyone who doesn’t attend your wedding doesn’t care about you, there is some group of people for which this is the case. It’s not the worst thing, having a wedding of people who will go through obstacles to be there.

          • Amy March

            Ugh I think that rationale kind of is the worst? Have your wedding wherever you want, but thinking of it as a “prove you love me” kind of thing, or pretending that people’s decisions to come or not are primarily about care level and not about the realities of time and money with a dollop of care is just icky.

          • Eh, we have a rather shaky relationship with one side of our family. They just…don’t seem to care about us kids at all? So it’s mostly said in response to that family, not so much the friends.

            Sometimes there are people that don’t like you that you have to invite. Sometimes it’s large portions of your extended family. Not everyone is comfortable with having them come anyways.

          • idkmybffjill

            Also – just throwing this out there. Make sure she monitors how cool the place is. We had to not invite alot of people who normally would’ve been courtesy invites, because I knew they’d come because they think Chicago is awesome and would’ve loved the excuse to visit. YMMV

          • NolaJael

            True, but destination weddings can also eliminate some awkwardness if you have a large professional or social circle but don’t actually want to invite everyone from work or everyone from your church, etc.

          • Jess

            I’m kind of judgy about that attitude, to be honest. Like, I shouldn’t have to audition to stay your friend based on how much time and money I spend to get to your wedding.

            I generally try to get there, but if I can’t? I don’t want you writing me off forever because I would have to take three different flights and drive two hours on mountain passes in the middle of winter…

            She’ll have people who really wanted to be there, sure, but the idea of setting up your wedding to force people meet a “minimum effort threshold” seems icky to me.

          • idkmybffjill

            I think unfortunately the care threshold will also intersect with the wealth threshold. She may end up with wealthier people who might not be as close to her, and lose folks who she is close to but can’t afford it. However, always a know your people situation.

          • Possibly, but that side of the family doesn’t have much money, so…

          • Lexipedia

            I also have to remind myself that I’ve traveled for FIVE weddings in the past year and that almost nobody I know actually got married in the DMV (unless they grew up close by). Charlottesville is beautiful, but I couldn’t get behind making people rent cars on top of flights. I’m from Canada, and Toronto is less than two hours from any area airport, and the Canadian dollar is so awful that our wedding would automatically get 25% cheaper. Plus my parents really want to help, and my family is centralized vs. his which is spread out.

          • lamarsh

            Yep! I’ve traveled for all but two of my local friends’ weddings. I do not mind traveling for weddings — it’s fun to see new places and it’s relatively easy for us (in our late 20s with no kids).

            Also, having a parent in the area makes the long distance planning SO much easier. Toronto sounds like a great option.

          • Amy March

            I think that’s hard to predict- I went to a wedding in Manhattan KS where everyone had to fly in from NYC or London, and they had a really high acceptance rate, but other friends get married in the parts of Virginia that are not near DC get a ton of declines. Personally it depends on whether there are direct flights available, at decent times, and I’m not going to fly someplace and then drive more than an hour or so. I think the easier it is to access your home town, the more people will come, as a general rule, unless there is some particular draw to your hometown.

        • louise danger

          the caterers that could be bothered to reply to my requests for quotes basically just laughed at me until i left
          joke’s on them, though. we’re way more excited to go to our fave local restaurant anyway, where i already know the food is fabulous LOL

    • Jess

      Paying to not DIY was the best decision we made. I am *not* a DIY/Crafty person.

  • BeccaC

    Where I live: Toronto, Ontario
    Goal budget: $20,000
    Actual budget: $30,000 (includes everything except our honeymoon, was definitely worth it since I got to have all my family in the same place for the first time ever)
    Budget priorities: Food, drinks (we had them serve our 12 kegs of homebrewed beer and we had to then have a full open bar for them to let us do it), venue (I wanted a full service, cozy lodge-like setting – we ended up with a gorgeous winter wedding at a golf course). Also I spent a fair bit money on quality items that we would use after the wedding (grooms custom suit, non-bridal looking accessories, Brent and Jess fingerprint rings, etc). All the other items I made sure I got great deals on.
    Wedding date: January 31, 2015
    Number of guests: 120

  • Alison

    Boston, MA area bride here!

    We’re expecting our November 2017 wedding to come in around $35k, including everything (rings, transportation, rehearsal dinner/post-wedding brunch, etc). Right now we have about $31k of spending planned and accounted for, but I’m leaving a few thousand dollars contingency because who knows what’s going to come up :)

    By far our biggest expense is the caterer, coming in at ~$12k. Other large expenses were the venue ($4.5k), photography ($4k), DJ/entertainment ($3.5k).

    We also prioritized premarital counseling ($750), even though we’re not religious so it wasn’t required from our officiant.

    Our goal budget was $25k, but that was before we really knew anything about wedding planning, haha. We are paying for about half of it in cash (I had been saving for an eventual wedding long before my partner and I even started dating), my parents are paying for most of the rest, and his parents are paying for the rehearsal dinner and a few other miscellaneous things.

    • Also Boston

      Another Boston-area bride!

      Our original budget was $20k and looks like we’ll come in around $25k for ~70 guests. Our caterer is $6k, photog $3k, DJ $2k. Biggest surprise was rentals at $4k (we could have cut that down significantly, but decided to spring for fancy rent and comfy chairs). I opted to have a cheaper dress (under $150!) to make up for it– I figure that I’ll wear the dress for about as long as folks will be in the chairs, so their comfort > my fashion. Rehearsal dinner, flowers and his suit aren’t included in the budget because they’re being taken care of by other family members.

      My best tip for finding an affordable caterer: Thumbtack! We found some great mom-and-pop places through them after having some pretty odd-putting interactions and proposals from the bigger caterers we found via wedding wire.

      We also decided to have the wedding a bit outside the city to cut down on hotel costs for our guests.

      • Kaitlyn

        Do you mind sharing your DJ name (if you liked them haha)?

        • Also Boston

          We haven’t had our wedding yet but we hired BeatTrain. They have DJs at various price points and are not annoying (which was surprisingly hard to find!). Most of the DJs who were available on my date were under 2k

          • Kaitlyn

            Thanks for this! I really like what I see on their site :)

          • Scalliwag

            We used BeatTrain and had Elissa in September 2015. The base price was $1,900 and then we tipped $150. She was great, and BeatTrain have different DJ’s at different budgets.

        • Laura C

          Our DJ was Paul Bazdanes (I learn from digging up an old email from my husband) and we were very happy with him. IIRC he was substantially under $2k.

        • Alison

          We are using TSG Weddings. Our wedding hasn’t happened yet, but we have absolutely nothing but wonderful things to say about them so far. They are extremely responsive and have some really useful tools for wedding planning. They also seem like all-around nice guys.
          Highly recommend!

      • Alison

        I should clarify that our caterer takes care of all rentals, so the $12k includes tables, chairs, linens, tableware, etc. And gratuity!
        It also includes barware and bar services (but not the actual alcohol).

        • Also Boston

          Omg that’s amazing! Who are you using? We already booked ours but love to keep a good caterer in my back pocket.

  • Hannah K.

    We got married 4 years ago in Lexington, KY. Goal budget was $15K, actual was $18,500 which includes wedding, reception, attire, and rings. Our wedding and reception were held at the church where we met (and regularly attend), and we had about 100 guests. The largest expenses were the caterer ($5200 for a full dinner buffet), rentals and decor ($2500) for the reception, and our rings ($2800). Where we saved money: I thought our photographer was very reasonable ($800 for 4 hours) s was the DJ (also $800), the church’s floral guild did all the flowers (including bouquets & boutonnieres for $350), and we bought the wine & beer (the church just asked that we have a bartender serve).

  • Lisa

    Wedding Location: Chicago, IL
    Wedding Date: October 11, 2014
    Goal Budget: <$25,000
    Actual Budget: $24,900 (not including rehearsal dinner, which the in-laws covered)
    Number of Guests: 140 invited, ~80 attended

    For us, the major priorities were photography, food/drink, and accessibility for our out of town guests. Since most of my husband’s family was flying in, we wanted to set everything up so that people could easily take public transit, get a cab, or walk from their hotels to the ceremony and reception. We knew we would have a Catholic gap, but we tried to minimize it as much as possible by choosing a date where we could get the later wedding mass time (3 PM instead of 1 PM).

    Also since almost everyone was out of town, we wanted to make sure we made the reception worth our guests’ while. We’re foodies and decided pretty early on that we wanted to make sure that we loved the food being served as much as we liked the space. This steered us away from traditional venues that had approved caterer list and towards restaurants, which were full-service and where we could have a slew of date nights, sampling food and seeing how the service was before we even mentioned that we were considering having a wedding there.

    Finally, we wanted to have really fantastic photography to remember the day of our wedding. I can’t recommend our photographer Travis at Wasabi Photography enough. He was friendly and totally chill. We walked away from our initial meeting with him, and my husband wanted to send the e-mail asking to hire him from the car. He has worked for several newspapers and had such a great way of capturing all of the little moments throughout the day. We ended up springing for a second shooter last minute because the photography was so important to us and we saw that we were going to have some money leftover in our budget.

    Everything else about our wedding was pretty much DIY-ed by us or our families. My husband’s godmother gave us the flowers and wedding set as our wedding gifts, my mother made my dress, we brewed our own beer as favors, I designed the programs and bottle labels, etc. Even though we could have had a less expensive wedding in my hometown, it made it so much easier to plan the wedding where we were living at the time, and in the first few weeks living in Badtown, I looked forward to returning to Chicago so much and going out with a bang. Our family and friends still talk about how amazing our wedding was, and I’m so glad we chose the way we did and prioritized their experience and sharing things that were important to us with them.

    • Lisa

      More Chicago-land here!

      Wedding Location: Small Town Near Chicago, IL
      Wedding Date: June 2017
      Goal Budget: <$30,000 including all the random things not always included
      Actual Budget: TBD Wish us luck!
      Number of Guests: Aiming for 175

      Ours will be in my mother's backyard, but it's amazing how the rentals add up! Bathrooms are expensive, yo.

      Here are some major categories:
      2 photographers including prints, etc: $4000
      Rentals (Tent, Dance floor, bathrooms, tables, & chairs): $4000
      Catering including servers & tip: $9000
      Liquor: $1500
      Also included in the budget: gifts, rings, mikvah, ketubah & framing, postage, dance lessons, name change fees, etc

      We use YNAB to keep track of everything down to the smallest detail, because it's the little things that add up. I'm oddly excited to see how things shake out at the end and be able to review a full report on everything. I would love a post about the unexpected and/or minor things people include in their budgets. Seeing details like 10-year journals, philanthropic donations, sparklers, a kiddush lunch, or a relaxation fund for yoga, massage, cheese, whatever makes it feel more personal and exciting than the (very important) standard categories.

  • Mia

    Wedding Location: Charlotte, NC
    Goal Budget: 12500
    Actual (do-not-spend-more-than-this-amount) Budget: 15000

    Number of Guests: 150 Invited, hoping a lot less show up

    Priorities: Awesome Venue (Art Gallery), Photography/Videography, and best dance party ever

    The venue and food will definitely be the biggest chunks.. I am a recent college grad so I have a lot of talented friends who are still in school or figuring things out (aka broke) and doing my photography, videography, dj-ing, dessert making for free and or way cheaper than all the professionals I have researched. Without my crafty friends we would be eating crackers or there would be like 3 ppl at my wedding,

    • MrsRalphWaldo

      I’m also close to Charlotte! Good luck and happy wedding planning!

    • cml

      “150 Invited, hoping a lot less show up” bahaha, I am so on the same page with this. I want everyone there, while simultaneously hoping they don’t come. ;)

  • Annie

    Where I live: St. Louis area
    Goal budget: Stay until $15,000
    Actual budget: $12,500
    Priorities: My husband felt like every wedding he’d ever been to followed the exact same cookie-cutter formula and wanted the reception to feel more like a big, casual picnic in the park. We wanted an open bar and cook-out food (which, believe it or not, was more expensive than the cheapest standard catering options), so just over half our budget went to catering. Our actual venue was only a few hundred dollars, but we’d have splurged on that aspect if we’d had to for what we wanted. (Park pavilion that can fit 300 people with its own firepit, playground, dance floor, and scenic views for $300 bucks? Yes, please.) Photography was another priority, but a friend pointed me to a great photographer whose standard package was less than $1000 and had everything we wanted.

    We really lucked out that we live in a part of the country where a lot of wedding aspects seem to be cheaper. We skipped things that didn’t matter to us (no one needs flowers on the table in the middle of a field of wildflowers), DIYed the things that we were less picky about (self-DJing, doing some of the flowers myself while leaving bouquets to the professionals), and didn’t feel like our budget left us with any real regrets.

    We joke that we invited a lot of people who don’t exist–everyone single and out of high school was invited with a plus-one. We invited about 220 people and 80 theoretical guests and ended up with just under 200 actually attending.

    • cml

      Hey, STL! Me too. :)

    • Amanda

      Would you mind sharing the name of the photographer? I’m planning a wedding in the St. Louis area but don’t live there, so I’m having a hard time evaluating vendors. Thanks!

    • ja_lee

      Ooh! STL bride here too! I would love to know your photographer and your venue. I want to know what this park pavilion is!

  • louise danger

    Where I live: Baltimore, MD
    Goal budget: $8000
    Actual budget: So far, +/- $7500, but that might change as more things get finalized

    Budget priorities: good food, awesome photography, not going into debt (tough when your parents aren’t contributing much and you’ve just bought a house!), supporting local/woman-owned/small business/LGBTQ businesses in my vendor choices when possible.
    Guest list: just about 50 people on the list, we’re expecting about 40-45 (fingers crossed)

    His parents aren’t contributing much at all so far. My mom wants to contribute a lot but I know my folks’ financial situation is tenuous, so I’m trying to politely decline her offers. She did buy my dress, though (which was a big help budget-wise) – I couldn’t talk her out of that one.

    Here’s my spreadsheet breakdown – some items are ‘planned budget’ and some are the actual amounts. I denoted ‘actuals’ with three asterisks:

    ***Bride attire: $125 (mom bought the dress, so I zeroed that line out; this amount covers my veil and shoes)
    Groom attire: $250 (a new suit that he’ll be able to wear again to work – he’s thinking tweed! how exciting!)
    Rings: $600 (for two simple plain gold wedding bands – we’d hoped to use heirloom ones, but my grandmother was teeny tiny and I am… not)
    ***Hair and make-up: $350 (this includes my MOH’s hairstyle and my hair/makeup)
    Ceremony stuff:
    ***Marriage license: $50
    ***Officiant: $200 (the suggested offering for the priest; if we weren’t having it in a church, we’d have asked one of Mr Danger’s uncles)
    ***Church fee: $700 (includes a refundable $150 security deposit)
    Ceremony music: $300 (est’d – hoping for the church organist and a trumpet player)
    Reception stuff:
    ***Reception: $1800 (anticipated actual; three-course lunch at a local restaurant, no alcohol* – the cheapest beer/wine only option added another +/-$1500 to this total)
    Other stuff:
    ***Photography: $2650 (we saved here by looking outside the immediate metro area and finding someone from a smaller city nearby – also, we were able to save some by having the wedding on a weekday. she also doesn’t charge any travel fees! this amount includes five hours of photography, an engagement shoot, and an album)
    Invitations: $150 (maybe less if I decide to completely DIY them; this amount includes postage)
    Decor: $175ish (the restaurant doesn’t need much and I’m on the fence about having lots of flowers in the church, which is stunning on its own)
    Flowers: $300 is what I’ve budgeted, but I might literally just wind up picking up a bouquet from Trader Joe’s the night before

    We have a 10% contingency on hand in case something crops up. I wanted to note that this is just about the same exact price as our previous plan to have an afternoon super casual thing in the state park. Although the venue fee there was crazy low ($76 for all day), other little things nickeled and dimed us to death. For the same price, we have zero fears about rain or heat, better food, and no panicking about how to build a ceremony and a sacred space for said ceremony. Also, way less set-up and tear down. Losing some of the ‘offbeat’ features of the wedding in the park means saving a lot of hair-pulling stress.

    *I’m not too concerned about this, since the party is on a weekday morning/daytime and most of our crew isn’t really heavy into drinking anyway – we’ll probably go out in the evening with the party animals if we’re not exhausted for libation-based celebrating. If people are really broken up about it, I guess they can wander over to the restaurant’s bar and pay their own way?

    • accidental_diva

      Which photographer are you guys using? I’m in Frederick and the bf & I are starting down this path – I love the one my brother & sister-in-law used but I’m looking at other (local-ish) options.

      • louise danger

        Shawnee Custalow of A Lovely Photo – found her through APW :) She’s based in Richmond and is AMAZEBALLS. (her photos are incredible full-stop but I love love love LOVED that her online portfolio didn’t just feature skinny white brides and i totally dig how chill she is)

      • janie

        I’m in DC – we haven’t had the wedding yet but had engagement photos using Roman Grinev and he’s fantastic and on the more affordable end of what I found int he area (2200 ish per package).

      • lizzers

        If you are looking for another local option: Ann-Marie Van Tassell! We got married in DC proper, but she lives in Baltimore and covers most of the DMV, I believe. She is very reasonably priced and a dream to work with.

    • NolaJael

      Yes to the 10% contingency! This = peace of mind.

      • Lisa

        I learned the importance of contingency when budgeting and requesting money for events I planned in college. Things rarely came up or were more expensive than I planned, but it was nice to know the money was there just in case!

  • Brooke

    Wedding Location: Kansas City, MO
    Goal Budget: honestly, I didn’t really know, but $15,000 was a vague budget I had in mind
    Actual Budget: Around $17-18k (we’re getting married next month, actual number is still not confirmed due to price per guest with our venue)
    Number of guests: 210 invited, expecting 130-140
    Priorities: Going in to this process, my fiancé and I agreed that we needed to have a ceremony and reception that were cohesive, no large gaps, all in one venue, with TONS of food and drink. We’ve been to far too many weddings where we felt a little bored or lost whenever there is a large time gap between parts of the wedding, or whenever food felt like an afterthought. turns out that having all of those things is expensive. A lot more expensive than I thought. We splurged for an all-inclusive venue, and although it IS more than I expected to pay, it’s 100+% worth it. There’s been little to no stress, and our buffet menu is impressive. It did mean compromising a bit on the budget, but we’re making it work.
    I never saw myself as someone who would say that my dress was a priority, and up until I tried it on at the bridal shop, I didn’t think it was. In fact, I thought I’d end up with a non-trad dress. However, as someone with major body image issues for the past decade or so, trying on a dress (regardless of how much the price tag said) and feeling amazing, even, dare I say – hot – was a changing moment for me. The dress then became a large priority, and there’s no shame about it.
    Where we skimped the most in the budget: flowers, decorations, etc. Not that important to me. People see them, ooh and ahh, then get drunk and don’t care or remember. I like pretty things, but didn’t think they were worth the stress.

    • MrsRalphWaldo

      I was in your boat too. I hate standing around thinking about dinner while the wedding party takes pictures. I definitely wanted to make sure everyone always had food and drink available to them!

      • The couple can always help this along, too, by doing photos beforehand. But the cocktail hour was pretty much made for this as well. Feed your peoples!

    • Leah

      100% agreed on the mitigating guest boredom thing. I’ve been to weddings with hours between the ceremony and reception and have had to go to a local pub to kill time and it’s not ideal. Cocktail hour is such a great solution.

  • idkmybffjill

    Goal Budget: $15K All in
    Actual Budget:~$20K
    – ~$13K for venue, food & drink including wedding cake/servers/bartenders/coordinator (INCREDIBLY WORTH IT)
    – $750 for rehearsal dinner all in
    – $2100 for photography
    – ~$850 for flowers
    – $350 for DJ
    – $600 for hair for me + 4 bridesmaids + 2 moms
    – $150 for makeup for me
    – $1500 for bride full attire
    – $700 for groom full attire
    Priorities: Good food, good drink, as few variables (aka vendors) to manage as possible. Everyone feeling really beautiful.
    Guest Count: 96ish
    Location: Chicago

    • !!!! That sounds amazing. What venue? Revolution Brewery?

      • idkmybffjill

        Yes!! They were INCREDIBLE. I think everyone should get married there.

        • Lisa

          We tried! They were so nice when we contacted them though and told us they’d follow up if anything fell through. I’m still happy with our venue (Hubbard Inn), but Rev Brew is such a great and low-cost option.

          • idkmybffjill

            Yes!! That’s the only downside. They are BUSY. When we booked them they were solidly booked until fall of 2016 (we visited in April 2015).

          • Lisa

            Yup. We contacted them in September 2013 for October 2014, and they were booked through that month. We could have had November 1, 2014, there and at the church, but my husband was adamant that October was the latest he’d go for a Midwestern wedding. (His family was already concerned about temperatures and asking if there’d be snow in October.)

          • idkmybffjill

            My family were the same! They were very dramatic about it. It ended up being 70 degrees on our wedding day, lol, but EASILY could’ve been 20.

        • Katherine

          While I loved, loved our venue, a part of me still wishes we could have gotten married at a local brewery that does weddings. Not wishing to offend a large number of non-drinking family members prevented that, but still.

          • idkmybffjill

            Yes, that’s definitely key. The only thing my family would’ve been truly offended about would’ve been not having a full dinner (didn’t have to be formal/sit down; did have to be a MEAL), or a dry wedding.

  • Lemonm

    Wedding Location: Edinburgh, UK
    Date: Autumn 2016
    Goal Budget: £8000/ $10,000~
    Actually Spent: £12,000/ $15,000~
    Guests: 65 day guests, 120 in the evening (to party)

    Our main priority was location, having started planing a wedding in a home town from a distance we decided is was really import to us to being planning it where we lived for easy and peace of mind. We are lucky that we live in the amazing city of Edinburgh! So we went for a beautiful location in the city center, which was easy for guests travelling to the wedding.

    Our biggest outlay was for the 5* Hotel we had the reception in 2/3 of our total budget but included amazing food (sit-down meal), drinks reception, rooms hire for the dancing and a wedding planner. We found we got a lot more for our money going to somewhere which did a package deal than if we rented a space and brought stuff in, even at a 5* hotel. One big advantage of going for a 5* hotel is that they really went above a beyond and helped us with everything we could have asked for (and many things we did not even think about!) and were flexible about what exactly could be done within their package. We ended up with a wedding that felt really like us without having to do everything ourselves!

    One area we managed to save costs on was entertainment my husband is a musician so we managed to get friends of friends to provide the entertainment. An acoustic guitar set during the drinks reception and a DJ later in the evening for less than £300!!!

    We also saved on photography by only having the photographer cover the ceremony, group photographs, portraits and candid shots during the drinks reception, 4 hours of coverage. For us having some photos of the day was important but we didn’t feel the need for a full days worth of coverage. Buy finding a photographer who would just cover the hours we wanted we saved around £1000.

    Could say far more but just waffling on now!

    • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

      Edinburgh is my favorite city!!!

  • Marie Tachouet

    Any brides out there that got married in Central Oregon? We live in Chicago and it is TOUGH planning remotely!! We could use some trusted vendors for everything – food, chair rental, hair, photography! Thanks, xoxo

    • idkmybffjill

      Got nothing for Central Oregon, so sorry! I can’t imagine planning so far away from where we live – SO impressed at the many brides who nail it.

      If you change your mind and get married in Chicago I can tell you EVERYTHING.

      • We planned from across the country, and it really wasn’t a big deal. You just do venue/catering searches during winter break and other vendor meetings during a different visit home to family.

        Now…if you’re planning a wedding nowhere near where you live, nor where your parents live…that’s pretty impressive. Although, could still be accomplished in one or two trips to the location!

    • Emily

      I’m getting married in Tualatin and we also live in Chicago! I feel you, planning from here is tough. I know most vendors will travel if you pay their travel costs. Are you running into issues finding people you like in Central OR?

      • Marie Tachouet

        We don’t even know where to look :) Venue is nailed down, at least…phew :) She might be a bit out of our budget, but if you need a Portland area photographer, Bethany Jeffrey Photography is amazing! She did my best friend’s a couple of years ago and she was a joy to be around! Good luck!

    • LJ

      My sister! She lives, works, and got married in Bend, OR and it was gorgeous! She got married at Shevlin Park and because it’s city-owned it was so cheap. Her caterer was Bleu Bites and it was out of this world.

      Anyway, she now does custom hand lettering for weddings and is part of the Wedding Professionals Associate of Central Oregon (on Facebook). Check it out! There are so many amazing locales in bond.

      • LJ

        Gallivan photo is amazing. Also, she run so Chalked. If you need hand lettering.

      • Marie Tachouet

        Awesome! Who was her photographer…and the all important question since our venue has a $10/bottle cork fee…where can we get KEGS of wine?! Thanks :)

  • elliejay23

    Location: McGaheysville, VA (near Harrisonburg VA)
    Guests Invited: 230ish
    Guests Attending: About 100
    Goal Budget: $7000
    Actual Budget: Around $10-12K, I think, with parents and in laws paying for HUGE chunks like the $3K venue, $1500 catering, and $1500? rehearsal dinner. My grandparents helped with my nearly $1k dress, my mom got my wedding shoes at Goodwill (AMAZING), and I got myself 2 pairs of new Wedding Glasses for about $150. Our DJ was a friend who spun for free, and #score :D (I was disorganized AF with keeping track of smaller budget details like decor, clothing, accessories, etc so no details for those)
    What Was Worth It: Our venue was GORGEOUS and exactly what I wanted, I loved it. And I loved our caterer and food! Somehow he was able to accommodate our tiny budget with delicious food at $10/person. Which is INSANE, even in the rural area where we got married. And our photographer was amazing, and less than $1k, proof that you don’t have to spend a ton to get amazing photos! Shout out to roneyfield photography if you’re anywhere in the DMV or nearby!
    What I Know Now: Honestly, my only regret is not being more organized to take full advantage of the things we had for our wedding. Specifically, I should have given my photographer a formal shot list to help her take advantage of the gorgeous venue site and take even better photos, and I’m still struggling with the fact that I feel so many pictures I wanted beforehand were left “untaken” bc she didn’t have a shot list and then everything got so busy. But that regret aside, we had an amazing wedding and now we have an amazing life together!

  • Jess

    Where I Got Married: Madison, WI
    Goal Budget: $35,000
    Actual Budget: $40,000 (not including rehearsal dinner or next-day brunch, which R’s family paid for)
    Wedding Date: Friday in Sept 2016
    Number of People: 120

    Priorities: Our mission statement was “We want people to have fun!” To us, that meant they ate well, had good music, and were in a comfortable space. Our venue had an after party bar, so we kept the party going until at least 2am. I also came in with the need to have a meaningful ceremony, which we really did. We wound up with people telling us over and over that they had the most fun they’ve had at a wedding, so mission accomplished.

    Venue/Food/Open Bar – $22,000 Our venue was all-inclusive. We did a custom menu for both dinner and cocktail hour, had an upgraded open bar and wine selections. They also did 100% of the set up. I cannot say enough good things about them.
    Flowers – $5000 (our florist was a dream. If you’re in Madison, I highly recommend daffodil*parker. They can work with any budget, and offered up options in multiple price ranges.)
    Photography – $3500
    Dessert Table – $2000 (and worth every penny to have lots of small food to snack on all night)
    Gifts – $2000 (welcome boxes and bridal party gifts)
    Printed Stuff (invitations, save-the-dates, programs, stamps) – $1700
    Music – $1700 (our DJ was incredible and kept people on the dance floor all night)
    Spa/Lunch – $1300
    Attire – $1,200 (this include both our outfits and my rehearsal dinner outfit)
    Officiant – $600

    Important to note: My parents paid for the majority of this wedding, and really pushed us to spend more/do more.

    • lamarsh

      Getting married in Madison in June and also have Daffodil*Parker as my florist. I am SO excited to see what she comes up with — all her ideas were amazing.

      • Jess

        Hooray!!! We had Katie there, and we showed up with the most basic, “Um… I kind of like the feel of these things on pintrest, but like… with more moody colors?” and she just blew us away with what she recommended and put together.

        I cannot say enough about their work. Also? She redid one of the boutonnieres because she didn’t like how it was sitting on a groomsman. After *she* put them on each person herself.

      • Katharine Parker

        I’m getting married in Madison, and I’m jealous that you both are having/had daffodil*parker! My wedding is the one weekend they’re taking off all summer. I have found great other options, but I love their work.

  • anontoday

    I’m impressed with how so many people have been able to keep their budgets low! We are not in that camp – getting married in NYC, we thought the original budget for 120-125 people with family-style dinner would be $35K but it is shaping up to be $49-55K (parents paying about 65% and we are paying the rest). However, an acquaintance who’s a wedding planner told me that $1K/person is pretty standard in New York, so I’m feeling good about where we landed. We got some stuff for free/cheap from friends and picked a few vendors who are starting out and building their businesses with prices at about half of competitors.
    Priorities for us have been awesome venue, food, photographer, day of coordinator, and dancing. We did not spend a lot on attire, rehearsal event, video, bar (we bought the alcohol and mixers ourselves), centerpieces (DIY). Bought a TON of stuff on amazon and save on crafts.

    One thing I recommend: we paid for 2 1-hour consultations with our day of coordinator which cost less than $150 and saved us $$$$$ since we used them to select centerpieces and figure out how to do all the centerpieces and decorations for the wedding for less than $2K.

    • Amy March

      Wait what? Your budget sounds totes reasonable for NYC, but nopenopenope $1k per person is not any kind of “standard” even in NYC, and any planner who can say that with a straight face is completely out of touch. Sure, if you would like to get married at the Plaza, that’s a realistic starting point, but that is a “standard” for only an incredibly tiny subset of New Yorkers.

      • anontoday

        Yup, I think she works with pretty high-end clients!. She was also including all-in, rehearsal dinner, paying for bridal party hotel rooms and outfits, transport, etc. She gave examples of rehearsal dinners that were fancier than our whole wedding.

      • Katharine Parker

        But, Amy, one needs an eight-tier Sylvia Weinstock cake, three custom Amsale dresses, and Charlotte Tilbury on hand throughout the event for makeup touchups! Otherwise it isn’t a wedding!

        • Amy March

          What was I thinking. You’re right, if Martha Stewart doesn’t personally prepare the vol-au-vent may as well not bother.

          • CMT

            Oh! I totally know what vol-vau-vents are thanks to GBBO and Mary Berry.

      • laddibugg

        IDK, I think even with high end weddings, $1000k might still be a bit much…is that number including fixed costs that don’t change (much) with the guest count, like flowers?

    • another anon nyc chick

      Solidarity. We got married in NYC and our final budget is around yours, maybe a touch lower. We could have knocked off some money but with ALLLL the options for vendors in the city, I didn’t have the brainspace to pick through for options! Hope you can sell or repurpose some stuff to make it even more cost effective.

  • Emily

    Wedding Location: Muskegon, MI
    Goal Budget: $5,000
    Actual Budget: $6200, not including my dress, which my grandmother and aunt paid for
    Number of Guests: 110
    Location, and date. I grew up on Lake Michigan and knew I wanted a barefoot wedding on the beach. Which was good, because on the other side of the state we would have easily paid double for way less.We were lucky enough have the wedding just after Labor Day and got a lot of off-season benefits (like, no fee for the ceremony space) without sacrificing too much for weather (although it did pour the entire Rehearsal Dinner and the morning of the wedding, but that’s something I try to block out of memory). We were on a pretty limited budget so we also opted to have the ceremony at noon and do a lunch instead of a full on dinner. Once we locked down a date, we picked a reception space (art gallery) close by that offered gorgeous views of Downtown and Muskegon Lake and would not require a lot of decorating. When I called around for catering, I got laughed at by almost all of the event coordinators I talked to as they said there was NO WAY we could feed over 100 people for our catering budget. We ended up going with a local sandwich shop in town recommended by my cousins. They had only just started catering events and were AMAZING. The owner made delicious sandwiches, salads, soups and small bites and through in home-made lemonade and iced tea AND staff for under $2500. We also picked local, off-the-beaten path vendors for our cake and photos and did our own music and flowers.
    Looking back there are definitely things I would have done differently, but really didn’t know any better at the time and so I am glad we did not spend extra money on things we didn’t need.

    • Danielle

      Our weddings sound kinda similar, so I’ll post here:

      Wedding Location: Columbus, OH
      Goal Budget: “$2,000; no – $4,000; no, I guess weddings are expensive…”
      Actual Budget: Around $7000
      Number of Guests: 60
      Priorities: Food and creating a comfortable atmosphere

      The most expensive stuff was catering (about $2000), the photographer (about $2000) and the venue (about $1000). We paid our officiant $400. Invitations were about $100 through Minted. The rest is clothes, flowers, makeup, buying some songs on iTunes, etc.

      We also did a brunch/lunch wedding on a Sunday and it was a fun, family affair. We picked our venue because it was affordable (a YMCA camp just outside of town) and allowed us to bring our own food and alcohol. We had a local restaurant we like cater it, and the food was DELISH. Even though I barely got to eat any of it! We got cakes from a local Korean bakery we really like, and bought alcohol (just wine) from a place that gives case discounts. A cousin gifted us some beer (bought from the store when his homebrew experiment didn’t quite work out, ha ha.)

      We really didn’t care too much about decorations and husband/his dad spent the day before buying and arranging grocery store flowers; they looked really pretty :) That was probably $100-200, if I had to guess.

      My dress was $250 from J. Crew’s bridesmaid collection, and husband got his suit and shirt/tie etc. from Men’s Wearhouse. His outfit including shoes was maybe $300-400? I did my own makeup and hair using stuff from Sephora bought in previous months.

      My cousin is a wonderfully organized person who was our DOC and she did a bang-up job keeping everything on schedule. Other friends were our DJs and they monitored the playlist we made on iTunes (I love music and had fun making that).

      Happy to answer any questions about budgets, Midwest weddings, etc.

      • Sarah Thomas

        Hi! I am planning a Columbus Ohio wedding and am looking for a indoor/outdoor space that lets us do our own food and booze. Whats the name/location on your venue?

        • Danielle

          Hi there! It was the Hoover YMCA in Lockbourne, about 20 minutes south of downtown Columbus. A little out of the way but great natural space. They have 2 indoor venues: a rustic barn (without air conditioning) and a simple conference space (with a/c). We had an August wedding so went with the conference room; it had less charm but was more comfortable! Also it’s super DIY so you will need help setting up, breaking down, etc. it was even posted on APW! Similar options could be the Park of Roses and other parks. LMK if you have any more questions.

        • Danielle

          I’m sorry this is so late, but we went to the Hoover YMCA in Lockbourne, just south of the city.

    • Kayla

      Thank you for this! Ours is also similar – I’m just going to follow Danielle’s lead.

      Location: Grand Rapids, MI
      Date: September 2017
      Goal Budget: $5k
      Actual budget: $6.5k
      Guests: 70

      We’re prioritizing photographer (which is what upped the budget) and the location. We’re getting married at the chapel at my college with reception in a county park after, so our venues added up to about $1k total. The ceremony location was important to me, and since we want to homebrew our alcohol the county park was the way to go. We’re either going to go food truck or making our own food for the reception, and my aunt is gifting the cake. I’m making paper flowers for decorations and bouquets, and we’re sharing decorations, beer supplies, lights, and sound equipment with our friends getting married the week after.

      Since we haven’t nailed down food and invitations yet, I’m still a little worried that we’re going to go even higher. Based on your post and Danielle’s it seems like $2k for food is totally doable, and that’s so very reassuring! One thing that I haven’t heard anything about that would be great to get feedback on is the rehearsal dinner. I don’t know how much to budget in for that – any advice?

      • Danielle

        Hi! I’m working on planning a Grand Rapids wedding this August, and was wondering how easy it was for you to get the paperwork for alcohol in the park, that is the biggest thing making us waffle between an outdoor and indoor wedding!

        We have a similar budget, at 5,000, though we would like to keep it under 4,000 for 115 people. It will likely be a little tight, but we figure worst case we can serve pulled pork, potato salad, and cole slaw :)

        • Kayla

          Hey there! We’ve rented one of the park shelterhouses, and beer and wine is allowed with that rental! There was no separate paperwork (I was nervous about that, but called and the park staff verified everything for me). No liquor is allowed at any time, but we didn’t want that anyway, so it was perfect for our homebrew situation :)

          The Rules and FAQ pages on the Kent County Parks website give specific rules about alcohol and are generally pretty helpful. Apparently shelterhouse reservations happen really fast but maybe your date is still open. Or if you want to be totally outdoors, you can probably get a picnic area. Good luck!

    • Morgan Kara Butts

      Michigan represent! We’re spending a tad more than I’m comfortable with, but I used to photograph weddings so that’s what’s pushing our budget up to the 8-10k realm. Like Danielle, we’re getting married at a camp! It’s a girl scouts camp right outside of Kalamazoo, so we’ll be able to house our guests. We’re looking at tacos through a food truck or local taqueria for 2k. We’re bringing our own booze to the venue, just wine and beer because Michigan does both so well. I do graphic design, so I’m doing our invites and printing them through (HIGHLY recommend, you can order paper samples for free!). My fiance has a huge family, so our guest list is about 150. We’re getting farmer’s market flowers. We’re getting or making a small cake, but ordering a bunch of donuts from Sweetwaters! This thread is super helpful, everyone! And let me know if you have any questions… our wedding is still a ways off so I’m sure there are things I haven’t even thought of.

      • Emily

        Yum Sweetwaters!

  • toomanybooks

    Oooh, just recently advised someone on Reddit to come here for examples of budgets, how timely! (Hi!)

    We’ll likely have around 100 guests. I live in DC, though I’ll be having my wedding *just* outside the city. I don’t have a car so it was fairly important to me to find someplace that wasn’t really hard to get to for others who don’t drive. But I’ve found that it can help to reach, um, further and further away from the city for vendors. A lot of people cater to the whole DMV area.

    My wedding budget has always been “as little as possible,” with my idea of what that might be changing as I got further into researching how much things cost. In the end, as long as we can pay for it, I’ll know that I did my best to keep costs down. In the beginning I saw a $5k wedding and thought that sounded like a lot of money.

    Sooooo right now I have:
    $4000 venue (that includes outdoor ceremony chair rental)
    $7000 full-service catering (dinner)
    $725 officiant (from church, incl. ceremony, rehearsal, counseling sessions)
    $100 my dress, $390 fiancee’s dress
    $380 day-of coordinator
    $900 wedding rings (450 each-matching)
    $137 – four bridesmaid dresses

    Flowers will probably be from a grocery store, hair and makeup I am still trying to find (I can’t wrap my head around paying 4x as much for this as I did for my dress, but I’ll see what options I have – I never get my hair or makeup done professionally so it’s all kind of new)… I’m DIYing some stuff like favors and table numbers, because it’s just so soothing for me to have a project at home.

  • Laura C

    Where I got married: Boston
    Goal budget: $40,000? Ish?
    Actual budget: I can only guess, but probably around $60,000

    I wasn’t happy about spending that much, but 250 people really limited our venue options — if we could have gotten down to 225, it would have opened up a bunch of places, but it just wasn’t happening. And, honestly, to the extent that it was a choice between the money and the time it would have taken to figure out how to do it cheaper … money was more available and lower-conflict than time in our particular situation, which is obviously an enormous luxury. Our venue and its in-house caterer were around $50,000, and beyond that, I can think of ways we could maybe possibly have saved a couple thousand dollars, some of which I would have done in retrospect, but most of them would have meant conflict of some kind of another. And my husband was right about not self-DJing! My experience of our wedding was already just an overwhelming sense of being responsible for everything and needing to spend the day paying attention to other people, and that was not the thing to add. And letting my MIL hire a florist was the right call! I didn’t give a damn about flowers, but she did, and if having her spend some money and make that set of decisions made her happy, it was worth it (though it did end up involving a fair bit of pushback as she tried to get us to make the decisions with her, and we had to keep being like “no, really, we don’t have an opinion/we trust your taste”). I did say no to bouquets for me and my bridesmaids because I had the idea we’d make our own, and in the end we used that time for a boozy lunch at a cheap Thai place, and that too was the right call, not even mostly because in retrospect I was probably happier not having to figure out how to non-awkwardly hold a bouquet.

    • I was in a similar boat on size/venue. We invited 250 people and I didn’t want to book a venue that was too much smaller than that so I could then worry about every “yes” reply we got for weeks on end. In the end we had 160 people attend, so I guess it would have worked out fine if I booked a smaller venue. I guess I spent the extra money on my sanity, then? If so, that’s money well spent.

  • Nikki Liberatore


  • Emily

    Wedding location: Portland, Oregon
    Wedding date: 08/26/17
    Your goal budget: $15,000 (does not include honeymoon, rings, or dress – my mom covered that)
    How many people came/are coming to your wedding: Inviting 130, expecting anywhere from 50-100
    What your priorities were for spending: the usuals – great food and booze, dancing, photography, and FUN – but with a twist (don’t we all want a twist?) We really really wanted something unique, so opted to have a cocktail party vibe in my parent’s backyard, only including aspects of the day that make sense to us/get us excited. Think: quick ceremony presided over by my best friend, whiskey toast(s), balloons, LOTS of color, so many festive lights, ice cream sandwiches, etc. We’ll see how it turns out! I think I might have been able to do it a bit cheaper if we didn’t currently live in Chicago – planning a wedding from afar is tough!

  • nicolel

    Wedding Location: Brooklyn, NY
    Goal Budget: $55,000
    Not yet married, but revised and more realistic budget is $70,000
    Number of guests: Inviting 180, expecting about 150 (need to guarantee 150 at venue)
    Priorities: We knew from the start that we wanted a Brooklyn wedding with good, “not stuffy” food and that it was going to be costly to make that happen, so our first priority was a beautiful venue in our home city. We originally went in planned to get a DIY venue, but after some consideration selected one that had an in-house caterer who would still be able to follow our food vision to make things a bit easier logistically. Next priority was an awesome photographer who could handle our awkwardness, followed by making sure our guests have a blast. For us that includes getting a kick ass DJ and renting an ice cream truck for dessert.

    • lamarsh

      OMG, an ice cream truck for dessert is the best idea ever.

    • Yael

      That sounds amazing Nicolel! Would you mind sharing with us the name of your venue?

  • So we are super early – in the “concept” phase of planning, but based on my sister’s wedding last summer and preliminary research on venues and catering, we are looking at $40 – 50K in Chicago proper. Depending on a variety of factors, including our enthusiasm for ramen, we may spread out our research into the Chicago suburbs.

    Location: Chicago, IL

    Fixed Expenses: $22 – 27K
    Clothing & Alterations: $3K
    Photographer: $3K (my sister’s wedding photographer from central IL)
    Live Band: $5K
    Venue Decor: $2K
    Invitations: $500 (Costco!)
    Bridal Party Gifts: $1K
    Accommodations & Transportation: $500
    Church Fees: $1.5K
    Venue Rental: $3 – 8K
    Misc Buffer: $2K

    Variable Expenses: $15 – 27K
    Current Expected # Guests: 180-200
    Cost pp including tax and service charges: $85 – $135

  • herewego

    Wedding Location: Pittsburgh, PA
    Wedding Date: October 2016 (a Saturday evening)
    Number of Guests: 120 invited, ~100 attended
    Goal Budget: <$20,000
    Actual Budget: $20,500 (not including rehearsal dinner, which the in-laws covered)
    Venue $3,300; Food & Dishware $35pp; Booze $20pp; Photographer $3,000; DJ $1,500; DoC $450; Airfare $1,000; Attire $1500; Makeup & Hair (3 ppl) $475; Flowers $500; Paper Goods $200; Decorations $100; Linens $450; Gifts $600; Cake $450; Penguin+Owl Visit $200

    I think the bulk of our priorities rested in the venue and the photographer. The caterer came with the venue, and was fantastic and reasonably priced.

    Due to time constraints, most of our top picks for photographer were already booked, so we settled a bit and she was alright, but not spectacular. I spent a lot of time researching our options and getting very upset…and now I feel somewhat justified in that time spent.

    It probably would have been worth it to get a better Day Of Coordinator at a higher price range. Ours was…not detail-oriented nor digitally literate.

    It was totally worth it to scrimp on centerpieces and decor.
    It was totally worth it to not upgrade to the grey tablecloths ($8 vs $20)…why was this even a question?!
    It was totally worth it to get those 2 $40 fancy 3D texture tablecloths. Tiny splurge.
    It was totally worth it to have hair/makeup done on site.
    It was totally worth it to deal with a baker with poor communications, as that cake was amaaaaaaazing.
    It was totally worth it to pay per head on booze so we didn’t have to think about drink consumption.
    I’m glad we downgraded from the steak option and saved several dollars per head.

    That being said, if I were to do it all over again, I’d do a cake-and-punch wedding and call it a day. Wedding planning was absolutely miserable.

    • Amy March

      I would like to know more about the penguin/owl visit please!

      • Kaitlyn

        Me too!

      • Lisa

        Yes, please!

      • herewego

        If you get married at an Aviary, you too can have a penguin visit during cocktail hour and an owl visit tables during dinner!

        • Katharine Parker

          I felt completely confident in my wedding decisions, but that was before I knew penguin visits were possible!

        • louise danger

          the people at the nat’l aviary are SO NICE. jealous of your penguin/owl visit :D

  • Megan

    Wedding Location: Eastern Catskills (near Albany, NY)
    Bride and Groom Location: NYC
    Original Budget before we started planning – $25-$30k
    Actual Budget: $35k (including rehearsal dinner, not including honeymoon)
    Number invited: 150

    We’re having a semi-destination wedding so it was important that we find a venue that met all of our needs. Our venue (including food and drink for the rehearsal dinner and reception) is 2/3 of our budget. Our photographer is 10% of our budget because that was the next most important thing to us. We’re flying her in from CA for the wedding. (Which, funnily enough, didn’t make her that much more expensive than an NYC photographer who drove up for the day…) We cut corners on pretty much everything else. Few flowers (1.5% of overall budget), clearance dress (1% of budget), little decor (1-2%), self DJing (2% for equipment), a friend officiating, a friend MCing, etc.

  • Fance

    Wedding Location: Philadelphia, PA
    Goal Budget: $40,000
    Not yet married, but so far on track (though we’re not including honeymoon, rehearsal, or rings in that budget)
    Number of guests: Inviting 140, expecting around 110-120 (many guests will be traveling from out of state)
    Priorities: My whole side (family and majority of friends) are traveling from our of town, and we are most definitely “city” people, so our priority was somewhere beautiful in downtown Philadelphia that is close to a bunch of hotels. The venue is all-inclusive, in Center City, and therefore is eating up over half our budget. We’re shopping around a LOT for other vendors, and so far have found some really awesome options that will keep us *hopefully* on track – we met an awesome photographer who runs a small independent shop, and she’s phenomenal and affordable. I’m not a crafty or DIY person in the least (I think I repainted a dresser once five years ago, and that’s about it!) but we’re in very fortunate position that my parents are adamant on paying for the whole thing; however, I’m determined not to go over and if we do, we’ll be covering the difference. I’m feeling a lot of guilt over their generosity, but my mom told me to basically graciously accept and stop worrying because they really, really want to do this and are in the lucky position to be able to do so. I’m feeling a little ridiculous about the budget, but at the same time am really looking forward to a big awesome party with everyone we know and love.

    Oh! also – getting married next January, which is helping us save a BUNCH on things that otherwise would be totally not possible (aka the venue). Being “off-season” is resulting in some sizable discounts.

    • anontoday

      SAME. Why pay thousands of dollars extra for weather you are not guarenteed? We got every vendor we wanted with no conflicts and our venue is free the day before for rehearsal/drop off too, saving $$$. Winter brides FTW!

    • Lexipedia

      Were you concerned about snow? I’ve had so many bad travel delays because of weather and I’d be concerned that guests would end up missing the wedding because of cancellations etc.

      • Fance

        Not super concerned! The vast majority of folks are coming from cities that are driveable (Boston, Baltimore, DC) and there’s usually decent warning of a snowstorm, vs. in the summer thunderstorms can pop up out of nowhere and cause travel havoc. Early January’s not so bad snow-wise…I’d feel a lot less confident in say, mid-February.

        • Lexipedia

          I’d totally go for a winter date, though I think it might be a bit harder to get many Americans excited about a destination wedding in Canada during a deep freeze.

          • Fance

            Oh man – definitely! I’d also imagine snow in Canada >>> snow in the mid-Atlantic

          • Lexipedia

            Haha, I currently live in the mid-Atlantic and we’ve had a few pretty epic snowstorms but generally yes – when it dusts the ground and everything shuts down I get a little holier-than-thou about my Canadian childhood.

      • rg223

        ETA: Jumping into the conversation as a winter bride!

        I got married in February, and I did have some minor worries about snow (especially because the Farmers Almanac predicted a blizzard on that day). And there was a big snowstorm the day after that made traveling home pretty awful for some people! Most of our guests were within driving distance, so that actually made me less concerned (because in theory, you can be driving as soon as the roads are plowed, but if your flight is cancelled, you’re on the airline’s timeline). For me, there was a higher chance of bad weather, but you could have bad weather at any time and not be able to travel… and I think having grown up with snow and especially now living in a city where the attitude is “snow doesn’t stop anything,” my concerns about it didn’t outweigh the cost savings and date. I was actually hoping for a liiiiiitle snow, but luckily for everyone else involved, it was in the low 50s.

    • Ella

      Hello Philly bride! High Five!

  • TeaforTwo

    Married in Toronto, 2013.
    Goal: $ <30K
    Actual: Somewhere closer to $33 or $34K?
    150 guests

    Nearly half of that went to catering and alcohol. We had an afternoon tea reception, which didn't save much money on catering (because the rentals and staff time were the bulk of the bill, not the food), but probably saved us some on booze because it wasn't an all night dance party.

    The other big expenditures were venue rentals (the church for the ceremony and the reception venue) around $3K total, custom dress and veil for me, bespoke suit for him (around $1800 each, but he still wears his to work at least once a week and mine lives in my dad's basement), and his wedding ring which was made from reclaimed gold (around $2K) , and our rehearsal dinner ($3K)

    We spent less on a photographer than most people do (around $1K?), $0 on decor because we got married at Christmas time, a fair bit on a swanky hotel suite for me to get ready in the morning of and for us to stay in on our wedding night, and a few hundred on each of: hair/makeup, wedding party gifts, invitations from Minted, and Christmas crackers as wedding favours.

    All along I felt like we were making simple, low-key choices, and I was blown away by how quickly things added up.

    • Lexipedia

      Can I ask what reception venue you picked? We are unexpectedly considering a Toronto wedding and I seem to be invited to the same venues over and over.

      • TeaforTwo

        We got married at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse. We chose it because the church next door is significant to my family, and that was where I wanted to have the ceremony. Also the ETS was one of the only Saturday availabilities for the month we wanted to marry.

        One huge perk is that there is no corkage fee so you can bring in your own liquor and just pay the bartender by the hour. Drawback was that 150 is the hard limit for guests. We sent 170 invitations and then I was anxious for a month until we got enough “no”s

        • Lexipedia

          This is my DREAM venue! I’ve been pinteresting photos of it since before I really should’ve been looking at venues. My SO works in education, as do many of our closest friends, and I think it has a very sweet story. Did you like it? Which caterer did you end up using?

          • TeaforTwo

            I used the caterers who are across the street from the schoolhouse. The food was great, and their quote came in way below the other approved caterers, but I don’t recommend them.

            They were great at responding quickly up until we signed a contract and then for months ignored my emails completely until I threatened to change caterers because I couldn’t get a hold of them. The rentals were not as described, and the billings on my credit card didn’t match the quote and it took ages to sort out.

          • Lexipedia

            We decided to book Enoch, but we have four caterers to choose from. Could you tell me which ones you picked (and had so much trouble with)?

          • TeaforTwo

            They are the ones located directly across the street. Started with an H.

          • Lexipedia

            Hmm, none of the ones available now start with an H and none of them have addresses across the street. Fingers crossed!

          • TeaforTwo

            But I did like the venue! It has a capacity of 150 but would work better for a smaller crowd than that. It was loud during our cocktail hour in such a small space. The staff were great, though, and their rate was quite reasonable, and it doesn’t need much in the way of decor. Plus guests from Toronto will thank you for picking somewhere they can take the TTC to.

    • NolaJael

      “All along I felt like we were making simple, low-key choices, and I was blown away by how quickly things added up.” THIS.

      • MrsRalphWaldo

        I didn’t know how people could possibly spend so much on weddings. Until I was planning one.

      • Yeah, similarly even if you just go for the “best value” options, it still always adds up. But it’s either that, DIY it all yourself, cake-and-punch, or elope.

      • Totch


  • Kaitlyn

    Wedding Location: Warwick, RI (we live right outside Boston), Saturday night wedding in April (technically off-season for the venue)

    Goal Budget: I thought I could get away with $30,000 HA

    Actual Budget: We’re up to about $38,000** with the hopes that only 75% of our guests come (it’s out of state for literally everyone) and that’s without honeymoon. I have a feeling we’re going to to top $40k

    **This number is number is possible with help from both sets of our parents, a long engagement (18 months), J being fantastic with money, bonuses, and tax returns that will all go to our wedding fund (we’re going to end up paying about half ourselves with the other half coming from our parents)

    Number of Guests: Inviting about 200, hoping for 150 (with kids, who are thankfully very cheap to feed)

    Priorities: I wanted this to be EASY. I’ve been in DIY weddings before, and while they were lovely, I’m not about to put that much work into details. So it was really important to me that we have venue that’s absolutely gorgeous and requires zero decorating (which we found, on the water!). The majority of the budget is going to the venue as they include a lot: Catholic ceremony on the on-site chapel, linens, staff, etc. We’ll get food through them (chicken and fish, cheapest options and as long as everyone is fed on time, I’m happy) and we provide our own booze for the open bar (which will save us money). Basically, we’re going to show up, get married, and leave and I’m very excited to not have to lift a finger.

    Photos and video are VERY important to me, but I learned that I had to really prioritize the budget for that but the videographer I was already eyeing was in my new budget and I’m meeting with a photographer that I’m very excited about who’s also in the budget so I know it will be okay. We’re currently struggling with finding an inexpensive DJ. but I’m going to a wedding show in RI at the end of the month so I hope that gives me good leads. However, a good DJ is very important to me so we might have to find some money in the budget. Flowers are not as important so I’m hoping to get away with some few statement ones (I’m thinking hot pink bouquets). My mom is purchasing my dress (outside of what she is already contributing to the wedding) and I’m going to re-purpose her veil (my great-grandma made it).

  • Kalë

    – Wedding Location: Southeast Alaska
    – Goal Budget: Before any planning, $15,000
    – Realistic Budget: After extensive planning and research, we’ve settled on $19,000 as our maximum budget- hopefully coming at around $17,500 in the end, with sales, deals, etc.
    – Number of Guests: 160 invited, but at least 40 “courtesy invites” that I’m hoping don’t attend… 120-140 would be ideal, for me. We’ll see…
    – Priorities: Food, people, and aesthetics are, so far, our top priorities. We are both foodies of varying degrees, and having fabulous, preferably locally sourced, food at our wedding is a big deal to us. So is making sure our guests are taken care of! For our wedding, that looks like: ceremony and reception in the same location, free shuttle provided to and from the wedding, welcome party and activities planned for out of town guests in the days prior to the wedding (about half our guest list will be from out of state or even out of the country). For me, aesthetics were actually really important – I do care about how my wedding looks, and how that will influence how it feels. However, this is actually going to end up being one of the cheaper parts of our wedding – our venue is in the mountains, but only costs $2,000 (and $1,000 of that is a returnable deposit that ~finger crossed~ we will be getting most or all of back). Most of the decor will be crafted by myself, my bridesmaids, and the groom, and sourced from natural materials. I have big dreams for florals, but plan to DIY them using flowers from FiftyFlowers. Cutting costs on DJ (my fiance is a DJ, and one of his colleagues offered the service for free), officiant (a friend of my family), bar (DIY, hiring bartenders that we know and providing the booze ourselves – a bonus is that my dad is on the board of a local brewery, and can get free beer!), and cake (our moms and two of the bridal party’s moms will be making cakes and cupcakes). A surprising $ saver is my dress – just ordered it yesterday, and with shipping it’s only $315! I’m anticipating some serious alterations, because it is already a little big in places, and I’m hoping to lose a few lb’s in the year and a half until the wedding, but even with those fixes, I think it will be significantly under our $1,000 budget. Another surprising money saver has been photography – our amazing photographer is also a videographer, and offers packages including both for just $2,000.

    Here’s our budget breakdown as it stands right now:
    – Venue, food, and beverage: $8,500
    – Ceremony specifics: $60
    – Photography/Videography: $2,120
    – Decor: $2,400
    – Stationary: $485
    – Attire: $2,500
    – Entertainment: $0
    – DOC: $250
    – Misc (gifts, transportation, bouncy castle): $1,650
    – Emergency Fund: $800
    Total: $18,765

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    Oh, gosh, this is helpful. My parents volunteered that they were willing to help pay for our wedding, then asked how much it would cost, because they wanted to base their gift in part on the per-head cost. We weren’t going to plan anything until we knew what our total budget was. We went in circles several times. Mom asked me to find out from my friends what their weddings cost, which is not exactly a polite thing to ask people, and also not all that helpful when, say, someone’s venue was free because it was a family member’s back yard.”Well how much does a wedding cost?”
    “Depends on what your budget is.”
    “Ok, but how much per head?”
    “No, really, we’ll fit all the heads into the total budget. I’m not planning a whole mock-up wedding without knowing how much we have to spend.”I think they eventually asked their friends what their kids’ weddings cost.

    • clarkesara

      This was a problem with my family, too. Initially, my father didn’t express any interest talking about planning, budget, or the big picture issues like where, when, or what the scope of the event would be. Thinking that we were pretty much on our own (my dad is the only one out of any of our family who’d have been able to help financially), we decided on a backyard wedding with only our nearest and dearest, and structured all the things you have to decide on ASAP so that we could pay for them ourselves. Then, six months into our engagement, my dad says that, yeah, he does want to contribute to the wedding. Luckily there hasn’t been a lot of pushback on those initial choices that we made, but getting on board earlier would have made everything much simpler.

      • Totch

        My fiance and I had to have this convo with his mom. She’s the kind who doesn’t have money until she does, and then of course she wants to pay for x, y, z! Basically we just had to say “Hey, mom, we’re planning our wedding now. We’re planning it based on what we can afford. We’re not expecting anything from you, but if there’s any chance that a few months before the wedding you’re going to decide you’d like to chip in and that you have opinions about the wedding, that’ll be too late for us to change our plans so sooner would be better.”

        She said she planned on 5k, we upped our budget about 2k knowing there was a good chance the money wouldn’t actually come. Wedding is less than 3 months away and she hasn’t mentioned it again, so right now we’re glad we only adjusted a bit.

      • AnonForTheGreatCakeDebate

        We had a similar issue where the parent who could afford to contribute (as in, retired going on multiple international cruises a year) didn’t offer much initially and we knew others couldn’t contribute much, so we planned a very limited wedding. So far so good. Then people kept offering to “upgrade” our choices, which is nice in theory, but we were trying to keep a low key aesthetic. But all of the sudden a Costco sheet cake wasn’t good enough for my mother, who I have never once in my 3 decades on this planet ever before heard her express an opinion about wedding cakes. It all worked out, but I never thought I’d have an argument (and lose) when trying to buy something cheaper. :-/

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          I hope she didn’t pressure you into buying a cake you didn’t want. And I hope she was willing to pay the difference for the upgrade.

    • AP

      My husband and I had this conversation several times when we were wedding planning. It was maddening. Since we were paying for it ourselves, I wanted to look at our finances and set a budget based on what we could afford, and plan the wedding from there. He came from the opposite stance, that we should plan the wedding first in order to know how much money to budget. But I didn’t want to plan a whole “mock-up wedding” either and get my heart set on stuff we wouldn’t actually be able to afford in the end. We kind of ended up doing a blend of the two- we priced out a few scenarios to get an idea of what things cost and then we set a number (for us, under $10k) that I was comfortable spending and adjusted our planning accordingly. I honestly think though, that if I’d wanted to spend double that, he’d have been fine with it and figured out a way to make it work. (It was his first wedding, my second.)

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        We’re trying to split that difference by setting a few priorities first. We chose the area where we’d like to have things, and I’d like to have a venue that has enough pizzaz that I don’t need to focus on decorating it. The venue we’d *like* to use is mostly inclusive, so we have a ballpark on overall cost to shoot for, and should hopefully put our portion at (hopefully) no more than $10k.

    • Lisa

      That sounds maddening! My parents researched what the average price of a wedding was the year my sister and I got engaged and came up with a number they felt they could reasonably accommodate for both of us during that time. Their decision was to give us both the same $$ number and that any amount we went over would be covered by us. If we were under budget, we would be given a check for the difference at our wedding. Husband and I chose to spend the whole amount on the wedding we wanted in a city we love, and my sister chose to have a smaller wedding and use the rest as her honeymoon fund.

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        This is how my mom’s parents handled their kids’ weddings, so I assumed my folks would want to do the same for me. When I followed up and asked what they had in mind, they didn’t have anything specific planned. It was a really frustrating conversation, but I also didn’t feel like I could express that frustration openly, because oh hey, these are my parents and they’re gifting me with money, so maybe don’t complain about that.

    • toomanybooks

      Lol, yeah, you don’t know how much a wedding costs until you’ve found all your vendors, pretty much, and that takes forever. (Like I really thought everything was going to be cheaper, particularly catering.)

      My parents’ wedding was, I think, $5k. The only present day reference they seem to have is my cousin’s wedding, which was $40k. So whenever I’m stressed out about cost (trying to keep it around $10k, which feels like a lot for me) or my dad’s trying to get me to pick something fancier/more expensive, he’ll say, “well, for reference, your cousin’s wedding was $40k” as if anything I spend below that would be a MASSIVE savings. (Her dad paid for her wedding, my dad is not contributing to mine – though he keeps acting like he personally handed me my two small inheritances from dead relatives that I’ll have to use to pay for the wedding, which is pretty frustrating.

    • Canadia

      OH GAWD my mom did this too. “plan it then we’ll see what we can kick in.”


      She thought a $5k wedding was hugely overkill/unnecessarily extravagant. Telling her the average cost of a wedding was 25000CAD really helped her realize what she was in for. Her idea of “you plan something [that you don’t know if you’ll be able to afford in the end] then I’ll arbitrarily decide what proportion I want to pay for”…………. NO. NONONONONONONONO

      We got it to a manageable place when she came to my city and we went out for a meal and then she said that if we have the wedding dinner there she’ll pay for it as she likes the restaurant. DONE.

      seriously though this is how estrangements and decade-long feuds start

    • Sarah

      I know the feeling.
      “So, fiance and i were trying to put together our wedding budget. Were you guys planning on helping out?”
      “Well you decide what you want and let us know how much it costs, and we’ll let you know what we want to help out with”
      “Umm… well. I’d really rather know if/what you are contributing in advance. Like if you want to give us a set amount of money, or take care of a certain thing”
      “You two let us know what kind of wedding you want, and then we’ll decide on how much to contribute”
      “So I don’t want to fall in love with something I can’t afford. And I don’t want to spend a ton of money upfront and really have to cut back in the end. So it’d really help if I had a clearer idea from you guys”
      “Well, what is fiance’s mom giving?”


      • Oh man, deja vu. We’ve had these exact same conversations with our families this past year…pretty much word for word.

  • Ella

    Wedding Location: Philadelphia, PA
    Goal Budget: 15K
    Actual budget: We’re on track to spend about $19,500. If I add the honeymoon to that, it will be about $24,000. This is inclusive of everything from stamps to support for those in a financial tight spot. Family contributions and in-kind support will total about 11K.
    Number of guests: 135 invited, expecting 100-120.
    Priorities: I do corporate event planning by trade so I felt foolish that I lowballed my budget this badly. I think the biggest difference is that, while I knew how to account for all of the standard event things, I didn’t account for those increases in the budget that come from compromising on things such as the guest list size, getting ready in a hotel instead of my (super lovely, beautifully lit) home since it’s a lot closer to the venue, etc. The most important things to me were a good venue right downtown, tasty food, photography, and the dress.

    Going into it I didn’t want to DIY anything, and now we are doing a lot to save money. Playlist, chuppah, flowers (FMIL and a bridesmaid are former florists), invitations, hair, makeup.

    The most challenging thing was the dress. I also realized I was a “champagne taste on a beer budget” person when it came to this. All the dresses I loved were $8,000 couture ones. I also wanted something with colors, despite my mom’s vocal opposition. But I found a special occasion dress on sale for $133 in a cream color that I really loved for. Five months later, I am still wishing it had some color, and now I’ve gone crazy and am sewing an overskirt. Most of my sewing experience is in quilting and alterations so I figure if it fails miserably, I still have a dress that I enjoy and will just add a big sash and bright hair flowers for my pop of color.

    Broad strokes budget is:

    -$9K food and alcohol (restaurant brunch w beer/wine capped at a certain amount)
    -$4K photography
    -$3.5K honeymoon
    -1.5K misc (stationery and postage, ketubah, chuppah materials, wedding license, gratuities, mp3s, website domain)
    -$1.2K rings (no e-ring)
    -$1K day of coordinator
    -$1K ceremony venue rental and insurance
    -$800 rehearsal dinner
    -$750 suit, shoes accessories
    -$500 my dress, makeup, and accessories (including DIY materials)
    -$350 Hotel (two nights)
    -$300 Flowers
    -$200 Uber/Lyft code subsidy to cover people getting around

    • Ooh! Can you talk more about your Uber/Lyft subsidy? My fiance and I were curious if it was possible.

      • Ella

        I haven’t checked into the Lyft angle, but on Uber you go to And from there it’s pretty easy. You can set a max amount you will subsidize per ride, #of of guests, and # of coupons per guest. You can also set a date/time for the event to start and finish.

        We decided to do this as a compromise between shelling out $$$$ for a shuttle and leaving people totally on their own to get from the ceremony to the reception, which are about a mile apart. It’s about $8 to get between the two, so if we do forty $5 passes I figure most people should be covered since they can travel in groups.

        • Awesome! Thanks so much for the info. One more thing to not worry about. And a pretty reasonable line item for the benefit!

        • Totch

          This is really clever! Thanks for posting. We don’t have Uber, so I’m totally jealous.

  • halliemt

    Wedding location: a private home in Livermore, CA
    Number of Guests: 175
    Actual Budget: 20k, biggest ticket items were 12k for rentals, catering and alcohol and 1900 for photography
    We saved on: Flowers– bought them wholesale, friends arranged them; Planning– our host had lots of experience with events, and gifted us his planning skills; Invites– all done digitally and DIY; hair and makeup– gifted by friends; Ceremony and cocktail hour music– gifted by musician friends.
    It was great! And we did it 2 months after having a baby!

    • NolaJael

      “And we did it 2 months after having a baby!” Okay, that in itself is impressive. Congrats!

  • sage

    Wedding Location: Houston, TX
    Goal Budget: $35k (not including rehearsal dinner or honeymoon)
    Actual Budget: $45-48k
    Number of guests: expecting 200-220

    Our biggest priority is that we are able to invite and host as many friends and family as possible, and that everyone will be comfortable and well-fed at the wedding. We also wanted to have the ceremony at my church and the reception at a second location nearby, which increased our venue costs somewhat. We honestly could have made it work within our goal budget if we went with another reception venue we didn’t like nearly as much, but between monetary gifts from parents and our savings we realized we would be able to swing the nicer venue. We also want everyone to dance, so we are hiring a DJ. We will hire a DOC so we can enjoy the wedding. The rest is gravy.

    The reception venue + food + drinks will account for ~80% of the budget.

    We are cutting some corners by having DIY flowers (just bouquets and a single bud in a vase for each table), inexpensive wedding clothes, DIY hair and makeup, Costco sheet cake (and a small decorated cake), probably the cheapest buffet food option the venue offers, beer and wine only, no favors.

  • MrsRalphWaldo

    I live in South Carolina and was in the boat of having no idea how much an event should cost. Was $1000 a good budget for flowers? How many flowers does that get me? What is food supposed to cost? Is there actually a difference between an $800 dress and a $2000 one? It was very stressful, and ultimately caused me to go way over budget and take out loans (I know, I know: don’t start your wedding in debt. guilty).

    We originally budgeted $10,000 for the wedding but spent around $17,000. This sounds like so much money to me as I write it out, but everything felt like I was spending as little as possible while maintaining my style. We did a formal wedding with around 100 people at a historic estate that featured a sprawling lawn and gardens. It was absolutely gorgeous. Our top priority was food. We ended up doing a two course sit down meal with a cheese plate at cocktail hour, which ended up costing us around 3,500 with service fees. What saved us a lot of money was getting beer and wine made for us by my FIL. Photography was my second highest priority, but we got really lucky and found an AMAZING photographer for $800. We also used venue loyalty discounts do secure our invitation suites, coordinator, and DJ for very low prices. We had minimal decorations for the ceremony, as it took place in the garden and didn’t need anything extra (in my opinion).

    Honestly, knowing what I know now, I would probably have cut back on a few of the details that I thought would make my day extra special. Many of them went unnoticed and I just ended up going home with ~35 of my personalized wine glasses that I had made for everyone and a bunch of Italian paper table numbers that I feel are too nice to throw away. That being said, my wedding day was absolutely wonderful and I don’t regret anything.

    • If the table numbers are too nice to toss…can you sell ’em on craigslist? Or do you have a local wedding facebook group that you can give them away on?

      • MrsRalphWaldo

        I’ve decided to do a shadow box with all of the wedding day trinkets that don’t really have a place to go (The Mrs. hanger, the table numbers, corks, headpiece, etc.) The things I was willing to part with wouldn’t sell for enough for me to not just want to keep them somewhere. It was definitely something I thought about though.

        • Lisa

          In my dream fantasy house, I have a giant closet where I get to put my wedding dress in a giant shadow box and have it on display all of the time. My mom truly made a work of art!

          • MrsRalphWaldo

            I had mine preserved by Prestige Preservation and they sent it to me in a box with a window! I love peeking at it from time to time

          • Lisa

            My mom put mine in a muslin bag at home (unbleached muslin protects it from yellow-ing and moths), but I wish I could look at it all of the time!

          • Argentum

            Where can I obtain a muslin bag? Would a dry cleaner provide this?

          • Lisa

            Not sure where my mom bought mine, but I would assume dry cleaners might have them. I just found one on Amazon by searching “muslin garment bag for wedding dress” in Google. The internet is actually telling me now that moth larvae can eat through muslin, but one of the answered questions on the Amazon item counters with some suggestions for how to avoid that.

          • Argentum

            Thank you so much!

  • sparagmos

    Location: San Antonio, TX
    Goal Budget: $27,000 (made of contributions from my parents, his parents, my own targeted savings, and my grandparents; it takes a village, y’all)
    Actual budget: We actually came in under – around $25.5K
    Number of Guests: 172
    Priorities: Music and dancing, available alcohol, church ceremony.
    The biggest budget stresses came not from how much things cost, usually (I have read wedding stuff for years just because I love weddings), but from how my mom’s priorities differed from our priorities. It was great to have her help with planning, because I get very anxious making lots of decisions, but sometimes the tradeoff was just not worth it. She definitely wanted the wedding to Impress Everybody, and we just didn’t care about that. Plus, she’s an accountant, so when she wasn’t taking the budget into account and I was, it made for a very weird dynamic. We definitely got everything we wanted and then some. We hired a DJ who had great packages and ended up being the nicest, most professional person (Chase from Toast Entertainment, from anyone in the Austin or SA area), and he loved the music we provided as a starter. We didn’t have a full open bar, but we did have beer and wine with a signature drink for each of us, for those in the crowd who wanted liquor. And we got the church ceremony we wanted, which was absolutely lovely. We had a few friends do the ceremony music for us, and they gave it to us as their wedding present, so everything was perfect there.
    What we skimped on: Flowers and DOC. We didn’t actually hire the DOC until REALLY late in the game, because I was convinced it would have put us over budget. The business that did our flowers also did DOC, so we ended up hiring them as part of a package. They did a great job on the flowers, but the coordination was hit or miss, so maybe we could have used the extra money we ended up not using to hire someone else. We didn’t skimp on food, exactly, but we found a middle-of-the-road all-inclusive caterer (and got a partial refund because one of their bartenders didn’t show up). Everyone said the food was pretty good, which was great – we basically just wanted everybody to have a good time.

    • sparagmos

      I will also add that our budget numbers didn’t include the rehearsal dinner or the honeymoon – his parents insisted on paying for the rehearsal dinner, and the honeymoon came out of my personal vacation fund.

    • louise danger

      >> She definitely wanted the wedding to Impress Everybody, and we just didn’t care about that.

      YES. my mom i think is gun-shy because she was underwhelmed by a family wedding that she’d contributed to ($$$- and time-wise), and so now my wedding must be The Wedding of All Weddings™ in her mind, or something. no, mom. my wedding just has to be a nice party for the people we like. if we’re having fun and engaged in what’s happening, everyone else will be, too.

      • sparagmos

        Your last sentence is spot-on. I had heard before the wedding that the attitude of the couple really sets the tone for the day, so we made a commitment to being present and engaged the day of. It helped that we did so much planning beforehand, because I planned for almost nothing to be my personal responsibility, or his, the day of the wedding. And it worked out beautifully! Our budget was pretty low, on average, for the amount of people we had and the amount of stuff we had (we were pretty traditional, after all – food, alcohol, music, church, big venue, rentals, etc.). But I think the party was fun because we had decided it was going to be fun, and everyone else got that.

        If it helps, my mom eventually let a lot of stuff slide (and I did, too, once we realized we were going to be under budget – sometimes, paying the extra money to make my mom happy, if we had that money, was way worth it). She had a great time on the day and was very proud of the party we threw.

        • louise danger

          i think my mom will come around. his mom, on the other hand… eesh. but that’s a story for another time ;)

  • InTheBurbs

    Wedding Location: St. Paul, MN
    Goal Budget: 10,0000
    Actual Budget: 12,000
    Number of Guests: 175

    We got married on a Friday night in September, 2013. We didn’t spend any money on flowers – no attendants, our flowers were a gift and we used dried hydrangeas from my mom’s garden for centerpieces. We had a taco bar and cupcakes for food – and hosted wine and beer. We also didn’t really have a dance – just not our scene – but had a ipod plugged into the speakers in the venue and some of the guests took it over and started their own dance party.

  • Anonymous

    Wedding location: Southern California
    Guests: 80
    Planned Budget: $15000
    Actual Budget: $15000 or 20000 depending on what’s counted. We chose an all inclusive place and budgeted $15000 for all of the necessities. My parents chose to spend ~$5000 on things they wanted but we were truly willing to go without ( fancier desserts than the all inclusive option, professional photographer instead of friends, hair and makeup for bride).
    Where we saved: my dress was $150 and we didn’t do any decorations at the ceremony besides chairs for guests to sit in.
    Also, we planned everything in 5 months which I highly recommend! It was totally doable and even fun!

    • kate

      May I ask your venue? I’m in LA/OC and am having a heck of a time!

  • savannnah

    Wedding location: Vermont (Sep 2017)
    Goal Budget: $25,000
    Actual Budget: $32,500 (we have this nailed down pretty well, maybe $200-400 give or take)
    Family contribution: $6,000 from my parents no strings which we included in the overall budget and they also are playing for my dress, alterations and day after brunch for 60pp which have not been included.
    Number of guest: 240 invited, estimated 175 coming (total includes 31 kids under 6)
    Priorities: we started with the 3 Fs: Family, Food and Fotos, so our choice of venue, an Inn not too far into the country so family can both get to easily and everyone can stay overnight, was a top priority. My fiance generally hates wedding food and it was important to us to ethically choose our vendors and to support female small businesses so our catering choice reflects that and our theme…getting married in Vermont. I knew that photos were my number one priority because I have a few friends who scrimped on this and are deeply unhappy even 8-10 years later and again supporting female artists is important to us. We also realized about 2 months back that a non-super stressed bride was also a joint priority so we added another F, flowers to the priority list and a DOC.
    Breakdown of budget:
    Venue: $3900
    Catering: $20,000-this includes the following:rehearsal and reception, after party open bar both nights, all rentals and staff and gratuity (special request include pickle bar, cigar bar and close of bar pizza for everyone as well as smore’s station as people leave/head to bonfire after party on venue property)
    Flowers: $3,000 -decorated Chuppah at $400, $1500 for 18 centerpieces and the rest in hand held flowers, boutonnieres and tax/labor.
    Photography:$4,000- 8 hours of coverage, 2 photographers
    Cake: $600
    DOC: $1,000- friend from high school turned wedding coordinator

    As a bonus note to my post, I just want to add some perspective about how different weddings are couple to couple. My twin sister got married at this same venue 3 years ago and her budget looks nothing like mine because our choices, priorities and communities are different. She was able to forgo a DOC, Florists and paying for a cake because she 1. has an incredibly strong close knit queer community who came out for her wedding and supported her and her wife by DIYing the cake, DOC, DJ and flowers and generally being amazing and 2. was totally chill with her DIY centerpieces being made by her wedding party 2 hrs before the ceremony. I was not chill though- I was freaking out- and that’s one of the many reasons her budget ($19,500 for 150 guests, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World themed wedding) looks so different from mine.

    • lamarsh

      Pickle bar?!? Want.

    • Lisa

      Pickles and s’mores!! I want to come to your wedding because that sounds awesome.

      • MrsRalphWaldo

        We had s’mores, which sounded like an AMAZING idea, but a lot of guests didn’t utilize ours, so we ended up coming home with ~100 s’mores worth of supplies.

        • Lisa

          S’mores are among my favorite foods. I would have totally cleaned you out. On the bright side, now you can have lots of bonfires/camping trips! :)

        • savannnah

          Yes- this happened to a friend of mine- she wanted to use them as desert/favors and was left with 50-70 kits at the end of the night. I think to mitigate this we are prepping 2/3rds amount of the final gust list- kinda a gamble either way I think.

          • MrsRalphWaldo

            We budgeted 2 s’mores per person. Which, with my love of s’mores, seemed like a reasonable amount. You do not need 2 per person haha.

          • rg223

            I, for one, am totally in favor of 2 per person.

          • Lisa

            Yes. People always forget to take the favors or decide they don’t want whatever it is you’re handing out. We made enough homebrew for each person to take a bottle and a little extra (I think we had about 100 bottles for ~80 people), and we had 7 or so six packs left at the end of the night.

          • Amy March

            One friend gave out bottles of whiskey. So nice, so generous, so much bigger than TSA approved size. The checkout clerk at the hotel loved them though!

          • rg223

            I would have totally taken that home! (side note: all my comments on this thread are offering to take people’s awesome giveaways)

          • Bethany

            I originally wanted to do s’mores, but ended up just having marshmallows for people to roast instead. It was so much easier (literally just stuck marshmallows in a jar) and people still enjoyed it! FWIW I bought 2 regular sized bags of marshmallows for 100 people and probably ended up with about 1/4 leftover.

  • NolaJael

    Wedding Location: Lake Tahoe, NV (Sept. 2016)
    Goal Budget: No limit, but affordable bordering on frugal…
    Actual Budget: ~$10,000
    Guests: 22 (immediate family + SOs only)

    Priorities: Having everyone together for a few days of family bonding in a beautiful and intimate mountain cabin location; all cooking in house; keeping costs down for guests who are students or starting careers by providing housing and meals. Vibe was more like a (small) family reunion than a high end wedding.

    Venue + Accommodations: $4500 (VRBO rental)
    Bride & Groom Travel Costs: $1800 (tickets, car rental, pet boarding, etc.)
    Food & Alcohol: $1200 (all meals cooked in house for Thursday through Sunday morning, tons of beer & wine, lots of champagne!)
    Bride & Groom Outfits & Accessories: $1000
    Cakes: $400 (including gluten-free option)
    Rings & Engraving: $350
    Flowers: $200
    Announcements & Thank Yous: $120
    License: $100
    Photography: $0 (family member is a pro-photog, took a few family shots for ~45 minutes)
    Decorations: $0

  • Molly

    Location: North Carolina
    Goal budget: $7.5K, including rehearsal dinner
    Actual budget: It’s looking like it’ll be closer to 6.5k, but we aren’t getting married until March, so… we’ll see. If the weather is nice it’ll be even less than this, maybe 6k?
    Number of guests: 170 invited, but we are counting on far less… 150 to 140 maybe?
    Priorities: For my fiance, getting an awesome local blues band. For me, hiring this amazing photobooth that’s inside a restored VW bus. These together account for about 1,200 of our budget.

    The reason we are able to have such a small budget is the sheer number of things we got for free. Our venue, photographer, and outfits (mine from a friend’s mom, his from his abuelo, we’re only paying tailoring costs) are free. We aren’t hiring a caterer, friends and family are cooking with ingredients we’ll buy. Instead of an open bar, his uncle is making wine and we’re buying a few kegs. We aren’t doing favors, and a friend who is a professional baker is doing desserts. I designed our invitations online and printed them at Staples, and instead of save the dates we emailed our wedsite to folks. Not paying for any of these things has saved us roughly a billion dollars.

    • Popcorn Lewis

      Would you mind sharing what part of NC? I live in Los Angeles but am having mine in NC (Pinehurst area) and have no idea what’s what. (80% of family and friends live there so it makes more sense to have it there.) The VW bus photobooth sounds so awesome!

      • MrsRalphWaldo

        I live in the Charlotte area. It’s a little bit west from where you are, but if I can help, let me know!

        • Popcorn Lewis

          If you wouldn’t mind sharing the info on the VW photobooth that would be awesome! I’m actually from Rockingham, but like I said, planning from far away so any suggestions on photographers you know of would be much appreciated. Good food is easy to find in NC but I’m having a hard time finding photographers we like. Thanks in advance and happy planning!

          • Rosie

            If you still need a photographer, check out Lotus Creative Studios. I got married in Winston-Salem last year and hiring them was one of the best decisions I made during the entire hiring process – they were amazing, fun, and super affordable. They were so easy to work with and our photos ended up great.

          • Popcorn Lewis

            Thank you so much for the recommendation!

  • yvanehtnioj

    Wedding location: Las Vegas, NV
    Goal budget: as cheap as possible (under $10k for sure, aiming for under $7k)
    Number of guests: 50-75
    Priorities: Easy, accessible, and memorable.

    Just got engaged last month, and I feel like I’m ~80% done planning already (dress, reception venue, date, just need to book our Elvis and get rings/suit), which is freaking me out because 1) I don’t want to overlook anything major, but 2) I also don’t want to create new categories as busy work over the next six months out of a fear I’ve overlooked something.

    • NolaJael

      Congrats on the affordable wedding! There will *always* be more to tempt you to spend money on, but just remind yourself that you’re done planning and it didn’t seem necessary before.

    • clarkesara

      Oh, man, as a simple, intimate, and affordable wedding lady, yep, the best part of the whole thing is that it honestly has involved minimal actual planning on our end.

      And, yes, that this means I’m constantly worried that I forgot some major aspect of getting married that will ruin the whole thing.

  • Kelsey

    Wedding Location: Guelph, Ontario (April. 2016)
    Goal Budget: ~$10,000
    Actual Budget: $9,500
    Guests: Invited 60, Actual 23

    Priorities: Good food and low stress!
    Venue: $2800 – We had the whole thing at a small upscale restaurant, so this included food and beverages as well. It was lunch on a Saturday; if we had done dinner it would have been at least $1000 more.
    Bride & Groom Outfits & Accessories: $1800 – I had a non-traditional bridesmaid dress and my husband bought a new outfit.
    Rings: $1800 – including my engagement ring and both wedding rings
    Flowers: $635 – including my bouquet, groom boutonniere, and center pieces
    License & Officiant: $390
    Photography: $1800
    Decorations: $150

  • B123456789

    Wedding location: Washington, DC, June 2016.
    Budget: $25,000
    Actually spent: $28,500
    Number of guests: 125
    Priorities were to be able to have lots of the people we care about in our lives there (including a lot of my extended family, including kiddos), to have a meaningful wedding ceremony (for us, that was a church wedding with lots of singing!), and to have a fun and relaxed reception. We also wanted to make sure our families wouldn’t have to worry too much about helping with the reception logistics. People told us we couldn’t do it for under $30K in DC with 125 people, but we did succeed. Budget overages ended up being largely for items that I had initially planned to skip – flowers for us and wedding party, hair/makeup for me and my family, dance floor we hadn’t budgeted for initially.

    Key areas of investment:
    Catering: $11,700 (included buffet dinner, some table rentals, dance floor rental of $800, bartenders, ice, etc.)
    Venue: $4,700 (included most of the tables we needed, all chairs)
    Photographer: $3,600 (VERY worth it)
    Wedding attire: $3,200 (dress and topper from Anthropologie, J.Crew suit, new shoes, hair and makeup)
    Drinks: $1,600 (beer, wine, items for signature cocktail bought from local liquor store; they bought back the difference)
    Ceremony venue, marriage prep course, musicians: $1,200
    Flowers for bride, groom, bridal party and ceremony participants: $680 (I ended up loving these, even though I didn’t plan on it initially)
    Save the dates (digital) and invites: $550
    Day of coordinator for reception: $500 (a friend with significant events experience who made sure our family/friends didn’t have to set up and stress, significantly lower than what other coordinators quoted)
    Rehearsal dinner: $400 (dinner out with family at a restaurant)

    Entertainment cost under $350, as we did Spotify playlist for the dancing, with a friend serving as MC and rented speakers. We were worried it wouldn’t be a rocking party, but our family and friends were AMAZING and were all about being out on the dance floor. We also did essentially no decor for the wedding venue – just a few Etsy accents on the tables, family wedding photos and some DC posters – and didn’t regret that for a second. We also didn’t have any favors. We did a bubble exit from the church that was wonderful.

    Two items I would have changed: I would have paid more for the invites, as it wouldn’t have been that much more in the grand scheme of things to get nicer ones, and I would have rented a car and asked a family member or friend to drive. We used Uber and it was a mixed and stressful experience, which wasn’t worth the savings. I also might have gotten a videographer. All in all, it was AWESOME!

    • Lexipedia

      Would you mind sharing your choices for ceremony/reception venue? Photographer too? I’m trying to see if we can make a DC wedding happen, and your budget is impressive!

      • B123456789

        We got married at our home church here in DC, Shrine of the Sacred Heart. Reception was at The Event Space at the Wonder Bread Factory in Shaw. The Event Space was great – it’s basically just a huge open room and allowed us to use all your own vendors. We did use their colorful plastic chairs and it just gave it more character, in my view. Photographer was Stephen de Leon Photography ( He doesn’t update his website/blog much these days, but he and his partner did a fantastic job and they’re great people. Caterer was Main Event, in case that’s useful, too.

        Other venue thoughts: I reached out to more than 60 venues, since we were only (haha) planning 10 months out and some of the more typical options in our price range were booked (e.g. St. Francis Hall, Josephine Butler Center). Our runner up option was Clarendon Ballroom, but with our church in Columbia Heights, it seemed like too much of a trek. Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital (visited – historic, but lots of small rooms seemed like they might break up the party) and the American Architects Association (didn’t visit, but pics are beautiful) seemed like they had similar prices and could be good options.

        • SL

          Also did a DC wedding for about $25k all in. I would check out the DACOR-Bacon House. My husband hated the name, but they are awesome/affordable/blocks from the WH/provided indoor/outdoor space/historical home/in house catering/tables chairs/everything. (OK I was a really lazy bride, so they were great for me).

      • toomanybooks

        I’m planning in DC too, although I chose a venue (and what’s looking like a bunch of vendors) just outside, in Maryland. How many guests are you thinking?

        • kara E

          In MD: Check out the Silver Spring Civic Building – we booked when it had only been open a few months at the time. If you want an outdoor space, both the Autobahn Society site and Brookside Gardens are amazing (though we were getting married in winter). Montgomery County also has some other amazing event spaces.

          • toomanybooks

            Yesss, Montgomery County! The site Brookside Gardens is on has some other govt owned venues on it, and you can also check out the site PG County Elegant Settings

    • NolaJael

      Yes on renting a car. My husband wanted to borrow a car / hitch rides for our destination wedding weekend and it’s one of the only things I put my foot down on. There was no way that if I wanted to get some frivolous thing at Walgreens I was going to have to ask and justify it to get a ride from someone.

    • JJT

      We also did a DC-area wedding on a similar budget – 26K all-in for 125 guests:

      $11K full-service catering+bartending+rentals from Old Blue BBQ
      $3K venue (Hendry House in Arlington)
      $3K tent rental (required)
      $2.5K photographer
      $1.5K booze from TJs and Total Beverage
      $1K flowers – Friends DIYed the reception with flowers from the Dupont Farmers Market and I ordered 1 amazing flower crown, 5 gorgeous bouquets, and 10 bouts from Mike at Brookhill Florist.
      $1K DJ – meh

      It was magical. We got married outside on a beautiful, if slightly chilly autumn day (priority), ate bbq and oysters, ubered everywhere, and danced til close despite the meh DJ. I wore my mom’s lovely dress from 1981 with Grandma’s bling and my husband chose a suit he could wear for work.

  • Jessica

    Location: Pleasant Mount, PA
    Goal Budget: $10,000
    Actual Budget: ~$14k
    Number of Guests: 83 attended, invited ~100

    We got married in May 2015. The whole thing was SUPER (probably too) diy — we rented an AirBNB, and did pretty much everything ourselves. We prioritized photos, which you see in the breakdown below was our biggest line item. We wanted the day to feel like a huge outdoor dinner party, and hired a wood-fired pizza truck to serve pizza and salads. The bar was serve-yourself with beer, wine, and a cocktail we mixed the night before. Because I was being cheap (or clever? idk) we only rented one set of chairs, and asked people to take their chair from the ceremony area in the yard, to the dinner area under the tent. Like everyone else, I didn’t want a tent, at all, but we got it just in case, and it poured on and off the whole night. We made it through the ceremony, and as our photographers snapped the last photo during our post-ceremony session, the sky opened up and we got utterly and completely drenched. We ran through the rain back to the tent, soaking wet, where all our guests were happy and dry, thank god. Pics here:

    The pros of the airbnb were we stayed all week — we had so much time to prep and didn’t have to clean up right away. The downside was we had to bring in literally everything, including toilets. It had a smaller pricetag up front, but the costs probably added up to something more all-inclusive. Also I ignored advice to hire a DOC, my sister filled in without being asked, but I wish I’d just sucked it up and paid for it because it would have been better for her.

    Venue (AirBNB rental for 10 days): $1700
    Photographer: $4240
    Catering (pizza and salad, served family style): $2800 + 20% gratuity
    Rentals (tables, chairs, tent, lights, dance floor, power cords, plates, glasses, flatware… literally everything because we were essentially putting together a DIY backyard shindig at the house we rented): $1400
    Portapotties: $400
    My dress/wife’s suit: $400
    Rings: $950
    Beer/wine/liquor: ~$1000 (I didn’t actually track this, so not 100% sure of this)
    Invitations: $75 (paperless post, printed at home) + postage
    Cake: $200 (one from babycakes nyc, three off-the-shelf from whole foods)
    Website/registry fees for a year: $200
    Florals: Gift from my mother, who is a florist
    Music: $10 spotify subscription + free AV from my parents + untold hours of playlist building
    +Incidentals ~$500: supplies for the chuppah we built, the wooden signs we made, plastic cups for cocktails, supplies for the seating chart, 100 flameless candles, drink dispensers, and other random miscellany I didn’t account for
    +Gifts for unpaid labor ~$500: my mother for florals, my sister and her friend for keeping an eye on the diy bar, my other sister for basically playing DOC, and our bff officiant

  • Sarah Dee

    Wedding Location: Minneapolis, MN
    Goal Budget: $15,000 (but once we realized the cost of things we increased it to 20K)
    Actual Budget: $23,000, not including rings
    Number of Guests: 109 I think…
    Priorities: Photography, my dress, and good food! A huge chunk of our budget was food and photography ($11,000 for the two items total) but at the end of the day the guests LOVED the food and I have amazing photos that I can look at over and over again! We saved a ton of money with our gorgeous Minneapolis parks & rec venue that was an old ski chalet and barely needed any decoration. As much as I hate that we went over budget if I could do it all over again I can’t think of anything I would change!

    Broad budget breakdown:
    Venue: $1800
    Caterer $6400
    Photographer $5000
    Outfits $3000
    Flowers: $1800
    Music (violinist & DJ): $1400
    Dessert table: $1100
    The rest is decor, wedding license, tailoring, and everything else I put on the spreadsheet down to the very last ribbon…

  • Canadian

    Goal Budget: $5000, before we realized how much good food and wine costs when doing restaurant, not liquor store/catering, pricing.
    Actual Budget: not married yet but we’ve paid 95% of the costs at this point… looks like $8000 +/- $500 depending how “thirsty” the guests are. Includes photog, food/drink, wedding commissioner and legal admin costs, half-week honeymoon within a day’s drive of our home, rings, hair and makeup for two mothers and the bride, corsages and boutonierres. Does not include any clothing or shower/rehearsal dinner/bachelor[ette]/etc. parties.
    Priorities: Being somewhere calming but accessible, good photography, quality BC wine (I’m from wine country), not being a stress mess over sh*t no one remembers like favours or candle colours.
    Attendees:35-40 including bride and groom.
    Where: Vancouver, BC, Canada
    When: in the next 60 days (i.e. winter)
    Notes: JP/Wedding Commissioner’s 20 min. ceremony in a gorgeous park followed by a fancy plated restaurant dinner a short walk away.
    How we saved money: Since our wedding is smaller and in the off-season we got 10% off flowers and makeup, and didn’t have to fight to nail down a venue years in advance. We also got access to a very well-established photographer’s smaller package (not available in the summer because she’s all booked up with full-sized packages) for groups <50 for only a few hours (we only wanted ceremony, portraits, and a bit of the dinner covered). We did not get any bouquets because I didn't think they were worth it – instead we opted for hair-flowers for myself and corsages and boutonnieres. MIL is making centrepieces as she's very artistic (not in budget above). By eating at a restaurant we don't pay separately for venue fees or renting linens/utensils or getting liquor licenses or any of that – it' became a very straightforward and streamlined process. No favours, no rehearsal dinner.

    My takeaway: Considering all we are going to do is dress pretty, say some words in a park, then feed 40 of our friends the cost is exorbitant. This is more elope-y than wedding-y and it's still $8k. Blows my mind.

    • louise danger

      i have the same takeaway as yours, heh, and we’re planning similarly-styled fetes. i sympathize.

      • Canadian

        Oh em gee right. It floored me. There should be support groups for “how the living hell does my “courthouse wedding” still cost $1500?!” people.

        Like the legal stuff alone is $300 (most basic legal officiant option is just shy of $200 and the license is $100)…. photos? $300 per hour for your small ceremony… if you want to have a nice cocktail level outfit and get your hair and makeup professionally done ($500 conservative estimate each for bride and groom)…. that’s $1600 plus rings just to elope and look pretty. No food or drink, and rings are on top. $1600 just to look pretty and say I Do and get some photos to remember it by…..

        My fiancé and I opted to get what we’re calling “5 year rings” that we’ll replace with fancier ones when we’re in a stabler financial position in 5 years (or at least, we’ll have paid off student loans by then hahaha). We have sterling silver artisan made ones for around $120 each…. we’ll replace them with ones 10x that cost as anniversary gifts later on in our relationship. It’s just not a cost we could justify at this time.

    • clarkesara

      Glad to see someone else with a “good wine” priority! My dad is giving us food and bar as a gift, and he’s a serious wine geek. I’m also into wine, recently spent a summer working at a winery in Tuscany, and my FH and I live in California which is known for great wine. So despite our rock bottom budget for everything else, why, yes, we will be toasting with a small-batch artisanal sparkling blanc de noirs.

      • Lisa

        Our restaurant venue looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if I could see the list of wines offered for our bar and select the two reds and two whites that came with the bar package. Apparently most people leave it up to them, but I wanted to be sure we had options we liked!

        • Canadian

          Yeahhhhhh the risk of the resto picking a crap over-oaked chardonnay is not worth it to me either!! :P

      • Lexipedia

        Yep. Venues get cut for us if they aren’t flexible on wine/beer lists. We are too geeky about beverages to be ok with whatever alcohol is in the default package.

      • Canadian

        A family friend of my parent’s, whose daughter I grew up with, is a head sommelier for a BC VQA winery in the Okanagan and I’ve had many friends involved in various stages of the wine-making process for my entire life (chef at winery restaurants, labour staff, wine tour staff…). I didn’t realize how much I took having expensive/quality wine around the house for granted until I moved out and realized that most people don’t regularly drink wine that costs $20-$40/bottle liquor store pricing hahahahha…..when you get it for free or heavily discounted for most of your life it’s a hard habit to shake!

      • RNLindsay

        Yes on the good wine! Our venue let us go off their list as long as it was offered by their distributor. We did a taste testing with my in-laws as a fun way to include them/choose the wine. My husband also requested that the toasting champagne be poured right before toasts – “I hate when it’s been sitting out for hours and flat by the time we actually toast!”

    • Totch

      You’re right, we look very similar!

  • Fushigidane

    Location: North New Jersey (commuting distance to NYC)
    Goal Budget: $50K
    Actual: probably looking at ~$50-52K
    Guests: Budgeted for 220
    (budget does not include attire, rings, or honeymoon since came from personal finances not “wedding money”)
    Priorities: flowers and photography; and later on music
    I’ve always liked flowers and pictures last forever. Had some pushback from my parents since my dream photographer was in Florida, but flying her in wasn’t much more than getting a relatively good photographer in the NYC area. Unfortunately she was already booked for my day. Not getting a limo so I upgraded from DJ to band since parents seemed to like them at the wedding shows and FH used to be in a band in high school and still likes to look at guitar stuff. (I’ve seen him eyeing amps while at a concert or even videos of a show).
    Unexpected expense: Videographer. I originally thought I wouldn’t watch it and that videographers can be obtrusive. but then I saw a friend’s and loved it. I loved they were very discreet on the day of and made a very nice highlight video. FH and I agreed that we were willing to pay for them (surprisingly what made us go over was not the added expense of the videographer but that I forgot to add the tip for the maitre d’ even though I accounted for everyone else’s tips)
    As additional reference points, 2 of my friends’ weddings were ~$30-35K and had around 100 guests.

    • Amy March

      Do you mind sharing your venue?

      • Fushigidane

        I’m at the Valley Regency, in Clifton. It’s next to Montclair University.
        Other places that were under consideration which were also nice (and less expensive) were Fiesta in Wood Ridge and Graycliff in Moonachie.
        I went to a wedding at Graycliff and they had the best food (and a lot of it) of any catering hall I’ve gone to(although I haven’t gone to too many catering hall events in recent times.)
        Fiesta was the first place FH could picture himself marrying me at. We had already seen quite a few places at that point so this was really significant. It was a tie between this place and Valley Regency but the parents didn’t like it. I feel like it was mostly because they’ve gone to a few events there already.
        If you like old style opulent buildings, The Manor in West Orange is very nice and reasonably priced for what it is. My parents say the food is very good and I really like the cocktail area since it’s basically a glass covered patio. The rooms max out at 200 though.

  • Rose

    Wedding location: Boulder, CO. Ceremony at a church, reception in my parents’s yard.
    Goal budget: Originally $8,000, upgraded to $10,000 early on when I decided to buy a dress instead of making one.
    Actual budget: Something very close to $10,000, or very slightly higher after a couple hundred dollars spent on small things last minute.
    Number of guests: 65-70 (honestly I can’t remember exactly)
    Family contributions: About half of it came from my savings, about half from my inlaws, with about $1000 as a gift from my grandparents.
    Priorities: The date and location were largely affected by availability of us and immediate family, as well as hoping to save money by having the reception at my parents’s house. I think that did save us some, although not a lot. We knew from the beginning that we wanted a ceremony that was long enough that we needed a comfortable place for guests to sit, no standing in a park or something. We wanted a reception with cake and dancing, which pretty much meant including dinner too (which was great, but it was the dancing that really motivated the evening timing). Since we don’t live near either of our families, and most of our guests were travelling (which would have been true anywhere we held it), we also really wanted to prioritize spending time with people; having it at the house ended up working really, really well for this, since we could just hang out with people who had arrived the week beforehand, and we had a casual rehearsal dinner (Mom made soup, Grandma brought bread, a family friend brought cheese) there the night before that everyone was invited to
    Maybe this is kind of obvious, but one thing that we really wanted was for the day to feel special. Not just because of what we were doing, but because of how we were doing it. So that was some of the reason for spending money on things like a fancy dress, and flowers, and decorations, and a live band–because all of that was stuff that we loved and don’t usually get to do. Early on we realized that our vision was pretty much Bilbo’s party–and since we ended up eating under an oak tree hung with colored lanterns and then dancing outside, I think we did pretty well at that (minus the fireworks, but just as well).

    Brief breakdown (with comments):
    Clothes: ~$2200. My dress was a large majority of that, and it was 100% worth it. I had originally planned to make my own, but I loved loved loved that dress, and decided it was worth the additional money. It was. My wife’s clothing wasn’t particularly expensive, and my accessories were either heirlooms, gifts, or home-made.
    Church rental: $700. We could have paid a lot less for just the ceremony, but we reserved the hall all evening as a weather back-up, rather than renting a tent. Since it was September in CO, the weather could have been literally anything (it snowed 364 days before our wedding), so an indoor backup was really, relaly important for my peace of mind.
    Photographers: $1500. SO worth it. Their rates should probably have been higher for how wonderful our photographs were.
    Catering: $1400. This felt (still does) like SO much money for dinner. I kept having the feeling that there had to be a cheaper way to handle this, but honestly I think this was quite a good price for what we got. And, on the day, it was worth it to have someone (even someone who was late and disorganized) there to handle the food.
    Cakes: $160. We did a little decorated one and two sheet cakes, which was great for us.
    Alcohol: $400. Wine and chapagne (a neighbor gave us a keg of homebrew, too). None of the guests were under 21, and it was on private property, so people just served themselves.
    Premarital counseling: $750. Only kind of a wedding expense, but we included it in the budget. Well worth it.
    The band: $700. We got a great deal, as the leader is an old family friend. This was one area that felt like an unecessary splurge, but I really love dancing to live music, and it was unlikely that we could find a DJ who suited us, and I get really insecure about my music choices so making our own playlist would have been fraught. The band was amazing, people danced all night and it was great. My very favorite memory of the whole day is everyone dancing together in a circle as the band played You are My Sunshine for the last song.
    Decorations: ~$400-500. Most of the decorations were lighting, since we were out in the yard after dark. Necessary, and beautiful.
    Compostables: $150. Rather than rent, we bought compostable plates, cups, utensils, etc.
    Rentals: $700. Tables, chairs, dance floor.
    Flowers: $500. We bought tons of fresh flowers, online and from a local farm. More than we really quite needed, but they were lovely and I love flowers, and putting together bouquets and centerpieces and crowns was so much fun that morning. It was both a splurge and a savings, since we would have paid a lot more for equivalent amounts of flowers from a florist. The arragements certainly weren’t formal, but they suited us.

    I felt sometimes that it was a lot of money for an at-home wedding with >75 people. But, there were relatively few areas where I felt like we spent money that wasn’t absolutely necessary to have the kind of wedding that we wanted; we could have saved on my dress, the band, and maybe a bit on the flowers, but all of those felt really worth it as things we wanted. They were some of the things that made the day feel really special.

    • LucyPirates

      ‘Bilbo’s party’ – love
      If the UK wasn’t actually a lot more unpredictably rainier than Tolkien suggests, this would definitely have been my wedding day want!

  • floranonymous

    Wedding in Madison, WI, summer 2017, church ceremony and country club reception
    Goal: 45k, not including rehearsal dinner, rings, day after brunch, or honeymoon
    Actual: currently estimating closer to 50k, but that’s with a cushion
    Guests: inviting 180, expecting ~150 but we’ll see!
    Priorities: a beautiful, fun celebration with everyone we love, so live band, open bar, great flowers, lots of food

    Right now, about half of our budget is for food and bar, which feels right. Holding it at my parent’s country club meant no reception venue fee and they’re so easy to work with. Flowers are going to be around 6k, which is for a pretty ambitious floral plan and the thing I am most excited about. Band is 5k, photographer also 5k. My dress and veil were under a thousand, which is truly the steal of the wedding.

    My parents are paying for everything, and they want a certain kind of wedding. I’m the baby of the family, so they’re definitely looking at my wedding as the last family wedding. The guest list includes a lot of family friends of both sets of parents, my mom wants a band and letterpress invitations, and my dad wants top shelf open bar. Otherwise, they’re happy for me and my fiancé to do what we want. I’m happy that they are excited for my wedding and grateful to them for being so generous. So far we haven’t had any fights about whose wedding it is, so I think we’re doing well. My fiancé’s parents are happy we’re getting married but completely hands off, so I consider myself lucky that we haven’t had to deal with impossible or competing expectations from family.

  • Hannah T

    Wedding date and location: York, UK (October 2014)
    Goal budget: As cheap as possible!
    Your actual budget if you’re already married: £5000 (not including honeymoon – a week on a Scottish island with bikes)
    Number of guests: 120
    Spending priorities: Wedding rings, church ceremony.

    Our success criteria for the day was us getting married, so anything else was a bonus! We wanted to get married surrounded by friends and family but without bankrupting ourselves in the process so it was very much a DIY affair. One of my bridesmaids made most of the table centrepieces with her youth group!

    Main expenses were:
    Wedding rings: which we made at a local jewellery school – ~£1000
    Reception venue: we got the venue free as we used the venue’s own caterers – £1200
    Church ceremony: ~£500 (this includes all the legal bits)
    Fabric for my dress: ~£300 (my mother in law made my dress)
    Photography: £600 (friend of the groom with very reasonable rates)
    Rickshaw hire for day: £300 (vehicle only)

    Others were things like flowers that we got the day before the wedding at the market (potentially a risky move but worked out fine!);my mother and I made the bouquets, buttonholes and corsages in my kitchen. Bridesmaid dresses were bought on sale, dyed the right colour as I couldn’t find any that suited and then had embellishments sewn onto by me, whereas my husband’s suit was a lucky find in a charity shop. My husband’s parents made all the desserts for the reception and the wedding cake was a team effort between family members. I had my hair and make-up done by a friend which was really kind of her. My husband kept a spreadsheet of everything we were spending and we shared out the planning of it fairly equally, despite having slightly different priorities (e.g. flowers). Our wedding was mid-afternoon which meant that as the day wasn’t too long costs were easier to keep down. Our evening do was a meal with an open mic after!

    We weren’t too fussed about small details, but wanted to have a fun, love-filled day with friends and family and to be married by the end of it.

  • Booknerd

    Wedding Location- Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
    Goal Budget: $10,000
    Actual Budget$15,000 ish- I honestly stopped keeping track in the last month
    Number of Guests- 95 invited, 80 attended

    Priorities- Photography- Luckily I have an amazing friend who gave us a killer deal so we got all day and some rehearsal dinner pictures for $1200. Food was another priority, and our dinner was amazing, I still dream about the roast beef and yorkshire puddings that I must have eaten like 12 of.
    Suit- for my husband he really wanted to get a nice suit that would last him a long time, so that was one of our splurges, at $1100 plus shoes and tie. My wedding band was the other most expensive item, at $1100.
    Not a priority- Decor- we DIY’d most of it, I collected books throughout the year to make centerpieces with some mason jar candleholders I spray painted silver sparkles, and bought the flowers bulk and did our own arrangements.
    Forgotten cost- hotel for us! I forgot to put it in the budget that I would want to stay somewhere that wasn’t our apartment with my bridesmaids the night before and the night of, so that was an unexpected $500, but well worth it to avoid the stress of getting my apartment “people ready” on top of everything else.

    • Totch

      Woohoo BC brides! Just posted my Vancouver budget.

      My fiance is using this as an excuse for a new suit too, but estimated his at $600 after tax. Maybe I should be building in more buffer for that one?

      • Booknerd

        Depends on where you get it I think. We don’t have a lot of options being on the island but my husband wanted a certain brand and it was more expensive than I thought it would be, but he knew early in the budgeting period what it would cost. I’m sure if I said go spend $2000 he would have done that too!

      • Jane

        My FH got his suit at a crazy good deal at a Brooks Brothers outlet mall just north of Seattle. It was a 2-for-1 thing so he and my brother went and got really nice suits for about $250 each. So it’s definitely doable to find a nice suit for less than $600. Just takes a little work.

        You could even go to the same outlet mall, if you wanted. Not sure if the drive from Vancouver would be worth it for you guys, but if you were heading to Seattle for some other reason . . . I got the sense they do this kind of deal pretty often.

      • Brittany

        My husband bought a “suit” at Nordstrom (Actually a sports jacket, but it was what he liked the best!) and it cost around $400 for everything, including a dress shirt and pants, and alterations. He had dress shoes already, so don’t forget about that.

      • Indochino tends to have *heavy* discounts on the Internets (coupon codes!) and their suits are made to measure with free alterations. It’s nice to have a storefront to go to, but it’s not necessary. I think we paid $400 for his.

    • gonzalesbeach

      please tell me more about where to find this roast beast dinner :)

      • Booknerd

        It was a private reception hall attached to a local pub on Vancouver Island! Lucky for me my husbands work decided to start booking their annual Christmas party there too this year so I got to re experience all the gluttony on our 4 month anniversary ;)

        • gonzalesbeach

          lovely -I’m on the island, too… nice you got to go back again! my local pub has a party room I’ve eyed up but I don’t think they do roast beef dinner. so its not them :P

          • Booknerd

            I’m up in the Comox Valley- mid island

          • gonzalesbeach

            I’m more south than you I think! sorry delayed reaction !

  • Totch

    Location: Vancouver, BC (Spring 2017)
    Goal budget: $9,000 (CAD)
    Guests: 30

    Summary: Short ceremony and toast at a city-owned botanical garden. Chinese wedding banquet at a nearby restaurant. Just a big family dinner, no dancing or other ceremony extras.

    Priorities: Food, attire, buying local when possible, and spending generously on a small list of people.

    Savings: Space is the most expensive thing in Vancouver, so we saved on locations by booking a city-owned ceremony venue and a restaurant that’s charging us only for food, not space. For comparison: our venue is $500 for 2 hours, the nearest private venue is $3,000 for 1 hour). We also saved big with 2 key friendors: custom invites and photography (invites were free, photos 50% off). We’re also skipping some things we don’t care about like hair, makeup, and dancing at the reception. All other savings come from the wedding being so small, and from holding it in spring (eg. the restaurant waived the minimum food buy because the side room we’re using will make more on a small wedding than a regular Saturday night dinner service in April).

    -Ceremony: $1,000 ( 500 venue + 200 insurance + 200 officiant/license + 100 booze for toast)
    -Reception: $4,000 (3000 food + 700 booze + 100 cake + 200 flowers/decor)
    -Photography: $1,250 (friend rate)
    -Bride’s look: $1,600 (1400 dress + 200 shoes + 20 lipstick)
    -Groom’s look: $750 (600 suit + 150 shoes)

    • Totch

      Budget didn’t include rings, which we made ourselves with APW vendor Take These Rings for ~1200 CAD iirc.

      There’s an additional $1000 set aside for a welcome open house (in lieu of rehearsal dinner) and brunch after. $300 for party platters at the open house, which will be in our condo’s social room. $700 for brunch the day after the wedding, which will be in a restaurant’s side room.

    • Canadian

      Our approach to weddings looks similar……. best of luck from another vancity bride :)

  • AnonMA

    Goal Budget: $20,000 initially then $27,000 when I figured out how much weddings cost.
    Actual Budget: probably just under $30,000 includes rehearsal dinner – I stopped counting at the end
    Location: central Massachusetts
    Guests: 105
    Priorities: Our goal was to have a fun and casual event with family and friends, and still feel like ourselves. We also prioritized getting married outdoors in a beautiful setting that was kind of unique.
    Biggest regret was not spending more money on a more established and professional photographer. Also I tried to keep costs low but was continually amazed at the how everything added up. We were fortunate that our parents gave us $23k for the wedding, which came with some explicit expectations (guests) and some implicit that were harder to grasp when we first accepted the money.
    food, venue, alcohol $19000
    Photography: $2000
    DJ: $1100 ( loved the dj!)
    Fancy Gelato $1200 (worth it!)
    Rehearsal Dinner $1000 (pizza at local brewery)
    Clothing, makeup, accessories, rings: $1500
    Invitations, etc $500 (I designed and printed them)
    Gifts $500
    Decor and misc. $900 (what was all this?)
    Flowers $1000 (only flowers for people and ceremony, no table flowers, but I felt paying someone to deliver and do all the flowers was so worth it for me to not have to think about one other thing)

  • clarkesara

    Fun story: I got laid off midway through wedding planning. I ended up finding a new job, but I had to take a substantial pay cut. Womp womp.

    Wedding Location: Los Angeles, CA (specifically San Fernando Valley if there are other L.A. brides here)

    Guest Count: 40, including us.

    Initial Budget Back When I Had A Great Job: $10,000 including some help from family

    Current Budget After Being Laid Off: probably around $5000 including the same level of help from family, but again, the answer is really “however cheap we can get away with”. We are two months out from the wedding and most of the arrangements are made, quotes are in, etc.

    Priorities: Our real priorities have always been less tangible/monetary and more about the vibe we wanted to create. Which was lucky for us, I suppose. We have really been concentrating on creating a fun and relaxing time for our guests, and also having great food and drinks. We ended up being able to do that within even the “oh shit as cheap as possible eeeeek” budget by hiring a food truck that specializes in California-Mexican brunch (breakfast burritos, chorizo and egg tacos, avocado toast, etc) and doing mimosas and bloody marys for our bar. We have cut A LOT of corners on traditional wedding stuff, some of which was always in the plan, for example backyard wedding, no attendants, no DJ, homemade cake and DIY flowers, but some of which had to be sacrificed after I was laid off, like drastically slashing the photography budget, rentals going from farm tables and thonet chairs to bog standard el cheapo everything, DIY hair and makeup, and most of my attire aside from the dress is now things I already own. Basically we initially wanted a wedding that was both fun and pretty, and we were forced to cross pretty off the list. Which is fine, as there will now be drastically fewer photographs of any of it.

    • Totch

      We found this too. 30 invited, 30 attending. I know there’s a rule about rates of attendance getting higher as your wedding gets smaller. I think it’s part that you’re inviting those most likely to attend, and part that if people know they’re on a short list they make more of an effort to be there.

      • clarkesara

        We had some big friendship shifts this year as well (my layoff led to some new creative projects for me, which led to some people who were formerly acquaintances becoming close friends), and I was hoping that there would be a little flexibility to squeeze in a few more people. Nope. Everybody wants to come, everybody wants to bring a date. Which is great! But OMG a 38-guest wedding is *tough*.

      • NolaJael

        Yep, 20 invited, 20 attended.

    • Em

      California-Mexican brunch sounds amazing, by the way – would totally fly internationally to eat that food at a wedding! (Or, you know, any time…) Your wedding sounds great!!!

      • clarkesara

        Thanks! I think it’s going to be rad even with all the corners we’ve had to cut.

    • NolaJael

      ” One thing that has really hit home is that, if you have an intimate wedding with only your absolute nearest and dearest … you don’t get a lot of regrets.” YES.

      This is how we felt about our very frugal wedding. Our families know that we are quirky and have different priorities. I’ve said elsewhere on APW that if I’d shown up in a mermaid (or other fluffy gown) my family would have assumed I’d been kidnapped and dressed at gunpoint. And knowing that they know us took a lot of pressure off us to do ALL THE THINGS. Whereas, if I’d been inviting long lost aunts and my father-in-law’s work friends, I would have felt more pressure to have a “normal” wedding with all the bells and whistles.

    • This actually sounds close to what we want to do (if we can find a venue… no friends with backyards unfortunately!) Can I ask about how much the food truck and el cheapo rentals cost?

      • clarkesara

        Food truck was a $1000 minimum buyout. Since we’re only having 40 guests, this should cover us just fine. I think our truck is $20/head past the first 50 people. We’ll also pay a 10% service charge and a tip, bringing it to something like $1200 total.

        Our rentals are coming in at around $450 for 5 tables, 40 chairs, glassware, and a few random bar related items. The food truck is providing paper plates and napkins as well as plastic utensils, which is fine as far as we’re concerned.

  • Katie

    Wedding location: Northern California
    Goal budget: 10,000
    Realistic budget: 15,000 (or more?!?)
    Priorities: An intimate event in a location that is significant to us (and where our dog is welcome, too!) with contributions from our community
    # of guests: 40-100 (plus 10-20 kids under 12)
    We recently got engaged and are just stepping our toes into the wedding budget process. We both come from large families but want a smaller event for various reasons–we are older, we have been together a loooong time, and we are both introverts–although the family may prevail (hence the large discrepancy between guest numbers and ideal vs. realistic budget). We are planning on appealing to the talents of our friends and family for the photos, cake, design, and officiant, and doing minimal to no decorations…letting the setting do the work.

    • Totch

      I’ve got a large family, so there are a lot of people not invited and that was hard to stick with. Our minimum would have been 20, max 80. We’re doing 30 people for a goal budget of 9k in a bigger city.

      It’s taken quite a bit of navigating, but I think we’re managing both budget-wise and family dynamic-wise. You can do it!

      • Katie

        Thanks Totch! That’s helpful to hear. Honestly, I would be all in for an elopement, but my partner not so much. But thanks again for cheering me on! I hope your day is everything you want :)

    • Sarah

      Definitely find the balance of your talented friends/family and what you care about more/don’t want to worry about. My friend was our officiant and another friend did all my hair/makeup. Family and friends did our entire “rehearsal” dinner night – a chill bbq on the beach. Our ceremony & reception location was a mindful choice as well – we let the personality of the place be our guide and only did minimal dressing from there. I thought about DIY flowers, but then decided I didn’t want the added stress.

      There is just as much mental time put into having guests involved in execution (depending on who it is of course), but as long as you know it and are ok with that, it’s great!

      • Katie

        That’s true, and making sure you ask the right person for the right help, too! A friend asked me out of the blue on her wedding day to do her hair…and my idea of “styling” is letting it air-dry. I tried my best, but was so thankful when her cousin stepped in and did it so much better than I could have.

        • Sarah

          Exactly. I asked my friend to do my makeup/hair because she’s good at it and enjoys that sort of thing, plus she would have the right attitude on the day of (read: super chill during the moment which would keep me calm and relaxed too).

    • clarkesara

      We are in the same boat in terms of being older and introverts, but my family is huge. We drew the line (on my side) at my parents, siblings, and their partners, and my one set of grandparents who are able to attend. So far this is only causing drama with my mom, who is throwing a shit fit that this isn’t her wedding and she’s not going to be surrounded by her family and friends. The reality is that if it wasn’t this, she’d be up in arms about something else. So I’d say just do what you want and don’t worry so much about how other people are potentially going to react.

      • Katie

        Ha ha! Do we have the same mom? This is all sounding so familiar….

  • Another Meg

    Wedding Location: Glennie, MI (AKA Middle of Nowhere, Northeastern Michigan)
    Goal Budget: $5,000
    Actual Budget: around $9,000
    Number of Guests: 93
    Priorities: Location, Photography
    Date: June 2014

    Our wedding was an outdoor, slightly casual affair on a lake in a camping park on June 21. We spent the most on photography ($3500), catering ($1800) and my dress ($1200 with alterations, shoes, etc). We saved by ordering flowers online (blooms by the box – around $650), using a park ($200 for 4 days of renting so we could set up Thursday, host a welcome dinner Friday, get married Saturday, and clean up Sunday), and getting married in the middle of nowhere. Our caterer was the welder’s wife and she did an amazing job for dirt cheap. We ordered a bunch of pies from the local shop, which totaled about $300. I also have an amazing MIL who took a set of classes on letterpress printing. I joined her at the last class and together we made the invitations for about $1/each, total of $250 with the envelopes and letterpress plate. We saved on decorations by saving jam/salsa jars, glass bottles, and soup cans. I painted them and we filled them with flowers and candles for centerpieces.

  • Stars

    Wedding Location: Charlemont, MA (Northwest MA)
    Homebase: Boston, MA but hella expensive to get married there
    Goal Budget: $15,000
    Actual: On track so far. No major donations from family, just us.
    Guests: Planned for 80, realistically will be 95.

    – A place with little light pollution (We’re doing it on the night of a meteor shower, and day before the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017. We used Dark Sky Finder to find a place that fit the bill.
    – Easy to get to for friends and family. Some people will have to deal with a 2-3 hours drive but it’s the best we can do for the good of everyone.
    – Good food, with Polish influences. Got an amazing caterer that was in-demand.
    – Majority of budget will go to venue ($2995) and caterer ($3000-4000? Maybe? I forget)

    If there’s anything I could magically change, it would be changing from a Sunday to a Saturday. I’m afraid some people will whine about it. But it saved us like $2,000, so whine away. I feel that the more couples that try off-Saturday weddings, the more commonplace it will be and less whining.

  • anon

    Wedding location: Vermont (but we live in Boston)
    Wedding date: June 2017
    Goal budget: $50,000
    Actual projected budget: $62,000
    Guests: We are inviting about 220 and expect about 180
    Priorities: Having a venue where everyone could sleep over. We knew we were having a big wedding, and we knew we didn’t want anyone to have to drive home at the end of the night. My parents also wanted the wedding to be a Very Nice Affair. So, we found the perfect venue that met all of those criteria… and turns out it’s really freaking expensive. The venue fee alone is $7,500, and on top of that, they self-cater, and it’s not cheap (per person). My parents have been extremely generous in paying for the wedding, but as we plan and are about to put our big 50% deposit down with the venue next month, I am starting to have mini panic attacks about how much money my parents are spending and oh my god are they ever going to be able to retire and is it going to be my fault. We wanted to do something less expensive, and more low key, without spending SOOOO much money, and I think we TOTALLY could have done that on a smaller budget, if we had had more control of all the decisions – but my parents basically agreed to pay for the wedding if they were allowed to invite whoever they wanted, and if it was a Very Nice Affair. We could have done it more cheaply if we had chosen a different type of venue (we looked at a few places in NJ that were a lot less expensive), but we both really dreamed of having our wedding in rural New England. I thought we could save money in other places, but everything has turned into a fight. I thought we could get a DJ, but my mom would not back down on the $8,000 band. I thought we could do DIY centerpieces, but nope, we are having fancy floral centerpieces. We were going to ask a friend to officiate, but it was Very Important to my mom that we hire a rabbi (turns out that’s expensive if you’re not a member of a synagogue). I’m sure the wedding will be amazing, but I often feel like my mom is pressuring me to have the Best Wedding Ever when in reality, we feel like it will be the best wedding ever no matter what, because we will be marrying each other surrounded by people we love. I am excited for the wedding but sometimes just feel sick at how much money we are spending. I feel like the only places I have been able to save money are smaller things, like DIY save the dates and invitations. I feel like a brat complaining that my parents are paying for my wedding, but it’s frustrating that it also feels like they have all these demands and priorities that neither I nor my fiance really care about.

    • Her Lindsayship

      I can’t quite personally relate but just wanted to say – you’re not being a brat. That sounds really difficult. :( It sounds like you’re keeping things in perspective as best you can, and you can’t control their spending. I hope your parents’ needs don’t crowd out yours too much. Best of luck!

    • cml

      I sympathize & don’t think you’re being a brat. Try to not carry guilt for how much they are spending, because THEY are spending it. They are choosing it. I hope you love and enjoy your wedding!

    • Hannah

      I so sympathize. I’m having a similar struggle (and also living in Cambridge). Other people’s visions, man. It’s no joke.

  • Her Lindsayship

    Location: Boston, MA
    Number of guests: 60
    Date: July 2017
    Goal Budget: $15k
    Likelihood of exceeding goal budget: so so high

    The only planning we’ve got nailed down is our reception venue (restaurant downtown), which is $10k including food, alcohol, service, and fees. We’re doing our own paper goods and website, at a cost of just over $100 for supplies, as well as flowers and decorations, which I’m budgeting $500 for. I’m not sure yet what the ceremony venue will cost but we’re planning to have it in a park, so I think the fee is like $50. My sister is a professional cake designer and will make our cake, which is SO EXCITING.

    So we’re lucky in many ways. However, between attire, photography, DJ, rentals (will need chairs and possibly a tent for the ceremony), and rehearsal dinner, we’re bound to go over that $4k left in our goal budget. We’ll have to go as low-cost as we can for these if we want to stay anywhere near it.

    I’m weirdly most nervous about the dress. The thing is, it’s important to me that I feel great on our wedding day, and a big part of that is needing to feel comfortable and fabulous in my dress, which means it needs to be VERY SUPPORTIVE in the boob area. I worry that cheaper dresses won’t be supportive, or that it’s going to be impossible to find one that’s in the middle of the venn diagram of Inexpensive, Supportive, and also Suits My Taste. Then of course I meta-worry that all this worrying about the dress makes me an insecure bad feminist, but I’m trying to ignore that one. Going dress shopping with my mom and sisters in a couple weeks and I feel more anxious than excited about it. :(

    • B123456789

      Recommend a Longline bra to help with the support.

    • MrsRalphWaldo

      Wanting to feel comfortable and beautiful in your wedding dress doesn’t make you a bad feminist. it’s your wedding, your day. Do what you want.

      • cml

        YES. Being yourself & being comfortable is not bad feminism. Please don’t fall into the “bad feminist” trap that winds up controlling your life! Go on and look awesome in that dress!

    • Hannah

      Just got my dress in this area, I went to Dream Bridal in Sudbury. Would highly recommend them if they’re not already on your list. Malinda is so knowledgable and can also recommend local seamstresses to add support. (I will say that I’m small-chested so YMMV)

      • LFoD

        I also went to Dream! Pricier than I had originally envisioned (about $2K) but could really feel the difference in construction. My first appointment that day was at BHLDN (who also has gorgeous new stuff) and I felt like construction was the biggest difference. I’m talking really great boning and sturdier fabrics and cups. My equally-busty friend had success at Vows in Watertown, but I know as an outlet it can be hit or miss. Best of luck!

        • Hannah

          I had the same experience- BHLDN then Dream! Totally agree with the comparison and even with the price. To me, it’s worth it as I also plan on re-selling the dress if it’s in good shape after the day.

  • Sarah

    Goal Budget: $40,000
    Actual Budget: $43,000 (gave ourselves 5% contingency)
    Location: Northern California/Marin County
    # Guests: 120 invited. 100 attended.
    Priorities: Location, good food, good photos.

    Our budget included:
    $1,200 = Two short “scouting” trips to the location to meet with coordinator/location vendor and plan
    $4K = a DO coordinator who also worked by the hour pre-wedding as we needed
    $750 = self-designed/professionally printed invitations/wedding website (RSVPs taken online)
    $700 = welcome bags for guests
    $2,600 = transpo for wedding party(siblings)+parents and one shuttle van for guests
    $5K = Location. A ceremony site permit (20%) and reception venue fee (80%).
    $5K = Rentals & decor. Included all tables, chairs, a toilet trailer, a projector for a “decor project” we did, glasses/dishes, linens, couch for “lounge area”, craft projects
    $1K = DJ + sound equipment/rental
    $3,100 = photographer, prints + album post wedding
    $2,500 = wedding dress, wedding suit, shoes, makeup/hair ($0, my friend did it), accessories, alterations, dry cleaning
    $500 = Ceremony/cocktail hour music; folk duo performance.
    $12,500 = Reception meals (including for staff/vendors), food service/staff, catering equipment (there was no onsite kitchen), 2 bartenders, dessert…
    $1,500 = Alcohol. We were able to bring it in ourselves. (2 beers, 2 mixed cocktails, 2 wines)
    $1K = Flowers. I threw all of them in a dumpster the next day. So sad, but they couldn’t travel. Partly why we keep it small.
    $350 = pitching in for a catered brunch (breakfast tacos & mimosas!) on Sunday morning at different location for approx 75 people.

    We treated our wedding like a “location destination” wedding as everyone had to travel including us. We did a family style meal, pies for dessert and were able to bring in our own alcohol. Photography was important to us (we’re both in the film industry) so we were picky with that. Chose not to have videographer because we didn’t want to be directing the person all day. Most decor we did ourselves and we kept it very low key – using items we had and only a little crafting here and there, with one major video “project” that my husband made in his spare time.

    Happy to share detailed budget and photos from the day for anyone that’s curious.

    • K Dubs

      Would you mind sharing where you had your wedding? My fiance and I are looking in the same area and affordable venues are few and far between!

      • Sarah

        Sure! We got married in Point Reyes Station. Ceremony at the Giacomini Wetlands and reception at Toby’s. There are limited venues in PRS obviously, but we were determined to make it happen there from the start, so that helped us decide on numbers/budget etc.

    • Katie

      How did your guests like the online reservations? We’re thinking of doing the same thing to save paper.

      • Sarah

        I should clarify: we put up our own RSVP google doc form guests filled out on our wedding website. (Or they could email us with the address listed on the website.) 80% of our guests did it without problem. We had less than 10 or so computer-illiterate-like people (no grandparents, very few family over 75) so it wasn’t a problem for most of our guests. And we still had to chase down a handful of people that just never responded. Overall it worked for us because we knew our guests habits and that they were internet savvy. Will totally depend on your people.

      • Lisa

        On-line RSVPs were my only insistence for our wedding. I figured that either our guests were technologically savvy enough to fill out an on-line form or that they were old enough that they would know how to send a traditional paper RSVP without an RSVP card. (The most traditional way was that you used to get a wedding invitation and then respond on your own stationary. People started including the RSVP card as a way to encourage more responses by making it easier.)

        We used AppyCouple, and almost everyone managed it without any problems. Even my husband’s 90-year-old grandmother did it with the help of her 60+-year-old daughter! If she can figure it out, then pretty much anyone should be able to.

  • Brittany

    Wedding Location: Amity, OR (Wine County outside of Portland, OR)
    Goal budget: $8,000
    Actual budget: $12,000 (including our honeymoon!) Our parents each contributed $4,000, which left us to contribute the rest, however we did end up with CC debt at the end.
    Priorities: Seated dinner (not plated, but family style served to the table), our attire, location, Honeymoon in Iceland!
    Number of Guests: 45

    The vibe was a fancy dinner party in a vineyard. We easily spent the most on our catering (a wood fired pizza food truck) at $2,300. However I was adamant that it not be a buffet, which added to the cost, as well as their travel fee. The food was SO good though, that I have no regrets at all, looking up during dinner and seeing all my favorite people sitting down at candlelit tables overlooking wine country at sunset was one of my favorite moments. My dress was about $1,300, including alterations. (Probably more like $1,800 if you include all the extras, shoes, makeup, etc.) We were so so so lucky to have dear photographer friends gift us their services, as well as ordering all the flowers through my work (I’m a florist) and having a bridesmaid (also a florist!) arrange and make our bouquets, etc. My maid of honor had previously worked at the vineyard and got us a meeting with them–they had never had a wedding before so it was a bit of a learning experience for both of us (The vineyard was a bit rough around the edges but so beautiful) My maid of honor also made our cake(s), and we DIY’d pretty much everything else. (I taught myself calligraphy and letter pressed the invitations, we made a wedding playlist, did limited decor, bought all the extra alcohol (obviously we had to order all our wine through the vineyard) DIY those things allowed us to “upgrade” other things–nice wood benches for the ceremony, plates and silverware for dinner, gold candlestick holders with tapers, fancy wedding night lingerie, etc.

    We also really prioritized our honeymoon, 10 days in Iceland. I knew that if we didn’t book it at the beginning of planning I would get overwhelmed and back out (due to money) so we took a leap and made that a financial priority. The reality is that that decision was not that smartest financial decision, as we ended up having to put a lot of little charged on the CC at the end. BUT It was still so worth it, and we’re making real headway at paying it off in full, so I have no real regrets there. (I do have a small amount of shame, but I’m just throwing this out there for anyone else who has debt from their wedding, I wish I would have been the person who really buckled down and kept their budget smaller, but I wasn’t, and thats not the worst thing in the world.)

    Honestly, the most expensive thing that I feel was not worth it was my wedding dress. I initially planned to have a budget of $1,500 for it, total, so I did go over that. But looking back I just feel it would have been just as good of a day and I would have felt just as pretty in something more simple, and far less expensive. I think I just got carried away in wanting to feel like it was “special” and that added up. If I could do it over again, I would find something way more laid back, and feel just as great in it. (Side note–Am I the only one with a wedding dress hanging in my closet still needing to be cleaned. I have no idea what to do with it and hate to spend more money getting it cleaned, even though I know I can’t do much with it until I do that. Ugh!)

    • lamarsh

      Just throwing this out there:

      The company was started by a woman with whom I went to law school and her sister. I’m definitely planning to rent my dress through them after the wedding.

      • Brittany

        Thank you!!

    • MrsRalphWaldo

      I had my dress cleaned and preserved through Prestige Preservation. it was $180 (after a coupon) but worth it to me to be able to keep my dress in pristine condition. They are full service. They send you a box, you just put your dress in it and send it away. A few weeks later it comes back in a box with a window and a lifetime guarantee.

  • Alli

    Yes I love being open about money! Make it less taboo and all.

    Our budget was originally “Somewhere between 10 and 15 thousand but hopefully closer to 10.” Now it’s up to 20k. It could go up as there as I’m finding out all of FH’s cousins suddenly have girlfriends so if they’re still around when invites go out they’re invited too. But right now our number we’re inviting is 150. This is near but outside of Philadelphia.

    Our priority was food (although not fancy food, just good food and a lot of it!) and being stress free on the day of. We really don’t prioritize photography, which tends to get people on wedding forums pretty mad but we honestly aren’t the kind of people to appreciate good photographs. We just want to have some sort of documentation of the day!

    • cml

      I read the middle paragraph and am very curious – are you me? :) Your budget & guest situation is also mine! Haha

  • sofar

    Goal budget: $30k

    Actual cost: $22k (we came out under budget by NOT decorating anything).

    Priorities: Food. Location (convenience for out-of-town guests). Ease (spent $$$ on a full set-up and clean-up staff and coordinator, so I didn’t have to do ANYTHING).

    Guests: Just over 200

    Where: Milwaukee, WI (downtown).

    All in all, the food, coordinator, and venue staff were worth every penny. We got a free DJ (a friend did it). If I had a do-over, I’d have hired a professional, honestly.

  • Brittany

    Wedding Location: North of Boston
    Goal Budget: Before I did any research, I thought we would spend between $5,000-$10,000 at the most.
    Actual Budget: $30,000 (Food is expensive…)
    Number of Guests: 150
    Priorities: A big priority for me was a full service venue. Just picking out the venue was an incredibly overwhelming experience for me, so I knew I had to find a venue that was going to take care of almost everything for me. I wanted to be able to just show up and have fun. We also prioritized good food (our venue had a personal chef) and photography. The most important priority though, was the people. I almost picked a venue that wasn’t big enough for my guest list because it was a full service Inn on the water (I was having flashbacks to the Independence Inn from the first season of Gilmore Girls) then I realized that I was being a crazy person and chose our current venue. We haven’t gotten married yet, but I don’t foresee having any regrets.

  • nosio

    Wedding Location: Chicago*
    Goal Budget: $20K
    Actual Budget: We’ll see!
    Number of Guests: Inviting 165, expecting 140-ish
    Priorities: (1) Not going into debt, (2) focusing on what will truly make the day beautiful: our people, (3) insane booze-fueled dance party, (4) photography
    Date: September 2, 2017

    *We are ameliorating many costs usually associated with Chicago weddings by forgoing, uh, desirable locales/amazing culinary spots and opting instead for a cocktail hour/ceremony in my parents’ backyard, followed by a reception at the local VFW hall. When we realized our budget was incompatible with having a stylish affair downtown, we decided to change our mantra: it’s about our people, not a venue. So, in that light, here’s a rough breakdown of what we’re spending on:

    – My parents’s backyard: $0
    – VFW hall: $650
    – Catering: A local BBQ restaurant is doing the food, the hall is handling the booze and a bartender, and we’re outsourcing some rentals (linens, china, stemware); all told, dinner/drinks should be about $10K. The lowest quote I got from a full-service caterer was over $14K, so…savings!
    – Photography: $2800 – this is definitely a splurge, but photography is super important to us, AND this includes full day coverage.
    – DJ: $1600 – another splurge, but these DJs come highly recommended, and if we’re asking people to come hang out in a VFW hall on the south side, we want them to remember it as the best fucking dance party ever
    – Florals: being handled by my very artistic aunt
    – Design/decor: being handled by a very talented friend
    – Remaining $5K: Hair and makeup for bride and bridal party, attire, transportation, hotel, wedding license, rings, and anything else I’m forgetting!

  • BrunchWedding

    Goal budget: $10,000

    Actual budget: $12,000 (about $8K of which was gifted to us
    by both sets of parents)

    Priorities: A beautify outdoor ceremony venue with a view of
    the mountains. A reception venue that was all inclusive so we had a minimum to

    People: 100 RSVPed, about 90 showed up the day-of

    Region: Southwestern US, in a destination wedding town that’s also where we live

    We kept things simple in a number of ways: We had a fall Sunday
    brunch wedding (less expensive than Saturday night). Our photographer was
    starting out in wedding photography and gave a friends discount. My dress was $100 from ModCloth plus
    alterations. Our flowers were minimal, purchased from the farmers market. We
    had a simple bar with a few beer and wine choices, as well as mimosas and
    bloody marys. Our friends brought lawn games. We sent save the dates by email and a
    friend designed our invites, which we printed locally. RSVPs were online. The
    spaces were both beautiful indoor/outdoor areas that didn’t need decorations.
    My MIL made our favors. We paid for a DJ but he was really laid back and did a
    flat rate for however many hours we needed. The bulk of our costs came from
    renting the ceremony space, and the reception space, which had one flat per
    person rate that included everything (food, space rental, tables/linens, day of coordinator) except
    cake and alcohol. Alcohol was a little pricey because we couldn’t bring our own
    in, but the all-inclusive venue was so worth it!

    • BrunchWedding

      I forgot! Our wedding rings were also a big priority and a more expensive piece. We designed them and had them custom made by a jeweler, but my engagement ring was a family ring so no costs there.

    • cml

      I wish I’d planned this wedding! Sounds awesome!

  • Alyssa

    Wedding Location: Paris, France (Happening this June)
    Goal Budget: As cheap as possible ($15,000 max)
    Actual Budget: Hovering around $11,000 for now, will probably be $15,000
    Number of Guests: 25-30
    Priorities: As cheap as possible while still getting exactly what we want. We couldn’t find any venues we liked for less than $16,000 base rate in our area (NOT including food, rentals, etc.), and jokingly brought up the idea of going to Paris for the Fete de la Musique on June 21, which was our favorite travel memory together. We figured if we could do ANYTHING in the world for our wedding, that would be it. We are only inviting immediate family, close friends, and one of my aunts, who will be our officiant, and are having a “french picnic” for the ceremony — we are finding a place in a public park, laying out picnic blankets, and will have appetizers + wine for the ceremony, then taking everyone out to dinner at a restaurant in Paris owned by a relative of one of our friends (small world!) before heading to the Fete de la Musique as our “reception”, where we will end the night at Marche au Crepe, a fabulous hole-in-the-wall creperie in Paris we stumbled upon when we were there in 2013.

    My parents just finished paying for my brother’s wedding and complained that they felt like “the checkbook” for the whole thing, so it became an unexpected perk that by asking all of our nearest and dearest, that while expensive, the cost could be viewed as a vacation as well (and this will be my parent’s first time abroad, and first big trip after they retire). Our costs cover our plane tickets and lodging (~$6,000 total), photography ($5,000 — because it turns out I’m picky about photography and of the hundreds we looked at, the only photographer I liked was the guy we hired, so it was worth it to me to splurge), dress ($1100), and dinner for everyone (we’re estimating $3-4,000). Everyone is paying their own way, and we’re lucky that we have about an 85-90% attendance rate because our group of people is international travel-savvy. We’ll have a celebration in the states after we return, but that is all TBD.

    • AP

      Your wedding sounds like a dream:)

    • NolaJael

      So fun to take your parents on their first international trip!

    • Leah

      Please submit a post to APW after your wedding, it sounds AMAZING!

  • Karen

    Wedding location: Baltimore City, MD
    Goal budget: $15k
    Actual budget: $16k and change, including rehearsal dinner
    Number of guests: 105
    Priorities: Location and not spending a fortune to get married in said location (on the water in Baltimore)
    – $10k for venue (ceremony site, reception site, food/catering, alcohol, our hotel room for the night)
    – $2k photography
    – $430 my dress ($225 for custom-made dress on Etsy!!!!! Plus alterations, which were needed due to my mistakes in ordering the dress, not the maker…I am still amazed at the deal we got with this!)
    – $150 groom’s suit
    – <$500 hair and makeup for bride and attendants
    – $800 DJ
    – $500 flowers (bought wholesale and arranged by my mother-in-law)
    – $1k rehearsal dinner
    – <$700 for other miscellany: invitations, DIY centerpieces, my shoes, tips, musician for ceremony (student, so very cheap)

    We really really really wanted a downtown on-the-water Baltimore location and really really really didn't want to spend a lot of money doing it. So we sacrificed things – got married on a Friday night, did a cocktail reception only (apps, drinks, desserts, no full dinner), kept our guest list relatively small, and asked a friend to be our officiant. Looking back, neither of us can really think of anything we would have changed or done differently.

    Some other general thoughts:
    – We got a break (50% discount) on our photographers because they are our good friends, but gladly would have paid full price because we love the photos we received and are so grateful to have the pictures from that day.
    – My MIL went more than double the flower budget. They looked beautiful, but I just don't care about flowers. We could have saved about $300 if someone had given me options for cheaper stems to use. In the grand scheme of things, not a problem at all, but if we had needed to count dollars, this is where we could have done it.
    – I feel ever-so-slightly bad that we did not provide a full meal for people BUT we made this very clear on the invitations (and in our conversations with people before the wedding) and had a later ceremony + reception, which hopefully allowed for people to eat before they came. No one complained (to us) but I do wonder if this was improper etiquette.

    Things we forgot about until the last minute: gifts for attendants and tips for vendors! Those were a bit of a last-minute scramble…oops!

    • cml

      If it makes you feel better, I would not have been upset that you didn’t have a full meal since you were upfront about it. :)

    • Lisa

      If you made it clear that dinner wouldn’t be provided and accommodated normal dinner times with a later ceremony, then I think you are in good etiquette territory and don’t need to worry anymore!

  • cml

    Ah, budget. The source of all my wedding stress! :)
    We’re getting married in April, but here’s what it seems to be shaking out as:
    Goal budget: $10,000 (I had no idea)
    Adjusted goal budget: $15,000
    Actual budget: $17,000-$18,000

    Wedding location: St. Louis, MO metro area winery
    Guests: 150-160
    Priorities: having our people there, location, and (sub-conciously), meeting expectations of what other weddings are like in our group/area – EFF THAT.
    Help received: His parents chipped in $5k, his grandpa gave us $2k (such an unexpected blessing!), and my mom paid for my dress.

    Venue: $12,448.91 (estimate), which includes both ceremony site and reception site, caterer, bar, & DOC.

    Rehearsal: $0 – We are not doing a rehearsal dinner (we are rehearsing the morning of).

    Veil, sash: $519.50 (actual dress cost is not included in budget, as it was a gift)

    Shoes: $0 – wearing my ol’ boots instead of new shoes, lol!

    Hair & makeup: $264 includes hair trial & gratuity

    Photography: $1,550 unless we wind up tacking on a 2nd shooter.

    DJ: $1,075

    Flowers: $100 (estimate) planning to buy from Sam’s Club

    Misc. Decor: $60-80 (doing a lot of DIY)

    Cupcakes: not sure yet – a friend is making them, so whatever materials cost.

    Officiant: $400-500 (estimate) I wanted to have a minister friend officiate, and will most likely be covering his plane ticket up from TX. In hindsight, I wish I’d hired someone local for cost reasons, but I’m so excited to have someone I know be the one to marry us.

    Shuttle: $1,000 (estimate – still pricing this out)

    I’ve officially stopped reading the “how we did it” articles because it’s giving me anxiety that I can’t pull off the wedding of my dreams for $10k or less. Which is sooo not like me. I didn’t see that anxiety coming, but here it is.
    I am sure I’m going to love our wedding – I’m in love with the venue, it’s outdoors and so me, and all that – but I wish I could have had it in me to just do a cool restaurant with 40 people or something!

  • Caroline

    Wedding Location: Brooklyn
    Goal Budget= less than 20k
    Actual= looking to be 20- 22k (not including honeymoon or rehearsal dinner)
    Number of Guests 110

    We didn’t have exactly a huge set of priorities but when it came down to it we wanted it to be easy for people to get to (ie city), not too many logistics (restaurant wedding!), a setting that was naturally beautiful (again restaurant!) and as cheap as possible (cheap has a much different meaning now than when we first got engaged)

    As of now I am super happy with all of our choices the only 2 that I am still going back and forth on is whether to have the ceremony in another location (right now it’s outside but I’m pretty concerned about weather) The other is if I should spend more on the wedding dress. If we go ahead and spend more on these items we will be closer to the 22 mark…

    • anontoday

      I’m impressed you’re throwing a Brooklyn wedding for 100+ people for $20ish-K!

      • Amy March

        Me too! Would you mind sharing the restaurant?

        • caroline

          Of course! The restaurant is Juliette in Williamsburg. It has great non-peak minimums and we are going very basic with food and drink. It is a beyond gorgeous interior but I will say that I hope that closer to 100 people rsvp yes for space reasons. I should note that the restaurant is basically our whole budget coming in at around 16k when I factor in taxes and gratuity. Most other large costs our friends are going to ‘gift’ us (such as being a DJ), we cut (flowers besides bouquets which I’ll make) or are using items we already have such as the groom’s suit, my jewelry, shoes, make-up.
          Also I cant recommend enough for finding a photographer, hair dresser etc.

  • Elizabeth

    Location: Brooklyn, NY
    Planned: 5K
    Actual: ~8K including 2K gift from my parents
    Guests: 50

    This was possible because our venue was not a ~venue~ but our neighborhood bar with a nice back yard who gave us full-run of the place for the low low price of $2,000 as long as they could be open for business at their normal start time of 6pm. Seriously, the owners are the best people in the world. They were excited that they could help us celebrate love! We didn’t need to decorate much and I made paper flowers to save on a florist (If we had the budget, I would have gone HAM on a florist, but making them myself was a way to put all the love I wanted into it without the $$).

    HIGHLY recommend mid-afternoon weddings. We got away with just providing grilled cheeses (which was another huge savings) and my husband and I got a quiet evening to ourselves before going to the after party.

    • nosio

      Ooh, a grilled cheese reception sounds DELICIOUS.

    • allison

      this sounds lovely! I’m looking into planning a Brooklyn wedding. what bar was it?

  • GotMarried!

    Wedding Location: Arkansas
    Goal Budget – none
    Actual Budget – about $9K
    Number of Guests: 20
    Priorities: Photography, My Dress. I (bride) value photography and honestly would have worn a pretty, dressy non “WIC” dress to the courthouse. My groom valued the traditional wedding dress. We found out after the fact, he would have been ok eloping to the courthouse so long as we dressed up uber formal to do so … there is about $5K we’ll never get back.

    Venue: $1,600 – included a tiny chapel, outdoor reception on its grounds, music for ceremony, etc.
    Photography: $1,500
    My Dress: $1,500 found off the rack 50% off at local boutique (we planned the event in 4 weeks) We paid a local seamstress $75 to hem it and she did so with one week turn around.
    Flowers: $1,400 – paid for by POB; had they not done so, we wouldn’t have had flowers.
    Hair/Nail Services: $650 (for Bride, MOB, and MOG)
    Groom & FOB & FOG Tuxes: $600
    Ring Bearer: $190 (bought him a suit and the pillow)
    Rehearsal Dinner- Unknown, paid by POB
    Reception – Cake/Punch/Papergoods – $412 – we made our own punch and bought plastic ware from Samsclub
    Gifts – $450 – includes gifts for each of our parents as well as gift bags in each guest’s hotel room.
    Officiant – $150, friend of the family
    Hotel – $870, for groom and groom’s family the night before and after the wedding as well as the couple the night after the wedding.

    We also spent about $9K on our two rings.

  • Sarah

    Wedding Location: Northern Virginia
    Original budget: $10,000 (we were going for small, destination wedding)
    Likely budget: $25,000 (in town wedding)
    Number of guests: 100-120
    Priorities: My priorities were having a relaxing, low stress day. Having a wedding that felt like us. And making sure a very small group of folks (my list was like 10 people total) were there. Unfortunately, if you are looking at where we are spending money, it is really around a venue, food, and drinks ($12,000) that are to make my family happy. While I am getting the things that are important to me, we are spending a lot more money than we really wanted to in order to make everyone else happy. I’m just blessed that we can afford to spend it.

    • Totch

      Our wedding is coming up, and that struggle between “feels like us” and there being enough pomp and circumstance is really hard.

      Right now we’re trying to find ring bearer dresses for 3 girls in an 8 year range. Who live in different countries. It doesn’t need to matter, but the cuteness factor of all of them matching… turns out it matters enough that I’m gonna make it happen.

  • Excited Anon

    We are getting married in February!!! Our wedding is in New Hampshire for 70 guests. Our plan budget that has been pretty accurate is 8,000. In fact we are coming in under budget which is amazing. Our biggest priority is the photography. Our biggest expenses have been photography and the venue. Having our wedding in the off season has allowed us to save money. I’m so excited just over a month to go!

  • JennDee

    Oh hey there, it’s been a bit since I’ve posted anything (thanks to a seriously crazy November/December here at work) but it feels amazing to jump back in with something heavy…

    Wedding Location: Central PA
    Goal Budget: (maybe I should call this original budget?) $25,000
    Actual Budget: (including honeymoon and gifts for parents/bridal party and three hotel rooms for the weekend (that’s a long-ass story)) $35,000
    Guests: 136 invited, expecting 120
    Priorities: Awesome food and drinks (that’s why we upped the budget), amazing photography and a location to host everything for the weekend.

    So, we live in PA, about 1/3 of our guests are from Upstate NY, another 1/3 from southern MD or VA, and the other 1/3 are scattered around the country (and two coming from England!). We wanted a location where everyone could come and gather for the entire weekend if they so wished, so we picked a city we love and knew others would like to explore, and chose a boutique hotel with a ballroom as our home base.

    We knew, realistically, that our original budget wouldn’t cut it in our area (it’s a hotel downtown in a major city) so we looked over our finances and decided to save for an additional 6 months before committing to anything, hence the budget increase. We know it’s a stupid amount of money (that makes us both gag at times), but it’s a number that we physically have in the bank, that we discussed back and forth between ourselves and our financial planner. It’s a safe number for us, doesn’t takeaway from our savings or emergency fund, and it will allow us to treat the people we love most in our lives to a really amazing day. It’s what we feel our people deserve, it won’t hamper us financially or create outstanding debt, and, at the end of the day, it will meet our goal of becoming wedded partners.

  • Rachel

    Wedding Location: Boston (July 2017)
    Goal Budget: $20k
    Actual Budget: $25-30k (inclusive of rings, rehearsal dinner and fancy hotel suite)
    Number of Guests: 130 invited
    Priorities: Good food that is not traditional “wedding food” (we opted for a pizza food truck), delicious and plentiful drinks, fun music to make it a great party, and being in a location where it is easy for guests to travel into because we have family/friends spread across the country and do not want them to have to spend tons to make it to town and then stay the weekend.

    Venue: $4k – industrial museum space on the river
    Food: ~$7k (passed appetizers and unlimited salad and pizza made on site in their portable wood burning oven)
    Photography: $1k (luckily my stepfather is a photographer who is gifting us his services and we are hiring one additional photographer to help with getting ready shots and extra coverage during the reception)
    Dress: ~$1k (haven’t bought yet but I am very set on keeping this cost low and have my eye on some!)
    Flowers: $700 (bought in bulk from local farm and will DIY the day before)
    Rings: $2k
    Rehearsal Dinner: $3k
    Hotel Suite: $1,800 (splurging on the fanciest suite at our favorite hotel)
    Shuttle: ~$1k (Uber codes)
    Hair/makeup: $400 (for myself and mother)
    DJ: $1,200
    Grooms Attire: $1k
    Invitations/paper goods/misc: $500
    DOC: $2k
    Booze: ~$1,500? (we are buying our own and am still unsure what the final cost will be)
    Rentals: ~$1,500 (tables/chairs/linens/glassware/china/flatware)
    Dessert: $700 (donuts and kegged cold brew from our favorite local coffee excited!)

    Still somewhat regret not going for an all inclusive venue to reduce the stress of coordinating logistics/staffing, but very happy we decided to go with a DOC to take of this the day of!

    • Hannah

      This sounds amazing, and a round of applause for achieving all that on your budget in this town! I’m planning for July 2017 here in Cambridge too :)

    • Cathryn

      I love the idea of more casual catering at a wedding reception and am obsessed with your dessert selection! Do you mind me asking, what were the food truck company and coffee shops you used?

      • Rachel

        Thanks, I’m the most excited about our food selections out of everything! We are using Stoked Pizza to cater (they have been amazing and so helpful with everything). And we are getting donuts from Union Square Donuts, coffee is stilk TBD and we’re waiting here back. I highly recommend both these companies, good luck!

        • Cathryn

          Love Union Donuts!!!!
          Would you mind me asking what venue you are getting married at? I’ve looked at a few museum/industrial spaces but most have caterers you need to use. No where has said you can bring in a food truck.

          • Rachel

            No problem! We are getting married at Charles River Museum of Industry. The caterer was not originally listed but we were able to work it out with the venue to have them authorized. Happy to talk more Boston wedding planning if interested! I have spent the last 6+ months doing lots and lots of research and would be happy to share :)

  • Jessica

    Wedding Location: In-laws’ home in Port Gamble, WA
    Goal Budget: $11,000
    Actual Budget: $12,000 (not including my dress or rings)
    Number of Guests: 110
    Priorities: Location, casual vibe, affordability

    The first thing we did when we started wedding planning was align on our priorities as a couple – we wanted a casual, fun wedding that was outdoors, enjoyable for our guests, and wouldn’t put us in debt. Luckily, my husband’s parents’ house fit the bill for the location and they agreed to let us host the event there, which did help with venue costs. For the other components, we used a combination of local vendors, personal contacts for discounts, and DIY. I’ve provided more details on each of these below. My main advice is two fold:

    1) Don’t forgot about your priorities once you’ve identified them. Refer back to them throughout the wedding planning process. Ask yourself if what you’re planning to spend time or money on reinforces your priorities or detracts from them. If it doesn’t fit, don’t be afraid to nix it.

    2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but be sure that you’re asking for help in the right way and of the right person. We got a lot of help from friends and family for our wedding. This worked because we deiced up front where we needed assistance and gave appropriate guidance for the task AND the person performing it. For example, my sister in law is the kind of person who can take a task and run with it without much direction – so I gave her projects that I needed someone to figure out for me. My mom and sister on the other hand need very specific direction (giving them a vague assignment just turned into more work for me), so I gave them tasks where I had a clear vision of what I wanted and just needed someone to execute on that.

    Catering: We hired a local food truck to serve hamburgers. They did all of their own set up and provided plates, cutlery, napkins and non-alcoholic drinks. They charged us a flat per person fee with a $600 minimum. Instead of a fancy cake, my mom made a small cutting cake and we had an ice cream sundae bar for dessert.

    Alcohol/Drinks: We got discounted kegs through a friend who works at Fremont Brewing. We bought wine from Costco along with some other non-alcoholic beverages.

    Decor: We made our own dance floor out of plywood as well as a backdrop for the band (using IKEA curtains and string lights). My mom made table runners, I made the table numbers and seating chart, as well as some signs to direct people. Our centerpieces consisted of driftwood collected from the beach, mason jars and hydrangeas with greenery – which friends and family assembled the morning of. I ordered bouquets and boutonnieres from the same florist who provided the hydrangeas (I paid a little more for flowers than I initially planned, because I decided against doing it myself). Luckily, my in-laws house is already very nicely landscaped so we didn’t have to do too much else in the way of decor, aside from hanging some string lights.

    Music: My husband’s coworker is in a bluegrass band. They gave us a discount on 3 hours of live music plus use of their sound system for the ceremony and reception.

    Photographer: We found a photographer on yelp who was still building her portfolio. She provided 10 hours of coverage and a digital library of 300+ photos for $1800. My brother in law filmed the ceremony and first dance for us.

    Invitations: We ordered all of our invitations and save the dates through Mint, which also had a coordinating website that supported RSVPs, etc. for an additional $35.

    Rentals: We rented tables, chairs, tents, propane heaters and port-a-potties. Instead of getting one of the rental packages, which had a bunch of stuff we didn’t want or need, we rented by item – this helped with the overall cost.

    Favors: We purchased customized cups from a party supply website. This helped us avoid additional rentals and doubled as the favors.

    Attire: My mom purchased my dress as a gift, but I covered the alternations and shoes. My mom also paid for my make-up and my stepmom did my hair. My husband wore a suit he already owned. We asked the groomsmen to wear dark colored suits (which they already owned) and the bridesmaids each wore a blue dress of their own choosing. We did provide the groomsmen with matching ties.

    Officiant: We wrote our own vows and a friend served as the officiant.

  • anon for today

    Location: Seattle, WA
    Goal budget: $20,000
    Actual budget: $25,000 or thereabouts
    Guests: 45 at ceremony; 110 at reception (close to 190 were invited for the latter, but there were LOTS of people from out of town who couldn’t make it)
    Priorities: Large enough venue for up to 200 (uh…whoops, didn’t need that) in a central location; ceremony photography; casual vibe; providing food for a wide variety of diets
    Skipped out on paying for: reception photography (easily saved $2000 or more this way) ; DJ or band; bridal party; ceremony venue (did it at a friend’s house); decor (DIYed most of it); flowers (family member hooked us up); day-of coordinator
    Worth it: Skipping the DJ and the bridal party; getting a badass reception venue; hiring a quality caterer
    Not worth it: Skimping on our photography budget (I’d have liked to hire someone more experienced) and skipping the DOC (badly needed, tbh)

    Seattle is an expensive place to get married, and the exorbitant sums we spent filled me with guilt. Were the weather there not so unpredictable, I’d have loved to have a simple potluck “reception” at a park!

    • LFoD

      Fellow Seattle Bride here! I feel you on the guilt thing… we’re heading over the pass to get some budget relief (and mountain views). Can I ask who your caterer was? We are trying to pick ours (and cake) within the month. Also looking for hair/makeup person that will not break the bank…

      • Jane

        I don’t know about anon’s caterer, but I’m a Seattle bride too and we are going with Madres Kitchen. They have been really responsive, food was good at tasting, not super expensive, not budget-shaming when I was like, but what are your absolutely cheapest appetizers? And they catered some friends’ wedding and did a great job.

  • RNLindsay

    Where: Outside Boston, MA. July 2014
    Budget: $50k
    Actual: $50k – did not include rehearsal dinner (paid for by in-laws) or honeymoon (paid for out of our personal expenses). We were proud of ourselves to sticking exactly to budget!
    Guest list: 180 invited, 150 came. We had a min of 150 guests, so when only about 140 RSVP’d yes, we added on some extra plus ones or children of guests.
    Priorities: (1) Convenience for guests. We looked at so. many. venues. From my hometown in super rural CT, to Lake George, NY, White Mountains, NH, Cape Cod, to where we live in Boston! It came down to right price and ability to get to the location. I didn’t want people to be overburdened by travel. I also wanted all events to be close to one another. In my hometown CT, all events and hotel would be a 30 min drive (at least) from one another, so that cut that locale out. (2) A venue that would do everything within our budget. Boston venues are so expensive, but costs definitely reduced as we moved outside the city proper. We found a venue that would coordinate everything, in a cute seaside town with all events within walking distance of each other that people could make a weekend out of if they wanted. (3) Wine! We asked to go off list which our venue was fine with, as long as it was available from their distributor. We did a taste test with my in-laws as a fun way to include them (who constantly voiced feeling left out, even though they were more involved than my parents) to pick our favorites. (4) Photography + Videography – I did a lot of research for photographers and thought we picked a good one but I ended up being pretty disappointed in the outcome. The photos are nice, don’t get me wrong, but he missed a lot of important moments (hardly any of my dad walking me down the aisle). The videographer was added into our budget further down the road and I’m so so happy that we did. Having that walk down the aisle live made up for the lack of pics. And I know I’ll cherish having our parents voices during speeches for a long time to come. Finding a budget videographer with quality work is hard! Check out NH Images if you’re in the New Hampshire/Massachusetts area! (5) Live music. We love bands at weddings! We cut costs in other areas to make up the price difference between a DJ and band. Our band made the whole night and people still talk about them 2 years later!

  • Bsquillo

    Wedding location: Colorado Front Range
    Goal Budget: $20,000
    Actual Budget: $14,500 (way under! but didn’t include honeymoon or rings)
    Guests: ~80
    Priorities: We wanted a beautiful outdoor venue, great food, and awesome music. The venue was a steal of a deal at $3,000 for the whole day, with access to both indoor and outdoor spaces, and chairs and tables. I think we spent around $6000 for full service catering that included table linens, dishes, glassware, etc. We’re musicians and all of our friends are musicians, so we were able to get live musicians for the ceremony and reception for around $750.

    We spent very little on decorations and flowers. We lucked out with a local flower grower who got us bulk peonies (!!!) for super cheap- maybe spent a total of $700 on ALL our flowers for centerpieces, bouquets, and aisle decorations. We also lucked out with booze by getting a keg of local beer for about $130, and a great deal on cases of wine from a local liquor store.

    I honestly don’t remember a ton of other details about the budget without going back through our spreadsheet, but I do know that one reason we were able to come so far under budget is because WAY less people came out for the wedding than we had planned on at the beginning. So, if you budget for 120 people and 80 come, there are some upsides…

    • Leah

      Bulk peonies is the DREAM! That’s so great.

  • Our goal budget: $15,000
    Our actual budget: $20,000 (not including our honeymoon)
    What your priorities were for spending: 1. our venue. 2. the live band. 3. the photographer.
    How many people came to your wedding: 185
    Where you live: Wisconsin

    While wedding planning I was incredibly conscious of our budget and kept track of virtually every purchase we made hoping that it would help us stay under our spending goal. It helped, but we still spent more than planned which was surprising considering we DIY-ed SO many things and coordinated the entire event ourselves. Thankfully it was all worth it! We were very selective in what we spent big money on, and those few large splurges completely made our wedding the awesome event that it was. We had a (at the time) unique barn venue, an amazing live band that kept the dance floor full all night long, and an incredible photographer that took the most beautiful photos of our day to remember it by.

    We saved a lot of money by doing the following things:
    -Buying my wedding dress off the rack and having it altered to fit
    -Choosing a venue that let us bring in our own food and alcohol (we bought our booze in bulk and hired two family friends to bartend)
    -Serving BBQ for dinner vs. doing a fully catered plated meal (our guests loved it and told us they were some of the best ribs they’d ever had!)
    -Having a small local bakery supply the cupcakes and wedding cake
    -Buying linens off of Craigslist instead of renting
    -Not having fresh flowers (I made fabric flower bouquets)
    -Making and creating most of the decor (signage, centerpieces, cake topper, etc.)
    -Coordinating the entire event ourselves

  • anon

    Wedding Location: Kona, HI
    Goal Budget: $30,000
    Actual Budget: $34,000
    Attendees: 110 (approximately 300 were invited, and it was a destination event for everyone)
    Date: July 2016

    Goals: My husband and I are from different continents, so even though we dated for 6.5 years before we got married, our immediate families and friends had never met. Thus, our goals were to introduce our families and friends to each other, to catch up with some of our favorite people that we rarely see, and to provide a fun space for everyone to get to know one another.

    Spending Priorities: 1) Venue that could accommodate a wide range of people, since we had absolutely no idea how many people would come; 2) Wedding planner that “got” us and our desired vibe; 3) Personalized catering and bar-tending that would be tasty for our guests from around the world and would meet several special dietary needs (including mine!).

    Regrets: We decided to spend extra for local, fresh catering and fancy cocktails, and thus couldn’t afford a local professional photographer. One of my husband’s closest friends is a photographer and offered to do our wedding photography for just the cost of her international flight. We ended up with lots of amazing shots of my husband and his groomsmen, our ceremony, and all his friends partying at the reception, but almost none of the bridal party, the décor, or my friends. I don’t regret how we spent money, and the photos we have are great, but I really should have met with our friend-photographer for longer ahead of time to get to know her and should have made a list of “must have” photos.

    Best Decisions: Our hands-down best decision was choosing our amazing wedding planner, Sara Kam. My husband didn’t have the time to be involved in wedding planning, only one of my bridesmaids lived within driving distance of where we live, and my mom had no desire to be involved in planning. I hate the small amount of event planning that I sometimes get pulled into at work, so I knew from the outset that our wedding wouldn’t happen without a professional wedding planner. But Sara’s assistance was even more than what I expected (knowing local info, keeping me from going insane). She made our minimalist “Palm Springs meets Hawaii” wedding even better looking than what I had pinned on Pinterest, and we all had a fun and stress-free time despite a rainstorm in the middle of our ceremony.

  • Jalondra Davis Brown

    Wedding Location: Los Angeles, CA
    Goal Budget: $3000, before a venue change and guest list jump
    Actual Budget: about $7000
    Number of Guests: 60 at actual wedding, about additional 40 at other weekend celebrations
    Priorities: Summertime wedding, sacred-feeling ceremony outside, good and unique food, showing our creativity and commitment to community spaces and small community businesses, not spending too much money
    We rented a municipal youth center right on the beach, it was bare bones but we had a beach wedding venue in LA for less than $1000. The food was done by a small, local independent caterer who cooked out of her house, she made a cheap and delicious brunch of small bites, turkey salad, yogurt parfaits and shrimp and grits, as well as pre-ceremony fruit and snacks. Most vendors were good friends and gave us deals and I made all the decorations, which were peacock quill-themed. It was beautiful but going with a space where we had to rent everything and having a daytime brunch didn’t save as much as I thought, the little things still added up and sometimes I wonder if we could have done just as well with a traditional venue for the number of people that ended up showing up. (We paid for food for ninety but several guests and staff I recruited from my college students to help set up didn’t show up.) In retrospect, would have spent less time worrying about my bridal party and more time clarifying expectations and requirements with vendors and staff with whom we also had personal relationships. We also had an afterparty at a club for friends in our age group and a potluck picnic the day after the wedding we invited even more people to including families with all their kids, and it was a lot of fun to have lots of time to celebrate with different groups. I definitely could have saved more if I would have known more, but how many chances do you get to plan a wedding? We are very proud of putting it all together ourselves, but it was kind of stressful.

    • clarkesara

      As a fellow L.A. bride in your same basic budget I’m dying to know what venue this was.

    • littleinfinity

      I know this post is a few months old, but I’m also an LA bride looking at about a 6-7k budget for 60 people, and I would LOVE to know what venue you used!!!

  • Jessica

    Goal budget: $10,000
    Actual budget: $12,500
    Spending priorities: Food! And fun. Nearly 70% of our budget was for food. Our reception was at a restaurant so there was no venue fee. We did a few fun – & mostly free – things with our guests (take a walk in NYC, go on a ferry ride, spend time at a park). This low-cost items were a hit with our guests, plus we got to spend a lot of time with them.
    Number of attendees: 65 (plus 3 kids)
    Wedding location: New York, NY (ceremony) and Queens, NY (reception)

  • EF

    We did a low budget wedding nearly 2 years ago (yay, winter prices!) in Oxfordshire, England. Overall budget was about £3000/$5000(at exchange rates then).
    Venue was $500 (government building)
    Photography was $500 (email an APW photographer and said we really liked her stuff but couldn’t afford her rates, could she recommend someone up-and-coming? and she offered to do it anyway!)
    food was about $700 (we did upmarket grocery store afternoon tea. groom baked the cake, his dad made the bread)
    dress was ordered for $100 off ebay (lightly used jcrew dress) but turned out to be free because the seller found a small stain
    suit was $200ish
    couple hundred for invitations, for decor including flowers, and for matching ties for the masculine and scarves for the feminine in the wedding party.
    also about $250 for the rehearsal lunch the day before, which was very much worth it for important people to get to know each other.
    About 75 people attended. ceremony was at 2, reception at 3, out by 6, pub crawl started back in town at 9. Not bad at all. We paid for it mostly ourselves. Groom’s parents kicked in £500.

    The wedding was done sooner than we’d ideally have done it, but i needed a visa+groom’s mother had cancer (she passed away not too long ago) and we wanted her healthy enough to enjoy the wedding. there are things we wished we could have done, yes. but the way we figure it is, that’s what anniversary parties are for.

  • Anon for Today

    Goal budget: $20,000 but secretly in my head $17,000
    Actual budget: $17,500
    Spending priorities: Food and Venue! 90% of the budget went to catering, rentals and venue fees. An unexpected $1,800 went to an awesome rehearsal/welcome dinner for 50 of our guests (we wanted it to be open to everyone).
    Size: Budgeted ~100; 80 ended up coming.
    Region: Cambridge, MA

  • Leah

    Wedding Location: Sydney, Australia
    Goal Budget: Don’t really have one (I know, I know).
    Actual Budget: $AUD 90,000. This is unabashedly a WEDDING. My parents are approaching this with Tradition (capital T intended) and are insisting on paying for our reception, church (choir etc), his father is paying for the alcohol and his mother and step-father are gifting our honeymoon to us.
    Number of Guests: 150
    Venue (food, ambiance etc) and photography
    Our venue is costing $30,000 (everything included and the parents wanted the most expensive alcohol option) and our photographer is just under $7,000. Additionally, we’re getting married in the same church my parents were married in and I was christened in which is not cheap either.
    I feel like Sydney is generally really expensive wedding-wise. Most of the venues we looked at were $150-$200 a head. We also wanted a place that was an older building with character and not a modern reception venue which limits choices a lot in Sydney with a guestlist of 150. We’re in a really fortunate position that our families are being very generous and it means we are able to have a lot of extended family present which is really important to us both.
    Additionally, our bridal party is quite big with eight bridesmaids and eight groomsmen (I’m aware this whole thing seems so anti APW) which means cars, flowers, hair and makeup are more expensive due to sheer volume of people.

    • Canadian

      Are you going to submit this to the blog? Because I don’t even know what a $15,000 trip looks like or $5,500 worth of dress or DEFINITELY not $1,400 worth of makeup…… no judgment at all (who am I to tell other people what to do with their money?!), just genuine curiosity as this seems like something I would never encounter in my own life and I would love to live vicariously…

      • Leah

        I can if people are interested. I love APW but my wedding seems so different and standard compared to the cool stuff a lot of people do with theirs here!

        The trip is a surprise so neither of us will know where exactly we’re off to until the tickets are in our hands. My FMIL is a genius and decided to take the decisions into her own hands and I love her all the more for it!

        $5,500 worth of bridal outfit is a custom dress (detachable 4m train), veil, shoes etc. Definitely could have done this cheaper, but my body is a “different” shape due to being a national-level (aiming for international) olympic weightlifter and I needed the security of unlimited alterations and a dress just for me to save me a lot of body stress. I can go up 6kg still in my weight class and even if it’s muscle it could change my body (thankfully it will be mostly butt and legs so I’ve avoided a dress that’s fitted there).

        $1,400 worth of makeup is for eight bridesmaids, my mother and me so it’s $140 per person which could be a lot (seems pretty standard for the artists I was looking at).

        Not feeling judged at all! We’re both fortunately in good positions financially (good jobs and own property independently of one another) so a lot of the expense is paying to avoid stress as I’m a stress-head and terrible at anything DIY. I admire people who can do things themselves without disaster but I am not one of these people.

        • Canadian

          I followed a PL program and tracked macros for 6 months and saw ridiculous changes in waist to hip ratios (dose quads tho) and that was only for half a year… I 100% agree with your dress decisions/understand them/can’t see another way to get well-fitted clothes and also congrats on your oly lifting!!!! I stopped lifting because of flexibility barriers once I got to intermediate numbers (ankle dorsiflexion….. ugh) so now I’m doing yoga/foam rolling/other crap and regrouping and hopefully will be back at it soon.

          $140 per person is way more reasonable ahahha, I’m paying $300 for both hair and makeup for myself as a low key bride/low key “look”, so the amount of people makes sense. I was thinking $1400 for one person/bride only and was fascinated hahahaha!!

          Definitely submit it to APW. It’s not like people here hate traditional weddings, or at least the majority of us don’t. The point of APW is to get a spectrum and re-establish “normal” as a wide variety…. and if all we get is the same stuff that offbeat bride publishes then that’s not accomplishing that. Your budget alone makes it atypical and I’m sure many of us would love to see what you could get for that money :)

          • Leah

            Omg totally on the W to H thing. It’s so great, but also standard clothing is a nope. Farewell pants basically. Thank you! I’m sure I could have found a cheaper way but eh. Piece of mind is great. Really great.

            That’s awesome! Regular yoga or just stretching really does work wonders. I’ve struggled with hip mobility but am naturally pretty strong so I get away with it up to a point. I’ve been on the regular prehab and post-stretching thing for a while and it’s helping a lot. Goal is to get splits on both legs by the end of this year which may not happen but the process is definitely improving my mobility.

            Oh yeah the number of people makes it sound much more reasonable, hey? Hahaha. It’s about $310 PP for hair and makeup which I think is pretty standard. $1,400 for one person… They’d need to be painting my face with solid gold!

            Thanks for expressing this. I’ve been pretty self-conscious about sharing anything because it seems so different to what a lot of people are doing. Plus, I really admire people for doing different things, being talented/creative/capable of DIY and going with the flow etc, I just have no knack for it. So much of our spending is just meeting with vendors and liking them and choosing them based on how they fit with what we want, organisation and how much we click with them. Our photographer is definitely a prime example of this. I’ll definitely think about submitting when it’s all done and dusted!

          • Canadian

            Peace of mind is SO HUGE. SO HUGE. On a smaller scale, my wedding is the same priority – we are having a restaurant as the reception/dinner venue because I am not going to lose my mind over centrepieces and coordinating vendors and which forks to rent and what colour table runners go with the napkins and….. seriously, being able to say “NOPE” to that level of DIY and organizing was so freeing. To accomplish that, you chose to pay more – for me to accomplish that, I chose to pay more for some things and scale down completely others. After doing some research into how much work goes into planning the traditional “rent an empty hall and outfit it yourself” option, I went to my fiancé and said “ain’t no way I’m taking this on, if you want this then you need to take the lead”…. he was gung ho…. then did the same research I did…. and now we’re both happy with putting in minimal work at the restaurant ahhaha.

            I was adamant about doing the Limber 11 (hip mobility series of dynamic stretching) for my PL phase and that worked WONDERS. My lizard pose is like the best yoga pose I can do now hahahah…. but my ankle has been waaaay slower progressing. I did 95 lb (oly bar plus 10 kg plate on each end) weighted ankle stretches (using the barbell over the knee to and held them for 30seconds for reps…. each time I did my PL program as part of my warmup… barely made any difference but apparently that’s the gold standard ankle stretch for oly lifters (whose ankle mobility I drool over hahaha)…. starting to wonder if part of it is genetic…. hrm.

            aaand back to the topic at hand :P

            As someone who also has no knack, sometimes having no knack is what makes things “practical”. :)

          • Leah

            Yes, exactly! Same priority, different approaches. My goodness, just the thought of hiring chairs gives me hives. What if they don’t deliver them? What if they’re broken? What if someone breaks one? A restaurant is a great reception venue for all the reasons you’ve mentioned (they have chairs! And tablecloths! And napkins!). Minimal work (whichever way you do it) and still getting what you want is the ideal I feel.

            Oooh I’ll have to check that out. I do ROMWOD (ex-crossfitter) and find that helpful as it’s a different program of stretches every day plus breathing exercises which are so important for lifting as you would know. Ankle mobility could very well be genetic but I’m sure the stretches could still help. Have you seen an exercise physiologist about it? I find them good in terms of identifying chains of movement patterns and correcting imbalances etc.

            No knack is my type of practical for sure hahaha.

          • Canadian

            Limber 11:

            There’s a great Reddit/Fittit post on it too. Every day I lifted (2-4x a week) I picked 4 of the 11 exercises randomly and did them before I lifted, plus the weighted barbell ankle stretch. Other than the rocking frog making me want to scream bloody murder I found it to be a very useful tool.

            My physiotherapist is amazing…. I haven’t even considered bringing it up with her…. will definitely do so!! thanks!

          • Ellen

            Just chiming in as a fellow PL’er! – were you wearing a heeled squat shoe (weightlifting shoes) or flats? The heeled shoe can do wonders for people with limited dorsi-flexion.

            And yeah, normal clothes are not for me anymore – the number of times I have gotten stuck in tops when trying to buy new work clothes has gotten too high to count…

  • Location: Poconos
    Goal budget: 5,000
    Actually spent: ~$3,900
    Guests: invited 150, just over 100 attended
    Priorities: really good cake, convenient location (luckily our families are from the same town and probably half the guests lived in the greater metro area). We did afternoon cake and coffee (and some apps) in the church that I grew up in after a quick religious ceremony. It was not my absolute dream wedding, but it was a lovely joyful day and I don’t regret staying within a comfortable budget.

  • hunt4sienna

    Your goal budget: started around $15,000 and is now realistically looking closer to $20,000
    We were very lucky that my parents offered to give us $15,000 (WAY more than we were expecting) so bumping up our budget actually involved bumping down our contribution and allowed my parents and his parents to invite more of their “must have guests”.

    What your priorities were for spending: We spent more than our allotted amount on our venue, a Bed and Breakfast that allowed us to maintain a “wedding at home/family reunion vibe” without the stress of doing that at home. We also liked having exclusive access to the property and no hard end time to the reception. Live music was another important aspect for my dad. We are having a jazz trio for the cocktail hour and first dances then a DJ. Food and drink is important but we are thinking of having the wedding catered by a wood fired pizza truck and hiring a licensed bartender on the side.

    How many people came to your wedding- we are currently at 120 invites, with the expectation that 100 or fewer will make it ( several older relatives have already noted that the drive is too far)

    Where you live: Capital Region, NY– wedding in Saratoga Springs, NY

  • E.

    Your goal budget: 30k (from fiance’s parents, not including rehearsal dinner) or 32k with rehearsal dinner and day after lunch paid for by my parents.
    What your priorities were for spending: people, great party, food, and photography
    How many people came to your wedding: inviting 200, expecting 150
    Where you live (a state or region is fine!): island north of Seattle

    We are having the wedding on the backyard of a family friend, doing our own flowers/not a lot of decoration, etc but let me just say that rentals are so. expensive. Even super crappy porta potties were $1500! We decided against an all-inclusive venue because we thought it would be too expensive, but after some changes with the caterer and rental situation it’s only a couple thousand more!
    Also- I really struggled with spending this much on a wedding, especially because we come from very different class backgrounds. It has helped me so for that we are helping with travel costs so more guests are able to attend and we are focusing on our priorities and not spending on things we don’t care about just because we have the funds, so hopefully we’ll have some leftover.

    • Lisa

      Is this the island on which you grew up? I was just at a wedding on Whidbey!

      • E.

        Yeah! I grew up farther north, but it’s such a beautiful area

  • Hannah

    Location: Cambridge, MA
    Goal budget: before I knew anything, $20k; once I knew something, $28k
    Actual budget: $33-36k (not including rehearsal dinner, groom’s attire or honeymoon)
    Guests: invited 135, expecting under 100 (many were token invites — people unable to travel from distant parts)

    Priorities: great photography, venue that felt like “us”, booming dance party, open bar (beer/wine)

    Venue: $4500
    Catering (full-service; my mom insisted): $14k, includes waitstaff and cake
    Booze (we can supply it ourselves): ~1500 (have not yet purchased)
    Dress: $2k
    DJ: $1200
    Paper: $800 (includes thank you notes)
    Photography: $5500
    Flowers: $1500 (bouquets, garland, and centerpiece kits sold by my florist that we will assemble the day before)
    Hair/Makeup: hoping to be under $1200 for me, my three bridesmaids, and my mother. This has been surprisingly challenging! If you know anyone good in the greater Boston area, please advise!!!

    • Rachel

      I had trouble finding a decent quote for hair/makeup in Boston as well, but am planning on using BeGlammed which is pretty affordable and will come to your location at no extra cost!

    • Anon

      Liz Kidder for hair!

    • Anna

      I can’t speak for makeup, but I LOVE the salon where I get my hair cut. Alexander Sam Salon in Brookline – they’re amazing, but I don’t know if they’ll fit your budget.

  • CommaChick

    -Goal budget: $5,000
    -Realistic budget: $7,500
    -Actual budget: $4,194
    -What was worth it: grocery store flowers, a restaurant venue [no renting, no cleaning]
    -Priorities: get legally married in our house of worship and celebrate with immediate family afterward in as convenient a way as possible for the least amount of money
    -Number of people: 31 [27 guests, 2 vendors and us]
    -Location: Texas

    If anyone would like a detailed breakdown, I’d be happy to share.

  • LP

    Planned budget: 10k
    Actual budget: ~12k
    Date: 7/15/16
    Guests: 96
    Location: Cleveland, Ohio
    Priorities: venue! I wanted somewhere that did it all and was beautiful. We got married on a lake and the reception was in a house built in the 1800s that was converted into a restaurant/wedding venue. They did the catering, bar, and provided a day of coordinator. The total cost for all of this was about 6k, and so worth it. We had the wedding on a Friday to save a little money, that knocked off about 1k total.
    Next priority was my dress, which I went waaaay over budget on. I originally wanted to spend in the 1k neighborhood and I spent 3k… I’m not proportionate at all. I’ve got DDDs, a small waist, a bit of a belly, a short torso, and long legs, so finding a dress was a nightmare.
    After that, I really didn’t care…. we saved some money on our photographer. I went to school with him and he’s still in school for photography, so he charged us $700 for a full day of photos, 100 printed shots, and a digital copy of every shot he took.
    Our centerpieces were lanterns that we then gifted to our wedding party, parents, and grandparents. I spent about $200 on those.
    We went simple on flowers, just bouquets for me and my three girls, boutonnières for both dads and the five guys. I think that was about $200.
    Invites and STDs were Minted. I love them for addressing them for me.
    We really didn’t decorate aside from the centerpieces. Just some white Christmas lights. Most of our guests hung out outside after dinner. It was the perfect night, right around 75 with a nice breeze.
    Cakes we got from a local bakery. We had 7 small cakes in different flavors instead of one big one. That was a big hit.
    Paying for it was a nightmare. We were engaged about 19 months, and for the first year, my in laws said they were giving us 5k to spend however we needed to. Then it changed to just the bar tab. Then two weeks before the wedding it was nothing. My husband got into a huge screaming match with his mom at this point, and we barely talked to them before the wedding. They ended up paying the bar tab, but our relationship with them has been forever changed. Looking back, I wish we would’ve just said thanks but no thanks to them.
    My mom bought my dress. She was determined to do so from the minute I was engaged. My parents also gave us about $4000 towards whatever we wanted.
    The rest fell on us, and was really pretty doable. I’m lucky my family was willing to contribute as much as they did, or else I would not have had my dream dress, that’s for sure.
    All in all, I can’t think of anything that I really thought “yeah that wasn’t worth it” about. It was a lot of money, but I think we got our money’s worth out of it.

    • Leah

      The addressing on Minted is so, so great. I’ve had push back on not hand addressing everything but if they want them hand written they can do it.

      • LP

        People were upset about you not hand addressing them? That’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. I can promise you it looked way prettier for Minted to do it than me.

        • Leah

          Aunts, man. Apparently it’s bad manners not to hand-address them?! I’m happy to have my bad manners and legible addresses thanks!

          • LP

            Weddings are just like the epitome of “Why does anyone care about this?!” My mom was upset by my blue invites. She thought they should be white.

  • Natasha Romanova

    Wedding location: Maryland (later this month!)
    Goal budget: initially 15k including the honeymoon
    Final budget: 22k~ including the honeymoon (we stopped keeping track of every little purchase, only the bigger ones so is probably off give or take a few hundred)
    Priorities: the venue and food (we wanted all-inclusive from the beginning so these are combined), photography, having an awesome party and looking good while doing it (aka dress and suit were top priorities as well)
    Number of guests: we have 62 who have RSVP’ed yes out of 90 invited.

    We are getting married at a beautiful inn in a small town in Maryland, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. We found an amazing venue and while it was pricier then we initially wanted, the food alone will make it worth it.

  • suchbrightlights

    Goal budget: $10k
    Planned budget: $14k
    Actual budget: Based on quotes so far, looks like it’ll be in the $12-13k range
    Date: October 21 2017
    Guests: Ballpark of 100
    Location: Greater Baltimore area

    It’s been really helpful for me to read all of these numbers. I was internally kicking and screaming about our realistic numbers looked like- I had put together quotes for a quiet brunch wedding for $5-7k, but we decided against brunch. Fiance and I are pretty apathetic about the whole ~*wedding*~ thing- we’re looking forward to being married but this pair of introverts has no particular joy in having a party about it- but by family decree we’d have a reception if we went to the courthouse, and per family tradition, reception or wedding would be in my mom’s (beautiful!) backyard. So we’re rolling with it, and I’m incredibly grateful to my mother for the financial support she’s providing.

  • Charlie

    Wedding Location: Greater Toronto Area (spring 2016)
    Goal Budget: $20,000
    Actual Budget: about $20,000 (I stopped keeping exact track and doesn’t include our attire, the cake, the rings or the honeymoon)
    Number of guests: about 100
    Priorities: Venue with natural light (did not want a banquet hall), good food, would do Saturday lunch, ceremony and reception at same place or close to one another

    Pretty quickly we decided that we wanted a late morning ceremony (11:30) with a lunch reception on a Saturday – neither of us are late night people and we had a pretty wide spread of ages attending. We still had an open bar but it saved us a ton of money because people just drink less during the middle of the day. We had a DJ and the dance floor was pretty busy right up until 5:00 pm when the reception was over (our DJ had never done a daytime wedding before and he was shocked by how much dancing was happening). We particularly got compliments from our aunts/uncles and older family friends. While the morning was a bit rushed, the lunch reception meant that we got to go back to our hotel room afterwards, have a nap, eat leftover cake and then go out to dinner just the two of us.

    More detailed budget:
    Venue (golf club)/food/booze/service: ~$11,000
    Ceremony (my church): ~$900
    Photography: ~$3600
    Decor (mostly flower centrepieces): $1800
    Invitations, postage: ~$500
    DJ and Photo Booth: $1100
    Day of Coordinator: $1000
    …..I’m sure there’s some other things I’m forgetting….

  • AGCourtney

    Location: Minnesota, south of the metro
    Number of guests: ~75

    Your goal budget: my fiance’s tax return that year: ~$4,600

    Your actual budget: ~$4,400

    Priorities were for spending: our biggest priority was just not spending money, haha. I’m extremely frugal. About half of the budget was spent on photography – $1,700.

    We DIY’ed a ton. We self-catered a baked potato bar and our reception venue had a cash bar. We didn’t do any flowers; I made my bouquet out of paper. I made the invitations (from really nice paper I got at a garage sale!) since I’m good with computers – they turned out beautifully. I got the wedding dress during the $99 sale at David’s Bridal. I got just about all of our decor from garage sales. And so on.

  • Phoebe

    Location: SF Bay Area (specifically the peninsula) in 2012
    Goal budget: $20,000, actually spent $23,000 (this included all the usual expenses, plus my dress but not the engagement ring or main photographer); Number of guests: 80
    Priorities: throwing a good party but not spending a crazy amount, good food (catered, family style, passed apps), good photos- we had a family member take photos so it was free but we rented super fancy equipment for them and also paid a student photographer to be a second shooter for a few hundred dollars, personal touches (DIY flowers and other decor).
    Not as important: wedding party- we each had only one sibling stand with us, no fancy set up for dancing (no lights, special floor or anything, just a cheap off Craigslist DJ), the bar (beer, wine and 1 beverage dispensers worth of a premade cocktail).

  • K

    Wedding Location: Northern California, Marin County
    Goal Budget: $15,000
    Actual Budget: $16,000. $25,000 including rings, Friday welcome dinner, Sunday brunch, and our extravagant beach front rental property for us and six of our friends, our treat. Not including venue insurance, beach permits, table clothes (we had most of them), candles, and centerpieces (my mom bought orchids at TJs).
    Number of Guests: 130 including kids and babies
    Priorities: Getting married! And our guests/including more family and friends and throwing an amazing party. Having our ceremony on the beach.

    We decided to get married seven weeks out (when we dove in and signed the venue contract) and in December (off season) so we just went with it and I have absolutely no regrets — it was so much fun and so joyful. Full disclosure: I plan multi-day events for my job and I still found this crazy and stressful. I seriously found my dress/had it delivered on Tuesday before the wedding.

    We DIY’d the space set up and breakdown, had a friend photographer, friend dj, friend florist and friend videographer (we’re lucky that we know people who do this professionally). Skipped favors, homemade our invites, put most of our info on the wedding website, etc. Everything just worked out. We weren’t expecting our rings to arrive in time — and they did. We weren’t expecting good weather — it was incredible! We weren’t expecting so many people to rsvp yes with so little lead time — and there was so much love.

    • Nicole

      “I plan multi-day events for my job and I still found this crazy and stressful.” This is SO GOOD TO KNOW, since I’m an arts event planner by trade and I am still/already/even getting stressed about the idea of planning my own wedding.

    • Hi! I’m also in Northern California, a bit south of you. Can I ask where you found the rental property and how much it cost? We want to do something similar and I have no idea what a reasonable budget for renting a property is in CA.

      • K

        Hi! The four bedroom two bath rental property with tax and cleaning came close to $2,000 for two nights and this was one of the more inexpensive options. I found it on VRBO. We couldn’t hold any of the events or ceremony there because it had a septic tank and there was a limit to how many people were allowed to be there.

        It was a hard decision to make but ended up being so worth it. The view was incredible, family and friends would stop by to hang out for hours and we had an indoor and outdoor living room and dining room to host them all. It just made it feel like an expensive vacation. In a house like that, everything felt special and extraordinary — which was awesome because it was our wedding. Our friends who stayed with us loved it, and it was also a thank you to them since they were the friend photographer, videographer, and florist.

        • That sounds amazing!! I’ve only checked Airbnb so I’ll look on VRBO too. Most of our guests will have to travel from the east coast and Europe so we would love to be able to host some of them, but I was hoping to find a place big enough to do the reception too… maybe that’s too tall an order :-) Thank you for the info!!

  • Shirley Schmidt

    Location: North Yorkshire, UK in 2017/18

    Goal budget: £12,000-15,000 (old/new Don’t Tell the Bride budget!)

    Actual budget: likely to be £15,000-16,000 excluding dress, more like £19,000-20,000 including dress.

    Number of guests: ~40

    A small, relaxed venue and as little “faff” as possible (i.e. no dry venues, same venue for ceremony and reception, as much included as possible).

    We looked at a couple of beautiful medieval halls in York, but they were either too expensive for just venue hire or involved some awkward room breakdowns and set-ups.
    Luckily there’s a country house hotel near my parents’ which turned out to be the perfect venue. I’m still gasping at paying £12,000 for exclusive use, but that includes all food, (brilliantly) wine and champagne for 60 even though we have fewer guests, allocated money for floral arrangements by a local florist of our choice, all tablecloths etc, a choice of ceremony rooms, a DJ for the evening and all 26 rooms with breakfast the next day!
    This means we can accommodate everyone (and recoup a little by charging a subsidised rate for the rooms) and have designated, beautiful spaces for every part of the day. It’s cosy, has beautiful grounds and requires no decoration! Fiancé and I are so excited about it!
    My parents are paying for my dress, which I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. It’s a semi-bespoke design by Andrea Hawkes, a small-scale London designer. I find it hard to get clothes off the rack to fit, and I’m so excited to have a dress made. It’ll also be handmade in London by people who are paid a decent wage, which is important to me.
    We’re waiting to see if fiancé will inherit any money from his father’s estate (his dad died just before Christmas) and will bring the wedding forward if so. If not, we’ll be paying for it ourselves.

    Any more Northern UK brides out there?

    • I’m pretty certain I’m having my wedding in one of the medieval halls you turned down :) The variation in price between them has surprised me, though; I really don’t think the Hospitium is worth almost £1k more than the Merchant Adventurer’s Hall just for venue hire. We wanted somewhere historic due to our background, that would look nice in winter, with really good food. That last is what’s making me boggle right now; we’re talking almost 50% of the budget on wining and dining folks right now.

      • Shirley Schmidt

        York wedding twin! I totally agree with you about the Hospitium – the premium you pay for it being in the Museum Gardens is ridiculous! We’re only having about 45 guests so sadly the Merchant Adventurers is out for size reasons even though it’s my favourite. Bedern was actually the one we looked at, and it’s beautiful. Would be perfect for a ceremony if you were having the reception elsewhere. Kings Manor was out because I’ve heard bad things about the catering, and I’m not a fan of the Merchant Taylors. Oh and St Williams College won’t be open till after 2018!
        (Also, who knew York had so many medieval halls?!)
        Where have you gone for?

        • We considered Bedern (a friend had her wedding there, and it was gorgeous) but it would have been risky; if we have the usual drop off in RSVPs we’d have fit everyone, but if everyone had said yes we wouldn’t have. We’re hopefully going with the Merchant Adventurers, but we’re hitting snags trying to coordinate with the registrar’s office (who never answer their phone – we’re averaging 10 calls for every pick up, and we know they’re in because the message kicks in after a different number of rings each time!) because the earliest you can have a ceremony there is 15:00. We don’t want to go later because it’ll be dark before the ceremony even starts, which is a pain for photos.

      • Amy CT

        THIS. We went with Merchant Adventurers because of a) the up-front cost of the Hospitium and b) the minimum guest count and limited suppliers list.

        • Oh, exciting to hear from someone with the same venue! Have you had your wedding yet? Ours is in January. We need to go and have another look at the Hall since last time we were there they were mid refurbishment.

    • Amy CT

      OMG, hello! I know this comment is coming in way late, but seeing this has made me feel so much better about our budget.

      I was born and raised in York, but live in Melbourne, AU, with my fiance. Currently arranging a York Medieval Hall (Merchant Adventurers) wedding from afar, for April 2018. We’re still not sure on a total budget but have agreed a division of costs with my family. I’d guess the whole thing will come in at around #10-12k GBP plus our flights from Australia.

  • birdy

    Location: Cambridge, MA (this May!)
    Budget: a little over $3000 (with some parental help)
    Number of guests: 13
    Priorities: bomb food and cake, bomb outfits, bomb photos, a comfortable, casual time to celebrate with our closest ones, and $$$ left over for a cozy honeymoon
    -We’re having a civil ceremony at city on a Thursday late-afternoon, then dinner in a semi-private room at a nearby restaurant afterwards with our guests. Cambridge City Hall charges $35 for the license and $60 for the ceremony.

    We’re very fortunate in that my partner’s parents have offered to pay for dinner, which takes about $1200 off of what’s coming out of our pockets. One of our favorite things to do together is eat, so our main priority was picking a place to celebrate that would offer a private or relatively private space, allow us to all sit at one table, and serve really good food. We’re so grateful for his parents’ help because it means we get to have our dinner at a much more luxe restaurant than we could have afforded on our own.

    We were able to find a wonderful, highly rated local photographer who offers per-hour “elopement” rates, and since we just want shots of the ceremony/group photos/portraits and not coverage of dinner as well, we’ll be spending less than $500 for our photos. We’ve met her and love her vibe and feel like she’ll be really cool to work with, and her portfolio is gorgeous. This is the part of the budget I was initially most worried about because good photography is often (understandably) pricy.

    My dress was $60 ( I had been eyeing it for a while and snatched it up as soon as it went on sale. It fits me great but I need to get it hemmed and figure out what shoes I want. I’m doing my own hair (I’m a black woman with natural hair and I don’t trust anyone to do anything decent with my hair except for myself and my mama), and I don’t wear makeup ever and probably won’t wear any for the wedding either (although I’ve been considering a little mascara, so I might spend like, $10 on hair/makeup). My fiancé doesn’t currently own a suit and wants to invest in one, so we’re budgeting about $300 for that, but we’re okay with going over because he’s a big/tall guy and I want him to get something good that he feels comfortable in.

    We’re not doing invitations because we can easily reach everyone we’re inviting via phone/email, and most of them already know a lot of the details already. We plan on drafting up a ‘master email’ with all the details for the day to send out to everyone. We do want to send out announcement cards afterwards to everyone we couldn’t invite.

    I love the floral selection at Whole Foods so that’s where I’m planning on getting my bouquet and my partner’s boutonnière. I want some greenery on our cake, but I found some lovely silk flowers for that because I don’t feel like dealing with the logistics of getting real flowers to stay alive and pretty for long enough! And then I can keep them as a keepsake.

    I’m getting my band from Bario-Neal and fiancé is getting his from Aide-Memoire, together they’ll be about $800 (including shipping).

    Our cake is being done by a local one-woman baking operation. We’re gonna have a little two-tiered thing, a 6-inch top-tier and 8-inch bottom tier probably a lot of cake for the amount of guests but we REALLY want to have left over cake :) I also want to get a nice cake topper. That’s all gonna be about $100.

    Even though our budget is minuscule compared to what people commonly spend, it still feels like a lot of money to us! But we’re so excited for our little day :)

  • Christy

    Location: Baltimore, MD. We live just outside DC, but my family is in Baltimore. (My wife’s family is in California.)

    How many people came to your wedding: 19. We were never going to be able to have extended family travel for the wedding–my grandmother can’t travel, and her aunts and uncles can’t travel. So we had immediate families plus closest friends only. (This also was a size that we both liked, and it helped circumvent the question of whether any of my supportive but conservative family would be uncomfortable at the ceremony. I love my grandmother dearly, and she supported/s us, but she also voted against gay marriage in 2012.)

    Your goal budget: $5000

    Your actual budget if you’re already married (and what turned out to be worth it): probably close to $5000. We did a ceremony at the zoo, which cost $1500. Our dresses were about $150 each, and my grandmother paid for those. Our shoes were about $300 per person. Our photographer was $1000. (We had a high-end photographer for two hours on his elopement package, and it was the best choice. Our pictures are AMAZING.) We had a dinner afterwards as our reception, and that was $1500 for a three course meal at a long table in a restaurant–not a private room. My mom unexpectedly stole the check for that, though. Our invitations were about $200 because we inscribed a book to every invitee household (there were 11) and mailed that.

    My (divorced) parents also insisted that we have a larger party the next day, so they had an 80-person party at a restaurant that they paid for. All we did was show up and be gracious.

    We also spent about $1800 a week before the wedding to fly my wife’s best friend and her fiancé across the country for our wedding. We are substantially better off than they are, and they hadn’t been able to afford tickets yet (which were getting more expensive as there was only a week left), and it was very quickly going to become impossible for the friend to come. It was important to my wife that her friend attend, so we paid for their flights and hotel. It ended up not really affecting the budget because my mom paid for the dinner. In retrospect, I would have just bought their tickets months early, realizing that us buying their tickets was a likely outcome and saving us the anxiety about it.

    What your priorities were for spending:
    Mine: photography
    Wife’s: having her best friend attend
    Ours: having a non-park, non-church ceremony venue

  • Amy Martin

    Edited to add details!
    We’re having two weddings- a tiny secret chosen family one in Chicago, at my bff’s home. 25 ish people. Friend officiating, pizza and booze for all through the evening.
    Second: everyone’s invited, but it’s a picnic in the park by where we live. We’ll fake the ceremony again for the benefit of family who won’t be invited to the secret one. Bay Area, we’re expecting about 110 people.

    $2000. About half of that is for food and drinks for our guests; a full f*cking third is for a picnic site in our local park for four hours. Rest is for licenses/rings/outfits, including a Modcloth dress. This budget includes $15 for a grocery store bouquet and nothing for plastic tablecloths. No formal photography (though we have budgeted some for printing friends’ photos from Shutterfly, and for an album from Michaels, and a talented photog friend is going to take 3-5 posed portraits of us with her nice camera).

    We’re doing this as bare bones as you can get. I’d be happy eloping, but my partner wants to do the whole stand up in front of everyone you know thing. It’s infuriating to me that it costs so much! But we did agree that feeding our loved ones was the priority, so I’m happy that’s where most of the money is going.

    We have no money coming from family, and we want to try for a baby in the next year or so, so we had to make realistic choices about what we wanted vs what we are willing to pull from savings and take away from the funds that will support us starting a family. Which is $$$$ from what I hear. I’m happy with what we’re doing. I just can’t believe how expensive all this WIC stuff is. Gahhhh.

    • Canadian

      Is it ok if I pick your budget a bit? Like just curious as I tried to do a SUPER bare boned thing on my end but ended up realizing I was going to spend $2500 regardless so may as well just do a bigger thing and make it ‘worth’ it.

      So ~$1000 for food/bev, ~$650 for picnic reser/venue… that leaves $350. In my area the legal minimum admin fee is $155 for the officiant (and if you get a fancier officiant with like a zillion pre-wedding consultations and whatever then it’s usually around $500-$600) and $100 for the license so that already only leaves $100, and you bought a dress and $15 flowers and RINGS for $100? (I am not doubting you at all, just trying to math it out to see how you made it work as I am in awe).

      On my end, I realized that spending $200 on a cocktail dress for myself, $500 on a suit for my man (neither of us dress fancy enough to have any clothes appropriate for a wedding in our closet, but I know many people save money this way – also note this assumes I’m doing my own makeup and hair which is laughable as I only wear makeup a few times a year), $300 on photography for an hour (this is in the “grab a friend” category for many, like you, but fiancé works in the industry and it was Not An Option to phone it in, and we wanted his friends to enjoy the event, not work at it, so refuse to ask a friend), $255 on legal, $100 each for rings (silver, we promised each other to upgrade them in a few years)…. that’s $1500 right there and it’s REALLY skin and bones. I figured if we were going to spend the equivalent of a month’s rent to have a “courthouse wedding” (not possible in BC Canada, but this is the comparable option) elopement then we may as well pay an extra few $1000 and feed the lot and make it a real party and make it worth spending 4 figures.

      • Katharine Parker

        I can’t speak to Amy Martin’s budget, but in the US, it is legal to get ordained on the internet for like $10. People will often have a friend get ordained and then act as their officiant. In my state (Wisconsin) and a few other places (Pennsylvania, I think DC), you can also self-solemnize a marriage, so no officiant is needed. Then the only fee is the marriage license.

        • Canadian

          ughhhhh BC is just expensive then :P thanks!

      • Amy Martin

        Officiant- our friend is already ordained, so we don’t have to pay for that. Marriage license is $35 in the county where we’re getting married. Also, I am not being super exact on the math here. ;) I’m spending $100-150 on the dress. Nothing on photography.

        Oh, and I forgot to say that we were lucky enough to have enough points saved up that we covered all our travel costs for secret wedding!

        • Canadian

          Thanks for editing/appeasing my nosy self! :)

          • Amy Martin

            Sure! It’s so hard to figure this all out.

  • Rachel Dorrell

    Wedding Location: a local 900-acre nature center (where my fiance happens to work!) this July in the Finger Lakes region of New York
    Goal budget: $12,000
    Actual budget: not including the grain we’re feeding the two-year-old pig we’ll be roasting (ha), we’re at about $1,300 right now with a (splurge) used designer dress and homemade invitations that we’re printing elsewhere for $110 including envelopes, taxes and shipping. The nature center has chairs for the ceremony and a bunch of picnic tables we’ll use for the reception, which goes with our goal of a relaxed, lowercase-w wedding (and a little pavilion with a floor for dancing, and a building we’re using for a rain plain instead of renting a tent, as well as a kitchen to use to warm the food before serving). We’re borrowing napkins from a sibling’s wedding this year. Still need to rent plain cotton tablecloths, flatware and glassware, and some lighting. We still need to buy booze as well.

    keeping expenses down but quality high, and feeling like we’re hosting this big shindig–we’re going to self cater with meat from animals we’ve raised and veggies that friends grew;
    excellent guest experience/fun summer dinner party where we happen to get married;
    hiring staff to serve/bus/bartend so we don’t have to do much day of (and tipping well!), but DIY/DIT pretty much everything else, including hair and makeup application; live music from local musician friends;
    and spending time with friends and family preparing simple snacks for a welcome party the night before

    Inviting 225 (including kids), but it’s a destination wedding for our families and friends, and we’re figuring (hoping?) closer to 180.

  • Rachel

    Wedding Location: a local 900-acre nature center (where my fiance happens to work!) this July in the Finger Lakes region of New York
    Goal budget: $12,000
    Actual budget: not including the grain we’re feeding the two-year-old pig we’ll be roasting (ha), we’re at about $1,300 right now with a (splurge) used designer dress and homemade invitations that we’re printing elsewhere for $110 including envelopes, taxes and shipping. The nature center has chairs for the ceremony and a bunch of picnic tables we’ll use for the reception, which goes with our goal of a relaxed, lowercase-w wedding (and a little pavilion with a floor for dancing, and a building we’re using for a rain plain instead of renting a tent, as well as a kitchen to use to warm the food before serving). We’re borrowing napkins from a sibling’s wedding this year. Still need to rent plain cotton tablecloths, flatware and glassware, and some lighting. We still need to buy booze as well.

    keeping expenses down but quality high, and feeling like we’re hosting this big shindig–we’re going to self cater with meat from animals we’ve raised and veggies that friends grew;
    excellent guest experience/fun summer dinner party where we happen to get married;
    hiring staff to serve/bus/bartend so we don’t have to do much day of (and tipping well!), but DIY/DIT pretty much everything else, including hair and makeup application; live music from local musician friends;
    and spending time with friends and family preparing simple snacks for a welcome party the night before

    Inviting 225 (including kids), but it’s a destination wedding for our families and friends, and we’re figuring (hoping?) closer to 180.

    • Amy March

      I want to know so much more about this we raised the animals to serve as meat at the wedding thing. Pls submit a How We Did It later?

  • laddibugg

    Budget for “we’re getting married now for the benefits” budget is $750
    License: $28
    Officiant: Hopefully ‘free’ since it’s my neighbor. (we will make a donation to the church, $50)
    Venue: Free, friend’s backyard, whether permitting.
    ‘Reception’: $300, dinner at a local restaurant for us, our parents, officiant and plus one, and our witnesses.
    The rest will be for a short weekend trip

    We are also planning a larger wedding next year… looking at a budget of $10,000 and under, which I know is going to be extremely hard in northern NJ…

  • brooksienne

    Boston Metro. Original budget was $15K. Now it’s looking more like $20K, maybe $25K. This includes the rehearsal dinner.

    We’re inviting ~100 people, and expect 75-80 to show up. Our parents are helping with the expenses – they’re just writing us a check and we’re doing all the planning and arranging. They don’t live in the area so this makes the most sense.

    What we’re saving on: The venue, and flowers, and the DJ. Venue is at our church, which will have tables, chairs, and tablecloths; a friend is gifting us the flowers (and dealing with all things flower), and we’re ditching the DJ. It’s a morning wedding, I want people to be able to talk, an the music I love to dance to tends to be different than what others like.

    Where most of the money is going: So far, catering. I want the food to be good, I want people to have a decent choice with good alternatives for vegetarians, etc. And I don’t want to deal with the hassle of dishes, etc.

    Where the mystery expense may hit us: Attire. I’ve already blown the budget on the dress by about $400, so not that bad but still. We haven’t figured out what the groom is wearing.

    Other traditional areas where we’re spending a lower amount:

    Save the Dates & Invitations – using VistaPrint instead of a traditional stationer’s or a site like Wedding Paper Divas. Also will e-mail people about the rehearsal dinner instead of sending separate paper invitations.

    Favors – Nope. I’ve noticed for the past 20 years that people don’t take them home. So I’m thinking of putting a dish of lifesavers at each table. People can use them as an after meal mint, and any leftovers I can take to work and put in a candy dish.

    Gift bags for out-of-town guests – Again, nope. While I think it’s a very nice touch, I know we’re just not going to have the bandwidth to do it. Plus, I don’t want to track where everyone is staying. (We’re going to block some rooms at a local hotel but the budget range is wide enough that others might stay elsewhere.)

  • anon

    Love this!

    Goal Budget: ~$15,000
    Actual Budget: ~$16,000
    Location: Restaurant (I cannot say enough good things about this!!!) in Buffalo, NY
    Number of Guest: 68
    Priorities: Good food, location that made sense for the 30-40 out of town guests – meaning walk-able to major hotels, non-stressful experience for both of us

    Here’s a general break down:
    Venue: $1000, we booked a large back room of an amazing restaurant that also came with access to the patio where we had the ceremony – most people stood for the ceremony since it was so short, the $1000 was for the tent rental they did for us
    Food & Drinks: ~$9,000, drinks included pre-dinner wine hour and then full bar until 10pm when it switched to cash bar until midnight.
    Decorations: ~$500, did lanterns with candles, made a backdrop for us, had to ship it all to Buffalo since we don’t live there
    Dessert: $200, donuts!
    Our Flights/Hotel rooms: $2000, we don’t live in Buffalo but my husband is from there
    Rings: $800 (not including my engagement ring)
    My Hair/Make-up: $200
    Husbands Suit (bought): $500
    Photography: $1250
    Misc: ~$500, made gift bags for all the out of town guests, dress alternations, marriage license

    No DJ: hello ipod playlist
    Flowers: My mom picked up some flowers the day of, no more than $100 worth

    Not included in my budget numbers:
    My dress: ~$1000 gift from my mom
    Rehearsal dinner/welcome party: ~$1000, gift from husbands family, we did beer and wings!

  • Staria

    What I would really like to see with wedding budgets is more people including information on the cost of items that were paid for by other family members, discounted services by friendors, things that were free etc. I get tired of seeing budgets that say ‘We only spent $6000! My dress was a gift and my parents covered the venue!’ That’s not a $6000 budget, that’s a $10,000 budget and the couple paid for $6000 of it.

    With my wedding (Nov 16) I always tell people we spent big on some things, got good discounts on others and some things were ‘free’ or paid for by family members. Like, our venue was ‘free’ because it is actually owned by my parents-in-law, and our celebrant was ‘free’ because my mother in law is a celebrant and did a lovely service for us :) but I had a lot of other costs for the venue in the end, as the shed we held the reception in was still being built, and I had to hire crockery, buy extra napkins and straws, lots of little things (and my parents in law were still paying for the building costs, plumber, electrician, roofer, you name it, so it cost them a lot too). I split paying for the flowers with a friend (they offered it as a gift – loved it), my mum contributed to my dress and my parents paid for the catering. Everyone put a lot into it and I’m extremely grateful :)

    A daytime ceremony at Christine’s Church of the Two Grandfathers, a tiny rural church on an organic macadamia orchard…

    Location: Byron Bay hinterland, Australia
    Projected cost: around $15,000
    Actual cost: around $20,000 (including honeymoon and hens / bucks parties)
    Our priorities were: excellent catering (most expensive item at $4500 – we had mobile woodfired pizza and a cheesecake for a wedding cake!), good music (live band – $1000 – mate’s rates as should be more like $3000+ – local gypsy jazz band we already loved and one of them used to be my partner’s GP), good photography (another great deal at $1475), and, most importantly, everyone’s comfort throughout the day. Some of this was through purchasing choices (pizza!!!) and a lot was through organisation and the running of the day.
    Guests: Invited 103, attended ceremony 94, attended reception 82 (some guests were invited to ceremony and pics/post ceremony drinks only)

    I also had a wedding planner for $1100, I met her at a wedding fair I was working at. I was desperate for help as I worked full time, had chronic fatigue / adrenal fatigue and just realised I didn’t have the time to plan a wedding from scratch. She saved me so much time and money, and was just a total delight, I couldn’t recommend her or getting a good wedding planner enough.

    Also, do lots of people really keep very detailed records? Is anyone out there who just kind of estimated what they spent in the end? I have a rough idea of what everything cost, but I have to track budgets for work so for the wedding it felt like just another unnecessary task, and I didn’t care about what it cost once it was paid, just breathed a sigh of relief another thing was paid for… and no I didn’t have unlimited funds, I just set out at the beginning what I was going to pay for everything and adjusted as I went along.

    Final budget question. Did you count things that could be reused other times? For example my partner and I bought shoes for the wedding that we will both definitely wear other times – he always has dress shoes for work and both pairs of my wedding shoes were dancing shoes that I’ll wear for years.

    • Eh

      “What I would really like to see with wedding budgets is more people including information on the cost of items that were paid for by other family members, discounted services by friendors, things that were free etc.” – When I was planning back in 2013 I didn’t notice that people with low budgets were excluding those types of things, it was generally that they had less expensive options or didn’t do something (e.g., flowers, food). Or if it was something that was “free” it was like a friend officiating which isn’t a big cost (where I live you can give a donation to a church or hire someone for $100).

      I have noticed more recently when looking at wedding budgets that people only include their costs and not gifted things. Our budget was $15,000 (plus $2,000 and many travel points for our honeymoon). Both of our sets of parents gave us money and I include that in the budget. removing the money our parents gave to us isn’t a fair reflection of our wedding.

      I have very detailed records on what was spent. I grouped things into buckets, for example we had two venues (ceremony and reception) but only have one line for venues. I also have one bucket for everything I wore and my makeup. The buckets I used were because I had an idea how much I was willing to spend on one whole thing but how I got there didn’t matter. For example, I didn’t want to spend more than $1400 on what I wore and makeup. I found adorable earrings so I had to work that in by not getting a really expensive necklace. I also included things that other people tend not to include, for example we had to rent a car so that’s was include, so was the gifts we gave to our parents and “wedding party”.

    • Yeah, I wish more people at least included a ballpark figure for gifted items. I appreciate you can’t politely ask a gift giver what their precise financial contribution was, and in some cases it’s hard to even figure it out (if my MiL makes our cake, is that the cost of ingredients, the time, or the equivalent from a pro? What level of professional would I compare her work with?) but it makes it very hard to figure out what you get for your money when you see £50k weddings with a £5k price tag because Uncle Jim owns a boutique hotel with a wedding license, Auntie Mary is a dressmaker who specialises in bridal couture, Grandpa Sam loaned you a Cinderella style carriage and six white horses to pull it and your parents gifted you £10k to spend how you liked.

      I’m putting together my budget at the moment, and I’m including stuff I bought for the wedding that I wouldn’t have otherwise, like my shoes, even if I plan to wear them again. Stuff that I would have bought regardless (like new underwear) isn’t going in, because I’m just buying a more bridal version of something that I’ve essentially budgeted for anyway. My estimated budget is fairly vague, but I’m trying to be disciplined at include actual costs as they start to come in – partly because I’m working on a project management MOOC at the moment, and a wedding fits the practice brief better than almost anything I ever do at work!

  • Kelly Rose

    Our goal budget: $10,000 of our own money that we knew we could afford. His folks are giving us their week at their timeshare in Tahoe for our honeymoon, my parents want to pay for my dress and a good chunk of the reception, and my great-aunt and great-uncle, who are like grandparents to me, have decided they want to chip in $4K towards food….so it’s looking like we actually have more like $15,000 to work with.

    What your priorities were for spending: priorities are good food and lots of it, and making sure people have a good time, which is looking like booze, music, and a photo booth

    How many people: we are having an immediate-family-only ceremony + restaurant dinner, with about 200 people invited to a party a week later

    Where you live: We live in Oregon, which is where the ceremony will be. The party/reception will be in Sonoma County, California (wine country), and it’ll be September 2017

  • Lmba

    I don’t think we had a goal budget beyond “cheap.”

    Actual budget: ~$4000 CAD

    Wedding took place in a small Canadian city with about SIXTY-NINE guests. We rented a private park facility with tables, basic kitchen, grill, bathrooms; $325. My dress + alterations, shoes, jewelry; $800. Partner wore a suit from the closet, but bought new shirt, tie, cufflinks, and shoes; $250. Flights for us to our venue (one way, we left straight away on honeymoon); $350 on seat sale. Hair salon; $150. The rest went to renting dishes, sound system, and self-catering kebabs. Oh and wine. ☺

    What we skipped: cake (guests brought pies as gifts), flowers (i made bouts/corsages from scraps of my mother’s wedding dress and dollar store ribbon, not fancy!! No bouquet, no arrangements), decor (we made tin can lanterns for centerpieces and had a few tiki torches for light), DJ, programs, photographer (a family friend who is a hobby photographer was designated in charge of photos), wedding bands (used $20 silver rings we had bought to show we were married on our honeymoon in a conservative culture).

    We also spent money on our honeymoon, which is not factored in to this budget.

  • emmers

    Goal: $10k
    Actual: $18k
    Number attended: ~135
    Location: central va

    Budget included rehearsal for ~40, ceremony, reception, and hotel accommodations for extended family

    Priorities: alcohol (beer & wine for 4 hours, self pay after that), a mostly inclusive venue (no rentals were necessary, they set up our decorations for a small fee, they had speakers for an iPhone dance party for a small fee).

    Worth it: the all inclusiveness for ease of us & our families

    Not that worth it: having 2 photographers. The second’s photos were fine, but we’d still have had plenty of good pics without her. Flowers. They were beautiful and we had a ton of them (diy ~$700), but it would have been fine if we’d scaled down a bit. Etsy cake topper.

  • Anon

    Total budget – 10000ish
    Budget we paid – 5000ish
    Guests – 55ish (we’re about two months away so all of this is approximate at the moment)

    This includes 1800 for the reception venue for two weeks – it’s a private house we’re hiring, and we’re staying there for our honeymoon – it’s on the southeast coast of Australia. We’ve also bought three portable marquees for 150 each (way cheaper than hiring in that part of the country) from a hardware shop that will sit together to make a 6x9m space (about 20×30 feet), and we’re hiring a dance floor, two tables and 20 chairs (all up about 165, but we have to pick everything up and drop it back ourselves, which means hiring a moving truck twice, which is an additional 450ish). We’re decorating with 400m of lights and 2 rolls of flagging tape, which all came to a little under 200. FMIL wants flowers, too, so we’re letting her decide on and pay for that.

    Food is about 1000: 400 on some excellent cakes from a bakery and 600 on pizzas from a local pizzeria. Well probably add 100 to that for some dips and breads for when people arrive. Drinks are about 1500-2000, but they’re being paid for by family.

    Photographer is 2100 for six hours plus travel – one of the best deals I could find without compromising on the photos, and family is covering that too.

    Family is also covering my dress, which was almost 1000, fiancé is wearing a suit he owns and might get a new shirt to wear under it. Shoes, jewellery etc we already own, and I’m doing my own hair and makeup to save money.

    We’re doing our own music because FH used to be an events dj, our celebrant is 750 (no friends allowed to do this for you in Aus), and getting married on the beach is free!

    Probably we could have done this cheaper if we didn’t care about good photography or drinking (or If I’d found a cheaper dress), but given we wanted a destination party wedding I feel pretty good about it all!

  • AB

    Goal: $25K
    Actual: $35-$40K (Coming up August 2017!!!)
    Location: Bay Area, California
    Number of guests: Invited 170, hoping for 150 attending

    *Budget made possible by my amazing mother. Not including honeymoon, vintage wedding ring or rehearsal dinner

    We have a winery in Livermore (which is east bay wine country, waay cheaper than Napa/Sonoma). Sunday price helped too. Very excited that the food comes with the venue.

    Priorities: Great food, Great dance party, amazing photos

    Venue/Food: $24K (Includes cake, tables/chairs, setup/breakdown, booze, tax & tip)
    Photography – $4,500 (care alot. about photography!)
    DJ – $2,780
    Flowers – $2,828
    Rabbi – $1K (includes pre-marriage counseling sessions)
    Chuppah – $725
    Rentals (Dance floor, outdoor lights) – $1800
    Makeup for bride + 2 – $200 (have a deal with a friend of a friend)

    Wearing my mother’s and grandmother’s wedding dress but alterations still cost $2k.

    I feel like I’ve been choosing reasonable options but it all adds up so quickly!

  • sandrilene

    Wedding Location: Destination wedding in New Orleans (we live in NYC)

    Goal Budget: Mine: no more than $10k, including travel expenses and excluding rings. My fiancé’s: $15k, excluding both rings and travel.

    Realistic budget: We’re currently on track to spend about $11k, excluding rings and travel, plus about $4k for rings and $4k for travel for a total of $19k. So we’re either $4k under budget or $5k+ over budget, depending on which one of us you ask.

    Budget priorities: 1) Amazing food (and, if we’re including rings in the budget, rings) and 2) a photographer we liked, treated my fiancé as an equally important part of the wedding.

    Guest List: 65 invited, 45-50 expected.

    Other notes: My fiancé’s mother is organizing and paying for the rehearsal dinner, which isn’t a part of the budget figures above, and has basically said “the budget is whatever it costs to do something that you’ll both enjoy” then suggested half a dozen really, really good restaurants that we both love. It’s entirely possible that the rehearsal dinner tab will equal or exceed the food tab at the (lunch) wedding itself, depending on how many people we invite. My mom is giving us $7.5k to do with as we please. We’re paying for the rest out of pocket. Also, our rings aren’t cheap, but I have a severe nickel allergy and refused to let my fiancé buy me an engagement ring after we proposed to each other, so we’re re-setting my grandmother’s diamond into a (pricy) platinum setting that I *love* and that functions as both wedding and engagement ring, and he’s getting a platinum and gold band that he adores, and that will re-use the gold from the band my grandmother’s diamond is currently set in. The jeweler who is doing our rings designed his mother’s ring. (I’m So Excited for these rings!) Travel includes several trips to NOLA during the planning process, plus the wedding itself, along with a weekend in Maine to meet with the jeweler and hand over my grandmother’s ring.

  • Kara E

    Wedding location: Washington DC (close-in MD suburbs)
    Goal Budget: “reasonable” (was 5 years ago).
    Actual Budget: Somewhere close to 26K (maybe a bit more). Parents kicked in a little bit, we paid for the rest.
    Number of Guests: 130 (with about 2 dozen kids – the littlests were with babysitters in another room during the sit down/speech part of dinner). Over a hundred of the guests traveled from elsewhere (we invited over 300).
    Priorities: Inviting our whole families (mine is HUGE) whether they could come or not, making things easy for our guests (our reception venue was a civic building a block from a hotel we were able to book), and having a special non-hotel evening celebration (non-hotel was my husband’s stipulation – he’s been to a few zillion too many hotel events). Husband wanted dancing and I didn’t want a dj (we wound up with a band/combo that was about the same price as many of our dj options). I also wanted to minimize the decisions we (ok, I) had to make and wound up using a full service caterer who took care of everything at the reception site except delivering the floral centerpieces. I very much did NOT want to DIY/DIT decorations at that point in my life (busy job, everyone traveling, seriously limited space/storage space). Wedding ceremony was a my home church (which I loved) and we had shuttles for the guests who wanted them – many did.

    What wasn’t worth it: I wound up spending some $ on decorated trees because my husband was worried the room wouldn’t look festive enough. Did I see them? No. But it was cheaper than renting out the place to decorate that morning and made my husband feel happier. And maybe I should have spent more money on a photographer. He got amazing candids, but the other ones aren’t my fave.

    On the money front: I just attended a Chicago-area wedding that maybe cost 5K for 200 people and it was wonderful.

    • Kara E

      Oh. And husband REALLY wanted an evening event.

  • Amanda L

    Our goal budget: $20,000 ($10,000 from a combo of family and close family friends, $10,000 of our own $)
    Our actual budget if you’re already married: Probably closer to $23,000 if we include wedding party gifts, our rings, etc.
    What our priorities were for spending: Food and full bar for reception….
    How many people came to our wedding: 102
    Where we got married: Scottsdale, AZ in March (high wedding season)

    I wish we had spent more on our photographer. I had one I LOVED, but there package was signficantly less time on the wedding day, and didn’t include an album. In hindsight, I would rather have either paid extra for an album or made my own album with gorgeous photos. Our photog was ok (APW post here: and def got a few good ones, but it’s the one regret I keep coming back to (that, and realizing that my dress wasn’t pulled down quite enough and kept gapping most of the night).

  • Sara

    Goal budget: $16k
    Realistic budget: $20k (this is a combination of 2 different families paying, plus us paying some too, so not so bad once divided up)

    What your priorities were for spending: Venue, photography

    Number of Guests: inviting 142, expecting ~130

    Where you live: Southeast US; Gulf Coast

  • Courtney

    *We’re not getting married until November, so take this with a grain of salt*
    Wedding Location: Western Sydney, Australia
    Goal budget: $20,000 before any research, $25,000 after realising how much things cost
    Actual budget: Sitting around $28,000 currently, may edge up to $30,000 (including contributions by family noted below)
    Number of Guests: 100-110
    Priorities: Excellent local food, venue and decorations that felt like us, only classier, a great party with all who matter most to us, and beautiful photos.
    Our biggest line item so far is the venue at $8,000, we have use of a Victorian era cottage the night before the wedding and the night of, and the ceremony and reception will be in the gardens and permanent marquee, they also include all our furniture hire, and a day-of-coordinator. My parents are paying for this, though we chose the venue before knowing how much, if anything, either set of parents would be contributing.
    Food is locally sourced canapes and sliders, all prepared on site, with the sliders cooked within view of guests. The caterers charge $55 per person and include staff to serve both the food and bar staff serving drinks we will purchase in bulk ourselves (and by ourselves, my future in-laws have offered to buy the alcohol, they want to start stockpiling now, and we’re all for it!).
    Our photographer is $4,000 with 10 hours coverage and a second shooter.
    We’ve budgeted around $3,500 for attire, with my dress coming in at $2,000 (my parents are paying for half) plus alterations, and my Fiance will be purchasing his suit.
    Flowers we will likely do ourselves, with a pre sunrise trip to the flower markets the day before the wedding and the help of any family arriving early. Any other decorations will be DIY/DIT.
    We looking at getting an acoustic duo to play through the ceremony and up until the end of the first dance, before switching to our own playlist through the venue’s sound system.
    One of my bridesmaid’s has an Italian pastry chef father, and he has very kindly offered to make our cake at ingredient cost. My wonderful mum is a celebrant/officiant so will be marrying us as a gift.
    I designed and printed our Save-the-dates as postcards last year (long-ish engagement) and am starting to hash out ideas for the invites, which I will do in a similar fashion.
    Money is allocated for hair and makeup, but we haven’t got quotes in for that yet.
    Within the budget we’ve got about $2,000 allocated for emergencies, and as we’ve been living together for several years now so we’re pretty set up in terms of kitchen gadgets & crockery, so if guests wish to gift us anything, they contribute to our honeymoon/buying a home fund.

  • Ellen

    Goal Budget: $20-$25,000
    Actual Budget: $30,000 (which is about $22,000 USD)
    Guests: 90
    Location: Margaret River, Australia

    Priorities: photographer ($3000), reception venue (ceremony was at my parent’s property (and my childhood home) so just needed to provide drinks and a few canapes and reception at a winery (all food, drink, set up and clean up included) came to about $16,000), cake ($600 for the most amazing 3 tier, two flavour cake – people are still raving about it!)

    Our final budget includes my dress, husband’s tailor made suit, rings, transport for us and guests (small town with limited taxis, no public transport and venues not within walking distance of the town) decorations etc but not our honeymoon.

    Photography was something I was not going to compromise on and we actually set our date based on when our photographer was available! They are fantastic and are actually quite close friend of my parents (so we did get a bit of a discount plus extended time) and I am so happy we chose them.

    We tossed up getting a band but then found a DJ for less than $1000 and he was fantastic! Also saved money on husband’s ring (found one he loved online for $10) and had a friend of my mum’s perform our ceremony as her gift to us (normally a celebrant here costs around $600). Also, I didn’t care about flowers so had my mum’s friend do all our flowers out of her rose garden and they were stunning!

    We ended up spending more than we originally planned and it is a lot of money but we had an amazing day and we could afford to do it (we had some contributions from our family that helped with about a third of the costs) and we wouldn’t change a single thing.

  • Maggie

    Wedding Location: Hudson Valley, NY (aka not NYC, not too far upstate)
    Guests: 100
    Goal Budget: $25-35k, depending on who you ask
    Actual Budget: about $30k
    Who Paid: my parents, for basically everything (and they refused to consider contributions from anyone else).

    Priorities: Spend money and effort on what we cared about, and avoid spending money on or doing things we didn’t. Also, since basically all our guests had to travel a decent amount to get to us, we wanted to “honor” that effort/expense with a full good meal, good alcohol, etc (so an afternoon punch & cake/evening cocktails & apps reception wasn’t for us). It took us (especially my husband) awhile to accept just how much money (half our budget!) that’d be when food is something we cared about, but the money was available and we both agreed it was all worth doing in the end, so we’re basically happy with how it all fell out.

    On the other hand, my dress ended up being one of the larger items, which I’m still a bit conflicted about. Essentially, I value being pragmatic and not wasteful, and in “real life” I’d never spend 3.5k on a dress I’ll never wear again! except for that one time I did… My dress was gorgeous, I felt like the prettiest, most glamourous old Hollywood starlet, and it fit amazingly, but the cost on it crept up like nothing else (dress + separate sparkly topper piece + alterations) and it ended up at about twice what I had hoped to spend (because yeah, I know wedding dresses can be expensive, and I wanted a pretty one, and was being realistic! just not realistic enough, it turns out). It didn’t break our budget, we had the money for it, and it was so fabulous, but I just wish it had cost less?

    Things we didn’t spend much on, but were totally happy with:
    1. Music: rented speaker & microphone, self-dj’d it up. Done.
    2. Flowers: 2 bouquets + 3 boutonnieres. They were very pretty on the day, and very dead when we got back from our honeymoon, and I’m glad we didn’t do more. We also did pretty minimal decorating at our venue, as it was beautiful on its own (we did simple vase-floating candle-submerged flower centerpieces, which were lovely and also $300 total from
    3. Paper: we printed invites but no rsvp cards, free website, no ceremony programs, no other signage, etc.

    • Amy March

      Do you mind sharing the name of your venue?

      • Maggie

        Sure, it was Locust Grove (

        • Amy March

          Thank you!!

          • Maggie

            No worries! (And I’m happy to answer what questions about it I can if you have any!)

  • Col

    Initial Goal: $17,000 (My partner and I set a budget planning meeting to try to talk numbers and plan our automatic savings withdrawals because we knew we weren’t getting help from either set of parents, and she insisted she wouldn’t go above this number. This very quickly went out the window as things got real)

    Revised Goal after choosing a venue: $24,000 (We wanted a summer-camp style wedding where everyone could be together for several days, with housing. We’ve been together for 8 years and lived in 3 states, went to different colleges, and have family spread all over. It was worth it)

    Actual Spending: $23,295 (Yeah, it’s precise, I’m Type A. This includes everything from the venue to our rings to the last bottle of bug spray. We use mint, so it was pretty easy to keep our budget spreadsheet accurate. It also includes an offset from the money we charged our guests that chose to stay at camp with us – $35/adult/night.)

    Priorities: Venue to meet our vision (described above) – otherwise we did our best to save money (heavy DIY for decorations and we cooked both breakfasts ourselves, managed our own rentals of linens, plates, glasses etc, DIY alcohol from a local shop and Costco with a local bartender paid under the table, low key caterer that did a pizza appetizer, photog for only 5 hours with APW-deal discount for travel, bridesmaid dresses as our wedding dresses also from an APW vendor!) It was a ton of work, but our guests are still telling us how much they appreciated the personal touch. Worth it.

    Guests: 118 (16 of which were 13yo or younger)

    State and Date: VT, 9-24-16

  • Amanda Michele Rhaesa

    Wedding Location: ~45min North of Atlanta GA
    Goal Budget: under $20,000
    Actual Budget: somewhere around $18,000 with help from family on a few items (We and stopped keeping track eventually once it was clear we could afford it.)
    Number of Guests: 125 I think was the final head count
    Priorities: Photography, Beautiful venue for ceremony and reception in one location, and the people! I come from a big family and people are spread far and wide across the county so it was important to be a reasonable drive from the Atlanta airport and to get dates nailed down early so people could plan to make it. We spent most of our money on the venue and photography with both around 3500 and it was worth every penny. Our venue was gorgeous and included a guest house and honeymoon suit for the bridal party and us to stay at the night of the wedding. I did the flowers myself including paper flowers for the bouquets and some for the tables that friends and family helped me to assemble. Our center pieces were succulents that I had assembled into thrift store glassware and vases that I gathered over the course of our engagement. I think it total we spent less than $500 on all of it including a cricut to cut all the paper flowers. Our biggest money saving thing was going with Willy’s Mexicana Grill (kinda like Moe’s) for catering. It was less than $2000 to feed our crowd including staff and delivery, the food was great and everyone was super happy. We also opted not to have a day of planner and instead my husband’s wonderful Aunt acted as stage manager and she knocked it out of the park. My in-laws helped so much by paying for the rehearsal dinner which was more of a welcome dinner with cards and hanging out and chatting in the hotel conference room with delicious BBQ and they also bought the most delicious and beautiful cake.
    Biggest budget surprise: The alterations on a wedding dress can cost so much! I bought my dress more than a year out, but the shop I bought it from did not have in house alterations so I had to shop around, some serious procrastination later and I had to go with the first shop that could fit me in. they did a great job, my dress fit beautifully, but it was stress I did not need.

    Take aways: Don’t be afraid to look to non-conventional vendors, they can be a great way to save money and really easy to work with. Pioritize the things that are important to you and feel free to omit things that are not that important to you.

  • lucy

    Wedding Location: London, England
    Goal Budget: £13,000 or roughly US$ 15,800

    Actual Budget: Will prob creep up to £14500

    Number of Guests: 120 approx

    Priorities: Food, photographer, and people. We’re saving on outfits and we’re not having a live band.

  • deb martinson

    location: seattle, wa
    date: may 13, 2017
    goal budget: $5k (we just pulled a number out of nowhere)
    actual budget: ~$9k, drop-dead is 10k (reality set in)
    guests: 80
    priorities: people, food, comfy chairs. we want the wedding to reflect our quirks and to be memorable and interesting

    venue: 600
    food/beverage: 4500
    invitations/save-the-dates: 400
    flowers: 200
    rentals (two couches, two love seats, cocktail tables. the venue provides dishes and chairs): 700
    my dress/hair: 1500
    his outfit: 150
    photographer: a friend who is an accomplished amateur photographer volunteered to take the photos
    decor: 200
    favors: 250
    rings: 200 (we just want something simple)

    if we have a theme, it’s “tiny food and fizzy wine.” we’re planning a cocktail reception with heavy hors d’oeuvres (a phrase that amuses me) and lots of champagne (with beer, wine and something non-alcoholic for people who don’t like champagne). we’re going to cover the ceiling in gauzy curtains with fairy lights and keep the room lights dim. with any luck, it will seem slightly magical.

    the venue is a steal. it’s the headquarters house of the washington state federation of garden clubs, and they charge $600 no matter what kind of event you’re having. it’s a beautiful house with lovely gardens; we plan to get married in a gazebo outside and have the reception in the house. best of all, they just give you the key and tell you to be out by midnight. we booked it before we made our guest list, which was probably good because it’s enforced our max guest-list length. we originally thought 50 people because we don’t have family and are only inviting significant people, but we didn’t consider how huge our chosen families are. 80 turns out to be about right.

    the save the dates and invitations were about $200 each after promo codes. we made custom designs for plantable save-the-dates and booklet invitations. the invitation was fun – we both work in software, so the booklet is a little storybook of our relationship titled “deb and victor fix a bug.” it’s adorable, with a llama cartoon for me and a squirrel cartoon for him (this makes sense to people who know us). it was worth the extra cost to have exactly what we wanted and something that makes people say, “that is so you!”

    favors got so expensive because i’m making wish boxes: about 100 for the boxes, 80 for the dandelion fluff and bottles, 50 for the candles, 80 for the custom matches, 20 for the shredded basket fill, and innumerable hours for the hand-knitted tiny hearts. i’ve been told that this is a bad idea and that i should have boxes of candy, but i really like these and i wanted something personal. if people leave them, i will give them away at the regional burning man event next summer.

    my best people and i are going dress shopping this weekend, and i’m anticipating 1k for the dress. i’m also getting my hair colored in the oil slick style. it’s pretty long, so i’m expecting to pay 500 for that. his outfit is amazing; i found a gorgeous black jacquard coat with a nehru collar for $75 online to go with his tux pants and a white shirt.

    we’re going with a higher food budget than we anticipated because we really like the caterer and the food sounds delicious. they donate usable leftover food to a homeless shelter and have been recognized by the county for recycling and composting, and those things are important to us. food and beverage will be about $50 per person, including the tiny pies we’re having instead of a cake.

    we’re not spending a lot on decor and flowers. we’re probably going to get costco flowers, and we have a lot of the decor already. no idea about centerpieces but we’ll come up with something.

    i wish we’d nailed down the guest list before booking the venue and i did not intend for this to become so diy, but both of us are really excited and happy about how it’s turning out.

  • Sam Wren

    Location: Williamsburg, VA
    Goal Budget: $5000 of our own money
    Actual Budget: $7000 (about $4000 from us and $3000 from family)
    Number of Guests: 45-50
    Priorities: We didn’t want a big fancy wedding, just something casual and fun with the people we enjoy the most. We did Chipotle catering to keep the food cost down and provided beer and cider (as well as bubbly for toasting). Our photographer was the largest single expense, about $1500 for 4ish hours. Most of our guests were local or within driving distance. I made my bouquet, the centerpieces, and the other decorations myself. We had friends and family help with setup and tear down. Our ceremony and reception was at a community building that was about $1000 for the 6ish hours we rented it. We didn’t have to decorate the building too much since it was beautiful on its own. We purchased tablecloths and table runners for 10 tables (including the gift table, food tables, etc). Clothing for me and my husband was around $1000 total. We bought a sheet cake for serving and I made a small decorative box cake for the cake cutting. We made a few playlists for the day, one for dinner and one for dancing/celebrating.

  • Nicole Johnson

    Wedding Location: Golden, CO (September 2017)
    Goal Budget: $10-12,000
    Actual Budget: Probably 12,000 when all is said and done
    Number of Guests: most likely 100-ish (Invited 125)
    Priorities: Photography, Venue and Food
    We met while going to college in Golden, so it was very important that we get married there. We don’t have a ton of nice pictures of the two of us (dating ~8 years as of September this year) so we really wanted to make sure we got plenty. We’re also a bit odd among our friends as 1) we rarely drink alcohol* and 2) we love LOVE breakfast, especially breakfast for dinner. Thus, we decided to do a Sunday brunch wedding over Labor Day (make it easier for people to travel since a lot are out of town). We’re doing a brunch buffet with quiche, bagels and lox, fruit, potatoes, muffins, etc…

    Here’s a rough breakdown:
    Dress and day of look (dress, alterations, accessories, hair, make up, etc…) $1500
    Venue rental: $2150
    Catering: ~$5400
    Cupcakes: $230
    Stationary (killer deal on vistaprint): $266 with stamps
    DJ: $900
    Photographer (with friends and family discount): $700
    Decorations/flowers: ? I did all of them myself but I would put the cost at roughly $100-$200 for materials, but it’s probably closer to $100 than $200

    *: I really don’t want to get into a huge fight about this, but I would like to explain myself. I’ve been called rude and “pretend host” on enough forums. The fact of the matter is we both have huge families that we can’t narrow down the guest list below 120, unless we pulled +1’s but we don’t want to do that either. Providing unlimited alcohol (even only beer and wine) is just a huge cost that neither of us think is necessary for a wedding but at least wanted to give the guests the option of buying if they wish. We will be warning people ahead of time so they can be prepared. That being said, we were given a very generous gift by FMIL and FFIL to cover the first round of mimosas and the venue does a free champagne toast, so that’s two free alcoholic drinks before 3pm. Both of us have had bad experiences with alcohol during college that make us feel really uneasy having it around. However, we do recognize that some people want it so we thought it would be better that it be offered via cash bar (after the before mentioned 2 free drinks) than completely dry. I’m not looking for opinions on the matter. I know what etiquette dictates. Everyone sets their own priorities and for us that was food and having the people we wanted there and not funding our guests’ buzz. Non-alcoholic drinks are hosted of course.

  • Eli

    Wedding Location: Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
    Goal Budget: $26,000 (NZD)
    Actual Budget: $26,000
    Number of Guests: 200
    Priorities: it was all about family, the food and the music on a Saturday night. We had a big buffet (mostly vegan, with meat sourced from a family farm), and a 10-piece funk and soul band that we love. We invited the whole clan (almost everyone there was family), including children. It was the first time my mum and her sisters had been able to all be together for 12 years, for example. We cut corners on my dress ($50 from an op shop with my Mum making a lace topper for it), the photographer (we got a student – he was brilliant!), alcohol (not really intentionally – we got a keg though, and we managed to empty it, which saved heaps on being able to return bottles), and flowers (we DIYed – we DIYed a bunch of other stuff too). It wasn’t perfect (my Mum and my brother walked me down the aisle, for example, which was lovely – but it was because my Dad had a stroke and was unable to come), but it was wonderful, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Every moment leading up to it and on the day just reinforced that my husband is the best.

  • anon

    Wedding Location: Central California
    Goal Budget: $15,000
    Actual Budget (all-in, honeymoon and everything): Probably about $26,000 (stopped keeping track at the end haha)
    Number of Guests: 150 invited, 120 attended

    Priorities: Photography, venue

    What was worth it: Paying a bit more than we intended for photography (full 10 hrs with one photographer and one assistant plus a prior engagement session for $3,650), saving money with a taco buffet (everyone loved it, was about $13/head), saving money on rentals by buying biodegradable/disposable bamboo “paper” plates ($200 for all plates, utensils, glasses, etc.), and MAKING OUR OWN WEDDING PLAYLIST. I tell everyone — I made our entire playlist (reception and dancing) and we rented a professional p/a system for $150 and had a Spotify wedding with a couple good friends (whom we later took out to dinner) acting as our “DJs” (they just had to announce speeches, first dance, etc.) and EVERYONE danced and everyone loved it. There was no drawback to not having a wedding dj, for us personally. That alone saved us over a grand. Also worth it: renting a tent in order to have covered space in the event of rain (it was forecasted, but the actual day was sunny and clear). Cost $1200 which I’m still paying on my credit card but it was worth it 1,000% for the peace of mind.

    Most worth it: Italy honeymoon directly after the wedding. We booked through Expedia bundle deals and spent a grand total of $3,000 on flights, cute b&bs, food, travel, everything for both of us for 10 days in Rome, Florence and Cinque Terre. Getting away from everyone right after the wedding was ESS-EN-TIAL for us. Unless you REALLY can’t afford a honeymoon, go right away!!!

  • LR

    Disclaimer – wedding has not happened yet, scheduled for May so there may be additional fees

    Wedding Location: Nashville, TN
    Goal Budget: $5000
    Actual Budget: ~$7000 – 8000; honeymoon not included
    Number of Guest: 85 invited, 65 anticipated

    Priorities: Food, Family, Flowers, and Photography

    We will see if we allocated our funds well. We were originally moving forward with a $15,000 wedding but figured out a way that we could compromise and still get what we wanted. About $1300 for photographer, About $1500 for flowers, $400 for ceremony venue, and $4000 for food and drinks/reception (reception had no venue fee just a food and drink minimum). I found a dress on a sales rack and my fiance is wearing his nice black suit. I may purchase him a new tie for the day of. I love my engagement ring so much, I am not getting a second ring and my fiance will get a simple band for under $100.

  • Chrissy Crater

    Wedding Location: State Park in Burns, TN (40 mins from Nashville)
    Goal Budget: $1,000
    Actual Budget: $1,500
    Number of Guests: 50-60
    Priorities: DIY wooded simplicity and non-traditional beauty at the lowest price possible! We wanted something that monetarily was a step-up from elopement. The guest list is still very curated in that we did not invite acquaintances and we made the stressful decision to have an adults-only wedding. The venue is ridiculously priced at $250 per day/night totaling $500 for the whole weekend. It is a secluded youth camp with gorgeous rustic dining hall and the price includes 30 rustic cabins for our guest. Also it’s where Ernest Goes To Camp was filmed! We are recruiting the help of A TON of creative friends and family members to achieve this price. My best friend is making my designer-influenced dress as a gift and my FI’s suit is around $200 from ASOS. Another friend is a florist who has a non-profit that recycles flowers from events- plus we are foraging for additional ferns and greenery for decorations. My fiance’s brother is a photographer, and as a painter I plan to barter a 6-person portrait of his family for the photos. We are self catering with a simple carnitas tacos dinner and our local wine store has $3.50 bottles of wine by the case. We have at least 6 extremely talented musician friends that we’ll ask to perform acoustic sets during the “games” portion of the afternoon, and one of those friends will also be the emcee. It has really turned out to be a blessing that we’re working so hard for such low costs, as right before Christmas my company closed and now I am living from my wage as an artist. The bonus is that I have all kinds of time to my DIY wedding! It’s always a really fun challenge for me to do things outside of the box, especially now that it involves the people that I love the most!

  • PurpleGarage

    Wedding Location: Gosfield Hall, England (with ceremony at St Catherine’s Church right across a field)
    Goal Budget: As low as possible
    Actual budget: we’re at 13,000 now, probably going to be around 16k total (fingers crossed)
    Guests: 80

    Gosfield has a package so we got that: 12,000 for exclusive use of the whole mansion, 15 rooms for 30 overnight guests with English breakfast, then a 3 course meal for all 80 guests with welcome drinks, half a bottle of wine per guest, after dinner-finger food buffet and a DJ with a “disco”. The use of the church is about 300. I don’t have a dress yet but really hoping to find one under 1000, even if it’s secondhand. DIY-ing the centerpieces by ordering flowers (carnations, roses, baby’s breath) and vases wholesale. Thinking of ditching the photographer, although my mom is willing to pay for this. Groom needs to rent his “morning dress”, about 100 GBP.

    FYI, this is our THIRD wedding-related event. First was a low-key elopement here in NYC (us, 2 friends and a photog) = 300 bucks. Second was a Gatsby-themed, boozy, everyone-in-costume “elopement party” my parents threw for us in the Philippines, which was awesome = 7000 bucks, but my parents paid for like 5000, plus our all our flights. And now this. To be fair though, this last one is in 18 months and the venue is letting us pay through their own financing. So it we’re going add all those weddings together, it’s really closer to 30 grand.

  • Megan O’Hearn

    Meant to do this when the thread initially launched, and forgot! Here it is anyway:

    Location: Upstate/Western NY
    Goal Budget: $18,000
    Actual Budget: $19,000
    # of Guests: 300 invited, 210 attended

    Priorities: Inviting everyone we wanted to be there without seriously breaking the bank for 200+ people. My husband and I are both into really good food, so that was a major area of focus for us. We ended up hiring 3 food trucks we loved to show up and serve food right out of their trucks, which our guests loved. We are also photographer/videographers, so we allocated a good deal toward hiring a photographer we liked (although maybe not loved), and set up a slow-motion video booth (which was so so worth it). We had a videographer friend shoot the footage, and maybe someday my husband will have a break from working on other people’s videos to edit it together. heh.

    Because I’m a logistics freak, I can actually break down exactly what money went where:
    Food: $5,000 (appetizers and 3 food trucks)
    Drinks: $800 (we bought wine from Aldi and some local craft beer and never looked back)
    Reception Venue: $3,000 (this was mostly the rental of a huge tent to put on some land my parents own near Lake Ontario)
    Dress/Suit: $1,400 (I wore a white Jenny Yoo bridesmaids dress from Norstrom’s, and my husband bought an expensive suit he’s worn a few times since the wedding)
    Flowers: $900 (bulk white hydrangeas from BJ’s and white potted plants from a local greenhouse)
    Decor: $1,800 (more ribbon and flagging tape than you can imagine)
    Gifts: $1,175 (we bought bridesmaids and groomsmen accessories, plus welcome bags and thank you gifts for people helping us out)
    Photography/Videography: $3,000
    Stationary/Invites: $600 (we were so lucky to have one of my bridesmaids design everything for us)
    Rehearsal Dinner: $500 (pizza party with everyone around!)
    Misc: $1,00 (things like our website, officiant, etc)

    We were able to do things relatively inexpensively because there was a whole tribe of people helping us set up and get ready on-location for up to a whole week beforehand. There’s no way we could have made this happen otherwise!

  • Beth

    Ahh, thank you all! I’ll share even though I’m late, if anyone gets that far down in the comments.

    Location: Outside of Austin, TX (because in Austin, whoa!)
    Dream budget: $4000 (ha, I know.)
    Goal Budget: $10,000
    Actual (so far, may grow more as we get closer, noooo): $14,210-15,210 :(
    Guests: ~ 100

    Priorities: Cheap without being boring or lame. Good food, good photos of our families and close friends, and lots of dancing.

    Break down
    Venue: $1000
    Bus (because of venue location): $1000 (double it if we need a second.)
    Photography: $3500
    Food (drop-off catering): $4000
    Helper staff (4 people, 7 hours each) $840
    2 security – required by venue – $350
    Alcohol/Drinks: $1000 (total guess!)
    DJ – $700
    Bride’s Attire: $500 (nice bridesmaid dress ftw!)
    Groom’s Attire: $500 ? (or maybe a suit he owns already, who knows)
    Tables/Chairs/Linens/Cleaning fee: $600
    Cakes (regular cake from a fav bakery): $120
    Website: $25
    My idea of decoration (print some photos) $100
    Invitations: $200 (not sure, still deciding)

    Costs we are getting as gifts:
    Main Cake: Made by my sister who has done it semi-professionally for years.
    DoC: Likely another sister who has done it for cousins/in-laws… we’ll see if that sticks.
    Rehearsal Dinner (Fiance’s parents want to host and expect a certain level of ‘nice’): $3500
    Website: family member does that for a living, so we’re just paying hosting
    Decoration: I really don’t care about it, so my sister, the DoC, who DOES care is taking care of that. She’ll do a lot of DIY, but I have no idea how much she’ll spend.

    Things we’re skipping:
    Save the Dates (website and email!)

    Most people haven’t mentioned rings, but we’ll just get simple bands.

    I do want to look at linens on craigslist now, after seeing that idea!

  • Kaylee

    I’m late to the game but I’d love to join the conversation anyway! My husband and I got married this past November in the mountains of North Carolina (near Asheville). We did many of the traditional wedding things but also chose to throw a lot of traditions out the window. Luckily we only had to answer to ourselves since neither sides of our family forced their input. My Dad generously gave us $15,000, I added $10,000, and my in-laws bought my dress for me which was $2,400. Granted this is just considering wedding day things. My husband paid for the honeymoon and his tux $8,500 and we split the cost of the wedding bands about $1,000 each.

    Our intent was to have a backyard dinner party feel – casual but still elegant, simple, and not too fussy. We had a quick 15 min. ceremony officiated by a friend, followed by cocktail hour under bistro lights with local craft beer and popcorn, and for dinner we served some good ol’ southern barbecue. Asheville is a BIG wedding area and I think some of our prices were higher than other places because of it. I tried to be budget conscious when I could but I could only get things so low before I felt like I was sacrificing quality or my sanity.

    We invited 210 and expected about 175. Only 145 ended up RSVP’ing and a whooping 15 cancelled on us in the last week before the wedding! So we ended up at 130. I wish there had been some way to anticipate such a low attendance because we could have saved money in a few areas. You live, you learn. It was a beautiful day and the people who wanted to be there found a way.

    Our priorities were the venue, food, photography and music.

    Our Goal Budget – $25,000

    Cost Breakdown –
    Venue: $8,275 (In hind sight this was A LOT of our budget but it included tables, linens, set-up/break-down, parking attendants, bistro lights, tableware, a décor package, and the beautiful backdrop of the blue ridge mountains. No regrets!)
    Day of Coordinator: $1,200 (Required by venue and again totally worth it.)
    Wait Staff, Bartenders & Bar Catering: $5,050
    Dinner & Appetizers: $3,500
    Dessert Bar: $900
    Photographer: $2,550
    Florist: $2,500
    DJ: $2,250
    Transportation: $1,400 (an expensive extra but worth it for our guests safety)
    Weekend Accommodations: $1,200
    Other Décor: $1,000
    Our Actual Wedding Day Cost – $29,825

    We had a friend officiate for us and in exchange paid for he and his wife’s weekend accommodations (a house shared with the wedding party). One of my bridesmaids did all of our makeup. And I designed and printed all of the wedding stationary and paper goods!

  • Sarah

    Initial guest list estimate: 60
    initial budget estimate: $10,000 CAD

    Current stats:
    Location: pnw beachfront
    Guest list: 100+
    Budget: $33,000 CAD, probably going to be closer to $40,000 with last minute additions.

    In case you were wondering, yes, holy bananas, I am blown away by how much this is adding up to be. We have an incredible amount of family support/financial assistance. Even my family, who are not into weddings/lavish parties, are putting in a fair bit of support.

    Top 5 expenses in descending order: open bar, food, honeymoon, photographer, and the wedding dress (oops).

    Full disclosure: *We* aren’t paying 40k. We are getting a lot of things gifted to us, a large chunk of money from his parents, hair and makeup for me and my girls from my mum, his parents are footing the bill for the rehearsal dinner, etc. I am putting the full amount so people who are paying for things themselves can see what a realistic budget looks like.

    My advice, and feel free to ignore it, is that you read between the lines in example budgets. Notice if someone says they are having a backyard wedding; not only are they not paying for the venue, they can provide their own alcohol. Their friend is making the floral arrangements as a gift? Their mum bought the wedding dress? Their grandparents want to pay for the bar for 150 people. You can bet your ass the wedding wasn’t really 5k. And why doesn’t anyone talk about transportation? Am I the only one who travels back and forth a bit for wedding activities? Not to sound salty, but come on. I think our wedding will be dope, but definitely not magazine pretty. Unless you are doing courthouse/something alternative, which we are not (his parents are pretty traditional and we would like to honour that), weddings are pricy. I have gone overboard on certain things (curse that dress!), but most of my non-wedded friends have no idea how much things they deem wedding-staples actually cost.

    OK, I realize this has crossed over to rant-territory, but I continue to be shocked by how much this is going to cost! I imagined going to the courthouse and doing dinner with family. But this is going to be great too. No matter what you choose, I hope you feel sure of your choice and know that you can’t go wrong.

  • WeddingAhhhhh

    Goal Budget: ~$17,000
    Actual Budget: (Haven’t calculated it but will be closer to $25,000)
    Number of guest: 140
    Priorities (as some one earlier said) Family, Food, Fotos.

    My parents gave my sister a set amount for her wedding two years ago and planned to give me a set amount as well. My sisters husband’s family is quite more well off than my fiance’s and so their wedding budget was more than doubled by his family’s contribution and their own savings. My fiance and I just graduated from school so have a lot of things going on. We planned on spending $13,000 from my parents, + alcohol/flower/rehearsal dinner coverage from fiance’s parents + a little bit of our own savings.

    We were quite happy to have a more casual reception to accommodate a large wedding full of people we love. We invested in photography because that was my #1 priority and picking a venue with a great chef (who actually left the venue but the new chef is great too). We planned on a casual dinner but my parents had a hard time accepting not having a traditional chicken with sides meal. My parents really didn’t know how much weddings actually cost so once they realized our budget struggles, they decide they would cover the food and then give us a smaller cheque to cover other things (no strings attached – which is amazing).

    Our wedding is 2 months and at this point we’re not budgeting. We’re spending within our means buying extra day of things and looking forward to spending the day with those we love the most.

    We live in Ontario, Canada.

  • Montecristo Travels

    Location: Ottawa – Canada in our amazing loft with view of parliament.
    Your goal budget: $15,000
    Your actual budget: So far so good! coming in under and we have nothing left outstanding so … YAY!
    What your priorities were for spending: Photographer, décor (to turn our home into a venue – Pagan Baroque theme) and couture!
    How many people came to your wedding: Ceremony (pagan circle) is 20 – additional dozen to come to after party only.
    Why it works? Our wedding is in August during Canada’s 150th. So we are taking full advantage of all the free activities and such. For example, across the street from us in the park is the floral sculpture competition (Mosaic Culture) a huge gathering of statues like Gaia (complete with a fountain out of her hand three feet high) and horses and buffalo and birds all made from flowers… THAT is our wedding photo backdrop. We have view of parliament and we chose our day on the firework competition finale. So from our place, we will enjoy views of parliament with fireworks with all our guests as we cut our cake. We chose to honour our Pagan spiritual side, but also as travel bloggers we chose the Baroque vibe for our wedding to reflect our favourite trips to Europe. And oh … white as a colour was banned.