Your Wedding Budget: What To Expect

- by Lisa of
Guest Blogger

I find many couples are extremely unrealistic about what they can get for the money that they have to spend. Wedding magazines and the internet may be to blame for some of their views. Brides-to-be feverishly clip or download pictures from magazines or the internet, and choose very beautiful things. But when they come to me, and tell me that they have a 10K budget with 100 people, then we have a problem. Don't get me wrong- I am all about the fairytale and I want to give couples what they want. But, it's also important to give them them a realistic alternative that they will love as well. If I encourage them to live a financial fantasy, no one will be happy in the end.
So, I will review what you should budget for different items. Of course, different areas of the country will differ, but this will give you a general idea.

Reception – 50% of your costs, this will be the largest chunk of money. I include the site, food, beverage, tables, chairs, linens, silver, glassware, flatware, service charges, tax and gratuity. I do not include any of the décor in this cost (flowers, lighting, draping or other decoration items). If you are getting married at a hotel, banquet hall, or other wedding facility which has an in-house caterer, the price per person will most likely include food and beverage. It will almost certainly contain tables and chairs, basic linen, napkin and all of the basic flatware and china options. It might also cover the cake. Often, these types of venues offer 3 or 4 menus; with the differences being more expensive food items, additional upgrades (wine service at the table, international coffee station), passed hors d’oeurvres, more options of linens, upgraded cake and/or bar options, or lengths of open bar, and the like. Of course tax, tip and service charges are added, and in the DC area, those charges could add an additional 25%.
If you are getting married at a venue where there is not an in-house caterer, the price per person will include just the foodstuff. Bar, rentals (tables, chairs, linen), cake, coffee service, etc will be extra. Often times, there will be a service fee included, which covers the cost of all the servers, bartenders, banquet managers, chefs, etc. The amount of that service fee will depend upon the food service type that you choose, as well as the level of set up and break down that’s needed
So when you create your budget, make sure that you are breaking up all these different items. Do not forget delivery fees. And be wary, if you see a flat per person price. Make sure you note what is and what isn't included.

Ceremony – you have to budget for the site or room fee, officant fee, church donation (mandatory or otherwise), and any musicians fees. Ceremony fees are variable, and I have seen them go as high as $2,500.00. The price depends upon where you are having your ceremony, whether you are getting married in a church, and whther you are a parishioner. If your ceremony site is at the same location as your reception, you might have a bit more leverage in negotiating the ceremony site fee. There is always a cost savings advantage when you have your ceremony and reception in the same location (travel, transportation costs, delivery fees, time, etc).

Photographer ¬– Expect to pay about $3,500.00 for a professional photographer, proofs (album or online), online ordering, low resolution CD, and a high-resolution DVD of images (if you are lucky). Photo albums are extra, and range in price from $800.00-$6,000.00, depending upon the album, size, and pictures that are included. I would say that most couples spend an additional $800.00-$2,500.00 above and beyond the package price. If the package already contains an album, they are upgrading, adding pictures/pages, buying wall portraits, or buying accessory albums (parent albums, etc),
When you compare different photographers, make sure you compare apples to apples. One photography package may include an album, DVD of hi-res images, 2 parent albums, and 8 hours of wedding day coverage, while another package just might include the 8 hours of wedding coverage.
Remember that photography is an art. Much of what you are paying is for the photographer’s “eye”. This is very important, because this is how your wedding will be documented for all time.

Flowers and Décor-I think this is the area where the sticker shock strikes hardest. Many of our couples cannot believe the cost of flowers. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, floral designers are worth their weight in gold. I tell our couples to buy a few blossoms (hydrangea, lilies, curly willow and roses) and arrange them. Then, compare their arrangements to that of a professional designer. Ladies and gentleman, you are paying for the design and the ability to professional handle and care for your precious blossoms. It’s not only the flowers, but the art that you are purchasing.
Here are some average prices that our Bride’s spend. Of course, this is dependent upon the location, amount of flowers, and the designer.
Bridal Bouquet – $200.00 Corsages – 30.00
MOH bouquet - $90.00 Altar arrangements - $150-$600.00 per
BM bouquets – $60.00 Unity candle wreaths - $75.00
Boutonnieres - $15.00 Wreaths - $150-$600.00 per
Short centerpieces - $100.00-250.00 per Tall centerpieces - $250-$550.00 per
Cake flowers - $75.00 Buffet/table arrangements - $100-$250.00 per

Invitations – I find this to be the most neglected area when our couples are planning their big day. What is the reasoning? Wedding guests throw them away? This, I don’t really understand, because it is from the invitation that your guests get the first impression of your wedding. If you are having a black tie event, you want to give the impression of a very formal, sophisticated and elegant affair. Your invitation might be engraved or letter-pressed, printed on high quality ecru paper. If you are having a backyard BBQ, than your invitation should say “fun” and “informal”.
Invitation sets (invite, inner envelope, addressed outer envelope, reception, and response set) run $5.00-$20.00/invite depending upon the level of design and paper quality.
I hope I have given you just a taste about how you should budget in a few areas.

Next week, I will follow up with 3 sample budgets (5K, 40K, and 75K) budgets for 150 guests.


Monica said...

Thank you for the information! great article

Phillydizzi Bride to Be said...

This was really helpful, thanks. I'm going through the budget now..

Sugar & Spice Event Design said...

I am running into the same problem. I think that some couples are absolutely surprised at not only the overall cost of a wedding, but the itemized cost as well. This was an excellent outline of what to expect. Also make me see that I have really been working in that bargain range. Interesting information!

One Bride with Broom said...

So True! I think folks get so caught up that they forget "oh, yeah we have to pay for this!" This is a great post. Thanks for the info!

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