This is part of our ongoing series, Real Wedding Budgets, bringing you actual numbers from actual couples, along with an idea of what you can get for your money. See more Real Wedding Budgets here.
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Before you read, a note on vendors: We don’t provide vendor information because you never know what kind of discounts they may have given, or if their prices have changed since this wedding. And also because if the couple didn’t love them, we don’t want to be putting a bad review out there. That’s what Yelp and Wedding Wire are for.
However, there is one exception – photography. Because we want you to get a good idea of what the couple was able to do with their budget, we include photos when possible, and credit the photographers. So word of advice – if you like these photos, please do go check out the photographer’s website (linked at the end of the post), and then ask for their current rates. Do not expect that you will necessarily get the same package and pricing you see here.
$12,800: 80 Guests on a Saturday Evening in Fairfax, Virginia in the Spring
|Photography/Video (including albums, prints, etc.)||$ 650|
|Food/Beverage (catering, alcohol, and cake)||$ 4,500|
|Entertainment (Band, DJ, Ceremony Musicians)||$ 115|
|Attire (including shoes, jewelry, etc.)||$ 1,050|
|Marriage License||$ 30|
|Wedding Planner/Day-of-Coordinator||$ 250|
|Invitations, Save-the-Dates, Programs||$ 292|
|Hair & Makeup||$ 200|
|Rehearsal Dinner||$ 0|
|Gifts & Favors||$ 530|
What They Got For the Money
Ceremony & Reception Venue ($2,225)
The couple held the ceremony and reception in the same venue – a historic building which now hosts community events and houses an art gallery and library. There was limited on-site parking, but ample free parking in the vicinity.
The room used for the ceremony ($225 for 2 hours, plus a 1-hour rehearsal) was lined with bookshelves and let in gorgeous afternoon light through gigantic windows. It could hold about 100 people. The couple used the Librarian’s Office for a yichud after the ceremony. Chairs and decorative items (such as pedestals for floral arrangements) were included with the rental fee.
The reception took place on the main floor of the building, which was formerly the Town Hall. It has wood floors, lots of windows, and an “old feel”. Chairs, tables, and some linens were included; it could hold approximately 100 guests for a seated dinner with room for a dance floor.
One photographer; all-day coverage; digital files with full rights; 100 4″x6″ prints; and 4 8″x10″ prints. The photographer was building up his portfolio, and was not a full-time photographer yet.
They had a buffet-style dinner with passed hors d’oeuvres during the cocktail hour. They provided the alcohol (beer and wine only) and the caterers provided the bartender and soft drinks, coffee, and tea. They also cut and served the cake. Catering costs included tea lights for all the tables; setup and tear down of both ceremony and reception spaces; and coordinating the equipment rentals below.
The bride’s sister made a multi-tiered wedding cake; she refused to divulge the costs of it or the test cakes she made or to allow the couple to reimburse her.
Linens, china, flatware, glassware, and food service items (chafing dishes, coffee urns, etc.) were coordinated by the caterer.
The bride’s mother is a floral design assistant to she was able to order the flowers at cost and use the floral studio to make the bouquets at no charge ($325). They provided jars (reused = free!) and vases (borrowed from the floral studio = free!) to a local flower farm. They filled the jars with wildflowers for table centerpieces and the vases with willows for ceremony decoration, plus delivered and set them all up ($325).
Decor (~$100 – a “completely wild guess”)
The couple made a number of crafty things for their wedding, including button flower pens (bic pens, with flowers and old buttons from the bride’s grandmother attached to them), a fancy bulletin board and thumb tacks for the seating chart, crayons tied with bakers’ twine for the tables, index cards to collect guests’ wishes (in lieu of a guest book), prints of photos which were displayed in old jars.
The couple had a DJ for 4 hours of reception music ($80) and hired him to do the ceremony as well ($75). They handled playlist requests through the DJ’s website.
The bride wore a raw silk mermaid-style strapless dress, which she bought pre-owned. She purchased kitten heels, a pearl necklace, a birdcage veil and fascinator, special blue undies, and had alterations done ($785). The groom bought a tuxedo on sale, plus a tux shirt, cufflinks from Etsy, and new Chuck Taylors ($265).
The bride wears a thin band with small pave diamonds, purchased on Overstock.com; the groom wears a titanium and gold band from an Etsy seller. The bride notes that in hindsight, she wishes she’d bought her ring from an artisan vendor, such as Turtle Love Committee or an Etsy seller.
Marriage License ($30)
They found their officiant online and chatted by phone a few months before the wedding; they met with her two weeks prior for an interview and mini-rehearsal. The couple chose readings and vows; the officiant created the rest of the ceremony.
Wedding Planner/Coordinator ($250)
The couple hired a day-of-coordinator who was just starting out and had limited experience. They met once in advance and she managed the rehearsal and wedding day from the afternoon portraits through breakdown of the event. The bride notes that they got what they paid for – she was not very good, but “the wedding was awesome, so it’s ok.”)
The couple send most of their Save-the-Dates electronically; they designed postcards and printed them on Zazzle (~$20) for elder guests unlikely to be online. Their invitations were purchased from an Etsy seller, and printed on linen with kraft envelopes. They ordered 85 ($203), which turned out to be more than they needed. Guests RSVP’d online, but again they sent postcards to the non-internet savvy folks; they used Zazzle again for these ($15). They spent $24 on postage. Programs were designed by the bride and printed at FedEx (~$30).
Hair and Makeup ($200)
The bride had her hair styled in her hotel room on the wedding day. She did her own makeup.
The maid-of-honor’s father drove the bride to the ceremony in his minivan; everyone else carpooled or took taxis.
The couple gave picture frames to their parents and readers; after the wedding they sent photos to go in them. The groomsmen received monogrammed pocket watches; the bridesmaids were given monogrammed thermal tote bags and necklaces to wear in the wedding. The maid of honor also got a tie to wear. They also purchased a Groupon for custom wine bottle labels; they gave out bottles of wine sporting them at the rehearsal dinner.
They purchased small tins and labels, which they filled with candy buttons made by the bride’s sister.
Rehearsal Dinner ($0)
The groom’s parents paid for the dinner, which was supposed to have a budget of $2,000. The actual cost is unknown to the couple. The dinner was held at a small historic house near the wedding venue and catered by a local Tex-Mex restaurant; there were approximately 30 guests. A pianist played during the cocktail hour.
The couple made welcome bags for out-of-town guests from small kraft paper bags which they filled with locally-made soaps and maps/information about the area, which they got at no cost from the Chamber of Commerce ($50). They also decided to subsidize the cost of bridesmaids’ dresses, since they turned out to be more expensive than anticipated ($150).
What was your biggest financial splurge? Why did you choose it? Was it worth it?
The last-minute order from the local flower farm, for centerpieces and willows for the ceremony. It wasn’t a HUGE amount of money, but it was a splurge because it was a bit last-minute and not really necessary. But I had thought I wanted just button/paper flowers or none at all, then realized I actually really wanted wildflowers. It was totally worth it and I’m really glad we went for it. My husband couldn’t have cared less, honestly, but he encouraged me to go for it and agreed they added a nice touch.
Was there anything you regret spending your money on or anything you wish you’d spent less on?
I waffle back and forth about our photography. It’s a matter of “Should we have spent more?”, not less. We got a really great deal and our pictures are fine, but they’re not pretty or artsy. I wish I just had a few artsy shots. But usually after waffling on this I settle back to content with our choice, our photos are fine! And I should note that to my knowledge this has not crossed my husband’s mind even once.
One thing I regret, which wasn’t something I had a lot of control over but wish I’d managed better, was the bridesmaid dresses. I wanted them to pick their own dresses, they decided to wear basically the same ones in different colors, they picked the dresses so I shouldn’t feel bad! But they each paid over $200 and that was WAY more than I wanted them to pay. I’m glad we supported an independent Etsy business but part of me wishes we’d gone simpler/cheaper.
What was the best thing you spent your money on?
It’s a tie between the venue and the caterers. They both went above and beyond taking care of us, and I think were very reasonably priced.
Anything else you’d like to say?
This was a fun exercise and made me enjoy my wedding all over again. Thank you!