Monthly Archives: June 2012

Real Wedding Budget: Fairfax, VA | 80 Guests | $12,800

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.
Want to make this series run longer? Submit your real wedding budget (anonymously) here.

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 ratesDo 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


The Numbers

Venue(s) $ 2,225
Photography/Video (including albums, prints, etc.) $ 650
Food/Beverage (catering, alcohol, and cake) $ 4,500
Floral/Decor $ 750
Entertainment (Band, DJ, Ceremony Musicians) $ 115
Attire (including shoes, jewelry, etc.) $ 1,050
Rings $ 250
Marriage License $ 30
Officiant $ 250
Wedding Planner/Day-of-Coordinator $ 250
Invitations, Save-the-Dates, Programs $ 292
Rentals $ 1,500
Hair & Makeup $ 200
Transportation $ 0
Rehearsal Dinner $ 0
Gifts & Favors $ 530
Other $ 200
TOTAL $ 12,792 

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.

Photography ($650)
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.

Catering ($4,500)
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.

Cake ($0)
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.

Rentals ($1,500)
Linens, china, flatware, glassware, and food service items (chafing dishes, coffee urns, etc.) were coordinated by the caterer.

Flowers ($650)
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.

Entertainment ($115)
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.

Attire ($1,050)
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).

Rings ($250)
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)

Officiant ($250)
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.”)

Invitations ($262)
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.

Transportation ($0)
The maid-of-honor’s father drove the bride to the ceremony in his minivan; everyone else carpooled or took taxis.

Gifts ($450)
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.

Favors ($80)
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.

Other ($200)
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).


Reflections

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!

All photos were taken by Bong Lee of Bisou Photography and are reposted here with permission. Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are are not available for reproduction, redistribution or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.

Real Wedding Budget: Boston | 40 Guests | $16,600

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.
Want to make this series run longer? Submit your real wedding budget (anonymously) here.

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 ratesDo not expect that you will necessarily get the same package and pricing you see here.

$16,617: 40 Guests on a Saturday Evening in Boston in the Summer


The Numbers

Venue(s) $ 220
Photography/Video (including albums, prints, etc.) $ 2,500
Food/Beverage (catering, alcohol, and cake) $ 9,273
Floral/Decor $ 241
Entertainment (Band, DJ, Ceremony Musicians) $ 205
Attire (including shoes, jewelry, etc.) $ 1,312
Rings $ 607
Marriage License $ 35
Officiant $ 100
Wedding Planner/Day-of-Coordinator $ 0
Invitations, Save-the-Dates, Programs $ 150
Rentals $ 0
Hair & Makeup $ 150
Transportation $ 875
Rehearsal Dinner $ 0
Gifts & Favors $ 380
Other $ 569
TOTAL $ 16,617

What They Got For the Money

Ceremony & Reception Venue ($220)
The ceremony was held in a chapel at the university where the couple met. They had the space for 3 1/2 hours, and it included chairs. It was large enough to accommodate 200 people.

The reception was held in the private dining room of a restaurant. There was no fee for use of the room beyond the cost of catering.

Photography ($2,500)
The couple had one photographer for an engagement session and full wedding day coverage. The package included high-resolution digital files with personal copyright permission.

Videography ($0)
The couple set up two video cameras to record the ceremony; they asked cousins to turn them on at the start of the ceremony.

Catering ($9,038)
The couple had a cocktail hour with five passed hors d’oeuvres and a seated dinner with appetizer, three entree choices, and dessert. They had an open bar throughout the evening, but capped the choice of beverages at $13 per drink. This amount included a $1,200 tip for exceptional service.

Cake ($235)
The couple had a two-tiered cake with different flavors in each layer. Guests consumed just one layer at the reception; the second layer was consumed the day after by guests who came to the couples’ house the day after to hang out and play video games.

Flowers ($191)
One of the bridesmaids made all the bouquets and the bride arranged the centerpieces. This is the cost of the flowers they purchased, including stems for a dry run a few days before the wedding.

Decor ($50)
The venues were already lovely, so the couple only needed to create table numbers and a seating chart.

Entertainment ($205)
The couple hired an undergraduate student at the university where they wed to play Bach pieces on her cello for the ceremony. It was the first wedding she’d played. The couple spent $80 on reception entertainment.

Attire ($1,312)
The bride wore a silk wedding dress with a sweetheart neckline, ball gown skirt, and pockets. She purchased new shoes and borrowed jewelry from her family. She spent $220 on alterations. The groom purchased a suit, tie, and new shoes.

Rings ($607)
The bride and groom each wear plain gold wedding bands.

Marriage License ($35)

Officiant ($100)
The officiant was a mentor of the couple, and they had a close personal relationship with him. The bride created and wrote the entire ceremony.

Wedding Planner/Coordinator ($0)

Invitations ($150)
The couple designed and printed the invitations themselves; this is the cost of paper and postage. The bride notes that they had a lot of fun making them, they turned out really well, and it, along with coding the wedding website, was one of the best parts of wedding planning.

Hair and Makeup ($150)
A friend of the bride’s did her hair and makeup. This is the cost of purchasing new makeup.

Transportation ($875)
The couple rented a shuttle bus to transport guests from the ceremony to the reception, and from the reception to the hotel where most of the guests were staying.

Gifts ($300)
The couple gave gifts to the wedding party and other people who helped out with the wedding.

Favors ($80)
The couple ordered personalized fans from Etsy.

Rehearsal Dinner ($0)
The couples’ parents split the cost of the rehearsal dinner, the only expense not paid by the couple. The rehearsal dinner was fort he two families and wedding party in an upscale restaurant. They believe the cost was approximately $500.

Other ($569)
The couple hosted a brunch on the day after the wedding ($414) and provided gift bags for out-of-town guests ($155).


Reflections

What was your biggest financial splurge? Why did you choose it? Was it worth it?

Our biggest splurge was on food and alcohol at the reception. It was well worth it — all of our guests raved about the food and drinks afterwards! We also splurged on our honeymoon, which ended up costing the same amount as our wedding. It was an unbelievable trip, and it was definitely worth it!

Was there anything you regret spending your money on or anything you wish you’d spent less on?

I wish I didn’t panic and decide to assemble out-of-town bags at the last minute, but it wasn’t that big a deal, and it made me feel a little better.

I also wish the shuttle bus wasn’t quite so expensive, but we were happy to provide transportation for our guests (particularly since a lot of them weren’t used to public transportation).

What was the best thing you spent your money on?

The food and drink at the reception! And the honeymoon!

Anything else you’d like to say?

Our wedding honestly turned out exactly the way we wanted. Even if we had a lot more money, there isn’t anything we would want to spend more on.

Real Wedding Budget: Atlanta, Georgia | 150 Guests | $18,900

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.
Want to make this series run longer? Submit your real wedding budget (anonymously) here.

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. (The photographer for this post asked not to be credited, as their aesthetic has changed significantly since this wedding.) 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 ratesDo not expect that you will necessarily get the same package and pricing you see here.

$18,849: 150 Guests on a Saturday Evening in Atlanta, Georgia in the Summer


The Numbers

Venue(s) $ 450
Photography/Video (including albums, prints, etc.) $ 3,850
Food/Beverage (catering, alcohol, and cake) $ 7,720
Floral/Decor $ 423
Entertainment (Band, DJ, Ceremony Musicians) $ 0
Attire (including shoes, jewelry, etc.) $ 1,145
Rings $ 1,900
Marriage License $ 26
Officiant $ 400
Wedding Planner/Day-of-Coordinator $ 0
Invitations, Save-the-Dates, Programs $ 390
Rentals $ 0
Hair & Makeup $ 540
Transportation $ 0
Rehearsal Dinner $ 1,000
Gifts & Favors $ 300
Other $ 705
TOTAL $ 18,849

What They Got For the Money

Ceremony & Reception Venue ($450)
The ceremony was held in a Presbyterian church with a contemporary feel and room for up to 250 guests. The church also had a private art studio/gallery that they were allowed to use for photos. The fee included a sound technician for the ceremony and all day access.

The reception was held at a nearby Chinese restaurant. There was no specific charge for the space; use of it was part of the catering fee. They had room for their guests to fit comfortably and still have a dance floor. There was a stage, which they used to set up the desserts and champagne. The restaurant was all-inclusive: chair covers, linens, tableware, cake servers, a champagne tower, mirror ball and lighting, screen for a slideshow, and a sound system were all included with the cost of catering.

Photography ($3,850)
8 hours of coverage with two photographers; files with print rights, an engagement session, a photo slideshow;  online gallery of that friends/family could order prints from, and a gorgeous leather-bound album. When the couple realized that the photographers had lost a chunk of the files from a portion of the day, the photographers gave them a free canvas wrap and some print credits.

This photo is from the bride's personal collection.

Videography ($0)
The couple wasn’t planning to take any video, but the groom’s father brought his camcorder and roped a friend into filming. A cousin of the groom edited the footage after the wedding, and the couple says, “the resulting DVD is totally homespun, shaky cam and all, and we wouldn’t trade it for any of the professional videos in the world!”

Catering ($7,470)
The restaurant served a sit-down style traditional ten-course Chinese wedding banquet. The venue charged a flat per-table fee for the food, soda, and a bottle of champagne for each table, and the couple spent $7,150, including tips for the staff. There was no corkage fee so they purchased two kinds of craft beers ($320 for 12 cases) to serve their guests. The catering fee included the venue (see above), four waiters, three busboys, and an on-site manager to take care of the event.

Cake ($250)
The couple didn’t care for cake, so they asked a friend of a friend who is a budding baker to bake cheesecakes. He created ten cheesecakes in five different flavors. The couple note that he charged a very reasonable rate, and they made sure to advertise his business all around.

Flowers ($323)
The couple bought all the flowers wholesale and a friend made all the arrangements: a bridal bouquet, 3 bridesmaids bouquets, 6 corsages (for the groom, groomsmen, and fathers), and 2 presentation bouquets made for the mothers. They saved money by buying wholesale and trying to stick with in-season florals.

Decor ($100)
The bride thrifted 14 different frames during their engagement and filled them with favorite quotes and poems about love. They were combined with votive candles for table centerpieces.

Entertainment ($0)
The groom’s cousin played some classical pieces on the piano before the ceremony, as guests were being seated. A friend played two songs on guitar. The processional and recessional songs were played from an iPod on the church’s speaker system. The groom put together an iPod playlist that kept the dance floor packed for two full hours.

Attire ($1,145)
The bride wore a fit-and-flare wedding dress, crinoline, long-line bra, and purple peep toe heels; the groom wore a rental tux. The bride’s wedding jewelry was a gift from a family friend and she borrowed another friend’s veil. Dress alterations were also a gift from a family friend who owns an alterations shop.


Rings ($1,900)
The bride wears a pave diamond 3/4 eternity ring in white gold; the groom wears a brushed white gold band; both were custom-made by the couple’s jeweler.

Marriage License ($26)

Officiant ($400)
The couple’s college pastor officiated the ceremony. They met several times prior to the wedding to talk about the ceremony and timeline for the day. They followed a fairly traditional Protestant wedding ceremony. The couple chose the readings and music; the pastor wrote the homily. He didn’t charge a fee, so the couple gave him a $400 honorarium.

Wedding Planner/Coordinator ($0)
The couple planned the wedding themselves and a friend stepped in on the day of as a gift to them.

Invitations ($390)
The couple purchased 150 invitations, 130 reception card inserts, and 170 envelopes from Wedding Paper Divas. They designed and emailed their own Save-the-Dates and having guests RSVP online with a free wedding website. They purposely picked a rectangular design after learning that square envelopes cost more to mail.

Hair and Makeup ($540)
The bride hired two stylists for up-dos and full makeup for herself and three bridesmaids.

Gifts ($300)
The couple spent about $200 on wedding party gifts and $100 on gifts to each other – she gave him a pair of Star Trek cufflinks; he gave her a custom jewelry box.

Favors ($0)
The groom’s mother bought small coin purses in Korea as favors (cost unknown); otherwise they would not have had favors.

Rehearsal Dinner ($1,000)
The rehearsal dinner was at a Japanese sushi bar and steakhouse, owned by friends of the bride’s parents. They hosted everyone who helped with the wedding in any capacity as well as their extended families and some out of town guests – about 40 people in all.

Other ($705)
Miscellaneous costs included thank you notes from Target ($25); printing for ceremony programs that they designed ($100); materials to make escort cards, table numbers, and guestbook ($30); and pre-marital counseling sessions with a professional counselor ($550).


Reflections

What was your biggest financial splurge? Why did you choose it? Was it worth it?

We felt our biggest splurge was on photography, since photography-as-art is something that’s super important to me and photography-as-memory-preserver was super-important to both of us. Even with losing some pictures from the day, we feel that it was worth every penny (and then some) that we paid.

Was there anything you regret spending your money on or anything you wish you’d spent less on?

This might be a little weird, but I actually somewhat regret the cost of my wedding band. Wearing diamonds daily isn’t practical with my lifestyle, so about a year after we married we got a simple, plain gold ring that I now wear all the time instead of my original band. I wish I’d thought those issues through before our wedding so we could’ve saved the expense.

What was the best thing you spent your money on?

Pre-marital counseling was hands-down our best wedding-related expense. I would recommend that all couples do their counseling with a professional if they can at all afford it!

Anything else you’d like to say?

Yes! I remember getting really frustrated when reading these blog-beautiful weddings during our planning. “Who are all these people with professional graphic designer, chef, florist, and seamstress pals?” I’d scoff. Looking back, I’m *always* a bit shocked at how much of our wedding ended up being handmade or homemade and how many of our nearest and dearest volunteered their time and skills toward absolutely beautiful results. So I’d encourage couples to think outside the box in terms of who they might ask for help. You might not actually know wedding professionals (we certainly didn’t!) but maybe you have a friend who’s been dying to bake a wedding cake or who’s really great with flowers or Photoshop. I was also really shocked at how many contacts my parents had (my mom pretty much singlehandedly pulled together our rehearsal dinner in a week when our original plan fell through), so allow your community to help you if they want to!

Also, when potential vendors try to sell you on regret, run the other way. 🙂

Also, wedding magic is real. I promise.

All photos are reposted here with permission. Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are are not available for reproduction, redistribution or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.