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

$37,200: 155 Guests on a Saturday Evening in Chicago, Illinois in the Summer

The Numbers

Venue(s) $ 6,000
Photography/Video (including albums, prints, etc.) $ 6,000
Food/Beverage (catering, alcohol, and cake) $ 16,800
Floral/Decor $  300
Entertainment (Band, DJ, Ceremony Musicians) $ 2,550
Attire (including shoes, jewelry, etc.) $ 3,000
Rings $ 150
Marriage License $ 75
Officiant $ 0
Wedding Planner/Day-of-Coordinator $ 1,200
Invitations, Save-the-Dates, Programs $ 500
Rentals $ 0
Hair & Makeup $ 300
Transportation $ 10
Rehearsal Dinner $ 200
Gifts & Favors $ 150
Other $ 0
TOTAL $ 37,235

What They Got For the Money

Ceremony & Reception Venue ($6,000)
7-hour rental of a vintage furniture loft, including the patio, from 5pm until midnight for the ceremony and reception, as well as getting ready time. Chairs and tables were included with the venue rental.

Photography ($6,000)
8 hours of coverage with one photographer, an album, files with print rights.

Catering ($16,500)
Appetizers; two-course meal with chicken and vegan options; alcohol and mixers for 3 signature drinks, wine and beer purchased by the couple. Dishes and flatware were included with the catering service.

Cake ($300)
The couple served cupcakes instead of a cake.

Flowers ($100)
Purchased at a local farmers’ market; DIY bouquets and centerpieces.

Decor ($200)
For centerpiece vases, photo booth props/supplies, etc.

Entertainment ($2,550)
6 hours of DJ service for ceremony and reception, including sound equipment.

Attire ($3,000)
Bride: Pre-owned wedding dress (bought for $2,000; original price was $5,000) worn with shoes she already owned. Groom: rental tuxedo, cufflinks, new shoes.

Rings ($150)
Solid white gold bands for both; acquired at cost through a family member who is a jeweler.

Marriage License ($75)

Officiant ($0)
The wedding was officiated by a close friend, who was ordained online. The couple wrote their own ceremony.

Wedding Planner/Coordinator ($1,200)
The couple hired a Day-of-Coordinator.

Invitations ($500)
Custom designed save-the-dates; Invitations designed by the bride; printing; envelopes; postage.

Hair and Makeup ($300)
Bridal updo and makeup.

Transportation: $10
The couple took a taxi at the end of the night.

Gifts ($100)
Groomsmen got ties, bridesmaids got little kits of goodies.

Favors ($50)
Homemade jam; the cost was for jars and ingredients.

Rehearsal Dinner ($200)
The couple served tacos and margaritas at an intimate gathering on their deck.


What was your biggest financial splurge? Why did you choose it? Was it worth it?
Photography and venue — totally worth it. The venue was really unique and very laid-back — us — and the photography was important because that’s what will last beyond the wedding.

Was there anything you regret spending your money on or anything you wish you’d spent lesson?
I wish we’d invited fewer guests. In fact, if I could have found a field somewhere, gotten a long table, invited our 50 closest friends and family, and flown Jonas Peterson in to photograph it, I would have.

What was the best thing you spent your money on?
Honestly, as happy as I am with everything, I’d say the marriage license.

One comment on “Real Wedding Budget: Chicago, Illinois | 155 Guests | $37,200

  1. Catherine B

    I love these! Thank you for sharing; it’s so helpful to see how all the pieces fit together for different couples.

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