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 rates. Do not expect that you will necessarily get the same package and pricing you see here.
$18,800: 75 Guests on a Saturday Evening in Washington, DC in the Summer
|Photography/Video (including albums, prints, etc.)||$ 1,750|
|Food/Beverage (catering, alcohol, and cake)||$ 6,075|
|Entertainment (Band, DJ, Ceremony Musicians)||$ 15|
|Attire (including shoes, jewelry, etc.)||$ 1,200|
|Marriage License||$ 55|
|Wedding Planner/Day-of-Coordinator||$ 0|
|Invitations, Save-the-Dates, Programs||$ 165|
|Hair & Makeup||$ 350|
|Rehearsal Dinner||$ 250|
|Gifts & Favors||$ 800|
What They Got For the Money
Ceremony & Reception Venue ($5,500)
The couple rented a mansion which had first been turned into a Girl Scout camp and then into a county park, just outside the Beltway. They had the space for three days; it included guest rooms and bunk houses. (Note from the bride: this was excellent as their families had never met and it forced them to get to know each other quickly!) It was a natural oasis in the middle of a metropolitan area with a nice outdoor ceremony spot and a fire pit for s’mores.
The couple cut a deal with someone just starting out, and ended up having a terrible experience. The second shooter turned out to be her husband, who lacked photography experience, and she lost about half of the wedding photo files. In addition, she was not very professional. The bride notes: “You get what you pay for! Don’t skimp on wedding vendors!” (Note: Due to their experience with the photographer, the couple does not wish to share her name or work because they don’t want to promote or slander her. Photos in this post are from the couple’s personal collection.)
They purchased a Flip camera and a family member filmed the ceremony.
The couple served lemonade and popcorn (in red-and-white-striped bags) before the ceremony. The reception dinner was a BBQ buffet with pulled pork, chicken, brisket, potato salad, cornbread, etc. They purchased beer from Costco and wine from Trader Joe’s. For dessert, ice cream sandwiches were served from a cart.
They weren’t initially planning a cake, but ended up purchasing a sheet cake from their local grocery store, which they note was “delightfully tacky.”
The couple ordered flowers in a bulk delivery from Costco and arranged them in jars they found and decorated with lace, yarn, and hot glue ($471). They hired a florist for their bouquets ($316), though the bride notes in retrospect she wishes she’d done those herself as well.
This is the cost of supplies for signage (bar, menu, ceremony, guestbook, etc.), table runners and numbers, banners, garlands, ceremony signs (“Here comes the bride!” for the flower girl; “laughter” and “applause” for their niece and nephew), rehearsal dinner name tags, and fairy lights.
A friend of the couple played the saxophone for their ceremony, and as a gift to them hired his own guitar accompanist. The duo played music before and during the ceremony. They gave him a bottle of Irish Whiskey as a thank you gift.
For the reception, the couple borrowed a sound system from a theatre company the groom worked with and purchased a cord to connect a laptop to it. They also purchased some lawn games, which turned out to be more popular than dancing, but haven’t included those in the budget since they still get used.
The bride wore a simple dress from David’s Bridal, turquoise kitten heels found online, and turquoise jewelry from Etsy. She made her own veil. The groom bought a suit from J. Crew, as well as a handful of ties from Etsy to select from.
The groom wears a simple gold band. The bride wears a white gold band with three small white diamonds and four small blue diamonds.
Marriage License ($0)
A friend of the couple, who is also a Broadway actor, served as their officiant. The chose him since he had officiated before and knew both the bride and the groom before they started dating. They gave him a nice bottle of scotch as a thank you gift. The couple wrote the ceremony.
Wedding Planner/Coordinator ($0)
The couple did not have a wedding planner, though the bride wishes she’d hired a day-of-coordinator.
The couple found a design on Vistaprint that were good quality for the cost. Invitations were not a high priority for the couple, so although the design wasn’t exactly their aesthetic, they went for it anyway.
Hair and Makeup ($350)
The shampoo girl from the bride’s usual salon came to the venue and styled her hair as well as her maid-of-honor’s hair. A friend of the bride’s did her makeup.
They rented a larger vehicle for transporting things to and from the venue.
The couple bought art, tote bags, and jewelry for the wedding party. They got everyone soda cap pins (as in the movie Up) in lieu of boutonnieres and corsages.
The couple wasn’t planning favors, but a co-worker of the bride found out the venue was a former Girl Scout camp and purchased enough Thin Mints for each guest to take a box home.
Rehearsal Dinner ($250)
Pizza party for approximately 45 people, including families, the wedding party, and other guests who were staying at the venue.
What was your biggest financial splurge? Why did you choose it? Was it worth it?
The venue was a huge splurge, and TOTALLY worth it.
A) Our families really got to know each other.
B) Once we arrived at the venue on Friday we didn’t have to go anywhere until Sunday.
C) Anyone who’d had too much to drink could just pull up a bunk.
D) FIRE PIT AND S’MORES!
Was there anything you regret spending your money on or anything you wish you’d spent less on?
I wish we’d spent more on the photographer. I was of the “You only need one gorgeous photo” school and didn’t think it was that important. It was. We have plenty of gorgeous photos, but no non-blurry photos of mom and I walking down the aisle. Gah.
What was the best thing you spent your money on?
Besides the venue, the lemonade and popcorn for pre-ceremony. It really set the tone for the day. Casual! Fun! Slightly Circus/Carnival-y!
Anything else you’d like to say?
We were total nerds and created a wedding mission statement at the beginning. We talked about what we wanted out of the day and wrote it down. This guided all our choices after that and really helped clarify what was/wasn’t worth spending money on. Highly recommend.