Archives

Real Wedding Budget: Washington, DC | 75 Guests | $18,800

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.

$18,800: 75 Guests on a Saturday Evening in Washington, DC in the Summer


The Numbers

Venue(s) $ 5,500
Photography/Video (including albums, prints, etc.) $ 1,750
Food/Beverage (catering, alcohol, and cake) $ 6,075
Floral/Decor $ 1,203
Entertainment (Band, DJ, Ceremony Musicians) $ 15
Attire (including shoes, jewelry, etc.) $ 1,200
Rings $ 1,068
Marriage License $ 55
Officiant $ 0
Wedding Planner/Day-of-Coordinator $ 0
Invitations, Save-the-Dates, Programs $ 165
Rentals $ 0
Hair & Makeup $ 350
Transportation $ 200
Rehearsal Dinner $ 250
Gifts & Favors $ 800
Other $ 150
TOTAL $ 18,781

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.

Photography ($1,600)
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.)

Videography ($150)
They purchased a Flip camera and a family member filmed the ceremony.

Catering ($6000)
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.

Cake ($75)
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.”

Flowers ($787)
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.

Decor ($416)
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.

Entertainment ($15)
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.

Attire ($1,200)
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.

Rings ($1,068)
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)

Officiant ($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.

Invitations ($165)
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.

Transportation ($200)
They rented a larger vehicle for transporting things to and from the venue.

Gifts ($800)
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.

Favors ($0)
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.


Reflections

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.

All photos are from the bride and groom’s personal collection 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: 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: Austin, Texas | 110 Guests | $5,000

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.

$5,000: 110 Guests on a Saturday Evening in Austin, Texas in Autumn


The Numbers

Venue(s) $ 0
Photography/Video (including albums, prints, etc.) $ 1,000
Food/Beverage (catering, alcohol, and cake) $ 1,745
Floral/Decor $ 100
Entertainment (Band, DJ, Ceremony Musicians) $ 0
Attire (including shoes, jewelry, etc.) $ 717
Rings $ 65
Marriage License $ 71
Officiant $ 0
Wedding Planner/Day-of-Coordinator $ 0
Invitations, Save-the-Dates, Programs $ 303
Rentals $ 527
Hair & Makeup $ 0
Transportation $ 0
Rehearsal Dinner $ 0
Gifts & Favors $ 100
Other $ 378
TOTAL $ 5,006

What They Got For the Money

Ceremony & Reception Venue ($0)
The groom’s parents hosted the wedding in their backyard, and even fixed it up before the wedding.

Photography ($1,000)
Hiring an up-and-coming photographer got them a “crazy good deal” since she was building her portfolio at the time. They had 6 hours of coverage, an engagement session, and high-res files with printing rights. 

Videography ($0)
A friend of the couple took video at the wedding.

Catering ($1,420)
The couple scored a good deal from a local restaurant that was just beginning to venture into catering. They served a buffet of Italian food (chicken, focaccia bread, pasta, salad, and fruit). The restaurant provided “nicer-than-Chinet” disposable dishes and included delivery at no extra charge ($1,020). The couple purchased their own alcohol ($400) – A friend of the family is a wine distributor, which enabled them to purchase it at cost; they also had two kegs of good beer, one of which was given to them for free.

Cake ($325)
They purchased cupcakes from an up-and-coming vegan bakery.

Decor ($100)
The bride made organza flowers which she hung from ribbons to create a backdrop for their ceremony. Centerpieces were mini pumpkins and gourds with tea light candles. They did not care for flowers, so they didn’t have any.

Entertainment ($0)
Music was played on an iPod.

Attire ($717)
The bride purchased her ceremony dress from Unique Vintage ($160) and her reception dress ($120, used) from a bride selling it in the Offbeat Bride Tribe forum; both required alterations ($157). Jewelry ($66) from Etsy; shoes ($54), makeup ($100). The groom purchased a new shirt and tie ($60) to wear with clothes he already owned.

Rings ($65)
Thin silver band ($20) for the bride and thick titanium band ($45) for the groom were purchased on Etsy.

Marriage License ($71)

Officiant ($0)
A friend of the couple officiated the ceremony, which was written by the bride.

Wedding Planner/Coordinator ($0)

Invitations ($303)
The bride’s mother, a graphic designer, created their invitations; printing cost was waived since the shop they chose got behind; they paid for the paper ($70). The couple used Vistaprint for postcard save-the-dates ($29). Postage ($170) and envelopes ($34) are included.

Hair and Makeup ($0)
The bride did her own hair and makeup with assistance from her sister.

Gifts ($100)
The bridesmaids received necklaces purchased on Etsy; the groomsmen were given custom bottle openers.

Rehearsal Dinner ($0)
The rehearsal dinner was held in the same backyard as the wedding, and the groom’s father made a big pot of gumbo to serve. Cost of the dinner was covered by the groom’s parents.


Reflections

What was your biggest financial splurge? Why did you choose it? Was it worth it?
Photography. In hindsight, it wasn’t actually very much money for what we received, but at the time it was 1/5 of our budget so it felt like a ton. It was totally worth it though.

Was there anything you regret spending your money on or anything you wish you’d spent lesson?
Just a few stupid things, like decorations that didn’t get put up in the end…

What was the best thing you spent your money on?
Photography.

All photos were taken by Nessa K 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.