The True Cost of A Wedding- Part 2, expectations vs. reality

Today’s blog is all about inspiration, expectations, and your budget.  In yesterday’s post we discussed reality vs. expectations when it comes to your wedding budget.    According to this infographic the average cost of a wedding in the US is $26,984.  Today we I will compare these “average” numbers to the expectations set forth by the wedding community.  This is not a post about planning a “budget” wedding, but in fact about planning a realistic budget for your wedding you want.

In today’s environment the best resource for planning brides to be are wedding blogs.  Blogs are great because they give brides access to new inspiration every day, and ideas that are much more attainable and fresh than the more traditional wedding magazines offered.  But with big inspiration comes big expectations.  Brides equate the weddings they see on blogs to being “average” weddings, because they do seem so attainable.  However, most bloggers are drawn to weddings that are specifically not “average”.  So when you combine crafty projects from brides, beautiful florals, amazing photography and oodles of creativity then you end up with the type of material that bloggers drool over.   And who doesn’t want a wedding that people will drool over?  It is important to know your budget ahead of time, because then you can set realistic expectations for your event, and learn how to make the most out of even a tight budget.

Below I have compared the average numbers to what you would expect to see in reality and to what it takes to put on an upscale event:

Photographer- Average-$2320  reality$2500-3500  Upscale-$5-8000

You can find a photographer in the hundreds of dollars.  As in you can get someone to show up to your wedding and snap images on a DSLR and give you a cd of the images for But in reality, bloggers feature content with amazing images from professional photographers who have perfected their craft.  When it comes to photography you definitely pay for what you get.  We will explore this more in tomorrow’s post, but if photography is a priority for you I would recommend paying the extra money for an experienced professional.

Flowers/Decor- Average-$1988  Reality-$2500-4000  Upscale- $8000+

The main thing that bloggers look for are DETAILS!  Whether you’re a DIY kind of gal or would rather avoid the stress and hand it over to a professional you can’t skimp in this area if you want a truely blogworthy event.  A professional florist will run you between four to eight thousand dollars depending on how intricate your arrangements.  (Our typical floral job falls around $3-4000, but the big upscale floral arrangements are not really what we “do”.  Remember, we’re eco-friendly.)

Reception venue- Average $12,124  Reality- $5000  Upscale- $30,000

I think this statistic has a tendency to get a bit muddled.  Much of the time the line item for the reception venue is combined with catering as a lot of hotels and major ballrooms offer in house catering, and with that they have a catering minimum that must be met instead of a flat rental fee.  Most DFW venues that offer just the venue will be between $5-6000 once you figure in security, and parking.  The upscale venues such as country clubs and high end hotels are going to have a minimum for you to meet that includes just about everything.

Ceremony venue- Average-$1393  Reality-$5-800  Upscale- $1500+

Unless you are getting married in a grand church where you aren’t a member you can expect to spend about half of the amount listed as the “average”.  Most venues will tack on about $500 for the use of their grounds for your ceremony, and by getting married at a church or temple where you are a member you can expect to pay a donation (suggested $3-500) or at the very least a discounted rate from what a non-member pays.

Dress and accessories- Average-$1099  Reality- $1000-3000  Upscale- $10,000+

Wedding dress styles and expectations have really come a long way in recent years.  Bloggers of course love to showcase gowns, but they don’t seem to be more discerning towards a designer gown as opposed to a vintage heirloom.  Just about all gowns have asthetic qualities, and really the price tag here is not as important as how it makes you look and feel in your setting.

Catering/Alcohol- Average-$8601  Reality-$8-15000  Upscale-$25,000

This line item is really dependent on your priorities.  If you are a mega foodie then you probably will have food at the top of your priority list.   It’s common sense that if you want a James Beard chef and to fill your guests bellys then you can bank on spending twenty grand at a minimum for food and drink.  If you have a keg and hamburgers then you’ll get out much cheaper.  (BTW I do not recommend burgers and beer if you are going for any type of wedding outside of your back yard!)

Cake- Average- $540  Reality- $500-1000  Upscale- $1500+

Cake is priced by the piece.  Most cake studios charge anywhere between $3 and $10 per piece depending on ingredients, time, and materials.   I have had several brides come to me lately with the idea of having family members bake pies, cobblers, and different goodies to display on dessert bars instead of the traditional wedding cake.  This is a super personal way to lower your cake budget (first make sure granny and your caterers don’t mind.)

Band Average-$3081  Reality- $2500-6000  DJ– Average-$900 Reality- $900-2000 ceremony Average-$503  Reality- $500

The entertainement is one area where you aren’t going to get much variation any way you slice it. That is unless you are hiring Barbara Streisand to sing you down the aisle.  Most of the entertainment companies that we work with are priced around the same, but will offer discounts for our clients.  (a perk for hiring a planner)

Favors – Average-$222  Reality- $???

Do people still really give favors?  Do a favor (pun intended) and make a donation instead.  You will help a good cause, warm your guests hearts, and prevent a bunch of monogramed koozies from ending up in a landfill someday.  No, people will not use them forever.  I’m sorry…

Printing – Average-$351  Reality- $1000 for a custom invitations suite  Upscale- $2000+

Custom letterpress invitations are about as beautiful a suite that you can get, but letterpress is a time-consuming process.  To save money without sacrificing quality check out for beautiful handmade invites often for low prices.  If you still love the look of letterpress check out Hello Lucky.  I’ve had multiple brides use them over the past couple of years and they have always been happy.

Planner/Coordinator/Stylist-  Average- ?  Reality- $3500-5000  Upscale- $7500+

This is one line item that wasn’t listed on the line items from yesterday’s infographic, but it’s what I do so of course I’m going to comment on it.  First of all, why would you pay almost $35,000 for the perfect day and not have someone on hand whose main job is to keep you from stress and negate the chaos?  Not only will a great wedding planner make your day amazing, but they will streamline the entire process and save you money along the way.

What kind of steps will you take to make the most of your budget?  A great resource when creating your wedding budget is You will find information on what to expect in terms of pricing for vendors in your area.

Where do your priorities lie for your wedding vendors?

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for detailed posts on the value of your wedding vendors, prioritizing, and making the most of your budget.


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