Oh, wedding budgeting! When I was planning my wedding 10 years ago, the first thing I did was download the wedding budget calculator from The Knot. I simply plugged in my total budget, the guest count, and it generated random amounts for me to plug into my spreadsheet. I was so excited until I started researching and realized that NONE of the amounts were even close or realistic.
At the time, I was planning a wedding in Charlottesville, VA. It’s a small city, so things should have been more “affordable” but my “budget calculator” said I had $1,600 total to spend on flowers. What? This is so inaccurate! Not surprisingly, that calculator and spreadsheet is no longer available on The Knot. Most likely because they realized the numbers they were generating were inaccurate and misleading. Have you had an experience similar to this? Have you used budget calculators that gave you misleading numbers?
According to The Knot, about 45% of couples spend more on their budget than they originally budgeted. On average, they went over budget by $7,000, but others exceeded their budget by over $20,000. (However, we don’t know what their original budget was and where it took place, so don't panic!)
In today’s blog post, I’m telling you straight up what is true and false common wedding budget myths. I'm also going to tell you how much a wedding REALLY costs. If you're reading this post, you may be wondering:
- How much does a wedding cost?
- How much should I spend on wedding photography?
- How much does a wedding photographer cost?
- How much does a wedding planner cost?
- How much should I spend on a wedding venue?
I often see couples fall into the trap of using websites like Wedding Wire or The Knot or other resources for their wedding budget. And those often are completely inaccurate. The Knot budget doesn’t even leave room for certain vendors, like a wedding planner! So keep reading. I get pretty feisty in today's post!
Wedding Budget Myth#1: A magical wedding budget calculator can predict how much you should spend on each vendor.
The Truth: There are many items that will affect how much you should spend on each item in your budget. So there is no one size fits all wedding budget calculator! This can include:
- Your priorities (Do you want to focus on flowers or food?)
- Location (City versus country)
- Number of guests
- Region (Northeast versus Midwest)
- Style of wedding (Will it be outdoors and intimate or in a ballroom and lavish?)
For more on outlining a budget, and avoid generic wedding budget calculators, see my blog post All About Wedding Budgets!
Wedding Budget Myth#2: Every wedding vendor's price will fall between a specific range.
The Truth: There are a lot of items that will affect how much a vendor will cost. That is why they can vary so greatly! This can include:
- Quality of Work or Products
- Location and Region
- The specific package you book + add-ons or upgrades
Wedding Budget Myth#3: The “Average Wedding” is a good basis for how you should calculate your above average wedding.
The Truth: The “average wedding” that is referenced in calculators on websites like this one on Wedding Wire are not the weddings that vendors and blogs are posting on Pinterest and Instagram. As I’m sure you’re aware, people (and companies) for the most part post their highlights reel on social media. They’re not going to post images that are “average.” And who gets engaged and says they’re excited to plan the wedding of their “average” dreams? When looking at social media and Pinterest, keep in mind that these are going to often be “above average” in price point. Many are styled shoots, where the flowers and design will be much more costly than an “average” wedding!
Planning a wedding? Check out my podcast, Ask The Planner! Listen to expert tips on how to style, plan, and execute your wedding in short, 1-minute clips.
Wedding Budget Myth#4: Buying supplies like chargers or decor at wholesale cost is a better use of your money than renting them.
The Truth: Unless you’re sitting around eating bonbons with nothing else to do AND and you like taking tons of photos of your stuff before re-selling them on Facebook or Craigslist, this is a huge waste of time. Life is busy. If people have a hard time ordering their wedding photos (which they’ve paid for), how much extra time do they have to sell their used items? This means they would have to post a bunch of photos of their used decor on the internet with the hope of finding another LOCAL couple (unless you like making extra trips to the post office) that has the EXACT same color palette, font choice, and guest count as them. Many times this tactic won’t save you much money. Instead, it’ll waste your time and your items will take up a ton of space while collecting dust.
Wedding Budget Myth#5: Choosing a “unique” or DIY venue like a museum, barn, or your parent's backyard will save you money.
The Truth: These kinds of venues are the exact opposite of economical because they don’t come with anything that’s built into an already functioning venue. This means a kitchen, restrooms, tables, chairs, china, linens, staff, a parking lot. The list goes on. When you’re looking at a venue like this and comparing it to something like a banquet facility or hotel, you’re not comparing apples to apples. So make sure you’re accounting for everything that’s needed, rather than what you think you need (like bathrooms).
Looking for the perfect venue? Get my FREE guide for the Top 20 Overlooked Questions To Ask Your Wedding Venue!
So what should you actually expect to pay for some of your wedding costs?
Food & Beverage:
When you go out to a “nice” meal, how much are you spending, including alcohol, tax, and tip? $100? $200? Now, at this restaurant, are you also paying for the linens, tables, chairs, china, and flatware too? Probably not. So think again if you think you’re going to spend less than $50 per person for dinner (like some budget calculators tell you). A more likely price is closer to $150-$250 depending on your menu, location, and service style.
Even though the “average” couple spends $1,000-$3,000 on a photographer, you should expect to pay closer to $4,500-$8,000+ for a wedding photographer. It could be on the lower end if your wedding is in a smaller town and you're not buying albums, and on the higher end or even double (or more!) if your wedding is in a metropolitan city or you’re traveling to a destination like Italy or the Caribbean.
Bands & DJs:
There’s a pretty wide range with these two. DJ’s can range from a little over $1,000, to almost $3,000 or more for a “name” artist. Bands, depending on their level of experience, size, and location can start around $2,500, but most will be closer to $5,000 for a basic 5-piece band. This can easily escalate to $10K to $15K (or more) for a 10-piece band in a metropolitan area.
There are many places where you can have flowers at your wedding. But for simplicity’s sake, let’s break it down into the main cost drivers:
- Wedding Ceremony Backdrop / Arch / Arbor: Depending on the scale, intricacy, and design, this piece can start around $1,200 for an already constructed structure with flowers attached to it. If you want something more intricate or lush, expect to spend closer to twice or even quadruple this amount. Most of these pieces have to be constructed on-site on the day of your wedding, so you’re not only paying for the flowers, but also the labor to assemble it.
- Bridal bouquet & maids bouquets: These can go from $75 for a smaller maids bouquet and up to $300 or more for a fuller bridal bouquet. And don't forget the custom-dyed silk ribbon. That's extra. Again, these take time to assemble, and the more maids you have, the more bouquets you’re going to need.
- Centerpieces: Oh centerpieces. There’s a huge range for these arrangements. Depending on how large and lush, they can range from $125 for more petite ones, to $350 or more. Multiply that times 1 per round table or times 2-4 per rectangle (space pending), that’s a minimum of $1500 to $4,200 for 12 tables (100 people divided by 8 per table).
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Wedding budgeting can be tricky and unpredictable. If anyone tells you there’s a magical formula to predict how much your wedding will cost, they’re just telling you what you want to hear. Proper budgeting takes into consideration multiple factors like priorities, location, venue, and wedding style. That is why you shouldn't rely solely on wedding budget calculators you find on some websites! If you want tools to help you with your budgeting, like the actual spreadsheets my clients and I use, my Wedding Budget Bundle is perfect for you!