The most common question we get is what does a wedding ACTUALLY cost? Although blogs like The Knot, Wedding Wire, etc are good resources for planning and inspiration, their posts on budgeting are very misleading to consumers like you. The “average” wedding spend published by these sites contains a wide variety of styles, budgets, and expectations from the past brides/grooms they have polled. What you aren’t seeing, is WHAT that money actually gets you.
In all honesty, a $50,000.00 wedding budget sounds like A LOT of money! That’s a down payment for a home, or you could buy a car in cash. You MUST be able to get the wedding you desire for 50K and invite 300 of your closest friends, right?
Not so fast! Let’s break it down. In order to set an accurate budget, we have to talk about a few things. “Tiers,” “Fixed Costs,” and “Price Per Person” all of which I have outlined below for you. I have also given you comparable retail numbers to help you understand your overall investment, and how it aligns to you and your families expectations for your celebration. To be clear, you CAN have a wedding for $50,000.00 – but will it be the wedding you WANT? Let’s set your expectations early to help avoid any heartbreak later, shall we?
Please know that the below is a little satire with budgeting. It is also VERY real in terms of what weddings cost. I know that none of you will be serving McDonalds for dinner on your wedding day :).
Pricing tiers are based on a few factors for all event related vendors and their services, including, but not limited to:
Next, we will discuss fees that typically do not change based on the size or scope of your wedding. These services cost the same amount of money regardless if you have 2 guests, or 200. Fixed cost services are things like:
These items vary in service pricing, and can be broken down into 5 main tiers. The below costs are average wedding fees for each service, in each tier of the market and can vary slightly from this list.
I know I know, you’re looking at me wondering “Who actually spends $30,000 on photography?!? I’m telling you (and so are my wedding planner friends)- the 1% do. Celebrities, wealthy CEOs etc – the top tier of services come with a price tag, the same way luxury cars, handbags and shoes do. (I’m looking at you Aston Martin and Jimmy Choo!)
Still following? Good! Let’s keep going.
The following wedding expenses are items that are billed at “cost per person.” For every guest you invite, you have to pay for their food, their drinks, the staff to serve them, and potentially each plate, fork, and glass!
Now, Let’s dive in and do some basic math for you to develop your wedding budget- shall we? Download our worksheet here to build your ideal wedding budget after you read this post.
Did someone say $.50 wells and McDonalds for dinner? Sounds like a college party-goers dream come true, but is it good enough for your wedding? The “retail related purchase” column gives you an idea of expectation, and what you can get for your money. After all, even if you serve McDonalds – you need someone to bartend, and help clean up trash. In tier 5, you may not have a venue fee, and leaning on a professional wedding planner may feel more like a family friend who does weddings “on the side.” Lets see what it costs to have the the “I’m lovin’ it” experience for your wedding.
Overall wedding investments in this tier range from $0-$250pp. You can expect things like BBQ buffets, to BYOB your alcohol, and things like repurposed bouquets for table centerpieces.
If McDonald’s wasn’t what you had in mind for your wedding day, I understand! Chipotle though, who can resist a hefty burrito bowl, drizzled in sour cream and topped with cheese? Not me. In fact, Chipotle might actually be better than some banquet food I’ve eaten at weddings, but that’s a topic for another day.
Overall wedding investments in this tier range from $250-$500pp. Here you can expect things like served buffets with chicken and veggies, a hosted beer and wine only bar, and a facility rental fee from what I refer to as “beautiful wedding factories” where you may be one of many weddings happening that day or that weekend.
Ok, so fast-casual isn’t really your style either. We need service! That’s why, in Tier Three – we upgrade to The Cheesecake Factory. After you spend 16 hours perusing the multi-page menu, we know you’ll be able to find something you like! In this tier, we will add in upgraded facility fees too. How many of you have been quoted $10K for a barn or garden facility fee with nothing but tables and chairs? I see you! You think you’re getting a “deal” but wait until you see the numbers, you may have to skimp in other places to hit your target budget.
Overall wedding investments in this tier range from $500-$1000pp. You can expect to have a plated dinner, or stations, plus a hosted and fully stocked bar with call brand liquors. Venues in this tier would include things like museum rentals, independently owned wedding venues, and some hotel brands.
For those of you with expensive taste, get ready to open your pocket book. Here we get fancy invitations, a three course, plated steak meal, and a top notch band to keep the party going, but that doesn’t come cheap. How about that tented wedding you saw on Style Me Pretty you loved? Tier Two is a look into your investment for most ‘luxury’ hotel weddings, and entry level tented weddings.
Total wedding investment in this tier ranges from $1,000-$2,500pp
Roll out the red carpet and spare no expense! Looking for a celebrity style wedding that is as extra AF? I thought so! Weddings in this category are going to start you at $2500pp – and can easily grow from there. Think over the top tented affairs, private island soirees, multi courses and multi piece orchestras. Maybe event multi-day destination weddings packed full of activities and gifting at every turn.
Now, it’s your turn to establish a realistic wedding budget with our free resource and just a few easy steps! All you need is a calculator, and an open mind.
All satire aside, I hope you found this blog helpful as you work towards your desired (and realistic!) budget. You can certainly mix “fixed costs” and “price per person” costs to come up with your desired wedding budget. You don’t have to work within the same tier, you can even have a tier one band with a tier three photographer!
My best piece of advice to you is to hire a professional wedding planner who can help to establish your overall wedding investment based on your expectations, and realistic spending ability.
With over 10 years of industry experience across multiple sectors – I know for a fact these costs are accurate to most markets and on point with what our clients, and several of my wedding planner friends’ clients are spending across the country.
My team has worked at every tier of the market, and we love serving clients with honesty, and facts driven by experience like I’ve shown above.
Thank you for coming to my TED Talk. XO, Molly
With over 10 years of event industry experience, Molly is as bubbly as she is committed to event planning excellence. Her extensive experience in components ranging from floral design and catering, to AV and live show design have equipped her to produce exceptional parties on behalf of her clients. She has executed five-star events across the United States and in the Caribbean, and worked in conjunction with the White House Chief of Staff. Believing that luxury and volume can live together, Molly founded Pop Parties in 2015 and has served over 500+ events in her career. Her highly-trained team of planners produce over 40 events per year and are regarded as one of Texas’ premier planning firms for weddings, social gatherings, and creative corporate events.
Molly is available to speak about within the wedding and events industry, and to serve as an educational resource for vendors and clients alike.