Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Budget Battle...

In the excitement of an upcoming wedding, many couples don't consider the bottom line, or a budget. Many head out into the wedding world all 'gung-ho' ready to make their wedding the ONE wedding that everyone will remember...end of story! But, the bottom line is, whether they want to admit it or not, every couple has a budget. What that budget is, is an individual decision. But, more and more, Marjorie and I are hearing couples tell us they have a 'strict budget'...and a number they want to stick to.

Unfortunately, the majority of couples we talk with have no idea how much the average wedding costs. While there are several variables involved in the 'bottom line', there are averages that can give couples an idea of what to expect. So, in an effort to help you stay within your 'budget', I'm taking a break from all the fun of planning a wedding and getting down to some 'brass tacks'.

In the US, the average wedding costs over $24,000. However, according to www.CostOfWedding.com, most couples spend between $18,000 and $30,000...with a number of couples going well above these totals.

Gasp...I know...I know! But, don't despair, there is help. If you click on this link...
'Wedding Cost Estimator' will help you figure out your 'bottom line' before things get out of control. In addition, I also found a couple of other websites that were very easy to use: 'OurDreamWedding.com' and 'WeddingPlanningOnABudget.com'. Both these sites immediately brought up editable worksheets for you to use . If you prefer to use a word document use 'Our Dream Wedding'. Like Excel, then 'Wedding Planning on a Budget' is for you.

So how do all the individual costs break down? Good question. Let's find out!

Ceremony...$2,462 - $3,953*
If you hold your ceremony in a church, synagogue or temple, expect to pay for the use of your chosen place of worship, in addition to paying the Officiant for their services as well. These costs usually range from $50-$150.00. And, you'll need to tip your Officiant another $50-$100.00, so be sure to add that into your ceremony cost.

If your ceremony takes place in a garden or venue, typically your only cost is for your Officiant, plus their tip.

Added to your ceremony cost is your Rehearsal Dinner. Experts say, depending upon the number of people invited, this total can easily reach $1,000 or more. So, plan accordingly.

Depending upon your vision, your venue can be one of the most costly parts of your wedding. Some venues discount pricing if you hold your wedding on a day other than Saturday, so check with each venue for possible discounts. Also ask your venue if they have an 'all-inclusive' wedding package. While your vendor choices may be limited , these 'all-inclusive' packages are usually your most budget-friendly options.

Without a doubt, your reception is, by far, the largest expense of your entire wedding. It equates to about 37% of your total wedding budget, with alcohol being the largest expense. Included in your reception total will be the costs of your florist, DJ or band, catering, cake, alcohol, photographer and videographer, rentals and decor. So, let's see how these break down!

Photography and Videography...$2,978-$4,781*
These two make up an estimated 10% of your wedding budget. If you're 'going for the gold' with these two professionals expect to pay upwards of $3,500 or more for your photographer, and $2,000 for your videographer. But, remember, these vendors are the ones who are going to capture all your wedding memories for you to cherish for years to come. So, depending upon what is most important to you, you might want to splurge in this area.

Most weddings include lots of flowers. Flowers at the church, flowers at the reception, flowers on the tables, bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, baskets...etc. On average, if you love flowers, expect to pay dearly for your 'pop of color'. However, many couples are beginning to tone down their use of fancy floral displays and opting for simpler table arrangements and bouquets, which cost considerably less.

To help couples save money, some florists will order your flowers for you at wholesale prices, and allow you and your bridal party to come into their shops and put everything together as a group. It's a less expensive alternative and a great bonding experience...and loads of fun!


Food is a very, very important part of any wedding...and for some couples, it's the most important component of all. But above all, alcohol is the number one charge to the catering bottom line. It's estimated the average couple spends $2,800 on alcohol alone...and if you choose to have an 'open bar' expect that total to increase significantly. To reduce your catering cost, cut down on the number of choices for guests, and look to simpler options...or, if your venue allows it, do a 'self-catered' wedding.

Also, often times, local wineries and breweries, will give significant discounts for weddings...so look locally first. You might be surprised by what you find!

Ah, to the fun part. Music makes your wedding fun, no doubt. The sight of guests dancing the night away is one of the best 'take-aways' from any wedding. But, these professionals can be costly. So, here again, you as a couple must decide what aspect of your wedding is the most important and where you want to put the most money. Some couples are opting to put all their ceremony and reception music on an iPod and have a professional monitor it and act as emcee...this costs much less. But, remember to check with your venue if you're choosing this option.

Wedding Cake...$454-$730*
Your cake is another very important part of your wedding, especially if you're wanting to do the traditional 'cake cutting' ceremony. However, many couples are choosing to downsize their cakes and use a smaller cake for display and have a sheet cake cut for guests to enjoy. This will cut your costs dramatically. If you want to do a 'dessert bar', you can opt to have family and friends bring their favorite handmade desserts to serve to guests, even if you and your beloved are 'cutting the cake'.

One thing to remember is...above and beyond the categories I've mentioned here, there are several more things that will ultimately add to your bottom line. Don't forget your wedding dress and headpiece/veil, the grooms tux, rings, invitations, guestbook, place cards, 'save the date' cards, 'thank you' notes, reception decor, rentals, hair and make-up, wedding favors, attendants gifts, wedding planner, transportation
...etc. All these things add up quickly and should be considered when you're figuring out your budget.

So, there you have it...the ugly truth about the costs of weddings in California. If you want to find out exactly what the averages are in your area, click on www.CostOfWedding.com and drop in your zip code, then click 'Show Wedding Cost' and viola, the totals specific to your area will pop up!

So, before you panic, look at the numbers provided by these great websites and decide what things are most important to you, and go from there. One great way to cut costs is to look for newer vendors that are trying to break into the marketplace. They are usually priced substantially below the veteran professionals and are eager to do whatever it takes for a great recommendation. My son, Cameron, and my daughter-in-law, Tiffany, did just that, and aside from one vendor who didn't live up to their expectations, everything else was perfect.

And, of course, always hire a Wedding Planner. They'll be able to help you with the fine details, negotiate on your behalf and make sure you stay on 'budget' and don't get talked into doing anything you don't want to do.

My special thanks to my son and daughter-in-law for letting me use photos from their InnCredible wedding!
I love you both with all my heart!

Until next time...

Making your wedding InnCredible
InnCredible Events

Estimates from 'Real Simple' magazine. For more detailed information and a breakdown in each of the above categories, go to: www.RealSimple.com.


  1. Carrell, great job in tackling a tough subject. Being part of the wedding industry, we sometimes take a lot of flak from our peers for suggesting ways to cut - or work within - a limited budget. But the reality is that the average couple, in today's economy, does not have an unlimited budget. As wedding professionals, we've chosen to understand - even specialized - in that. Not all of us are targeting the "Platinum" wedding, but find the challenge of listening - and meeting - our clients needs to be the most critical part of wedding planning. iPod weddings? Self-catering? Bring your own desserts? Flower parties? Some professionals cringe. We call it being real, and being in tune. We believe that each couple should make sure their $$$ are targeted on the things most important to them, that their lives together are not started with massive debt, and that they keep it real.

    My favorite line to our couples and their parents as they discuss their wedding and their budget, and find it hard to limit their guest list - do you like this person well enough to hand them $200? Because, essentially, that is what you are doing! They often look at us, eyes wide, and say, "What?" We tell them to divide their budget by the number of guests, and that is their cost. Would they hand that person that amount of money? It is quite the eye-opener!

    So, bottom-line, (because, for those that know me, you all realize for me, it is about the bottom-line!) it is often far more fun, challenging, and promotes creativity to work within a budget! ~ Marjorie

  2. Amen to that Marjorie...We definitely love the challenge of helping a couple stay within their budget and still have the 'wedding of their dreams,! We take great pride in being able to provide our couples with the opportunity to host an InnCredible wedding without breaking the bank. It can be done...we do it all the time...and more power to the wedding professionals who make it a priority to consider their couples needs first instead of their own. ~ Carrell