Wrapped Around Your Finger: Money – It’s a Drag

Ah, money—the core of almost every wedding-related conversation and decision. We started fighting over money almost right away, reading through the lists of how much things “should” cost”¦ and how much we were actually able to put away each money. We did not have a wedding fund—nay, even an emergency fund—and panicked that perhaps we couldn’t afford this shebang after all.

Then, as they tend to do, things began to work out. I got a better, and better-paying, job. I picked up more freelance work. Some family members offered to help out here and there. We figured out areas we could cut. But along with all that, priorities changed, and some things came in over budget. Here, then, is the Ladyfingers Wedding Budget Breakdown Extravaganza.

Our original overall budget: $10,000

Venue: $1,950 + $250 refundable security deposit $86 for rental of adjoining gazebo (on county property in adjoining park, so could be rented out to others during our event, unless we claimed it)

Original venue budget: $1,500






  • Exclusive use of grounds from 9 a.m. until midnight
  • Exclusive use of adjoining gazebo
  • Ceremony lawn
  • Back deck with occupancy of 150
  • Indoor room with occupancy of 80.
  • On-site venue coordinator and parking attendant.

We were actually pretty comfortable with our venue outlay even though it was over our initial budget. We really didn’t know how we were going to do it, after pricing about a bajillion places.

How we saved: We looked far and wide for something small enough with everything we wanted. We cut out guest list so we could get into smaller spaces that didn’t cost as much as places that held 150—or more. We asked around—this particular venue was where BM Prego and her hubby had been married a few years prior. We got a place with the ceremony and reception space in one, so that we wouldn’t have to negotiate separate pricing or deal with transportation.

Catering: $4,386

Original catering budget: $4,000





  • Passed cocktail hour of four hors d’oeuvres ($267.30)
  • Buffet service, including served salads, chicken parmesan, pasta, vegetables, mashed potatoes, rolls and butter ($1215)
  • All-night coffee station with creams and sugars ($87.50)
  • Well bar package with domestic and imported beer, wine, sodas, an all mixers included, ice, bar garnishes, and disposable cups ($775)
  • Two vendor meals ($39.50)
  • Operating fee of $2.50 per guest ($135)
  • Tax (7% Florida state tax) ($176.35)
  • Labor ($1,164)
  • 20% gratuity ($476.86)
  • Catering manager gratuity ($50)
  • Comprehensive planning meetings to create our detailed wedding-day schedule
  • Ceremony consultations
  • Setup, decorating, breakdown, and cleanup
  • Rehearsal and ceremony coordinator
  • Goodie basket
  • Passed chocolate-covered strawberries during dessert

How we saved: We randomly stumbled upon our caterer after pricing three others who ran more than $5,000—sometimes way more than $5,000. We got pretty darn close to our budget here, and got way more than we anticipated getting from our caterer.

Rentals: $1118

Original rental budget: $0



Chairs, linens, table service, serving trays, chafers, bus tub, additional tables not furnished by venue, additional glassware

How we saved: We didn’t build rentals into our original budget just because we blanked out on realizing we’d need them. However, we did manage to save money anyway! We got two quotes: One from a “preferred” rental company and one from a different company who came in lower. I asked a friend in the event business in the area where we were getting married, if she could recommend one over the other. She said, hands down, the preferred (more expensive) company was the way to go—but that her employer used them all the time for events, so she’d reach out and see what she could do. Bam! 25% discount.

Flowers: $1572

Original floral budget: $400





  • Bridal bouquet
  • 4 bridesmaids’ bouquets
  • 7 boutonnieres
  • 2 wristlet corsages
  • 10 centerpieces
  • Floral arrangement for escort card table
  • Scattered flowers for cake table
  • Bridal toss bouquet

How we saved: Basically, we didn’t. I was originally going to do DIY flowers and decided against it once I realized how much work, hassle, and worry would go into it. We booked our florist even though they weren’t the cheapest around, because I had seen their work and knew they were superior. We ended up very happy—even with the added expense. I also added bouts at the last minute, and I’m really glad I did.

Photography: $900

Original photography budget: $500





  • Engagement session
  • Eight hours of wedding day coverage
  • Travel fee
  • Exclusive rights to photographs
  • High-resolution disc of approximately 250 photos

How we saved: Even though we went a little over our original budget, we still went way under the national average. We wouldn’t have been able to afford more. Our photographer was a recommendation from our maid of honor.

Officiant: $175

Original officiant budget: $150



  • Pre-wedding consultation
  • Rehearsal
  • Ceremony
  • Filing of marriage certificate

How we saved: I found our officiant online by Googling “wedding officiant” and our area. He was the third one we priced: The first officiant was way too expensive (and it turns out she’s apparently nuts, so, bullet dodged); the second officiant was free with donation, but lived about 45 minutes from our venue; our officiant was nominally priced and lived 10 minutes from our venue. We felt more comfortable with that distance, both for him and us.

Music: $550

Original music budget: $700



Included: Four-and-a-half hours of music, including ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner, and remainder of reception

How we saved: Again, asking around. BM Prego had used this same DJ (a friend of the family) at her wedding, at the same venue.

Hair and makeup: $160

Original budget: $100


Personal photo


The bridesmaids who chose to do hair and/or makeup paid $65/service ($40/service was the bride’s price). There would have been a $30 wedding-day travel fee but we booked enough services that it didn’t apply.

How we saved: Nothing fancy here—I knew of this vendor through rave reviews, and adored my hair and makeup artist at the trial. She tried a bunch of different stuff to make sure I was comfortable, and tweaked things as requested on the day of. It helped that she came to us, rather than us having to go to a salon and rush around. It was really comfortable being able to get almost entirely ready at the hotel.

Invitations: $100

Original budget: $150


Personal photo


  • Design, invitations, reply cards, and envelopes
  • Dinner for the invitation designer and her husband as a thank-you gift
  • Paper for lining envelopes
  • Ribbon for belly bands
  • Postage

How we saved: A good friend of mine is a graphic designer, and she graciously offered to do our invitations as a wedding gift. Yay friends!

Miscellaneous expenses $600

Original budget: $600


  • Wedding website
  • Shipping and printing fees
  • Lunch for bridesmaids the day of the wedding
  • Cake knife
  • Other expenses marked as “wedding” in Mint that we quite frankly cannot recall what they were for!

Additional decor and DIY projects: $1160

Original decor budget: $500




How we saved: Uh”¦ well, we didn’t really. We went way over budget. But! I probably spent more than I “would” have. I DIYed everything and used coupons when possible. Lots of expense went to buying either too much of something, or something I did not end up using.

Honeymoon: $3500

Original honeymoon budget: $0


Personal photo


  • 7-night cruise
  • Items bought especially for cruise
  • Items purchased on board like spa treatments and a night at the steak house, shore excursions
  • Items bought at port

How we saved: Obviously, we didn’t. However, we went with a cruise because it was a really cost-effective way to travel around to different places while relaxing. It succeeded on all accounts and was a great experience—I’m so, so glad we were able to make it work financially.

Cake: $265

Original cake budget: $300




  • Three flavors of 7 dozen cupcakes
  • A 12-inch presentation cake
  • Rental of 7 cake stands
  • Delivery and setup

How we saved: We googled “cupcake vendors” in our area, and they were the first ones we found. We went to the tasting, and the price was right. We were actually almost exactly at $300 with our initial quote, and as our guest list went down after RSVPs, we were able to order fewer cupcakes.

Wedding insurance: $200

Original budget: $0

Required by venue; covered any damages or casualties occurring on the property as a result of our negligence or the negligence of one of our guests.

How we saved: We didn’t—it was an unexpected expense and we couldn’t shop around because we had to use a specific vendor. It wasn’t a huge cost, though, and it worked out.

Marriage license: $94

Original budget: $94


Personal photo

How we saved: We didn’t—it was an expected expense we built in after researching Florida marriage license fees. It would have cost less with a pre-marriage course, but the cost of the course made it economically unviable to go that route (I could see how it would save money, though, if you were required to do a course through your church, etc.).

Bridal attire: $1011

Original budget: $550




How we saved: I went over budget, but I still think I saved based on national averages. I shopped at a chain and got a sale dress. I opted to go to an independent seamstress rather than through the dress shop. The bracelet was my only piece of jewelry. I bought underwear at a plain old department store rather than a fancy schmancy lingerie shop—and didn’t require any Spanx or a bra.

Groom’s attire: $50

Original budget: $100



  • Tux rental (free)
  • Cufflinks as a present from me ($50)

How we saved: We rented through Men’s Wearhouse, where the groom gets a free tux rental with a certain number of rentals in your party (in our case, we had 6 rentals in addition to Mr. Ladyfingers—four groomsmen and the two dads).

Rehearsal dinner: $1937

Original budget: $0


Personal photo

Included: Site rental and food and drinks for 25 guests

How we saved: We didn’t, really, but we felt the price was fair based on what we wanted to do for our guests (a beach dinner with seafood, us being in Florida and not doing a beach wedding), and they ended up only charging us for 25 guests even though their policy was a minimum of 30. We didn’t originally budget for a rehearsal dinner because we didn’t think we could afford one, but we were able to.

Groom’s cake: $95

Original budget:$0


Personal photo

How we saved: We didn’t—I decided to do this later in the planning process. I went through our cake vendor—and I’m so, so glad we did! Mr. Ladyfingers just loved it, and so did everybody else. Well worth it.

Bridesmaid gifts: $535

Original budget: $100


Personal photo


  • 4 custom clutches
  • A thank-you dinner
  • Shower thank-you gifts (shower gel and loofahs for each girl)
  • Mani/pedis the day before wedding

How we saved: We didn’t, but these were things I wanted and was able to do for my girls.

Groomsmen’s gifts: $150

Original budget: $100


Personal photo

Included: 4 engraved beer steins

How we saved: N/A

Wedding rings: $600

Original budget: $100


Included: bride and groom’s wedding rings and insurance on both.

How we saved: We knew we weren’t going to make our budget number on this, so we just kind of looked around until we found the right price. We happened to walk into Kay Jeweler when they were having a sale, so everything worked out and we both got our perfect forever rings.

Accommodations: $200

Original budget: $120



Personal photos


  • Pre-wedding-night stay for me in a suite at the room-blocked hotel
  • A wedding-night stay for me and Mr. Ladyfingers at a waterfront hotel where our friend works and was able to score us the employee rate!

How we saved: We went over budget, but we still saved by booking the pre-wedding-night room at the hotel where we had negotiated a group rate, and went through a friend to get an awesome rate at our wedding-night hotel.

So, what’s the damage?



AMOUNT OVER: $11,644



Did we go over budget? Yes. Are we still happy with what we spent? Absolutely! We feel like every penny was well-allocated, and in all, we came in well under the average (which, let’s be honest, really makes you feel like you got a deal!).

I hope this was helpful, but above all—spend what you’re comfortable with, not what others are spending, and be willing to give things up. We had no videographer and went with a little lower cost DJ and photographer rather than established professionals. Know what you want and be OK with it! And most of all, don’t start your married life in debt (please).

Photos by Shorts Shots Photography, except where noted



Mrs. Ladyfingers

Saint Petersburg, FL
Wedding Date:
November 2011
The Journey (Not the Destination)
Photo Book Tradition
Add a comment


  1. Member
    happygal 7 posts, Newbee @ 5:18 am

    I love your escort cards. Where did you get them?

  2. Member
    Future Army Wife 2213 posts, Buzzing bee @ 5:29 am

    As long as you’re happy with the end result and haven’t collared yourself with enormous debt, going over budget can be worth it. I originally thought we would spend $12000. Our venue and caterer alone are $13000. Live and learn.

  3. Member
    rocknrazzle 168 posts, Blushing bee @ 5:43 am

    I LOVE your escort cards too, please tell me where you got them!

  4. Member
    megc 73 posts, Worker bee @ 6:24 am

    Such a great post! Thanks for going over everything and including your thoughts and decisions. For most, this is their first wedding and it’s great to hear someone else say that they didn’t think of something or had to go with something last minute. Your wedding looked amazing and I’m so glad you had such a wonderful day!

  5. msdragon Member
    Mrs. Dragon 814 posts, Busy bee @ 6:31 am

    Mrs. Ladyfingers, thank you again for these posts! It’s really reassuring to see recaps from a more practical side — I fret over money and budget constantly but you’re right, if the end result is what we want and we aren’t in debt, it’s okay!

  6. Member
    Melissaw906 5 posts, Newbee @ 6:41 am

    This is a really great post about the finacial realities of planning a wedding. I really like that you were very upfront about all of your wedding exspenses. Our original budget was 15,000 when all is said and done I think we will actually be spending close to 25,000. I agree you should avoid starting your marriage in debt, but there’s also that side of me that wants my day to be very special. In the end you have to comfortable with what you spend, and make decisions about what is most important to you.

  7. ladyfingers Member
    ladyfingers 1257 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:45 am

    @happygal: @rocknrazzle: Thanks! I actually made them. I just got specialty paper from the craft store and cut to size with my paper trimmer. I found the number stamps at Michaels and used white ink, then a white pen to write the guests’ names. Easy peasy!!

  8. Member
    FutureMrsSpencer 526 posts, Busy bee @ 7:02 am

    This makes me breathe a little easier. I guess going over budget is something that can’t be avoided. Everything looked great and as long as you are happy, that is all that matters!!!

  9. ladyfingers Member
    ladyfingers 1257 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:05 am

    @FutureMrsSpencer: It is not necessarily unavoidable! We did go over budget, but many people do not.

  10. Member
    sweetbee29 525 posts, Busy bee @ 7:15 am

    You got some amazing prices, which is awesome, but makes me a little nervous on how much we will spend in the end.I literally document every single wedding related purchase I make! We never sat down to budget because we had no idea what things actually cost.. Thanks for posting!!!

  11. Member
    JuneBride2012 536 posts, Busy bee @ 7:31 am

    Thanks, Mrs. Ladyfingers! I love budget posts!

  12. Member
    blueberrygirl 43 posts, Newbee @ 7:34 am

    Where did you get the clutches? I am knitting my bridesmaids cardigans in their individual styles of choice in a wedding decor appropriate colour and would love to surprise them with clutches.

  13. Member
    booradley 2467 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:40 am

    Where did you get the custom BM clutches from? So cute! Great post.

  14. ladyfingers Member
    ladyfingers 1257 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:41 am

    Esty seller rejenerate custom-made them — she’s great and worked to source fabrics that were perfect!


  15. ladyfingers Member
    ladyfingers 1257 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:41 am

    @Zouave: (Sorry, meant to do a “reply” to you for the comment above! :))

  16. coyote Member
    coyote 1960 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:44 am

    Love seeing your budget breakdown! Totally agree that as long as you are spending within your means and not piling up a ton of debt, it’s okay to over the budget you initially decided on. We don’t even really have a budget. We just compare prices as we get to each expense and try to find the best bang for our buck.

  17. honey Member
    honey 1684 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:49 am

    I just love budget posts, such a real part of the wedding…thanks for sharing!

  18. Member
    HappyToBeeMe11 125 posts, Blushing bee @ 10:15 am

    Great post! It made me feel much better about our own budget and spending. I LOVE the bracelet you wore! :)

  19. archer Member
    archer 551 posts, Busy bee @ 10:21 am

    I really think this is one of the most helpful posts I’ve read on the bee- and I so appreciate your insights as to the how and why.

    Also, I adore those clutches you chose for your ladies! I’ve already planned our bridesmaid gifts, but this is making me reconsider! They are so tempting, in our wedding colors and all..

    And we have a growing budget too, not to the same extent but for the same reason… Thanks for helping lift the guilt.

    In conclusion, gold star, mrs ladyfingers!

  20. Member
    LaughLines 346 posts, Helper bee @ 11:39 am

    I’ve enjoyed all your recaps, and this candid look at your budget is especially helpful. Thank you!

  21. Member
    Coffee cup 2319 posts, Buzzing bee @ 12:55 pm

    I’ll splurge on a baseball cake any day.
    If you can afford it great, but above it all you’re happy with it and that’s what matters.

  22. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 4:03 pm

    Worth every penny :) What a great post LF, very helpful!

  23. elephant Member
    elephant 6339 posts, Bee Keeper @ 7:37 pm

    Thanks for sharing your budget breakdown! We went over our original budget and I agree with you that brides have to be comfortable spending what they spend.

  24. Member
    crisss99 32 posts, Newbee @ 7:49 pm

    I REALLY enjoy this post! I’m actually getting married right down the street from yours, on Siesta, and didn’t realize we have/had the same caterer. I LOVE LOVE LOVE nellie’s so far! I might check out your other vendors since we’re still looking for cupcakes, flowers and makeup!

  25. ladyfingers Member
    ladyfingers 1257 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:03 pm

    @runnerbride811: Thanks! I couldn’t recommend the vendor more highly, she did a totally custom piece based on a picture of my shoes and a description of our wedding “feel” :)

    @Miss Archer: Wow, thank you! And yes, the clutches were a BIG hit. One of the best things is seeing my MOH trot it around as her everyday coin purse. Such a thrill!

  26. ladyfingers Member
    ladyfingers 1257 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:05 pm

    @crisss99: OMG aren’t they the BEST?! Loren was our catering manager, but all the ladies are just fantastic. I could not recommend our baker, florist, and makeup artist enough. I give them all, like, 50 bajillion gold stars.

  27. Guest Icon Guest
    Jenna, Guest @ 4:55 am

    Thank you so much for sharing – it’s always nice to see what you budget for/what you get/and any unexpected expenses. I’ve already added a couple things I haven’t thought about. And your wedding was absolutely beautiful!! :)

  28. Guest Icon Guest
    Mattie, Guest @ 12:50 pm

    Wow, thank you SO much for this! It really is amazingly helpful to see everything broken down so thoroughly. It can be so overwhelming trying to allocate a budget, and seeing how other people actually spent their wedding funds is a huge help! Thank you thank thank you!

  29. Member
    SarahConnors 152 posts, Blushing bee @ 7:37 pm

    I loved reading through this! I worry all the time that we are going to be over budget- unexpected costs pop up- and expected ones somehow get taken off our hands by wonderful and generous family- seeing everything you said and laying it out made me breathe a sigh of relief- knowing that you came out happy and don’t regret it is so great! I hope I have the same experience!

  30. Guest Icon Guest
    Mendymliza, Guest @ 1:58 pm

    hello i am Prince Zamora of Zumas Kingdom in south Africa. and i am looking for a weeding planer to help us plan our weeding with Princess Mendy of bafaw kingdom in Cameroon. this weeding will be taking place on the October 20 2012.

    i need a planer as soon as possible.

  31. Guest Icon Guest
    Sara C., Guest @ 2:01 pm

    “spend what you’re comfortable with, not what others are spending”

    Yes, yes, yes – definitely my mantra! And thank you for the budget breakdown, very helpful!

  32. Member
    HummusGal 178 posts, Blushing bee @ 8:14 pm

    This post is amazing.
    Thank you, so helpful and so detailed.

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