Holy Moly Matrimony: Our Budget Breakdown

Mr. Mole and I never created a overall budget when we started planning our wedding. Sure, we had some sense of the realistic parameters of our personal finances. This wasn’t going to be a wedding that featured three custom Vera Wang dresses or a nationally known live band. But we never set out to limit flowers to $X or catering to $Y. We decided on what things we wanted and then tried to find the best prices for them.

While Mr. Mole and I both feel really good about how and where we spent our money, neither of us knew exactly how much we spent in total—until I started writing this post. In the beginning of the process, I guessed that we would spend between $15-18,000. Mr. Mole estimated a little higher, at $18-20,000. We were both wrong.

Here’s the breakdown for our wedding budget and vendors, including our Las Vegas ceremony and reception on January 28th, 2012 and our Milwaukee hometown party on February 4th, 2012:


Photo by Brian Saculles

Las Vegas Rehearsal Dinner, Stripburger: $696
Our rehearsal featured salads, burgers, sides, and drinks for 19 people at Stripburger. We joined Lettuce Entertain You’s reward program, so we earned a $40 gift certificate after this dinner. The food and service was great!

Las Vegas Ceremony, Wynn Las Vegas: $3,942

Photo by Cashman Photography

  • Las Vegas Marriage License: $60
  • The Petite Ceremony Package at the Wynn Las Vegas: $2,590
    This package included a dedicated wedding coordinator; private limousine from Wynn Las Vegas to and from the Courthouse for the marriage license; private check-in at the Wynn suite tower; one hour private use of the wedding salon; the minister to officiate the event; ceremony music; a twenty-four rose bouquet and complementary boutonniere; one hour of photography time and ten 5×7”³ prints; wedding DVD; personalized wedding certificate and holder; two glasses of champagne; special turn-down service.

Photo by Cashman Photography

  • Salon decorations: $961
    We chose to add an assortment of candles on the mantle, and we also included aisle decorations: scattered rose petals and clusters of large vases with floating candles. The fact that the Wynn does not allow outside vendors meant that we paid huge mark-ups on our decorations. Oh well. It was beautiful.
  • Minister’s tip: $50
    As I’ve said before, our minister, Rev. Walter, was amazing. We were so impressed that we went back the next day to give him an extra tip. If you get married at the Wynn, be sure to request him!

Photo by Cashman Photography

  • Extra 5×7”³ prints, Cashman Photography: $225
    Many casinos in Vegas have exclusive photography contracts with Cashman Photographers. This means that you cannot bring in an outside photographer unless you are willing to pay a fee: $750 at the Wynn, for example. We decided to use the Cashman photographer for the ceremony and just buy any prints we liked. Our package came with ten prints, and we ended up buying thirteen additional ones. Pro: We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of some of the photos that we received from Cashman. Con: Each of those photos ended up being really expensive. (A DVD with printing rights to photos from our 40 minute ceremony was well over $1,000. Ouch.)

Las Vegas Reception, Bouchon Bistro: $3,564


Photo by Brian Saculles

  • Food, open bar, and wedding cake at Bouchon Bistro: $3,294
    We had 20 guests at our intimate reception in a private room of a restaurant. This total includes tax, gratuity, and an extra $200 tip we gave our servers. The room minimum for food and beverage was $2,400. Bouchon is, hands down, our favorite restaurant in Las Vegas. Our experience there for our reception solidified that status.


Photo by Brian Saculles

  • Centerpieces: $119
    Candles, vases, and photo frames all from Ikea!

Photo by Gavin Gould

  • Guestbook photo frame: Gift
  • Guestbook sign and markers: $8

Las Vegas Photography, Brian Saculles: $2,100
Our package included 6 hours of photography and a high-resolution DVD with printing rights. Brian took photos before our ceremony, after our ceremony, and at the beginning of our reception. The photos are absolutely gorgeous. We love all of the photos that we received. I do wish that I would have been more specific about some of the shots that were important to us (candid photographs of family, for example). My tip is to make a short list for your photographer of your “absolutely must have” photos. Anyway, I recommend working with Brian and his wife, Lyn!

Personal photo

Bride’s Attire and Accessories: $1,545

Photo by Brian Saculles

  • Dress: $650, Lili Bridals
    I wore the Watters’ Tuscany, which has since been discontinued. We made substantial changes to the back of the dress and train in alterations.
  • Alterations: $470, In Stitches
    Since the dress was a sample, this price included the cost of an initial cleaning and then some repair work. The alterations also included taking in the sides of the bodice, hemming, creating an underbustle, sewing in cups and edging the organza.
  • Underwear: Gift

Photo by Brian Saculles

  • Shoes (3 pairs): $240
    I wore the Boutique 9 heels for the ceremony and pictures. I later changed into the Kate Spade flats for the reception. In Milwaukee, I wore the Charles David flats, knowing it would be too cold for open toes!


Photo by Brian Saculles

  • Rehearsal earrings: $21, Banana Republic

Hair and Makeup, Amelia C.: $600
My hair and makeup was $200, and I paid for my mom and my sister to have their hair and makeup done as well. Amelia C., with an assistant, came to our hotel room. She did an excellent job, especially on the make-up, and I tipped her 20%.


Photo by Brian Saculles

Groom’s Attire and Accessories: $1,141


Photo by Brian Saculles

  • Suit and vest: $725, J.Crew
    Mr. Mole wore the Ludlow two-button suit jacket with center vent, the Ludlow suit pant in Italian wool, and the suit vest in Italian wool: all in black. We got a 15% discount on everything at J.Crew for having a student/teacher I.D.
  • Tie: $64, J.Crew
  • Tie clip: $79, J.Crew


Photo by Brian Saculles

  • Undershirts (2): $35, J.Crew
  • Button-down shirts (3): $238, Brooks Brothers

Paper and Stationary: $668

Photo by Brian Saculles / Edited for privacy

  • Invitations: $325, SilhouetteBlue on Etsy
    For Las Vegas, we ordered the Bracket invitations with the Bracket RSVP cards with pre-addressed envelopes. For Milwaukee, we ordered the Sweetheart invitations with RSVP postcards with pre-addressed backs. We were able to customize the wording, the paper color, and the ink colors. We definitely recommend this shop!
  • Stamps and postage: $70, USPS
  • Personalized, self-inking address stamp: $36, foryoo on Etsy
    This was a great purchase. I’ve used it on everything from our invitations to our thank you notes to our bills. Tom Boonen, for whatever reason, also loves it and tries to eat it whenever it appears from its drawer.

Personal photo

  • Divine Twine: $20, Whisker Graphics
    We ordered the twine in oyster grey, and we used it for a wide variety of projects: our invitations, our Milwaukee favors, our programs. We still have a ton of the string left.
  • Thank you cards (50): $12, Target

Gifts: $438

  • “Bridesmaids”: $120
    Each of the three “bridesmaids” received a clutch from ModDotTextiles on Etsy, a Clinique lip gloss, and a box of Altoids.
  • “Groomsmen”: $108
    Each of the two “groomsmen” received a folding knife and a flask, both purchased on Amazon.


Photo by Brian Saculles

  • Parents: $210
    All three of the sets of parents received an 8×10”³ frame from Crate and Barrel. They also received an 8×10”³ print and an Adoramapix photo album.

Milwaukee Party, Roots Restaurant and Cellar: $5,478

Photo by Gavin Gould

  • Dinner and open bar: $5,196
    We had 53 guests at our hometown party in the private Cellar. This total includes tax, gratuity, and an extra $200 tip we gave our servers. The room minimum for food and beverage was $4,000. Surprisingly, we did not hit our minimum! Roots gave us $260 in restaurant gift cards to make up the difference. We also earned another $200 credit on our frequent diner’s card, so we will be eating at Roots every time we go to Milwaukee from this point on.

Photo by Gavin Gould

  • Ice cream cakes: $80, Dairy Queen
    For our 53 guests, we ordered two large sheet cakes and one 10”³ round cake. We had at least 12 servings left over. (As an aside, I was super impressed with the decorations on the cake. How pretty!)

Photo by Gavin Gould

  • Reception decorations: $8
    We did the framed photos on the quick (and at the last minute): we printed out six photos from our wedding ceremony at Walgreens, and we put the photos in frames that we already owned. Mr. Mole made the bar signs using Photoshop and put them in inexpensive black Ikea frames.

Photo by Gavin Gould

Milwaukee Photographer, Gavin Gould: $1,000
Gavin is one of Mr. Mole’s friends from the biking community in Chicago. We really enjoyed working with him for our “rock the frock” and hometown party, and we got some amazing shots. He sent us a flash drive with 330+ edited photos (color and black and white) within a month of our event.

Travel and Honeymoon: $6,006
The nice thing about our destination wedding was that our time in Las Vegas and Milwaukee felt like mini-moons! As such, I am accounting for the travel to and accommodations in both cities in the same category as other honeymoon expenses.

  • Gas to and from Las Vegas: $85
  • Wynn hotel room: $1,288
    We stayed at the Wynn for three nights. We originally booked the executive suite, but we were upgraded at check-in to the Parlor Suite.

Personal Photo

  • Plane tickets (LAX-MKE): $283
  • Intercontinental Ambassador Membership: $200
    This one-year membership provides guaranteed room upgrades, late check-outs, fresh fruit basket (and other perks), and a certificate for a free weekend stay. We definitely got our money out of this membership already, and we have plans to stay in another Intercontinental property in the next few months.
  • Intercontinental Milwaukee: $235
    We stayed at the Intercontinental in Milwaukee for two nights. This cost also includes valet parking and tips for the duration of our stay. We received one night for free, as well as two free breakfasts at Kilowat and two free cocktails at the lobby bar, because of our Ambassador membership.

Photo by Gavin Gould

  • Milwaukee Rental Car: $42
    We ended up with the Kia Soul, or, as I like to call it, “that goofy hamster car.”
  • Plane tickets (MKE-CAN, CZM-LAX): $1,068

Photo by Adventure Photos

  • Secrets Maroma Beach: Free!
    We stayed at Secrets Maroma Beach, an All-Inclusive hotel, for four nights in one of the Junior Suites-Partial Ocean View. Our entire stay was free because we received a credit from the hotel for being bumped to a sister property (Zoetry) in April 2011.

Personal Photo

  • El Presidente Intercontinental Cozumel: $1,280
    We stayed at El Presidente Intercontinental Cozumel for three nights. We received a room upgrade to a beach-front suite for our Ambassador membership.

Personal Photo

  • Cozumel Jeep rental: $160, Thrifty
  • Snorkeling excursions and gear: $305

Personal Photo

  • Spending money: $460
    This sum includes money we spent on transportation, food, drinks, and tips.
  • Kenneling for Tom Boonen: $600
    In total, between our wedding, hometown party, and honeymoon, Tom Boonen was in a cage-free kennel for sixteen nights (not all consecutive). Poor guy. Now that we are home and have a second greyhound, though, he is lonely no more!

Wedding Rings: $1,035

  • Mr. Mole’s band: $201, TitaniumKnights on etsy
    Mr. Mole picked out a titanium and white gold ring with a satin finish. We originally ordered the wrong size, so this cost includes a sizing exchange fee.


Photo by Brian Saculles

  • My bands: $834
    I chose a half-carat diamond and white gold band that was on sale from Rogers and Holland Jewelers in Milwaukee. I also ended up with a brushed titanium ring from Titanium Knights to wear as a “back-up” ring. I typically wear it when I am working out at the gym.

Total Wedding Cost: $28,213

The average cost of a wedding, at least according to this (somewhat flawed) article on Yahoo, has reached $27,000. We are over that amount if you account for our honeymoon/travel and rings. If you don’t, we ended up being below average: $21,147.

Regardless of which accounting method you use, we spent a lot of money on our wedding, especially when you consider the size of our guest list. Do I wish we spent less money? Sure. Could we have done so? Of course, especially in Vegas. But would I change anything? Nope. It was as an amazing wedding, and we had a fantastic time. It was all worth it.

(Plus, it’s all paid off.)


Photo by Brian Saculles

Did you miss a Mole recap?


Mrs. Mole

Los Angeles/Las Vegas
Wedding Date:
January 2012
Saying "Yes" to the Dress, Part 2
Gallery of the Day
Add a comment


  1. highwire Member
    highwire 1021 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:05 am

    Love this! It sounds like a really luxurious experience! We spent a similar amount on our wedding, but it was for 140 people, so obviously it wasn’t nearly as swanky 😉

  2. funnelcake Member
    funnelcake 1171 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:15 am

    I think for two parties and the honeymoon, you did pretty well! If you exclude the second reception and the honeymoon, 15.5k was definitely within your initial budget of how much a wedding costs. :)

    Thanks for posting!!

  3. hyena Member
    hyena 2537 posts, Sugar bee @ 9:16 am

    I love seeing how other people break down their weddings. Your day was so beautiful! If I hadn’t set a budget for ours, I would have wanted to buy ALL THE THINGS and it would have gotten ridiculously out of hand!

  4. Member
    janie-janie 3248 posts, Sugar bee @ 9:25 am

    yay, I love vegas weddings! also, how adorable is your husband?

  5. elephant Member
    elephant 6339 posts, Bee Keeper @ 9:28 am

    Love seeing budget breakdowns! Thanks for sharing Mrs. Mole!

  6. Member
    Napakitten 137 posts, Blushing bee @ 9:34 am

    ahhh thanks for the tip about the rewards program…I just checked and our rehersal dinner location has one so maybe we can earn a gift card off it!!!

  7. archer Member
    archer 551 posts, Busy bee @ 9:44 am

    You two are so cute it kills me. And I love your breakdown and reasoning…. Such well thought-out perspective!

  8. Member
    JuneBride2012 536 posts, Busy bee @ 9:45 am

    That was definitely money well spent, Mrs. Mole. And thanks for the budget breakdown! Like Mrs. Elephant, I love seeing them.

  9. Member
    dominodeer 88 posts, Worker bee @ 9:58 am

    Amazing! Love the honeymoon pictures!

  10. Member
    blueluva22 18 posts, Newbee @ 9:58 am

    I get a little sad when I see how people are able to swing weddings for $20-$30K. My current wedding breakdown is $52K but I am Asian and both sides of our families are huge and we have 400 guests to feed (finances fall on us only!). Congrats on having such a wonderful wedding!

  11. honey Member
    honey 1684 posts, Bumble bee @ 10:00 am

    Great budget post, Mrs. Mole! Like you, we didn’t really know what we spent until I wrote the budget post…the unexpected benefits of the ‘bee!

  12. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 10:09 am

    Love seeing your budget breakdown, you really accounted for everything, go you!

  13. parasol Member
    parasol 2955 posts, Sugar bee @ 10:38 am

    What a thorough breakdown, Mrs. Mole! Super helpful! And I think that considering all tou’ve included here, the fact that you had two receptions, and just how lovely your wedding was, you got a great deal!

  14. msdragon Member
    Mrs. Dragon 814 posts, Busy bee @ 10:54 am

    I’m checking in on our expenditures as I type! I love reading budget posts — thank you for sharing!

  15. Member
    stephk527 987 posts, Busy bee @ 11:22 am

    I love the budget posts as well. :) They are so helpful and interesting. I am so glad that regardless of the price, you’re pleased with the outcome – that’s all that matters.

  16. eagle Member
    eagle 1552 posts, Bumble bee @ 4:34 pm

    I think you did great for having two receptions! Thanks for sharing the numbers with us – and I’m so jealous of your dress price – that dress looks like its a 3K+ at least dress! Beautiful.

  17. mole Member
    mole 1242 posts, Bumble bee @ 5:05 pm

    @Mrs. High Wire: I think that your wedding was fabulous as well!
    @Mrs. Funnel Cake: Haha. I like any method of accounting that makes it seem like we spent less money. 😉
    @Mrs. Hyena: There were definitely some moments when we just wanted to throw money at an issue rather than solve it any other way! If we had a strict budget, I think we would have been less tempted in those moments.
    @janie-janie: My biased opinion is that he is pretty adorable! Thanks. :)
    @Mrs. Elephant: Thank you for reading!
    @Napakitten: It’s definitely worth it! We just went to Vegas a couple of weekends ago, and we were able to use our reward cards to pay for lunch.
    @Miss Archer: Thank you!
    @JuneBride2012: Thanks! The budgets were always the types of posts that I liked seeing as well.
    @dominodeer: It makes me want to go back sometime soon! Maybe next year.
    @blueluva22: Oh man, I understand how that puts stress on you and your FI. Luckily, even though Mr. Mole’s side was not entirely used to small weddings, they understood and supported our reasoning for having one. (That being said, we are going to be having a THIRD party in New York — Chinese banquet style — for Mr. Mole’s extended family in August. The wedding tour is still not over.) Good luck with your planning and budgeting!
    @Mrs. Honey: Sometimes I think that I would have been better off not calculating things out. 😉
    @Mrs. Pony: Once I made the decision to add everything up, I figured that I should be honest about it. :)
    @Mrs. Parasol: That’s a good spin. We didn’t spend a ton of money; rather, we got a great deal on the money we spent. I am going to use that! 😉
    @Miss Dragon: Thanks for commenting!
    @StephK527: True thing. I would have been happy with any type of wedding so long as the day ended with me being married to Mr. Mole. However, I am thrilled with the type of wedding that we had! It was fantastic.
    @Miss Eagle: Thank you! I am fortunate enough that I found a sample dress in my approximate size on deep discount.

  18. Member
    Future Army Wife 2213 posts, Buzzing bee @ 6:48 pm

    I realize y’all went over budget, but you had two weddings. And you traveled to both of them. I would say you going above the average cost was beyond worth it.

  19. coyote Member
    coyote 1960 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:48 pm

    We aren’t sticking to a strict budget either and I’m terrified to add it all up when it’s over!!

  20. earrings Member
    earrings 2611 posts, Sugar bee @ 10:53 pm

    I adore that photo of you two in the snazzy glasses :)

  21. mole Member
    mole 1242 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:35 pm

    @Future Army Wife: We are very happy with how everything turned out, including the final cost.
    @Miss Coyote: Haha. I have to admit that I gasped when I first saw the total — and then proceeded to double and triple check it. 😉
    @Mrs. Earrings: Thank you!

  22. Guest Icon Guest
    Manikandan, Guest @ 10:55 pm

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  23. Guest Icon Guest
    Lula, Guest @ 11:10 am

    We’re planning our wedding at the Wynn as well! Thanks so much for the breakdown in budget costs. This is so helpful. We’ve requested Rev Walter.

    Quick Q – did you tip the wedding coordinators at the Wynn? There’s a senior and an assistant assigned to each wedding. We’ve already budgeted a tip for the minister, but don’t know if we’re expected to tip the coordinator and her assistant.

  24. mole Member
    mole 1242 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:04 am

    @Lula: We did not. The coordinators did a good job, but we didn’t have a lot of contact with them (a couple of emails, mainly about payments, and one short in-person planning session). The minister, on the other hand, was so wonderful and warm that we felt that he really helped make our ceremony so wonderful.

  25. Member
    pmsjl 971 posts, Busy bee @ 8:56 am

    I’m getting married at the Wynn in December; thanks for the tips, I’m going to request Rev. Walter for sure.

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