I hate talking about money. I detest it. I don’t like thinking about money, talking about it, or listening to other people talk about it. But the average American wedding has a pretty hefty price tag, and if you’re planning an event for a lot of people, chances are, you’re very conscious of your budget. I know I was—from day one of wedding planning, I was very anxious about setting a budget and sticking to it. I worried, “am I paying too much for these burlap runners? Is my DJ more expensive than average?” So, to help out brides in the planning process, here is the Wallaby budget breakdown.
Original budget: $20,000
- Dress: $1300, Ventura’s Bridal, Allure 8800
- Alterations: $700 (that one really hurt and is my biggest regret when it comes to our budget). Allure Alterations. The alterations included taking in the waist, sewing in cups, creating a bustle, hemming the lace train, and several other changes.
- Earrings: $44, Perfect Details
- Shoes: $70, eBay
- Birdcage veil: $23, Bridal by Teri
- Comb: $28, The Vivi Girl
- Garter: $10, Garter Me Good
- Hair and make-up: $175, Hair by Liz. This included airbrush make-up and false eyelash application.
- Mr. W’s tux rental: free, Men’s Wearhouse
ATTIRE TOTAL: $2350
How we saved: My Badgley Mischka shoes were originally $200, but I bought a once-worn pair off eBay for $70. The best bargain in this category, though, was Mr. W’s free tux rental, which was part of a deal from Men’s Wearhouse—the five groomsmen rented tuxes, and Mr. W got a free rental.
RINGS TOTAL: $1640
How we saved: Clearly, we didn’t save on my ring. It was a big splurge for us, and I don’t regret it. I love my wedding band. Mr. W’s ring was a bargain, though—he didn’t want any precious stones in his ring, and he doesn’t care for ornate rings. He did some research online and decided he wanted a brushed ring with beveled edges. Many guys we know have lost their rings at least once, and since Mr. W can’t wear his ring inside the refinery at work and he’ll be taking it on and off a lot, we bought a cheap ring that can easily be replaced.
- 100 save-the-dates: $38.82, designed by yours truly and printed by CatPrint
- 100 invitations: $40.68, ditto the above
- 100 RSVP cards: $21.64, ditto the above
- 100 mini Moo cards with website for save-the-dates: $15
- 100 regular (larger) Moo cards with website for invitations: $40
- 200 A7 envelopes: $76.50, Paper Source
- 100 4-bar envelopes for RSVPs: $27, Paper Source
- Baker’s twine: $8.95 for 160-yard roll, Timeless Twine
PAPER GOODS TOTAL: $268.59
How we saved: I painted the designs for our save-the-dates and invitations, inspired by Rifle Paper Co., so the only cost was printing. The only enclosure I included with the save-the-dates and invites was the mini Moo card with our wedding website info, so neither was very heavy—each save-the-date and invite cost $0.45 to mail. We also skipped menus and a lot of the other cute paper goods that I’ve fallen in love with from wedding blogs.
- Officiant: $400 donation to my church
- Marriage certificate: $12 (we got a discount for doing pre-marital counseling)
- String quartet: $500 (this was a gift from my grandma, so I didn’t include it in the total)—music students from Rice University
- Rose petals for aisle: $60 for 60 cups of freeze-dried petals, Flyboy Naturals
- Curtains for wedding wall entryway: $20, Target
CEREMONY TOTAL: $492
How we saved: We kept things simple with the ceremony decor and decided against aisle markers or floral arrangements. The rose petals and the sofreh under the big oak tree were the only decorations. (The sofreh was arranged by Mr. W’s family and was a gift, so I didn’t include it in the budget.)
Venue and catering: $11,453
This included renting Oak Tree Manor for the ceremony and reception, valet parking for guests, set-up and take-down, clean-up chairs, tables, linens, china and silverware, catering, non-alcoholic drinks, renting the “wedding wall,” servers/bussers, bartenders, security officers, renting the Oak Tree Manor house for family to spend the night after the wedding, and gratuity. I’ve probably omitted something by accident—Oak Tree Manor provided almost everything!
How we saved: The cost of food per-person, which included a garden salad, a BBQ meal with several sides, and a mashed potato bar, was $19—much cheaper than other venues we looked at. We saved a ton on alcohol—Oak Tree Manor is BYOB, and there was no corkage fee, so we were free to bargain-shop at Costco and return any unused bottles. We also saved money by sticking with Oak Tree Manor’s white tablecloths and not covering the chairs with covers or sashes.
Mr. W’s dad provided the alcohol, most of which came from his own liquor cabinet that he keeps well-stocked for entertaining. He also picked up beer and wine from Costco, but since it was a gift, I didn’t include it in our total.
How we saved: A huge selling point of Oak Tree Manor, other than the beautiful enormous oak trees, was the relatively inexpensive catering and the BYOB policy. Other venues we scoped out charged a corkage fee or a flat rate for alcoholic drinks, so we were looking at spending at least $3k on alcohol alone at any other venue…no bueno.
This included my bouquet, six bouquets for my ‘maids, nine boutonnieres (for the g’men, dads, and moms), several large cabbage roses for the cake, and floral arrangements for 14 dinner tables, our sweetheart table, and the cake table. It also included delivery and set-up the morning of the wedding.
How we saved: I chose mostly flowers that were in-season, and I requested that the florist add green filler to keep the costs of the bouquets and arrangements down. I provided all of the vases for the centerpieces, so we didn’t have to rent any. Instead of hand-wired bouquets or elaborate arrangements, I requested a small bundle of stems with green filler for each table. We didn’t have any really large floral arrangements at the ceremony nor at the reception, but Oak Tree Manor has beautiful landscaping, so I don’t think any spaces looked bare.
DJ and uplighting: $1200
This included six hours of DJ coverage, 10 LED cans for uplighting, mic-ing (the kind of microphones that wire onto guys’ suit jackets) for Mr. W and Officiant J during the ceremony, and renting a screen and projector for the wedding video. I still think we could’ve done some more bartering with the DJ, but it was what it was. He knocked it out of the park with the reception playlist and kept our whole crowd dancing all night, so I can’t complain.
Dance floor rental: $400
We rented our wooden dance floor from ACME Rentals. The fee included delivery, set-up, and take-down.
How we saved: We were very particular about the dimensions of the dance floor. (I mean…we’re engineers, what would you expect?) We didn’t want anyone sinking their shoes into the grass, but we also didn’t want a huge, empty-looking dance floor. So I did some crazy, extensive research (the kind that only brides do) and finally decided that a 16′ x 16′ dance floor would be perfect for our 130-person crowd. Even though the rental company kept pushing us to order (and pay for) a larger dance floor, we were unwavering. The size turned out to be perfect, and the dance floor was packed all night.
Vintage furniture rental: $660, including delivery and pick-up
How we saved: Um, we didn’t. I’m a little embarrassed to report that we paid $660 for vintage furniture—and you can only see the furniture in several of our photos. But remember, it was my one irrational can’t-live-without-it splurge. Was it necessary? No. But I’m cool with that. Lots of guests noticed it and loved the vintage touch, and I like to think it contributed to the overall vintage vibe.
I arranged loose-leaf organic tea in test tubes and made little tags that read “Merci! Love, Liz and Dara.” The cost included:
-$22.95 for 125 glass test tubes
-$38.79 for 24 oz of tea from Starwest Botanicals
-$17.94 for size six cork stoppers from Lake Charles Manufacturing
-$5.50 for scalloped tag punch
How we saved: A lot of the other favor ideas I loved—like potted succulents, and coffee beans—would’ve cost at least $1 to $2 per person. By making our own favors, we spent $0.68 per guest—not too bad, I think.
This included our engagement session, six hours of wedding-day photography, full rights to our wedding pictures, two photo books with our chosen images, and more. I’ve already sang praises for Kat and Loren, our fabulous photogs, multiple times, but here’s one last plug for them. Those ladies are amazing.
Extreme photography / Personal photo
How we saved: To afford my favorite, long-time-crush photographer, we picked the most basic photography package: an engagement session and one wedding photographer with six hours of photography coverage. I skipped formal bridal portraits, saving us $400 (and I still got some photos alone on our wedding day!). We could’ve spent a lot more for longer coverage (i.e. the last two-three hours of the wedding, when there was just dancing) or for a second photographer (more time for detail shots, different camera angles, larger volume of photos) but to be honest, I am so happy with the wedding photos that we got. We have an album filled with incredibly beautiful photos of our wedding day and our favorite people, and I couldn’t ask for more. No regrets here!
This included 8 hours of wedding-day videography, a 1-minute trailer, a 10-minute wedding video, and full access to all of the raw footage. (Mr. W recently purchased Final Cut Pro and has plans to make his own wedding video using the raw footage. I’m excited to see what he comes up with.) We are still waiting for our 10-minute wedding video, so I will refrain from reviewing our videographers before we receive the final video.
Day-of coordinator: $650
I would list everything that this included, but it would take me 10,000 words. Teri was amazing and went above and beyond the call of duty. Best money spent, hands down. Houston brides—call her. Teri is the best.
I bought 150 20″ sparklers from I Love Sparklers. That was the best deal I could find on the Internetz, and the sparklers worked out great. (No one caught on fire…can I call that a success?)
Dessert (yes, it deserves its own category! )
- Groom’s cake: gift from Mr. W’s best friend’s mom
- Persian cookies: gift from Mother-in-law Wallaby
- Bride’s cake: $690 (including delivery and cake stand rental), Epicure Cafe
- Ice cream truck rental: $400
I’m sure I’ve left things out—a lot of little expenses pile up during the final weeks before the wedding. But hopefully this gives you a general idea of the prices we paid. We no doubt splurged on some things (ring, photography, ice cream truck, etc.) but I have very few regrets. We threw an epic party, one that will definitely go down in the books. We shared some very special moments with our favorite people, we enjoyed a pretty seamless day with very minimal “things that went wrong.”
So the grand total added up to $25,327. Which is incredibly close to the average in Houston/Harris County:
Yes, we went over our original budget. We saved more than enough money for the wedding, so we didn’t go into any debt to cover all of the expenses. We could have cut the videographer, the vintage furniture, or the ice cream truck, but I think that in the end, every single detail was worth it. We had an incredible day, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Where did you splurge, and where would you save? Any advice to share with brides-to-be on how to cut wedding costs?
*All photos by Mustard Seed Photography
- Environmental Engineer
- Wedding Date:
- November 2012
- Oak Tree Manor