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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Original officiant budget: $150
- Pre-wedding consultation
- 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.
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
- Trial hair and makeup ($40 each)
- Trial travel fee ($20)
- Day-of hair and makeup ($40 each)
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.
Original budget: $150
- 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
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
- Centerpiece vases
- Paper and other craft supplies for programs, “just married” and “love is sweet banners,” favors and packaging, escort cards, C&J initials, chalkboard, ceremony endcaps, the bunting-that-never-was
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.
Original honeymoon budget: $0
- 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.
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
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
- Dress ($481)
- Alterations—taking in two sizes, adding French bustle, hemming, and adding sleeves and cups ($300)
- Headpiece ($80)
- Shoes ($80)
- Bracelet ($50)
- Underpinnings ($20)
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
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
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
- 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
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.
Original budget: $120
- 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?
GRAND TOTAL: $21644
ORIGINAL BUDGET: $10,000
AMOUNT OVER: $11,644
NATIONAL AVERAGE: $26,542
AREA AVERAGE (LOW END): $20,156
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
- We made final preparations, visited with family members, rehearsed, and ate a miniature Mr. Ladyfingers
- The girls and I got gussied up and headed out to the venue
- I got all verklempt, the people took their places, and I waited quietly, alone
- We kinda got a little married
- We stood for portraits
- We twirled together as man and wife to the most perfect song there is
- We ate, toasted, cut cake, and prepared to party
- We had some musically heartfelt moments with our parents
- We partied like it was 1999
- Somebody caught my garter with their teeth
- We exited to bells as our wedding day came to an end
- I shared our wedding day details
- I discussed our awesome decisions
- I discussed our not-so-awesome decisions