Talking About Money Is So Awkward

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.

Guests: 130

Original budget: $20,000




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.




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.

Paper Goods:



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.




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.

Alcohol: $0
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.

Flowers: $850
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.

Favors: $85.18
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.

Photographer: $2923
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!

Videographer: $1200
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.

Sparklers: $66
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


Mrs. Wallaby

Wedding Date:
November 2012
Panda Engagement Pictures
Mates for Life Madness: Brought to You by Avocado! (Part 4 of 4)
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  1. Member
    mrshollinger 1109 posts, Bumble bee @ 5:47 pm

    Loved your wedding! I agree with the PP that said it looked like it cost 2x as much as you spent!

  2. Guest Icon Guest
    Vanessa, Guest @ 10:28 pm

    Great post! I’m from Houston and got my dress at Ventura’s, too! Was there a reason you decided to get your alterations done elsewhere? I just scheduled mine at the store and I’m hoping it won’t be that high!

  3. funnelcake Bee
    funnelcake 1171 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:38 am

    Great budget breakdown Wallaby! We had a bunch of extra costs due to the price of things in Swiss land and the traveling, but otherwise it was pretty similar. Thanks for posting yours. I think it’s so helpful for brides to see what other people are really spending on. 🙂

  4. mswallaby Bee
    mswallaby 2070 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:05 am

    You guys are making me feel so much better – after typing out all of our expenses, I felt like hiding in a corner. Hopefully it helps you bees who are still planning your weddings!
    @MaggieL: Awesome! We’ll definitely reply a replacement band from them if he ever loses his ring.
    @Miss Camel: Honestly, I should’ve walked right out of the alterations place and gotten a 2nd and 3rd quote from other people. I was just hot, tired, and intimidated since they had already put a bazillion pins in my dress before giving me a quote. Don’t settle! And if you don’t feel like alterations are really needed, skip them – I kind of wish I had!
    @Laura: Yay for Houston bees! PM me if you ever need vendor recs or any local advice!!
    @lealorali: Oops you’re right, I did leave out gifts! We spent ~$150 total for the BMs and $120 total for GM. Haha yes, our weddings probs overlapped from months of planning on the Bee 🙂
    @bluebelle23: That’s so weird he quoted you higher…I know Mr. W bargained with him, but I don’t know the details since I wasn’t involved. Ask one of your parents or relatives to make a video of the ceremony on their camera or phone, you will be so glad afterwards – all that I really cared about was being able to re-watch our vows. So, so special. For the photogs – have you thought about contacting any college students who want to build up their portfolios, so they can be like a second shooter? They might do it for free or for a very very low cost. I had great luck with Rice students for our string quartet. Also, make a Pinterest board with your favorite styles of wedding photos, and write down a list of must-have photos for your friend – that will help a lot so you don’t feel like you’re missing any photos you really wanted.

  5. mswallaby Bee
    mswallaby 2070 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:07 am

    @Vanessa: I’ve heard bad stories from friends about the alterations at David’s Bridal, and I get all my jeans hemmed at Allure Alterations, so I didn’t think too much before taking my wedding dress there. No idea how the alterations are at Venture, they’re probably fine!! You can always read some reviews on Weddingwire and see what other girls have thought. But I think you’ll be totally fine!

  6. msarmadillo Bee
    msarmadillo 497 posts, Helper bee @ 12:22 pm

    Love budget breakdowns! And I agree with everyone else…it looks like you spent WAY more than you actually did. You did an amazing job!

  7. Member
    krisashpete 53 posts, Worker bee @ 6:38 pm

    this was lovely, as well as insightful! thank you!

    we are getting married at oak tree manor this december ! i am so smitten with your “wedding wall” — where did you rent it? i’m so curious it hurts.

  8. mswallaby Bee
    mswallaby 2070 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:21 pm

    @krisashpete: Oh you’ll love it!!! I’m so glad we got married there! We actually rented the wedding wall directly from Oak Tree Manor – ask Haydee or anyone from the staff about it!

  9. Member
    Larinhe 1 posts, Wannabee @ 9:06 am

    I absolutely love everything about your wedding!! My wedding is going to be at Oak Tree Manor as well 🙂

    I was considering hiring a string quartet as well, do you happen to have their info?

  10. Member
    kellis 54 posts, Worker bee @ 4:14 pm

    Thank you so much for posting your budget, desipte being uncomfortable. As a bride to be it is so helpful seeing a breakdown of the wedding costs, especially compared to the budget.

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