As a Charlotte wedding Photographer I wanted to share some tips to all of my newly engaged couples. There is no easy way around it — if you’re having a wedding, it can get expensive. Setting a budget is a great way to keep things within reasonable parameters, so you know what to expect. Once you’ve set an overall budget, though, how do you know how much to spend on what? Having a breakdown of the typical costs of a wedding can be a great tool for couples. After all, how can you expect to know what the typical floral arrangement costs, or what a good price for a three tiered cake is, if you’ve never been married before?
The best way to determine approximately what you should be spending on any given category is to look at typical breakdowns of a total budget. You should expect to spend about this much of your total budget on each category (starting with your largest expenses first).
Reception (40-45%): By far your largest expense. The reception includes food and beverages, equipment rentals, the venue fee (which may be coupled with your ceremony fee if you’re getting married in the same place), and non-floral decor. The exact cost will vary based on what kind of food you serve, if you have a buffet or plated meal, and your bar options. If you’re looking to cut costs in this category, consider going with simple decor (letting the venue speak for itself!), or having only beer and wine options at the bar. Getting married during ‘off-season’ (not May-September) can also often save some green!
Ceremony (5-10%): The ceremony typically includes a venue fee, officiant fee, rentals and decor. If you’re looking to cut costs in this category, consider having your ceremony and reception all in one location. That way, you’re only paying one venue fee instead of two! You can also consider using in-house linens (if offered), skipping the fancy chairs, or repurposing seating from the ceremony to reception to save additional costs.
Photographer/Videographer (10-15%): This category will vary depending on whether you want a videographer in addition to your photographer. This isn’t a category I’d recommend skimping on, since photos capture the memories you’ll be cherishing 30 years down the road, and I’ve seen too many brides devastated by an amateur photographer missing important moments. However, if you’re really looking to cut costs here, consider forgoing an engagement session or, if an engagement session is part of a package, asking the photographer if you can skip it and apply the credit toward your overall cost.
Flowers (5-10%): Depending on decor for your ceremony and reception, this may go up or down. Some people choose to decorate solely with flowers, which means you could borrow from the reception and ceremony categories a little. Others only want a bouquet, in which case this expense would go way down. If you’re looking to cut costs in this category, ask your florist what flowers are in season when you’re getting married. Sunflowers in August are a lot cheaper than in January!
Coordinator/Planner (5-10%): In my opinion, hiring a professional to run your day is very worthwhile. You wouldn’t hire Aunt Agatha to replace your carpets, so why hire her to run your wedding day? Most importantly, planners usually save you money in the long run! If you are looking to save, consider hiring a day-of planner instead of a full coordination package.
Music (5-10%): A good DJ will really get the party started — and isn’t that the whole point?! Getting married in one location is a good way to save some costs in this category as well, since it often cuts down on a separate set-up cost with your DJ.
Attire/Rings (5-10%): Again, depending on what you want, this category will vary. Some brides prefer to spend less on a dress they’ll wear once, others want to splurge or even buy multiple dresses. It’s all up to you, but if you’re looking to save, consider buying an off the rack dress and having alterations done rather than ordering a custom gown.
Cake (5%): Whether you decide to go with a traditional tiered cake or a custom dessert bar with lots of options, you have lots of ways to cut costs here. Consider ordering a small cutting cake and having sheet cakes made to serve guests — they cut it in a backroom and your guests never know! Alternatively, consider cupcakes or pies instead if you’re less traditional. There are lots of yummy options that don’t have to be outrageously expensive.
Miscellaneous (5-10%): Finally, make sure you’re putting aside a portion of your budget for miscellaneous and unexpected costs — everything from invitations to favors, marriage license fees, and unexpected things that pop up. A word to the wise if you’re looking to save a little more change — skip the cheesy wedding favors! They’re expensive, unnecessary, and usually left behind.
The most important thing is to decide what’s most important to you. Is it the food you’re serving guests? Then expect to fork over a little more there, and save in other areas. Do you want a stellar Charlotte wedding photographer? Then put aside more money for that category, and save in another. It’s about deciding priorities — and adjusting from there. Good luck!