You're engaged! The moment has finally arrived and you're taking it in a moment at a time. Your mind starts racing, who to call first? where to post first? let us have a few days, hours, minutes to ourselves before sharing the news with the world. The news is out and you are overwhelmed by the response. The questions begin to pour in; when are you getting married? did you set a date yet? how did he ask? what are you going to wear? You head over to your Pinterest and revisit your wedding inspiration board(s), the day is finally here where you can turn your vision into reality. You've been pinning this day for so long, you're an expert at this, right? Since you've known your top photographers, florists, and venues, it's finally time to reach out and start the planning process, yay!. You did your due diligence and researched the average cost of a wedding, and as of 2019, it was $33,900. You're good to go! You hit the ground running and realized the band you loved is $7,000. The photographer you had your heart set on $8,500. And your dream wedding venue has a minimum spending requirement of $50,000.
Sticker shock has set in and you feel defeated. You have realized you are way past your initial budget and still have your planner, floral designer, cinematographer, officiant, rental company, and a sea of other vendors to check off your list. At your initial 150 guest count, with an average cost of $33,900, these vendor prices seem outlandish. You are back to brainstorming, rethinking your wedding, how are you going to create your Pinterest wedding. You begin to have doubts and contemplate that eloping in Big Sur may be more reasonable. Does this sound like you? If so, you are not alone. Many, many brides have been in your shoes. I can fully empathize with the frustration you may be feeling and how your vendors are feeling.
Right now, It is my job to help educate couples on the financial literacy component of what it cost to plan a wedding. And how misinformation plays a huge factor in the disconnect between couples and the realistic cost of planning your dream wedding. Let's dive right in.
THEIR AVERAGE BUDGET VS YOUR REALIST BUDGET:
Here's the thing, while $33,900 is the average cost of a wedding in the U.S., the average cost of a wedding in Boston is $44,700, and is quite the investment. Boston is among the list of the topmost expensive cities to get married in. Let’s look at these numbers a little bit closer:
This trusted wedding publication states, more than 25,000 couples participated in this survey. Just think about that number, 25,000. It seems like a lot, and it is. What they didn't tell you is that about 2 million couples were married in 2019.
1.25% of couples who were married participated in this survey. That is such a small piece of the puzzle. Numbers Matter! Demographic Matters! Location Matters!
These couples all had differentiating factors: location, guest count, budgets, styles. A couple planning a wedding in Oklahoma is going to have a significantly lesser cost than a couple planning a wedding in New York City.
Because this blog is one of the leading sources in obtaining wedding information, this means that $33,900 circulates between different publications, articles, and websites. Before you know it, $33,900 is now a fact across the board.
Now don’t get me wrong, you can have a beautiful wedding for $33,900 or below if the price is within your financial comfort zone. Especially if your wedding is more intimate for a guest count of under 50 people. BUT it’s important to know that for a guest count of 150+ people, $33,900 is not realistic for a wedding with professional vendors, immaculate floral design, phenomenal catering, and a plethora of details. It may go without saying, but out Pinterest Wedding is typically not reflecting a $30k budget. The fact of the matter is, that the average cost number skews the reader and lowers expectations of what couples can afford and the actual cost it takes to get your Pinterest wedding. Most couples needs, wants, and desires put their budgets well over the average cost number, do you see how this is misleading?
With that being said, let’s kick the “average cost of a wedding” to the curb, and instead, let's focus our attention on creating a realistic wedding budget tailored to YOUR wedding.
A TRUE WEDDING COST:
As I mentioned earlier the average cost of a wedding in Boston is $44,700. Each region, state, and even city has its own average cost that's determined based on different factors. Thus this number varies. So how much does a wedding cost? Throughout my years of planning, couples who have a guest list of 150 people held at an all-inclusive venue with all professional vendors and a standard level detail/design can range anywhere from $40,000-$65,000.
Couples who wish to get married on a private estate, have a tented wedding, or at a luxury venue, and choose to incorporate finer details and upgraded elements (floral chandeliers, vinyl mirrored flooring, specialty linens/rentals, custom monograms) can expect to spend anywhere from $75,000-$180,000 for 150 people. The more luxurious your celebration, the more you can expect your price range to increase.
Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t have a beautiful wedding that costs less than these ranges - of course, you can. Yet, for the majority, the wedding location, guest list, food and beverage, labor, cost of customizations, rental upgrades, and simply the number of services you need to orchestrate your day will require a budget of at least $40,000-$65,000.
PREPARING A REALISTIC WEDDING BUDGET WITHIN YOUR FINANCIAL COMFORT ZONE:
The best way to prepare your realistic wedding budget is to know the typical cost of weddings in the place or area you are getting married. This number will determine your starting place and if you need to make adjusts along the way, that's perfectly fine. When working with my couples I break budgeting into two categories:
The Budget. The number of monies it will cost to create a basic execution of your event. Your budget is the most standard package an all-inclusive wedding venue offers. Or if you are doing a tented wedding, this is the foundation (tent, permits, tables, chairs, dance floor, standard linens, standard floral arrangements). Nothing over the top here. No intricate details or design.
The Financial Comfort Zone (FCZ). FCZ = the budget cost (that you determined above) + the additional monies you are willing to spend to create your vision. This would be your specialty linens, custom monograms, elaborate florals, your band, and all the other vendors you would be comfortable upgrading.
My clients work within their financial comfort zone. When I planned my wedding, I worked in my financial comfort zone. Ultimately your FCZ = Your Total Max Budget.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO START THE PROCESS:
Speak with reputable vendors. Starting with a wedding planner at your chosen wedding location is a fantastic place to start. It's our job to know industry averages and we can provide you with the most reliable information in terms of how much couples are spending in your designated area. This will truly help you set expectations across the board! If you have decided you won’t be working with a wedding planner, I advise you to speak with a venue coordinator at your venue or a venue of interest to learn more about the typical budgets they see in that area.
Create a financial comfort zone. At this point, you have your standard budget of what it would cost to get you married. Now you need to sit down with all contributing parties to the budget to customize the details. Do we need/want to increase or decrease the guest count? Are there any special items or vendors that you would like? Are we able to make compromises on areas that may be problematic? This conversation is extremely important to have, and while this may be the most uncomfortable conversation it’s one of the most imperative.
Create a budget for each category. When you have determined your total max budget (FCZ), go ahead and apply the following percentages to each vendor category to determine how much should be allocated towards each vendor. Please note that some vendors will be the priority over others vendors based on the preference of the couple (i.e. you may choose to spend more on food and beverage if your a foodie and less on florals or wedding stationery).
How do we allocate the appropriate percentages to each vendor category? I’m so glad you asked.
VENDOR CATEGORY PERCENTAGES:
Catering and Beverage: 30%
Venue (including ceremony space): 10%
Wedding Planner: 10-12%
Entertainment (ceremony & reception): Band: 7-10% or DJ: 2-5%
Rentals and Decor: 7-10%
Wedding Stationery: 3-5%
Hair and Makeup: 3-4%
I provide a well-equipped budgeting tool for my clients that auto-populates these numbers for you. Understanding that everyone has a different budget and expectations and the goal is to create a realistic budget for your wedding. Using this tool allows you to prioritize your vendors and see where you can reallocate funds from one vendor category to another. This is a great way to play with the numbers and see what is most realistic for your wedding budget.
I hope this blog post was able to provide clarity and guides you through your wedding planning journey in creating YOUR realistic wedding budget.
If you are passionate about creating a bespoke, contemporary, elegant, and romantic wedding and are trying to navigate all the nuances of how to create your dream wedding within your financial comfort zone, let’s chat!
Happy planning loves!