How Much Does a Wedding Really Cost

April 08, 2021

This question comes up over and over again in newly engaged couples’ conversations. You’d think after this marriage thing has been around for centuries, we’d have figured out some standard pricing for weddings, right? Wrong! Prices vary dramatically by market, expertise, time of year, specific scope of work for the services, and the list goes on … add a global pandemic like COVID-19, and you also may be feeling extra careful when making financial decisions and putting deposits down for vendors.

So, the question remains, how much does a wedding really cost? Or, more specifically: how much should I expect my wedding to cost?

There are a few factors that strongly influence where your budget will land in the wedding world. Here are the most important pieces to consider:

Guest Count

Most caterers price their packages based on a minimum number of guests guaranteed, which means you’re paying per person. More people RSVP than the minimum? You’ll pay the per person price for wherever your guest count lands. Land below your minimum? Too bad - you’ll pay for the minimum so be sure to set that minimum at a realistic place in the contract phase! Plus, you’ll need rentals for your event [think: dishware, linens, etc.] so the more guests you have, the higher your rental cost will be.

Rent / Real Estate is not cheap! Your venue likely will cost more the larger it is, so the more space you need - you guessed it - the more money you’ll spend on your venue. In New York City, for example, you can pay upwards of $12,000 just for the space on a high-season Saturday.

Knowing the above information, it’s crucial that you realize the number of guests you invite is the biggest determinant of cost! Less guests? Less spend.

How Many Vendors You Book

Simply put, you can throw a party with food, a venue and some music. But most couples will add a few more vendors into the mix like a photographer or florist. And many couples will add even more vendors: ceremony musicians, 10+ piece band, videographer, photo booth, late night snack, furniture rentals, etc. Remember that the more contracts you have in place, the more deposits + final balances to pay for so this can greatly affect what you end up paying in the long run.

Time + Place

Where you get married is one of the first decisions you’ll make as an engaged couple. Some couples opt for their parent’s backyard hoping it will save them the venue fee but it typically adds costs like: generators, bathroom trailers, tents, installed dance floors … so, the spend of a venue fee balances out and you may even have more headaches! Other couples may opt for a city wedding where space is at a premium and vendor costs are higher like Los Angeles or New York. A smaller guest count in a smaller town will likely save you money - especially if it’s booked in the off season but you may lose RSVPs who are less likely to travel to a destination wedding that is not a prime-time destination.

All in all, there’s many considerations to be had! It’s important to be realistic with yourself about what money you have to spend. Then, make the big decisions on: smaller guest count, smaller city, or smaller vendor count. This is a memorable occasion and you won’t have any other event like it in your lifetime [usually!] so lots of couples enjoy splurging a bit. But at the end of the day, whether you spend ~35K or ~100K, the most important piece is you’re on the same page as your partner and anyone financially involved in the event. Communicate! No, over communicate! 

Looking for a budget worksheet that outlines anticipated spends by vendor category? Check out Bandit’s digital wedding planning course on Bandit and your bases will be covered!

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