Right at the start, here’s the big thing: your wedding can cost as little or as much as you desire. You have complete control over what you spend. You will, at the end of the day, be married. That’s what’s most important.
The look and feel you plan for your wedding and the number of guests you plan to invite will drive your costs. Your budget will determine how much you can spend on all of these things. Bringing these three factors – your guest list, how you’d like your wedding to look and feel, and your budget – into balance with each other will determine the shape of your wedding.
Once you have your guest list complete, give or take ten or so people, you have an expected guest count. Next is the money. Knowing within a few thousand-dollar range what you can spend is enough at this point. The range of possible wedding spending is, of course, limitless, but for our purposes we’re going to consider weddings where total spending runs from a couple thousand dollars up to about sixty thousand dollars – which is easier to get to than you think if your guest list runs over 200 people. The Knot which runs the largest wedding website in the world states the average Baltimore wedding in 2015 cost $36,934, in Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia, it was $37,034.
Now before you throw your hands up in despair, know that lots of great weddings cost less than half that! I know because we have them all the time at the venue in Baltimore that I run, Chase Court. We do lots of very nice weddings in the 50 to 150 guest range, with typical spending running from $10,000 to $20,000. We also do lots of very small wedding ceremonies with six to 45 people that come in between $1,000 and $3,000. So, don’t let the averages scare you.
Now that you know how many people you plan to invite and have a sense of how much money you will spend, you can consider the look and feel of your wedding. If your guest list is dialed in, you know that your spending should cover the look and feel that you want for that number of guests. Great! Now you have a starting place for when we begin to talk real numbers in each cost category.
The core categories of wedding spending are the ceremony venue, the reception venue, catering, photography, entertainment, decorating, ceremony music, the officiant, and the cake.
Other things you might purchase include transportation, videography, wedding planning, favors, and invitations.
Costs that are related but are usually not included in the wedding budget per se include clothing, gifts, the rehearsal dinner, rings, and other jewelry.
Honeymoons are generally not included in the wedding budget. Keeping the two separate will keep you from facing the honeymoon money off against the wedding money.
There are wide ranges in every category regarding quality and cost, generally speaking, you get what you pay for. Over the next few months we’re going to look in detail at every category, take it all apart, and make it as easy as possible for you to get the wedding you want. We’ll talk in detail about what everything costs and all of the things that go into making good choices.
Next time: more on wedding costs.