Originally published on No Worries Event Planning.com
It's nearly everyone's first question when they start planning a wedding: How much is this bad boy going to cost me? The idea of sinking many thousands of dollars in one evening is soul-sucking, and I totally understand this. I tried to charge as little as possible when I first started and quickly realized there was a bottom line I had to meet, fee-wise or I essentially couldn't run a business. Like, as in, keep the lights on, pay my taxes, feed my family.
And that's what all other vendors and venues find too when they research initial pricing structures. Their insurance, taxes, labor (that's a big one), cost of raw materials, etc - it all gets passed to you, the consumer. Meantime, a good middle class income means low buying power these days, due to all sorts of shifts in our economy, so you can work hard, save your money, and still barely be able to afford a wedding. But, don't get too depressed- let's work through some hard facts about budget, so you can be an informed consumer, and take control over the process.
Statistics: Read between the lines
The average wedding according to many statistics is about $26k - 30k. But, in major metropolitan areas, you're looking at $35-45k to start, and towards $70-80k in cities such as New York City. Guest count, type of food service, venue, and all sorts of other elements affect your total costs. My advice is, ignore the statistics - the only way you'll know how much your wedding costs is to start researching.
Add it up: Tally total wedding cost first
Start researching venues, DJs, florists, etc., and collect pricing and quotes. Don't do one at a time, i.e. research and price out venues, book the venue; and THEN price out caterers - you need a holistic, macro view of how all the costs add up before booking any single vendor or venue for the event. Otherwise you'll book one element, and realize it takes up more of your budget than you thought, and severely crunches the rest of your budget. Or perhaps trigger other costs that you didn't anticipate (like a venue that requires a generator at great additional expense, for example).
Consider unique alternatives
Food trucks, BBQ take out (nicely served and presented), cupcakes (instead of cakes) - these are all ways to save money on food by going an unconventional route. Venue-wise, find a venue that's fresh on the market that may be willing to rent to you for an introductory fee. It's important to make sure the venue has proper rules and regulations and insurance, and to know of any specific additional expenses that come with out-of-the-box venues.
Hire the right pros
A caterer that specializes in small luncheons won't be ideal for your 200 person wedding. A novice florist may not be able to construct that custom arch you saw on Instagram. A planner who lists as her major experience waiting tables in college and planning her sister's wedding won't know off the top of her head how much a family style meal will cost. Whether you invest a small hourly consulting package for a coordinator to assist in a venue search or order a drop off type service from a high end caterer, there are ways to hire top-of-their-class vendors without breaking your bank.