11/14 Got a Wedding Budget? Then Start With Your Wedding Budget.

drink ceremony

Credit: Beyond the Ordinary

The bottom line is the bottom line: Weddings cost a lot of money. The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is $27,000, although I read one article that said that $16,000 is probably closer. You know, as if that wasn’t a bunch of cash, either.

I know what some of you are thinking — you don’t have to spend that much on your wedding. And you’re certainly not going to! Well, you’re right, you can spend less, of course you can. But if you’re going to, or you have to, then you need to pay attention to where it’s all going. I have watched many a couple set a budget, and then slowly, line item by line item, toss it out the window and themselves into debt, a $175 peony centerpiece and a new (or pre-owned, for that matter) Monique Lhuillier gown at a time. And then becry how the “wedding tax” has destroyed their budget.

The truth is, you’re not paying a tax. You are paying in bulk, paying for labor, and really, paying for your expectations, all of which you can manage.

A little perspective on just the ceremony and reception:

  • The average hotel room in this country is 325 square feet, and costs $139 a night. The average ballroom that holds up 150 people is 2,706 square feet. And someone has to set up and break down the tables and chairs, monitor the AV, etc. You’re kind of getting a deal, there.
  • A comparable wedding meal at Olive Garden — appetizer, salad, (1) drink, one of their higher-end entrees, and a piece of cake is over $50 per person, not including tax and tip. At Olive Garden. That’s $5,000+ for 100 people.
  • Waiters at most restaurants serve 2-3 tables at a time. So, 100 guests is 10 tables = call it 5 waiters, for 8 hours , let’s say at about $15 an hour with service (which is lowballing in L.A., and probably where you are, too.)Setting up, serving, bussing, cleaning. Plus two chefs and a bartender, who will make at least twice that. At least. Are you adding this up?
  • Every table is 13 plates (salad +entree+cake) , 10 forks, 10 knives, 10 napkins, 10 chairs and a table linen.  Every one of those is being cleaned and packed and unpacked and set out and then packed again. Labor.
  • Every table is a centerpiece. Every centerpiece is a dozen or so flowers, depending on what you want.  You’re paying a florist for materials, skill and labor, which you will have to buy and develop if you do it on your own.
  • Every guest is at least four glasses (water + bar drinks + back-up)
  • Which means every guest is at least four drinks.
  • Every guest is one ceremony chair, although you can use one for both the wedding and for dinner. See, saved you money right there.
  • Every guest is a favor.
  • Every bride and every bridesmaid is a bouquet. Every groom and every groomsman is a boutonniere.

“Bulk” is the new four letter word. You are paying for a lot of stuff, whether you’re providing it yourself or your venue is. Ignoring that fact will not make it go away. Being realistic about this and owning your budget gives you the power to decide what everything is going to look like, and how much each one of these things is going to cost. The chairs could be $12 each or they could be $1. The plates could be $0.75 each or they could be paper. And, there is plenty of room in between.

You have plenty of resources to come up with a wedding budget you’re comfortable with — I like Wedding Wire’s calculator — and plenty of resources, like this website and everyone here, to figure out how to use what you have to get what you want and need. Don’t give away your money with a shrug. Don’t act like your wedding expenses are something that’s happening to you. The bottom line is YOUR bottom line. Keep your eye on it!

So, how are you keeping track of your budget, and what are some fantastic ways you’ve found to spend less. Let us know in the comments. And, if you’d like to find out more about me, come visit at www.silvercharmevents.com.

See you at the end of the aisle,

Liz
Liz
Liz Coopersmith is the owner of Silver Charm Events, a wedding planning service in Los Angeles. She's also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and the author of "DIY Your DOC: Do-it Yourself Wedding Day Coordination." Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Jennifer Robinson

    I created an excel file to document every penny spent, even the gas purchase for driving to and from the venue we looked at and selected, postage for Save The Date Cards (handmade by me) and more! It’s my 3rd and his 2nd, but I never had a “real wedding” and our budget is at MAX $3k, but I’m well within that so far due to a very affordable “all inclusive” venue and my excel file! I’ve even figured out how to have one or two more “extras” and a couple of additional guests!!

  • NewYearsBaby

    This article has a great perspective but still it’s shocking how expensive everything is, even when cutting as much as possible.