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How To Figure Out Exactly How Much Your Wedding Will Cost

September 1, 2015

Yesterday I came across a Jezebel article from their wedding-themed blog I Thee Dread that left me frustrated. The post titled “Why Is It So Fucking Hard To Figure Out How Much A Wedding Will Cost” isn’t wrong. The wedding industry is notoriously sneaky about posting true costs; you can’t get very basic information on budget without a bunch of phone calls; and costs are always more than you assume. It’s overwhelming and annoying, and writer Lauren Rodrigue is rightly overwhelmed and annoyed.

But there’s a way to avoid all of this hand wringing around exactly how much your wedding will cost – a simple way to arrive at that number without a single phone call to a single vendor. Decide how much money you have to spend. That is what it will cost. 

The average cost of a wedding in the US is $26,000 – according to some random websites. The New York City average is 86K, according to more. Los Angeles: 38. MA: 44. Austin, TX: 27.7 And yet I know someone who got married in Manhattan for 15K, someone who got married in LA for 200K and someone who got married in Mexico for 30. The point is that there is no solid answer, unless you provide the answer.

Planning a wedding is an intensely emotional process. You want it to be everything you’ve ever dreamed up. You have countless family wishes to honor. You have a limited amount of time to bring it all together. It’s a financial nightmare and the only thing that will keep you in check is having a number that reigns supreme over every decision.

Here are (my) 7 Ways to find that number and figure out how to use it:

Get the number

1. The first question you should ask yourselves without Googling a single venue is: how much money do we have to spend? Ask your parents: how much money are you going to give us? Ask your accountant: how much money is smart to spend? Then come to a number range.

If your parents, your accountants and you the couple come back with an answer of it doesn’t matter, have the wedding of your dreams! then kindly stop reading this post and go pop open a bottle of Veuve. You’re done here, and in life!

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List YOUR event priorities

2. Is the location more important than the food? Is accommodating 300 guests an absolute must? Would you rather have a designer dress than a designer cake? Figure this out and fast. You will need to make decisions based on these priorities because each individual item could cost your entire budget.

Consider YOUR FAMILY event priorities

3. If parents are contributing they may want a say. I make no judgements about whether they should have a say, but don’t assume they don’t want one. Have the conversation. Then you can decide how you want to factor that into your planning. Communication is the #1 wedding planning savior. Communication and a 3-ring binder.

Research real costs

4. The Jezebel article isn’t 100% right about this part. Want to know what a Vera Wang dress is going to cost? Go to OnceWed.com and find the designer of your choice. You’ll see the cost for a used dress and the original cost. That will give you an idea. Need catering information for a given venue? Hop into one of the conversation boards on TheKnot.com and ask around. There are ways to get ball-park numbers, and that will help you understand how that number effects the rest of the budget. So, if you find out that the dress you must have takes up 5K of your budget then them’s the breaks. Adjust accordingly or re-prioritize.

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Make a first decision, any first decision

5. Bottom line, you’re going to have to make one decision first so you can make all the rest. For example, our first decision was, we’re going to get married on the East Coast within a driving range of both our home towns. Boom, we had our search area. With that in mind we quickly made a second decision: we want to get married within a year of this engagement, maybe a little more. Boom, more parameters. Next was: we don’t want a traditional wedding location. Once we came to those first three answers and layered in our list of priorities only a few places came to the surface. How did those places surface of all the hundreds of places? They were within our budget. BOOM.

Ask every single question you can possible ask about added costs then PUT IT IN WRITING

6. You’ll never be more annoying than you are as a bride or groom planning your wedding. Deal with it. Keep that event planner on the phone for five hours if that’s what it takes to ask every single question about every single cost. Extra for colored linens versus white? Extra if we have to use your elevator for elderly guests? Extra if we are having too much fun and want to stay an extra 15 minutes? Walk yourself through every moment of a wedding and ask if it costs extra. This will be one very painful conversation (or the longest e-mail of your life), but it will save you. Then make sure every detail discussed is included in your contract OR confirmed in an e-mail that you save. We got help from our friend the incomparable Annie Lee of Daughter of Design on this part of the process. If your budget can bear a planner, great. If not there are some helpful tools online like this great article from A Practical Wedding.

AND FINALLY decide how much you’re willing to blow your budget by

7. Even after that most detailed contract of your life there will be added costs. If your budget cannot be adjusted at all then subtract 2K from it for these issues. That is what we did. It might rain and you suddenly need buses. It might be freezing and you have to get emergency heat lamps. You might have a huge problem with your dress and need $500 in alterations. Anything can happen. If you have some money wiggle room then let it go. You guys with the wiggle room won’t remember that 2K (or maybe 5K) in a few years. This is a very special day. Don’t stress.

Hold on. I have to dismount my high horse before I can close out this post………………………….


I know it’s so hard you guys. I know that you want to have your designer cake and eat it on the rooftop hotel of your dreams too. I wanted that. And I know you want to put it all on a credit card and deal with it later. I wanted that too. But I promise you one thing: you will have fewer fights during the process, less frustration in the decisions and a better time on your wedding day if you rule by a number versus an emotional guide. Good luck!

For More Like This Check Out:

How To Plan A Wedding in 14.5 Easy Steps

Five Things Every Person Will Ask You A Month Out From Your Wedding 

(Most Of) My Massive List of Wedding Advice (Finally)




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