“Plan a wedding,” they said. “It will be fun,” they said. Like many others, I do not have a single clue what I am doing when it comes to wedding planning. I’ve relied heavily on friends who know the ins and outs, and what I thought would be the most enjoyable part of the process has turned out to be the least. I’m talking venue hunting.
Seeing venues is fun, so I don’t mean to hint otherwise. The problems lie less in what you see, and more in what you don’t. While the limit does not exist for questions you should be asking when touring venues, here are some must-ask queries with answers that may surprise you.
1. Do You Have A Designated Ceremony Area?
If you plan on hosting your ceremony at a different location than your reception, you can skip this question. If you plan on hosting onsite, do a little digging about the venue offerings for a ceremony. For starters, can they host the ceremony? If they can, is there a designated area for the ceremony? I recently toured a venue, and when asking if I could host a ceremony on site the host replied “yes”. I asked to see the ceremonial site and they then pointed to a small patch of makeshift grass between two parking lots. While it took physical restraint to not gasp and/or laugh, it was seriously eye-opening that even the most beautiful venues aren’t always what they seem. The other kicker is the ceremonial fee, which is a self-explanatory fee for hosting your ceremony on site. According to WeddingWire, the average cost in the US is $600, but for big cities like NY and LA, expect something closer to $2,000.
2. Do You Have A Bridal And Groom Suite On Site?
I’ll be the first to say the bride is the *most* important on the wedding day (bridezilla in the making here), but I want my groom to be treated like a king as well. I was shocked to see how many venues only had one wedding suite, which meant only one of us could get ready on site. My fiancé is irrationally laid-back and would get ready in the parking lot if he had to, but not all couples are comfortable with a single-suite venue. While it may seem minor right now, it’s important to think about what getting ready offsite day-of means for the person who chooses to do so (renting a hotel suite, renting a large car or limo for wedding party, etc.).
3. Can I Bring A Hair And Makeup Team To The Bridal Suite?
THIS is a question I can’t believe I had to ask at venues. To me, a bridal suite was an obvious getting ready location for myself and my bridesmaids. However, I quickly learned this is not always the case. Some venues do NOT allow you to physically get ready in the suite. They must arrive with hair and makeup done, with no outside vendors allowed in to help prepare the wedding party. Personally, I am really looking forward to getting ready with my bridesmaids all together in the bridal suite, and then waltzing out the door and into the ceremony, so this was an important ask in my book.
4. What Are The Different Rates?
I semi knew this was a “thing” going into venue touring, but I was honestly shook at how drastic the price differences were between “on” and “off-peak” months, Friday/Saturday/Sunday, and time of day. Most venues break down their pricing first by month, with May, June, August, September, and October being the most popular (and therefore, the most expensive) months. From there, choosing your day of the week also dictates the price, with Saturday being the most expensive. AND FROM THERE, the time of day further influences the pricing. A daylight wedding (typically 12pm to 5pm) is often discounted, whereas an evening wedding tends to be more expensive (typically 6 or 7pm to 12 or 1am). So, be warned that Saturday night wedding at sunset in summer WILL impact your budget more than you want it to (I’m talking double the price of a Sunday daytime wedding in April).
5. Where Do The Extra Fees Go?
Venues with in-house catering will charge a per plate fee which covers the guests’ attendance and dinner/open bar. Venues who allow you to bring outside vendors will often charge a flat venue rate. But one thing common across the board is the added 20-25% “service charge”. What is this, you may ask? No, it’s not to compensate the waitstaff, the bartenders, or the cleanup crew. It actually typically goes towards any collateral damage (broken plates, carpet stains, etc.), and the rest goes into the owners’ pockets. If, on a venue tour, you ask what the fee goes to and you hear “it goes back into venue upkeep”, be aware of what this *really* means. It may bother you, or you may be fine with it. If you ask about the service fee going toward service and you’re told that the waitstaff makes “regular minimum wage” instead of “servers minimum wage”, just note that you will be tipping another 20% on top of your 20% service fee and 8.875% tax fee (and a potential cleaning fee). Just to put this in perspective, if your wedding is $50,000, with the fees, cleaning, and gratuity, you’ll actually be spending about $75,000. I know, I was just as shocked as you are rn!!
6. Do You Require Chair Rentals?
Add this to the list of questions I didn’t know I had to ask. For reasons unknown, I assumed with a wedding venue came chairs and tables and normal seating arrangements. For many venues (especially those with in-house catering) this is true, but not for all. Some venues require chair rentals for the space, and this is what I call annoying. Add it to the category of “fees I never thought I’d have to pay.”
7. Do You Require Preferred Vendor Use?
If you have specific vendors in mind ahead of time, this question is an important one for you. Most, if not all, venues have a list of preferred vendors—vendors they work with often, trust to work in their space, and recommend to their clients. Choosing these vendors often come with perks such as no plate fee for the vendors working the wedding, no insurance cost, and the obvious (and best) perk, discounts. That being said, some venues require you choose a vendor from their lists (this is especially true for flowers and DJs) and is something to confirm before falling in love with a venue or outside vendor.
8. How Many Hours Are Included In Rental Space?
This question is semi self-explanatory, but an important ask. How many hours are “included” is a polite way of asking can I come in early? Can I stay late? Will there be more fees for those extended hours outside of my actual party? How long is my actual party? Get those answers and avoid those fees!
9. Is Parking Available And Included?
Oh hey there, another fee. Parking on premises isn’t always included, but when it is, you can guarantee it comes with a fee. There are often different “levels” to this parking fee. Typically, couples can choose to play a lot flat fee which allows their guests to park for free, but park themselves. There’s also the option to have the guests pay for parking, which feels really reasonable to some and really jarring to others. But, if you’re feeling fancy, there’s also the option to have a valet service for all guests driving in, and this is where it gets pricy. Worth it? Only you reading this can be the judge of that.
10. Do You Offer A Planner?
While some people choose to go the route of planning their own wedding in full (me), others (people smarter than me) go the route of hiring a planner. Planners have pros and cons—pros being the fact that they know what they are doing, cons being that they often work with specific vendors and venues and may be biased with their recommendations. But, the most ideal situation (in my eyes) is finding a venue you love that assigns you a planner to help handle the rest of the arrangements. This person works specifically for your venue, so they know every single issue you may run into, and therefore are perhaps the most powerful point of contact throughout the entire process. It’s good to know if your venue offers a person to help, how far out they begin helping you, and if they are included in your package.
While there are an infinite amount of obvious questions to be asked, these are the questions you don’t want to forget about. Happy planning!
As someone who’s written about weddings for the last several years, and attended/been in more than a handful, I thought when it came time for my own I would have this planning thing down. I used to say that when I got married I wouldn’t get stressed out about dumb sh*t (lol) and I would do what I want without other people’s opinions influencing me (ha!). So when I got engaged this past June and started planning my wedding for next September, I was just as surprised as anybody that I totally did not have this planning thing down. After going through the first six months of planning, my new M.O. on weddings has become, “Don’t judge a bride until you walk a mile in her wedding shoes,” and damn, those shoes are hard AF to walk in.
Below are nine things I thought about weddings that flew out the window when I started planning my own.
1. I Won’t Worry About The Little Things
Boy, was I wrong on this one. In fact, the little things are ALL I worry about. I constantly run through all the wedding signage we’ll need in my mind and whether it matters if the fonts on the table numbers match the font on the bar sign. I worry about trying every appetizer during cocktail hour or that I’ll be in the bathroom when the band plays “Sweet Caroline.” I never worry that our caterer won’t show up or that the band will suck. Why would I worry about major issues like that when I can stress about how the welcome table will be laid out?
2. My Wedding Won’t Cost That Much
Them: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done while planning your wedding? Me: I agreed to pay the band $200 extra to have someone play a 2 minute sax solo during the ceremony
— Ashley Fern (@disco_infern0) July 26, 2019
I’d like to think I’m pretty well-versed in how much different vendors cost, so I have no idea what the hell I was thinking when I said this. Especially since we’re having a tented reception in my grandma’s backyard, and that sh*t ain’t cheap. Every time I see a new bill come in, my heart stops beating for a split second and I honestly wonder how big of a problem it would be if I served McDonald’s instead of beef tenderloin and just made a Spotify playlist for the reception.
3. I’ll Never Compare My Wedding To Someone Else’s
I have so much respect for the brides that sign up for Four Weddings. I truly can’t imagine willingly subjecting myself to having my wedding scrutinized by three strangers—I’m critical enough on my own. It’s hard not to compare yourself to other people in general, especially when so many friends are getting married around the same time. I find myself thinking about what I’d do differently or the same whenever I attend another wedding, which is actually kind of annoying because I’d like to be able to get drunk and enjoy myself. Plus, I sure as hell don’t want people to be doing that at mine.
4. There’s No Point In Stressing About The Weather Since You Can’t Control It
not to be dramatic but if it rains on my wedding day I might kill someone
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) December 13, 2019
HA! This is actually laughable and I’m not even sure I ever really believed it. This is, without a doubt, the number-one thing I spend the majority of my time thinking about. There is honestly nothing in the world more terrifying than the idea that it might actually rain on my wedding day. The closest I ever get to a serious mental breakdown is when I spend more than 30 seconds thinking about a monsoon beginning as soon as I walk down the aisle.
5. This Whole Planning Thing Is Going To Bring My Mom And I So Much Closer
I will admit, my mom and I haven’t really fought about wedding planning, which I know is rare/weird (I’m sorry if that makes you want to punch me in the face). But it’s definitely not bringing us closer. At the very beginning when we were trying to sort out all the vendors, my mom and I would text and talk on the phone multiple times a day, which was a lot, and it felt like I was engaged to my mom instead of my fiancé. She definitely triggers me with some of her ridiculous suggestions (like having guests move their own ceremony chairs to the reception tent), but overall the ride hasn’t been too bumpy so far (knock on wood—we’ve still got nine, months to go).
6. I’ll Get My Way On Everything
I know this sounds like a ridiculous thing to think, but when I was wedding planning in my mind, nobody was there telling me I couldn’t have our family labradoodle walk down the aisle (I’m still not 100% convinced that won’t be happening), so I never foresaw any issues. I didn’t think my photo booth idea would get shut down by my fiancé or that my idea for a limo bus instead of going to our cocktail hour would be considered a waste of money. I’ve only recently come to the conclusion that I don’t NEED everything on my wish list. I know, I’m so mature.
7. It’ll Be Easy To Make Our Guest List
Pretty sure my wedding vows said "in sickness and in health" but nothing about dealing with in-laws over Thanksgiving, yet here I am
— betchesbrides (@betchesbrides) November 26, 2019
It would be so cool if there was an etiquette rule that said, “If you haven’t spoken to your great aunt in two years, she doesn’t need to be invited”, so I could just point to it and that would be that. Unfortunately, no such thing exists and people are left to their own judgment when deciding who to invite. Making the guest list was like a balancing act. From trying to keep it under a certain number, to accommodating my future in-laws’ list, while also keeping my mom from inviting everyone she’s ever met, it was one of the hardest parts so far and I’m very thankful it’s over. If you’re going through it now, my best advice is to pick your battles. If you don’t win this one, you’ll win the next. Why does planning a wedding sound like being at war?
8. I Don’t Understand Why Someone Would Want To Elope
Because of all the reasons I just listed and 10,000 more, I truly believe that people who elope are geniuses and we should all be more like them.
9. Are Post-Wedding Blues A Real Thing?
Me: I’m just going to have a simple wedding.
Also me: pic.twitter.com/bubmgscPmk
— Amber Pera (@AmberPera) December 4, 2019
Absolutely, yes. My mom told me she sobbed on her wedding night because it was over. I’ve heard from all my married friends that they miss being engaged and wedding planning, so I’m trying my best to soak it all in, despite the challenges that come with it. I’m not looking forward to the day after my wedding when I realize it’s all over. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up crying in the back of a limo like a contestant on The Bachelor who’s just been kicked off. Sorry in advance to my soon-to-be husband, but hey, we said in sickness and in health right?
To all the brides I’ve judged before, I’m sorry. there’s a lot I thought I knew about weddings, but just like anything else, you don’t really know until you experience it for yourself. I’m walking a mile in all of your wedding shoes and wondering how the heck you did it. Cheers to you!
Images: Andre Hunter / Unsplash; betchesluvthis, betchesbrides, disco_infern0, amberpera / Twitter
Welcome to WTFunds, where we do what nobody else does and… actually talk about money. Ever scrolled through your Instagram feed, wondering how your friends are affording their lifestyles when they’re making the same amount of money as you and you can barely rub two dimes together? Read on, because we’ll be talking to real people to break down how much things cost, and how they’re paying for it.
Buckle up, because if you’re engaged and just starting the wedding planning process, this article is going to be a real kick in the ass.
Between engagement shoots, invitations, the venue, the food, and all of the different vendors you’re likely going to work with, the final bill for your wedding is not going to be easy to swallow. However, speaking from personal experience, neither my husband nor I (nor my parents) went into crippling debt as a result of our giant party. Why? Because although that final number is huge, you’re paying for a lot of these things over the course of a year (or more, depending how long your engagement is). So, it’s pretty easy to forget just how much your wedding will end up costing at the very end, since you aren’t paying that giant number in one sitting. That’s how it gets ya, fam. A couple of notes before we dive into real life costs:
First, I was working full time and making about $45k at the time; my husband, Kyle was also working full time and making about $85k at the time. My parents’ original budget for us was $29k; everything after that was on us, which ended up being something we all still LOL about. Kyle and I did (and still do) reside in Asheville, NC, where the wedding took place. We consider it a destination wedding, since literally no one on our guest list or in our wedding party lived here at the time. We still hear the off-handed complaints about how expensive hotels were, so be ready for that, too. We also decided to buy a house five months before our wedding, because planning a giant event wasn’t quite stressful enough. We also originally invited around 190 people and had about 115 end up showing, which is pretty decent for a destination affair.
There are a few items you may notice missing from the lists below. For example, we didn’t pay for a wedding cake because we have a bestie who’s a famous pastry chef in Charleston. We also didn’t pay for 115 mismatched antique China place settings, since Kyle’s mom just happened to have those lying around the house, because, you know, who doesn’t. These are little things, but, as you’ll see as we creep closer to the final number, every little bit helps in the never-ending bill cycle that is wedding planning.
As soon as we got engaged in July 2015, the planning process began. Because we weren’t getting married until late October 2016, we had a lot of time to space out costs and knock stuff out that would have otherwise been expensive had we waited.
Engagement Photoshoot: Kyle had a good friend from college named Anna who wanted to build her photography portfolio. Since we’re cheap, her cost of $400 for six hours of shooting seemed right up our alley. We used those pictures for our Save the Dates, so, essentially, we were able to kill multiple animals with one stone.
Invitations and Save the Dates: Once you set a date, it’s time to let everyone and their mom know about it. Knowing we’d invite close to 190 people, we sent out 85 Save the Dates from Minted for $209.95. Why only 85? Because we had mostly families of two to four folks coming, which was awesome for our invitation bill, too. For our invitation suite, also from Minted, we spent $643.67 on 85 invitations, reception inserts, and direction inserts. That’s $853.62 for fancy stationery telling everyone to come spend money on us.
Wedding Certificate: Luckily for us, for the state to actually recognize that you wanna do the damn thing and get hitched, it will only cost a cool $60 in North Carolina.
Rehearsal Dinner: Our rehearsal dinner was shockingly cheap, since we decided to have it in a brewery because, ya know, Asheville. Turns out, the brewery we chose had never hosted a rehearsal dinner before, and therefore charged us $0 for the space. So, between the catered food my in-laws had brought in and the beer tokens they got, the total cost sat right around $1,200.
Big Day Costs
Although I won’t put a price on pain and suffering, getting to the actual big day was basically a never-ending parade of phone calls and emails to make sure so-and-so was bringing this at this time; Mary Lou knew which hotels she could stay in; my mother-in-law asking if she could bake cookies in our house the day before the wedding, etc. The actual moving pieces that made up our wedding day are long and involved, but not outside the realm of normal. We had a photographer, florist, ceremony space, venue space, and caterers to deal with, like most couples do. Here’s a glimpse into what our costs were for all these very necessary pieces.
Photographer: $3,763.88 for two shooters and eight hours of shooting (plus an online gallery later). That’s WAY lower than the average cost of two shooters. Why? Because my mother-in-law, Sicilian as she is, pulled some strings and called in some favors. KMI Photography, a husband and wife business, is based in Wilmington and have shot every one of Kyle’s sisters’ weddings. So, when presented with a trip to Asheville, they both said “yas queen” and gave us an amazing deal AND amazing photos. Win.
Flowers: All together, our flowers came to $2,258.06, which included $2,078.06 for a toss bouquet, nine bridesmaids’ bouquets, a bridal bouquet, a flower girl bouquet, seven centerpieces, a church bouquet, cake flowers, and two delivery/drop-offs from our actual florist. Then we paid Etsy another $180 for ten boutonnieres, made with feathers, dried flowers, and other less expensive sh*t.
Venue: This gets a bit complicated, so stick with me. Our venue bill included all alcohol and all food except a few desserts, so this is all-encompassing. It also included wedding planning to a degree, decor, the venue itself, and lots of other random sh*t. The final invoice was $27,633.34. That included a long cocktail hour and what ended up being a six hour open bar (which some people really, really chose to abuse). Here’s the official receipt from the final invoice:
Additional and Outside Food (i.e. dessert): All of the food we had was included in our venue cost, but we did pay for a few extra desserts from French Broad Chocolate, a local dessert spot that literally makes its own chocolate. For brownie bites, cookies, and whatever else, we spent $243.67. Additional desserts were made by our families, who we threatened (kind of), and provided for the low price of free.
Band: For four hours of music and six musicians plus meals for all band members, we spent $3,695. This was pretty f*cking reasonable, considering the band ruled and played “Shout” until everyone was dead. Plus, I didn’t have to listen to a DJ tell me to PUT MY F*CKING HANDS UP even once during my entire reception which, I think, is really priceless.
Transportation: Altogether, transportation cost us $1,410.50. That included two limos for my giant wedding party (bridesmaids and myself; hubby walked from his hotel with the guys) at $648 and two old-school trolleys at $762.50 to take the entire wedding party and some guests from the church to either the botanical gardens, where we had pictures done, OR to the venue. Is your head spinning yet? Because I’m getting a migraine knowing how much money we blew on one day. Let’s move on.
Ceremony: For the Basilica where we got married, the organist, and reserving the actual church, our grand total was $2,360. That included $1,500 for the Basilica itself, $125 for a cantor, $60 for an altar server, $200 for the priest, $250 for the Basilica wedding director, and $350 for music. Turns out God is pretty reasonable in terms of pricing for fall weddings in the mountains. Huh. What a guy.
Favors: Because we got married in the mountains and I am, at my core, a very basic bitch, we decided to buy tiny Mason jars and fill them with assorted collections of trail mix. Between the 100 tiny Mason jars and bulk trail mixes we grabbed from Target, we came to about $400. That doesn’t count the pain and suffering my mom and I experienced when we hand-filled tiny Mason jars.
Additional Decor: Because I’m a psychopath, I decided at the last minute that the venue needed a few extra touches. We went to Michaels and Pier One and bought bundles of eucalyptus, frames, table numbers, signage, and other assorted decor to brighten up aspects of the venue space that felt a teeny bit bare. That came to about $350.
Doggo Boarding: If you don’t want to count this as an expense, then fine, but it did add in to our final cost. We have a schnauzer mix named Grover who would not be able to hang out around nine bridesmaids in long dresses, several hair and makeup people, a frighteningly collected mother-of-the-bride, and a near-freakout bride. We boarded Grover for two nights, which cost $100 total.
Personal Costs And Extras
There are a lot of things that you, personally, need for the wedding, way outside the realm of the day itself. You’ll need shoes, to get your hair did, to make sure your bridesmaids are happy, etc. Kyle and I kind of shot ourselves in the foot by having such a giant f*cking wedding party, which led to higher costs for makeup, hair, and gifts. So, if you do want to cut costs at your own wedding, maybe don’t be like me and insist you have nine bridesmaids. Or, just marry someone with less siblings. Either way.
Wedding Party Gifts: I bought robes and earrings for my nine bridesmaids, which came to $289.5o for robes and $178.20 for earrings. Kyle decided to get each of his nine groomsmen a custom tux. Let that f*cking sink in. He found some company in China that came very highly recommended for the fine work done by, I assume, tiny child fingers. For ten tuxes (his included), cost was $2,500. We also got a few little bits here and there for flower girls and ring bearers—let’s call that $150. So, altogether, gifts cost us $3,117.70.
Wedding Dress, Alterations, Shoes, and Accessories: My shoes were Blue by Betsy and were $159.80. My dress and alterations, although I can’t find the exact receipt, came to right around $2,100 which is a goddamn steal if I do say so myself. My veil was $264.47 (thanks, Etsy); hair piece was $200 (f*ck you, Etsy); and my earrings $63.50. I also bought a little purse for the phone I didn’t look at all day for $20 because I’m a jackass. That comes to a grand total of $2,647.97.
Hair and Makeup: Because I’m so f*cking nice, I paid for hair to be done for all nine of my bridesmaids plus a flower girl, her mom, and my mom for a total of 12 people for$1,220. If they wanted makeup, that was on them to pay for. Makeup altogether was $850 for nine people; of which I only paid $94. So that’s $2,164 for hair and makeup. We all looked really good, tho.
Rings: If you want to count rings, we can. I wouldn’t necessarily, but while I’m performing the sadomasochistic exercise of going through all my receipts for a one-day party, we may as well tack this on. My engagement ring was $2,500; my wedding ring was $1,500; and my husband’s ring was $300. That isn’t counting the money I spent on a replacement for him the first time he lost it or the time after that. That’s $4,300 on classy jewelry.
The Final Total
If you add up all of these f*cking expenditures, you’re greeted with a grand total of $56,957.74. That’s a down payment on a decent house, or a nice car, or a lot of things that didn’t have to be a one-day party. I am sure I missed a couple hundred dollars here or there that I blocked out for whatever reason, but it’s a pretty close figure.
That being said, I don’t regret our wedding one bit. Considering it was almost three years ago and people still talk about how much fun they had, I’d consider it a win. I’m sure people will @ me in the comments about how stupid it was to spend this amount of money, and you’re right. But let me live my life.
There are definitely things I’d go without and cut cost on if I had to do it all over. After the whole wedding whirlwind, we took a mini-moon and headed to Charleston, SC, skipping a giant trip until just last year, when we spent 10 days in Bordeaux and Lyon. The trip to Charleston didn’t require a plane ticket; we knew where to eat and what to do; and it kept the stress level over how much money we’d just spent to a minimum.
Images: Andreas Rønningen, Unsplash; KMI Photography (5); Anna Maynard Photography (1)