WTFunds: How Much Does A Wedding Actually Cost?

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.

Pre-Wedding Costs

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)

Sarah Nowicki
Sarah Nowicki
Sarah Nowicki aka Betchy Crocker writes about food, fashion, and whatever else she's in the mood to complain about for Betches and like, some other people. She resides in Asheville, NC, where she spends her time judging hipsters and holding on to her Jersey heritage and superiority. Yell at her on Instagram @sarahnowicholson