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Ask Rashana: Is My Budget Doable?

Dear Rashana,
I just got engaged and I am super excited!  I want to do this right, so I know hiring a wedding planner is important from the start.  I want a 'David Tutera wedding' and I'm confident you can help us achieve this.  Our budget is $11k.  That's doable, right?

- Engaged & Excited
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Dear Engaged & Excited and the thousands of other newly engaged out there,
First, thank you for your confidence in THE BRIDAL PARTY to pull off a 'David Tutera wedding.'  What a compliment!  And yes, it is definitely doable to have a beautifully memorable wedding within a budget of $11k.  HOWEVER, your "My Fair Wedding" dreams may need to be ... let's say ... tweaked.

Just as brides and grooms have different tastes when it comes to venues, flowers and entertainment, there are also many levels of spending that fluctuate from couple to couple.  One of the most common of questions I'm asked by prospective clients is "my total budget is $XX,XXX - is that doable?"  And my answer always begins with, "it depends on a number of factors ..."  Let's face it, a father-of-the-bride who spends $250k on his daughter's wedding is going to produce an event quite different from a couple spending $7k for their own nuptials.  And while it's possible to have a lovely event on any budget, it's imperative that all parties involved (no pun intended) understand there will be and must be limits.

According to, "on average, US couples spend $24,066 for their wedding. However, the majority of couples spend between $18,050 and $30,083 (which does not include cost for a honeymoon or engagement ring)."  Keeping this in mind and considering your own budget, take a deep breath and accept where you stand.  Being mindful of what you can and cannot afford is crucial!  The last thing any couple should want to do is bite off more than they can chew, embarrass themselves or dig a deep hole of debt.  Quite frankly, most non-married people really have no idea what type of wedding they can afford upon becoming engaged.  This is why, as a wedding planner, it is my job to be honest, knowledgeable and well versed on all things weddings - and more often than not, I've had to offer cheaper alternatives to my brides to make it all work without sacrificing "wow factor."

Let's take a look at 3 hypothetical weddings scheduled to take place in New Jersey this year (an Intimate 'I DO' at $10k, an Exquisite Event at $39k and a $125k Parading Pageantry).  This should shed lots of light on what it really costs to get married:

WEDDING #1: Intimate "I Do"
BUDGET: $10,000
*  # of Guests - 50
* Wedding Party - Maid of Honor, Best Man, Flower Girl only
* Bridal Gown - Purchase off-the-rack (J.Crew, Ann Taylor, etc): $1500
* Tuxedo - Rent a low-end designer ensemble: $200
* Beauty -Treat yourself to a manicure and pedicure, but ask a friend to style your hair or do it yourself: $45
* Ceremony - Rental fee / Donation for place of worship: $600
* Ceremony Music - If the place of worship does not include an organist, ask a family member or friend to play the piano: $0
* Reception - 3-course family-style dinner, with 4-hour open bar and champagne toast at a reputable restaurant: $50 per person
* Reception Music - 4 hours of basic DJ service: $1,000
* Photography - Select a standard package through a wedding-planning center, including 6 hours of coverage, 3 photo albums and 1 11"x14" print: $1100
* Cake - Buttercream-covered 2-tiered cake from a family owned bakery: $175
* Flowers - Skip centerpieces.  Just buy bouquets of roses from Costco or Sam's Club to create 2 bouquets, 2 boutonnieres and a basket of petals: $45
* Stationary - Purchase DIY Invitation/Program/Escort Card sets from Staples: $62
* Transportation - Rent 1 car, to get the bride to the ceremony and then the married couple to the reception (let everyone else transport themselves): $1000
* Favors - Make $5 donations to your favorite charity in the name of each of your guests: $250
*Wedding Planner - Hire a reputable day-of-coordinator: $1500

WEDDING #2: Exquisite Event
BUDGET: $39,000
*  # of Guests - 125
* Bridal Gown - Purchase a mid-range designer gown: $2500
* Tuxedo - Rent a mid-range designer ensemble: $350
* Beauty -Make arrangements for hair, nails, makeup: $325
* Ceremony - Rental fee / Donation for place of worship: $600
* Ceremony Music - If the place of worship does not include an organist, ask a family member or friend to play the piano: $0
* Reception - 5-course plated dinner with open bar, buffet hors d'oeuvres, champagne toast, and wedding cake in a ballroom: $175 per person
* Reception Music - 5 hours of professional DJ service, plus an MC and a light show: $2000
* Photography - Select a premium package including unlimited wedding-day coverage, wedding-album design session and an image CD: $3,000
* Cake - 4-tiered fondant-covered cake w/ classic dots design: $600
* Flowers - Limit ceremony flowers to 2 large altar arrangements.  Use in-season blooms for all bouquets, boutonnieres, etc. and alternate between high and low centerpieces for the reception: $3000
* Stationary - Purchase ready-made invitation/program/escort card sets from an online retailer: $1000
* Transportation - Rent an antique car for the bride and groom, along with a stretch SUV for the wedding party: $1750
* Favors - Treat couples to 2-piece Godiva chocolate favors: $338
*Wedding Planner - Hire a reputable day-of-coordinator: $1500

WEDDING #3: Parading Pageantry
BUDGET: $125,000
*  # of Guests - 250
* Bridal Gown - Purchase a runway designer gown: $7500
* Tuxedo - Purchase a designer ensemble: $1300
* Beauty -Make arrangements for hair, nails, makeup and a pre-wedding facial: $425
* Ceremony Music - Hire a string quartet: $800
* Ceremony/Reception - Outdoor garden ceremony, 4-course plated dinner with open bar, passed hors d'oeuvres, champagne toast: $265 per person
* Reception Music - 4 hours of live music by a 13-piece band: $11,000
* Photography - Select a deluxe package from a photojournalist with 20 years of experience, including two hours of rehearsal-dinner coverage, unlimited wedding-day coverage plus assistant, DVD presentation, online gallery, and 30-page bridal album: $11,100
* Videography - Select an enhanced edited package including unlimited wedding-day coverage: $2295
* Cake - 5-tiered fondant-covered red velvet cake with sugar flowers: $1,750
* Flowers - Incorporate flowers and candles throughout the ceremony and reception spaces.  Include a special crystal/candle dripping tree for the escort card table.  Place individual orchids at each place-setting.  Adorn each dinner table with classic candelabra centerpieces: $7500
* Stationary - Hire a custom designer to produce a complete wedding suite:  $4775
* Transportation - Rent an antique car for the bride and groom, along with a stretch SUV for the wedding party and vintage trolley for out-of-town guests: $3250
* Favors - Treat guests to gourmet chocolate and caramel apples: $1875
*Wedding Planner - Hire a reputable full service designer: $5200

And there you have it.  But don't let all of these figures scare you.  Just be realistic, keep and update a budget log throughout your planning process, be creative and have fun!  After all, all you really need is a license to get married ... and that'll only cost you about 40 bucks (wink)!

- - - - - - - - - -
by Rashana Anderson
Founder & Managing Director, THE BRIDAL PARTY


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