Before I dive into the details here, I want to let you know what this post is NOT going to be. It’s not going to be your solution to having the wedding of your dreams on a budget. It’s not going to give you clever hacks on how to save money on your wedding in random ways. What it IS going to do is help you and your partner approach the budgeting process of your wedding in a more logical way so that you’re ultimately spending money on what’s important to you and saving money on what matters less.
Every couple has different tastes, different styles, different priorities, so it’s impossible for me to say spend money on “x” but not spend money on “y.” Plus, I have respect and love for every single type of wedding vendor out there, so I can’t make blanket statements about who is and is not critical for a wedding. In short, this is going to be about what matters to YOU.
I recommend that all newly-engaged couples sit down before doing any planning and discuss (a) how much total money they can/want to spend on the wedding, and (b) of the wedding vendors they are going to hire, what’s the most important so that they can prioritize how they are going to spend their money.
Venue – Some couples want to get married at a location that is incredibly unique or that sets a particular tone for their wedding day. Other couples are happy to get married somewhere incredibly low key. It is very easy to spend a large portion of your budget on a venue fee, so figure out your vibe as a couple and narrow down locations based on what fits you best.
Photographer – No matter how you look at it, photography is going to be an important part of your day. As Jamie Wharton from Earnest points out, “Don’t feel guilty spending a big chunk of money on your photographer because they’re the ones who are going to help you remember your wedding after it’s over. Your wedding is only one day of your life, but a quality photographer will allow you to relive that special day for the rest of your life!” Even if you think photos aren’t that important, it is still worth investing in a quality photographer. But I am happy to report that that doesn’t necessarily have to cost you a fortune! In NYC, photographers can start around $2,500 and go up to $10,000+. There are amazing photographers to be found at a lower price point (perhaps they are new to the wedding world or have launched their photography business as a side hustle) and I personally know a lot of mid-range (price-wise) photographers whose work blows a lot of $10,000+ photographers out of the water.
Videographer – Quite possibly one of the most frequently asked questions from my couples is whether it’s worth hiring a videographer. It’s a super hard question to answer because, yes, I hired a videographer for my wedding, but my husband and I have probably watched our wedding video twice. Video can tell the story of your wedding day in a way that photos alone can’t, but it can also be a big expense. I feel like this vendor is the one that requires the most discussion amongst couples in terms of how to prioritize them.
Food – Food is one of those categories that is very personal to the couple. Plenty of people will say, “Oh, don’t spend a lot on food because no one remembers what they eat at weddings,” while others take the opposite side and say how refreshing it would be to finally have tasty food at a wedding. I feel like this one is pretty easy for couples to navigate. Do you consider yourself foodies? If so, then you’re going to want food at your wedding that wows your guests.
Entertainment – No question, you’ve got to have great music at your wedding. Most couples feel pretty strongly about whether they want a band or a DJ and this is an area where splurging (on a band) or saving (with a DJ) are both viable options. When thinking about whether you want a band or a DJ, keep in mind that you’re looking at at least a $10,000 difference to hire a full wedding band. Personally, I’m on Team DJ, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Invitations – I have several close friends who are stationers and I don’t love it when people’s immediate answer to questions about saving money with a wedding is to ditch the fancy invites. If paper isn’t important to you, then that’s a fine option (go the Paperless Post route or order something online from Minted) but if you love design and are really into the aesthetics of your wedding, then custom invites and day-of paper are a great way to bring some flair and fun details to your wedding day. Not to mention that a killer invite can really set the tone for what’s the come.
Flowers – I have so many couples tell me that “they don’t care about flowers,” but what they really mean is they don’t want to spend a lot on flowers. I get it, flowers are expensive, and you can expect to see a whole blog post from me on that topic in the coming weeks. But in the meantime, let’s get real. In some cases, even if you’re “not into flowers,” you’ve still got to have them. In NYC, if you’re having a $50,000+ wedding, you’ve got to have flowers or some other kind of professionally-prepared décor. When you’re throwing a party of a certain caliber, you can’t skate by with no decorations. If you’re having a smaller scale wedding, then by all means, get creative with the décor and skip on the floral centerpieces.
When it comes to creating a budget for a wedding, it’s all about first setting your maximum spend and then getting real with your partner about what matters most. Then you can start to put the monetary puzzle pieces together and hit the ground running with your research. And, if the idea of putting together your own budget and researching vendor costs sounds too daunting, you can always hire me to do it for you!