As you know, we’ve been trying to talk more wedding budget and finances here on the blog. You might even remember that I wrote a post about the cost of an average wedding in the Washington, DC area. Well, to that post one of our bride readers left a comment about her troubles with planning an wedding in DC for the average price. I’m responding to this comment in today’s post with the advice of a few top wedding planners in the DC area. Because, if one couple is having this problem, they aren’t alone. I’m sure many of you are having a hard time planning your wedding in the DC area for under $35,000.
To the article on the average cost of a DC area wedding, DCbride commented:
Interesting article, but I also think the averages are a bit off for the DC area and could mislead brides. I thought I could have my wedding for the average noted in the article, but realized it just couldn’t happen with the number of people we were inviting (200). Can you have a wedding for the average? Yes, but I think there needs to be a word of caution to DC brides that it can be difficult–and we aren’t having an extravagant wedding either.
Does a problem like this sound familiar to you? I said before that it all comes down to choices and priorities. But, what does that mean? It means that in order to plan your wedding within the budget that you want, you will need to prioritize the things that are important to you and forgo (or cut back on) the things the aren’t as important. In wedding planning, unfortunately, you can’t have it all! Each couple’s definition of “important” is different. A live band might really matter to some, while a full bar might matter to others. Inviting 200 people might be important to some, while others might be fine at 75 guests.
I asked a few local DC wedding planners their advice. If this was your client, what would you say? How would you help your client plan their wedding for the average cost?
From Janice, owner of Bellwether Events:
“My first thought when reading this real bride’s comment is that her wedding might have been considered larger than ‘average,’ therefore it might be harder to stick to that ‘average’ budget number. The majority of my clients have 120-150 guests at their wedding. If you truly cannot cut your guest list below 200, but still want to be at a certain budget, then rethinking the other costly items like food and beverage will need to be seriously considered. Maybe you host a brunch or a lunch reception. Maybe you eliminate the cocktail hour and only serve beer and wine throughout the dinner reception. Alternatively, maybe you forgo the fancy ballroom and find a less expensive venue such as a park.
“Couples should also keep in mind that averages are truly arbitrary numbers and don’t really mean anything to real people. Real people usually have a fixed amount of money available to them for their wedding, and will face the realities regarding what they can afford and how they will allocate that budget. Ultimately, you have to educate yourself about what things cost in the area where your wedding will be held, and then decide what your priorities are. This is where hiring a wedding planner – even if only hired for a few hours of consulting – can be really helpful. We know what things cost in your area, and we can help you identify your priorities, and steer you towards things you can cut back on in terms of costs.”
From Rebecca at Blue Canary Events:
“Remember, $35,000 is the average, meaning, it’s also for the average size wedding in the DC area. In a lot of parts of the country, or in certain cultures the “average” wedding is much bigger. However, they’re also generally in areas that are a lot less expensive. Even including my largest wedding of the past few years, the average guest list for my clients is 109. The average DC wedding is pretty small. There are a number of factors for this, such as historical buildings generally don’t hold a lot of people, and that includes both older hotels, as well as other gorgeous DC landmarks. You just can’t fit that many people in these spaces, so people cut their guest lists. Also, a DC wedding is, for many guests, a ‘destination wedding.’ Family and friends can’t always afford to make the trip, so guest lists are cut that way too.
“Here are a few ideas for how you can have a wedding for 200 people in the DC/MD/VA area for $35,000. Look a little further out – Loudoun County, Anne Arundel County, Prince William County, Howard County, Frederick County. These areas all have gorgeous venues. No, you can’t have the most expensive winery in Loudoun County for that budget. But, you can have a heavy hors d’ouevres and dessert reception at The Woodlands at Algonkian Regional Park, or a luncheon at Newton White Mansion. How about a brunch at the Paradise Ballroom in Herrington on the Bay, right on the Maryland shore? Or a BBQ at High Point Farm or Smokey Glen Farm, both in Montgomery County. You may not be able to get a Vera Wang dress (although now that she has a line at David’s Bridal, maybe you can!), but how about one of the gorgeous dresses at I Do, I Do? Or Gossypia? Lastly, of course we’d love for you to book a professional DJ or band, but if you’re trying to save money, Pro-Tech or Chesapeake & Potomac Audio & Visual can rent you an awesome sound system for your iPod.”
From Sara, owner of Bella Notte:
“One of the first things I tell clients is that the number of guests you have will be a major consideration in budgeting. Clearly, planning a wedding on a $32,000 budget for 25 guests will be vastly different than one with 100 guests or one with 200 guests. Is it possible to plan a wedding for each number of guests on $32,000? Absolutely, but you obviously have substantially more to spend per person if you have the smaller guest list, rather than 200 guests attending.
“It is also important to take into consideration your personal expectations for your wedding. If you are open to having a picnic style reception at a local park the budget for that is going to work out very differently from a seated dinner at a historic mansion. When DCBride indicates that she was unable to work with the DC average costs of $30,000 to $35,000 for her wedding of 200 guests, I’m not surprised. If she was looking for a Saturday night evening reception, with a dinner reception and dancing for 200 people, it’s possible to surpass $35,000 for just the location, food, and music! One alternate option would be to put together a brunch reception for 200 people on that budget, which is certainly feasible. Brunch receptions tend to be shorter in general (which means you’re hiring all of your vendors for fewer hours), they make it easy to limit the bar to one signature brunch appropriate cocktail (which cuts your bar bill down dramatically), and renting a space in the morning or early afternoon, rather than in the evening, can make for huge savings. But if you’ve always pictured your wedding as an evening affair, you may not be willing to sacrifice that vision in order to stay within the DMV average wedding budget.
“What does all this mean? Exactly what Juli mentioned in her post – wedding budgets are an extremely personal choice. Every couple needs to determine what type of wedding they want to have and how much they are willing to spend to achieve that and unfortunately, the average spent on a DC area wedding isn’t quite as much help in deciding that as one might hope!”
Thank you so much Janice, Rebecca and Sara! Your comments and insights are so helpful. If you are in the market for a wedding planner to keep you on budget, please do check all of them out. To all of our wedding planning couples out there right now going through this – good luck! We know it is hard!
** Bella Notte, Blue Canary Events & Bellwether Events are a few of our fabulous sponsors, but didn’t pay for this feature. We showcase local talent because we love it! For more info, read our blog editorial policies.