So, you want to get married and have a wedding in the Washington, DC area, but you don’t know where to start on the finances. Everyone says that you need to come up with a budget first and we are here to help! We talked to a few of our expert friends in the DC wedding community to develop three different sample budgets for real weddings in the DC area. These numbers are based on what a couple would find and could realistically spend in the DC area. We will be profiling one sample wedding budget each week for the next three weeks. We hope these sample budgets will give you a good idea of how a budget totals is broken down and what wedding planning costs in the DC area.
Today, we are profiling a $30,000 wedding budget with the help of wedding planner Margo, owner of The Bright Occasions. The average cost of a wedding in the DC area is around $35,000. So, planning a wedding for $30,000 can seem difficult in this region, but it can be done. More importantly, it is done very beautifully all the time!
Here is the scenario from Margo: $30,000 is the national average for the cost of a wedding. However, in Washington, DC actual prices can be much higher than that. While I believe that weddings of any budget can be done, couples should be mindful of their guest size, which plays a very big part in the budget. They should also take into consideration how their wedding should look and feel. When I meet with couples, I always ask them to decide what areas in their wedding are the most important. I then try to design a budget that includes those as priority. This wedding budget example below does emphasize food and photography, but saves in other areas. It also only includes the wedding itself; rehearsal dinner, next day brunch, wedding rings and honeymoon were not included.
To plan a wedding for 150 guests at 30K, couples may want to consider Friday or Sunday and take advantage of lower venue fees (both days are becoming more popular each year). Also, by picking a date “off season,” which in the DC area is November to March, couples may be able to get other vendor deals and/or lower pricing for some areas of the wedding.
Officiant – $0 (Family friend)
Marriage License – $55 (This depends on where – DC $45, in Montgomery Count Maryland is $55, $55 Baltimore is $35, Northern VA ranges between $30-$35)
Cake – $0 (Included in the catering fee)
Site Fee – $2,800 (There are a venues in the DC area that are in this price range such as St. Francis Hall, Silver Spring Civic Center, Glenview Mansion, Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory, Mount Vernon Inn.)
Linens – $0 (Used linen provided by caterer)
Catering – $16,850 (150 guests at $110, 7 vendors at $50, tax and tip included)
Alcohol & wine – $0 (Included in catering – open bar, beer, wine, liquor)
Tips from Margo: When choosing vendors, consider pricing and the value of what you will get for goods and services. For example in addition to the food served, some catering companies are able to provide a wedding cake/dessert in-house or through a partnership with a bakery, which may save you money. Take into account venues and catering companies that offer rental items such as tables, chairs, and linen within pricing. This sample budget includes catering done for a real wedding by Catering by Uptown, they included cocktail hour (passed and stationary hors d’oeuvres), a plated dinner, open bar and wedding cake via SugarBakers, as well as all linen within the food and beverage pricing.
Personal Flowers – $550 (Estimate for florist to provide bouquets, boutonnieres and corsages for couple, family and wedding party of 5. This doesn’t include delivery and most likely need to be picked up the morning of the wedding)
Ceremony Decor – $100 (DIY fabric or tulle arch)
Reception Decor – $700 (DIY reception tables includes potted orchids, votive candles at each table; placecard table with orchids and tall floating candles)
Delivery/Installation/Breakdown – $0 (Included in above price)
Reception DJ – $1,050 (Estimate for 4 to 5 hour reception using a DJ based in MD or VA)
Photographer – $3,000 (Estimate for 8 hours of coverage and DC with rights to reprint images)
From Margo: Couples should be able to find a qualified professional photographer in this example budget, to include approximately 8 hours on the wedding day and the CD with photos and rights to reprint. This example pricing does not include albums. Wedding photography pricing does range in our area, which may be due to how long the professional has been in business, whether they use film or digital, and other factors.
Wedding coordinator – $1,000
From Margo: It is very possible to have a wedding planner for a 30K budget, and could be helpful to find good quality, yet affordable vendors. In this scenario – based off a real wedding – the couple and family did the planning and had me come in for the last few months to coordinate. Wedding coordinators are so helpful in working with vendors to bring the wedding details together, and this allows couples to really enjoy the day and to celebrate with each other, family and loved ones.
Invitations – $559 (Vendor on Etsy for invitation suite at $5,40/suite with envelope addressing and extra envelope)
Programs – $175 (DIY or Etsy)
Escort/place cards & table numbers – $75 (DIY or Etsy)
Wedding website – $0 (Using free wedding website services)
Calligraphy – $0 (Used envelop addressing from invitation designer)
Bride & groom and/or guests – $0 (Walk from hotel to venue, allow guests to transport selves & use family/friends to help transport)
Wedding gown + veil – $1,600 (Estimate for low to mid priced bridal gown designer or J.Crew)
Alterations – $350 (Estimate for 2-3 alteration visits)
Bride’s accessories – $70 (Includes purchased shoes and something borrowed or old for jewelery + accessories)
Groom – $400 (Purchased – not rented – from Men’s Wearhouse)
From Margo: I think brides are always a little shocked at bridal gown pricing in particular. I know that I was when I was looking for my own wedding dress a few years ago. While brides can look to sample sales or online at pre-owned dresses, this isn’t always practical. This sample budget assumes that the bride purchased a dress in the low to mid range for bridal gowns. The DC area is lucky to have also have J.Crew Bridal in Georgetown, and Fabulous Frocks, a designer consignment shop in Alexandria, VA – both have a great selection of dresses that can be purchased for this example budget.
Hair stylist – $250 (Estimate for bride only including trial + wedding day)
Makeup artist – $150 (Estimate for bride only including trial + wedding day)
Bridal suite – $0 (Complimentary from hotel)
From Margo: This budget assumes that the couple chose a wedding venue near a hotel, which there are many within DC, MD and Northern VA. So, there are no transportation costs. Since families live all over, this budget has many guests staying within a hotel block and the couple was able to negotiate a free bridal room for the wedding night. This does depend on number of guests in the block, time of year, and may vary at hotels.
Welcome bags – $126 (canvas Bags with snacks, candy, water for 20 hotel room guests)
Bathroom basket – $50 (Used unopened items from friend’s wedding, baskets from home + purchased items)
Favors – $90 (200 candy bags with chocolates)
From Margo: If you enjoy crafts and are willing to put in the time, decide what areas you will DIY and what will be left to the pro’s. This example budget includes some DIY decor, with professional flowers just for the bridal party. Alternatively, you could do everything yourself with much simpler personal flowers. It is possible to have a professional florist provide flowers if you didn’t want to DIY. In this case, I would suggest couples ask florists to provide a quote that takes their budget (and the florists minimum delivery price) into consideration. For couples that don’t DIY, Etsy has become a really popular resource, especially for paper products. This budget assumes that invitations, programs and escort cards were done either as DIY or via Etsy. Before either, I would strongly encourage couples to order a few samples and/or print a few test items to see (in person) the quality and outcome. Favors and gifts are really easy DIY projects, especially with the help of places like Costco, BJ’s and online wholesale companies like Paper Mart. This budget has the bride doing gifts and favors herself.
Who is ready to plan a wedding!? This post is packed with so much helpful information! Thank you so much, Margo! If you are in need of a wedding planner to help you pull all of these details and the financials together, be sure to check out The Bright Occasions. And, check back over the next two weeks as we’ll be doing sample budgets for a $60,000 and a $100,000 wedding for the DC area.