Wedding Expenses Checklist: Your Guide to Planning Your Day

Source: The Balance
Cost of Wedding
Source: The Advocate

Thinking of getting married in the near future? If you're like most brides, there are a lot of decisions to be made. Will you have a small, intimate affair, or will you have a statement wedding? Where will you hold it, indoors or out? How many people will you invite? Will you fly in any bridesmaids? Will your wedding dress be purchased off the rack, or custom designed?

According to Cost of a Wedding, the average wedding in the United States costs a tad over $25,000.

Why are weddings so expensive? Well, wedding planners report the major reason are brides and grooms having unrealistic or flat out uneducated expectations of what they want in a wedding versus what such a wedding costs. Let's face it, there are no wedding cost courses at the university you attended. And unless you do careful research, balancing and budgeting wedding costs is nearly impossible.

Thinking of consulting your aunt, sister-in-law or some other member of the family who seemed like their previous experience in planning your sister's wedding came out great. Your relatives may inflate the cost of your wedding. Keep in mind your budget and realistic expectations for your individual wedding may differ from the advice of friends and loved ones.

What about help from a wedding planner?

Source: The Balance

Undoubtedly you will likely need a wedding planner, but before you consult with one, realize that most wedding planners are in the business of selling dreams rather than keeping a wedding costs low, and behind the scenes, they may be getting kickbacks from venues, dress designers, florists, and caterers. Try to find reviews on any potential wedding planner, and looking for reviews of a planner that has actually helped people pull off a great wedding, but at an affordable price. The main advice, however, is carefully do your research on average costs for as many things as possible before consulting a wedding planner. That to-die-for venue for example, may cost upwards of $15,000 or around 45 percent of your wedding budget alone, and a good wedding planner can save you thousands on the event venue alone.

Traditional Family Contributions to the Wedding

Another thing to consider is will the family contribute to the wedding expenses?

Traditionally, the brides family pays for such expenses as:

  • Invitations
  • The bride’s gown
  • Flowers and décor
  • Flowers for bridesmaids
  • The venue location fee
  • Wedding reception location fees
  • Food and beverages
  • Photographer and videographers
  • Wedding transportation
  • Entertainment for a reception
  • The wedding cake
  • An engagement party

Meanwhile, the groom or his family often pays for:

  • The marriage license
  • The bride’s engagement and wedding rings
  • The Officiant’s fee and travel expenses
  • Bride’s bouquet and going-away corsage
  • Corsages for the mothers and grandmothers
  •  Boutonnieres, gloves, and ties for the men of the wedding party
  • Wedding gift for the bride
  • Limousine expense leaving reception — or for the day
  • Wedding night accommodations
  • Honeymoon trips
  • Gifts for the best man and groomsmen
  • Shipment of the wedding gifts to the couple’s home
  • Arrangements for out-of-town groomsmen.

But keep in mind, these are traditional roles and expenses. These expenses can undergo significant shifts from the traditional norm, depending on the situations of the family and the couple.

What are the costs of a typical wedding?

Source: Simple Family Finance

According to a survey by the Knot, the typical wedding costs last year were now closer to $33,00 per year. Average expenses include:

The Venue

As mentioned earlier, the venue at an average price of $15,000 makes up the bulk of a couple's wedding expenses. However, besides shopping around for less expensive venues such as a slightly out-of-town resort, country club or even a historic venue, keep in mind that timing is of the essence. Just as airline tickets tend to be more expensive in the summer rather than the winter, wedding venues tend to have on-peak and off-peak demand. Avoid common dates such as the first day of spring or summer, Valentine's day etc, as you are in heavy competition then from other wedding seekers. Be careful though about limiting venue costs. Many venues have hidden fees in the way of venue fees, a requirement that all food and drinks be through them, and outrageous gratuity fees. Here is where your wedding planner can save you rather than charge you. Also, be sure and ask any family members that may have a membership in a country club for example, if they can get you a membership discount.

Limos and transportation

A limo is often the traditional transportation for a wedding ceremony, and can typically run as much as $800 to transport everyone important such as family between the wedding and reception venue. But realistically, if some of your family has high-class cars such as a Mercedes or Cadillac, call upon them, when possible, to cut this cost in half or more.

Videographer and photographers

Videographers and photographers typically cost around $2,000 each, but here, things are highly negotiable. Some couples opt out of having a videographer to save money in this section, but most consider a photographer an essential. Evaluate different packages your photographer offers and what is most important to you (amount of downloads available, hours the photographer is available, a second shooter, etc).

A DJ vs a Live reception band

While a live band is great, the difference between hiring a professional dj and a live band can be upwards of $2,000 or more. DJ's are cheaper, and a real professional can provide you with quality music you love at an affordable price.

Catering costs

Finally, and this is one of the most controllable costs to a wedding, limit the amount of catered meals. Catering will typically cost up to $70 per head at the reception, so if you pare your guest list from 200 to a 100, you can save a hefty seven grand. Don't be pressured by your relatives into inviting people you barely know. An intimate wedding is often not only cheaper but more satisfying.

A wedding planner checklist to the rescue

There are many wedding list planners on the internet such as A Practical Weddings free checklist. Use such checklists to become particularly informed about all the expenses you may undergo, then have a thorough discussion with your partner and what the typical expenses are and what you, as a couple can pare down. And consider signing up for our wedding expense list, and let us know what tips you find most helpful! Is there anything you would add to this checklist? Let us know in the comments below!

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