Monday, September 7, 2009

Wedding Tip #27 - What does a wedding really cost?

All photos are from Biz & Andy's wedding that I photographed with my dear friend Brooke. Please note that I did not check with the bride on her budget so these photos do not necessarily reflect the budget amounts I am suggesting in this post.

My clients understand that you get what you pay for, and they want to be sure they have great photos! I don't think it's a big secret that if you go cheap on something you're get a cheaper product. So... why this post? To encourage you to prioritize your wedding must-haves! Put at the top of the list what's the most important to you, and further down what you're willing to skimp on.

Many people ask me what a typical wedding budget is, so here's the breakdown. We'll assume you're spending $30k to make it easy to do the #'s (and since that is the average wedding cost)

Reception 40% ($12,000) - Includes room rental, food & beverage (sometimes includes other extras like dessert/cake)

Honeymoon 14% ($4,200)

Photography/Videography 10% ($3,000) This doesn't mean $1500 on each - it means with a $30 budget you many only be able to afford photography. Great videographers, often calling themselves wedding film makers, are a wonderful way to document your day too. If you have an over $30k wedding budget and can afford to I suggest you add videography in addition to photography!

Misc 9% ($2,700) - site fees, attendant gifts, favors & transportation

Rings 8% ($2400) - Just the wedding rings. Expect to send more if you're buying the engagement ring too. Even for just the Bride & Groom's wedding bands I think this estimate is a bit low.

Bridal Apparel 7% ($2,100) - Include dress, veil, shoes, accessories & hair/make-up ... and don't forget your very own bridal beer koozie ;)

Music 5% ($1500)

Flowers 5% ($1500)

Invitations 2% ($600)

Cake 2% ($600)

Here's my list... or at least part of it. (In priority order) If funds were unlimited would I have had the best of everything? Of course! However, since I did have to stay with-in an average budget I had to make compromises.

Photography/Videography: Of course this was my top priority, I'm a photographer! I was also lucky enough to know a lot of wonderful people and had several friends shoot my wedding. I know I'm biased, but I would argue that this should be everyone's top priority. Why? After the food is eaten, the flowers have wilted, the music stopped ect - photos are what you'll have left! I spent $139 x 5 ($695) hotel rooms for 4 photographers & videographer. Plus $500 in thank you gift cards. Total $1195. However, my friends shot as a gift to me and I also did all the photo editing & album design myself. (Photographers may charge by the hours of shooting but this fee includes all of our editing time!) This put me under the budget % in this category. My photog's sites: Paul, Brooke, Zev, Jeff, and videographer Ben.

Reception: What was important to me? Good food & open bar. What wasn't? The exact venue. So, we didn't choose a prestigious reception hall. We picked a good local place with great food! Room rental $500, Food aprox $5k, bar tab aprox $5k. (Tables & linens included - chair covers, decor & cake extra) Putting me under the budget % in this category. We wanted a city wedding with close-by hotel so guests could drink & no have to drive. We picked Mariner's Church (Part of Old Port Tavern - Portland, ME) About you get what you pay for... this is a great location at a seemingly low price. However it was very much DIY - unlike some halls that have a very involved coordinator you had to do a lot for yourself here.

Rings: My mother worked for a jewelry store. Even with her help were way over the budget % in this category. That is also why it's near the top of my list.

The Dress & Bridal Attire: I found a good deal. Dress $1000, Alterations $200, Wrap $200, Veil $150, Shoes $40. Hair & make-up I did for-trade with an amazing stylist. However I did pay her to make-up for travel, hire assistant stylists, and we tipped well. Dress & veil: Patricia Buck (no frills location but great deals), Shoes: Precious memories.

Invitations: These do set the tone for your wedding, I did DIY on vista print for save the dates (they were cheap but had inconsistent color). We went to a stationary store, papier gourmet, for wedding invites for more quality control!  I spent approximately $600 + postage.

Honeymoon: (now I"m singing their little jingle) We were able to score a week at an all inclusive 5 diamond resort (all 5 star restaurant, all drinks, room service, & no tipping) in Playa del Carmen for $4k including airfaire & Cancun to playa airport transfer.

Flowers: My mom knows a wonderful florist, Marcia Davis. She's awesome, in fact, my centerpieces are the middle photo on her website.

DJ & Lighting: Eric Kruger, mid-range price with exceptional service! ($1000) He even helped with lighting and dealt with our very long request list happily.

Hair & Make-up: Grace Professional Cosmetics, love her! :) We've also worked on other portfolio projects together and I can guarantee that she and her team of stylists are the very best! I did some portfolio work for her so we had a partially paid and partially 'for-trade' arrangement.

The Venue: We wanted to get married in a catholic church but exactly where didn't matter. I just wanted a church with good light (I like photos) and one that was a bit more low key. Yes, even in a Catholic church they let us write our own vows! We were married at St Barts in Cape Elizabeth, ME. $300 first offering (church rental fee), then you pay musicians & the pastor too.

Transportation: Trolley from Mainly Tours. $600 for up to 4 hours, including gratuity.

Wedding Coordinator: Added her last minute, but a day-of coordinator is a must! Even if this is just a friend or family member who makes sure your plans are carried out you need this person! I spent $800. My coordinator was not terrible, but not fantastic either so I'm not going to recommend her or list her info.

Cake: We went for a bargain on this one, but it looked good & tasted good so who cares? And who eats cake when they're too busy partying & drinkin' ;) We used French's Cakes, but they're tiny & don't have a website. (How budget? Less than $2/slice) I told you that you'd have to pick some places to go with a budget option - this was ours.

Favors: I found cute little dress & tux boxes 10/$1 at the dollar store. I saw these online for $0.70+ each! Look around! We got little chocolates to put inside because who really wants another tiny little trinket? Chocolates were about 60 cents for each box.

(Keep in mind there were 2007 prices and for many items I worked with friends in the business & traded favors +$ ... so some prices aren't listed)

So, why else am I posting this? I want to help you know what a wedding costs and how to prioritize. Personally, I'm so busy I'm raising my prices. I'm actually not charging more I'm just only offering more coverage options. I'm now changing from a 4 to 5 hour minimum and only offering high end albums! By taking out minimal offerings I can do my job better by not letting clients cut corners to cut costs. A low cost option I will be offering is bridal portrait sittings. These will be after the wedding and give you a chance to dress up again and have a fashion shoot! These will not be exclusive to my wedding clients - anyone can book a session. Stay tuned more more info on that, or contact me: Katie (at) RingImages (dot) com.

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