Wedding Budgets!

We’ve been in business for seven years now, and we’ve worked with all types of budgets! There is so much info online about how much a wedding should (or could) cost, and we get asked all the time how much couples should budget. The short answer is, it depends! We know that’s not helpful, but the cost of a wedding depends on so many different factors, so it’s hard to give a concise answer. When we meet with our clients, one of our earliest meetings is a budget analysis, where we get to know their priorities and shed light on how much things might cost in this area.

We’ve been keeping track of the numbers, and thought it’d be fun to share some statistics on the wedding budgets we’ve seen over the years! Keep in mind that we started collecting this data in 2017, and prices have increased since then. Check out our budget reviews for each individual year to get a better idea of current prices!

Hopefully this info will shed some light on the cost of a wedding in North Carolina! Keep in mind that most of our weddings take place in the Raleigh-Durham area; prices can be higher around Asheville and lower in more rural areas.

Average guest count: 112, but we’ve done weddings ranging from 10-280 guests!

Most popular month for weddings: October, by a landslide! The next most popular months are April, May, June, and September, closely followed by November. August and December tend to be a little slower for us, with January, February, & March being the slowest. We always take July off to recharge and gear up for the second half of the year!

Most popular season for weddings: Fall, closely followed by spring.

Average Cost of Venues: $5,000, with a range of $1,000-$12,000

Many people think that by getting married at home you’ll save money, and while it is possible to save a little this way more often than not we see backyard weddings spend even more because they need to rent tables, chairs, tents, and toilets, things that most venues include.

Check with your venue to see what is included, as you may be able to save money in other areas by making full use of the venue’s amenities and inventory!

Average Cost of Catering: $9,000, with an average of $85/person (range of $16-150/person)

That’s a big range, so here are some things to think about when budgeting for your wedding food!

-# of guests

-quality of ingredients

-type of service (buffet is generally less expensive than plated, since it requires less staff).

Average Cost of Bar: $5,500 with an average of $50/person and a range of $20-80/person

Factors that contribute to your bar cost include:

-type of alcohol served. Wine and beer will cost less than liquor drinks, and a nice middle ground is to add on a couple signature cocktail to a wine & beer package.

-quality of alcohol. Obviously higher shelf liquor is going to cost more!

-hours bar is open. Most couples have the bar open starting at cocktail hour and last call about 30minutes before the reception ends. If you want to have the bar open til the very end, or open it up before the ceremony it’s going to cost more.

Average Cost of Rentals: $2,700 with an average of $30/person

Your rental costs will be affected by:

guest count. More guests means more tables, chairs, and place settings!

your venue’s inventory. Many venues include tables and chairs, but most require you rent everything else (linens, china, glassware, etc.). If your venue has additional inventory available for you to use, that will certainly save you money!

style. Table linens can range anywhere from $20 for basic, single color cotton/polyester fabric to $35 and up for fabrics with more texture and patterns! If you’re trying to save money on rentals but have fallen in love with a pricey linen, consider using it on a sweetheart or dessert table, and a more basic linen on the guest tables.

tenting. If you book an outdoor venue, be sure to inquire about the rain plan! Some venues have a covered area, but at outdoor spaces you’d need to rent a tent as backup.

Average Cost of Officiant: $500 with a range of $250-750

The main factor in the cost of your officiant is whether they are writing a custom ceremony for you, or using a standard template. 35% of our clients choose to have a family member or friend officiate their ceremony! If you do this we highly recommend going to courthouse beforehand to do all the legal bits with a magistrate! NC has some frustrating laws about who can perform ceremonies.

Average Cost of Photography: $3,200 with a range of $1,200-7,000

Experience and quality of work are key factors in the price of a photographer, so be sure to look through their portfolio before booking! Ask to see night time images too, as these will look different than daylight photos. Other factors contributing to your photography cost:

-hours photographer is on site.

-whether they have a second shooter with them.

-if you’re ordering prints or albums from them.

Average Cost of Video: $2,800 with a range of $1,000-4,500

Similar to photography, your cost for videography will vary based on quality & experience, as well as the number of hours they are on site and the type of final product they’ll be editing for you.

A black bride sits with her eyes closed as a stylist does her makeup.

Photo by Kivus & Camera

Average Cost of Hair & Makeup: $600

Most couples do not pay for the cost of their wedding party’s hair and makeup, but some choose to cover this fee as a thank you gift to their party or parents. The range above reflects the cost of bridal hair and makeup only, so budget extra if you plan to pay for your party! Other things affecting the cost of wedding hair and makeup include:

-on site services versus salon appointments. Most on-site stylists will have a minimum fee to come to you, so ask you party early on whether they think they’ll want to get their hair and/or makeup done! There may also be a travel fee.

-how many trials you do. Most folks do just one trial, which they will do within 2 months of their wedding (when their hair length and skin tone are similar to how they’ll be on wedding day). Some choose to do 2 trials, one before booking and one closer to wedding day, and some skip the trial altogether (although I do not recommend skipping a trial!).

Average Cost of Dessert: $700 with an average of $6.50/person and ranging from $1.5-15/person

Type and amount of dessert are the big factors here. Some couples want a big cake regardless of how many guests they have! And some do a cake to appease parents, and another dessert that they actually prefer. We’ve had others skip sweets altogether and do a cheese board after dinner! Some desserts, like cookies, cost less than others, so if you’re having trouble narrowing down your favorite type of sweet you may want to consider cost per serving. Just remember, the smaller the bite sized treat the more of them guests will want! While you can estimate one slice of cake per guest, if you’re doing cookies or other bite sized treats you may want to estimate ~3 per person.

A three tiered white wedding cake sits on a wooden table. The cake is decorated with colorful flowers.

Photo by Yasgant Visuals

Average Cost of Wedding Dress: $2,000 with a range of $150-7,000

This varies so much based on what you want in a dress. We’ve seen brides save money by wearing something they already have, borrowing a gown from a family member, or purchasing a non-traditional outfit they want to wear again. There are also secondhand and rental options available for wedding gowns, and both options will save you money. Check out some of our favorite options for secondhand and rental gowns!

Average Cost of Flowers: $2,500 with a range of $380-7,800

This cost will vary greatly depending on how many florals you want, and fresh flowers can be one of the pricier bits of a wedding budget. If flowers are a priority for you be sure to budget accordingly! We always encourage our clients to source their fresh flowers locally and seasonally, but renting faux flowers can be a cost saving alternative. We see lots of couples save by doing something other than flowers as table arrangements, like candles or other decor, and splurging on their bouquets. And keep in mind that your ceremony florals can often be repurposed and used during the reception too!

Average Cost of DJ: $1,600 with a range of $900-2,500

Experience and hours are the big factors here, but gear makes a difference too! Many DJs offer add ons for dance floor lighting and production, so if those things are important to you you may want to budget on the higher end of this range.

Average Cost of Band: $3,800 with a range of $1,500-7,000

This cost will be dependent on several factors:

-Size of band. More members means more $!

-Experience & popularity. If the band has been around for a while or the members are full time musicians, they usually charge more than those who are just doing this for fun. Gotta make a living!

-Hours of playtime. Many bands offer DJ services as well, so they may offer different rates for the hours of DJ play time (i.e. during cocktail hour or dinner) versus the band playtime, since all band members won’t need to be there the whole time. However, there are only so many weekends in a year, so most full-time bands will have a minimum fee for weekend events. But it never hurts to ask!

Average Cost of Photobooth: $650 with a range of $400-900

Some DJs and photographers have photobooth add-on options, and that’s often a lower rate than hiring a stand alone photobooth company. However, you’ll want to ask what exactly those add-ons include as they may not have all the offerings of a standard photobooth company. Ask about props, print outs, and whether the booth will have an attendant.

Average Cost of Invitations per person: $3.5 per person, with a range of $0.50-10/person

If you’re design savvy, you can save $ by DIYing and printing locally! Working with a calligrapher or designer will cost more, but you’ll have a super custom, quality invitation. We’ve seen couples cut the cost out altogether by opting for digital invitations!

A bride walks off a bus holding up her wedding gown, her mom behind her holding the train.

Photo by L’amour Foto

Average Cost of Transportation: $1,200 with a range of $95-4,000

This range includes both getaway cars and guest buses/shuttles. You certainly don’t need to provide transportation for all your guests, but it’s a nice gesture if your venue is far from hotels and most guests are from out of town. And some couples skip the getaway car if they’re hotel is walking distance, or they call an Uber!

Average Cost of Insurance: $300 with a range of $80-500

Event insurance is optional but gives many couples peace of mind (some venues do require couples obtain event liability insurance, so check with them). Check with your homeowners or renters insurance companies to see if they offer Special Event insurance, as they may be able to offer a better deal since you’re an existing customer. Not all companies offer this though, and there are insurance companies that specialize in just Special Event Liability and Cancellation policies.

Average Cost of Favors per person: $3 with a range of $0.70-4.50/person

We are seeing more and more couples skip favors altogether! After all, you’re already providing guests with food, drinks, and entertainment for the night. There’s nothing wrong with skipping the favors and putting that budget toward your guests experience in another way, like with late night snacks! And of course donating to a charity that is meaningful to you is a wonderful way to give in your guests honor.

Average Cost of Rings: $1,500 with a range of $800-2,000

This is going to vary based on what you’re looking for. You can save some money here by having a family heirloom ring resized or reworked, or shop secondhand to get a unique piece at a fraction of what it would cost to design it new!

Each wedding is unique and each budget varies greatly, but we hope these averages and ranges help when creating your own wedding budget!