Reception Photos by Glenn Guiao
Disclaimer: The photo above does not depict the couples mentioned in this article. It is included solely for illustrative purposes, while certain Reddit threads I discovered online have proven useful.
Below is the overall breakdown of my wedding on 10/7/23. My husband and I originally wanted to do immediate family only at city hall but family convinced us to do a larger event. Worth it IMO! City is LCOL (based on google it is 5% lower than the national average) but wedding ended up being well over $100k. My parents paid for the reception and ceremony music which was extremely generous. My husbands parents paid for the welcome party/rehearsal dinner. Forgot about florals - so it was around $142k total wedding. See below.
Attire: $9,000. My dress was around $4,500, alterations with tip $1,000, groom paid for him and his best mans tux: $3,000. Rehearsal dinner and after party dresses about $500. I probs didn’t need to spend that much but oh well.
Welcome party: $10,000 - party for about 100 people, open bar and food, rental space itself was $2,000. This was important bc we had so many out of town guests.
Transportation: $3,000 - this includes shuttles to and from venue for wedding day. Must have in my opinion. Venue was only a 5-10 min drive but important for out of town guests who want to drink, unfamiliar with the area.
Wedding food + drink: $51,000 - my parents paid for this. Plated dinner and premium open bar for 200 people.
Venue Rentals: $42,000 - I had a vision and it was costly but worth it! Includes the tent, tables, chairs, dance floor, stage for the band.
Band: $8,500 - love a live band
String Quartet: $1,000 - played for ceremony and cocktail hour
After Party: $4,000 - we had an open bar and pizza/wings for about 2.5 hours. Worth it and kept the party going!
Hair and makeup: $3,500 - I paid for my sisters, my mom, officiant. and my husbands mom and sister hair and make up. A nice way to say thank you !
Photography: $6,000 - always worth it. Got my preview pictures back by Sunday afternoon and love!
Florals: $4,000 - forgot to add this in!
I didn’t get a videographer but I entrusted my cousin to film the whole ceremony and she did ! As a thank you I got her hair and make up done for the event.
It is wild how we went from small to big. It was to appease my parents at first but I ended up really happy. My parents thrive on hosting these types of things and opportunity to bring the two families together as well as my friends to meet my family.
Thank you so much for sharing this!! I know people are often hesitant to share bigger budgets on this sub, but it’s really helpful— as well as normalizing and validating— to see. Especially appreciated you saying it was worth it. I go through my own anxiety about if I’m spending too much/if I think it’ll be worth it in the end.
I would say the tent structure itself. I posted a pic but happy to send you more. It was insane but essentially another building attached to the venue and i think that alone was like $25k for rental and set up, etc. I also paid $5k to get it heated. People thought it was really cool and we were still outside but warm enough.
- no signage at all. I did place the wedding photos of my parents, grandparents, husbands parents and grandparents, great grandparents in the welcome foyer as a way to honor those before us which I liked.
- my mom wrote the place settings, so free expedient for the blank cards
- plain, white linens
I did like a black and white checkered dance floor which I think makes it look fancy.
To be honest a lot of this is pretty normal and then there's a couple big ticket items that add up. $10K on a welcome party is obviously a lot; $50K on food and drink is insane. $42K for rentals is also a lot. Right there alone you're probably $50-70K in excess of what most people spend on those three things, maybe more.
Most of the rest of it is just on the high end of average tbh. $3500 is a lot for the bride and groom to pay for hair and makeup, but it's lovely of them to cover it for so many people. It's not a super high amount for that number of people.
My twin sister got married at the same location last September and her food/drink ended up being $60k she had about 30 more ppl. It’s expensive but good booze and great food def helps the guest experience. It was important for my parents, as well as myself, to host a great event and people to enjoy themselves! Especially for out of towners who spend money on plane tickets + hotels.
So my wedding venue would probably be one the nicest ones in the city, and we're paying $2200 for the hall rental and the country style meal we're having is $59/person for 2023 weddings and we're expecting to pay about $73 in 2025 after inflation and changing the menu a bit (hopefully less lol but we're budgeting for that). Their plated meals range from like $45 or $50 for vegetarian meals up to $75 for steak.
If you go to what would be considered a more affordable venue, like the Ciociaro Club for example, last time I checked (although this was last year so it could be a bit pricier now), they were charging like $50 for country style.
Now what's considered an upscale venue in a small-to-mid-sized city vs what's considered upscale in Toronto or the GTA is obviously not the same. We don't have venues like Langdon Hall. But at least on Weddit, it seems like spending $150-200 per person is like, normal everywhere, not just in huge, expensive cities.
I don't think this is a US thing.. just depends on what city you're in. I'm Canadian too and I'm paying $250 per plate which includes cocktail hour, three courses, late night food, and open bar. Most of the venues I checked out around GTA were similar and we didn't even go to the super fancy places.
Let's say a normal event for 200 people would cost a company 30k - booze, food, venue, music, photography. If the food sucks or service is slow it's really not a huge deal. The vendor might look a little bad but they negotiate with a client and get the issue resolved.
Weddings on the other hand are one single day - everything is expected to go perfect, and stress and tempers are high. Risk of failure with vendors is huge, they have extra staff, buy extra supplies, maybe other costs to ensure thing go as smoothly as possible. Because of that they increase their prices dramatically for the risk.
For what it’s worth, according to realtor.com the median listing price for a home per square foot in Des Moines is $192 vs NY, NY’s $774 nearly exactly 4x more. So between the cost of goods sold and labor it’s not unreasonable. A lot of money sure, but still.
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