Photos by Pink Penguin Studios
Disclaimer: The photo above does not depict the proposal mentioned in this article. It is included solely for illustrative purposes, while certain Reddit threads I discovered online have proven useful.
I got married in the Capital Region of NY this summer and wanted to share my experience as these types of posts were super helpful to me when planning.
We booked our venue in late 2021, did most of our planning and vendor selection in 2022, and our wedding was in summer 2023; this meant that some of our vendors charged us 2022 prices but others, like the venue, charged 2023 prices.
I am going to label each category either “splurge” or “save”; while I absolutely understand this is completely arbitrary and I was working with a generous budget, I am going to label them based on other quotes I looked at for that category as well as my perceived “necessity” during the day.
For example, I was not certain I needed or wanted a cinematographer so even though we went with a vendor at the lower end of quotes we received, having him there at all was considered a splurge to me.
- Included bridal suites for getting ready starting at 7am, all food and beverage from 7am until the after party was over at 11:30pm, ceremonial cake and cupcakes, ceremony setup and breakdown, linens, table settings, and day-of coordinator.
- Site fee: $6k
- Food and beverage: $170/head (included mid-tier alcohol at open bar), total $22,000
- Service fee: 23% of our food and beverage bill
Bridal party lodging: $14,000 [SPLURGE]
- Lodging for 16 people
We were lucky enough to be able to cover the cost of lodging for our bridal party.
I categorized it as a splurge because I originally let the bridal party know that we had lodging available but that it would be about $150/night if they chose to stay there.
Later, we realized we could fit this in the budget and told them it was our treat. I’m grateful we were able to fit this in the budget as a thank you to our bridal party for being part of our day.
Wedding planner: $10,000 [SPLURGE, not worth it]
- 10 phone calls leading up to the wedding, she got quotes from most of my vendors for me, helped with month-of coordination as well as day-of coordination
I hired my wedding planner because I felt I wasn’t making progress planning the wedding alone.
I hired her before I picked my venue, and looking back I wish I hadn’t spent the money on her as our venue ended up coming with a coordinator.
I felt like she sent me way too many vendors that were out of my budgeted price range, was difficult to communicate with, and forgot many of the details of my wedding so I had to carry that mental load (for example, she put the wrong size tables in the layout of the venue, did not keep payment schedules up to date, and gave me the wrong information about how to get a marriage license in my town).
Photography: $9,500 [SPLURGE, worth it]
- Engagement shoot
- 9h coverage with main photographer and assistant
- 6h coverage with second photographer
- 5h of photo booth with attendant at the reception
This was more than I budgeted for photographer but he was worth every penny.
He was basically our day-of coordinator and was the only one who seemed to know what the schedule was.
Our photos came out gorgeous and he was a pleasure to work with from start to finish. I have zero regrets about spending this much on photography, as those are the artifacts we'll get to keep forever!
Florals: $5,000 [GIFT]
- This included 15 tables of centerpieces, arbor decoration for the ceremony, 3 bridesmaids bouquets and my bridal bouquet, boutonnieres for the men, and small bouquets for the mothers of the newlyweds.
I marked this as a gift because a family friend did our florals and gave us a steep discount so I am not sure what we would have spent otherwise.
Transportation: $3,200 [SPLURGE]
- 2 shuttles to and from the ceremony (2 trips out, 4 total trips back at the end of the night)
- 1 car with driver for incidentals
We had many out of town guests so we wanted to be sure to have transportation available. This price includes 2 shuttle buses and an extra car with driver that could be available to bring guests back to their hotel at off-times.
Cinematography: $3,200 [SPLURGE, and totally worth it]
- Included 7 hours of video coverage, 1 videographer
I went back and forth on cinematography, but looking back I absolutely recommend a cinematographer if you can fit it in your budget. Capturing audio and video of the day is so special and we were able to send some videos to older guests that couldn’t attend the wedding, which I think they really appreciated. This was on the lower end of pricing for cinematographers we looked at, but he did an amazing job.
Bride fashion: $3,200 [SPLURGE]
- Wedding gown: $2700
- Alterations: $400
- Shoes and accessories: $100
I definitely consider the wedding dress a splurge, though I saved on accessories by wearing jewelry I already owned and I was gifted a hairpiece by my maid of honor for the wedding day. The dress was the most fun part of the process for me, so I don’t regret spending so much necessarily, but I do feel a little silly spending so much on a dress I’ll wear only once. And now I loved it so much I don’t want to get rid of it!
Entertainment: $2,800 [SAVE]
- We hired a DJ to do all of our music and entertainment. He was there for the entire wedding from before guest arrival until the after party was over (about 12 hours).
He did a great job; I put this in “save” because we opted not to do any live music for any part of the event. I don’t have regrets about that but I do think live music especially at the ceremony is wonderful if you choose to fit it in your budget!
Hair and Makeup: $2,000 [SAVE]
- Hair and makeup on wedding day, 6 people: $1,140
- Location fee: $200
- Trial: $240
We covered the cost of hair and makeup for my bridesmaids, mothers of the bride and groom, and me. We had 1 hair stylist and 1 makeup artist; we started hair and makeup at 7am the morning of the wedding and were done for first looks around noon. I marked this a save because it was among the lower-priced options I looked at, but you could consider it a splurge as well since it isn’t a requirement for the day.
- Hair and makeup: $100 each for 2 people
- DJ: $150 each for 2 people
- Florals: $200 for 1 person
- Photo booth attendant: $100 for 1 person
- Photographers: $150 each for 2 people
- Videographer: $150 each for 1 person
- Shuttle drivers: $30 each for 2 people (plus 15% gratuity that was already included in our bill)
- Car driver: $50 each for 1 person (plus 15% gratuity that was already included in our bill)
- Catering: $50 each to the head chef and sous chefs, $50 each to bartenders, $20 each to waiters
- Venue coordinator: $50 each to 2 people
- Wedding planner: Did not tip, would have if I was particularly satisfied with services
I struggled SO MUCH with how much to tip our vendors; it seemed like nobody on the internet (nor my wedding planner) had any conclusive answers! That said, I have no idea if I tipped more or less than is standard!
Stationary: $2,000, all from Minted [SAVE]
- Save the dates: $200
- Stamps: $250
- Invitation suites: $1,200
- Ceremony and reception cards: $300
I marked this a save because we didn’t do any custom anything; though I will say I could have lowered this cost by being more thoughtful with the number of pieces I bought and making sure not to do any upgrades like foil, rounded corners, etc.
If you choose to go with Minted, I definitely recommend watching out for their Black Friday sale where I bought $1000 worth of “credit” for $750.
I also purchased Minted More which gave me stackable 30% off on all my purchases. In the end, I’m very satisfied with Minted and will likely continue to use them for other paper needs.
Bridal party gifts & thank you’s: $1,500 [SPLURGE]
- For my bridesmaids, this included matching PJs to get ready in, necklaces, earrings, our nail appointment the day before the wedding
- For my flower girls, this included their dresses, accessories excluding shoes, and gifts to thank them for being part of the day
I marked this as splurge because while I definitely didn’t try to stay within a budget on this category.
Favors and gifts: $1,200 [SAVE]
- Reception favors: Local candy store, $900
- Welcome bags for out of town guests: $300
I marked this “save” because many of the options I looked at were more expensive and involved than the candy that we went with. This included reception favors for all our guests as well as treats for the out of town guests in the welcome bag.
Officiant: $240 [GIFT]
- Thank-you for our officiant: $200
- Marriage license: $40
Our officiant was a family member, and he asked that his services be part of his wedding gift to us. The cost here was for a thank-you gift for our officiant, as well as the cost of our marriage license.
If I could do this over again, here's where I would cut costs:
- Avoid wedding planner: Her biggest contribution was an extensive to-do list, which I bet I could've recreated using this subreddit and the internet. I will say it helped me get the ball rolling on planning, but it was NOT worth $10k.
- Avoid the remote venue: I wanted a rustic-feeling venue which meant we were a 30-minute car ride from the nearest city. In addition to the unexpectedly high cost (my planner said transportation would cost half of what it did, even though we ended up getting the best deal possible because we locked in 2022 prices), I didn't realize what a mental load it would be to coordinate and plan shuttle schedules. I wish I had done the wedding in a more downtown area where guests could walk to our venue. I also think I would've felt better about bridal party paying for their own lodging if we had stayed closer to the action; as it was I was either asking the party to drive a half hour the morning of the wedding and leave their car overnight, or ask them to stay closer to the venue but then cover the cost (which is what we ended up doing).
- Gone with a single photographer: This is a know-your-crowd situation, but I realized the bulk of what the second photog was doing was capturing the groomsmen while the main photographer was with me. I, nor my partner, really cared about the pictures of the groomsmen and in fact I would say it made the groomsmen a little "pictured out" (aka tired) by the time we got to group shots. Looking back, I would have been totally fine with 1 photographer.
- Lower-key invitations: I love paper, so we had foiled invitations with multiple "info cards" therein. In the end, I liked the invitations but I wouldn't spend that much if I were to do it again. I bet we could've cut the cost by 30% or more here. I also way overbought stamps because I counted per head not per household (whoops).
- Extending the reception and doing an after party: This one is a tough one because I think my guests had a nice time at both the ceremony extension (1 hour) and after party (another hour) BUT I was super tired by that point and would have happily gone back to my hotel, put on my pajamas, and continue the party with just my bridal party. I was very worried during planning that I simply would not want the night to end so I extended as much as possible, but as it turned out it was a very long day and I was more than happy to be done when we were done.
- Finally, I could have lowered the guest list: I didn't realize how much the number of guests really modulates one's budget. We invited everyone we would possibly want there, but even with ~30% of people not coming, I wasn't able to spend time talking to every guest which I really was sad about. I don't know that there was any room for cutting my guest list further given family constraints, but this definitely would have lowered the cost.
This is so detailed. Thank you for sharing. It would be helpful if you gave a general idea what you mean by "Upstate New York." People in the City think the Hudson Valley is Upstate, but others think it means the Capital District and points north.
so detailed and helpful! Though I'm working with a smaller budget/wedding, your breakdown of tips is really helpful!
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