Wedding Photos in Wilmington, NC
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.
I already did a recap of how everything went (spoiler alert: it was incredible!!); now here is the breakdown of our budget.
I say "budget" but tbh, we didn't create a detailed budget at the outset. We're in our mid-thirties and fortunate to have no debt, decent income, and some savings already built up...simply put, the wedding that felt like "us" was very doable, financially. Especially since we planned and made deposits over a 2-year period. So this is more of a final tally than an actual budget.
OK now for the details! All the #'s here include tax, tip, and travel (where applicable).
Venue for Friday evening-Sunday morning: $10,500
- We chose a rural inn/restaurant as our venue. It's a small town (with just the inn, pub, and a few shops clustered around one intersection) where you and your guests pretty much take over for a weekend.
- For our welcome dinner on Friday, this included an outdoor space with picnic tables and a bonfire (+ the pub reserved as a rain backup). For our wedding day, there was an outdoor ceremony site and a meeting room as the rain backup, a lovely stone patio for cocktail hour, the inn's formal restaurant for dinner, and a converted barn for dancing. And Sunday breakfast in their sun room.
- About $2k of this cost went to cover empty rooms, partly because there was confusion about the room block early on (through no fault of the venue), and a few folks ended up at AirBnBs instead. I'm including this under "venue cost" because their only stipulation when you host a wedding is to fully book the inn for a night. Other venues we toured had a catering minimum of 100 people, and the cost for those nonexistent plates would be on par with these empty rooms.
Food for Friday evening-Sunday morning: $21,000
- For our welcome dinner, we counted/paid for 67 and ended up with 61 (from late arrivals, COVID dropouts, etc.). This was a very reasonable $3k, which included antipasto and a BBQ spread for our guests, along with two drink tickets per guest for beer or wine. But some of our guests didn't even use the tickets and preferred to buy their own booze, just for something a little fancier ;)
- For our wedding day, we counted/paid for 88 people in total and ended up with 83. The remaining $18k here covered: three passed apps and a cheese board, plated dinners (fish or filet or veggie option) with two sides, an assortment of cupcakes/donuts/cookies with coffee and tea, and an open bar. Bar service ran for about 6 hours and included a great selection of beer, three poured wines, and mid-shelf liquor.
- This cost also includes vendor meals for 10 (entrees, no apps) and some pizzas that went to the kid house & babysitter.
- A full, hot breakfast was included for everyone who stayed at the inn. Most of our guests stayed over for at least Saturday night, so we got to linger with them on Sunday morning and say our goodbyes over pancakes and coffee :)
- Ok so this is where our priorities might diverge from some other budgets ... as a musician myself (albeit an amateur) I have really strong opinions about music!
- String trio for our ceremony: $1,660. There is something truly magical about the cello, and I walked down the aisle to a Bach cello suite. My partner and I also have a thing about the Princess Bride, so he and our wedding party walked in to "Storybook Love". This cost included 30 minutes of pre-ceremony music as folks took their seats as well as a custom arrangement of any song not on their list (which was great for the recessional).
Live band for cocktail hour/reception: $9,880.
These guys were our top choice, and we booked them like 20 months in advance. (Did I mention that we're serious about music???) There was a 7-piece band of incredible musicians. A trio of them played jazzy/instrumental music for our cocktail hour, and the dancing lasted about 3 hours after dinner. They learned a new song for our first dance; they even let me play with them and rock out to one of my favorite tunes!
- Our guests absolutely loved the band. Even with a small-ish crowd at ~80 people (after a few folks left following dinner), the dance floor was PACKED. People were cheering and sweating and smiling all night and asking how we found them...in the end, live music was SO worth it!
- This included 8 hours of coverage with two photographers, and we'll have full access to the digital library of photos. If we decide to order any prints, that will cost more (TBD). So far we've only seen a sneak preview of ~25 pics, and they look gorgeous!
- These guys were also our first choice and also booked 20 months in advance...yes, I like to plan ahead haha. They are documentary-style photographers, and I was relieved to feel like I could live out the day as my ACTUAL self (albeit a very dressy version of myself) with minimal prodding and posing. And none of this being told to "act natural" or "act like you're having a conversation" for fake candids haha.
- We also paid a friend to take some casual photos at the welcome dinner. In general I would steer clear of "friendors", but this was a pretty low stakes situation...and I genuinely like his style of photography!
- Ok, so...maybe this went "over budget" in the sense that costs escalated beyond my expectations. This is my only borderline regret, from a budget perspective. In retrospect, I didn't need to buy a traditional wedding dress to look bridal and feel beautiful.
- The dress itself was $2k but had a long train that needed a LOT of bustles. So alterations ran me another $1k, mostly to add a French bustle.
- My shoes were $180, and I bought a flouncy reception dress to dance in for about $100 (which actually looked SUPER cute).
- The rest of the cost in this category goes to shapewear. I had a slinky wedding dress, and it took some experimentation to find shapewear that wouldn't show through.
- We had some splashes of color on the arbor, my bouquet and 3 bridesmaids' bouquets, the groom's boutonniere and boutonnieres for 3 groomsmen + our dads, corsages for the moms, and centerpieces with flowers and greenery arranged in growlers/glassware from different craft breweries and assorted bud vases. (He's a beer guy, and breweries have a lot of impressive art and pretty logos these days, so we had fun with this one!)
- Flowers weren't a top priority, and only deep into the planning process did I realize that this is cheap for flowers. So, I'm not sure what else to say...this part was just easy. The florist seemed a bit scatterbrained at times, but everything came together and looked lovely!
- There was one makeup person and one hair person, and a decent portion of this cost was for travel (since the venue is a bit remote).
- We had 4 people getting hair and 3 getting makeup, so 7 services in total. No one was required to get hair or makeup, but I thought it would be nice to treat folks in the bridal party if they wanted a bit of pampering! I also got a trial for each, which is included in this cost.
- This "beauty" category includes a manicure and some hair bling, but that cost was negligible compared to the hair & makeup artists.
- We used Minted for everything (save the dates, invitations, the website/RSVP system, and thank you cards for early gift givers), and it suited our needs just fine! I didn't want to go super custom here with invitations.
- This $1k includes postage and the estimated cost of traditional thank you cards with a photo (for anyone who gave us a gift at/after the wedding and other attendees).
- This was more expensive than absolutely necessary because I'm a sucker for foil, and the gold foil just seemed perfect for an early fall wedding. So, there was a lot of green + gold happening throughout our stationery, without it being super matchy matchy.
Event insurance: $600
- I'm risk averse, and this is a LOT of money to spend on one day. Enough said.
- This covered the babysitter's fee as well as her room for the night. I feel weird calling her a "babysitter" since she's actually a childcare professional with decades of experience running a daycare (and also a good friend of the family).
- We planned an adults-only ceremony/reception, but we thought that folks coming from out of town might want to make a long weekend of it, go leaf peeping as a family, that sort of thing. Children were invited to hang out for the weekend and attend the welcome dinner on Friday, and we arranged to have childcare on site during the wedding Saturday evening.
- Lodging on site was a "must" for us when touring venues...for our own convenience as well as the kid situation!
- In retrospect, I'm not sure how many people actually read website FAQs, but parents made other arrangements for childcare (or declined the invite), and the only little one in attendance for the weekend was my partner's toddler nephew. Logistically, this made things easy since we didn't have to research a second sitter.
Cat sitting: $50
- Because I promised "detailed"!
Decor (other than flowers) & miscellaneous: $1,000
- About $500 of this went to the tables at dinner, between sourcing the growlers/glassware and designing custom table signs with brewery logos to match the theme. This was the only DIY project for the wedding.
- The other $500 was for a photo guestbook and Instax cameras, along with extra film, a nice card box, vow books, etc.
All of this brings us to $60k. There are a few other expenses I should probably mention, but they didn't seem to fit in the core wedding budget. Specifically:
Thank-you gifts: $800-ish?
- For my bridal party and officiant, I designed canvas totes and assembled goodie bags that included tumblers with their names, flannel cozies, and a pretty book for each person corresponding to their interests (travel, food, plants, etc.). And I know that my husband got his groomsmen ties...but I think that's it.
- For our parents, we also got tote bags and tumblers (these with our initials & wedding date), along with a fancy bottle of booze according to their respective tastes.
Groom's suit: $1,400
- Purchased over a year ago, it's been his go-to suit for 5 weddings already. So, I wasn't sure whether to include this in the wedding budget itself. On the one hand, he desperately needed a suit coming out of the pandemic...on the other hand, he went for something fancier-than-usual knowing that we had our own wedding on the horizon!
Our own lodging: $1,050
- We spent three nights at one of the inn's guest houses, and it was an absolute dream. The bridal party stayed in a beautiful old house with a full kitchen, formal dining room, reading room, private bathrooms with soaking tubs, and a large patio with a gas fireplace all overlooking a meadow and babbling brook. Our stay there came as a wonderful surprise...we knew there were guest houses, but we only toured the main inn/restaurant when booking the venue. We were so relaxed and comfortable in that space, it was really a special treat!
Our wedding rings: $4,200
- I know that many people would include the cost of the rings in this budget. But to me, it feels like the rings are gifts to each other rather than an element of the wedding itself. They almost feel superfluous to the celebration compared to, say, the welcome dinner.
- Also, I chose a bolder/thicker (and therefore more expensive) wedding band than is typical for women's styles these days, partly because we didn't bother with an engagement ring. And engagement rings aren't usually included in budget breakdowns, so...do with this information what you will!
With all of that, our grand total comes out to $67k. My parents, who are super frugal and eloped 40 years ago, would probably be horrified to see this #. But there you have it, internet strangers! We don't regret it one bit!
For what it's worth, here are some things we did NOT spend money on:
- No engagement ring
- No engagement shoot (a friend took some cute pics for our save the dates)
- No wedding planner (although the inn has a full-time coordinator to help with logistics)
- No bachelor/bachelorette trips (we each had a night out with our close people)
- No professional officiant (someone close to us officiated the ceremony)
- No videography
- No wedding cake
- No welcome bags or wedding favors
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