What Do Weddings Cost in 2021?

Wedding Costs | Image by Mandy Busby

Weddings Cost WHAT?!

I know, I know, but stick with me through the end here so you can understand what to budget (and why!) for your big day.

Get Your Guest Count First

I know this can be so hard to think about, but it’s such an important first step. A simple Google search will tell you that you should expect about 80% of the people you invite to say yes. I STRONGLY disagree with this estimate. You should be expecting 90-95% percent of your invited guests to attend. So you need to ensure that the people you’re inviting are people you actually want to show up. Skip the courtesy invites, it’s just not worth it!

As soon as you’re engaged, it’s imperative to sit down with your fiancé and both sides of your family and discuss who is on your A-list – these are the absolute must invite, must attend people.

The number of guests you invite to your wedding is the number one driving factor of your wedding budget. 

Find Your Target Budget Range

Many couples come to me in the early planning process with the classic “we don’t have a number.” Don’t give me this line, everyone has a number! You absolutely have a number in mind that is your “freak out” number. This is your number you absolutely can’t spend more than or it will freak you out. Now, your number may be different from your future spouse or your parents, so it’s time to have that discussion. That “freak out” number will be your high end range while your low end range number will be determined by the contributing factors of your event. This is who is contributing monetarily to your big day. And remember, those contributing will have some leverage so make sure you aren’t taking money from someone you don’t want to have a say. Now add each of those numbers up and you’ll have your target low range.

Ready for a math problem? Divide your “freak out” number (let’s say $100,000) by your guest count (let’s go with an even 100) and you’ll get $1,000. This number is your Price Per Person. Now for the hard part – I want you to shift your thinking. Any wedding you see on Pinterest, in the media, etc. – it does not matter what their budget was if you do not also know their guest count. A $100,000 wedding for 100 people looks VERY different from a $100,000 for 500 guests.

Your Price Per Person number is such a critical, need to know number. You’ll be boiling everything down to this number. And remember, my numbers are simply examples for ease of calculation. I’m certainly not telling you what you should or should not be spending.

Your Food + Beverage Bill

This will be the largest check you write. You absolutely must feed and water your guests! For a professional caterer and a multi-course meal, you can expect to spend around $200/person for food and around $50/per for a premium bar package.

Seated dinners vs. cocktail style receptions are, of course, different pricing when it comes to rentals. For a plated meal, you’re spending money on tables, chairs, linens, place settings, floral arrangements for each table, and more. I know these details can seem like minutia, but this adds up so much more quickly than you’ll expect. Remember your price per person? That comes into play again because you have to have each of these items for each of your guests. Now, a cocktail style reception will be less money on the rental side, but whichever style you choose will add up quickly.

Entertainment + Décor

You’ll need to spend on your venue. If you’re getting married in a difference location than your celebration, that’s two checks you’re writing. For both of those, let’s say $6,000-8,000 (which is 6-8% of a $100,000 budget).

Entertainment is also a big factor. A band will be several thousand dollars or a DJ which is certainly less money. You may also need a stage or have to rent a dance floor. And don’t forget to check the band’s rider! You may be in charge of supplying their backline. You can also expect to spend several thousand dollars each on your photographer (and videographer if you choose!). These are splurge-worthy items depending on what your must haves for your wedding are. Remember, photos and video are the deliverables you’ll have for the rest of your life. In my opinion, absolutely worth the splurge.

Don’t forget flowers! If you have a larger bridal party, you will be spending more as each participant has their own special item. All the more reason to not have a massive bridal party! While I highly recommend a floral statement piece (chuppah or floral arch), this can be a large part of your floral bill. This category, décor and design, are really where the flex amounts in your wedding budget will be utilized. You may want specialty lighting or to upgrade your venue’s chairs. Perhaps you want a specialty bar back or lounge furniture for your venue’s outdoor space. This will truly be up to your personal taste though. I recommend carving out costs for all your must have items before moving onto the allotted money for décor.

Ready for more math? If you have the same budget, but 250 guests, you’ll have a price per person of $400. Your food and beverage number will stay pretty similar (though I’d advise you to downgrade your bar package which would give you about $235/person). Multiplying that by your guest count leaves you with $58,750 (not including 10% taxes and 20% gratuity).

With these numbers, it’s very likely you won’t have upgraded décor, you will book a DJ, you won’t be booking a videographer, and you’ll be keeping your rental costs lowered by sticking with the basics your venue offers. I am NOT saying you can’t have a lovely wedding like this, I’m just illustrating the difference in a wedding with a larger guest count and the same budget.

It boils down to this – forget what you’d read online about what you should be spending per category for your wedding. It’s ALL about price per person. Challenge the vendors you’re hiring, ask them what their typical price per person range is. Then you’ll be able to educate yourself and stay away from financial stress!

Prefer the video version? CLICK HERE!