Timeline & Budget

How Much Does A Wedding Cost?

Four couples were willing to share their budgets to help you make your own smart money-spending decisions. The key? Splurging on what's important to you (and downgrading on the sly).

Photos: Harrison Studio

Priority: Dress
Elizabeth & Chris, Eve at The B.O.B., Grand Rapids, MI, 82 guests

"Chris had barely slipped the ring on my finger when my mom and I started making appointments at gown salons," says Elizabeth. "Since grade school I'd been reading wedding magazines when I should've been reading Judy Blume, so the gown was everything—we couldn't put a price tag on that."

The Budget


$6,200 - 31% of total budget

"I fell in love with the Dorothy gown by Vera Wang, in nude charmeuse and pink champagne tulle, with vintage crystal beadwork at the bust. I purchased it at a trunk show and alterations were free."

Ceremony site fee

$1,200 - Ventura Pines Cottage

"Our site-rental fee was for nine hours, which gave us plenty of time to set up and break down."



Reception site fee and catering

$4,000 - Eve at The B.O.B. for six hours, with tableware, appetizers, and a dinner buffet (provided by in-house caterers) included in the fee

"We had originally anticipated 150 guests but confirmed just 82, so—using the money that had originally been allotted for the additional people—we worked with the caterer to add my dad's favorite beer to the bar menu and create a chef-attended dessert station."

Wedding Planner

$335 - Pearls Events; hired on an hourly basis for advice and vendor recommendations


$4,200 - Harrison Studio; engagement session, eight hours of coverage by two photographers, album, and disc of high-resolution images


$45 - Birdcage veil from Etsy


$22 - Clutch from Etsy; crystal bracelet given by the bride's mother


$160 - Badgley Mischka

Hair and makeup

$111 - Splurge Salon and Spa

Groom's attire

$200 - Express


$570 - Kay Jewelers

Attendant gifts

$245 - Embroidered handkerchiefs, necklaces, and pedicure supplies for the two maids of honor; shirts and ties for the groomsmen to wear at the wedding


$20 - Invitations given as a gift by a colleague of Chris's mother; ceremony programs and escort cards created by the bride, with help from her aunt and maid of honor


$1,089 - Stems Event Design; bridal bouquet, two bridesmaid bouquets, tossing bouquet, 10 boutonnieres, three corsages, two ceremony arrangements, table linens for the reception, 12 reception centerpieces, and a centerpiece mock-up to use in planning

Guest book

$20 - Photograph matte from Bed Bath & Beyond for guests to sign

"We're planning to use it to frame a favorite wedding photo."

Ceremony Music

$0 - iPod; conga drum performance by the bride's aunt

Reception Music

$700 - Six hours of DJ service


$135 - Basic chairs for the ceremony


$565 - Cascade Confections

"The middle two tiers of our four-tier cake were faux, which saved on cost."

Cake Flowers


"Our baker referred us to a florist who charged us only the wholesale cost of the fresh flowers used to decorate the cake."


$30 - Personalized CDs



NEXT: Kathleen & Lucas's wedding budget

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