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A helpful word on wedding budgets. PART 1

February 9, 2016

It’s that time of year again.  The time when most couples have been recently engaged, and are on the path to begin planning their wedding.  This is a new experience for most couples, and they don’t know where to start, or the big question on their minds are usually, “How much does everything cost?”


The days of tradition where the family-of-the-bride funds the event seems to be fading too with more couples funding their wedding themselves.  Also, the expectations at weddings has changed greatly between the time the parents of the millennials and the millennials currently getting married with modern wedding expectations tending to be much higher.  

It seems a lot of new couples are wondering what it costs to throw a reception and get married.  Even with lots of resources out there dedicated to this question, the current status quo is to look online for local vendor pricing, attempt to contact vendors via email or text for price, and stop there while rarely having a phone call or face-to-face conversation about what a service provides for a certain price.  This is a huge disservice when trying to find the right provider for a once-in-a-lifetime day like a wedding.  I’ve even had someone respond to me on Facebook recently, when I provided them with a suggestion for a vendor, “Any idea what they charge? …  I don’t feel like I should have to call to get a price.”  Often times vendors are pricing competitively based on the quality of product they bring, and some vendors cannot post prices as they may be subject to price fluctuations in the materials required for their craft (i.e. price of food, flowers, etc.).

So, in an effort to help the current generation I’d like to share with you the quick guide to budget for a wedding, along with what to expect to pay for the core professionals needed to have a successful wedding & reception. (Some of this same information can be found in another article we have posted, but with how often this question comes up it warrants repeating.)

But first, a baseline of information:

The average wedding budget/cost in the United States is: $26,444
For Green Bay, WI, and most surrounding areas, average budgets are as follows:

  • Number of guests less than 50 $7,599 – $12,664
  • Number of guests between 50 and 100 $11,571 – $19,284
  • Number of guests between 100 and 200 $18,478 – $30,797
  • Number of guests between 200 and 300 $23,832 – $39,720
  • Number of guests more than 300 $46,110 – $76,849

A single guest could add between $104 and $127 to the overall cost of your wedding. The best way to save money on your wedding is to limit the number of guests.
(source: as of 2/9/16)

 The numbers above are based on what couples said they paid, and not on vendor pricing.  Therefore, this information has some great credibility to it, as it was provided by people who are in the exact same situation as you!

TIP:  Start a savings account at another bank.  If you have online banking through your main bank, set it up to where you can transfer funds into this other bank account, but not withdraw through the online system.  Saving is hard these days, and there are too many ads we are subjected to every day asking us to give up our hard-earned dollars.  If you are serious about saving, then you need to make that money a little harder to access.

The #1 mistake we see couples fall into is having a guest list that is too big for their budget.   We have been noticing a trend of couples planning on having 200-300 people on a budget of $10,000 or less.  I know we want lots of people to share in our wedding day, but if you try to do a 300 person wedding on a $10,000 budget it’s going to be a disappointment for your guests when the reception comes.  Why disappointment?  Because the cost to have that many people means having to go cheap on everything that makes a great reception.  Plus, having a guest list that is too big for your budget just makes wedding planning hugely stressful.

So how do we know what kind of budget is possible, and how many guests we should have on our guest list?

Step 1:  To know where we’re going we need to know where we are.

If you haven’t done so already put together a monthly budget for your household.  Start by calculating the average income brought in every month, then deduct recurring monthly expenses, savings allotment, along with factoring slightly higher than average for incidentals (i.e. gas for the car(s), going out to eat, and other entertainment money).  Then find out what you have left at the end.  Does this number seem close to what you have leftover at the end of the month?  If you find you are usually lower in your bank account by this amount then you need to look at your bank statement to find out what else is coming out of your hard earned money and find places where you can cut back.  Let’s be real, I know this sucks, but it’s a good habit to start right now.

Once you’ve figured out how much you can realistically expect to have left over every month try to save at least 50% of that remaining balance.  This is what you put into that hard to reach account which is going to fund your wedding.  Then multiply the number of months, and this monthly allotment to figure out what you may potentially be able to save, and subtract 20%.  Why subtract 20%?  Well, we’re human, and sometimes we just have to buy that “As Seen On TV” item or get that thing on sale.  -OR-  You have one of those human moments in life where you need some cash.  Ideally you’ll have the willpower to not touch this account, or won’t be forced into withdrawing due to “life” situations.

So, let’s say you figure you’ll be able to save $10,000 if you never have to touch it, and $8,000 if “life happens”.

You can factor in things like tax returns, or other forms of income that are not part of your regular income to put into this account too, but don’t count any chickens before they hatch.

Step 2:  Figure out your guest count.

This step is easy.  Take the worst case scenario budget, and divide it by the cost per guest (which can be found at by typing in your zip code).  Then multiply that number by 1.25.

In our example we have a worst-case scenario budget of $8,000, and the cost per guest is between $104-$127 in this area.  So let’s take the number in between which is roughly $115.  8,000/115 = 69.5  Then take that 69.5 and multiply by 1.25.  69.5 X 1.25 = 86,9.  Since it’s impossible to invite a fraction of a person let’s round to 87.  So for an $8,000 budget you want to have a guest list of 87 people.  Why 87 and not 70?  Because typically 20-30% of guests invited to a wedding do not attend.  So to hit your target number always invite a few extra people.


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