Expectations vs. Reality: Wedding Costs

November 1, 2023 | kailey

Image by Sara Cooper.

At the beginning of your wedding planning journey, your first step will be to talk money. You’ll create a budget that’s comfortable for both you and your significant other. This magic number will play an important role in hiring vendors, finding your dream venue, and so much more. But let’s be real. Sometimes you set a budget, and before you know it, you go over it. We’ve seen this happen many times, and it can be frustrating for those looking to keep a close eye on their spending. 

Underestimating your wedding expenses can really cost you in the end. Either you’ll have to cough up more money, or you’ll have to rearrange funds to make up for the costs. Both sound incredibly stressful. That’s why we want to make sure you have realistic budget expectations from the start. 

We’ve polled our Instagram audience to see what they expect to spend in each wedding category, and we’re comparing these numbers to the averages to see if there’s a gap between what people expect to pay and what they ultimately dish out.

Wedding Invitations 

Wedding invitations give your guests a sneak peek into your wedding. So, of course, you want them to be stunning and match your theme. But they also need to have all the important wedding details as well. That can get expensive quickly. When we polled our audience on Instagram, the majority said they expect to pay between $100-$300 total for their wedding invitations. 

The price of invitations will vary based on your design, printing style, paper quantity, and quantity. But the average cost typically ranges between $300 and $700 for both invitations and envelopes. While close to the average, Instagram underestimates the cost of wedding invitations slightly. 

Of course, you could always opt for electronic invites or just create a wedding website with all the must-know information. This will undoubtedly save you money. But, if there’s room in your budget, try and stick with paper invites. They’re extra special to receive in the mail, they’ll make for a nice keepsake, and your photographer will appreciate this when it comes to capturing your flatlay. 

Expected costs: $100-$300
Average costs: $300 and $700

Image by Beatrice Howell. See more of this real wedding here.

Wedding Costs: Venue 

Venue costs vary substantially. We’re taking into consideration lowkey backyard spaces, lavish banquet halls, and everything in between. With the different venue locations, sizes, and guest capacities, our average venue costs will vary quite a bit. And our Instagram poll is proof. 

The final votes from our Instagram poll were scattered. Yet, the slightest majority leaned toward the $8,000+ range. And they’ve got it right. The average wedding venue typically hovers around $10,000. But when it comes to searching for your dream venue, to get the most accurate pricing estimate, do a little research on the average costs of spaces in your local area that’ll fit your number of guests. 

Expected costs: $8,000+
Average costs: $10,000

Realistic Breakdown of Fashion Costs 

When thinking about fashion, we’re not just referencing your wedding day outfit. While your wedding dress, jumpsuit, or tux will inevitably take up the majority of your fashion budget, there’s so much more involved. You also have to consider your accessories like jewelry, ties, shoes, veils, shapewear, etc. While these all may seem like small, insignificant details, they can add up quickly. 

Wedding dresses generally fall between $1,500 to $2,500. Purchasing a suit averages between $300 and $500. If you want to wear a veil, you can expect to pay around $250. Those all together will leave your budget around $3000, but that doesn’t include shoes, ties, jewelry, headbands, etc. 

When we polled Instagram, our audience said they were expecting to pay between $1,000 and $3,000 for their fashion. While that is doable, these numbers fall much lower than the average. It’s estimated most couples will spend between $3,000 and $5,000 to complete both wedding ensembles. When calculating your budget, make sure you take into account all the nitty-gritty fashion details beyond just your dress or suit. This will help prevent any surprises down the line. 

Expected costs: $1,000 and $3,000
Average costs: $3,000 and $5,000

Photographer and Videographer Costs 

Your wedding day will go by in a blink of an eye. That’s where your photographer and videographer become important. Their goal is to capture your special day so you can relive your cherished moments for years to come. Unsurprisingly, when we polled our Instagram followers, they estimated to spend $3,000+ on their photographer and videographer

On average, most couples spend between $1,500 and $2,500 on their wedding videographer and between $3,00 and $4,000 for their photographer. This is, of course, dependent on location, add-ons, and hours of coverage.  

Expected costs: $3,000+
Average costs: $3,000 to $4,000

Image by Lauren Wysocki. See more of this real wedding here.

Wedding Costs for Flowers 

With wedding flowers typically being one of the most important wedding decor details, it’s crucial that you don’t underestimate your floral budget. You want to ensure an accurate price estimation before meeting with potential florists. It’s important to note that the price of your flowers depends on the style of flowers you choose, the seasonality of your flowers, the amount of arrangements you need, the size of your arrangements, delivery costs, etc. 

With all those details in mind, our Instagram audience estimated wedding flower costs in 2023 to be between $500 and $2,000. This would be the case for those planning a small, intimate wedding. But couples wanting a large, floral-filled wedding can expect to pay, on average, around $3,000 minimum.  

This number might have you considering a DIY project, but keep in mind that hiring an experienced florist can actually save you money. That’s right! They can make suggestions on ways to bring your vision to life within your wedding budget. As long as you come to your initial consultation with an open mind, you can create some floral magic regardless of your budget. 

Expected costs: $500-$2000
Average costs: $3,000

Wedding Cake Costs

Wedding cakes come in many shapes and sizes, and their costs are closely tied to those factors, including the cake’s design and level of intricacy. As our Instagram audience correctly guessed, the average cake price for 2023 typically falls between $350 and $500.

If you’re aiming for a small and simple cake, you’ll find yourself on the lower end. However, for those with more elaborate visions, be prepared for your cake to be on the higher end. Sharing an inspirational image with a prospective bakery can help you get a more accurate quote based on your specific design.

Expected costs: Less than $500
Average costs: $350-$500 

Image by Emily Delamater. See more of this inspiration here.

Wedding DJ and Live Music

Music sets the scene for essential moments, such as the walk down the aisle, the reception entrance, and even your first dance. It’s also the secret to getting your guests moving and grooving on the dance floor. If you’re looking for a fun night of dancing, skipping on the music is simply not an option for your big day. And if you agree, set aside an average of $1,000 to $2,000 for a wedding DJ or live band. 

Expected costs: $1,000 to $2,000
Average costs: $1,000 to $2,000

Average Wedding Catering Costs

Before estimating your overall wedding budget, we want to give you a little food for thought—pun intended. To get a truly accurate price, you need to know two things: the style of catering you want and your guest count

Catering costs are often calculated per person, averaging around $75 per plate. So, if your guest list falls within the 50-100 range, you can anticipate a catering bill ranging from $3,500 to $7,500. It’s important to remember that this number typically doesn’t include expenses related to the bar, alcohol, or dessert.

Expected costs: $2,000+
Average costs: $3,500 and $7,500

Creating a wedding budget is overwhelming. First, you have to decide on the overall number you’re willing to spend on your big day. Then, you have to make decisions about where to put your money. These average estimations should help get you on the right track. But, before you actually meet with potential vendors, use our budget tool to get organized.

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