I'm a Virginia wedding photographer based in Loudoun County and I spend my days photographing incredible couples in Virginia, D.C. and beyond. Explore some of my favorite sessions below!
Hi there, I'm Maddy!
August 25, 2020
With kicking off our own wedding planning this week one thing has been on the top of my mind – the wedding budget! Every couple’s wedding day is different and depending on your preferences and vision for the day your budget and how you break it down is going to vary. However, there’s a few prices ranges you should keep in mind as you start to plan out your day!
Although it’s probably the least fun part of wedding planning tackling your budget at the beginning is vital to planning for your big day! You two need to be on the same page about how much you’re willing to spend and what your priorities are. Once you have this set it will be easier to find venues and vendors who fit the price ranges you feel comfortable with.
According to TheKnot.com the average wedding cost in Virginia is $33,300, while the average cost of a wedding in D.C. is $40,600. These are just the averages though and I know personally couples of mine who have worked with budgets both above and below this! Recently, most couples I work with are spending around $45,000-65,000 on their wedding days.
To begin with decide on how much you two feel comfortable spending on the wedding day and then begin breaking it down by percentages. Leave a little leeway in certain categories so that you have wiggle room if something is a higher priority for you!
Here’s how I’d typically recommend breaking down your budget:
Your wedding venues and your catering typically eat up the largest chunk of your wedding budget! On average most couples end up putting 35-50% of their wedding budget toward these two costs. They will be some of the first purchases you make for your wedding day and some of the hardest because they do take up so much of your budget! Take the time to evaluate these two costs together. It may seem like a smart move to lock in your venue first, but make sure you’re considering the cost of catering too. If your venue has a mandatory caterer or a list you must choose from you want to make sure those caterers fit a number you’re comfortable with before you commit to working with one of them. Try to keep your venue costs at around 10-15% of the budget and catering around 20-35%.
This is another cost that will range depending on what you two are looking for! If you’re hoping to work with a full planner who will manage your budget, vendors and wedding design for you expect to pay much more for their services. They’ll be working to create your dream wedding day from the moment you hire them! If you enjoy the planning process and just need a little advice or someone to help manage things on the day of your wedding look into a partial planning package or month of coordination option. Depending on what you choose this will be about 5-10% of your budget.
This is one part of your budget that will vary a lot depending on your priorities! If photography and videography are very important to you than I’d recommend putting around 15-25% of your budget here. In Northern Virginia and D.C. high-quality photography and videography will be a large part of your budget. If you aren’t interested in having videography capture your day, you can expect to put only about 10-15% of your budget on this category.
When hiring a band or DJ for your wedding plan on spending 5-10% of your budget. DJs typically cost less than bands since there are usually only a 1-2 person vendor team. Larger bands that have several members will cost more, but do offer a variety of musical sounds. Booking musical entertainment with multiple members can allow you to include an acoustic solo or duo for your ceremony music, jazz trio for cocktail hour or a big band reception
Just like most of these categories, this one will again vary a lot depending on what you want, but for your decor plan to put around 10% of your budget here. This will include your bouquet, bridesmaids’ bouquets, boutonnieres, ceremony and reception florals and extra decor pieces you want. You should also consider if you want to enhance your venue space at all with specialty rentals like linens, tableware, flatware, lounge furniture or any other fun pieces.
Total try to set aside around 5-6% of your budget for your attire. This will range depending on if you’re purchasing suits and tuxes or renting, what designer you end up going with for your dress, and if you need alterations.
Hair and makeup can cost only 3% of your total budget, but keep in mind this is counting only a single bride’s hair and makeup. If the mothers or bridesmaids want their hair and makeup professionally done and you two are covering the cost for them, this category will cost more!
If you plan on getting a cake from somewhere other than your caterer set aside around 2-3% of your wedding budget. The cost will go up depending on the size of your cake and how elaborate the design is. This may be something your caterer offers though so be sure to discuss it with them too! You can also skip the cake and put this portion of your budget toward a creative dessert option like renting an ice cream truck, s’mores supplies, dessert bars, donut walls, cookie tables or other sweets!
Stationery and other paper goods typically take up around 3% of your budget. This will include save the dates, invitation suites with RSVP cards, table numbers and paper signs if you need them done. This percentage can vary depending on if you’re using a templated design or getting custom stationery designed for your wedding day.
Including transportation as part of your budget is a thoughtful expense for your guests! If your venue is in the city with limited parking or located in a rural area providing a shuttle from the hotel helps gets guests safely travel to and from your wedding. It all helps incentivize your guests to stay in the hotel room blocks if you’re providing it. Be sure to mention on your wedding website that you’ll be offering transportation! This usually takes up around 3% of your budget.
There are a few other categories you need to keep in mind too that may vary depending on if it’s something you need to include in your budget. Set aside around .5% for an officiant if you need to hire one, but consider cutting costs by having a friend or family member officiate instead. If you plan on sending you guests or wedding party home with favors or gifts budget around 1-2% for these.
That’s it! These percentages may seem overwhelming, but once you start to break your budget down it will make the planning process so much less intimidating. Keep in mind that these are just averages of how couples usually divvy up their wedding day and can be different for you two! If a certain aspect of your wedding is important to you don’t be afraid to spend more in that category. Just take into consideration how that will affect the other percentages broken down above.
Questions or want to more information on wedding planning? Feel free to contact me here or read more For Couples articles on the blog! And special thanks to Lauren Harbin of Chancey Charm D.C. for her feedback on budgeting from a planner’s perspective!