One of the biggest hurdles for parents planning a wedding is that thirty years may have passed since they last planned a wedding. To say things have changed in that time is an understatement. Back then, brides were often unaware of the costs and the mother of the bride often made all the plans.
To give perspective, I often tell couples and their parents to consider the cost of medium-priced cars then and now. Then, a car cost about $3,500, the same as the cost of a wedding. Today, a wedding with all the trimmings still costs the same as a mid-priced new car, which can be around $25,000 to 50,000, depending on the locale.
Calculating the scope of expenses
Before you argue that sounds like too much money, remember the cost of the wedding is much more than the ceremony location and food and beverage expenses. Couples frequently underestimate their wedding expenses by calculating only the cost of the reception. The cost of an officiant to marry them, the ceremony music, reception music, flowers for the ceremony and reception, invitations, and announcements are significant expenses that cannot be overlooked. There’s also transportation, a wedding dress, tuxedos, a wedding cake, a photographer, a videographer, party favors, and the rehearsal dinner. Regardless who will bear these costs, they are all factored into the total cost of a wedding.
Though often not figured directly into wedding expenses, I’m sure the bride does not consider the costs of hair styling, make-up, manicures and other personal services in preparation for her to look her best to be minor incidentals. They are also real expenses unique to the wedding party, which will have many such extras.
Couples are also prone to miscalculating the number of guests. Some costs (wedding dress, ceremony, reception music, photography, flowers, for example) remain the same regardless how many guests attend. Many of the costs of a wedding are the same whether you will have 50 or 500 guests. Known as “hard costs”, they will be spread over the number of guests. Food, beverages, cake, rental equipment, and favors are among the costs that vary with the number of guests.
Choices that can cost or save
Most weddings take place between April and October, with the majority being scheduled for summer. Couples may pay a premium for popular sites and services during busy wedding season. Since most weddings take place on weekends, they may also bear extra labor expenses.
Many vendors only get to book weddings on weekends and, often, only one wedding per day. Vendors have a limited time to make their money. They don’t work weddings seven days a week. High-demand photographers, bakers and florists are able to charge premium rates that can inflate your expenses. Any bride who can consider booking her wedding on “off” days –Fridays, Sundays or mid-week– can explore favorable pricing opportunities.
Naturally, the cost of doing business varies by location and region. Metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York City, are much more expensive places to marry than Kansas City, Missouri. California and New York also have a relatively high cost of doing business, as do popular destination cities commonly selected for weddings.
If you stop to think about all that goes into planning a beautiful wedding, and the number of vendors who will contribute to the day, it is easy to see why weddings cost so much. This is not like any other party you’ve hosted. However, if you decide what is most important to you before you commit to purchases, you can make choices that will help keep the cost of your dream wedding in line.
©2011 Robbin Montero
“Stress Free, Leave the Details to Me,” is the tried and true philosophy of Robbin Montero, California Wine Country wedding planning expert and owner of A Dream Wedding. Robbin is the premier wedding planner in the Northern California Wine Country, transforming any vision into the perfectly designed wedding creation. Robbin and her weddings have been featured in The Knot, Brides, Elite Magazine, Your Wedding Day and Vine Napa/Sonoma magazines, and ImportantOccasions.com. Travel & Leisure magazine calls Robbin, “The expert wedding planner in the California Wine Country.”