Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Crunching The Numbers

So. Budgeting your wedding is, for most of us, really hard and awful and stressful, yes? I mean, kudos to you if it wasn't, but I know that for us, the whole money thing was the very worst part of wedding planning. At first, I had absolutely no idea how much weddings can cost--my initial investigations into planning were utterly shocking!

I want to share a full, detailed, nitty-gritty budget recap with you in the hopes that it might give you a bit of a touchstone for your own planning. I know that when I'd look at wedding features in my early planning stages, my running internal monologue would often be, "but what does this COST? What am I looking at here? Is this a $5,000 wedding? A $15,000 wedding? A $50,000 wedding? Can I do something like this, or would it be utterly impossible for me?"

I think it would be really helpful for brides to see more impartial "here is how many dollars our wedding cost, and here is where those dollars went" types of posts. I've written before about my thoughts on how journalism about The Cost of Weddings These Days is often served up with a big scoop of scorn and judgment about the amount people spend (and I think there's a pretty common thread of "how about those crazy women with their wanton, greedy, frivolous spending on themselves just so they can play princess for a day!", as well). Of course, money is a loaded subject in most contexts, not just weddings. Still, I do think it's possible to have more transparent, emotionally neutral conversations about wedding budgets, and that's what I'm striving for with this post.

Some nuts and bolts: our budget included everything you might call a "day-of" or "day-before" expense, including the rehearsal dinner. It doesn't include our honeymoon, and it doesn't include peripheral expenses like our flight to Pittsburgh, our hotel stay, eating & drinking while we were there, and so on (partially because I didn't know how far to take things like that, like, do I count the new outfit I bought for my bridal shower? The postage on thank-you notes? The checked baggage fees? and partially because it would shoot our final number so much higher than it already is that I would need to lay in bed with a cold washcloth on my forehead). Paying for all of this was a collaboration between Mr. Octo & I, my parents, his parents, and his grandmother.

All that said, here it is, my attempt at an impartial "here is how many dollars our wedding cost, and where those dollars went"-style post!


Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Date/Time: Saturday evening

Guests: 126 (116 adults, 10 children)

Total Cost: $27,500

Cost Breakdown:

Venues: $3,637

Heinz Chapel: $850


  • Included on-site coordinator, Friday rehearsal, & live organ music
Children's Museum of Pittsburgh: $2,787


  • $2,000 base fee for 4 hours
  • $600 for added hour
  • $187 for mandatory security guard
  • Free parking for all guests
    Reception Costs: $14,384

    Catering: $11,912



    • $4,613 for food (Fruit, vegetables, cheese, and bread table for cocktail hour; carving, salad, & Pittsburgh stations for adult dinner; chicken fingers & french fries for kid dinner; boxed meals for vendors)
    • $2,738 for equipment rentals (plates, flatware, etc.)
    • $752.40 for linens
    • $1,919 for staffing
    • $700 for staff gratuity
    • $705 for sales tax
    • $485 for bar set-up (ice, bar fruit, cocktail napkins, sodas, and juices)
    Alcohol: $1,325


    • Limited open bar
    • Self-catered
    • 2 varieties of red wine
    • 2 varieties of white wine
    • 4 varieties of beer
    • 4 cocktails
    Cake: $315

    • 120 cupcakes & small two-layer cutting cake
    DJ: $625
    • 5 hours
    Misc. Decor: $209




    • Seating cards: $29
    • MyPublisher photo album guestbook: $42
    • Birdcage card holder: $25
    • Frames for table numbers: $85
    • Misc. paper for bar menus, dinner menus, etc.: $15
    Attire & Appearance: $2,099


    • Wedding gown: $730
    • Alterations: $190
    • Veil: $0 (wedding gift from family friend)
    • Jewelry: $121
    • Shoes: $0 (free using gift cards)
    • Hairstyling: $60
    • Makeup: $80
    • Wedding ring: $550 after use of gift certificate (this may change when I figure out a solution to my wedding band dilemma!) 
    • After-party dress: $29
    • Tie: $20
    • Suit fitting: $250
    • Wedding ring:  $69
    Stationery (including postage): $541

    • Save-the-dates: $95

    • Invitations: $436
      Flowers: $1,279


      • Bride bouquet
      • 6 bridesmaids' bouquets
      • 2 grandmother corsages
      • 10 boutonnieres (groom, 6 groomsmen, 2 fathers, 1 grandfather)
      • 3 cocktail table arrangements
      • 17 centerpieces
      Photographer: $2000
      • 7 hours of coverage; second shooter; disc of edited, high-resolution photos with unlimited re-print rights; $200 print credit
      Transportation: $175
      • One-way shuttle for fifteen-minute trip (and one of the only times I felt I was truly paying a wildly overinflated price).  
      Rehearsal Dinner: $930
      • Catering & clean-up for 40 people: $774
      • Dishes & flatware: $50
      • Cake: $106
      • Alcohol $0 (used some wine & beer from wedding stash)
      Gifts & Gratuities: $1,665

      Bridesmaids' gifts: $600

      • 6 Coach wristlets, $50/each
      • Professional makeup on wedding day, $50/each
      Groomsmens' gifts: $600
      • 6 ties, $20/each
      • Individualized gifts, approx. $80/each
      Thank-you gift for rehearsal dinner hosts: $200
      Rehearsal dinner server: $40
      Makeup artist: $70 (for all 7 of us)
      Hairstylist: $80 (for all 7 of us)
      Shuttle driver: $25
      DJ: $50 (a spontaneous tip for doing such a great job!)
        Miscellaneous: $786

        Officiant: $265 (including rehearsal)
        Marriage license: $35
        Out-of-Town Bags: $236
        • Ivory paper for welcome booklet (and used for other things): $30
        • Bags: $32
        • Snacks & water: $147
        • Decorations (tissue paper, etc.): $27
        Food for bridal party on wedding day (breakfast for bridesmaids in the morning, lunch for groomsmen as they got ready, snacks for their downtime during family portraits): $150
        Reserved parking for all guests at Heinz Chapel: $100


        There you have it! I hope you find it helpful!


        1. Who did you use for your make up? It was great!

          1. They create the right environment and give people the opportunity to enjoy the moment. With live bands slowly catching the trend, they are the hottest options for wedding ceremonies.

        2. Julie Marckisotto from Pittsburgh Makeup. Definitely look her up! She was amazing!

        3. Hi Carrie. I came across your blog, as we are planning a wedding in Pittsburgh. Ceremony in Heinz, and reception at the National Aviary. Would you be able to tell me if you used full-service option or set-up and serve from the Big Burrito group? ... and did they help you with linen rental, or did you do that on your own (if you did... who did you use?)?

        4. Hi Carrie,
          I am also planning a Pittsburgh wedding. Your blog has been very helpful. I see that you spent $625 for a DJ. That is reasonable. Most DJs I've come across are over 1,000! Can I have the name of your DJ? Also, what vendor did you use for the shuttle for your out of town guests? I looked into Molly's trolley which was way overpriced.

        5. I agree with the poster above me, can you tell us who your DJ was?



        6. I will say the dj makes or breaks your wedding and is the lasting talk at every family event. So since you mentioned so little about the dj for your wedding. Who was it where are they from what do they offer and how professional where they.

          Look for a dj that is worth the money not trying to be cheap.

        7. I'm having my wedding reception at the Children's Museum this summer! The last thing I need is music. I was wondering if you'd be willing to say who your DJ was.


        8. It's hard to find a quality DJ for $625. A DJ in Pittsburgh with liability insurance, professional equipment and knows what they are doing will cost about twice that, but you get what you pay for. The wedding DJ can make or break your reception so make sure you ask a lot of questions. Ask them if they can provide you an example of their work if you've never seen them play before.

        9. Glad to see a wedding site from where I live in! Love the colors used in the wedding!

        10. Hi Carrie - Thank you SO much for posting all of this. It was totally helpful for me in the planning stages. I know several others have asked but would you mind sharing your DJ?


        11. They offer different packages which mean people with both big and small budgets can hire their services.  music

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