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Time to break open the piggy bank

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Everyone is on a budget, but just as your are willing to plunk down $5000.00 for the wedding rings, understand that if you bought the setting and the gold yourself and had it created for you, that price could have been half the amount you paid.  Everyone wants a deal.  So the urge to accept the lowest price is always upon us.  Before you decide that ‘you get what you pay for’ doesn’t apply to you, review here the current typical costs for THE TOP 10 EXPENSES in all things that are WEDDING.

According to a popular online wedding planning resource the average amount spent on weddings, excluding honeymoons, in 2015 was $30,433, unless you live in the Hamptons. But is that realistic?  Eliminate the couple that plans for a celebrity status band and the couple that decides to just visit the Justice of The Peace’s office then go the local bar.

Here are the top 10 categories in which couples would be best served to start planning for now for the wedding next year…

Reception hall

Typical cost in 2015: $3,500

With the average reception hall cost topping $3,500 (and more), frugal brides can find many places to trim costs.  Rather than outfitting the tables at your reception with expensive linens, use your tabletops to illustrate memories with photo prints or votive candles. Another example,  instead of spending $100 or more a tablecloth, consider cost effective bulk rolls of banquet paper that you can then decorate with your favorite items like glitter, stars and hearts, maybe even candy.  Afterwards, clean up is as simple as rolling it all up and tossing it away.

Engagement ring

Average cost in 2015: $5,431

Retail sales of diamonds and rings can top 10,000% if purchased at chain stores.  However, have you considered getting your rings at a local pawn shop?  Sadly this is where many rings wind up and you can get some amazing deals on what were originally thousands of dollars in retail mall costs to a few hundred dollars in gold and diamond weight.

Reception DJ

Average cost in 2015: $1,125.

Of course it’s all about what you add to the mix that makes the moment.  These days DJs have at their fingertips a variety of special lighting effects that can add to the visual enhancement of your once in a lifetime party.  Up Lighting, Signature Monogram, Dancing In The Cloud Nimbus fog, club like dance floor lighting effects and more.  Each component can add to the typical average cost of a professional MC DJ.

But finding the just right entertainer is not all about cost.  It’s about experience, knowledge of the wedding industry and their ability to communicate and ‘read’ an audience in order to make your reception “the party of the year”.  Never accept the lowest price simply because you’re on a tight budget or have saved entertainment for last.  In reality you need to book entertainment during the first part of the wedding planning process, not only to insure their availability during your wedding month but also many times, booking ahead of your date will save you money vs waiting until the last minute.  Always ask for and call references and LISTEN to the DJ on the phone.  He MUST HAVE excellent communication skills.  If he is stuttering on the phone, he’s not the DJ you want in front of your 150 guests.

Typically for Sound and basic Lighting, expect to spend around $900 to $1200 for the DJ (much more if he or she is really well-established or if he or she describes themselves also as an Emcee—not all DJs are) and if you are opting for head banging or country two stepping live music, then your costs can go to nearly $3,300 for a band to play at the reception.  Just make sure they have a huge playlist and can duplicate all your favorite songs.

For the ceremony ask your DJ if he can provide that, too, either at extra cost or a discount. Or you might want live musicians for the ceremony. You could get by with just a pianist, but who can resist throwing a harpist, violinist and cello into the mix? Ceremony costs with live or canned typically add another $450 to your music budget.

A parting word of advice on this topic: Tipping musicians is optional, but many will expect a little something at the end of the night.  10% is the norm.

Wedding photographer

Average cost in 2015: $2,379

To get the most bang for your buck, shop for photography package deals. Or, instead of paying the regular rates for two days of photos, negotiate arrangements with your photographer to take bride-and-groom photos between the ceremony and reception, or at a later date.  And as we mention with Videographers, two is always better than one.  Multiple shots, every moment covered.


Average cost in 2015: $1,997

One way to save on decor and flowers is to choose your venue wisely.  For example, if you’re looking to save on flowers, choose a space with built-in decor, so you don’t have to add a ton of flowers to it. Have flower arrangements made that can do double duty. Something that can be moved from the ceremony to the reception is going to take you a long way and obviously also save you money.

Wedding/event planner

Average cost in 2015: $1,847

If this is your first wedding, consider a wedding planner, but realize that they too have their limitations.  They can help you with your budget, coordinate with the vendors and make sure that the ‘day of’ essentials are all taken care of.  However, while great at planning, realize that the wedding coordinator is NOT your caterer, NOT your florist and especially NOT your DJ.  Allow these vendors the autonomy of producing their services without outside interference from a non-professional in their field.  For example, we will only work with the couple, not through the coordinator, simply because in our experience of thousands of weddings, it’s best to cut out the middle person and go straight to the source.  If a wedding planner is completely out of your budget, ask a close friend or trusted family member to help you plan your big day.

Ceremony site

Average cost in 2015: $1,711

Look for inexpensive — but picturesque — sites in your area, such as a state park with a secluded hollow, or near the lake or down by the river.  Your parents or boss’s house is also a consideration.  There are many great locations in and around our areas and many can readily be found on the internet.  But always, visit the site to see all that it offers…and what it’s limitations are.  For example, is there parking enough to handle all of your guests cars?  Is there handicap consideration at the entrances and to the wedding site?  Will the site provide security if you plan on serving alcohol or is that expense your responsibility?


Average cost in 2015: $1,619

Looking at your pictures years from now is always wonderful.  Watching the video though can help bring back “that moment it all happend”.  Whatever your decision, always plan for two photographers or a combination photographer and videographer.  That way if one has a problem like no battery or trips into the reflecting pond, there’s always a back up camera in action!  But you don’t have to go the expensive route. Have a younger cousin dying to show off his filming and editing skills? Assign him cameraman duties to cut costs.

Wedding dress

Average cost in 2015: $1,211

You’ll find many of your favorite designs from the numerous wedding shops in our area.  And more brides these days are opting for internet orders.  But for those brides-to-be who are not looking for dresses in the thousand-dollar-and-up range, consider shopping for discounted wedding gowns or even renting a dress or even asking ‘mom’ or ‘grandmother’ if you could wear hers for a bit of notalgia at your wedding.

Rehearsal dinner

Average cost in 2015: $1,135

Just like food at the reception, this is an expense item to plan for.  Otherwise show some flare and brown bag it!  Bring along some inexpensive fruit and vegetable trays, maybe some sparkling beverage for this time of pre-celebration.  Is the DJ going to be at the rehearsal?  Ask him ahead of time if he could provide some entertainment, typical costs for these events is $400 and up.