How do you establish a wedding budget? Maybe your parents are giving you money or a portion, maybe you and your better half are covering it all or a part, maybe your aunt wants to pitch in, and so on and so forth. Before you establish a budget, you need to understand the cost of a wedding!
If you haven't reviewed our post about the average cost of a wedding, we advise you to start there. In Northern Virginia, expect to spend at least $3000 on florals or $2000 for a DJ (not including extra add-ons). Right there that is $5000. Maybe you thought you could get married for $15,000, with only 2 vendors, you have spent a third of your budget. Most weddings have anywhere from 12-15 vendors and then even sometimes more! Now we aren't saying you can't get married for $15,000, because you certainly can, heck you can get married for less than $100 if you really wanted, but you can't get married, have flowers everywhere, your dream $2000 dress, the photobooth, the epic getaway car, your dream wedding venue, feed 150 guests, and have a 6-hour long affair for $15,000 (at least not in Northern Virginia, unless you have generous very family friends in ALL areas!)
Before you establish your wedding budget, it is best to educate yourself on what a typical photographer cost (plus the lengh of service (add 2-3 additional hours on from the start of the ceremony to the end of reception) for pre-wedding pictures) or what a venue cost, then set your budget. Now maybe your parents are still giving you let's say $10,000 even knowing the national average, your aunt is pitching in $1,000 and you as a couple may want to pitch in another $15,000. That is $26,000, which is a large amount of money, but it still not the average for Northern Virginia. So what do you do then?
This is where you determine what is not as important or where you are going to make cuts. Maybe you love a venue but instead of a Saturday wedding, you book on Friday to save $4000. Maybe cake is great, but not a high priority vendor, so you decide on a personal cake and sheet cakes. You start adjusting the budget where you feel fits.
Next, you think guest count wise. With the average wedding cost in Virginia, being approximately $29,000 and DC is $45,000, Northern Virginia runs closer to $35,000-$37,000 as the average for about 150 people. Let say it is $35,000 for 150 guest, that comes out to be roughly $230 guest. Your budget we said was $26,000, so to make that work, you need to lower your guest list down to about 115 people to make your budget more workable.
So by lowering your guest count, adjusting some less important wedding elements, you are in a much better standpoint wedding planning now, because you have a better understanding and have already adjusted your mindset and guest list.
Now on the flip side, you could probably have a beautiful affair with tons of flowers, maybe 30 guests, 2 hours of dancing, for $15,000 given the right venue. It is all about managing expectations and what you both value as a couple and what you want for your big day!