It’s the burning question on every couple’s mind: how much does it actually cost to plan a wedding? Zola recently introduced their “Wedding Budget Diaries” series on Instagram, where they’re breaking down the actual cost of weddings.
If you wanna take a look, you can check out the post here. But we’ll summarize for you: 5 couples with wedding budgets ranging from $5,000 to $200,000 are featured.
And every single one of them went over budget.
So what does that mean for you? It’s hard to budget properly without the right data.
But don’t worry – we got you! In this blog, we’ll break down everything from the major costs of your wedding to the hidden ones that sneak up on you, so you can create a budget that’s easy to stick to.
So how much does it cost to plan a wedding?
The truth is: researching average costs in your area isn’t a good plan. These are often wildly inaccurate, trend low, and cover large areas with huge cost disparities. So it’s likely the vendors you’re researching have higher prices than the averages you find on Google. In a large city like Chicago, expect to pay higher prices than in a rural region like southern Illinois.
For example, according to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in Illinois was $37,000 in 2022.
We serve couples in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs and on average see $135-$185 per plate in our area. Food, drinks, and your venue usually take up 50% of your budget.
We, similar to many wedding planners in our area, work with couples that have a wedding budget of $50K and up. With the right planner, you can have the wedding you want within a reasonable budget.
Don’t get us wrong: you can totally plan a wedding for $37,000 or less in our area. But likely, this means you’ll be DIYing a lot.
The most expensive wedding costs
The major costs for your wedding will most likely be the venue, food and drinks, a photographer and/or videographer, a planner, and your attire. We break down what costs to expect from each of these categories below. These numbers are based on our experience as wedding planners in the Chicago suburbs.
Keep in mind that although other wedding costs are lower than these, they do add up. Don’t skip budgeting for all of your wedding costs. The more you prepare, the more likely you are to stick to your original budget.
We see most venue costs starting at $8,000 in the suburbs and $12,000 in Chicago.
- Find out what is included in the cost of your venue. Venue prices can include food and beverage costs, furniture, staff, and more.
- Ask if the venue requires you to use their preferred vendors. This may affect the cost of services for those vendors and ultimately, your decision to use or not use that venue.
Food and Drinks
If food and drink packages are provided by your venue, prepare to spend about 50% of your total budget on your venue, food, and drinks.
- Don’t forget to budget for tax, gratuity, and other processing fees. Most venues add this to your contract. If you don’t see these expenses listed, ask before you sign.
- You may have a food and beverage minimum. Know this amount and make sure it’s included in your contract!
- Ask your vendor if the food price is guaranteed or is adjustable based on current food costs. This makes a big difference in cost.
Photography & videography
You can find photographers and videographers for a range of prices, but for these vendors, cheap might not equal good quality. Professional, experienced photographers and videographers in our area start at $3,500-$4,500 each for wedding day.
- Know your budget. If it’s strict, don’t reach out to vendors who are too expensive unless you’re willing to increase your budget.
Some vendors will provide galleries of their work for you to look at. But make sure you look at their social media pages too! The galleries they send you are probably the best they have taken, and you want to make sure all of their work is great.
Wedding attire will vary in price depending on what you’re wearing. For gowns, we see $4,000 or more, with alterations starting at $650. Tuxedos and suits are usually less expensive, with custom-made starting at $1,100 and rented around $250.
- Keep in mind these prices don’t include shoes, a veil, jewelry, and other accessories.
- Invest in an experienced seamstress for your alterations. Alterations can make a huge difference in your experience wearing the clothes, especially if they’re done poorly.
- Take a video of your seamstress securing the bustle. Your planner will be able to help you, but every seamstress does it a little differently. Don’t rely on your drunk friends to help you out on wedding day!
Depending on the package, you should budget 10-25% of your total for planning services. You can find planners for very cheap, but they’re likely new and may not be super experienced. When it comes to planners, investing in an established planner will ensure you have a smooth planning process.
Research packages to determine which planning service will best fit your wedding. Full-service planners are typically higher, percentage-based pricing, while partial planners and day-of coordinators are usually a flat fee. You can read more about the different types of planners on our blog!
- Create must-haves, wants, and would-like lists to prioritize where your money will go. We recommend adding 5-10% to your budget for wiggle room if you can. That way, when things inevitably come up you didn’t prepare for, you have those funds.
- Please, please please: don’t go into debt for your wedding!! At Monarch, we support this 10000%. You can have a fantastic event with any budget, and a great planner can give you suggestions to get what you want within that budget.
While we can’t give you a $50,000 floral installation if your floral budget is $2,000, we can make sure you’re spending your money wisely. For example, you don’t need to spend $100 on a basket and petals for your flower girl. We actually have two baskets in our inventory you get to use for free if you work with us. We like saving you money!
Don’t expect to make your money back from gifts. A lot of people don’t realize the cost of a wedding and won’t even cover their plate with their gift, especially older guests. Keep in mind that 20+ years ago, giving a $50 gift was more than generous and covered your plate.
Unexpected wedding costs
On average, we see couples spending an average of $100 per person on gifts for their wedding party and parents.
Your guest count will determine the number of tables you need. If all of your guests attend, you’ll likely need more centerpieces than you originally planned.
Upgraded food and drinks
After your tasting, you might not like the standard options. Factor this in when you are planning!
Here are some common extras you might want to budget for:
- Custom napkins for the bar
- Something with your pet’s face on it
- Seating chart
- Card box and sign
- Bar signs
- Basket for the bathroom
- Table numbers (these are not always included unless your planner has them – we do!)
- Escort cards (required when having a plated dinner)
Tips and gratuity
Tipping is greatly appreciated for all wedding vendors, especially those who will work long hours leading up to and on wedding day. The amount you tip will vary by vendor. If you’d like more information, download our free gratuity guide!
A lot of people forget to budget for postage! The average invitation is $3-$5, and postage is $0.65. If you’re having RSVPs mailed back to you, that’s an additional $2-$4 for the card and $0.55 for postage.
If your invitations are not a standard size (square or oversized) or weigh more than the standard, you’ll have to pay more.
How many stamps do you need for wedding invitations?
The number of stamps is determined by weight and envelope shape. We recommend taking your sealed envelope into a store like USPS and asking the attendant. You can also buy your postage right there!
Don’t skip it! Protecting yourself is worth the cost. You can usually find insurance for under $200 if you’re having a wedding at a venue. If you’re getting married at home, expect a little more.
Where can I get wedding insurance?
You can first check with your homeowner’s insurance. Sometimes they are cheaper. If not, we recommend Eventsured or Event Helper (use this link to get a discount!).
How long does wedding insurance last?
This depends on what policy you get but is usually only on the day of your wedding.
What does wedding insurance cover?
Again, it depends on the policy. But the basic policy would cover:
- Damage to property
- Harm to guests
It’s important to hire legitimate vendors who have their own insurance so you are not held responsible for damages or harm caused by their products or equipment.
How Much Does A Wedding Planner Cost?
Depends on a few things:
- What time of service are you looking for?
- How much experience do you require?
- Are you looking for a real business that pays its people a living wage?
All of the above will help determine how much yours will cost. If you’re looking for someone who does this part-time, doesn’t have a team, and is new to the game, we would expect to spend around $1,500.
If you’re looking for someone with a team, an established business, and insurance, expect to pay at least $3,000. Price typically gets higher based on experience and demand. Some of the most in-demand planners are booking 2 years in advance!
What services does a wedding planner’s fee include?
This will vary based on the planner. At minimum, you want the fee to include the time needed on wedding day, maybe a rehearsal (we require this), and planning meetings before the wedding.
It’s up to the planner what else they will include, and this is based on what they need to do the best job. For example, at Monarch, we also require a venue tour.
Does a wedding planner save you any money?
Yes! A good planner will give you a great list of preferred vendors, and some even offer a discount because of their relationship with your planner!
Mona also help you decide what you really need. We had a bride who wanted to hire a soloist for cocktail hour. We knew she was already close to her budget, and at our planning meeting, we talked through the pros and cons. She ended up deciding it wasn’t worth it because she wouldn’t be able to enjoy the performance anyway!
This is just one example of the ways we can help save you time, stress, and money. We even have a small inventory of table numbers, signs, reserved seat signs, and other small things you can use at no cost.
Here at Monarch, our primary goal is to help you get the event of your dreams without going into debt. If you’d like to learn more about our planning services and the MCE experience, visit our website!
Venue Credit: The Morton Arboretum
Photography Credit: Rachael Kazmier