How far will my wedding budget go?

How far will my wedding budget go?

What kind of wedding can you expect from your budget? Expect a beautiful event, regardless of how much money you’ve set aside. But whether your wedding budget clocks in at $15,000, $40,000, or lives somewhere in between, it helps to know what’s realistic.

Knowing what kind of wedding your specific price point can give you will help you plan more efficiently and avoid disappointment. If you’re set on a June wedding (smack-dab in the middle of wedding season), for example, but have a limited budget, you can decide to compromise on the entertainment or food in order to secure your venue. 

The typical American wedding costs around $35,000. Here, we’ve broken down a few price points both above and below this average to give you an at-a-glimpse idea of what you can expect for each price range.

As you read, remember that money-saving ideas like opting for no or low-cost favors for guests, hosting the reception at a friend or family member’s home, or having your celebration on an off-peak day may give you more flexibility to pay for the features that are most important to you.  

Keep in mind that wedding venue and service costs will vary dramatically based on how many locations you’ll be reserving and the number of people you expect to invite.

Wedding Budget up to $15,000 – Expect Careful, Flexible Planning and a Little Creativity

This price point can afford you a beautiful wedding, but it will mean you’ll have to plan wisely. You’ll have to decide which aspects of your wedding are most important to you, and channel most of your funds to these choice priorities (like the perfect dress or cake). All other aspects will have to take a budgetary backseat.

Venues are one of the big-ticket expenses; however, keeping an open mind can save you money.  For the casual couple, consider holding your wedding outdoors in a public park or on the beach. You can host the reception on-site, or at an indoor space nearby. However, even with public areas, you may have to secure special permitting, so make sure to read any restrictions carefully.

If dancing the night away in a fancy banquet hall is your idea of perfection, this option is not necessarily out of your price range. Look into venues with package deals. These may often include many of the rentals you’ll need, as well as some light décor like chair covers and linens, and your venue may even be able to handle your catering.

Since food and cocktails are one of the most expensive parts of your budget (often accounting for 50 to 65 percent of your total costs) you may want to opt for a morning wedding followed by a brunch, or an afternoon affair paired with heavy hors d’oeuvres, versus a gourmet plated dinner with steak or seafood.

Consider a do-it-yourself approach for some details. Depending on where your creative strengths lie, (like if you feel comfortable creating your own bouquet from locally sourced wildflowers), you can save money and splurge on a higher priority area instead.

You’ll be able to hire a photographer, but, depending on available packages in your area, you may have to sacrifice a videographer. Brides at this price point would do well to shop around early. Often, freelance photographers, or those new to the industry, are a more affordable alternative to a major studio; just make sure to check out their portfolios before committing.

Wedding Budget up to $25,000 – Carefully Chosen Splurges

If we compare this price point to shopping for a car, with it you’ll be able to afford certain upgrades (like a leather interior) but maybe not every luxury detail (like wood paneling). You’ll have more breathing room than with a smaller budgeted wedding, but it will be all about finding the right balance that allows you to splurge on those features that matter most while ensuring all of the smaller details are covered.

As with all weddings, expect the reception’s food and drink to take up about half of your budget. With this price point, you can feasibly serve a plated dinner to approximately 150 guests.

Depending on how you use the rest of your budget, you may be able to spring for a gorgeous table of mini-desserts or a special “parting gift” station like one where guests can fill customized decorative paper bags with assorted candies displayed in lovely glass jars.

You will have more room in your budget for visual elements, like the flowers or the wedding dress. Is your heart set on orchids or a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind, designer gown? By tightening up the amount you spend on the reception, you can indulge in those special touches that will help you achieve the wedding of your dreams.

Depending on what videographers and photographers in your area charge, you may be able to afford both to capture your day. Alternatively, you can forgo the video camera altogether to schedule more time with your photographer and shoot in a variety of creative locales. 

Wedding Budget up to $40,000 – Large Weddings and Fine Touches

Bring on the bling! If you’ve dreamed of a big wedding, at this price point, you have room to comfortably invite at least 200 guests. However, if you decide to have a smaller wedding with a $40,000 budget, you’ll be able to put ample funds into the finery of the day.

Always dreamed of an evening reception at the ritziest hotel in town, complete with a champagne fountain and lavish desserts? Depending on your number of guests, that dream can become a reality.

With a large budget, you have the freedom to opt for fine touches in more than one area of your wedding and reception. You may find that not only can you buy that designer gown you’ve had your eye on, but you’ll also be able to march down the aisle as a string quartet plays Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” and flower girls throw Casablanca Lilies in your path.

A small army of photographers can capture the moment from various angles, while your secondary videographer zooms in on the single tear falling from your mother’s eye.  

Weddings at all price points can be fabulous – they’re a celebration honoring both you and your betrothed and the love you share – smaller budgets just mean utilizing a little creativity to make your vision happen with the resources you have.


Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.