Larry James' CelebrateIntimateWeddings BLOG

Sunday, December 27, 2009

How Much Will Your Wedding Cost? + Ways to Save!

One of the biggest challenges of planning a wedding is coming up with a budget. The cost of a wedding goes up exponentially if you don’t think about having a budget wedding. Don’t put your head-in-the-sand. Plan!

On average, couples in the United States spend more than $23,500 for their wedding. However, the majority of couples spend between $15,300 and $25,500 while their wedding budget is typically 50% less than the amount spent. Of course, the costs vary greatly from region to region. To find out how much a wedding costs where you live, click here.

This does not include cost for a honeymoon or engagement ring. Understanding average wedding costs now can help you with your wedding budget later. Staying within your budget is important.

First of all. . . who is paying for what? Talk with your families about who will pay for what: Some brides’ families still pick up the entire tab, but more and more groom’s families are participating too. Ask both of your families to commit to a specific dollar amount, and then add up all the contributions to begin planning your budget.

cashHow much can YOU save? It may be smart to start saving before you start planning! Certainly as soon as you’re engaged, start putting aside as much of your income as you can for the wedding. says, “Saving 20% of your monthly income is a good – though painful – goal. The longer your engagement, the more you’ll be able to sock away.”

Take lots of time to think of some creative ways to reduce the cost of a wedding. Prioritize. What MUST you have that you cannot live without?

Avoid the high wedding season. Arizona has two wedding seasons. The majority of weddings in the Greater Phoenix area take place from March through May and October through December because the weather in the desert is perfect. Most of those weddings are outdoors at hotels, resorts, etc. Our slow season is June through August. Those are our hottest months. Most of those weddings are indoors. If you plan right you could save across the board – on limos, photographers and caterers, etc., – by getting married during one of the hotter months.

Take a close look at your guest list and location. Trimming the guest list to close family and friends can help. This will help slash your catering costs and save on invitations and even the number of centerpieces. If you figure it will cost $60 per guest for food, drinks, and so forth, you’ll save $3,000 by reducing your guest list by 50 people. Centerpieces, matching everything, dove releases, bows everywhere, etc, do not get remembered.

Brides who have an extravagant budget can expect to pay $6000 and up for a designer wedding dress custom made just for you. People don’t really care if you have a $3,000 dress or a $200 dress. Some brides are visiting second hand stores or are renting their wedding dresses. What matters is that you look good. Spend the most money on the important things; the rings, the DJ (who can do both the ceremony and the reception), the Minister, the photographer and a videographer come to mind.

There are two important areas of your wedding celebration where price should never be a factor. A mediocre Minister and a unenthusiastic DJ can wreak havoc at your wedding. A lackluster minister with a boring ceremony – like most of the others you’ve heard – can leave the guests cold and uninspired and if the DJ isn’t a true “entertainer” the party can crash and burn. Your wedding reception DJ should be considered your “Wedding Entertainment Director.” A great DJ determines whether your reception is a hit or a miss! The minister and the DJ should be the very best you can hire. I know its cliché, but you really do get what you pay for.

Perhaps the primary deciding factor should be who performs the most memorable and unique wedding ceremony for you and your guests and what other extras do they offer in their package that other ministers do not. You will enjoy the comfort and assurance of knowing you are contracting with a first-class minister who comes with professional experience, impeccable integrity, commendable references, a gentle and enthusiastic spirit and a subtle, but delightful sense of humor (Hmmm, sounds like a description of Larry James).

Skip the Friday and Saturday wedding. Some vendors will offer a discount if your wedding if you opt for a weekday wedding. And, don’t be offended if they don’t offer a discount. Some do. Some don’t. Have a friend do your hair and makeup. Skip the black-ties and go casual.

Make your own invitations or at least opt for the less expensive single-page invitations. Ditch the inserts. The extra paper can increase the postage. A recent wedding had a special party for the invited children before the wedding and the night ended with the children using crayons to make place settings on recycled paper. They are colorful and got lots of great comments from the guests.

Buy flowers that are in season. Cut out the favors. Offer beer, wine, and soft drinks instead of a full bar. Skip the champagne toast. Your reception can be the most expensive part of your wedding day. Not every wedding reception needs to feature sit-down dinner. A few receptions I’ve been to lately have skipped the full dinner in favor a cocktail reception with some drinks and a lot of appetizers, then dancing, etc. Or… consider a potluck or BBQ instead of a catered meal or a lunch reception with a light meal.

Don’t be afraid to ask your wedding vendors for ideas on cutting costs. Order a small one or two-tiered cake and then supplement cake with a larger sheet cake (served from the kitchen). No one will know the difference.

Save money for your honeymoon and register with a honeymoon registry. You don’t need a passport if you plan your honeymoon close to home. You can always plan an lavish getaway later. Second marriages often encourage their guests to donate to their favorite charitable cause.

Should you tip your wedding vendors? I recommend you budget for tips for the vendors and offer generous tips for those who do exceptional jobs. If you are absolutely blown away by their services, by all means, tip them.

Say no to the extras. You really don’t need wedding bubbles or embossed matchbooks or napkins. Weddings can be an opportunity to begin new traditions. Be creative and save. Plan a wedding where, the day after, you’re debt-free and can start your lives together. Do everything you can to cut costs so you don’t have to deal with the debt resulting from the wedding after the honeymoon. It’s best if you do not go into debt over your wedding. It’s not a great way to start a marriage.

While costs vary according to the type of wedding and geographical location, the typical breakdown of a wedding budget according to is as follows:

Wedding Cost Estimates

The #1 must-do savings tip is to hire a wedding consultant. The consultant will do all the legwork for you, shop around for the best bargains, and use their network of vendors to get you the best insider deals.

In 2010, 2,145,800 weddings will occur in the US, 40,737 will occur in the state of Arizona. The Cost of the Average wedding in 2010 (Source: Arizona Weddings Magazine & Website, Scottsdale, AZ):

Flagstaff: $17,629
Gilbert: $22,974
Paradise Valley: $42,400
Phoenix Metro: $20,797
Scottsdale: $30,595
Sedona: $27,618
Surprise: $16,766
Tempe: $25,466
Tucson: $18,141

32% of couples solely fund their wedding.

weddingplannerCopyright © 2010 – Larry James. This idea is adapted from Larry’s Wedding Website. Larry James is a non-denominational minister and performs the most “Romantic” wedding ceremony you will find anywhere! Every wedding ceremony is customized to your complete satisfaction. Call to check availability: 480-998-9411 or 800-725-9223. You will find more than 445 pages of Wedding ideas, tips (90 tips and growing), ceremonies, and more at: Check Larry’s availability.

Subscribe to Larry’s FREE monthly “LoveNotes for Lovers” eZINE. Contact:, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. –

NOTE: All articles, “LoveNotes” and wedding tips listed in this Wedding BLOG are available for reprint in magazines, periodicals, newsletters, newspapers, eZINEs, on the Internet or on your own Website. Click here for details.

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  5. Larry, Another fantastic article! Thanks for the chart.


    Comment by Mark Sanchez — Tuesday, August 10, 2010 @ 11:20 am | Reply

  6. Very good information. I just got engaged and I don’t even know where to start planning the wedding. I’ll think I’ll figure out the honeymoon first.


    Comment by Nick — Thursday, January 7, 2010 @ 5:52 pm | Reply

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