In our previous blog series of “I’m Engaged”, we helped you to get organized and highlighted wedding vendors that you should secure first in the wedding planning process.  Now we are going to engage you in a conversation that is the number one thing Couples want to know – How Much!?  For the majority of Couples, it is their first time getting married and even if it is not, the burning question of knowing how much to spend on their wedding is puzzling.  In today’s blog, we hope to clear up this mystery for you so that you will be able to create a realistic budget to plan your special day.

In the Washington, DC metro area to include Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland, the average wedding cost is approximately $44,000 or $320 per person, with an average wedding guest size of 130-140 persons.  You may question, where is all of this being allocated?  Well, let’s start with the venue – a major component of the wedding.

This is a pretty-lengthy post but we wanted to make sure we provided you with ample information!


When selecting the perfect location, Couples may choose a hotel as the venue because it will take care of three key convenience factors: (1) the location can host the ceremony and reception (2) it can accommodate them and their guests for overnight accommodations (3) and it reduces traveling – once you get to the location there is no traveling involved except traveling up and down an escalator or elevator.

The investment related to hotels varies in price $150 – $350 per person.  Let’s breakdown the various types of hotel categories to help you to understand the price points based on the hotel classification which embodies a lifestyle brand to capture their total guest experience.  We are only going to cover three hotel categories.

  • Luxury Hotels are five-star hotel brands that embrace the ultimate luxury experience and classic in decor. Hotels within this category include, JW Marriott, Ritz Carlton, St. Regis, The Willard, Four Seasons, Salamander Resort, The Watergate Hotel to name a few.  Couples hosting events at these locations usually invest $290.00 plus per person on food and beverage for a wedding celebration.  These hotel brands comprise of the best of the best in the industry; renowned Executive Chefs and Pastry Chefs to create unique menus that immolate a work of art, and a world-class hotel staff. Their all-inclusive wedding packages traditionally include the following enhancements:  white glove service, premium to luxury linens, champagne toast, custom wedding cake designed by their on-site pastry chef, complimentary suite for the couple, menu tasting prior to the wedding date, 3 to 5 course menu options, premium brand bar service.  In addition to the wedding package, their hotel will host a list of luxury services and activities for all to participate.
  • Upper Up-Scale Hotels are either four or five-star hotels and unlike the luxury brands they represent a distinctive look and have a more modern design. Hotels within this category include The W Hotel, Gaylord Hotel, Hotel Monaco, The Mayflower Hotel, Park Hyatt, just to name a few. Couples hosting weddings can expect to invest approximately $225.00 per person on food and beverage.  The unique appeal to these types of hotels is their connection to the city and their modern deco design.  Their wedding packages encompass most of what the luxury properties include however it is usually a 3-course meal, and again priding themselves on the eclectic décor rather than a traditional luxury experience.
  • Up-Scale Hotels are the traditional four-star hotel brands focusing on a family experience. Over the years, they have become more unique in design to embrace comfort and the at-home experience.   Hotels in this category are Marriott Hotels, Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner, Hilton Tysons Corner, and Renaissance Hotels, to name a few.  The average value of wedding celebrations at these hotels is approximately $175.00 per person.   Their all-inclusive wedding packages consist of:  standard linens, 4 or 5-hour reception, house brand bar service, and 2 to 3 course dinner.  Depending on the location some include a wedding cake that is out-sourced from a local bakery because they do not include an on-site pastry chef.

When selecting your hotel venue, reflect on the following options to help minimize your per-person cost:

  • Host your wedding during a non-peak season
  • Consider a brunch rather than a dinner
  • Opt for a limited bar package to include wine and beer only
  • Select standard entrees vs premium entrees
  • Choose a hotel outside of the City

Lastly, balance your desires for the perfect location based on the experience that it will provide you and your guests, unique character – classic or distinctive, convenience, and overall value.


If you are looking for a location other than a hotel to host your wedding celebration, the options vary based on their individual uniqueness.  These unique venues are only allowing you to utilize their facilities and for you outsource all your other needs to include catering.  Venue spaces in this classification include museums, farms, wineries, parks, historic landmarks, warehouses, etc.  Some of the most popular locations in D.C. are Long View Gallery, The Women’s Museum, Stone Tower Winery, Fathom Gallery, Dock 5, Carnegie Library, Carnegie Institute of Science, etc.  The value related to these unique venue spaces range from $7,000.00 to $15,000.00.   The closer to the metro area and the historical essence of the space reflects in the overall value.  Rental time generally includes 5 hours of event time, 2 hours of set-up, and 1 hour of breakdown time.  Normally, the venue has a “preferred venue” list that meets the venue’s requirements that you can choose from; and most of the time with caterers you can only commission the caterers on their list.  Other additional costs sometimes required by these type of venues; liability insurance purchased by the Couple, Security Services, Valet Services.

When selecting unique venue spaces, reflect on the following options to help diminish the rental cost:

  • Host your wedding during a non-peak season
  • Host a 4-hour event rather than a 5-hour event
  • Choose a venue outside of the City


Our Washington D.C. area has an abundance of superb full-service catering companies that range in culinary skills and cuisines.  The prominent list of catering companies include Main Event Caterers, Susan Gage, Caribbean Caterers, Tasteful Affairs, Design Cuisine, Spilled Milk Catering, Ridgewells, to name a few (some recognized by Washingtonian Magazine as the top caterers in the area).  Selecting one of these amazing companies is based on what you want to accomplish.  Each has their own unique strengths beyond just creating amazing food such as producing creative food displays which plays an important factor since most people eat with their eyes first.  Some have their own equipment inventory to include linens in various textures and colors, variety of china and flatware, unique seating decor, tables, tents, and more.  In addition, some will have their own pastry chef and do not have outsource their desserts to another supplier.  The value of their services range from $115.00 – $250.00 per person (to include labor and equipment rental charges).

When selecting a caterer, consider the following options to lessen your per-person cost:

  • Consider a brunch rather than a dinner
  • Opt for a limited bar package to include wine and beer only
  • Purchase your own alcohol to supply to the Caterer
  • Select standard entrees vs. premium entrees
  • Choose a 2-course rather than 3-course meal
  • Opt for a buffet vs. a plated dinner (sometimes these costs equal depending on the caterer)

We hope this information was beneficial to you so that you can budget for you wedding celebration.  Continue to follow us for additional wedding related costs in our next blog, “I’m Engaged, Part V:  How Much Will It Cost – The Vendors”.


DISCLAIMER:  Photography Credit, Amy Deputy Photography.  Photos in the blog are real weddings of Perfect Planning Events. Pricing indicated is based on the writer’s knowledge of what they have witnessed in 2016.  Please connect with your vendors to get accurate pricing.*