For most 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, I hope to clear up this mystery for you so that you will be able to create a realistic wedding budget to plan your special day.
In the Washington, DC metro area to include Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland, you may view depending on the “publication source” the average wedding cost is approximately $44,000 (I like to explain it based on CPG – cost per guest – $440), with an average wedding guest size of 100 persons. You may question, where is all of this being allocated? How do I determine how much to save? Are the publication reports reliable? All of these are varying valid questions, and as The Olivia Pope of events, I am here to help you decipher all the details.
Before I dive into the details of costs, I want to address one of the questions above. Are the publication reports reliable indicating the average cost of a wedding? Well, that is a yes and no answer. Publications are providing the best stats possible based on the findings from survey responses from recently married couples. The caveat is that there is no way to depict on the surveys to inform you that the numbers range from couples who are creating DIY weddings, to budget friendly weddings, to luxury weddings. The best way to truly find out this answer will be based on the style you envision for your wedding day. For example, when you are researching your Planner, review the style of work and where most of their weddings are held to determine if their style works for you. Secondly engage your Planner in conversation about the average cost of weddings they produce for “their” clients. Take it a step further and ask your Planner what the cost-per-guest is, CPG (as I call it); this will provide you with a more realistic guide on how much to spend on your big day based on the style of wedding you envision. For example, couples that I work with to plan the wedding of their dreams invest anywhere from $525 to $1100 CPG (cost per guest). Occasionally, I plan weddings with a lower CPG range, but it is for smaller size weddings.
Well, let us get started with the conversation. This is a pretty-lengthy post, but I want to make sure you are provided with ample information! I will cover 5-key areas of cost during this discussion.
YOUR WEDDING PLANNER
Your Wedding Planner is your master of ceremonies, your conductor of a symphony orchestra, your logistics boss…they are your everything! Deciphering which Planner is right for you should be based on the following: Experience, Personality, Knowledge of the Industry, and Business Credentials to name a few. Once you have checked all the boxes for your set criteria, it is now time to determine how much do you invest in your Planner.
Wedding Planners charge either a flat rate or a percentage rate for their services; neither of these are wrong it is just based on the preference of the Planner. In the Washington DC market, experienced and in-demand Planners (full-service wedding planner) usually range from 10-20% of your overall wedding budget whether they charge a flat rate or percentage. Experience is key when choosing your Wedding Planner, and experience is also a major factor on the cost of a Planner. In addition to experience, additional factors that builds a Planner’s business and reflects their costs: staffing, time invested in planning your wedding, insurances, licenses to run their business, equipment purchases, etc., – all the overhead that makes them a legitimate business.
THE VENUE (HOTELS)
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.
In the Washington, DC metro area, the investment related to hotels varies in price $150 – $350 per person; the closer you are to Washington, DC the higher the cost. Let me 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. I am 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 Ritz Carlton, St. Regis, The Willard, Four Seasons, Salamander Resort, The Watergate Hotel to name a few. Weddings start at $290.00 plus per person which food and beverage for a 5-hour wedding celebration (4-hour open bar). 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 outsourced from a local bakery because they do not include an on-site pastry chef.
Other charges to be aware of from hotel venues you will incur that are non-negotiable are sale tax, service charges, and gratuity that range between 20-35% of your total bill; these charges are in addition to what I have stated above.
THE VENUE (SPACE ONLY)
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 to 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, Fathom Gallery, Dock 5, Carnegie Institute of Science, Andrew Mellon Auditorium, Ronald Regan Building & International Trade Center, 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 types of venues; liability insurance purchased by the Couple, Security Services, Valet Services.
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 Weddings 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 ranges from $125.00 – $250.00 per person (to include labor and equipment rental charges).
If you are like me, you love the beauty of a room and what all goes into creating a lush and romantic space. As you work with a Planner to design your wedding, determine if your Planner is working with a florist or floral designer. You are probably asking is there a difference? Yes, there is so let me explain to you in laymen terms. A florist is the person you traditionally think of when ordering flowers to be delivered for someone’s birthday, anniversary, special occasion, etc., and they have a storefront to walk into to make your selections. Their capabilities are limited because they produce on their identified key market client who celebrate occasions in which the client comes into pick up or the florist is doing a quick drop-off. Designs are standard and typically replicated, and the inventory on container styles and additional design compliments are limited to none. Florists are phenomenal and provide great product for their target market.
A floral designer is just that a designer! Floral Designers create unique one-of-a-kind designs that suit the taste of each individual client rather than creating one design for all! Floral designers cater to special events in which production is required not a simple drop-off or client pick-up. Their capabilities are extensive because they think outside the box and their creative minds prevent from reproducing the same design over and over (a trait that I absolutely love!), and their inventory stretches beyond flowers. A floral designer’s inventory ranges from unique style vases to custom built units of added décor for any special event. An experienced Wedding Planner works primarily with Floral Designers as they are the most critical element of the design process that brings all the beauty to your wedding day.
Now that I have provided you with the difference between a florist and floral designer, let us talk about pricing on a few key elements on floral décor.
The bridal bouquet is an important accessory to the wedding day attire and must make a statement. Lush bridal bouquets range from $375 to $500. Determining factors will be based on the types of flowers, if the flowers are in season or not, and the size and fullness of the bouquet.
The ceremony is where your day begins and is the most sacred and romantic moment of the day. You can go all out or keep it simple to save your décor budget for the reception. Example, the ceremony décor designed in the picture below, is approximately $4000.00 just for altar floral arch; $1500 for the white staging; $1500 for the white hard surface aisle runner; chairs are $20 each which you can repurpose for the reception so not to add additional cost to your reception décor. To summarize, to get this look for a 100-person wedding would be approximately, equals – $9,000.00.
Transitioning to your reception, I will refer in this section your tabletop décor that includes floral centerpiece and accompaniments, chargers (base plates), linens, chairs, table numbers, menu cards, place cards. I will not discuss china and glassware because most clients choose what automatically comes from the hotel or catering company so I will only refer to those items that my client’s value in customizing. Below are 2 separate pictures, one with a tall, lush centerpiece and the other with a low centerpiece. My clients usually use a combination of both sizes in their reception space to add dimension to the room. Both tables have the same décor accessories: chair rental cost approximately $10 each; linen rental $40 per table; satin napkin approximately $3 each; charger-base plates approximately $8 each. The table with the tall florals, approximately $650 per table. The table with the low centerpiece, approximately $350 per table. If you select your tabletop décor with a tall, lush centerpiece based on (9) persons per table, you are looking at $871 per table; or $571 per table for the shorter floral arrangement.
Additional charges to be aware of are labor, delivery and setup charges, and a sample display. Most floral designer charge approximately 20-30% of your floral invoice for service and delivery charges. Keep in mind, your floral designer is working on your wedding at least 7-days in advance which means they are assuming labor fees prior and on your wedding day. And if they have the responsibility to stay behind for the ceremony to transition ceremony décor to the reception, there is a cost associated with this detail because they need to pay their staff who will be staying behind to take care of this task. For sample displays, I encourage all couples to see a full table design display of their table 60-days prior to your wedding date. This provides you the opportunity to visually see what has been described to you on paper. As a Planner, I coordinate this with the floral designer to create one table from head to toe to include the floral arrangement, linens, chairs, chargers, etc. Floral designers will be happy to create a table display demonstration for you but be aware you will incur a cost or require a minimum floral spend which is warranted because the floral designer is spending money out of their pocket to create this for you.
I know this was a substantial amount of information, but I hope this helps and you have a familiar understanding of the costs of planning a wedding. If you are ready to hire a Wedding Planner to create the wedding of your dreams, schedule a consultation with me and let us get started!