Beyond the Sea: The budget

4 March 2013

Happy Monday, friends! I’m here with the final post in our wedding series — at least for now :) I wanted to share our budget breakdown, in the hopes that it might be helpful for those of you currently planning.

A little background:
Date of wedding: September 15, 2012
Location: Southeastern Connecticut
Number of guests: 115
Contributors: My parents (43%), John’s parents (33%), John and me (13%), and my grandmother (11%)

em for marvelous wedding budget

I know that pie chart is tricky to see, so here’s the breakdown, from most to least:

33.7% ON CATERING | Includes food, staffing, bar, and tip.

17.4% ON RENTALS | Includes our 32×70′ Sperry tent with string and onion lighting, a catering tent, 15 high top tables, 11 8′ tables, 4 6′ tables, 9 36″ round tables, 2 bar back tables, 45 black chairs, a 16×16 black and white dance floor, four couches, 16 linens of various sizes from La Tavola, 16 basic linens from our local rental company, and a generator. The generator was a last-minute expense (like, the day before the wedding) that pushed this category way up.

9.8% ON PHOTOGRAPHY | Includes Tanja and Tia’s travel but does not include any sort of album.

6.3% ON CINEMATOGRAPHY | Includes a highlight and feature film; Inkspot did not charge us for travel as described here.

5.9% ON LOCATION | Our ceremony venue was free, so this includes use of the O’Neill’s Sea Porch and Sunken Garden.

5.8% ON FLOWERS | Includes 1 bridal bouquet, 4 bridesmaid bouquets, 2 small nosegays for our moms, 2 pin-on corsages for our grandmothers, 8 boutonnieres for the gents, 2 wreaths for the church doors, 21 small to medium centerpieces for the tent, 6 small centerpieces for cocktail hour high tops, and arrangements for the guest book, bar, and gift tablea.

5.4% ON BAND | Includes fee and tip.

4.5% ON GIRL ATTIRE | Includes my gown minus the amount we sold it for, alterations and cleaning post-wedding, my shoes, and half of my veil (I split it with my sister in law!).

2.7% ON HAIR & MAKEUP | Includes hair and makeup for the bride, as well as some subsidizing of hair for 5 others and makeup for 6 others.

2.3% ON STATIONERY | Includes 90 9×18″ custom-designed flat-printed invitations and envelopes, 90 response cards and envelopes, save the dates and envelopes, and postage for all of the above.

2% ON RECEPTION/COCKTAIL HOUR DECOR | Includes the four ottomans and four side tables we purchased from Ikea, all of the silver centerpiece vessels, our cubbies, candles, photo frames, etc.

1.6% ON THE CEREMONY | Includes bell and bow materials, our string trio, travel costs for our pastor, etc.

1.2% ON BOY ATTIRE | Includes John’s tux, tuxedo shirt, dress shoes, suspenders, cuff links, and tailoring.

1% ON DAY-OF COORDINATOR | This was a bit less than usual because Diana is a friend of ours.

.25% ON MISC. DIY PROJECTS | Includes various frames, signage materials, calligraphy ink, stickers for the poppers, etc.

.13% ON OTHER | I actually realized this entire category was made up of ribbon – ha!

Whew! I hope this was helpful! Note that this did not include our wedding bands, gifts, rehearsal dinner items, or our honeymoon or minimoon. I tried to include everything else but certainly could have missed a few things.


— I sold my gown post-wedding and recouped more than 50% of the cost. A designer gown would have been out of the question otherwise.
— I borrowed most of my accessories from friends and family or wore things I already owned. Marget and I also split our veil.
— Paying our bar on consumption versus a fixed price per person was a huge savings for us — over 50%.
— Our ceremony spot was so beautiful that we didn’t feel we needed any additional decor beyond the door wreaths.
— We splurged on custom designed invitations, but saved on flat printing versus engraved or letterpress.
— I made most of our signage with materials I already owned instead of paying someone else to do it. I also addressed our save the dates and invitations myself.
— We opted to drive my car instead of rent a vintage one for the day, and I restrained myself from purchasing custom cocktail napkins.
— We played a custom CD at cocktail hour instead of hiring musicians.

— A videographer. SO WORTH IT.
— Having a tapas style reception meant our staffing costs were much higher than they would have been over a buffet or sit-down style, but it was the bedrock of the “feel” we were going for.
— A Sperry tent versus a standard frame or pole tent.
— John’s dress shoes were about six times as expensive as mine (ha!) but because they’re dress shoes and not tuxedo shoes, he can wear them to work, church, etc. for years to come.
— We booked a luxe, large hotel room for Friday and Saturday night instead of staying at our nearby homes. The gals used it to get ready on Saturday morning and John and I stayed in it Saturday night.

Those are just a few examples for each category — I’m sure I could list many more.

One last thing I wanted to say: Weddings are my passion, and I’ve had a vision for my own for a long time. We have wonderfully generous parents that were happy to contribute to our special day, but early on I knew there were going to be costs going above and beyond the usual ones that I simply wouldn’t expect them to cover — namely top of the line photography and cinematography. We spent WAY more on capturing our day than most people would have, and it was important to me that John and I helped make up that cost. I started saving in college for our wedding, and I don’t regret it for a second. (Granted, not everyone knows who they’re going to marry at that point, but I did!) If you think you fall into the same category as me, start saving your pennies now! :)

I’d be happy to try and answer questions in the comments!

P.S. If you’d like to compare our percentages to the “average,” check out this link or this link.

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March 4, 2013 7:59 am

you go girl!!! we tried to help where we could pick up the tab too, like fibbing on a few prices so that we could get what we want and help out unbeknownst just because prices are SO much! eek. gotta do what you gotta do!

question for you, where did you sell your dress?! And where did you happen to get it cleaned? (i’m in raleigh) i’m looking at both those options currently. :)

Amy Schultz
March 4, 2013 4:53 pm

Where did you sell your gown?

March 4, 2013 8:00 pm

Emily Thomas, this is an awesome post and makes us so grateful that you prioritized your wedding video. Thank you for being bold and open with this information! Also, thanks for making it all look so good ;)

March 4, 2013 9:24 pm

@Amanda It’s so funny — I definitely didn’t go the traditional route for my dress sale! I actually had a gal email me in the month after the wedding (not sure whether she knew me from SW or EFM) offering to buy it, and we worked things out over email from there. She paid via PayPal!

March 4, 2013 9:32 pm

Thank you so much for this post!! It’s nice to hear where you splurged, what you DIYed and how you and John made the budget work FOR you, not AGAINST you!

March 6, 2013 7:48 am

ah lucky!!! i’ve been in touch with nearly newlywed but i’ve been so slow at trying to get it cleaned and finally parting with it as well..

June 14, 2013 12:51 pm

Hello, I just came across your beautiful wedding. I am wondering: where did you rent your dance floor from? I’m also having a Sperry tented reception, and would love the same floor. Thanks!

[…] It also might be helpful to look at how other couples have split their budget — mine is right here, and Ruffled also runs a great series on real budgets. Also: don’t forget to calculate tips […]

March 28, 2014 11:46 am

[…] It also might be helpful to look at how other couples have split their budget — mine is right here, and Ruffled also runs a great series on real budgets. Also: don’t forget to calculate tips […]

July 18, 2014 6:14 am

Somehow stubbled across and very glad I did, such a lovely account of everything. You both look close like brother and sister. I hope to experience this joy one day soon. Wish you both all the very best and more marvellousness !

October 27, 2015 8:21 am

What is your opinion on favors? I don’t see them on your budget. Is it okay to not have any?

January 11, 2016 12:25 pm

Hi Emily!

This is a great breakdown of the budget but I’m curious, if its not too personal, to know what your budget was? This will help me gauge what I’m thinking I’ll be paying for my wedding in accordance with yours so I can get a better idea.

Thank ya!