A week or so ago a dear friend, who is also a wedding planner {and who also appeared on the same reality TV show I did} posted about her frustration with brides coming in talking about the media blasting pieces about the average $26K wedding…

Some of the frustration comes from brides who are BOMBARDED with news pieces about the national average  cost of a wedding being $26K; but the images they show of weddings that ARE NOT AVERAGE.

So at the risk of upsetting some people who have commented on our blog previously calling me snobby {see blog post: BURP!} I wanted to tackle some of the reality of the $26K wedding and exactly what you get and what some research by national sources shows.

The National Average:

All of the research we can find shows the following numbers as being average…. The average size of a wedding is 141 guests with four bridesmaids and four groomsmen.

Starting with the premise that approximately 50% of the average wedding budget goes to the reception {or approximately $13,000} that comes out to about $92.00 per guest including food, beverage, service charges and tax {more specifics on that later}.

So the reality of that is that if you’re having a 200 guest wedding {we see a lot of those}; your average wedding has now gone up by $5428.00.

BUT, the national average takes into account weddings in all 50 states; including those people who head to city hall in their best dress and suit, buy a bouquet and go out to dinner with their two witnesses. Probably under $200

It also takes into account intimate beach weddings and private weddings in someone’s back yard…not that there is ANYTHING wrong with those… we just see that the large number of smaller intimate weddings really skew the average.

Welcome to Philly:

We keep talking about the national average – the next important piece of published information would be the Top 10 Most Expensive Wedding Areas.

  1. NYC (Manhattan): $70,730
    2. NY (Long Island, Hudson Valley and NYC Outer Boroughs): $51,811, $45,695, $44,718
    3. Northern/Central NJ and Southern NJ: $49,347, $36,694
    4. Rhode Island: $41,169
    5. Philadelphia, PA: $36,294
    6. Santa Barbara/Ventura, CA, and Los Angeles, CA: $36,233, $33,745
    7. Boston, MA: $35,458
    8. Chicago, IL: $35,389
    9. Connecticut: $35,197
    10. Southern Florida (Miami, Fort Lauderdale and surrounding areas): $33,810


YUP, you’re right Philly is right smack in the middle of that list at $36, 249 and our friends across the Delaware in South Jersey are slightly higher than that. These are balanced out by Utah with the lowest average spent ($13,214). 

Using the same formula we used before that $13000.00 reception would average$18,124.50 {for 141 guests} and our reception for 200 guests comes in at $128.50 each or $7581.50 higher bringing our local cost to $43,850.50.

This may include your liquor {in this case about $20.00 per person}, 10% liquor tax; 20% service charge and 8% sales tax  we come out to about $75.00 per person which covers your dinner, the room and anything which comes with it, staffing and overhead to keep the lights on… you're not getting a lot of food.

Other Points of Interest:

There are a few other, not so minor details, which were included in the information on the $26K wedding people keep overlooking…

The honeymoon is not included in the budget – no big surprise there, when we do budget for most of our weddings we don’t budget for honeymoons. It’s too hard to work into the numbers as we see HUGE swings in the locations, length and style of a honeymoon. When working with a very modest budget it becomes even more challenging.

The other note that surprised me was- you should expect the budget to be “more when choosing well-experienced professionals, designer labels, popular event locations, unique or custom products and services”

REALLY, the price goes up when you pick professionals, experience, cool places, popular dates or custom designed products????….good to know!

I also took some time to check out what is quoted in terms of budget breakdown when talking about the $26K wedding as the one thing professionals across the country often see is brides coming in with pictures of HUGE, beautiful centerpieces with no idea of cost.

The numbers we found came in around $1,600.00 for personal flowers (all of the bouquets, boutonnieres and corsages), ceremony flowers and reception décor.

For that price here is what we found – { these were actual quotes from a florist }

Bride’s bouquet, Maid of Honor bouquet, Three – Bridesmaid’s bouquets, Flower Girl’s head wreath with basket of pedals, Two – rose mother’s corsages, Eight rose boutonnieres.

The description accompanying this is roses, carnations, chrysanthemums, daisies, baby’s breath and fern. Additional items (more bridesmaids or groomsmen) or changes to the type of flower or size will increase the price.

So here’s what we found that matched that description.

Ceremony included two altar pieces with reception flowers consisting of several buffet centerpieces (3) and centerpieces for 15 tables. Keep in mind that at 141 guests this means approximately 10 people to each table and out 200 guest wedding now requites of a minimum of 5 more centerpieces.

Here are the centerpieces based on the package and stem count the florist provided…

Again, there is NOTHING WRONG with these centerpieces, but it’s certainly not what brides are seeing on reality TV or are showing florists when they are looking at doing an ‘average’ budget wedding.

Unfortunately, these are the size images brides are seeing on reality shows, real weddings and being told that these fit into that "Average Wedding " budget of $26K.

Wedding cake is another example of what falls prey to this – the wedding cake proportionate to that 141 guest $26K budget is about $250 or about $1.77 per slice.

{have you ordered dessert in a local restaurant lately?}

A very basic 'supermarket' style cake falls into the budget… again nothing wrong with that {I've had some delicious supermarket cakes} but it looks something like this.

Keeping in mind that if you save the top tier for your First Anniversary, you'll have just enough for the 141 guests as dessert . If your wedding is 200 guests, at $1.77 we've added on $105 bringing us to $355 for the cake without any flowers {or cake topper} or upgrading to fondant or any 'fancier' piping work…

We're not bashing people for having modest budgets, we get it, it's A LOT of money….

We just want people to understand that REALITY TV and REAL WEDDINGS, aren't that real and they certainly aren't AVERAGE… {modest budgets don't make for good TV}

We want couples to come into wedding planning with realistic expectations about the size of your guest list as well as a realistic understanding of what Reality TV  or REAL Weddings are showing to all of us as AVERAGE, isn't.