Finding Wedding Budget Clarity


In doing research for our own wedding, I found frustrating variations in what costs to actually expect. For example, NerdWallet lists $15,439 average cost for a wedding venue while Weddingwire states couples spend an average of $5,400. This discrepancy is gigantic and surely leaves couples in the dark on what to actually budget for each category.


Here’s a list of major budget items and what you can expect to pay in the Portland area, based on real experiences with actual wedding industry vendors.


Catering                        $7,000 - $15,000+

Venue                           $2,500 - $9,000

Bar Service                  $2,500 - $4,500

Photography              $2,500 - $5,000

Wedding Planner      $1,500 - $5,000

Floral                          $3,000 - $5,000     

Rentals $800 - $2,000+                 


These items will account for about 80% of your wedding budget. A word of caution, if your venue doesn’t provide tables and chairs, you can add that to this list of significant expenses along with the remainder of your rental items (glassware, place settings, linens, etc.).   

On which end of the spectrum will your numbers land? The answer depends on many decisions that can be wrapped up into these four categories – number of guests, location, style, date and time.


Per Guest Costs 

Before deciding to invite everyone you know, understand that each guest will contribute somewhere between $150 - $300 in additional costs. Per guest costs include food and drink, place settings, furniture, printing, favors, and even floral and décor (more guest tables to decorate). Martha Stewart Weddings also suggests allocating money to upgrade the things that guests will interact with most – menus, glassware, place settings and to focus on floral in areas where guests will enjoy them most. Choosing upgrades can add up.



Where in the world, country, or state can affect how much you’re going to spend on your wedding venue and how much you’ll pay for virtually everything else. Oregon has become a popular wedding destination for its relatively inexpensive resources compared to larger cities like Seattle and San Francisco.

Large venues also cost more than small venues and urban venues typically cost more than rural venues – but not always. A fancy ranch in the middle of nowhere or a high end vineyard in wine country can cost just as much as a downtown hotel.

In our own wedding planning experience, we’ve discovered that hosting at home isn’t always the most economical. While venues often come with furniture and some amenities (like tents or large buildings, bathrooms, etc.), most private residences require additional rentals to make up for the lack.



Variations in style and personal preference can mean a lot of difference in wedding expenses. An elegant city or ranch wedding generally costs more than a simple country wedding for reasons of quantity and grade.


The idea of elegance usually entails more of things – more flowers, more décor, and more elements like individually printed menus, a champagne wall, or a custom seating chart. Not just the number of items needed but also the quality of what you choose will also matter, significantly. Examples of this are upgrades to your place settings, a designer dress, a custom cake, or a farm to table menu.


In addition, custom means paying more in any situation. While it’s pretty easy to want all of  these things, you’ll likely have to decide which elements are the most important to you and compromise on the rest.


Date and Time

This one is the most straightforward – weekend weddings, especially Saturdays, are going to cost more than weekday weddings and Summer weddings will cost more than Winter weddings. Venues and wedding professionals often lower prices in the Winter time to help with bookings during the slow season.


If your budget isn’t unlimited, you’re going to face making some concessions. It’s best to know upfront which aspects of your wedding are the most important to you and which things you could keep simple or do without. Feeing disheartened? Don’t worry. Next up, we have some practical tips for saving on your celebration of love.

Ash Baldwin