Let’s talk wedding budgets! Actually, let’s get real real & talk about pricing transparency in the wedding industry, specifically the Charlottesville market I know & adore. I often work with couples who are planning a Charlottesville wedding from out of town (we have planned for couples from Texas, New York, Louisiana, Europe, New Jersey, Colorado, Singapore…the list goes on!) One thing that I often hear is that wedding costs are very different in different places than what we typically expect in Charlottesville, but trust me we aren’t inflating budgets. So, I think we need some transparency & education on our market.
Disclaimer: I planned my own wedding in San Diego in 2016 at 24 years old, and spent about $15,000 all in. We had a plated dinner for around 80 guests at a lovely winery with in house catering, flowers from the grocery store, & an inexpensive photographer. Honestly the only things I’d invest more in today would be florals (because I know my true self now at 31, & my true self loves flowers)…& photography, because my husband is 6’6″ & tragically missing a forehead in a lot of photos. All this to say, let no one tell you how much you “have to” or “should” spend. I spent a fraction of the typical budgets I work with, & loved my wedding (again, would spend more in a couple places but I’m also not 24 & fresh out of college). You should spend on the things that matter, & remember it is just one day (ok, one incredible, beautiful, perfect day hopefully filled with florals & a talented creative team, but hey, I’m biased).
So, first off, Charlottesville is way up there on the list of wedding destinations. Ok, we aren’t Lake Como, Italy, but I would rank us up there with California wine country (my homeland) or Vale. Charlottesville is a mecca of talented wedding professionals, creatives, & designers, nestled in an incredibly stunning part of the country–southwest Virginia. And, honestly, our market & our pricing reflect those facts. That being said, I do see a growing problem of a lack of transparency around wedding investments and why things cost what they do, so I am breaking it down for you!
Let’s go “category by category”, so to speak, and look at some of the biggest investment areas to expect in your Charlottesville wedding budget.
One of my favorite things about planning weddings in Charlottesville is the incredible variety of wedding venues we have in our beautiful Blue Ridge region. From wineries to elevated barns to breweries & cideries, to downtown metropolitan vibes to private estates, we have it all! Depending on what your venue includes & what you are prioritizing, most venues that we work with in Charlottesville range from $7,000-$15,000. There are exceptions to every rule & variables such as private estate weddings, rentals, & rain plan tents, but that’s a good range to consider.
Food & Beverage
This is one of the biggest investments you’ll make, and your all-in cost is largely dictated by your guest list (more humans=more food + more drinks). You’ll make a lot of decisions that will affect this number: Beer & wine or full bar? Buffet, plated, stationed, or family style service? Passed or stationed hors d’oeuvres? From a casual BBQ menu to an elevated, multi-course plated dinner, we typically see couples invest in a broad range anywhere from $75-$300 per person.
Personally, I absolutely love flowers & I believe your wedding is an opportunity to go big on florals! (Because really, when else in your life are going to have an excuse for this much pretty?!) That being said, I like to think of this line number on the budget as a matter of your priorities. How much a part of your wedding design & aesthetic do you want florals to be? If you’re a pretty minimal flower person, you will invest less here. If you’re ready to go big & do all the things (floral ceiling installations, dreamy tablescapes, a flower-heavy ceremony design…) then this number will be bigger on your budget because it is a bigger priority for you. In general, I see a range of $30-$90 per guest when we think about floral investment, very much dependent on how much of a focal point the florals are in your wedding design.
Photography & Cinematography
There are some industry standards here, but this investment also varies based on a photographer’s experience, editing style, shooting style (film, digital, hybrid), & artistic talents. This is much the same for cinematography. The general range I see most of my clients booking is between $3,000-$8,000 each, with outliers upwards of $10,000.
The big question: Band or DJ? The next big question: Recorded music or live musicians at your ceremony & cocktail hour? There’s a huge difference here in style of ceremony & reception & your overall vibe. I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong answer, & honestly love working with both bands & DJs. It really depends on what you’re going for at your wedding! Most DJs we work with are between $2500-$4000, with add-ons such as lighting or photo booths adjusting these numbers. Most bands we work with are between $5,000-$10,000, varying based on size of the band, requirements such as stages & generators, and opportunities to book additional services such as a musician for your ceremony and cocktail hour. If you’re going for a DJ at your reception & musicians at your ceremony and/or cocktail hour, we see numbers around $600-$1,000 for live musicians.
My Hot Take
Your wedding celebration is an opportunity to tell your love story, surrounded by the people you cherish. The biggest budgetary tip I can give you is this: First, your wedding investments should be guided by your priorities, not everyone’s opinions, Pinterest, or movies. Second, your guest list is a true turn dial on your budget: the number of people you invite affects your food, drinks, dessert, rentals, florals…almost everything. So, give serious thought to whose names you add to that list, & invest in the things that feel important to you. Your wedding is one day that is the beginning of your marriage. It is also the curation of a core memory & an incredible day you’ll hold in your heart forever. So, invest in it, but do so wisely & guided by the things you care about. And (a little biased, but it’s true) trust your planner & the team we hire together! Cheers to Charlottesville weddings in all their beauty & created by many talented hands in our community!