Have a Wedding Budget? Experts say to add $15K.

There are two types of wedding budgets. The budget couples go in with, and the budget they’ll actually need to achieve their vision. 

Christina Carter, owner and principal planner at Fairfax-based Happily Hitched, which fittingly offers both wedding planning and relationship coaching, rarely sees a couple without some sort of budget. But how often that budget aligns with reality is another thing altogether. 

Carter says that most couples’ budget isn’t in line with their vision. She adds, “We usually add a minimum of $15K to that or upwards of $30K+.”

Getting Real: The disconnect often comes from talking to friends or family who have planned weddings, yes, but they’re sharing 2010 numbers in a 2023 world. “Those numbers just won’t be accurate for today, especially if those estimates were pre-2020 or even a year ago. Prices continue to change,” says Carter.

Colleen Cook, Lead Event Planner at CCS Events in Richmond, adds that prices recently have increased dramatically. “Three years ago brides were spending $2K-$4K less on catering/bar and 30 percent less on florals.”

Factor in a national average that isn’t reflective of Virginia’s cost of living, and there’s no surprise couples are confused. Currently, the average wedding nationwide is $33K, but that’s not the case in the Old Dominion. Add $20K to that figure and you’ll have the average of what it’ll cost to pull off a wedding in Virginia.

Choose Three Priorities: To think realistically about wedding costs and budget, first throw out the idea that everything can be a top-line item. Rather than thinking about budget in terms of target amounts for each area, think about priorities. One couple may value a band above all else, while another would rather splurge on food. Carter recommends her couples allocate their spending based on their top three priorities, even if that means skimping on the attire to get the dream dessert truck.

Save Your Pennies Here and There: Review your priority list. Look at the items at the bottom, and start there. “Go with high-quality, semi-custom invitations, ditch shuttle transportation, hire a DJ instead of a band, or focus on fewer, but more impactful florals with a wow factor,” recommends Carter.

If you can return unopened bottles, she also suggests purchasing your own alcohol. Splurge only on upgraded linens, china, and flatware for the head table—it’s unlikely anyone will notice the second cousin twice removed won’t even notice if their flatware doesn’t match the happy couple’s.

Couples Never Regret This Splurge: “Deciding to add a videographer, if not important from the start, is always something we’ve heard couples say they’re glad they did. Photos will always be wonderful to look back on the memories, but nothing can quite capture the emotion of the day like video,” says Carter. 

The Unofficial Averages

Christina Carter from Happily Hitched calculated average costs for top wedding priorities for us. Her unofficial tally includes: 

Catering (per 100 guests): $20K

DJ: $3K

Band: $7-10K

Florals: $7-14K

Venue: $10-15K

Really. What’ll it cost us? 

Average wedding costs in Virginia by region:

Northern Va: $75K

Charlotesville: $60K

Richmond and Central Va: $45K

Southwest Va and Virginia Beach: $35K

June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum