How much does a wedding REALLY cost?

Wedding Advice

May 21, 2020

posted on:

How much does a wedding REALLY cost? GREAT QUESTION! Every year, there are several major wedding publications and websites that circulate numbers on the “average” cost of a wedding state-by-state. We have found that these numbers are doing a great disservice to our couples trying to set a realistic budget as the number of couples being surveyed in these publications are just a very small percentage overall and do not include the majority of the 2.2 million (2019) couples that were married overall that year. Here in Minnesota, the cost for a wedding in a small town of a few thousand is going to look drastically different than the cost of a wedding in downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul. We wanted to take a closer look, service by service, at what the real costs of a wedding here in the Twin Cities truly looks like to give couples the knowledge they need to create the best wedding budget for them and their families.


While there are some obvious factors (such as guest count and personal tastes) that will hugely influence your total cost, we will use a count of 150 guests for our estimates below. Also note that personal attire (dress, tux, rings, etc.)  are not included in these numbers. 


// Setting a realistic budget in the Twin Cities Market 


Venue: Aside from catering, your venue cost will be the biggest investment when it comes to your wedding budget. A venue rental for a space that can hold at least 150 people will likely range somewhere between $7,000 – $10,000 on average. 


Catering: Catering is the one area that probably has the greatest range! With so many options available surrounding food (different vendors, taste preferences, level of service etc.), this is one area that can really be personal for couples. Depending on the style of food service you are interested in (buffet, plated or food stations/action stations) a full dinner service for 150 people, including cocktail hour appetizers, can range anywhere between $8,000 – $15,000+. 


Bar Service: Whether this is through your caterer or an outside 3rd party bartending service, you can expect to invest between $2,500 – $5,000 on beverages for your guests. If bar service is provided by your caterer, you will want to be aware of any minimums you may need to meet.


Planner: A must have for your wedding day (in our opinion) and oh so worth it! Depending on whether you are looking for wedding day management services or full service planning from day one, your planned investment will land somewhere between $1,800 – $10,000+


Photography: Photography is another service that is incredibly personal for couples! The most important thing to consider when selecting a photographer is if you like their artistic style and their personality when working together one-on-one. Beyond that, other important considerations include: how many hours their packages include, whether or not you would like an engagement session (yes!), and how many finished, edited images you will receive after the wedding. On average, a “full day” of wedding coverage (8 hours or more) with an engagement session runs somewhere between $4,000 – $7,000 in the Twin Cities market. 


Cinematography: All of the same considerations that apply for photography go for cinematography as well! A full wedding day of film coverage goes for between $3,500 – $5,000


DJ: A good (or bad) DJ can absolutely make or break your reception. We always recommend investing a tiny bit extra here to select an experienced DJ and have the opportunity to meet and work with them on a plan for music prior to your wedding day. While there are definitely bargain options available (where you would be paired with a DJ that you wouldn’t meet until the wedding day), it’s so worth it to make sure you are hiring someone you love from the start! For this option, averages range between $1,100 – $2,500.  


Band: A full reception band typically plays for about 4 hours, and includes at least 4 musicians. While there are certainly several variables with bands (musical style, how elaborate their staging/lighting may be, number of pieces selected) overall you can expect to invest between $2,000 – $4,500.


Floral: For this service, we will look at costs item-by-item. An average bridal bouquet usually starts around $200, with bridesmaids bouquets at about half of that ($100 each). Corsages/boutonnieres for the wedding party and/or parents average $15/each. If you are envisioning some floral for the ceremony, like an arch to stand under or a flower-lined aisle to walk down, plan to budget at least $750+ here. Centerpieces and table-top decor for each dinner table can range anywhere from $100-$300+. Assuming you have a wedding party of 5 attendants on each side, and approx. 15 dinner tables (150 at tables of 10 each), expect a floral investment of somewhere between $4,000 – $8,000.


Paper goods: Below are some ballpark ranges that cover wedding paper necessities!

Save the Dates: ~ $1.50 – $3/each 

Invitations: ~ $6 – $10+/each (includes invitation card, details/accomodations card and RSVP card). If you are looking for more custom design work like hand-drawn illustrations, letter pressing, metallic foil accents, etc. these would all be additional investments

Menus, programs, seating chart, escort cards: $500 – $1,000

Again, working off of a guest count of 150, plan for somewhere between $1,250 – $4,500.


Dessert: Overall, we see a pretty consistent average of $7.00 per guest for dessert here in the Twin Cities area! This is a good number to use whether you are looking for a traditional wedding cake or something more unique, this seems to be a solid number to use for an estimate. With 150 guests, dessert should land somewhere around $1,050.


Transportation: This is one service that can really vary based on your needs. Are you hiring a limo, bus or motor coach to transport your guests to and from the venue/ hotels? Are you providing a Uber and/or Lyft code for your guests to get home at the end of the night? Or do you just need a fun getaway car to depart in style? No matter what option you select, we typically see couples invest between $1,000-$2,000 in this category.


Beauty Services: Professional hair and makeup services for your wedding day will not only make you look and feel your best all day long, but it can take a ton of stress off of having to do everything yourself! Relax with a mimosa or coffee and enjoy a leisurely morning of getting ready with your squad! Heading to a salon is great, but onsite hair & makeup artists that can come to YOU make things even simpler and more relaxed. Full hair & makeup service for the bride typically ranges between $450-$650, and should include a trial run prior to the wedding day (very important!). Individual services for bridesmaids or other VIP friends and family members (moms, aunts, etc.) will range between $75-$200 per person depending on hairstyles and specific makeup applications.


Rentals: We will look at some of the core rental elements here- chairs, tablecloths, linen napkins and chargers for each place setting. While there are certainly lots of other custom extras that can be added here, these are the items we most commonly see! 

Chairs: ~ $8 – $12/each

Linens: ~ $16 – $30+/each (depending on fabric, size and decorative detail)

Napkins: ~ $1 – $2/each

Charger Plates: ~ $3 – $5/each

With 150 guests, you would be looking at $2,050 – $3,300 for these base rentals.


Entertainment/extras: This could include any number of different fun, personalized items, but we always like to account for a few special treats for your guests.  A few examples include…

Welcome bags: $8 – $12/each room

Photobooth: ~ $1,000

Wedding Day Favors: $300 – $500


TOTAL ESTIMATE: $41,250 – $80,150 (average: $60,700)


As a reminder, these are AVERAGES in our market for professional vendors with a guest count of 150 guests, there are couples that will spend far above and far below these numbers. Are you planning to get married at a hotel? Unique local venue? Outdoor residence that is tented? Historical site?  Every wedding and budget alike are unique. To get started with planning for your budget, request estimates through your planner or trusted source, have the budget conversation with everyone that will be contributing and then decide what/who your non-negotiables are. These items will give you a good idea of where you will ultimately want to land.


We hope this helps when trying to set a realistic budget overall and there is no sticker shock after you google “average cost of wedding” and see a number that comes nowhere near the above averages. 🙂 There is so much talent in the MSP market and if you decide to work with a planner, they will be able to guide you through the budgeting process and help you select vendors that will be the best fit for you! You got this! Happy planning!




The Peonies 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *