Beth & Ian at Wayfarers Chapel

Photo credit: Kristen Soileau

This entry is from our Expert Guest series where wedding and honeymoon professionals share their best tips on creating memories that last a lifetime….

A wedding is one of the most important days in a couple’s life together. Exchanging vows and professing your commitment to each other before family and friends is a beautiful, meaningful, and special moment. However, deciding on a big guest list, or opting for a more stylish, elaborate wedding is a tough choice that couples must face.

Wedding inviations for weddings large & small

Photo credit: Brett Loie

Costs of Large Weddings

At first blush, big weddings appear to be the gold standard and what everyone aspires for. However, big weddings also require a much bigger budget to be executed tastefully. There is also a higher likelihood for certain components of the wedding getting overshadowed as the costs and fees can quickly rack up.

Deluxe wedding place setting

Photo credit: Brett Loie

According to Forbes, in 2016 the average cost of a wedding was in the mid-$30,000. Anyone who has ever planned a wedding knows this figure may be a gross understatement of the true costs, especially depending on the region. A venue’s price tag alone may reach $35,000 or more for a 125-person wedding. You will also need room in your budget for the following:

  • Wedding dress, tux, bridal accessories, and any alterations
  • Jewelry
  • Photography and videography
  • Catering and alcohol
  • Music, DJ, specialty lighting, and entertainment
  • Officiant and ceremony costs
  • Cake and desserts
  • Floral arrangements
  • Rentals such as: tables, linens, dishes, flatware
  • Specialty rentals such as: vintage rentals, table top décor, donut walls, décor, ceremony arches, and lounges
  • Wedding planner
  • Make-up, hair, and beauty
  • Stationery including invitations, menus, and other signage and postage
  • Hotel or bridal suites for pre-ceremony prep
  • Transportation whether for you or your guests like shuttle service
  • Small details like favors and gifts
  • Insurance for day of the wedding (more venues are requiring this)
  • Services fees, taxes, and gratuity
Citrus shoot with gold card box and cake

Photo credit: Sarah Mack Photo

Things to consider for large weddings are:

  • Every invite increases your bill in almost every area
  • Delivery and set-up for your wedding costs more for bigger weddings due to labor costs
  • Usually when you have large parties, quality can quickly and easily decline
  • Possible debt, and
  • Relying on family/parents to cover costs and as a result less control over your wedding and more interference with decision-making
Boho photo shoot

Photo credit: Kadi Tobin

You Can Still Have All of This…

On the other hand, with an elite, boutique wedding experience you can still achieve all that big weddings accomplish while cutting costs and not sacrificing quality. A well-styled and curated wedding allows you to put your non-traditional stamp on what would otherwise be out of reach with a larger guest list. For example, a smaller guest lists create more room in the budget for an “experience” over pleasing the masses. You can:

  • Upgrade to more specialty rentals like luxe linens, vintage China tabletop décor, vintage lounge furniture for guests and the couple to enjoy
  • Choose higher quality floral arrangements
  • Better entertainment options like photo booths or
  • Higher quality dining options, or crafted cocktails
Table for wedding couple

Photo credit: Brett Loie

Romantic White Bar with Backdrop for purely elizabeth

Photo credit: Sarah Meis for Purely Elizabeth

If your style dictates how you want your wedding to look everything should tell a story. For instance, if your vibe is more Bohemian you can achieve this look through your venue choice; décor and ambiance like peacock chairs at your sweetheart table with chic tabletop decor, a mid-century modern lounge; a lace gown; natural flowing hair and make-up; and relaxed floral arrangements with protea and wildflowers.

Wedding table for guests

Photo credit: Brett Loie

Intimate wedding table

Photo credit: Brett Loie

Smaller, More Elaborate Weddings Means You Enjoy It

Many married couples will tell you they did not even get a chance to eat or sit and mingle with friends and family they wanted to, at their wedding. Why put yourself through unnecessary stress if you are not going to enjoy it? Of course, you want your guests to walk away with a memorable experience, but this day is also about the couple. Planning a wedding can take months, or even years, to execute the perfect vision. The ceremony and reception are about eight hours long and for all the money and time you invest to create a magical experience, it is paramount you enjoy it. A smaller guest list means you relish in the well-planned menu you spent hours pouring over and tastings you attended. It also means you can cherish all the tender moments with your new spouse.

VIntage bar cart

Photo credit: MB Photo

Elegant wedding cake

Photo credit: Brett Loie

Smaller, More Elaborate Weddings Mean Better Photographs

Because couples can keep costs controlled with a smaller guest list it means you direct your money on important things like good quality photographs while staying in budget. Here’s why:

  • A shot list capturing first look, kiss, and dance, cake cutting, family photos, and candids with guests
  • Capturing décor details which tell the story of your wedding
  • Less chaos with a smaller, elaborate wedding, so the photographer can be tuned in to your needs and sense the tender moments
  • At the end of the wedding, all you have left are memories and your photos
Donut bar on French provincial desk with suspended flowers

Photo credit: Joanne Leung Photography

Donut bar on French provincial desk

Photo credit: Joanne Leung Photography

Invest wisely in a good photographer whose style you like and you personally you feel connected to. A professional will want to deliver the best for your wedding and leave you feeling blissful. If you skimp on this aspect of your budget because you are accommodating a large wedding guest list, the photographs will suffer and it usually is a couple’s biggest regrets.

Black table with Victorian parlor chairs

Photo credit: With Love by Georgie

All in all, each couple must make choices that are best for your relationship and foray into the marriage. Consider the benefits of a smaller, more elaborate wedding and put your enjoyment first. You can still score the important items on your wish list without breaking the bank.

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Bio: Anna Braff is the boss babe, creative director, and designer of Provenance Rentals, a boutique specialty and vintage rentals company in Los Angeles. Yolie Faraci Rodriguez created a gorgeous vintage tabletop décor rental company, Via La Roche as well as Rental Resource, a concierge for rental companies. Both Provenance Rentals and Via La Roche’s work have been featured in numerous, well-known wedding publications.

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