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How Much Does a Small Wedding Cost?

Updated December 2, 2021
How Much Does a Small Wedding Cost?

Despite a common misconception, the small wedding cost doesn’t differ from a large wedding majorly.

This seems counterintuitive and unfair at first, but everything gets clear when you break down the costs by feature.

First, let’s define a small wedding. It’s, for the most part, a vague concept based on our personal perception.

For some, a 50-guest wedding may seem large; others consider a 100-guest event small. For convenience purposes, let’s assume a small event is one that involves under 50 guests.

The price of some wedding features is, indeed, based on the number of guests. These include catering, invitations, guest favors, cake, and transportation. However, the cost of each of these features is also affected by numerous other factors.

A small wedding venue may come at a higher price than a colossal hall due to exquisite decorations or premium location.

For example, a luxurious plated dinner for 50 people may cost you more than a buffet-style reception for 250 guests.

However, the cost of most wedding features isn’t affected by the number of guests at all. For example, photographers, videographers, and musicians tend to charge an hourly rate.

Likewise, the prices of engagement rings and wedding attire only fluctuate depending on the design, brand, and quality.

Venue

You don’t need such a large venue for a wedding with 50 guests as you would for a wedding with 250 guests. So instead of a whole ballroom, you can rent a banquet hall in your local hotel or a restaurant.

But unlike prices of catering or a cake, the cost of a wedding venue doesn’t fluctuate based on the number of guests.

Instead, the price depends on how large of a venue you choose, its location, and how exquisite it is. You can expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000.

Expensive venues aren’t the only option for a small wedding, though. For example, it is challenging to host a 300-guest event on a beach or in a forest, but it’s much easier with under 50 guests.

You may have to pay a fee to the city municipality or rent chairs and tables, but the price will be lower overall. For example, a DIY beach wedding typically costs from $500 to $2,000, depending on what the ceremony entails.

If you host a micro wedding with under 30 guests, you can even cater it yourself in your backyard.

Catering

Wedding catering’s cost depends majorly on whether it’s a plated dinner or a buffet.

The average price of a plated wedding dinner ranges from $60 to $120, leading to $3,000-$7,200 per 50 guests. A buffet wedding reception costs $40-$100, which averages up to $2,000-$5,000 for the same number of attendees.

The price range within the same category is so wide because the food served plays an important role. So, for example, you can’t expect to pay the same sum for a seafood bar and mac and cheese.

Apart from food, you should also add up the price of a bar.

An open bar at a wedding costs between $15 and $90 per person, depending on the liquor type and quality. Generally, wine and beer are the cheapest options. This comes up to $750-$4,500.

If your goal is to stay within the budget, you can cater the wedding yourself. It’s impossible with a large wedding but manageable with a small one, especially if you have excellent cooking skills.

While estimating the exact price range is complex, a self-cater wedding will undoubtedly cost you less than professional catering due to a lack of labor expenses.

Photography

Most photographers don’t care how many guests attend your wedding. They charge per hour or the number of edited pictures. Thus, the wedding photographer price won’t differ between small and large events.

The average cost of a wedding photographer exceeds $2,100 per six-hour event. And if you wish to add a videographer, expect to pay double the price.

But, of course, the price range is extremely wide. Experienced photographers in high demand can charge up to $10,000 per event, whereas others are as little as $400.

As for the rate-per picture, it fluctuates from $20 to $100 per edited version. If you decide to send each guest an individual portrait as a “thank you” gesture, expect to pay $1,000-$5,000 for guest photos.

While spending so much on a photographer for a small wedding may seem unfair, I don’t recommend saving on this feature.

A professional photographer will immortalize your special day in artistic pictures. Shots taken on your guest phones won’t be nearly as beautiful and atmospheric.

Music

As the photographer, a music band or a DJ are indifferent to the number of guests at a wedding. As a result, they typically charge hourly rates. However, small weddings are often less formal than large ones.

So instead of hiring a full-blown orchestra or a large band, you can go for a single DJ or a duo.

The average cost of a wedding band in the US is $4,500, whereas a DJ costs about $1,000. The difference is justifiable, as when hiring a band, you pay to multiple professionals.

An alternative to spending thousands on music is to be a DJ yourself or ask a friend to do it. Nothing complex here – all you need is an appropriate playlist and high-quality equipment. A sound system can be rented for under $500.

If some of your family members or friends are talented in music, you can also request them to play or sing a couple of songs.

Attire & Rings

Wedding dress prices range immensely. You can find the cheapest dress for under $500 and a luxurious designer gown for $100,000.

However, the average cost of a wedding dress in the US is $1,600, including alterations. The main factors affecting wedding dress costs are design intricacy, brand, and fabric.

Apart from the dress, you’ll also have to purchase wedding shoes and other optional accessories such as a clutch or jewelry.

Same as the dress, these can cost from a couple of hundreds to several thousands of dollars. Then, add up the cost of wedding makeup and hairstyling – $300 on average.

Grooms are luckier in terms of wedding attire pricing. A nice suit can be found for as little as $300 and up to $3,000 for quality designer options.

The price of wedding rings depends on their size, material, clarity, size, type of stone, and brand. Expect to pay $5,200 per ring on average.

Decoration

The price of wedding decorations can be estimated only by taking into account your venue choice.

For example, for a backyard or outdoor wedding with DIY decorations, you can spend under $400. However, if you opt for professional wedding catering in an expensive venue, you may pay upwards of $10,000.

Wedding decoration typically involves flowers, aisle runners, candlesticks, special lighting, and table décor such as tablecloths.

Flowers are the most expensive decoration option, averaging up to nearly $2,000 for a moderate wedding venue size.

Some couples rent photo booth backdrops, funfair attractions, and other add-ons. These come with a hefty price tag, adding another couple of thousand to the total fee.

Bridal Bouquet

The bridal bouquet cost doesn’t depend on the event size. On average, brides in the US pay $250 for a bouquet, with the cheapest options priced at $60 and most expensive at $960.

Bouquet’s price is based on flower rarity and seasonality more than on its size.

Wedding Cake

The basic cost of a wedding cake is relatively easy to calculate, provided the design and flavor aren’t anything unique.

Most bakeries charge $7-$9 per slice, which averages up to $350-$450 in total. However, brides rarely go for the most uncomplicated design and flavor. As a result, some wedding cakes exceed $1,000.

Cakes made with exotic, gluten-free, or vegan ingredients tend to cost more. The number of tiers also matters, as tiered cakes require more labor.

Buttercream frosting is more affordable than gum paste. Then, there are design customization and its intricacy, delivery fees, and add-ons such as cake toppers and stands.

An 11-12-inch cake contains 47-56 servings. If you only invited 25-30 people, an 8-9-inch cake should suffice. Based on this estimation, you can ask local bakeries for a quote.

Transportation

Transportation includes both the van hire for guests and a car for the couple. So, naturally, the price depends on the type of vehicle, your location, and the distance you need to travel.

Couples hosting a destination wedding in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic of the US spend $1,080 on transportation on average.

That’s the highest cost across the whole country. The lowest transportation prices belong to the Southwest, averaging up to $555.

Estimating the budget is easier when you break down the prices. So, a wedding car or limo costs $50-$150 per hour. Fancier cars or party busses can cost you $200-$300 per hour.

Invitations & Guest Favors

Invitations and guest favors are the cheapest wedding features and the simplest in terms of budget estimation.

The design intricacy doesn’t affect invitation price much, and it’s a one-off charge. Plus, you know exactly how many invitations and favors you need.

Invitations cost slightly over $7 on average or $350 for a 50-guest wedding. However, many couples now opt for digital invitations. These will cost you much less, as you only need to pay for a designer’s work and not for printing.

Guest favors also average up to about $7 per person, but their price fluctuates significantly depending on the type.

You can gift chocolate bars, candles, cocktail sets, mugs, bottle openers – whatever your creativity tells you.

Image credit: Pexels

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