Image: John Nassari
After several requests from readers for such a piece, I asked the wonderful Anna MacDougall from Bride & Glory to educate us all about indicative pricing for each aspect of your wedding to give you an idea of what to expect budget-wise whilst you’re in the planning stages. I know it ranges hugely but for example, many new brides-to-be have no idea if a professional photographer costs £50 or £5000!
Anna has put together this really helpful (and very readable!) post on pricing and why services/products cost what they do. She covers every aspect from photography to videography to the ceremony, the venue, catering, transport, wedding cake, hair + make up and more. Over to the lovely Anna…
And today, my Ducks, I shall talk to you about all things wedding budgeting — albeit not in my usual capacity of stressing the importance of setting, prioritising and (mostly) sticking to a budget. Instead, I’m venturing into the rather treacle-y and controversial terrain of trying to provide guide prices for some of the most common wedding suppliers you’ll be ticking off as you move through your wedding to-do list.
The reason why this is such a tricksy and much debated topic is the fact that it is the proverbial example of the ‘how long is a piece of string’ question. You’ll probably have seen a plethora of price guides in wedding magazines and, at the risk of alienating all editors collectively now, you’ll find that a lot of us wedding suppliers aren’t the biggest fans of their breakdowns. Not always but pretty often, they paint an unrealistic picture of average costs to expect, which leaves both you and the supplier feeling frustrated.
I honestly believe that there is no such thing as a representative ‘average cost’. Last year, I worked with one couple who spent £12,000 on their wedding day and another who spent £97,000. They both had the same main elements: ceremony, venue, catering, photographer, hair & make-up artists, florist, cake, DJ, transport — they were just very different in style and cost. Do you see why an average price is about as hard to find as a unicorn?
So rather than average costs, I’ll look at realistic starting points for professional services, and there’s a reason why I emphasise the word professional (and twice, no less).
Image: Babb Photo taken from Missy & Yoni’s wedding
For the sake of putting this guide into context I have to digress for a moment, so bear with me. The past six years have been an enormous learning curve for me, not least in terms of understanding how various suppliers calculate their costs so they remain fair yet also enable them to make a living. They’ve gotta eat, you know. Yes, at first glance some quotes may seem high but once you look into what’s involved in running a sustainable business and offering each service in particular, you will get a much better understanding of how prices come together.
I would never advise any of my couples to spend above what they can safely afford or, even worse, take out a loan — *clutchespearls*! Do you really still want to pay for your wedding day long after the confetti has been brushed up?
Always remember this: all you need to get legally married is the two of you, two witnesses and an officiant with the right paperwork. So figure out what you can afford, define three areas that are most important to you (and where you will spend the majority of your budget) and then look at everything else in order of (decreasing) importance. I’ve become the biggest advocate of the ‘quality over quantity’ approach. For example: if photography is hugely important to you but you’ve never cared about a fancy car, don’t try and have both on the cheap — instead, do away with the latter so you have more funds to put towards the former. Rinse and repeat.
There is a caveat to this: you’ll almost always find someone willing to provide a service or product at a bargain rate. If cutting costs is your main priority then by all means, do go ahead and pick the supplier that works with your budget. And disregard this guide.
If, however, a certain level of quality matters to you and you want to work with a professional supplier, someone who has been trained in their field, has some experience under their belt and runs their business full time, the guide below will help you to shape realistic expectations.
Needless to say, the costs quoted are starting prices. There is (almost) no limit to how much you can spend in each of these areas and costs will increase dramatically dependant on the scope of work involved and the level of experience, popularity and (quite possibly) fame of the individual supplier. So please don’t ask your catering company for caviar and tell them I said it would cost £60 per head. Yikes!
Disclaimer: whilst I’ve made every effort to research this thoroughly and offer a representative selection, there is of course the fact that some of these costs will vary from city to countryside and from county to county. It is intended to give you a genuinely useful guide, based on my experience and opinion, not a set of definitive costs.
Please also note that it’s impossible for me to explain every item in detail, at least not without turning this into even more of a mammoth post. If you do have any specific queries for any section, you’re more than welcome to email me any time and I’ll gladly help.
Off we go then!
Image: David Pullum Photography taken from Lauren & Gabe’s wedding
I thought it only apt to start off with the element that makes your marriage legal and really, the whole point why you’re planning your wedding, right? I’d never claim to be an expert of wedding ceremonies covering all faiths so for the sake of this feature, I will focus on the ceremonies (or combination of ceremonies) most likely to apply to you STG readers.
Broadly speaking, you can have a civil or religious ceremony, or you can go down the road of a civil marriage followed by a religious or atheist blessing.
Jewish Wedding Ceremony — Kiddushin
If you are both Jewish, chances are you will want to be married by your Rabbi, either in your synagogue or at an external venue. At the risk of starting off this feature being irritatingly vague, it is almost impossible to give a guide price as it will depend on the rate your Rabbi charges and, if applicable, the hire cost of your synagogue. As a very broad starting point, the basic rate for an external ceremony (for the rabbi and marriage secretary) will be somewhere around £350 although somewhere between £450 to £650 is probably more common.
If you are both following different or no religious beliefs, you may want to plan an interfaith ceremony or an independent blessing. I’m a huge fan of both as I love the intensive way couples work with their Rabbi or celebrant to make their blessing truly personal.
If one of you follows the Jewish faith, you could decide to work with an interfaith Rabbi, in which case the individual Rabbi’s fees will apply (from around £700 upwards).
Or you could work with a celebrant, either independent or humanist. Depending on your beliefs and the individual celebrant, this can include some religious elements (such as prayers or the breaking of the glass). Starting costs for a fully trained celebrant will be around £600.
Please be aware though that, at this time, neither of the above blessing options are legally binding so you’d need to arrange for a civil ceremony to do the ‘legal part’ of getting married as well.
Image: Chris Giles Photography taken from Rachel and Zach’s wedding
You’ll each have to pay to give notice, which is usually £35 per person. And then there’s the cost of the ceremony, which differs from council to council and depending on whether your ceremony takes place at the registry office or a licensed venue. For a registry office ceremony you’re looking at upwards of £175, for a ceremony at a licensed venue anywhere from £395 upwards.
This is one of those areas where I can’t even give you a starting price as the array of venues in terms of style, facilities, service etc. is just too mahoosive to tackle. So instead, I’ll say this: be realistic in terms of your expectations. If your venue budget is minute and you’re happy to put in a bit of decorating elbow grease, you should be able to find a rustic location for under £1,000. On the other hand, if the Stately Home that’s been the setting for a plethora of movies is what you’ve got your heart set on, don’t be surprised to pay upwards of £6,000 (and much higher).
There’s an abundance of wonderful ‘how to find the right venue’ guides out there and I’d love to help so please do get in touch if you want to know more.
Image: Blake Ezra Photography taken from Chelm and Jake’s wedding
Again, how long is that darn string! If you’re going for a rustic help-yourself spit roast you’ll of course pay less than you would for a three-course silver service wedding breakfast. To give you at least a ballpark idea, you should expect to pay upwards of £60 per head for a three-course wedding breakfast. That’s not including drinks although some venues will offer packages where drinks are included (usually those where you have to buy the alcohol from the venue). As a comparison, I’ve worked with couples who have used a variety of ‘street food’ such as Paella, Fish & Chips and similar, served off the cuff and on take-away platters. For something like that you could expect to pay somewhere around £8/ £10 per head but bear in mind that you’ll still have to organise staff, cutlery, glassware, linens etc. on top so it’s not like you’re suddenly saving £50 per head).
Image: McKinley Rodgers taken from Ruth and David’s wedding
Independent of whether you’re a photography aficionado or wouldn’t recognise an Annie Leibovitz if it bit you on the bottom, your wedding photographs will capture your day long after all memories have faded into sepia smudginess. Again, please bear in mind that there are services available below this guide price but for the sake of a certain standard, I would say this: for a reliable, full-time professional photographer with some experience under their belt, expect to pay upwards of £1,500 (most realistically somewhere between £1,800 to £3,000, depending on whether you want to add extras like engagement shoots, a second shooter, albums, framed prints and similar).
Image: Shaun Taylor Photography taken from Natalie & Eli’s wedding
Applying the same criteria as for the photography section in terms of quality of equipment, experience and professionalism, I would say be prepared to pay upwards of £2,000 for a beautifully shot and edited wedding video. On a personal note, wedding films are something I’ve done a complete 180 ° turn on over the years. Whilst I used to consider them corny and a little self-indulgent, it is one of the areas I most strongly rally for now. You just can’t beat being able to hear those vows or that speech again…
Image: Deneemotion Videography
Are you bored with me saying ‘it depends’ yet? When it comes to flowers, the sky’s your limit and I have seen couples spend thousands on all things fleurs. At the same time, I’ve worked with couples on tight budgets who have left the bridal party flowers to the professionals and instead cut the budget by sorting out venue flowers themselves.
In terms of the latter, I think I can speak on behalf of a large number of florists if I say they’d prefer to work with you that way over being haggled down in price to the point of despair. Make no mistake though — taking on your own venue flowers is a huge task. It can’t be done until the day before at the very earliest (often not until the wedding day itself) so be prepared to gather an army of helpers and say goodbye to a leisurely morning spent getting your make-up done.
Some guide prices for the most common wedding flowers would be: Bride’s bouquet starting from £75, bridesmaids’ bouquets starting from £40, buttonholes from £5.50 (usually a little more for the groom) and corsages from around £12. For a medium sized table centre you’d expect to pay from £50 upwards.
Image: Larry Walshe Floral Design
The unofficial rule of thumb used to be that you had to decide whether you wanted your cake to look good or taste good. Who wants to have cake and not eat it! Luckily there are an incredible number of glorious cake makers out there these days who manage to achieve both. For the sake of some ballpark ideas, based on ‘feeding’ 120 guests, a naked cake would be around £350 whereas a more plainly decorated cake could start from £450. At a (serious) push, I’d say an average of £500 to £600 is about right but you can of course spend considerably more, depending on the size, type of icing, level of intricacy and decoration.
Image: Victoria Made wedding cakes
To band or not to band… Styles and sizes of bands will differ but here’s some background guidance. For the usual length of performance (most often either two sets of 60 minutes or three sets of 40 minutes), the cost per band member will be somewhere between £260 to £300 but this can go all the way up to £1000 per band member (and more!) depending on who you choose. There may be extra costs if they have to set-up early and can’t break down until late (which can be the case when wedding breakfast and reception are held in the same room). There may also be travel costs on top of that and bear in mind that musicians are quite particular about wanting to be fed a hot meal, so work that into your budget too. And of course, if you want The Bootleg Beatles, you won’t quite get away with that…
Image: Totem Band taken by Paul Toeman Photographers
Hair & Make-Up
Bridal make-up trials can start from £80 although I would say £100 to £125 is probably more apt. For wedding days, most make-up artists (or MUAs, how’s that for a bit of wedding lingo) will group together make-up for the bride plus two others somewhere around £250, to make it financially viable to run their businesses, especially as it is highly unlikely that the bride will be the only one having her make-up done. Additional mums or maids are usually priced somewhere between £50 to £75.
Hair styling prices will be in a similar range to make-up although you can get package rates if you book one company that can provide both (not least as it makes travel costs cheaper).
Images: Claudine Hartzel Photography taken from Rochelle & Rich’s wedding
For a basic design with envelope, allow for somewhere between £1.50 and £2.50 per invitation and then add to that depending on extras (RSVP and info cards, maps etc.), hand finish (ribbons etc.) and print type (letterpress will be considerably more), which can easily add up to somewhere around £5.50 to £8.50 per full invitation pack. If you want your on-the-day stationery (such as place cards, menus, orders of service) to match, a useful rule of thumb is to plan for paying roughly the same again as you paid for your pre-wedding stationery. And of course, there is no limit — so if you want your invitations and place cards to be adorned with beautiful calligraphy, prepare to dig deep.
Image: Invitation London
From vintage camper van to Bentley, the choice is endless — although you’d expect to pay a tad more for the latter. Somewhere starting around £130 per hour (for the beautifully maintained camper) and £150 per hour (for the more luxury vehicles) seems to be about right to give you a starting point of what to expect.
Image: Adam and Hannah Photography taken from Naomi & Michael’s wedding
I could go on… But for now, I’ll call it a day — if you’ve made it this far you’ve got more than enough to ponder for a little while. There are oodles of other areas I could cover — string quartets and caricaturists, photo booths and ice cream vans, gigantic balloons and cabaret acts — the wedding world is pretty much your oyster for the day. Who knows, maybe we’ll find enough for a “Wedding Budgeting — Part 2” feature?
Love, rockets and Pitchers of Pimms,
Yolande De Vries says
An excellent post Anna and Karen! Incredibly formative for brides and grooms, and also for other wedding suppliers!
Juliet Mckee says
Super article Anna, and very realistic too. Not always but mostly you really do get what you pay for.
Anna Mac says
Thank you Yolande and Juliet! It’s with quite a bit of trepidation that I’ve tried to hit the right balance of presenting realistic costs without offending those whose pricing is structured oh so very differently. We all know there is (almost) no upwards ceiling but I believe there are definitely levels that are way too low to enable anyone to offer a quality product or service, never mind earn some kibble for the dog (or cat!).
Nikki Ward says
Fantastic article Anna! I love the fact that you’ve broken the stationery costs down to ‘per invite’ rather than a total amount. That’s the main thing that frustrates me with the magazine guides … they are telling people to budget approximately Â£200 for stationery but with no guide as to how many invitations they would get for that price!
This a much more realistic way of looking at things 🙂
Anna Mac says
Oh Nikki, I’m so glad you approve. And I’m wholly with you. I’ve seen it at both ends of the spectrim, from handmade invitations, crafted for pennies, to works of art produced by professionals and artists like you, going upwards of Â£20 per invite. There’s nothing wrong with either, you just have to figure out what works with your budget and a random figure like ” Â£200 for stationery” helps neither the couple nor the supplier.
Really enjoyed reading this article Anna. So on point and you have a wonderful way of writing. Your personality really shines through!
Nu Bride says
Well this has got to be the quote of all quotes: “Do you see why an average price is about as hard to find as a unicorn”? HAHAHAHAH Brilliant ladies. Thank you for tackling this subject and helping to educate both couples and suppliers! PS. Thank you for educating about the true price for professional musicians! Nova xxx
Anna Mac says
Oh Nova, you have no idea how much you’ve just made me laugh. It is a unicorn! I couldn’t be happier about the feedback we’re getting. It’s been a privilege to have been entrusted with this by Karen so to hear that we’ve gotten it somewhat right is oh so very encouraging. So much love!
Bex Bennett says
What a great post! I would say these are very accurate price estimates for each element of a wedding, having organised my own a couple of years ago. Thanks for giving properly researched prices for musicians and explaining that the cost is per musician which I think can often be overlooked!
Anna Mac says
Oh Bex, you have no idea how much that means coming from you as a bride, who’s gone through the process. Thank you for taking the time to comment!
Well done Anna. Realistic and accurate. Also no one *clutches pearls quite like you! Xx
Anna Mac says
If only I still wore my pearls, my mum would be delighted! Thank you gorgeous girl.
Abbie from Beloved Love Photography says
I am working on a post now trying to explain to brides just why photography costs what it does! Always good for brides to remember that it’s one of the only things you have after the wedding is over! Great post Karen
Anna Mac says
Thanks Abbie – I’d love to share that when it’s live. Will you let me know? I do feel for couples, how would they know how much individual services cost? It’s all about educating and explaining, at least that’s what I’ve found.