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Unsurprising fact: money is a taboo subject, even in 2018. People don’t talk about it if they aren’t splitting the bill at dinner, but people definitely think about it — especially at weddings. From “How much cash do we give?” to “That raw bar was next-level, what do you think it cost?” to “How did our friends drink a down payment on a house’s worth of booze?” weddings involve spending money, whether you are attending or hosting. But what’s the most expensive part of a wedding? Well, it depends.

Obviously, throwing a party for twenty people at a restaurant in Vegas after you hit up the chapel is going to cost less than throwing a 250-person open-bar event in the Hamptons. But what’s the biggest cost of any wedding, large or small? The food? The band? The dress?

We asked 12 real-life couples about the most expensive part of their wedding, and there were some major themes across all different types of weddings. Food and booze are expensive, venues are an investment, and photography and flowers are the big surprise expenses. (Perhaps it’s time to start making florist and photographer friends so you can call in a favor later.)

Booze And Food Cost The Most

  1. “I just got married, and I would say our most expensive was the bar bill.”

If your wedding is at a venue that keeps tabs on each drink a guest orders, that college friend of your partner’s who can drink 15 beers over the course of an evening can easily rack up a $100 bar tab all by their lonesome. (And let’s be real, you know they’re getting shots.)

  1. Food and alcohol were the biggest expenses (predictably). We spent about $15,000 on food and alcohol for 42 people.”

If you want your guests eat and drink well, plan to spend the most money on catering. Great food plus an open bar equals very happy guests... and an extremely fun dance floor.

  1. Not married yet, but food/alcohol will be our biggest expense. $26,000 for about 150 guests.”

If you’re hosting a large wedding, try to get creative. For a backyard wedding, do a massive liquor run and hire local bartenders. Just remember, people always drink more than you think they will...

  1. “Catering, though ours includes all rentals and all the event staff (including bartenders and liquor liability).”

The plus side of venues that require you partake in their catering is that they include things like staff and rentals, which can add up.

Venues Are Expensive Too

  1. “The most expensive part of my wedding was my venue which just included the space and I had to bring literally everything else in but for a control freak like me it was worth it.”

Spending a good chunk of change on a beautiful venue can be worth it, especially if you’re an event planner or career producer like this bride.

  1. “The most expensive was the venue/catering. My venue was semi-inclusive. The per person rate included food, alcohol, cake, ceremony space, venue.”

On the other hand, if you find a venue that provides food and drink in-house, the cost of the venue can be super affordable, and sometimes even free.

  1. “Food and drink was the largest. Our reception site was free — it was the gorgeous event room at our favorite restaurant. Free with a minimum which we easily met.”

Restaurants can be a great way to minimize actual venue cost.

Flowers And Photography Are Expensive

  1. “Most expensive part of wedding was food and alcohol. Followed by the band. Followed by flowers (who knew). Followed by photographer. Followed by dress.”

This bride shared that the initial quote from the florist was a whopping $23,000. Flowers add up quickly!

  1. “So most expensive part of a wedding for me is the venue and catering but outside of that I’d say photographers. Most people I know would probably say the same and you want good photos.”

The truth is, you don’t want to skimp on photos, but venturing outside the “wedding photographer” realm might minimize the expense — there are many amazing photographers out there.

Rentals Aren’t Cheap

  1. “I think ours was the tent but at a certain point you just lose track and there no turning back.”

Tented parties are magical, but expensive. As a plus: they minimize weather stress.

  1. “I’m not married yet, but thankfully almost done planning of my wedding happening in September. We’re doing a backyard wedding at my parent’s farm in Massachusetts. BY FAR the biggest cost is the rentals (tent, stage, dance floor, tables, chairs, plates, glassware, etc). Whoever says a backyard wedding is cheaper than a venue is lying.”

Rentals are expensive! Or maybe it’s just that all weddings are expensive, so figure out what your priorities are.

In The End, It All Depends On The Size Of Your Wedding

  1. “I'm three months out but the biggest deciding factor in the expense budget will be your guest list. More people equals more money. Almost every single venue/caterer will require a per plate price, so for every person you invite that will add up your bill.”

If serving oysters and Dom is important to you, keep your guest list small. If having a 200-person dance party is the goal, think about a more casual theme or venue. Weddings are expensive no matter what, but if you focus on making the day special for you and your partner, it will be worth it in the end.

Written by: Kimmy Foskett