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Why is it so hard to find out how much something costs for a wedding? Why is everything so expensive versus when your parents got married? How many times have you seen someone say

I want a wedding vendor that: 

won’t break the bank

– is affordable

– won’t cost an arm and a leg

– is reasonable

– won’t break my budget.


I’m about to get REAL with you. What they’re really saying is:


“I have no idea what goes into this but I want/like/need it.”

Images by Amber Robinson | Raleigh Wedding Photographer | Beauty + Bordeaux

In today’s world, we aren’t used to purchasing from small businesses or independent business owners. We’re used to 2-day free shipping, black friday deals, and built-in fees to cover the cost of haggling.

Anyone who has ever bought a car or a mattress knows this. The only reason these things are literally always on sale is because they’re marked up so high, that they can take the blow of a deep discount and still come out with a profit.

These things are mass-produced in a factory–usually overseas–which means they can offer a product at a LOW price and FAST turnaround beyond the realm of imagination of what it would take one person to make the same thing. The same exact thing. With the plans available on the process to make it.

So this person knows exactly how to make it, but it would still cost them more and take them much longer to make it. This is important.

menu design revelry _ heart

Dispelling myths about our designs for wedding aesthetics and custom invitations:


“You do this sort of thing all the time, you must have an average price”
We create a new design for each person I work with, that means with every single person, we are creating a new product–with no instructions and usually, it’s never been done before. We have a starting price and a range our clients have reported, but there is no average.

“You charge more for a wedding when it’s the same thing as any other event”
We do not charge more for a wedding because it’s a wedding. The overall cost is higher because the time that goes into a wedding is on average, double of what is involved in another type of design project.

“You just change the names and sell the design to someone else”
We do not create designs and then sell them to the mass market. I have been asked multiple times to create exclusive (LOL) semi-custom designs that you can swap your name into and have printed. It’s just not our jam.

We will adapt a previously created design for your event if you choose–unless the client we created the original design for signed an exclusivity agreement. Then we will need to use that suite for inspiration rather than adaptation and create something new for you.

“I saw this design on pinterest, it’s exactly what I want, all you need to do it recreate it”
We will not copy another artist’s work. If you like that exact design, you need to contact that artist and pay them for their work. All images couples share with us are for inspiration only.

“It’s not custom if you didn’t draw/paint/carve it”
Custom design is defined as creating a layout with a specific outcome/client in mind. Take us out of the equation and you wouldn’t get the same product, just like when we take different clients, we come out with different products based on their needs. We create designs using both in-house original illustrations as well as curated work from other artists. Depending on the parameters of your project, we use our best judgment to source the appropriate artwork.

What is average anyway?

I’m going to take a wild guess out of left field and assume you don’t want an average wedding.

But, if you do, apparently the national US average is something like 26k.

Other arbitrary US average numbers are:

Average home price: $200,000
Average vacation price: $1,145 pp

Average price of a puppy: $750 (because somewhere between free to $1,500 is an average)

How do these numbers match up to yours? Are they low? High? On par? Remember, these are for otherwise unremarkable features. A home in an area somewhere between LA and Farmville, NC (that’s a real place!) with no Joanna Gaines. Your trip to somewhere between Bora Bora and Florida, a dog with a visible or hidden flaw that makes it perfect for a home, but not to demonstrate the breed.

So–when you think of your wedding, is average the adjective you’re using to describe it to your guests?

“Didn’t you hear? It’s gonna be super average.”

 

If you’re looking to create an exceptional experience and veer off the beaten path, personal artistry and uniqueness come with a need for expertise. Wedding professionals like myself pour our hearts into our work–people ask me what I want for Christmas, and the answer is usually things like an iPad pro pencil to make on the go client meetings run smoother, accounting software to track my invoices or an upgraded laser cutter. My hobbies include more design than anything else (although I do love a good Netflix binge sesh and a craft class).

When you invest in a cake artist or an executive chef, you’re getting a premium product. Deep down, I know you know this.

Hand sketched map of durham and vintage aviation for wedding invitation suites

Hit me with the numbers, kase.

Okay–but first, know that too many Google searches later, you’re going to find that these numbers may match your tier and may not. You are the only one who can determine the level of service you expect and the level of expertise you need to hire. The length of time, number of servings as well as the timeline you need the product delivered will absolutely impact cost.

As a general rule of thumb I’ve based these tiers as follows:

Low: Just launched business and/or 1-3 years experience

Mid: 3-5 years experience

High:  5-10+ years experience

Hobbyists–aka people without business licensure will (and should) come in lower than these prices. You can find their work on fiverr, etsy, and thumbtack.

Wedding Photographers: Low 1-3k, mid 5k, high end 5k+

$2400 for 8hr wedding coverage with a second shooter plus a complimentary engagement session. We’ve had clients spend up to $3400 for additional coverage as well as a bridal and engagement session. Most though spend between $2400 and $2700. Been in business straight for 2 years but had photographed off and on for 5 years prior. Help with timelines, family shot lists, dress fluffing, and so much more. As many in the industry, our job doesn’t just start with what we advertise to be – it goes beyond to help ensure clients have a smooth a beautiful day!

Wedding photographer here, packages from $2000 to 4500. Including second shooters, albums,pastries and photobooths along the way. Sticker shock for most clients comes from a misunderstanding of how much it costs to be in business and also the work that goes on behind the scenes, driving meeting with clients emailing back and forth. They just don’t think about it they just think oh eight hours of wedding photography and here are my pictures. But I’ve come to notice that people don’t really care that your camera costs $5,000. It would be nice to educate people on what they’re paying for.

Photographers have to

  • Be insured
  • -already have expensive equipment that has to be maintained as its equipment and equipment is bound to break or wear eventually
  • – notice every detail in the background, on people-group photos are the literal worse for this reason because I don’t have 10 sets of eyes to make sure everyone is smiling or looking at me-we have to notice every little thing and if we don’t, that potentially means more work trying to photoshop things out for hours or just generally trying to fix the photo
  • -we have to be very knowledgeable about our equipment and how it works so we can get the desired results
  • -we often coach people through their big days considering we’re ALWAYS there near the couple, which we don’t mind but it’s still something we all generally provide
  • -hours upon hours of editing to make sure the finished product can be printed, blown up, posted, anything. I have to be so cognizant of what a photo might look like if it’s blown up to a crazy big canvas or anything like that because if someone orders something like that and it comes back blurry or weird, that’s on me now and that’s my work that now looks terrible on a bajillion by bagillion size canvas
  • constantly be aware of our surroundings because if there’s a mirror (for example) I could very well be in the photo and not even notice later and again, back to photoshop which I personally loathe doing

I could seriously go on for DAYS about what all I do but I’ll stop here in also saying that man..I have to freaking make EVERYONE look good and that in itself is sometimes a task, not because people aren’t beautiful but just because not everyone is comfortable around cameras and poses weird or makes it harder than it has to be and it’s my job to make everyone feel confident, -happy and most importantly comfortable with me and my abilities to do a good job. 

Wedding Videolow 1-3k, mid 5k, high end 5k+

Packages form $2,000-$4,000 depending on the add on’s. I’m new-ish and I would say average market rate [in my area] is $3000+

Wedding Cake: $10/pp

Wedding Catering: Apps $20pp, dinner $40pp

Bar service: Beer & Wine $1250, Full liquor bar $3000

All-inclusive caterers: $100pp

“I often hear clients say the dream is to just find somebody with a barn somewhere who will let them use it and just have a big party. […]Where [would] those people would use the restroom and where they would park if they found that barn. Would the owners be okay with the liability of having 150 people drinking alcohol and partying on their property? Another time, a MOB said on a tour, “This is great! You have this barn just sitting here, so why not use it for a venue and make a lot of money!” Excuse me…. we just spent $200K putting in restrooms, a massive septic system, HVAC, landscaping, fire pit, patio, fences, driveways, etc., etc. Then there are the ongoing expenses like insurance, utilities, dumpster service, lawn service, maintenance, staff, etc. Venues have massive bills to pay, and the bigger and nicer they are, the higher the bills. They are not trying to take advantage of brides or rip people off.”

Officiants: low: $500 high: $1500

Invitations: low: up to 1k mid: 1-3k high: 3k+

Hand calligraphers: low $2pp mid $4pp high $10pp

Planners: Hourly, $250, Month of: 2k, Full coordination $5k+

I charge $1500 right now for Wedding Coordination, but that is going up again next year. Especially since I have a team now. $1500 still feels a bit lower than I want to be but it has been a bit of a sweet spot as far as getting clients I love and also not losing them due to their budget needs. Ideally I am aiming to be at $2000 for Coordination by 2020. Full planning starts at $3500.

DJ: low up to 1k, mid: 1-2k, high 2k+

Live Band: up to 2k, mid 2-5k, high 5k+

Specialty services (food truck, coffee bar, harpist, ice luge): $500

Photo booths: $750+

Live painter: $1k+

Llamas/Alpacas: $200-300

Rentals (lounge, tablescapes, tables, etc.): low $10pp, mid $25pp high $50pp

Hair & Makeup: low $250-300 mid: $300-500 high $500+

On hair and makeup: “Many times clients have sticker shock because they compare it to salon pricing, which is completely different and a different level of service. Having someone come to you is a luxury, and also, hair & makeup is the most personal service you will receive in the process, so going with someone professional and experienced is crucial in order to come up with what makes you feel great, and can problem solve to figure that out if you’re not sure yourself, and can handle the dynamic of a wedding day. How you look directly correlates to how you feel that day, and it can make or break your day. If you don’t feel confident, that will transcend through everything else that day. And what you look like is in every single photo and video forever.”

Transportation: $750, $1k for specialty

Florist: low: up to 1k mid: 1-2k high 3k+

“Flowers are the place where I think I have shocked a few folks with my pricing. I didn’t want to play the undercharging game just because I was new at it. Because for fucks sake, the work I am doing is artistic and utilizes expensive materials. Undercharging for flowers could quickly destroy my entire business and I won’t do it. So I priced my pieces in line with what other designers whose work is similar in style to mine. And it ain’t cheap. I also dont want/or need low budget flower work. Why waste my time on stuff that isn’t my style!?”

Dress: low: up to 1k mid: 1-3k high: 3k+ Custom gowns 5k+

Gown Alterations: $500-$750

Suits (rental): low: up to $150 mid $150-300 high: $300+

Summing it all up:

How you allocate your budget should be based on what you find most important. When you think about weddings you’ve attended as a guest, what stood out to you? These are the areas to invest in premium providers.

On tipping: Tip those you find give you outstanding service in every line of work whether they own the business or not. Just because someone owns a business doesn’t mean they don’t give a cut to someone else. Assistants and interns sometimes work behind the scenes and while the cost of business is built into pricing, gratuities directly benefit the person serving you. Most solopreneurs don’t get to pay themselves until running a profit for 1-3 years–a gratuity means a lot. Reviews and referrals are most valuable if you cannot afford the tip you wish you could provide.

“When asking for recommendations it might be better to include your budget, or a range or a max spend. […]What experience or service level you are willing to tolerate?[…] Words like reasonable, fair, not high, cheap, “won’t charge and arm and a leg”, don’t actually mean anything because each person’s definition of the word is different. […] Make sure you are comparing apples to apples when comparing prices. All things are NOT created equal.”

If you’re seeking a badass personal artist to bring your style to life, let’s talk. If you want my favorite people in the industry, I’m happy to refer you to someone–but I’ll need to know your budget in advance so that I can lead you confidently to the right pro for your needs.

This blog was created with wedding professionals across the industry, and I could not have written it without their contributions. For anonymity, I have removed names. If you would like to attribute your name and business to your quote, just let me know and I’m happy to attribute. 

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