Photo by Jen Philips Photography
So, how much will this wedding cost? This topic is always the first question couples have when considering a wedding in Napa or Sonoma. While there are many popular wedding websites that have addressed this question, their statistics are based on national averages. While I wish that these average wedding costs did reflect actual pricing in Napa and Sonoma, they are typically way, way off from reality. Because of these articles, I see many couples with an unrealistic initial budget, which in the end, has them spending a lot more than anticipated. Spending more than planned on a wedding can cause a lot of unneeded anxiety. Weddings are expensive and planning can be stressful enough, so why not reduce the stress and start off with an accurate estimate of wedding costs? Here is a summary of the major costs that you should be prepared to spend for your beautiful wine country wedding. While prices can really vary depending on so many different factors, this should help you to see if you have created a realistic wedding budget!
Venue. Venues have a wide range of facility fees. There can also be a lot of “hidden” costs when looking at venues. Some venues may include tables and chairs. Some venues may require you to bring in your own restrooms, portable kitchen, even generators for power. For this reason, venues are one of the hardest costs to compare, because you are rarely comparing apples to apples. For clients who hire us to help them with the venue search, we will provided a side-by-side analysis of their favorites venues, to really show clients how they compare in cost. Rarely is it as easy as to just compare facility fees, because they all include different amenities and different properties have different requirements. It’s best to know the ins and outs of your chosen venue and your overall wedding budget before signing on the dotted line. Venues can range from $6,000 – $25,000, with the majority of them falling around $12,500.
Catering. Catering is another major cost that can really vary. While your menu will determine your final food cost, most clients are surprised to see that the food is typically only half (or less) of the total catering bill. Labor is expensive and a crucial element to the overall success of your wedding. Don’t skimp here! Without a solid team of servers and bartenders, your wedding will suffer. Service is something that your guests will remember forever. Although they may not always comment on great service, they will certainly notice where service is lacking, for example having to wait in a long line at the bar. On top of your food and labor charges, don’t forget to factor in service charges and tax when creating your overall catering budget! As for menu format, I typically see that a plated or buffet menu is the most economical with family style and stations being more expensive options. Catering will typically start around $100 – $125 per person and can go up depending on your menu format, menu selection and the venue.
Rentals. While some venues may include tables, chairs, china or linens, many do not. It is important to know what is included from your venue or from your caterer before being able to determine the amount you will need to budget for rentals. And even if you do need to rent chairs, for example, do you want the wood folding chairs ($4 each), or an upgraded chair (they can range from $9 – $25 each)? Do you want a standard cotton linen or an upgraded linen? Farm tables or banquet tables? Crystal stemware or standard glassware? Do you want a lounge area? Lighting? Because of these variables, rentals are impossible to predict without knowing the venue and the client’s style. On average, I see most couples spending between $20 – $40 per person for rental equipment.
Photography. Photography is an important one in my book. Why you ask? Because it is the only tangible memory you will be left with after the wedding (besides maybe your wedding dress). These photographs are what you will have for the rest of your life, to show your children, grandchildren and might even be on display at their weddings 30+ years from now! Photographers pricing will range from photographer to photographer. They will also be based on how many hours you book them for and whether or not they bring a second shooter. Photographers in this area will range from $3,500 – $8,500 with the average being around $5,000.
Music. Within this category, there are a few different factors to consider. Do you want live musicians or a DJ? Or maybe a combo of the two? The most popular option these days is a live duo or trio for the ceremony and cocktail hour, followed by a DJ for dinner and dancing. Most DJs will charge between $1,500 – $2,500, a live duo for 2 hours will run around $750 and a full on dance band will range from $3,000 up to $12,000 (or higher!!).
Flowers. Flowers is another tricky one as it really depends on what type of flowers you want, time of year, the size of the arrangement and how large your wedding party is. I see most couples spending between $75 – $150 per centerpiece. For more elaborate weddings, centerpieces can even go up as high at $300 each! Because Napa and Sonoma has such gorgeous scenery, I see most couples keeping their centerpiece costs closer to $100 each. We are so lucky to be surrounded by so much natural beauty, that over-the-top flowers are rarely necessary. Besides centerpieces, don’t forget to factor in bouquets, boutonnieres, ceremony arrangements, chuppas, aisle petals, bar arrangements and cocktail table or lounge florals.
Dessert. While wedding cake is a fading trend, it’s traditional and most couples still include this. Be prepared to spend between $9 – $15 per guest for your wedding cake. More commonly these days, we see dessert buffets with a small cutting cake. Dessert buffets will cost roughly the same as a large wedding cake and can be more fun! Guests love having all of the different options to choose from and it’s a great opportunity to display some cute décor!
Officiant. While a lot of couples decide to have a friend or family member perform the ceremony, I always suggest a professional officiant. It takes the stress out of the unknown, as well as it’s valuable to have someone with experience to make sure that you are actually legally married in the end of it all! Most officiants will charge between $500 – $1,000 but some will offer discounts for intimate or weekday weddings.
Using these average costs, this means that you are already spending roughly $35,000 – $40,000 for 100 guests. Not too bad, right? Well, unfortunately, these are some of the major costs involved in a wedding but there are many more expenses you will need to factor in. Don’t forget about lighting, transportation, stationary, videography, specialty décor, hotel rooms, attire, rings, hair and make up, gifts, insurance and most importantly – your wedding planner! All of these little things add up quickly. And while I have quoted average prices, it is very possible to spend a lot less, and well, a lot more! When client’s hire us for a full service planning package, I take the budget creation very seriously and make sure to be as detailed as possible. It’s really important to get it right so there are no major surprises leading up to the wedding day. It’s also important to know which areas are most important to each couple. Some clients will care most about food and beverage, while eithers are more design focused – or both! Some clients may decide to spend a little more than planned to get that photographer they fell in love with, but it’s really important to start the planning process with a realistic budget to ensure a fun and pleasant wedding planning experience for everyone! If you are considering a wedding in wine country and have more specific questions about wedding costs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I am always happy to help! Happy Planning! xx Brooke