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How to Make a Realistic Wedding Budget in North Carolina

Wedding Advice

January 22, 2020

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I'm so glad you stopped by the blog! Here you'll find advice on planning your wedding, tips on what to wear to photo sessions, and of course, my favorite clients & people!

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How to Make a Realistic Wedding Budget

For a wedding in North Carolina

Your wedding budget is probably one of the biggest factors that affect all the decisions you make when planning your wedding. And for good reason! In an article I recently read, they mentioned that one third of couples admitted their original wedding budget wasn’t realistic. Couples are, in general, surprised by the total costs. So let’s get past that sticker shock and chat numbers today!

According to Bride.com, the national average for a wedding in 2018 was $44,000.  However, the average for a North Carolina wedding, is more like 30-35k. These numbers are for weddings with 100-150 guests. This cost does not include your rings (engagement or bands) OR the honeymoon. So yes…it is expensive to host a wedding in a beautiful location with good food, good music, and beautiful details. But hey, you only get the chance once, right? 😉

Cost breakdown

Here is a good overview of things to think about that go into your cost estimate:

  • Number of guests (cost per plate – Heart of NC Weddings suggests planning for 80% of your guest list)
  • Wedding Dress + accessories/jewelry, alterations
  • Tux + accessories
  • Beauty/ Hair + Makeup for Bride and Bridal Party
  • Entertainment/DJ/Live Band/Musician
  • Flowers and decorations – bouquets, centerpieces, boutonnieres, arrangements, corsages
  • Gifts and favors – gifts for guests, parents, wedding party, spouse, + tips for vendors
  • Paper goods – invitations, ceremony programs, guest book, reception menus, seating cards, postage, Thank you cards
  • Photography + videography – wedding album, engagement session, digital images, Photo booth
  • Planner/Coordinator – full service, month of, day of coordination
  • Ceremony officiant
  • Venue – rentals, lodging, transportation, lighting, tent, dance floor,
  • Food – Rehearsal dinner, catering, bar service, cake, desserts
  • Extras – cake topper, aisle runner, ring box, marriage license, meals for your wedding day vendors


Upfront costs

Most, if not all, of your vendors will require some sort of upfront cost to reserve your wedding date. Be prepared for that initial shock right in the beginning. However, some vendors have the ability to offer payment plans if you’re not able to fork it all out at once. It never hurts to ask!

realistic wedding budget in north carolina

Ideas on how to cut costs


Try to do as much as you can in one location! Some venues have lodging, rentals, catering, month of coordinator, and more all built into one cost. Most likely this will be a cheaper option than trying to bring in different vendors for each one.

Consider using a large backyard with ample space for your venue! Though you would still need to pay for the cost of a tent, rentals, and a set up crew.

Catering + Bar Service

Obviously, your guest count list is going to be the biggest factor in your cost of food. Consider limiting your guest number to only the best of the best!

See if serving your food buffet style instead of plated cuts down on cost!


Look for secondhand dress stores! Maybe even consider renting your wedding dress if you are not attached to the idea of keeping it afterwards.

If you know you will want pictures in epic locations that require getting your dress dirty, maybe you won’t mind choosing a less expensive dress if you know it might get beat up during portraits and the busy-ness of the day!


While I don’t recommend using faux florals on your wedding day (you just can’t compete with the real deal!), you could consider a more DIY approach with companies like Flower Moxie. They send you the florals and you arrange them yourself. Well….I don’t want YOU doing it yourself. Hand the job over to a friend. It’s your day, you’ve got enough on your plate!

If you want to break tradition and have your bridesmaids carry something other than a bouquet, go for it!

My number one recommendation when it comes to florals? Get the bouquet of your dreams. Go all out, spare no expense. Then cut floral costs in other areas. We can use your perfect bouquet to spruce up photos of your invitation suite, of you and your partner, of your sweetheart table and any other table. We can use your dream bouquet to make the rest of the day look just as elegant too.

realistic wedding budget



Choose a weekday

A lot of venues and vendors offer weekday discounts because you’re filling a date in their calendar that wouldn’t otherwise been booked!


What should I spend on my wedding photographer?

At the end of the day – when the florals are dried out, the tables are broken down, the dress unzipped, the make up washed off – when the day is over and memories are all that’s left….the only lasting, tangible possession you will have to enjoy are the PHOTOS!! It won’t matter how beautiful your centerpieces or bouquet was if you have less-than-ideal photos capturing it. I would recommend planning on spending 15-25% of your wedding budget on your wedding photographer! So, if you are spending the average amount of 30k for your North Carolina wedding, then $4500 on your photographer should not be that far fetched! If you make a priority of the TOP three, most important items for your wedding, and are willing to spend a bit extra on those items and skimp a bit in other areas, it should all even out! 🙂


realistic wedding budget


Here is a link to a Wedding Cost Calculator which, if nothing else, will at least get your wheels turning in terms of all the different costs that go into a traditional wedding!

Another resource I referenced while writing this blog post can be found here  and also here on Heart of NC Weddings.

Thanks for taking a look at a realistic wedding budget with me!

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to also check out the First 6 Things To Do After Getting Engaged. Prefer video? Watch below!


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Meghan Rose Photography | Asheville Wedding Photographer

Meghan is an Asheville wedding photographer serving couples all up and down the Appalachians and throughout the South. She loves wildflowers, chasing the sun, reading a good book, and climbing mountains at sunset. If you, too, are a sentimental romantic looking for authentic wedding photography, you can reach out to her here about your wedding day!


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I'm Meghan and I'm so glad you're here! My blog is where you'll find advice on planning your wedding, tips on what to wear to a session, and of course, my beautiful clients!

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