The Real Cost of Weddings: 10 Brides Break It Down

From regrettable splurges to surprise costs and where they saved, 10 brides anonymously spill the beans about the cost of their weddings

Real Cost of Weddings

Total cost estimate: $14,000
Age: 28
Occupation: French teacher
Help with the costs from: My parents paid for the meal, my aunt and uncle paid for the music, and my in-laws surprised us at the wedding and picked up the bar tab.
Location: Iona, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
Date: July 2015
Headcount: 150, then another 30 after dinner
Concept: My initial conception for the wedding was paper and glass, so lots of mason jars and paper lanterns, as well as burlap, string, and floating candles and flowers.
Most expensive aspect: The meal
Least expensive aspect: Least expensive aspect was the favours (I created and printed off recipe cards of family favourite recipes from my family and his).
Surprise cost: I didn’t think I would be comfortable paying as much as I did for the dress, but when it came down to it, I ended up with the dress I really wanted.
Would cut: I don’t think I would cut anything out if I did it again.
Would spend more on: I would spend more on transportation for the bridal party, as well as for guests leaving the reception.

Total cost estimate: $15,000
Age: 34 (In his toast, my new brother-in-law congratulated my husband and I for “finding love later in life.” Um, thanks.)
Occupation: Editor
Help with the costs from: My in-laws gave us $10,000—insanely generous—and my mom paid for the rehearsal dinner.
Location: We did a two-parter. We got legit married in front of our families and closest friends at a resort on Lake Superior in Minnesota. Then we had a party for 75 friends at our favourite Toronto oyster bar.
Date: September 2011
Headcount: 20 at ceremony, 75 at party
Concept: We kept it pretty low-key.
Most expensive aspect: Definitely the Toronto party. There was tons of food and it was all delicious: oysters, lobster, mac and cheese, poutine.
Least expensive aspect: Our little wedding in Minnesota cost about $2,000, with a full dinner and unlimited booze.
Surprise cost: Nothing, really!
Would cut: I wouldn’t really cut anything, but I feel like we budgeted too much on the food portion of the Toronto party—there was SO MUCH food left over—and not enough on booze.
Would spend more on: I wish I had gotten my hair and makeup done! Also, we hired my husband’s friend to photograph the wedding—not really to save money but more to help this guy out—and I think we were literally his first wedding… The photos were not the greatest. So in retrospect I also would have used a professional photographer.

Total cost estimate: $17,000
Age: 29
Occupation: Chef
Help with the costs from: My mom and my husband’s parents
Location: Hastings Lake Gardens, Sherwood Park, Alberta
Date: June 2016
Headcount: 140
Concept: A mix of both our Scottish heritages and his Ukrainian heritage.
Most expensive aspect: Food, even though we got a very good rate as his family knew the caterer.
Least expensive aspect: I wanted to go minimal with the flowers, which cut down on costs. The reception hall rental was quite cheap for the whole day, too.
Surprise costs: There were a million little things to think of and hidden costs everywhere.
Would cut: Nothing… it sounds cliche but we truly had a perfect day!
Would spend more on: Photographer. We chose someone whom we know and who is just starting out in wedding photography, but we perhaps needed someone with a little more experience.

Total cost estimate: $20,000
Age: 27
Occupation: Physiotherapist
Help with the costs from: Both sets of parents, but we did pay for part of it ourselves.
Location: Cornwall, Ontario
Date: September 2015
Headcount: 140
Concept: I had a somewhat traditional and simple concept in mind. Truly, our main focus was that our friends and family would have fun.
Most expensive aspect: The meal and the open bar.
Least expensive aspect: The decorations (aside from the flowers) because we didn’t use a professional decorator, but rather had amazing family friends who were hugely helpful in planning and decorating the venue with us.
Surprise costs: Flowers
Would cut: The one thing I might have done differently were the centrepieces. We just had flowers, but if I was more crafty, I might have tried some creative DIY project instead.
Would spend more on: A videographer

Total cost estimate: $25,000
Age: 25
Occupation: Grad student
Help with the costs from: Both sets of parents helped.
Location: Humber Valley, Newfoundland
Date: July 2014
Headcount: 110
Concept: Relaxed, down-to-earth, fun and welcoming with simple and bright summer colours.
Most expensive aspect: Food
Least expensive aspect: My dress
Surprise cost: The little things add up really fast!
Would cut: I would cut out the decorator. So expensive and in my opinion, it wasn’t worth it.
Would spend more on: I wouldn’t spend more on a single thing.

how much does a wedding cost

Total cost estimate: $29,000 (budget for Hindu wedding next year is $25,000)
Age: 31
Occupation: Support assistant coordinator
Help with costs from: We didn’t really have help with the costs. It was important for my husband and I to pay for everything ourselves due to us having multiple events in the end (there will be a second Hindu ceremony next year).
Location: The Stirling Room in the Distillery District and Colette Grand Café, Toronto, Ontario
Date: June 2015
Headcount: 20
Concept: Our original concept of our wedding included paying homage to our different cultural and religious backgrounds. I believe we have definitely gone above and beyond to do so.
Most expensive aspect: My engagement ring has been the single most expensive purchase, at approximately $13,000.
Least expensive aspect: My wedding shoes, which were about $40.
Surprise costs: My wedding dress was only about $140!
Would cut: I wouldn’t cut anything!
Would spend more on: A videographer. I let my husband talk me out of it, even though I love a good wedding video. Now he’s the one regretting it.

Total cost estimate: $30,000
Age: 25
Occupation: Hotel sales coordinator
Help with costs from: Parents on both sides, but my husband and I paid for more than half.
Location: Deer Creek Golf Course in Ajax, Ontario
Date: October 2015
Headcount: 140
Concept: Vintage, but the colours changed from purple and gold to navy blue and gold which meant I had to get rid of a few things part way through planning.
Most expensive aspect: Photographer
Least expensive aspect: DJ and flowers. We had a family member who DJed for free, and another family member who is a florist so we just had to pay cost for the flowers and a group of us got together and arranged them.
Surprise costs: There was a lot of extra things that came up closer to the wedding that we didn’t factor in to our initial budgeting, like gifts for party and family members, limo and accessories for me. But having a two-year engagement was helpful, because we could slowly buy things and spread them out over paycheques, which definitely saved us from going into debt for our wedding.
Would cut: I wouldn’t necessarily cut anything but we waited until about six months before the wedding to book our photographer, which meant our options were more limited and we couldn’t get any of the less expensive photographers on our list.
Would spend more on: A videographer

Total cost estimate: $50,000
Age: 30
Occupation: Writer
Help with the costs from: Both our parents kicked in some coin. I think they realized that the more they paid, the more they could control… 🙁
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Date: June 2011
Headcount: 200
Concept: We wanted everyone to be relaxed and enjoy themselves so we cut out all the corny wedding stuff (no speeches, no bouquet toss, no garter, no first dance, no slideshow, no choreographed numbers, no cake cutting, no CAKE!) and just focused on a short ceremony, good food and a fun party.
Most expensive aspect: We splurged on food and an open bar
Least expensive aspect: There were a lot of things that we cut out (cake) or did ourselves (place settings) or re-used (my shoes) but the least expensive thing we actually paid for was speaker rentals at $100.
Surprise cost: Both of our parents were oddly paranoid/obsessed with making sure our guests would be able to find easy, available, free parking. There was paid parking in the area but no guarantees so we had to pre-book and pre-pay for 100 spots, plus hire a parking officer to make sure only legit guests actually parked in those spots.
Would cut: The late-night sweets bar. Everyone was so full from dinner, no one touched it!
Would spend more on: Not one thing.


Total cost estimate: $80,000
Age: 24
Occupation: Graphic designer, with my own design and print business on the side
Help with costs from: My husband’s family contributed towards the dinner reception and my family helped with the dress, florist, entertainment and the honeymoon.
Location: Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church, Toronto, and The Grand Victorian, Mississauga, Ontario
Date: September 2012
Headcount: 390
Concept: The most important thing for us was to incorporate our Russian and Portuguese roots, cultures, and love for beautiful vintage things into the wedding.
Most expensive aspect: Definitely the reception. There are certain expectations that come with big Portuguese weddings, so we really had to make sure it was done right—an extensive appetizer buffet, four-course meal, open bar, and a midnight seafood, sweets, and roast piglet buffet.
Least expensive aspect: Decor. We were very lucky to find venues that were stunning to begin with and didn’t need much dressing up.
Surprise costs: Being a graphic designer with a background in print production, it was extremely important for me to send out the kind of invitations that would truly reflect the kind of day it was bound to be. As it turns out, the way to do so was to buy and learn how to operate a printing press from 1920.
Would cut: Nothing. There was a brief moment where we would have loved to just have a simple backyard wedding, but we wanted to celebrate the people in our lives as much as the marriage itself, and what we did was the best way to thank them all.
Would spend more on: We were very lucky to not have a strict budget for our wedding. We were frugal where we could be and willing to spend more where it was needed. Overall, there isn’t anything we could think of changing.

Total cost estimate: $100,000
Age: 33
Occupation: Healthcare IT Consultant
Help with the costs from: My parents paid for the venue, food and décor. My husband’s parents gave us money towards other costs.
Location: The Design Exchange, Toronto
Date: July 2016
Headcount: 205 was the final guest list, however the typical 10 percent had to send their regrets the day before or day of
Concept: The décor was Art Deco–inspired but not in an over-the-top Great Gatsby kind of way. Just very clean with lots of black and white with gold accents. I included aspects from both my parents’ heritage to honour my roots and I think it was interesting for the guests as well.
Most expensive aspect: Food—my husband and I are both foodies so it was something we wanted to do well. Plus, feeding 200 people isn’t cheap! We had passed appetizers, a seated dinner, and a dessert station, including a liquid nitrogen ice cream sandwich station that I didn’t even have time to try!
Least expensive aspect: Both the DJ and photographer were friends of my husband and gave us a good deal.
Surprise cost: Menus, place cards and table numbers. Since my theme was black with gold accents, I wanted these items to be black with gold leafing which I found out is pricey. I really loved them though (I just wish I remembered to keep one as a keepsake).
Would cut: Nothing. We were already quite practical in cutting out things like a wedding cake and bridal party flowers because we didn’t see them as necessary.
Would spend more on: Nothing. We’d be broke if we did. For the next few days after, I did dwell on some of the things I could have added, but that faded quickly.

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