Welcome to wedding season in the DC Area, which according to the Washingtonian Magazine enjoys revenues of over $1 Billion a year thanks to all the brides and grooms that choose to tie the knot here.  The average cost for a wedding in the U.S. is about $25,000, although in DC it is over $32,000.  If you are planning to host one of these events in the near future, here are the common costs to consider:

1. Church/Synagogue- The fees for using a church or synagogue vary, depending also on whether you are a member or not, but for budgeting purposes one should assume at least $850 (not including a gratuity for the officiant).

2. Flowers- Depending on what kind of flowers you want, and how many arrangements you need, this can get very expensive.  It would be hard to imagine anything less than $650.

3. Formal attire & grooming- Just about every bride will want her hair, nails and make-up done on the big day, which is easily $150.  Then, clothing costs can vary widely depending on the designers selected and whether the couple rents or buys formal attire, but as a place-holder I will use $600 for this expense.

4. Rings- In addition to an engagement ring, you will need wedding bands. For the sake of creating a modest budget, I will use $4,500.

5. Entertainment- Whether you get a DJ or band, unless you use your own iPod for background music, this will not be less than $450.

6. Photography- The cost of this service varies widely, depending on the experience level of the professional(s), and the amount of time you want covered.  The range I found was from $700-$5,000, and not all photographers were willing to give up their digitals, so it is critical that you ask about that.

7. Rehearsal Dinner- Even if you do a low key BBQ in your backyard, with food and beverages you can easily spend $500 celebrating with family and out of town guests the night before.

8. Reception- Obviously the more people you are feeding, the more expensive the reception is going to be, so think long and hard about how many guests you really want at your wedding. For budgeting purposes, even a small group of 50 people at $50 per person is going to cost you $2500– not including any site fees you may have to pay depending on the venue.

9, Stationary- You will need invitations and thank you notes, plus postage. Assuming $250, which is on the modest side, this amount will increase significantly as the number of guests goes up.

10. Honeymoon- Hopefully you realize I have saved the best for last, and the fact is when it is all said and done, the one thing couples remember the most is actually the honeymoon.  If you consider airfare, hotel, food and activities for what most consider to be a very special week long trip, $6,000 is a fair starting point, although I realize many spend far more going to exotic places like Hawaii, Bora Bora, Bali or Greece.

We are already over $17,000 in our budget, and no allotments have been made for transportation, or other miscellaneous expenses such as party gifts, or gifts for the wedding party. It is not surprising then that some of these budget talks can become heated, particularly when you add in complicated family dynamics, and as a result many couples are thinking twice about taking on all these expenses– especially if they are considering other major costs in the near future, such as buying a house and/or starting a family.

Hopefully, by having a realistic budget, things can remain calm while each couple works through the complicated emotions and finances of a wedding. This is after all just the first of many challenges a couple will face together.  The experience can provide a huge lesson in what matters most to each person and his/her ability to communicate and compromise.  Together, may they rise to the occasion and create memories to last a lifetime.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.