One couple spent less than $2,000 for an intimate wedding at a local hotel. Another paid $200,000 for an elaborate out-of-town affair. We asked six married women to share how much they spent on their weddings — and where they felt the money was well-spent, where it was wasted and what they wish they had done differently.
These interviews have been lightly edited and condensed.
A Micro-Wedding in Brooklyn
The Couple: Tia Williams, 47, the author of “The Accidental Diva,” “Seven Days in June” and “The Perfect Find,” and Francesco Ferendeles, 44, a change management consultant. The couple lives in Brooklyn.
When and Where: Dec. 20, 2020 at the Williamsburg Hotel in Brooklyn
Total Spent: Just under $2,000
Biggest Expense: “A chic, charmingly furnished hotel suite for $415 per night that we didn’t need to decorate. We just showed up, brought laptops to Zoom with family, and got married. Since we’re Brooklynites, it was important for us to have an ultra-Brooklyn-y hotel. Our suite had a terrace with romantic views of the city — and it had just snowed, so there was a magical, wintry feel too. Perfection.”
Lowest Expense: “Our least expensive item were monogrammed masks, which were $14 for a set of five.” She bought the disposable face masks on Etsy.
The Details: “No bridal party, no guests, no catered dinner, no fancy venue. We didn’t pay to travel anywhere, since we got married 30 minutes from our apartment. I did my own makeup and my then-tween-age daughter’s nails. And we got married on the off-season. Planning a microwedding was an exercise in finding new ways to plan creatively, which was surprisingly fun.”
Most Insightful Takeaway: “My first wedding was a production. It was gorgeous, exactly what I wanted in my late 20s: 150 guests, all-night dancing, gorgeous speeches, a huge bridal party, a towering cake, and a blur of Manolos, as it was the ‘Sex and the City’ era. I went all out. The second one was pared-down and intimate. Twenty years later, my perspective had changed. It was more about sharing a special, quiet moment with my husband and my daughter, and not about the wedding performance. Three differences: big budget versus no budget; a catered seated dinner versus post-nuptials pies at Patsy’s Pizzeria on Flatbush Avenue; and bachelor/bachelorette parties versus watching ‘90 Day Fiancé’ with my daughter the night before. Both of my weddings were perfect for who I was, at the time.”
Partying on a Budget in North Carolina
The Couple: Hillary Marsee, 38, a registered nurse, and Matt Marsee, 38, a graphic designer. The couple lives in Kannapolis, N.C.
When and Where: Sept. 4, 2011 at the Orchard House in Concord, N.C.
Total Spent: $12,000
Biggest Expense: “The venue was about $2,800 and did not include our food or beverages. It was a little cheaper because we got married on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend.”
Lowest Expenses: “We called in a lot of favors for our wedding. The woman who played the guitar for our processional and recessional was one of my brother’s students. I just paid her in food at the reception. My cousin is a makeup artist and she did my makeup. She didn’t charge me. I just gave her an Ulta gift card. My cousin was the catering manager for a restaurant in town, and he did the reception food for cost with no markup. The photographer was the sister of one of my brother’s students and it was her first year doing photography, so she was pretty cheap. She charged us about $1,250.
The Details: “The theme of our wedding was ‘summer in the South,’ so we incorporated a lot of fireflies and jars into the décor. We used jars with tea light candles in the aisles down the way to the altar.”
Most Insightful Takeaway: “I wish we invested in a videographer. We don’t have any video because I thought it wasn’t important. I was like, ‘Oh, we’ll remember it. It’s our wedding.’ But surprisingly, I don’t remember a whole lot, which is sad. It would be nice to see and hear people from our wedding; especially those who have since passed away like my father-in-law and grandmother.”
A Focus on Food in New Jersey
The Couple: Veronica Alexis Nwefo Guerrero, 30, a lawyer, and Dr. Elie Merveilles Nwefo Guerrero, 28, an emergency medicine physician. The couple lives in Manhattan.
When and Where: Dec. 31, 2022 at Art Factory Studios in Paterson, N.J.
Total Spent: $75,000
Biggest Expense: Food. “And even saying that, we did a lot to minimize the cost of food, but we had 275 guests. We come from large families, both nuclear and extended. My dad is the youngest of 10 and my husband’s parents each have multiple siblings. We come from cultures where it is customary to invite cousins . We actually had a hard time limiting our guest list to 275. Food was the largest expense by tens of thousands of dollars.”
Lowest Wedding Expense: “We spent $100 on flowers. Only I had a bouquet. Nobody else had flowers. All the flowers for our décor were fake and provided by the venue. We’d heard how much people spend on flowers; we thought it was a bit wasteful and ridiculous, so we opted not to do that.”
The Details: “I am Puerto Rican and Dominican; my husband is Cameroonian. It was important to us to serve food from both of our cultures. We had food from a Dominican restaurant in New York, and then we also served Cameroonian food. We also had my cousin who does Puerto Rican fusion type food prepare some appetizers. Being able to cater our food from outside the venue was a big deal. Our parents covered the food costs and the D.J., who played Dominican, Puerto Rican and Cameroonian music — he was amazing. Music and food were two big things that were important to us.”
Most Insightful Takeaway: “We wouldn’t have been able to have our wedding without the financial help of our immediate families who contributed significantly, and our extended families who also helped a lot. It was really a family affair.”
Georgia Garden Splurge
The Couple: Dawn Truong, 34, a director for campus health and wellness, and Dr. Hung Truong, 35, an oral maxillofacial surgery resident. The couple lives in Fayetteville, N.C.
When and Where: March 19, 2016 at the Cloister at Sea Island in Sea Island, Ga.
Total Spent: $200,000
Biggest Expense: “Our venue, which included food and beverages, was about $130,000. My husband is from Georgia. I always wanted to have a garden wedding, so I Googled places in Georgia that had a garden. This was the first place we visited, and I fell in love. We were both graduate students then and didn’t have the time or capacity to research other venues.”
Lowest Wedding Expense: “The least pricey expense was hair and makeup. My sister-in-law did my hair. She actually just curled it. That was free. But makeup, I remember paying the artist to compensate her driving up from Atlanta. It was $1,000. That was for my makeup and my bridesmaids’ makeup. I was looking for someone who was familiar with Asian skin since I am Vietnamese. I found her on Instagram in 2015. Now she charges quadruple that price!”
The Details: “Many people assume that a destination wedding is always inexpensive but not if you’re having guests. It is different from eloping. Also, for items that matter, you have to ship it out there, so there’s travel costs, whereas for a local wedding, you could just put it in the back of a car and drive it to the venue.”
Most Insightful Takeaway: “If I could do it all over again, I would elope, but with our parents and siblings — not because of cost, but because of the other things I was worried about the day of or the week before our wedding. They distracted me from the meaning and purpose of the day. I even asked my husband, ‘What do you remember from our wedding?’ He was like, ‘When you yelled at me because the car that we were supposed to drive away in wasn’t washed.' I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so sorry.’”
A Family Style Celebration in Williamsburg
The Couple: Jazmine Dugall, 40, a dancer, yoga instructor and community school director, and LaToya Lyn, 39, a chief people officer. The couple lives in Brooklyn.
When and Where: Sept. 18, 2017 at Dobbin St in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Total Spent: $60,000
Biggest Expense: “We paid $16,725 for the food and $17,000 for the open bar,” Ms. Dugall said. “We spent so much on food and drink because when you get people together that’s what you want to do. Most people only have one protein. We had salmon, spare ribs and chicken. Food was served family style because that’s how we eat at home. Guests can get to know one another and see how we’re all connected.”
Lowest Expense: “We bought our dresses off the rack,” Ms. Dugall said. “We went to a discount spot where everything was sold as-is so it was significantly cheaper. One of our best friends gifted us with free alterations.”
The Details: “About 90 percent of our guests had never been to a same-sex wedding,” Ms. Lyn said. “They witnessed the energy around our connection, our compassion, our love for each other and our family. They saw both sides of our families come together; both fathers, both mothers. My mother did a prayer and Jazmine’s mother did a meditation during the ceremony, blessing our union. We did a double father-daughter dance.”
Most Insightful Takeaway: “I wouldn’t do anything differently,” Ms. Lyn said. “The essence of our wedding was to create an environment where people felt connected and celebrated each other, us, and all the things. That’s exactly what we got, plus more. To this day people tell us that it was the best wedding they’ve ever been to. I think that holds true because it was community driven. A lot of our friends helped and they were a part of our wedding. It was almost like a little village helping to build us up.”