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Budget for 200 Person Wedding

Hi all,

Our guest list is currently 200 people with around 30 alternates, so we are expecting to have the full 200. Our parents have been extremely generous (both sides), and our budget is currently $40,000 without us personally contributing to the cost (note that this doesn't include honeymoon-we will cover that ourselves). I am EXTREMELY grateful and never imagined that our budget would be this high. However, the contribution from parents mean that we have a little less control over our guest list (i.e., we can't say no to our parents' friends and distant relatives we wouldn't have invited if we were funding this wedding on our own).

I am totally happy to have all invitees that are on our guest list. What I am now trying to figure out is whether $40,000 is a tight budget, or a reasonable one, for 200 people. We booked our venue and bar package (venue is $8500, includes tables and chairs, and they have alcohol in-house, which came out to around $10k open bar). We still haven't booked catering and I'm feeling anxious. I haven't done a ton of catering research yet, but I'm wondering if we are going to be able to feed 200 people for less than $10k (it seems unlikely--and I'm not trying to go for luxury here!). If we spend another $10-$15k on food, we aren't going to be left with much for wedding dress, photographer, DJ, cake, etc.

I'm curious if anyone can let me know what they spent on their 150-200 person wedding. I have a friend who had a 250 person wedding for $60,000. We are able to contribute money to our own wedding and don't have an issue doing so (the wedding is October 2022 so we have lots of time also). I'm trying to figure out if we should reasonably expect to spend $50k or $60k, or if I'm overpaying for venue/alcohol and am crazy, or if $40k is just right. $40k seemed like a ton of money at the get-go, but I was expecting 100 people at my wedding, not double. It just seems to be slipping through my fingers.

Re: Budget for 200 Person Wedding

  • CasadenaCasadena member
    Sixth Anniversary 1000 Comments 500 Love Its Name Dropper
    edited April 1
    I think some of this depends on your area.  40k can go a lot farther if you're not in a super HCOL area.  It also depends on the vibe.  If you're not going for super fancy, you could look at grocery store catering (we did this, the food was fabulous and about $15pp) or local restaurants you like or local caterers if you're venue does not have a preferred list you have to choose from.  Buffet in my experience tends to be more cost effective (may not be everywhere).  

    You can easily find a gorgeous dress for not a lot of money.  Just set a budget and don't try on anything out of that range.  Buying off the rack or online from a reputable retailer can also save money there.  

    Flowers don't have to be expensive.  Unless you 100% have your heart set on something unusual or rare, I would set a budget and go to florist and tell them your budget, the colors and items you're looking for and let them show you options for what you can do in that range. 

    Photographer can also be in a range of prices and it just depends on what you're looking for.  All we wanted was digital images and rights to printing, so we didn't have any extras like photo books, engagement pics, etc and it was about $1800 for 8 hours of coverage. 

    I really think if you want to only spend 40k or less you can easily do that.  Do some research about prices in your area for the services you have left to book and allocate the rest of your budget based on what things are most important to you!

    ETA: We had about 200ppl and all in we spent probably 15K in a midrange midwest city.  
  • ILoveBeachMusicILoveBeachMusic Indiana member
    Sixth Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    I agree that it totally depends on your area. Does your venue have preferred caterers? If it does, you may be stuck with a certain price range. That being said there should be some wriggle room - there was quite a large difference in the highest and lowest price caterers for the venue where my DD had her reception. As PP said, stick to a budget for your gown and flowers. Don't go for the upgraded table settings - no one will notice or the most elaborate invitations - again no one will remember. Good food, drink, and music (if you are having dancing) and a comfortable seat for every person is what is important.

    One thing I noticed in your post was your mention of 30 alternates on your guest list. Please don't B list. That is very rude to do. If 30 people can't come to your wedding then you will have 170 instead of 200 people. It is hurtful to be B-listed.
  • PP's have given some very good tips for how to keep costs down. I found in particular, like @Casadena pointed out, that my husband and I saved A LOT of money by not going for an elaborate photography package, and I've never felt like we missed out by deciding not to get a lot of those bells and whistles. For flowers, I'd recommend going mostly with what's in season or using non-floral decor for the centerpieces or other decorations. 

    I do agree with @ILoveBeachMusic about what you said regarding "alternates." You either invite people or you don't. It is disrespectful to only invite someone because someone else declined to attend. If these "alternates" are people you and FI came up with, decide sooner rather than later whether you are actually going to invite them. If they are people your parents suggested, talk to them and make a decision. 
  • If your venue does in house catering (or even with their vendors) be sure to ask if the have a minimum requirement. Mine did (and we got it easily with bar+ food) but some places we looked at had such high minimums on Saturday nights you basically had to purchase one of the mid- to upper- tier packages. 

    For reference we had ~220 guests, premium open bar, paid valet parking, appetizers & sit down dinner for a bit over $30k and that did include my dress, DJ+ photo booth, photography (second shooter no video, minimal prints), minimal flowers, and our hotel room + my parents room. This was in a mid-sized east coast city on a Friday night. 

    It’s totally doable on a $40k budget! But be mindful of what you really care about and what you don’t! The industry tries to convince you that you need to care about everything little thing- and you don’t! 

    (I didn’t care about flowers at all- my mom knew someone who owned a greenhouse- gave her a budget & our colors & came up with something beautiful. We only did bouquets + flowers in the cake). 
  • ei34ei34 member
    Eighth Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    I think you can stay at or around 40K for 200 guests.  Your area comes into play but for a lot of what you have left on your checklist, you can shop around between now and the year and a half to your wedding and find vendors that work with your budget.  I’d lean towards cutting back a bit at the things that don’t effect guest experience (your dress, flowers) so that something like the food can be really great for everyone.  
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