Wedding budget part 2

In my last post we walked through the budgeting process. There were many great tips on wedding budgeting and links to my favorite wedding coordinators. I also listed the budget numbers for a real Maine wedding. In the interests of full disclosure, that example was my wedding in 2014, and represented a fairly basic, no frills wedding. In this post we are going to look at another wedding, more typical of my clients in many respects. I will point out some differences and some reasons why you may make different choices based on your wedding priorities.

The Wedding Budget

Wedding Service Actual
and/or ProductsBudgetPrice
Ceremony Site Fee (Courtyard) included in pkg
Officiant  $400.00
Marriage License $40
Music (incl in venue pkg)  
Catholic Church $600.00
catholic marriage prep $100.00
church tips & Music. Piano 175, singer 150, Fthr, dan 125, alter server 20  $470
Room Rental Fee  Included
Venu & Food & Beverage / Vista (F&B $13,000++)$10,000.00$13,250
Wedding Night Suite incl in pkg  Included in pkg
Cake included with venu  Included in pkg
Specialty Linens  Included in pkg
Flowers $1,072.92
Photography $2800
Videography $2,900
DJ/MC – Lighting Technician (delivery, setup, & strike) 4 Intelligent light fixtures, 10 LED lights, 2 truss pillars covered with spandex featuring pillar up-lights (4 Hr Pkg), Add’l Hr(s)(1) – $850.00 Star Maze(1) – $350.00 LED Light(s)(10) – $1,000.00 Video Screen & 3000 Lumens Projector w/ Dress Kit(1) – $1,000.00 (4 to 10 pm) $2,507.35 pkg price
Invitations & Save the dates DIY $525
Stamps $175
Guest Book/Cake Knife/Glasses  
Gown / Veil /  Accessories (not to include in budget) $1,083.00
Rings/bands $1975
Bridal party gifts/groom part gifts $175
Tuxedo Rental $175
Valet Parking   Included
Vendor Meals  Included
Limousine $600.00
Make-up  $500.00
Hair  Included w/makeup
Favors $183.00
Wedding planner $1,200.00
Dance Floor  Included
Cash Bar & Champagne Toast  Included
Honeymoon $2,687
wedding website $0
save the dates $0
GRAND TOTAL $33,418.27

Where did the Money go?

This was a bigger wedding, with about 175 guests and a budget of $30,000. It was also an off-season date wedding, so they were actually able to get some great deals. In fact, between the venue, DJ, Photographer, and Videographer, they were able to save nearly $8,000.00. All of their chosen wedding professionals, including the venue were well established professionals referred by friends. The only thing they went over budget on was the venue, and it was well over their budget, but in the brides words “Once we saw it, there was just nothing else that would do”. The best part for them is that the videographer was a gift from the parents, almost certainly made as a concession for having 2 wedding ceremonies. The rest of the overage was made up with wedding gift money.

What is Off-Season?

Off-season dates vary around the country, but November through April are generally considered off-season dates in Maine, as well as Fridays, Sundays, Holiday Mondays, and select dates such as the weekend prior to Christmas, or the weekend after Thanksgiving. This wedding was the week before Christmas at a resort hotel.

As I mentioned, the couple in this example were catholic with may non-religious friends, so they had 2 ceremonies. Beyond that, and the lighting effects they chose, there is very little that could be considered extravagant. They had a cash bar that was included in the hotel’s package with a minimum total tab, which was cleared easily. Champagne toast was also included in the package offered by the hotel. Check out my Money and Alcohol blog for more tips on saving at the bar while treating your guests right.

The venue costs how much?!?!

When pricing a venue, always ask what is included. This is what makes the comparison of this wedding with my own so illustrative. We paid $1,500 just for a location for our wedding to take place. Everything else was extra – the caterer, linens and associated rentals, decorating, everything. Our wedding had 100 guests with a total venue, catering, rentals, bar & champagne costs of over $9,000.00. This wedding had a space with everything included for 175 people for $4,000 more, and the majority of that cost is for feeding the extra 75 guests. Some of that fee my hinge upon food choices.

How many guests are you expecting?

The number of guests you invite is the biggest variable cost of your wedding. Double your guest count, and you will significantly increase the cost of your wedding.  It will double your invitation costs, your food costs, sometimes it affects facility cost. Doubling your guest count will double any costs presented to you as a per person cost. If you can DIY any of these, invitations, place cards, favors, seating charts, etc, you can save a nice bit of money that could be put to a static or fixed cost.

Fixed costs

We’ve discussed variable costs, the costs that rise and fall based on your guest count. but what about fixed or static costs? Your Videographer, Officiant, Photographer, DJ, Limo, wedding dress, photo booth, and so on. These are the same price no matter how many people are invited. There may be slight variations, but nothing like the variations that come with per person pricing. With these, choose based on quality, value, and priority.

More to come..

Now we have the middle and lower middle tiers covered. I will do my best to furnish examples of a $10,000 wedding, as well as a $60,000+ wedding to round out the topic. and even more if I can get them. Remember I am including the costs of Honeymoon, rings, formal wear and wedding gowns in these examples. These are ancillary and not necessarily part of the average couples core wedding budget. When possible I am including these figures to give you a full picture of what a wedding costs.  These figures are provided by the grace of my clients, so I can’t predict specifically when I will get the next in this series up, but hopefully soon. In the meantime, stay tuned, as there is so much else to talk about!

What are your experiences?

I would LOVE to hear your wedding budget stories! Please let me know what experiences you have had, and any similarities or differences you may have had. you can send me your thoughts by email at if you would like. As always, the more information we can share the better. I can’t wait to here your story!

Setting your Wedding Budget

I recently revamped a 2016 post entitled /wedding-client-meetings/in honor of the new year. This was one of my first posts and the title no longer fits the article as it has evolved over the past 2 – 3 years. It started as a primer for client meetings, and turned into a primer for what to do from the moment you recover from saying “Yes, I Will marry you”. In that post, I mentioned my next post would be about money, the container for this one of a kind celebration you are about to plan. I’ve adjusted my strategy to better serve you. Instead of a single blog post, this is the first of several showcasing real Maine wedding budgets. My aim here is to help you see how others do it, and how your tastes, preferences, and needs can best be served.

Your Budget is your container

If that container is a glass, think about it as a glass of beer. I specifically use beer for this example because of the foam at the top. You need to leave room for additions, subtractions, cost over runs, and the just plain unexpected. So you have the actual beer that represents your ideal wedding budget, and the foam/suds/head, what ever you want to call it that represents the unknowns. Everything should have a range you want to stay in. So when you set a budget, have a buffer. On a $30,000 wedding (just below the current average of $35000, but easier to work with) Your buffer should be between $3,000 – $6,000 so +/- %15

The fun part

Start with the fun part. Grab a couple adult beverages, and let your imagination run wild with all you can ever want for your wedding. Load it right up, this is your fantasy wedding day, make sure to include the total number of guests you would invite if you could. When you have this list built, pick out the musts, the priorities. Things that will absolutely make or break your wedding day. This will become your first draft of your lower range. Once you have that lower range, sleep on it, revisit it and prioritize what order all of these items on the wish list should be in for you. This will come in handy as you revisit the list and have to subtract, or have found a way to add something to your must haves. Now I am going to politely crush all of your dreams with this….

A Real Maine Wedding Budget

We’ll do this with a very basic $18,000 sample wedding. Initial budget was $15K, mom gifted the honeymoon, and the rest of the overage was made up through wedding gifts. While this is about half the average budget, it’s a real look at a couple who just wanted the basics, but wanted them done right.

Venue 1 (church) $500 + Flowers $350 = $850 total

Venue 2 Room With a View at Portland Company Complex $1,500

Catering for 100 ppl including Hors D’ Oeuvres and rentals $6,000.00

Bar – Drink tickets for guests $800

Photographer $2700

DJ $1500

Dress $750

Groom suit $200

Limo $500

Honeymoon $2,200.00 (not including pocket money)

Favors, Gifts, & Misc. $1000

Total: $18,000.00


Now of course cost and quality go hand in hand, and some people have different priorities than others. In the above example, the bride was not a huge fan of flowers, which gave her room to spend elsewhere. I’m sure this will apply to you as well. Book your priority pieces first, or at least make a significant effort to research the pieces you consider priorities to know how much of your budget that priority will consume.


Sometimes a relative will gift a vendor to you such as Videographer, DJ, Honeymoon, open bar, etc. Whatever you do, make sure you are part of the decision to hire the person you want for that role. Remind the relative that your piece of mind is paramount, and while you appreciate the gesture, you want to meet and get a comfort level with the wedding professional they have offered to pay for so you can relax knowing that it really is taken care of. 

First Base

You can use this as a basis for your budgeting. Do a little research, and don’t be afraid to inquire with people you feel may be out of your price range. Sometimes the difference in in customer service. In other cases the difference is in technical expertise. Quite often, there are personalities that just connect, or don’t, and the decision is made right there. If at the end of the day you are comfortable with the choice you have made, that is what matters. The whole point is for you to enjoy your wedding celebration without worrying about anything but having a great time with your friends and family.

Higher wedding budgets

More money gives you more venue options, allows for more guests, allows for options like photo booths or uplights, wedding bands, open bars, more flowers, you name it. I will be posting more Real Maine Wedding Budgets so you can get a sense of what is happening out in the marketplace. Feel free to share your experiences with me in the comments.

If all of this is overwhelming, reach out to a wedding planner such as

Meghan Torierri –

Catherine Fairbanks-Cliffe –

Lani Toascano –

Christina @ Pinch Me Planning –

Wendy Caron

Wedding Planners are not expensive, they are priceless. If you have a full time job, and your fiance has a full time job, hiring a planner can make your life so much easier. If you are from away and need a central contact who really knows the area and the offerings in that area, these planners are priceless. Please tell them I sent you!

Thanks for checking in, and I will see you in my next blog post



Love in Lovell

Jill & Alex, How it all began

Jill & Alex meet in high school. All they knew at the time is that they enjoyed each others company. At one point Alex asked her out, and took her to a restaurant that had been a favorite of her families for years! From there things just kept getting better. In a quiet moment at home a few years later, Alex popped the question. He did it right, got down on one knee and surprised the heck out of her (in the best possible way!).

Pleasant Point Inn, When you’re here, you’re family!

Now here we are at the Pleasant Point Inn on Kezar lake in Lovell ME. The inn has been in Jill’s family since 1900! I’ve enjoyed getting to know Jill and Alex, but hadn’t meet them in person til this moment. They and their friends and family were so warm and welcoming. They made me feel right at home. Jill’s grandfather offered me a cookie when he greeted me at the door. I knew at that moment this was going to be an epic day 🙂

Jill was beautiful, and Alex was sharply dressed as well. I had the opportunity to work with the super talented Brittany Jones of 207 Weddings who, along with her team captured everything in amazing photos and video.

Lakeside Ceremony

The ceremony was on the side lawn of the Inn with the breathtaking view of Kezar Lake just feet away. The bridesmaids came down the aisle to an instrumental version of “A Day without Rain” by Enya. After a brief pause the brides dad walked her down the aisle to the instrumental version of Haley Reinhart’s “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You”.

The ceremony was sweet and emotional with a few light moments courtesy of their officiant Price Hutchins. After a kiss The new Mr & Mrs England were formally presented to their guests and they walked up the aisle to an instrumental version of “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban. It was a chili, but absolutely beautiful day. Even still guests were as much inside as outside enjoying all the beauty and elegance Pleasant Point Inn and Kezar Lake have to offer.

Let the Party Begin!

When the time came, guests were invited into the ballroom, champagne was poured, The bridal party was introduced with the newlyweds coming in to “Love Never Felt So Good” by Michael Jackson. When they got to the dance floor the bride laid her flowers down on the table while the groomsmen did a sweet dance step with the groom, and then The new Mr & Mrs Alex and Jill England took to the dance floor for their very first dance as husband and wife to “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran and Beyonce.

Deception at the reception

Alex handed his bride over to her dad for their dance. The chicken dance started, played for a few seconds, long enough for the bride burst out laughing, and the correct song began playing, Butterfly Kisses by Bob Carlisle. It was a nice light moment. Next it was Alex’s turn to dance with his mom, and it was only fair that he get pranked as well. As they took to the dance floor, “Hit The Road Jack” began playing. Everyone laughed including his mother Pamela, while Alex looked a bit surprised, and the correct song began – “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts. this was definitely one of my favorite parts of any wedding I’ve been in

To the Newlyweds!

The toasts followed. Best man Christopher Griffin began with a masterful presentation. Maid of Honor Emily O’Connor followed with a sometimes emotional, heartfelt toast. With that, dinner was served. A bountiful feast to be sure. The energy was high, and the guests would be ready to dance. Sure enough, as the dinner music gets more modern and peppy and we get into Motown and early 70’s toes start tapping, heads start bopping, and voila, they are dancing!

Explosive experience

We take a brief break as loud booms begin outside… Fireworks! The guests all head outside for an amazing fireworks display. Fairly short, maybe 10-15 minutes, but just awesome! Everyone came back in, Alex and Jill cut their wedding cake, and we danced like crazy people to everything from Grand Funk’s Some Kind of Wonderful to Prince Royce. It was a grand evening, and I am so grateful to have been a part of it.

Happily Ever After…

Congratulations Jill & Alex! Thank you for asking me to be a part of such a very special day. I wish you all the best and hope you will stay in touch!


Married at Merepoint!

Setting the Scene for a coastal Maine wedding

It was early afternoon at Merepoint in Brunswick Maine early on September 15, 2018 for Ben and Grace’s wedding. There were orange tiger prints leading the way to the point, and the yacht club. The view of the Atlantic ocean on the point was breathtaking. Mostly smaller boats passed by as the warm sun beat down.

About 4:15, fog socked us in, and stayed for the duration of the day. It was a fitting setting for a Captain to marry his Clemson Tiger superfan bride. The energy was electric! You could feel it all over the point. Today was going to be an amazing day, and no amount of fog had any chance to stop it!

A foggy day in Brunswick town

Even with the fog, and in a rather enchanting way because of the fog, the setting for the ceremony was beautiful. Guests arrived by bus. The groomsmen gathered, and soft music played as we awaited the bridesmaids. There was no guessing on their arrival as the bright red double cab 4×4 pickup pulled up with the bright orange Clemson banner waving.

Ben and their officiant strode down to the tip of the point. The bridesmaids and groomsmen paired up for their journey down the aisle to the Piano Guys version of Just The Way You Are by Bruno Mars followed by Grace and her dad, an equally ardent Tigers fan, coming down the aisle to The Piano Guys version of Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years. After a beautiful heartfelt ceremony, the new Mr & Mrs Ben and Grace Bailey led the way up the aisle to the triumphant horns of You Are The Best Thing by Ray Lamontagne. They and their bridal party hung back to grab a few photos while the guests adjourned to the yacht club for cocktails.

The warmth of friends and family

The fog brought a chill with it, but friends and family of the newlyweds flowed freely as did the drinks and laughter, keeping the atmosphere light and warm. When the time was right, Alane and Nicky from Salty Sea event planning gathered all of the guests for photographer Sara Jane to capture a photo of everyone on the massive porch of the yacht club before everyone gathered under the beautifully lit and decorated clear tent provided by Robyn from Maine Event Decor.

Let the celebration begin! To the newlyweds!

Once the guests were seated comfortably, the bridle party and the new Mr & Mrs Ben and Grace Bailey were introduced to I Gotta Feeling by the Blackeyed Peas. Moments later, the Clemson Tiger Rag played. The father of the bride Mark Kirshe took the microphone for a dynamic, yet very touching speech and toast. The best man, younger brother of the groom, followed up quite nicely. Finally the Matron of honor, sister of the bride, herself just married in the same location 3 months earlier. Each gave a sweet, funny and not too long tribute and toast to Ben and Grace. Now it was time for Coastal Critters to take over, getting everyone fed, and not just fed, they were treated to lobster, steak and a plethora of grilled veggies, it was a feast for the ages!

Let there be dancing!

As dinner wound down, guests began filling the Yacht club. Soon after Ben and Grace took to the dance floor to You Make it Easy by Jason Aldean. Ben then handed his beautiful bride over to her dad Mark. They then danced to Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl. Ben then escorted his mom to the dance floor. They danced to I Hope You Dance by Leanne Womack followed up by one more rousing rendition of Clemson’s Tiger Rag! The already packed dance floor buzzed with energy!

There were a couple of breaks. One for the uncle of the bride to offer a humorous toast and presentation to the newlyweds. The other break was for the newlyweds to cut their wedding cake in front of the beautiful Yacht Club fireplace. After the cake was cut, dancing continued and the energy stayed high right til the very last song. What an amazing day from start to finish!

Thank you Ben and Grace for asking me to be a part of your wedding day. It was my honor and pleasure!

Sincerely, Michael J Mahoney, your DJ

Toasts v. Speeches

Toast or Speech?

As wedding planning begins to tighten up, around 6 weeks prior to the wedding, I’m often asked “when are the speeches?” “You mean the toasts?”, I counter.  And the confusion begins between Toasts and Speeches. So let’s talk a bit about the difference between the two, and when each may be appropriate.

When to Toast?

At it’s most basic, a toast is a brief statement prior to a meal. When the meal is part of a celebration, that statement has a specific focus and purpose; to celebrate the guest(s) of honor. Since at a wedding there are technically 2 guests of honor, two toasts may be appropriate. They should be done after the first course, generally salad or soup, so that guests are not so hungry they can’t pay attention for 3 – 4 minutes. This allows time for the shift from whatever happened just prior, be it an entrance, first dance or other formal celebrating occasion. Waiting until after the first course for the toast will also allow time to ensure glasses are filled in the case of a champagne toast.

What is a Toast?

Speeches are another matter. If what you have to say is more than 4 minutes, let the poor suffering guests get something more substantial in their bellies. It’s easier to pay attention when their stomach is not competing with what you have to say. I’ve mentioned this time frame of 3 – 4 minutes a couple times because it is important. The time of the talk is key to it’s definition as a toast. The second key ingredient of a toast is that you speak about both guests of honor, sharing no more than one story to illustrate their best quality, and/or what makes them work together. The 3rd ingredient is the raising of the glass in celebration of the guest of honor.

I’ve got something to say

Once everyone has had a chance to get some of the delicious food prepared for them, they will have about 20 – 30 minutes after the last person has returned from the buffet. In the case of a buffet, for speeches. In the case of a served meal, there will be about 20 – 30 minutes from the time the last guest is served.

Let the speeches flow!

When speeches are scheduled, the first will be from the host(s). In most cases this would be the father of the Bride, but certainly not  all. In cases where the bride and groom are paying for everything themselves, The bride and groom may be the hosts. This is the thank you speech. It can be as long or short as you wish, just make sure to include a flattering word about your new spouse ;). If there are more than one speech, keep it short and sweet. Thank you so much for coming to celebrate this amazing day. It means so much to us, and we hope you all have a wonderful time!

Just a Thank You

If there is only one speech, you may choose a longer form, such as; Thank you all for coming to enjoy this beautiful day with us, it means so much to us that so many have come from near and far to celebrate with us, I hope you are enjoying the meal, we’ve spared no expense, and they are the finest caterers in the east, our guests of honor deserve no less, and when we are finished, we will dance until the power goes out in celebration of the Mr & Mrs Stevens!

…Either way, the thank you speech tends to be short. It is meant as an entree to the more involved speeches.


It is up to you as the planner, or if you have an event planner, it is up to them to decide who speaks, or for how long. Your master of ceremonies should be able to offer either guidance on this. In any case, a speech should be between 5 – 7 minutes. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s twice as long as a toast. This leaves time for 4 – 6 speeches.

So What?

If you have never organized a dinner party, you may find yourself saying “who cares?”. If you have been in charge of a dinner party, then you know why it matters. Nearly everyone in the event business uses the suffix -ish to describe the times, knowing that things happen to set things back, or speed things up. Dinner doesn’t like to wait. If you are holding your event in a location without a kitchen, meal delivery timing is absolutely crucial. Your caterers can then only keep things hot for so long. When serving fish, or if you are really concerned that your guests get their steak medium rare instead of well done, these things matter.

Granted, a 5 minute difference is not likely to be a big deal, but with such a wild card as how long will your toast or speech be, and the ability for things to snowball (one wants to speak, then they all want to speak). The easiest way to minimize this as a concern is to only allow one toast before the main course is served. Save the others til after your guests have their meal in front of them. As I mentioned above it is easier to pay attention when your stomach is not growling.

Questions? Fire away! I would love to hear your questions or even your take or your experiences. Was dinner ever cold at an event you have attended because toasts went way over time? I will be following up with a post about what does and does not belong in a toast. That is where you will see some real scary stuff, so stay tuned. In the mean time, I can’t wait to hear from you!