This post is long overdue! I've had this topic on my mind for quite some time because I find a lot of couples enter this process with no clue as to what those gorgeous Instagram images they are saving really cost.
One of my guilty pleasures is trolling the subreddit/WeddingPlanning and I get a lot of my ideas for Instagram captions and blog posts from the questions I see come up over and over. Pricing is always one of those questions.
Now when I say pricing varies, I really mean it. Almost every client on their first inquiry call with me will ask "what does an average wedding cost?" And while I would love to be able to give you that answer, I can't. There is no average cost. it's all relative and based upon your taste and wishes. It also really depends on what part of the country you're in. New England is one of the more expensive areas to get married. So what I am here to do today is break down the average cost of MY client's tented weddings.
If you've followed me for any length of time, you've probably noticed a trend in the type of weddings I plan & design.
My clients value enhanced design components
My "look" tends to be more traditional and refined with some modern elements.
My tented weddings are often on the shoreline or in a beautiful, remote setting with gorgeous country views
Floral & lighting installations are common inclusions
Most of my tented weddings feature a band vs. a DJ
Guest counts are typically between 130-170
I only service clients getting married in CT, NY, MA or RI (with a very occasional NH or VT wedding) so my pricing estimates reflect that of quality, higher-end, New England-based vendors, mostly reflecting prices for planning a Connecticut tented wedding
Alright, so let's jump right in to how I build a budget and what my average client spends.
TENT & RENTALS
This is one of the most expensive parts of a tented wedding. After all, we are literally building your venue from the ground up. We need to think about everything: the tent itself, rain tents, restroom trailers, every single table, chair, napkin, linen, fork, knife, etc. And it adds up quickly! This post would be far too long if I wrote out every single item you need to rent for a tented wedding. My average client is typically spending between $40k-$60k on their tent & rentals. Pricing can go up if you want to install full tent flooring.
Overall Estimate: $50k
2. FOOD & BEVERAGE
Arguably the second largest expense for a tented wedding. For working purposes, let's assume you are having a 150-person wedding and want to include a cocktail hour with 5 passed appetizers and one charcuterie station, a three course meal featuring a salad course, entree course and either wedding cake or petite dessert station, a late night snack and a full open bar for five hours. This would likely run you $130 - $200 per guest plus a standard 22% admin fee and 7.35% CT sales tax. You are easily looking at $25k - $40k for food & beverage BEFORE adding in gratuity (yep, that admin fee is not gratuity paid to your staff). If you are choosing a really high end caterer or adding in ultra-premium liquors or specialty stations like a raw bar, plan to spend significantly more.
Overall Estimate for 150 guests: $35k
One question I always ask clients at the very beginning as I am drafting their budget is - band or DJ? And I ask this early because there is a huge price difference. Now, can you get a wedding band for less than $10k? Absolutely. But most of my clients don't. And that's because you get what you pay for. I would rather see a client hire a great DJ than a mediocre wedding band. Band pricing also varies pending the size of the band. On average, you can expect to spend about $1,500-$1,800 per musician. So a 10 piece band is going to run you at least $15k for a four hour reception. Looking for ceremony and cocktail hour musicians too? Plan to spend more. Bands also often add in travel fees so if you need to provide lodging for 10 people, that adds up quickly. A great DJ on the other hand will most likely cost around $3,000 +/-.
Overall Estimate for a band: $15k
Floral costs vary greatly. And this is because each client's floral needs vary. Clients with a small bridal party spend less on bouquets. Lower guest count means less centerpieces. Full foliage installations under the tent cost more than greenery up the tent poles. So there are a ton of factors that go into creating a floral budget. On average, my clients are spending between $15k-$25k on their wedding flowers.
Overall Estimate for Flowers: $20k
5. PHOTOGRAPHER & VIDEOGRAPHER
I've never had a client opt out of using a photographer but I'd say about 50% of my clients opt to not have a videographer. So pricing here varies. In my experience, photo & video cost about the same. It is very rare for me to even have a photographer or videographer that I feel comfortable recommending that comes in below $5k. Most of my clients are spending between $6k-$9k EACH on photo & video.
Overall Estimate for having BOTH photo & video: $16k
Most of my tented wedding clients opt to hire a designer to create a custom stationery set for their wedding day. So the pricing listed below is reflective of custom design. Stationery needs include your save-the-dates, full invitation suite, and day-of items such as escort cards or seating chart, menu cards, ceremony programs, etc. Day-of needs vary from client to client so I'm going to assume we're including two items: escort cards & menu cards. Let's assume you need 85 save-the-dates & invitations and then 150 escort cards and menu cards.
Overall Estimate for the above inclusions: $5,000
7. GUEST TRANSPORTATION
All of my clients offer transportation for their guests to/from the venue. For working purposes, let's assume you need (2) luxury 56-passenger coach buses for a total of 6-8 hours and (1) 20 passenger party bus for the bridal party at the beginning of the wedding. Each coach bus would run you around $2,000-$2,500 and the party bus would be about $1,000 (assuming you don't need this vehicle to stay on for transport at the end of the night)
Overall Estimate: $6,000
8. HAIR & MAKEUP
Another segment of the budget that varies depending on the size of your bridal party. Here is what I typically see for costs:
Bridal Hair: $250-$350
Bridal Makeup: $250-$350
Attendant Hair: $125-$175
Attendant Makeup: $125-$175
Trials: $150 per service
My estimate is going to assume you have a total of 8 people requiring beauty services (1 bride, 5 attendants, mother of the bride and mother of the groom) and want a trial. Don't forget to factor in gratuity (20%) which is often added to your bill. Hair & makeup teams also add in travel fees which is typically $.65 per mile from their studio location.
Overall Estimate: $3,500
9. WEDDING VENUE FEE
This fee is variable. A lot of my tented weddings happen at a private residence which means the venue is free. For those that are not at a residence, venue fees vary from $8,000 for one-day use to $15,000 + for a weekend rental.
Overall Estimate: $10,000
Often times, my clients choose to have a friend or family member officiate their wedding. In which case, this is a freebie, YAY! If you do need to hire an officiant, costs range from $300-$1,000. While it's not a huge cost, it is still one to take into consideration.
Overall Estimate: $750
11. WEDDING PLANNER
This one is easy because I know my fees. My starting price for in-state, tented weddings in 2023 is $12,000. My final fee is contingent upon all of your wedding production costs (outlined above). I take 12% of your production costs. So based on the outline above, this particular client would be spending about $160k on their wedding (not including my $12k starting price). 12% of that is $18k so my final fee would be $18,000.
Overall Estimate: $12,000 minimum but assuming the above outline, $19k
The above outline includes your core vendor team.
This does not factor in ancillary events like a welcome party or post-wedding brunch.
It also does not include any miscellaneous vendors like a novelty food truck as a late night snack, a cigar roller, or any additional gratuities you may want to leave for your vendors (not expected or required but I see this done often).
Keep in mind this is a budget based around MY clients.
So how does all of that stack up. Drum roll please ...
TOTAL TENTED WEDDING ESTIMATE FOR AN AJSE CLIENT WITH 150 GUESTS: $150K-$180K
Now, don't hear what I'm not saying. I'm just waiting to get mean messages on both ends of the spectrum (brides thinking that number is ludicrous and others wondering how we can spend so little). This is what MY typical clients spend. There are luxury planners out there spending half a million dollars or more creating tented weddings for their brides. There are also brides DIY-ing a tented wedding in their backyard for $30k.
Budgets vary greatly as I said before. This is the part of the market that I enjoy working with. I don't work with budget clients but I'm also not an uber-luxury planner. My clients are able to spend more than the average person does on a wedding but we're still not out hiring a world-renowned photographer or mainstream band. These numbers are based on my experience in the 2023/2024 wedding season.
To close this out, I hope you enjoy some images from past tented weddings I have had the pleasure of planning & designing!