Wedding Planning and Budgeting 101

Hello Smooch Family!


I know that when it comes to planning your wedding there are a million and one questions floating around in your head, even before everybody else starts to weigh-in. Between your own thoughts and everyone else’s opinions about your big day, it can be challenging to keep all the information straight, especially when it comes to money! Your wedding is likely the biggest, most extravagant party you’ll ever host…how fun is that!?  Understanding wedding costs requires deciphering jargon, reading the fine print and being savvy about fees – all of which can feel overwhelming as you embark on the early stages of wedding planning. Our Abernethy Center Team has been hosting weddings for nearly 20 years and with that comes heaps of knowledge; so, sit back and relax as I give you the answers to a few of our most frequently asked questions about wedding costs!

How much does an average wedding cost?

The price of your wedding depends on a wide variety of factors, such as time of day, week, and year, guest count, and your overall vision. Diving into these questions can be intimidating when you are looking at the big picture. So, instead let’s take a step back and break these questions down together!

Oregon hosts some of the most beautiful weddings year around! With lush green backdrops, snowcapped mountaintops, vast desert landscapes, and ocean views, it doesn’t get much better than that…. I may be a little biased!

Day of week/time of year: Will you wed your beloved on a Tuesday or Saturday? (A weekday is less costly than a Saturday.) You may also want to consider different times of day or year to get married; brunch (Abernethy Center brunch hours are between 8a and 2p) and winter weddings are growing more and more popular and can help save money if you are on a budget!

Guest Count: Think about how many guests you will invite to your wedding; chances are only 60-75% of that number will actually show up according to Alyssa Brown over at Martha Steward Weddings. I would suggest when talking with a vendor/venue asking for two estimates, one being somewhere in that 60-75% and another for full guest count. That way you can compare and plan for what you are willing to spend.

Vision/ Detail Costs: We are all looking to build the wedding of our dreams and finding ways to do so within budget. Believe it or not it is DOABLE! The key is prioritizing and willingness to be flexible; it can be easy to get stuck on a vision and not be willing to sway from it, but flexibility can be imperative when forming your dream. For example, when coming up with a floral design, work with your florist on finding affordable ways to produce your vision at a cost that works for the both of you. Something as simple as switching the types of greenery or selecting flowers that are in season could make a substantial impact on the price. You may also want to consider finding wedding resale groups (Facebook Marketplace) and buying from other brides rather than buying something you’ll likely never use again at full price.

Venue Cost: Family farm? Elegant Gardens? Industrial setting? Your destination without a doubt effects your price. For instance, if you are interested in a barn wedding you should account for EVERYTHING! Most barn venues don’t include things like tables (guest and service), linens, china, flatware, glassware, and staff to set it all up and break it down, so, not only are you left with the cost of the rentals but sometimes the labor of putting it altogether. Whereas, if you were to wed at a full-service venue all those amenities are likely covered in the overall cost.

Wedding costs can add up quickly so, I would suggest making a list of all the things you want for your big day and prioritizing what is most important to you. Take this list with you when you meet with vendors, so they know right away what you are envisioning. Be willing to bend so you don’t break when folks give advice or insight on different wedding building elements. Ultimately, the choice will be yours in the end, but by allowing others to contribute, you might find new elements that you haven’t yet thought of. 


Now let’s talk lingo!

We live in a world where there are additional fees in just about everything and unfortunately you don’t escape it when planning a wedding. But have no fear, we aren’t leaving this conversation until you feel confident about the different terms that will be thrown at you while searching for a space to host your wedding. I want you to feel comfortable looking through a pricing packet or contract and seeing these words then knowing exactly what they mean. 

Wedding Venues: What is a site fee?

No matter where you are looking to hold your wedding, you’ll likely come across a Site Fee (also known as, rental cost, exclusive-use fee, or booking fee.) The site fee is the rental price for your venue. The amount you’ll pay and what is included with the rental varies from venue to venue.  Site fees range from hundreds to thousands of dollars so when your venue hunting it’s essential to find out what is and isn’t included, like, parking, bridal suites, and an Event Specialist.

What is a food and beverage minimum?

When talking to a wedding venue or catering company the term Food and Beverage Minimum will likely come up. The food and beverage minimum are your minimum purchase requirements for catering and bar services; it’s like a spending floor. The amount often depends on your time of year and day of week. For example, a couple looking for a Saturday in June will have a higher minimum than a couple looking for a Friday in December. Something as simple as switching from Saturday to Friday can save you thousands. However, I wouldn’t just stop at the meal and drinks, it may be to your benefit to ask if anything else is included in your minimum; at the Abernethy Center we include certain accessories, such as lanterns, draping, and easels.

What is the difference between a service fee and tip?

A service charge is an industry standard; almost every wedding venue you will see during your comparison shopping will charge 18-24% on their services. To put it simply, a service fee contributes to the cost of labor before, during, and after your event; all the moving gears behind the scenes that make your day flow, such as the banquet and kitchen staff, property and landscape maintenance, and the work of your Event Specialist.  When talking to a venue don’t be afraid to ask how much their service fees are and what it applies to; I know I like to know exactly where my money is going, especially since it is a mandatory payment. When it comes to tipping at your wedding, a service fee isn’t technically a tip. A tip is something that you choose to do as an extra thank you. It is a great way to show your appreciation to the staff working your wedding such as, wait staff, DJ, photographer, officiant and wedding planner.



Now that we have navigated our way through wedding jargon, different types of fees, and a couple other elements that go into planning a wedding, my hope is that you are feeling confident and prepared when talking with vendors. Let me leave you with this, first, take a deep breath and collect your thoughts. Second, lean into your positive support systems including your vendors, trust me, no matter the question they WANT to help and be a part of making your day perfect! Lastly, HAVE FUN! It’s easier said than done but don’t get overwhelmed by the wedding planning process, this is such an amazing experience and who wants to look back and remember how stressful it was?  So, pour yourself a glass of wine and happy planning!

Love always,