Wedding Splurges: What's Really Worth the Cost?

Real brides weigh in on the pros and cons of their big-ticket wedding costs.

We asked recent brides about their wedding-day splurges — and if these must-haves proved to be worth every penny or if they could have done without. While some brides have few regrets, others, in hindsight, Might make a different choice, pocketing the savings or redirecting their cash elsewhere. Here, their shared wisdom.

Photo Credit: Britt Chudleigh/Courtesy Michelle Leo Events

The splurge: A special wedding location

Worth every penny, says Melissa. “We wanted an outdoor wedding that was different than the traditional banquet hall setting and a site that could accommodate at least 150-200 guests. We found an apple orchard and barn in northwest Indiana, about an hour from downtown Chicago. Though the venue rental price was still about $3,500 and the per-person price was around $85, we actually found savings in the long run since the sales tax was significantly less in Indiana than if we had found a similar venue in the Chicago area. It was something we could have easily overlooked and I’m glad we didn’t.”

The splurge: A wedding planner 

Could have done without, says Danica. “We had a small, intimate destination wedding out of state, and a larger luncheon reception back home with our family and friends. I had no desire to plan a wedding and with all the moving parts we felt it would be a good choice to have someone else plan it for us. While it could’ve been the particular planner we hired, it wasn’t worth the $3,500 we paid, especially given our already super small budget. My husband and I found ourselves undertaking more venue and vendor research than we’d expected and we probably could have done everything that was accomplished without our planner’s help — and at a quicker, more efficient speed, too. To add insult to injury, on our wedding morning we discovered that no one had assembled any of the signage, table numbers, centerpieces or favors — tasks we paid the planner’s team to take care of. Luckily, we were able to outsource these last-minute jobs to friends and family.”

The splurge: A shuttle bus for guests

Worth every penny, says Amanda. “Our wedding was small — about 50 people — and a majority of those guests had traveled from out of town to Miami, where we were married and lived at the time. So for most of our family and friends, it was a destination wedding. They had spent a lot of money to fly to Miami in February and we wanted it to be a celebration they would enjoy without having to worry about driving themselves from the hotel to the wedding and reception venue and then back to the group hotel. $500 well spent."

The splurge: A portable restroom

Could have done without, says Jessica. “Everyone we spoke to insisted we rent a portable restroom for our backyard wedding and reception — about 80 guests at my parents’ home. We were advised that having so many people at the house could easily overwhelm our septic system, and, in truth, temporary restrooms are a very common sight at the many parties and benefits in our seaside community. I hated the lowest-priced restrooms, which looked like they belonged at a construction site, so we spent $800 for a nicer-looking ‘luxury’ model. The lack of signage and the location (tucked away by the driveway) may be the reason that at the end of the day, the facility stood unused — and fortunately, our plumbing system was totally fine.”

The splurge: A professional DJ

Worth every penny, says Lisa. “My music-obsessed husband wanted to put together his own iPod playlist and not use a DJ, but I convinced him otherwise, and I’m glad I did. The DJ kept the energy up the entire time. There were no awkward breaks or moments of ‘What now?’ It totally made the event smooth and fun. While using our own playlist would have saved us close to $1,000, a digital device just can’t fill in gaps or read the crowd. It was just so nice to have someone else make sure everyone was having fun, which then allowed us to focus on chatting with guests.”

The splurge: Florals and décor

Could have done without, says Kiki. “We spent an enormous, enormous amount of money on florals and décor — close to $20,000. Honestly, I went nuts to the point that a refrigerated truck was driving flowers to the venue and a crew was removing pictures from the walls of the banquet room, hanging fabric to create curtains, creating a floating floral wall behind the chuppah, floating candles in the pool, glass terrariums on the tabletops, ivy chandeliers and so on to completely transform the space. It was absurdly beautiful, but beyond pricey. If I were to do it again, I’d set a floral budget and stick to it. I’d also try to work with the ambience the venue already offered, rather than attempt to totally transform the space.”

The splurge: Video package, including a 5-minute highlight video

Worth every penny, says Sarah. “Not only did we have a still photographer, we hired a videographer who would capture every one of our day’s details and then create a separate 5-minute highlight video in addition to DVDs (total cost: $2,000). This allowed us to show off our day on social media and gave us a chance to easily and quickly revisit our special day. Having our highlight movie just a click away is the best.”

The splurge: A whisky bar

Could have done without, says Angelica: “My husband was obsessed with the idea of a top-shelf, handcrafted whisky bar for the cocktail hour. The hotel where we held our wedding offered the option on the catering menu so we booked it at a cost of $64 per person for 1 hour! It added a wow factor, but not as many guests indulged as we thought. Looking back, we could have put the almost $6,000 to better use.”

The splurge: Custom letterpress save-the-date cards

Worth every penny, says Victoria. “My wedding planner insisted that they set the tone for the entire event. I hesitated though — after all, the cards just go in the trash. But with about 80 percent of our guests coming from out of town, having such nice save-the-date cards was a bit of a draw to get them excited. Spending $1,000 on those cards was the one thing I thought I’d regret, but ultimately I’m glad I did splurge.”

The splurge: A candy and pastry bar

Could have done without, says Brianna. “We spent $2,000 on a 12-foot candy and pastry bar stocked with macarons, bite-size brownies, doughnuts and cupcakes, rice krispie treats, custom colored M&Ms, ribbon candy and more, plus another $300 on signage and mini to-go pails and fabric bags. The display was gorgeous, and I think people thought it was appealing, but there simply wasn’t enough time for anyone to partake and enjoy all the treats after a full meal, wedding cake and dancing.”

The splurge: Designer heels

Could have done without, says Rachel, “which is why I actually returned them before my wedding date. I fell in love with this $450 pair of shoes and bought them on the spot. I wore them around the house for a few days, but just couldn’t justify spending so much money on them despite how pretty they were — especially knowing that people wouldn’t even see them. I was very happy I returned them and found a pair for about $50 that looked just fine.”

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