DIY Wedding

Michigan weddings cost $25K in 2021. Expect to pay more this year.

High school sweethearts MaryRose Clark and Sean Riley have had seven years to dream up their ideal wedding. Now, a year out, the costly reality is coming into focus.

“I never would have imagined me even seriously considering getting eloped, but I looked at all these prices [and] it’s looking kind of better,” Clark said.

The future Mr. and Mrs. are not eloping, but they did have to start cutting those “on the cusp” guests. They found a venue in Clarkston, just outside of their hometown of Dryden, to tie the knot next September.

Clark helped her brother plan a 2020 wedding. She followed her favorite photographers and vendors on social media and mentally bookmarked them for her special day. With previous quotes in hand, she said she was shocked at how much prices have increased in such a short amount of time.

“Now looking at their pricing, this isn’t a reality anymore. I’m going to have to find people that fit into my budget,” she said.

Last year, couples nationwide spent an average of $28,000 on weddings, according to The Knot, which surveyed 15,000 couples across the country and considered ceremony and reception costs. The media company did not take into account some expensive items like engagement rings, and The Knot is quick to note factors like guest list, venue and, most importantly, location, affect price tags.

For couples in Michigan, the estimated cost in 2021 was $25,000. Michigan wedding planners and brides alike are predicting this year’s average will be higher.

A year ago, inflation was about 4% lower.

Related: DIY, TikTok and inflation: Michigan wedding planners align budgets and vision boards

Wedding planner Lotoya Vongrechin estimates a wedding with 150 guests will end up in the $35,000 range for her clients in the Detroit area.

That’s not fair off from last year’s average for the city, according to market research by The Wedding Report, which breaks down costs by metropolitan area.

Couples in Detroit-Warren-Dearborn spent an estimated $30,600 last year. That’s an increase from the pre-pandemic average of $27,200, according to the Wedding Report.

Topping the Detroit area was Ann Arbor’s average of $32,300. Across the state, in the Grand Rapids market, the cost averages to $24,400.

In smaller cities like Kalamazoo and Jackson, costs range from $21,000 to $23,000.

Those prices can be hard to swallow, Vongrechin said. Her first piece of advice is always to control the guest list because a reception is essentially a “glorified dinner” for 150 people.

It is not just the price per plate. Vongrechin reminds couples they’re paying for the entertainment, the cocktails, the dessert and the centerpieces, too.

“All of those little things people don’t think about, they automatically just think about food and beverage,” she said. “Well, are your additional guests going to stand up and just hold their plate?”

The Knot’s survey found 23% of the average wedding budget went to catering, without including alcohol or dessert. This was the second highest category after the venue, which consumed 30% of the budget.

Clark and Riley set their maximum budget at $20,000. So far, they’ve booked big-ticket items like venue, food and liquor. That’s already totaled $18,000.

Clark, 24, plans to DIY her invitations and thrift centerpieces. She’s been active on Michigan brides-to-be Facebook groups, where the newly wedded look to upcycle pieces left over from recent events.

They’ve nixed the trendy late-night snacks and are buying a mix of real and silk flowers from Sam’s Club.

The most difficult item on the list has been a photographer. She’s noticed a $500 to $1,500 increase in photography packages since she looked in 2020. And the photographers who remain affordable are booked out further than her fall 2023 wedding.

“It’s kind of this tough boundary of I really want to respect this profession. I really want to pay them [for] their work ethic,” she said. “You’re a small business, I really want to support you. But at the same time, we have to be realistic about how much brides are spending.”

The frustrating question is if Clark moves onto her second or third choice, will she be compromising quality?

Vongrechin’s benchmark is to hire vendors with at least five years of experience and not to hire someone offering services at 50% less than market value. However, she realizes those vendors are the most desirable and in short supply.

The wedding industry is an ecosystem of small businesses mostly operating with 50 or fewer employees, Vongrechin said. The industry took a big hit in 2020, when the pandemic shut down much of the state, and some businesses closed permanently.

There are only so many weekends in a year. So, Vongrechin tells couples to set their expectations accordingly.

“With couples planning less than a year, it’s most likely you’re not going to get the dream vendors that you want to work with and if they are available, they’re probably twice your budget,” she said.

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