Profitt Report: How much to budget per wedding guest

Paper Moon Wedding and Event Specialists in Midland says their brides usually spend $40 per guest. Photo credit: CNN

Two families coming together for a wedding can be tense, add in the stress of staying under budget, it’s enough to scrap your plans and elope.

The Knot’s most recent survey estimates the average cost of a wedding is more than $35,000, however, the average head count went down. That means couples are spending more per guest.

“You want to put your money where your guests spend most of the time,” said Sue MacKellar, owner of Paper Moon Wedding and Event Specialists in Midland. To her, it makes sense for brides to spend more money on the reception than the ceremony.

“They’re there all evening, they want good music, they want good food and pretty table d├ęcor,” she said.

If you choose to follow this line of thinking, how much should you budget per guest? That depends on your location.

“There’s a big difference between the cost per person in Midland or the tri-cities area as opposed to the Detroit area or the Grand Rapids area, the bigger cities,” MacKellar said.

She sees many Detroit-area brides get married in the tri-cities to avoid those high costs. MacKellar usually estimates her brides will spend about $40 per guest. However, you can go lower.

“More of a hall wedding where you're having a caterer in that can do something, $12-15 a plate,” she said.

Alicia Gotham planned the wedding of her dreams in Bay City: 350 guests with a budget around $15,000. She did it by finding a flexible reception venue.

“We found a venue that allowed us to cater and my husband's family, they use Norm’s out of Richville, it's a meat market that does the catering and they are very cost effective,” Gotham said.

Plus, she said their venue, the Bay City Scottish Rite, provided the table linens and silverware for free.

Next, alcohol can be pretty pricey but Gotham was able to save on that, too.

“It ended up being like $10.25 per person and the alcohol, we had about $1,100 into it,” Gotham said, “we sold it back to him, whatever wasn't opened so that saved a lot of money, too.”

Regardless of how much you budget per person, MacKellar recommends planning to go over budget by about 10 percent.

“Whether you’re building a house or planning a wedding, it's really hard!” she said.

Depending on the venue, some offer all-inclusive packages with food, drinks and cake all in one, which can be a savings as well.

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