How we pulled off a $54K destination wedding in New Orleans, LA

A couple from Dayton, Ohio share how they pulled off their New Orleans, LA wedding featuring a Second Line Brass Band parade, raw bar, and the “perfect” wedding dress.

By Emily Forrest

How we pulled off a $54K destination wedding in New Orleans, LA
Photo by Zola

Welcome to Zola’s Wedding Budget Diaries, where we break down one of the industry’s greatest mysteries: how much weddings actually cost.

But no two couples are the same, and neither are their weddings. Each wedding budget, big or small, has its backstory of unexpected surprises and compromises.

This week, a couple from Dayton, Ohio share how they pulled off their $54K destination wedding in New Orleans, LA.

Need to figure out your own wedding budget breakdown? Discover our free wedding budget tracker – also available on the Zola app – and start keeping track of your budget today.

Quick Hits

A bird’s eye view of this couple and their wedding budget.

About the Couple

Fields of Work: Tap House Owners
Ages: 42 & 44
Location: Dayton, Ohio
Combined Salary: $200,000

About the Wedding

Wedding Date: 9/3/2022
Wedding Location: New Orleans, LA
Number of Wedding Guests: 150
Wedding Style: Black Tie Destination

Budget Overview

Original Wedding Budget: $42,000
Actual Wedding Budget: $53,724
Payment Breakdown: Bride and Groom: $37,724 | Groom's Family: $6,000 | Bride's Family: $10,000
How did you keep track?: Mainly spreadsheets

Wedding Budget Breakdown

Time for the budget breakdown - their original budget vs. actual spend on each wedding item or service.

1. Venue

Original budget: $8,000
Actual spend: $8,500
What we got: Use of the venue for the ceremony and then a flip to reception.

2. Catering

Original budget: $10,000
Actual spend: $14,500
What we got: Menu selections, raw bar, staff, gratuity, and service charges.

3. Alcohol

Original budget: $5,000
Actual spend: $6,500
What we got: Hourly rate for a top-tier bar package.

4. Couple’s Attire

Original budget: $2,500
Actual spend: $5,500
What we got: Wedding Dress, suit rental for groomsmen and suit purchase for groom.

5. Florals

Original budget: $5,500
Actual spend: $5,400
What we got: All florals including boutonnières, centerpieces and bridal bouquets.

6. Music and Entertainment

Original budget: $5,500
Actual spend: $5,500
What we got: Included Second Line Parade Brass Band and wedding reception band.

7. Photography & Videography

Original budget: $6,000
Actual spend: $6,512.
What we got: All photography including pre-wedding shots.

8. Paper

Original budget: $2,500
Actual spend: $1,311.50
What we got: Our full paper suite.

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Note: Individual figures may not total the overall budget due to approximations + omitted items.

Wedding Budget Questions

A deeper look into all the decisions – what’s important, what’s tossed, and more.

How did you decide on your original wedding budget?

We researched our top pick vendors and their pricing to formulate our budget.

Once you decided on a set budget, did you actively attempt to stick to it?

A little bit of both. There was some give and take but we were set on making this the perfect day.

Top Three Priorities:

The Venue, Photography, and the Reception.

Bottom Three Priorities:

Dessert, Rehearsal Dinner, and Hair and Makeup.

Did you hire a wedding planner?

Yes, and she was my lifesaver! I highly recommend hiring someone to orchestrate your day.

What, if any, were the main budgeting challenges you faced?

We didn't have any challenges per se, but we had disagreements on where to spend the budget.

Did you need to cut anything to stick to your budget?

We didn't cut anything.

What did you add that resulted in you going over your budget?

My wedding dress. LOL. I spent way over budget but it was the perfect one.

What, if any, fun extras did you throw in while planning that you didn’t originally budget for?

The welcome party was an added activity.

What did you find to be the most effective way to save money for/on your wedding?

We decided to do a destination wedding in order to cut the guest list, but still had 150 guests. Had we got married at home it would have been 250 guests!

Did you think at all about or prepare for your newlywed financial future while you budgeted for your wedding?

We have owned and run a business together for the last 10 years so we are always planning for our financial future.

What is something you didn’t buy that you wish you did for the wedding?

Welcome bags for guests.

What wedding expenses surprised you the most?

The hourly drink package rate.

What is the weirdest or most out-of-the-box thing you bought for your wedding?

The Second Line Brass Band parade throughout the Faubourg Marigny Neighborhood after the ceremony.

Any other details you want to share?

We have been together for 13 years and put off getting married due to starting a business. So we knew that after waiting and now having a successful business, we deserved to celebrate in the perfect city, with our closest friends and family and set aside the money to pull that day off.

Zola, The Best Place to Track Your Wedding Budget

At Zola, we want your wedding to be everything you’ve dreamed of. We’re here to make it happen from start to finish, from helping couples curate wedding registry ideas and create a unique wedding website with matching invites and paper, to offering free wedding planning tools like guest lists, seating charts, and our new wedding budget tracker!

If you’re having—or anticipate having—trouble keeping track of your expenses, try using our wedding budget tracker, also available on our app. This will take you to a fully customizable budget sheet you can update throughout wedding planning. No stress, no mysterious expenses.

Zola’s helping couples share those diverse stories with those eager to learn more about what it really takes to plan a wedding. If you’re interested, in share your Wedding Budget Diary with us today.

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