We spent $60K on our San Jose, CA wedding

A couple from Fremont, CA shares how they nearly doubled their original budget for their $60,000 wedding.

By Emily Forrest

We spent $60K on our San Jose, CA wedding
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 Fremont, CA share how they pulled off their $60,000 wedding.

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: Marketing & Nursing
Ages: 28 & 32
Location: Fremont, CA (San Francisco Bay Area)

About the Wedding

Wedding Date: 5/22/2022
Wedding Location: San Jose, CA
Venue Type: Rooftop + Indoor Banquet Room for both ceremony and reception
Number of Wedding Guests: 110
Wedding Style: Romantic, Minimal Rapunzel-esque (Is that even a thing? Us brides will say anything to be non-traditional haha).

Budget Overview

Original Wedding Budget: $30,000
Actual Wedding Budget: $60,000
Payment Breakdown: Bride and Groom: $47,500 | Groom's Family: $5,000 | Bride's Family: $7,500
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: $5,000
Actual spend: $10,000
What we got: This included the event space, chairs and tables.

2. Catering

Original budget: $5,000
Actual spend: $10,000
What we got: We got passed appetizers, a served buffet, and desserts. This price also accounted for servers and staff, set up and tear down.

3. Alcohol

Original budget: $5,000
Actual spend: $5,000
What we got: We opted for an open bar, including beer, wine, spirits, liquors, shots, and up to 4 signature drinks but we only chose two. Also included in this price is all the barware.

4. Couple’s Attire

Original budget: $2,500
Actual spend: $4,000
What we got: My dress, veil, jewelry, and shoes, as well as the groom's suit, tie and pocket square.

5. Florals

Original budget: $2,500
Actual spend: $4,700
What we got: This included arrangements at the end of a few aisles, a small flower installation on top of the fireplace for the ceremony, bud vase arrangements for guest tables, the bridal bouquet, bridesmaids bouquets, corsages, and bouttoniers for groom + party.

6. Music and Entertainment

Original budget: $2,000
Actual spend: $3,000
What we got: This cost was for the DJ and a photo booth.

7. Photography & Videography

Original budget: $3,500
Actual spend: $2,700
What we got: This included photography for the entire event. We opted out of having a videographer.

8. Paper

Original budget: $250
Actual spend: $400
What we got: This includes the cost of our save the dates and wedding invitations.

9. Wedding Bands

Original budget: $2,000
Actual spend: $3,500
What we got: This was the cost for both our bands.

10. Other Expenses

Original budget: $500
Actual spend: $575
What we got: Our officiant.

0515 Zola Budget Diaries May EA

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 didn't want to accept outside help at first, so we decided on a number we knew we could both realistically afford.

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

We tried our hardest to stick to it, but it became apparent that in the San Francisco Bay Area, we weren't going to be able to get anything we wanted within our budget.

Top Three Priorities:

  1. Decor/Signage
  2. Food + Bar
  3. Flowers

I had a very specific vision in my head and I knew most of it could be achieved with vibrant florals and the right signage/decor. Food.+ Drinks were another big priority because we wanted our guest to feel well taken care of.

Bottom Three Priorities:

We knew we wouldn't want videography. We never even entertained it. All of our friends watch it once when it because available and then again on their anniversaries, but then not much more than that. Our guests gave us tons of iphone footage that we loved so we stand by our decision!

We didn't really care on spending much more on smaller things too - like favors. We just made them ourselves (freshly spun cotton candy for everyone to take home in a cute package).

The groom didn't care too much about dropping dollars on a DJ but the bride is a dancer and considered this a huge priority.

Did you hire a wedding planner?

I hired a partial planner who acted more as a coordinator at the end of the day, but she was ABSOLUTELY VALUABLE. Money well spent! I consider it as a wedding gift to myself because her taking care of things like scheduling/timelines/tipping at the end of the night saved me so much time and energy.

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

The main budgeting challenge we faced was aligning on what number "felt right". For example, the Groom is a big foodie but I didn't really care - and I cared a lot about finding the best DJ we could find while the Groom didn't care. Figuring out where to put our spend was always the hardest part for us.

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

We had to plan a much smaller scale wedding (overall) than we had hoped for. We would have loved to have our guest list be closer to about 160 but had to trim it down to 110.

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

We added signage and decor pieces (Candles + Table Runners + Guest Book). Little things that you really don't think would add up, but do. Make-up and hair was wayyy more expensive than I thought it was going to be too.

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

  1. Teeth Whitening
  2. Bachelorette and Bachelor Parties
  3. Rayban Bridesmaid + Groomsmen Gifts
  4. Massage Gift Cards as a parental gift
  5. Trial Run for Hair + Make-up
  6. Wedding Menu Tastings

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

We did cut our initial guest list down, which helped tremendously. We also did a few less date nights/postponed trips, etc.

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

Absolutely! We only wanted to have this wedding if it meant we could realistically afford it WITHOUT using credit cards or taking a loan. While we didn't take any financial actions like opening up a joint account, we did have multiple conversations about what the next steps look like post-wedding to be able to still achieve financially obligated goals we have in the future (like finding a bigger place and traveling).

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

Lighting! I think additional lighting would have really lifted up the space and change the 'mood' of it all.

What wedding expenses surprised you the most?

Hair and make-up! Both came out to $850 and that was the cheapest quote I could find in my area!

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

The venue itself. Everyone really appreciated that the rooftop remain accessible during the reception. We decked it out with games and cocktail tables so guests could get some fresh air while dancing or kiddos could have a space to rest and recharge.

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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