We spent $90k on our Red Carpet Wedding in Florida

A couple from Florida shares how they rolled out the red carpet for their guests at their $90K wedding.

By Emily Forrest

We spent $90k on our Red Carpet Wedding in Florida
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 Florida shared how they pulled off their $90,000 wedding in Green Cove Springs.

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: Anesthesia
Ages: 32 and 46
Location: Florida
Combined Salary: $700,000

About the Wedding

Wedding Date: 11/11/2022
Wedding Location: Green Cove Springs, FL
Venue Type: Historic Theatre
Wedding Party Members: 8
Number of Wedding Guests: 90
Wedding Style: Award Show/Red Carpet Night + Travel Around the World (Epcot)

Budget Overview

Original Wedding Budget: $60,000
Actual Wedding Budget: $90,000
Payment Breakdown: Father of the Bride $5000 | Couple $85,000

Wedding Budget Breakdown

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

1. Venue

Original budget: $12,150
Actual spend: $10,461
What we got: This covered renting our inclusive venue for the entire day starting at 9 am, including the groom and bride getting ready suites. For the ceremony we got chairs, tables, basic linens, an upgraded Marquee sign, and “Now Showing” movie-style poster cases.

2. Catering

Original budget: $17,000
Actual spend: $14,921
What we got: All the catering staff, two passed apps for cocktail hour, and Epcot-inspired “Dine Around the World” reception with 7 specific dishes for each country. Also included was our tasting appointment, catering tip (included in contract), morning after brunch at hotel (booked through hotel catering), coffee and tea service, flaming doughnut station!

3. Couple’s Attire

Original budget: $5,453
Actual spend: $5,682
What we got: Custom dress and suit, alterations, custom cufflinks, all jewelry, veil, and shoes.

4. Wedding Planner

Original budget: N/A
Actual spend: $2,870
What we got: We opted for a partial planning package with an on-site coordinator. We hired her after we had booked a lot of the major items (venue, dj, photographer, videographer, etc.), so she covered everything else like florals, our officiant, rentals for the day, catering and bar, coordination day-of, etc.

I literally could not have done it without her. It was almost a necessity for us because we were living in GA during the planning phase but the wedding was in FL. So it was also great to have someone on the ground in the city where we were getting married.

5. Desserts

Original budget: $1,000
Actual spend: $855
What we got: One cut cake, cheesecakes and cheesecake pops, and our cake tasting.

6. Alcohol

Original budget: $10,900
Actual spend: $7,699
What we got: This price included 10 bartenders. Our alcohol vendor provided all mixers and garnishes, and we bought cups for all the drinks

7. Florals

Original budget: $2,000
Actual spend: $2,522
What we got: Bride’s bouquet, ceremony/reception bouquets (moved ceremony flowers for reception), memorial flower for the Mother of the groom, boutonnieres, corsages, floral arch bouquet.

8. Music and Entertainment

Original budget: $7,000
Actual spend: $8,639
What we got: This covered the cost for our DJ and Videographer, club lights for reception, a TV monitor for ceremony and awards show, and singers to perform during “awards show” to prerecorded music. We also had a Photo magic mirror with custom frame and picture collage, and 360 video booths.

9. Photography

Original budget: $5,500
Actual spend: $6,200
What we got: All ceremony and reception photography, including photo edits, full gallery included. Plus a ‘free’ engagement session.

10. Paper

Original budget: $900
Actual spend: $234
What we got: Invitations and envelopes by Zola – Baker Suite – save the dates w/ envelopes, peel and stick wax seals. We also bought a “Now Showing” movie-style poster for poster cases, table signs, and printed out “boarding passes” for each guest at our ‘Travel Around the World’-themed reception.

11. Wedding Bands

Original budget: $1,500
Actual spend: $6,955
What we got: The groom got a black diamond forged ring with 24k gold detail, and the bride got a double band with inset diamonds and emeralds.

12. Other Cultural/Religious Expenses

Original budget: $50
Actual spend: $35
What we got: A custom broom - we found a maker on etsy who was able to design and match our wedding colors.

Additional Costs

  • Bach Weekend + Accommodations: $5,370
  • Transportation: $3,540
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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?

Honestly, we just guessed based on limited research and knowing our tastes.

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

We tried to stick to it but once planning began and we saw how much prices had increased after COVID, we just did our best to limit the overages.

Top Three Priorities:

  1. FOOD! Because our reception/dinner was nontraditional, we wanted to make sure that we didn't skimp out on the food. We wanted to model our reception after the Epcot experience, so we found a caterer that could really meet our flavor expectations. We had 7 stations around the ballroom along with a few cocktail and bistro tables. Each table featured food and drinks from countries we either have visited or are on our bucket list. As guests made their way "around the world" they would take their custom passport and get it stamped in each country.
  2. Wedding Planner: There were several items on the wedding planning to-do list that either I didn't want to deal with or had no idea how to handle. So I was prepared to shell out for a fantastic wedding planner. We also needed someone that could coordinate basically a full on production and make it go off without a hitch. Luckily I didn't have to break the bank and our partial planning package was only a little over $2,500.
  3. The little details. This included things like:
  • "Wedding passports". Each page had a quote dealing with travel at the bottom. We also used the last page as our guest book, leaving room to write a message and then they would tear it out and drop it in a globe.
  • Personalized "boarding passes". Each ticket had a special meaningful message for each guest. Also the destinations matched the different countries they would "visit" during the reception.
  • Movie spoof posters for the "coming soon" poster cases. Each spoof title related to our story.
  • Homemade videos for introductions.
  • Searchlights to make it feel like a movie premiere/awards show.
  • A "VIP" line at the bar for people who RSVP'd early.

Even though most of them probably went unnoticed by our guests we wanted to make sure that we knew there was purpose and design behind every choice we made so that our event truly felt uniquely us. It was really important for us to make sure that the guest experience was impeccable while still being authentic to us as a couple. When we are guests ourselves we dont like the lulls and the waiting we wanted to make sure that our guests felt like they always had something to do or enjoy.

Bottom Three Priorities:

  1. Flowers. I have never been a flower girl so I didn't want to spend a ton of money on then. I wasn't interested in floral preservation either. We went very minimal with flowers and stayed very close to our original budget.
  2. Invites. Initially I wanted to go elaborate but then decided to go the minimal route to save on waste.
  3. Engagement party and bridal shower. It was the height of COVID and we lived in a different state than all our family and a good chunk of our friends. It just wasn't possible to have everyone travel for one day. Also I don't really like being the center of attention all that much so this was an easy cut.

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

  • We used ABC for our liquor supply because they allow you to return unused items. So we over-purchased just in case and then saved a bunch on the backend.
  • We DIY'd our ceremony arches, because we couldn't find exactly what we wanted.
  • We personally did all of the favors. We had a custom passport that guests got on arrival that had a boarding pass inserted with a custom message for each person. The passport had a spot for them to place a passport photo and then get stamps at each country around the world. The passport also doubled as our "guestbook". The last page was a tear out page where they could write well wishes or advice for us and then drop it in a custom globe. Our party favors were little suitcases with hangover kits inside.
  • We also shot and edited all of our own videos that played during the wedding. That was both stressful and fun.

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

I think the biggest challenge was realizing very quickly how off our budget was in order to get the things that we wanted . We adapted to that, but it pushed back some of our investment plans and we are restarting our savings process now, about two months after the wedding.

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

We didn't cut anything out. We went in with a very clear vision and adjusted the budget to fit the vision. If something was outrageous then we figured out DIY options or just shopped around for cheaper solutions.

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

  1. Transportation. The venue was about 45 minutes away from the hotel block and we had an open bar so we elected to provide transportation for anyone who wanted to use it. I also forgot to consider the transportation for the bridal party and family prior to the rest of the guests. So that was an additional cost not originally in the budget.
  2. Tent rental. Our venue has an outdoor courtyard, usually used for the ceremony. Our date was in November which is traditionally outside of hurricane season, so I was hopeful that it wasn't going to rain but I wanted the tent in place just in case.

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

  • We did an outfit change, but the groom switched into a suit that he already owned. I bought a second dress for less than $30.
  • We included our bach-weekend expenses from the get go. We knew based on our circle of friends that we would need to subsidize part of it in order to have the people there that we wanted.

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

We did most of our financial planning prior to even getting engaged by going into business together. We already had a joint account and we switched from W-2 to 1099 jobs so that we could save on taxes and really boost our incomes. We purchased 3 homes (two investment and one personal) before getting engaged and one more investment property during the planning process. Plus we had already had healthy retirement accounts. I think because we were already so comfortable discussing large amounts of money, budgeting, and money planning, that we didn't feel as guilty about increasing the wedding budget and really making our day everything we wanted.

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

We got everything that we wanted. I wouldn't change a thing.

What wedding expenses surprised you the most?

The jump in prices from pre to post-covid. Even the catering was much more expensive than we originally thought. But I have no regrets because everything was delicious and the staff was AMAZING.

Also the cost of our rings! I thought we were just gonna get simple gold ones, but we walked out instead with custom rings that fit our personalities and style. I don't regret spending that money at all. Especially because the insurance was so affordable that if anything happens to them we are covered.

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

We had a “Red Carpet” entrance for our guests, including paparazzi, an interviewer, red carpet with velvet ropes, and a custom 'step and repeat' backdrop! As guests came down, our photographers took professional photos in front so that each guest felt like a celebrity.

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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