CA Wedding Budgeting

Santa Barbara, Ca

Let's talk about budget for non all inclusive venues.

A space with limited offerings and allowance to bring your own catering.

We generally say overall budgeting is about $1200 per guest but how does that break down and how can you cut costs?

Venue Related Costs

Venue Fee
Average venues fees in Southern to Central Ca are $12,000 - $20,000 often without any accommodations or rentals included.

We recommend you spend no more than 10-15% of your overall budget on your "venue" alone not accounting for any rentals or accommodations.

Event Insurance
You need it. Your venue requires it. is a super easy resource. Budget about $200.

If your venue does not have it plan for about $1500. Keep in mind multiple locations and distance when planning guest flow and placement.

This is; tables, chairs, everything tabletop, bars, glassware, lounges and caterers kitchen needs.

General average is at least $100 per person.

Keep in mind trying to streamline rentals from as few companies as possible to save additional delivery fees.
Sometimes for specialty items you may want to do a will call pick up of just plates (for example) from a separate company.

If you only have your venue for the day you will have to pay overtime charges to get items in and out within rental hours. This could be $500 - $$$
Privates estate are great in that you likely have the weekend. So you can install early on Friday and breakdown Monday.

Final things to keep in mind is if your venue has enough power. If not you will have to rent a generator and pay a vendor to run distribution. $500-$1500.
If you venue does not have lighting in place this is a must. We generally say $3,000 - $5000.
This is at least string bistro lighting and functional lighting over areas like the are and to restrooms.

Lighting is a huge design element. We always encourage up-lighting.
When working with our design services lighting can develop to $10,000 - 15,000 average investment.

All The Vendors

Hey, that's us! We recommend you spend about 10% of your budget on your planning partner. But we do not charge a percentage of your budget but instead an exact scope of work.
Our packages and starting prices can be found here.

Catering + Gratuity
Full service catering, everything from; staff, set up, welcome beverage to coffee, dessert service and breakdown the average is about $150 per guest.
You can save using a caterer that has a mobile kitchen but keep in mind you will need to add staffing. This average is about $85 per guest.
How low can you go? Taco truck + staff $65 per guest average.

Also keep in mind gratuity maybe 18-20% of food cost.

Full bar caterers are about $50 per person for 6 hours of service including everything from bartenders to mixers and premium liquor.
You can save or be more particular with wines by ordering from Bevmo and having your caterers or staffing team serve. Target $35 per person.

A large cake to feed everyone generally starts at $7 per person.
Many couples are choosing a small cutting cake ($350 avg.) and dessert spread ($4-6 per person)

Specialty vendors like ice cream truck, churros etc. generally run about $10 per person.

We say you get what you pay for.
We recommend minimum 8 hours of coverage.
Average $5,500 - $10,500

Personals, ceremony, bars and cocktail tables, guest tables, escort station, dessert adornment and some form of installation average $12,000 - $20,000
Cutting down personals, re using items from ceremony to reception, petite table adornment and no installations average $6,000 -10,000

Small bands 5-8 pieces average $10,000 -$15,000.
The Lucky Devils are a collective of musicians that can bring this down to $6,500 - $8,500.
DJ's range from $1,500 -$3,500.

We generally recommend offering transpiration so your guests can fully enjoy the festivities. We don't want anyone drinking and driving of course.
Most private estates require all guests to be shuttled in.
A large bus seating 45 is an average of $2,600. You will likely need at least two. Keep in mind you can only do so many trips in the limited arrival window.
Extending service for an after party will increase costs.

This category covers so much. Save the dates, invitation suite, day of; ceremony programs, signage, escort station, table numbers, menus.
Custom Letter press you could spend over $10,000.
Digital Prints are more cost effective.
Using some online options can save too.
We usually budget at minimum $2,500 - $5,000.

Average for bride hair and makeup with trial is about $600
Average per additional service is $120

Will you pay for everyone or have them self pay?

We recommend 1 hour per service minimum.
Keep in mind number of services vs stylists equals how long you need to complete.
Also note stylist travel fees and accommodations if applicable.

Optional Expenses

When trying to cut cuts these items are often not included or minimal.

Again you get what you pay for.  Video is A LOT of work.
Average $4,000 - $8,000

Welcome Bags
Average $100 per person

So many options but often we suggest to splurge on an experience like the next item!

Photo Booth
Average $1500 depending on hours of service.

Other Expenses

Often our clients decided not to include these items in the overall "wedding production" budget.

Do you want to include the cost of your hotel room in your budget if you are not staying on property?

Something to think about.

If this is included, let's set a budget.


We usually budget to include catering gratuity in that item.
Other vendors this usually applies are are as follows; photo, video, entertainment, transportation, bartenders, stylists, officiant.
Cash is king.  Think $20's something to show a nice gesture. $40 - $500 per vendor.

Additional Events

It is important to get clear with what additional events you will have, their scope and who if someone will host them.

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