Q: For most of the expenses, such as flowers and photography, I don’t even know where to start thinking about budget. I’ve never contracted any of these services before, so how do I know what’s reasonable, other than doing lots and lots of research?

Budgeting for weddings can be one of the most difficult tasks to project accurately.

You can start by calculating what you can and want to spend on your wedding comfortably without putting yourself into debt. Consider what type of wedding you are hoping to host and figure out who will be contributing to the wedding budget.

Venue and catering will likely be the largest percentage of your overall wedding budget.  Taking the time to shop around early in the process is key.

Once you’ve decided on a venue and caterer the largest impact on your overall budget will be the number of guests you invite as that affects the quantity of food prepared, number of cocktails poured, tables covered, chairs ordered, etc.

A general rule is that photography and flowers should each be between 8-12% of your overall wedding budget.

Getting to your question specifically, there is no magic answer, but there is lots of criteria to consider.  I will go on record saying that photography is not where you want to save. There are new photographers who are talented but lack the experience and portfolios that may be willing to work for less in exchange for the experience, portfolio content, etc.  If this is the route you’re considering, please be prepared to ask the right questions. That said, some of the most talented photographers I work with have services that range from $5,000 to $20,000. That range may seem significant and while it is, shooting style, post-production, years of experience, number of shooters, hours of service, location, albums and engagements shoots all factor into a photographer pricing structure. See what photographers you are drawn to based on their photos, email them for availability and a sense of their pricing and then if they are more than you want to spend maybe they can recommend someone with a similar style that may align better with your budget.

There is also no exact answer in terms of flower budget either, alas.  It’s easier for me to help you understand what affects the bottom line most. Those items would be the season of the wedding, availability of blooms, choice of flowers, vessels selected, number and size of arrangements, bouquets and personal flowers needed.

I hope this offers you a bit of insight into the wedding industry. Some people are happy to shop at Target, while others are loyal to Neiman Marcus.  It’s personal preference, budget, style, personality and priorities.