Making Dollars and Sense out of a Wedding Celebration

By Adam Dubeau – Owner, Phoenix Pro Sound

Let’s start off easy. From the annual report on wedding trends in 2012:

* The average cost of a wedding is down 3% since 2011, but up 20% since 2008.

* There will be an estimated 157,866 weddings in Canada during 2012.

* The average amount of invited guests is 140

* Furthermore, the average cost of a wedding in Canada (as reported by is $27,800.

Really??? Let’s put that in big letters so it sinks in.


I’m not exactly sure how large of a sample group or the urban areas that the survey was conducted, but $27,800 is an incredible amount to spend on one day.

However, this got me thinking, and I dug a little deeper. Let’s see if you can follow along in my thought process.

To start back at the beginning…

I was asked by a prospective client about my entertainment services, and in the conversation it was brought up that the venue hasn’t been decided on yet. This got me thinking, maybe I should lend a helping hand and do some research on my local venues.

I paid particular attention to seating capacity, floor plans, catering costs, alcohol rules, and all the little details that may get lost in between the first glance and the signing of the contract.

After the dust settled, I had a nice information package put together from at least eight different venues and ten caterers.

What I read made my jaw drop.

I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for a great piece of roast beef and mashed potatoes. Close friends who watched me drop 100 lbs. will personally attest that I love food.

It seems that venues in general have also caught on to the great attraction of food at a wedding, as the average cost PER PERSON ATTENDING is about $25. This is EXCLUSIVE of TAX and GRATUITY (17% average).

To add to this, most (locally) won’t allow any outside food or drink to be brought in either, so once you’ve chosen a venue, you’re pretty much stuck with whatever they have on their banquet menu.

What REALLY irks me is this is JUST the cost of a buffet style meal. On food alone, the average cost for a local wedding is over $4,000. Hopefully, this is money well spent.

Once the shock and awe of the cost of food has sunk in, the second attack comes in the form of a “Midnight Lunch.” For those that are planning or attending a wedding, a midnight lunch (or Late Lunch) is a meal prepared for guests that are expected to stay until the wee hours of the morning. A cursory glance at the midnight lunch menu shows most are fresh buns, deli meats, and vegetables crudites.


Let’s read that again. VEGETABLES CRUDITES. These are sliced and/or raw vegetables. Maybe it’s just me, but after a hard night of drinking, dancing and socializing, I’d rather dig in to a slice of deep dish pizza. But hold on, there’s more.

The average cost of these “late lunches” is $14 per person. To do the math here again, $14 x 140 guests PLUS 17% gratuity PLUS 5% G.S.T. is…. (drum roll please….)


Almost $2,500 bucks on raw vegetables? I can’t remember a time when I would ever spend even $20 on raw veggies! Please tell me it ain’t so. But it sadly is. Most of the time, the deli meats are the first to go, leaving nothing left but broccoli and carrots.

After the vows…

Let’s look at some more figures. The following statistics were published in St. Louis Bride & Groom Magazine in Summer/Fall 2003, appropriately titled “After The Vows.”

Wedding Couples were surveyed both pre- and post-wedding to determine just how their money was spent, and how they felt after the wedding was over. Their sources include: Simmons, 2001; USA Today, 2002; National Bridal Service, 2001; The Knot, 2002; Brides Magazine, 2001.

  • AFTER THE VOWS…72% of all brides say they would have spent more time choosing their reception entertainment.
  • AFTER THE VOWS…Almost 100% say they would have spent more of their budget on the entertainment.
  • AFTER THE VOWS…During wedding planning, Brides say their highest priority is their attire, followed by the reception site and caterer – reception entertainment is among the least of their priorities. Within one week after their reception, 78% of Brides say they would have made the entertainment their highest priority!
  • AFTER THE VOWS…When asked 81% of guests say the thing they remember most about a wedding is the entertainment.
  • AFTER THE VOWS…65% of all couples that chose a band to entertain at their wedding, said, if they had it to do over again, they would have chosen a disc jockey.

Finally, let’s bring this all back into perspective. You’re soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. X. You’ve invited 140 guests and spent $6,500 on food. Mrs. X spent $,2500 for the dress, $1,200 on flowers, plus invites, tuxes, party favors (Party favors? Those little M&M’s that say Mr and Mrs X on them…. $18 bucks each plus shipping. REALLY. ) Oh, and I almost forgot about photography and videography.

A quick count on my abacus gets us well over the $10K mark. We haven’t even got the venue rental, chair covers, centerpieces, decorator, or ceremony added up yet.

And then there’s me.

Yes, the wedding DJ. The Master of Ceremonies, the announcer of last call, the first to show up at the reception and the last to leave as I pack out my equipment. My average cost in 2012 is $1,200. I say average, because I do (depending on my clients needs) have different packages to suit many different budgets.

Hours spent preparing song lists, checking equipment, meeting with my clients to go over plans, pre-wedding site checks, it all adds up to a massive amount of time and money invested into my business. Yet, there are still couples out there that believe a good wedding DJ isn’t worth more than $200 for a night. Surprisingly there are still some weekend warrior DJs that only charge $200 a night…. Ever hear the term, “You get what you pay for”?

In simple terms, if you’re looking to hire wedding entertainment, and you’ve spent $2,469.60 on a midnight lunch, and $200 on a DJ, you’ve just wasted $2,669.60 of your money… Most of your guests won’t stick around to see exactly what a late lunch consists of if they’ve been driven out of the room by your DJ playing the Chicken Dance for the 3rd time that night…..

Check out the Average Cost of a Wedding DJ and you’ll find some good advice for the discriminating buyer. I’m not about to dictate to a couple just how much they have to spend on their wedding. But it really is painful to see some couples get screwed over by a weekend warrior they found on Craigslist or Kijiji. Or worse still, the iPod Wedding.

I’m going to head to the grocery store to look for this $2,600 broccoli that the venues are selling. I wonder if it tastes better than I can entertain?


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