DAR wedding washington DC Bellwether Events merlot

Real Weddings: 2019 in Review

I am behind the eight-ball this year in getting this post out, but I hope you will find the wait worth it. This is my annual post to discuss real wedding data from the previous year’s weddings. This is obviously not a statistical sample size. But you can also read about my 2018 real weddings, my 2017 real weddings and my 2016 real weddings  and see that trends do exist. I hope you enjoy the boring details about RSVP rates and wedding budgets, as well as all the fun stuff about dogs at weddings.

2019 Real Wedding Locations

In 2019, Bellwether Events worked on 16 weddings. Eight were at wedding venues we had worked before, six were at venues that were brand new to us, and two were at private homes, which were also new to us, but don’t forget that at-home weddings are weddings that we specialize in. Most of the brand new venues were bucket list venues for us: Dumbarton House, Tranquility Farm, District Winery, and the Fairmont Hotel. We were also at our old faves DAR and Riverside on the Potomac twice each.

Dumbarton House wedding ceremony
Liz Fogarty Photography

Ten of our 2019 real weddings held their wedding ceremonies outside, as planned. Only one of our weddings had to move indoors, and that was due to cold weather in mid-November.

DAR wedding washington DC Bellwether Events Pennsylvania Foyer ceremony
Genevieve Leiper Photography

Wedding Data: Logistics in 2019

The largest wedding we had in 2019 had 203 guests. The smallest wedding was 77 guests. The true average of number of weddings guests is 126, but if you remove the outliers, the average was 136. This is very consistent with past years.

real wedding data - wedding guest RSVP rates

Consistent with past years, the more wedding guests you invite, the lower the acceptance rate you will see in your RSVPs. But you can still assume an 80-85% acceptance rate if you are inviting less than 150 guests. My highest acceptance rate was 88%. The average acceptance rate was 71%.

For those paying close attention, there are 17 data points on the graph. In 2019, I did work with a family that had another daughter marrying later in the year in Charlottesville, and they shared their RSVP information with me for the purpose of this post. Thanks to them! More data is always better!

Let’s talk about the wedding budgets. First, let me say that none of this wedding budget data includes attire/accessories/alterations. I am not always privy to that information, so to stay consistent I omit it altogether. Second I want to say that half of these I feel like I have it down to the penny, and the other half I am making very educated guesses, based on contracts I do have in hand. The average total overall budget for my 2019 weddings is $73,518. The average spend per wedding guest is $582.

As you can see from the chart below, the smaller weddings has much higher spend per guest. This is logical because the fixed costs (entertainment, photographer, the cost of a vintage lounge furniture package, venue rental to an extent) are spread out among a smaller number of guests.

real wedding data - spend per guest - wedding budget

You might also notice that there are only 12 data points here. There were four weddings where I just did not have enough information to provide truthful data information for you.

The 2019 couples who booked Bellwether Events for Planning, Design and Event Management, which are all the services we offer, did so about 13 months before their wedding. Couples who booked us for 2 of those 3 available services did so about 9 months before their wedding. And the couples who booked us for Event Management only did so 9 months in advance, taking advantage of our policy of being able to book that package at any time, knowing that their coordinator will be assigned 4 months before their wedding – either Janice or Courtney.

Wedding Data: Details in 2019

In 2019, we had two couples opt to not have any wedding party attendants. Eight of our couples had ten adults or more stand up next to them during their wedding ceremony. Five of our wedding ceremonies included small kids as part of the processional. Two of our weddings had mixed-gender wedding attendants.

Woodend Sanctuary wedding - groom's party with men and women - gray suits and gray dress
Erin Kelleher Photography

Of our sixteen 2019 weddings, 3 couples got married in a church. The rest, 13 couples, got married at their venue, including the two couples that got married at private homes. When it came to their officiants, however, nine of our couples relied on a religious official to make their marriage legal. Six of our couples had a friend or two marry them. And one couple hired a nonreligious professional officiant.

National City Christian Church wedding ceremony Washington DC
Whole Heart Studios

87.5% of our couples in 2019 had a first look before their wedding ceremony. The two that did not were 2/3 of our couples who held their wedding ceremony in a church.

Ten of our couples sat at a Kings Table during their dinner reception. Five of them sat at sweetheart tables (my prediction that this trend is continuing is still proven!) One couple sat at a round table with other guests.

Riverside on the Potomac wedding reception head table
Kurstin Roe Photography

Eleven of our couples hired a DJ for their wedding entertainment. Five couples hired an band, and one couple had a DJ and a band.

Seven of our sixteen couples hired a videographer to document their wedding day. This is a consistent trend for me, and I’m glad to see it.

We had 12 cakes at our weddings in 2019. Most of them served additional desserts with the cake like donuts, mini desserts, ice cream sandwiches, pies and mini gelato cones. Twice we had Captain Cookie as the only dessert. Two weddings served no cake and no Captain Cookie: one had pie and a strawberry shortcake bar, and another served mini desserts from their favorite bakeries and s’mores by the bonfire.

District Winery DC wedding reception - cake cutting
Eli Turner Studios

Always the most important detail – two of our couples had their dogs attend the wedding.

Riverside on the Potomac wedding - flower girl pup - bride and groom
Kurstin Roe Photography

Last year I wrote about our biggest challenge of the year, and I think that was a useful exercise for me. In 2019, the biggest challenge for me was when I was working outside of Charlottesville, at Veritas Vineyards, where summer thunderstorms could pop up out of nowhere amidst the mountains. This is not like DC, where radar will show me what is coming with great reliability.

The couple and the parents put the indoor/outdoor ceremony call solely in my hands – that is how much trust they had in my judgement. It was a really hard call for me. I had a lot less confidence in my ability to read the tea leaves in that area of Virginia. In the end, I pretty much said ‘F*** It’ and rolled with the risk of it being outside. The gamble paid off, because it was sunny and perfect in the end, but I wished I had my anxiety meds with me at the time!

Veritas Vineyards wedding ceremony outdoor winery wedding
Jodi and Kurt Photography

There isn’t one notable success that stands out. There were multiple weddings where we got to the dancing portion of the evening and I would turn to my assistant, or another partner, and say something to the effect of ‘this day has gone perfectly to plan’ and that is a really good feeling.

I am really excited for everything that 2020 has to come. I’m returning to a former family to help with another celebration at their home with a linen idea that I am super excited to see come to life. We have another amazing private home wedding coming in June with an all-star team. Also in June, we return to Dumbarton House with possibly my favorite floral ideas of the year. In September we will have our first Delaware wedding. It’s shaping up to be a great year. We still have open dates in October, so please reach out if you would like to schedule a chat.