Bellwether Events Reflects on 2023 Weddings

This annual reflection of all our 2023 real weddings via data is here, and it is basically on time. Please clap.

We ate.

cake table - Pretty Spring Meridian House Wedding with Catholic Ceremony

Corey Torpie

champagne couple - Moody Spring Riggs Hotel Rooftop Wedding

Brittany Dunbar

2023 Real Wedding Data: How Many

In 2023, we had fifteen weddings, a milestone birthday in DC with a national recording artist and fireworks, and a Pink Glitter Cowgirl Rodeo Bat Mitzvah held at a family farm. We also had three smaller events sprinkled in the Spring and Summer.

fireworks in DC from the Dockmaster Building at the Wharf - milestone birthday party

Stephen Bobb

2023 Real Wedding Datea: Where

We worked at many new event venues, like the Dockmaster Building, Bethesda Marriott, Tred Avon Yacht Club, the Army and Navy Club, Cedar Knoll Restaurant, Pavilion at Weatherly, Long View Gallery, MLK Library, and Hummingbird Bar and Kitchen.

Milestone Birthday party at the Dockmaster Building at the Wharf DC with a beachy theme
Dockmaster Building at the Wharf | Stephen Bobb
Bethesda Marriott | Procopio Photography
Cedar Knoll Restaurant wedding ceremony Alexandria VA outdoor moon arch
Cedar Knoll Restaurant | Awesomesauce
Pavilion at Weatherly Maryland waterfront wedding ceremony
The Pavilion at Weatherly | Coastal Roots
Industrial urban DC wedding venue blank canvas raw space - modern black gold and emerald

Long View Gallery | Eli Turner

MLK Library rooftop wedding reception purple and black

MLK Library | Lissa Ryan

Hummingbird Bar and Kitchen Alexandria VA restaurant wedding

Hummingbird Bar + Kitchen | Benjamin McLean

We returned to 7 Favorite Wedding Venues in 2023

We revisited seven wedding venue favorites Meridian House, Riggs Hotel, The Line Hotel, Hotel Monaco, DAR, Riverside on the Potomac, and we returned to a private home in Virginia for the family’s second bat mitzvah. So, well over half of the venues we worked at in 2023 were brand new to us. Ten of the events were in DC, three were in Virginia, and four were in Maryland.

yellow centerpiece - Pretty Spring Meridian House Wedding with Catholic Ceremony
Meridian House | Corey Torpie
Meridian House DC Spring wedding - two brides - pink wedding
Meridian House | Terri Baskin
cheers - Moody Spring Riggs Hotel Rooftop Wedding

Riggs Hotel | Brittany Dunbar

The Line Hotel rooftop bride and groom

The Line | Astrid Photography

Virginia Bat Mitzvah - pink glitter cowgirl rodeo

Family Farm in Virginia | Procopio Photography

DAR Winter Wedding DC first dance band in Pennsylvania PA foyer

DAR | Astrid Photography – we danced in the Pennsylvania Foyer – a first for me!

2023 Real Wedding Data: Guest List RSVP Rates

2023 Wedding RSVP Acceptance rates graph chart

Our largest wedding had 155 guests, and the smallest had 43. 2022 was a year that saw the most weddings nationwide since the 1980s, yet we still reliably saw 20% of the guest list decline the wedding invitation. As we already know, the smaller the guest list, the more likely a guest will send a yes reply, and the bigger the guest list, the more the RSVP rate swings down. The average acceptance rate was 77%, with a high of 95% and a low of 42%. This data does not include the birthdya party nor the bat mitzvah. I was not privvy to those guest list figures!

Fall Cedar Knoll Restaurant wedding - wedding party fashion

2023 Real Wedding Data: Real Wedding Costs

2023 wedding cost per guest - real data

We had tiny weddings with a lot of splurges, large weddings that made every penny count, and everything in between. I am grateful to every couple who invests in us and trusts us with their big day.

This graph proves that the smaller your guest list, the more you will spend per guest, simply because you will have fixed costs (DJ, Photo, and Video as exmaples) that don’t change much with your guest count. This is different from pros like Catering and Flowers, which are variable costs dependent on your guest count.

The average spending per guest that I tracked was $793. Yes, my eyes are popping out of my head, too. As a reminder, these figures are definitely undercounted. I never know the attire/alterations/accessories expenses, and sometimes, I don’t know any of the stationery expenses. Small items such as hotel rooms are also unaccounted for in my analysis.

These figures do not include the birthdya party nor the bat mitzvah, as they would skew the data very very much.

2023 real wedding data: the services and the booking cycle

In 2023 we celebrated 15 marriages, one milestone birthday party and one bat mitzvah. Ten were management clients, six were partial planning clients (booking 2 of my 3 services), and one was a full planning client (booking all three services.) The management clients booked us an average of 7.7 months in advance. Partial planning clients booked us an average of 9.7 months in advance. This feels “normal” aka finally returning to 2019 vibes.

The Line Hotel DC wedding - blue bridesmaid dresses
Astrid Photography

2023 Real Wedding Data: All the Details

Our 2023 wedding parties were fabulous. Nine had balanced parties. Two had no attendants at all. Four couples included kids in their wedding party. Three prioritized siblings as members of the wedding party. The largest was 18 adult attendants – close but not a record-breaker for us!

Ten of our fifteen couples did a first look before the ceremony. Eight couples had a wedding ceremony outside. Four couples got married indoors at their venues as we originally planned, and three couples got married in a house of worship. One couple was married at the Alexandria Courthouse. Seven professional officiants were hired, and nine ceremonies were led by family members or friends. The math is funny here because one couple had both indoor and outdoor ceremonies! We never had to enact a rain plan in 2022 for any ceremonies. We did move dancing indoors for one chilly night.

Alexandria VA courthouse elopement
Benjamin McLean

At these wedding receptions, two couples sat at a round guest table, six couples had head tables, and seven couples sat at a sweetheart table. Six couples hired a DJ; eight couples hired a band. One couple had a jazz trio for cocktail hour and a playlist for the rest of the reception. Ten couples cut a wedding cake; almost all of them also served additional mini desserts. Eight of our couples gave out party favors. Usually, these were edible items, but bar-centric gifts like wine stoppers and koozies were also big hits. Six of our clients did an attire change – some between ceremony and reception, and others during the reception.

Only three couples hired a videographer, which makes me sad because wedding films are an investment in your legacy – not an optional nice-to-haves. Wouldn’t you love to have a video of your grandparents wedding? How will you explain to your grandchildren that you opted out of video, despite the technology being so accessible and pervasive.

The Line Hotel DC wedding - bride's sequin second dress

Astrid Photography

2023 Bellwether Events Highlights

We were featured in twenty-three (!!!) press items in 2023, thanks to our PR Firm, OFD Consulting. We’re thrilled to be in Destination I Do, CaterSource, The Knot, Jancis Robinson, Boho Weddings, Special Events, Wine Enthusiast and Wedding Chicks, among others.

Hummingbird Restaurant Alexandria Virginia wedding cake with calla lily chandelier

This was a design achievement for me this year, for sure. With a tiny wedding, we look for areas to make a big statement. This cake display was one place where I brought a dream to life, thanks to this incredible team of wedding pros. And shout out to a client who trusted all my wild ideas!

Benjamin McLean, Fluffy Thoughts Cakes, LynnVale Studios, Something Vintage

Terri Baskin, Cedar and Lime Co – this amazing arch went viral on socials, as it should have.
Bride and Groom convertible photo
Procopio Photography – I just love this photo so much. Gearheads, I love working with you.

Lessons Learned in 2023

Over-communicate and over-explain. Stay hydrated. Eat protein. I cannot move 200 chairs by myself in an hour. If someone other than me stays until the end of the event, the Earth will not stop spinning. You have to pay attention to the size of your head table and the amount of decor you’ve planned for it. More is more. A chair-free ceremony at a monument is not as terrifying as it seems. When it comes to the weather, all you can do is make the right decision given the information you have at the time and have no regrets. Little kids cry when they find out that the library is closed on a federal holiday. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Coming in 2024 for Bellwether Events

Four weddings are on the books for 2024 right now – I think that is our fewest ever. We still have open dates from June – December, so please reach out if you would like to schedule a chat. Referrals from other pros and venues mean the absolute world to us. We are also growing our team in 2025, and now is the time to book 2025 weddings. If you are open to working with a newer planner at a great rate, let me know.

If you liked this type of post, good news, I also wrote these in 2021, 2020, and 2019, too. Apologies to my twenty-two 2022 clients – I was just too tired to get this done!

If you want to see more from our 2023 weddings, check back for about a dozen posts covering all the fun things in the next couple of weeks!