It’s crystal clear in your head: Intimate, romantic vows under grand Spanish moss-draped oaks. Whimsical wedding party photography among cobblestone streets and iconic architecture. Decadent Southern dishes and bubbly savored in a gorgeous garden. Your Charleston wedding is dripping in Lowcountry charm and rich hospitality. It’s the perfect place to celebrate your one-of-a-kind love story.
There’s a lot to love about a Charleston destination wedding. Continuously named one of the country’s most romantic cities, a Charleston wedding sparkles with time-honored tradition, legendary venues and inspired culinary displays. This is your fairytale wedding unfolding in one of the country’s most adored locales.
You have the rings, you’ve set the date and you’ve landed on Charleston. Now, it’s time to hammer out some real numbers and start designing your day. Here, we break down the Charleston wedding planning journey into approachable, cost-transparent bites.
You’re Not Doing This Alone
First, know that Novela is here for you as a trusted partner in the wedding planning process. Think of us as your personal wedding concierge. We're here to help you design, book and finance the wedding of your dreams, one step at a time. More on how Novela can help you later, but first, let’s set the stage for your Charleston wedding.
Peak Charleston Wedding Seasons: A lead cost-driving factor is the date of your wedding. Will you be getting married on a prime Saturday in peak season? Or are you able to have your wedding on a non-peak day of the week during a non-peak month? Keep in mind that the season will play a part in which Charleston venues are available and certain coastal foods being fresh and sourceable.
Spring and fall are the most popular seasons for Charleston weddings. Outdoor nuptials sing in the mild late March to early June weather while popular fall months September and October offer comfortable warmth and the buzz of oyster shucking season.
The Big Six: Costs that Drive Wedding Budgets
Generally speaking, the following 6 categories will drive 80% or more of your total wedding budget:
Catering - 20%
Venue - 15%
Florals - 15%
Photography - 10%
Tents, Rentals & Decor - 10%
Planner - 10%
The following categories will cover the remaining ~20% of your wedding budget:
Musical Entertainment - 10%
Cake - 2%
Transportation - 2%
Stationary - 2%
Ceremony Music - 1%
Ceremony Officiant - 1%
Beauty - 1%
Gifts & Favors - 1%
Keep in mind that the categories above don’t include non-wedding-day event items such as engagement rings, wedding rings, wedding attire and alterations, rehearsal dinner costs, day-after brunch, gratuities, honeymoon, or other optional travel expenses related to hosting a destination wedding.
How you allocate your Charleston wedding budget will depend on your personal priorities and situation, but these are general guidelines that will help ensure smart, informed decisions.
One of the benefits of working with Novela’s complimentary wedding concierge service is that we’ll provide you with a detailed budget template for your Charleston wedding that incorporates all the average costs for each category within the market.
Breaking it Down
Now let’s take a closer look at Charleston wedding costs.
Charleston Wedding Venues
Average cost: $4,577 - $5,595
Ask this vendor: How many hours does the rental fee include, and is there an overtime fee if I stay longer? What is the cancellation policy? Do you allow fire pits, sparklers, fireworks, dogs, etc.? Is there a security fee and, if so, what is the timeframe in which it is returned? What licenses and insurances are needed when signing with a venue? Does the venue have a backup rain plan? Do you provide on-site accommodations or have partnerships with nearby hotels? Is there a bridal suite or a designated space for getting ready? Can we bring our own alcohol, and is there a corkage fee? Will there be an on-site coordinator or a point of contact to assist on the wedding day?
Budget tips: Set your budget and guest count and stick to it. Ideally, this will be the first thing you book. Talk to family who might be contributing and set a budget max that everyone is comfortable with. Secure your venue dates and lock in your venue and current pricing as soon as possible. Factor in security deposit, gratuity and cleanup costs. Ask about catering and alcohol licensing and offerings.
Charleston Wedding Photography
Average starting package cost: $2,003 - $2,448
Ask this vendor: How would you describe your style? Are you a full-time photographer? How long have you been in business? Do you have a second professional photographer that works with you? How many weddings do you shoot each year? Are there travel fees? Is an engagement shoot and wedding album included? What’s your photo backup system? Are usage rights included or do we need to purchase rights to prints? What are your different wedding photography packages, and what do they include? How many hours of coverage are included in your packages? Can we extend coverage if needed? Do you offer retouching or additional editing services, and is there an extra fee for this? How long will it take to receive the final edited images?
Budget tips: Determine how much you can allocate for photography services within your overall wedding budget. Assess which extras are essential to you — do you want an engagement session, photo albums and prints? Ask if the photographer offers customizable packages where you can select specific services or hours of coverage that fit your needs. Remember: After your day has come and gone, the photos will remain. Photography is an area where you might want to go big.
Charleston Wedding Planners
Average cost for full wedding planning services: $3,425 - $4,186
Ask this vendor: How many weddings have you planned, and how long have you been in the wedding planning industry? Does my current vision match what I’m willing to spend? What things should I keep in mind to stay within budget (this usually starts with guest count!) How do you typically approach wedding planning? Are there any additional costs I should be aware of? What is the difference between the services or packages you offer? Can you customize wedding planning services to suit my specific needs?
Budget tips: Having a seasoned wedding planner, designer or coordinator on your team is crucial and can actually help save you money in the end by leveraging high-level expertise and industry connections. That said, be sure to clearly communicate your top priorities to your wedding planner so they can allocate the budget accordingly. Ask if they can customize a package to suit your needs and budget. Prefer a little bit of DIY? Consider hiring a wedding planner for partial planning services or day-of coordination instead of full-service planning.
Charleston Wedding Catering
Average cost: $7,047 - $8,613
Ask this vendor: Have you catered events at our venue? Are you licensed to serve alcohol? Will you provide an on-site coordinator who will run the entire event? Do we have to work off a preset menu or can you create a custom menu? Can you accommodate dietary restrictions, such as kosher, vegan? Is coffee and tea service included with the per-person meal charge? Do you charge a cake-cutting fee? What is your policy on cleanup?
Budget tips: The Charleston culinary scene is bursting with talented highly qualified caterers that have industry connections and are known for top-quality service. Having a team that’s really well versed in logistics and your particular venue will save everyone time and ensure your guests’ enjoyment. If you need to trim down, consider serving only beer, wine and champagne. For cocktail hour, select three specific passed appetizers or arrange for themed help-yourself food stations. Choose local and in-season ingredients and don’t be shy about asking your caterer to explain which cuts of beef or types of fish cost more than others.
Charleston Wedding Floral Designers
Average cost: $2,127 - $2,599
Ask this vendor: How long have you been in business? Do you have travel fees? What about delivery, set-up and breakdown fees? Do you have a working relationship with my chosen venue and planner? What is the difference between the services or packages you offer? What flowers do you recommend based on our venue, season and wedding color palette? Can you help us create statement pieces or personalized floral touches? Tell me about flower transport and staffing on the day of my wedding. Can you preserve my bridal bouquet after the wedding?
Budget tips: Set your budget and outline floral design ideas that are must-haves or non-negotiables. Build out from there. Choose florals that are in-season, non-exotic and locally grown. Add lots of bright, healthy greenery to fill out your bouquets and candles to fill out table centerpieces. Plan to re-use flowers from your ceremony at the reception. Keep an open mind — professional floral designers know what’s accessible and have close relationships with trusted purveyors. Give them creative freedom to choose the most beautiful and seasonally available flowers.
Charleston Wedding Rentals
Average cost: $1,765 - $2,157
Ask this vendor: Do you provide site inspections with your service? How long is the rental period? Do you have delivery, installation and breakdown fees? Will there be an onsite manager the day of our wedding? Have you set up tents and decor at this particular wedding venue? Do you have tips on how to arrange for optimal guest experience and flow? Do you handle any permits that might be required? Are there additional taxes and service charges to factor in?
Budget tips: Rent decor, lighting and linens instead of buying them. Bring in sentimental items from home such as framed photos, records, books and keepsakes. Focus on what your photographer will focus on—splurge on tablescapes and cocktail hour specialty drink glassware and give your guests a wow moment when they walk into the reception space. Use Charleston’s stunning architecture, trees and seaside vistas as natural ceremony and reception backdrops.
Enjoy the Wedding Planning Experience
Now that you’ve identified what’s most important to you and put some thought into the Big Six, it’s time to select vendors, delegate tasks and figure out how it all fits together. Working with a Novela wedding concierge and expert Charleston wedding planner can help elevate the entire wedding planning journey.
In fact, hiring a professional coordinator or planner may be the wisest decision a couple can make during their engagement. Consider varying tiers of planning services: full planning and curated design, partial planning, month-of coordination or day-of coordination. This planner also serves as your wedding day management team, allowing you to completely be in the moment.
It’s important to remember the value of your own time. Calling in a pro wedding coordinator to do the heavy day-of lifting and allowing Novela to hand-pick your vendor recommendations and help you throughout the wedding planning process are crucial to enjoying your engagement. Call on Novela’s concierge services to streamline your design, planning logistics and vendor selection.
Pro Tip: Contracts + Clear Expectations
These factors additionally affect the price of your wedding: A vendor’s years in the industry, hours of coverage and whether they include an assistant, site visits and additional planning meetings leading up to your wedding day. Make a plan as you enter into agreements with each vendor and ensure expectations and costs are crystal clear.
A Friend in the Industry
Working with Novela is like having a trusted friend — one with copious insider knowledge and industry connections — by your side every step of the way. We’ll match you with an expert wedding concierge to customize your wedding day plan, including Charleston vendor recommendations, detailed pricing options, a high-level budget framework, and a customized checklist just for you.
Find your perfect venue, book all your Charleston vendors, and finance your wedding at 0% interest — all in one place. Novela is the first transactional one-and-done wedding planning company.