So here's the average cost breakdown for a DC-area wedding (basing this off my sister's wedding & my experiences so far with our venue hunt)-
Reception & Ceremony Space - average cost is $3-4k (Brookside Gardens and the Aquarium are both $3,000+ tenting/extra guests).
Photographer - average cost is $2-5k.
Food - if you look at food including the cost of table/chair rentals, the cost is going to be something like $110-150 per person. (Our current guest list is something like 175 people - which is a cost of about 17k for food.)
So the baseline cost for the things that you "need" - a space, a photographer, and food - to have a nice wedding is around $20,000.
There are other things that are the big ways to spend or save money depending on your priority.
Dress - this ranges - its pretty easy to find something in the $500-$1500 range, especially if you aren't picky about fabric.
Hair - you can try to go budget like we did but that was a disaster. It's gonna be at least $100 unless you fight the crappy salon that did a crap job and get half your money back.
Tux - costs about $150.
Invitations - this is a broad range - You can find invites that cost $1 an invite, or they can cost $8 an invite.
Flowers - a bridal bouquet will usually cost $150 in the DC/Baltimore area, bridesmaids will be something like $75.
DJ - can be around $1,000, or you use an ipod.
This is why you have to sit down and talk about what is really important to you about a budget and how to stay within budget - Miss Joey tackles this issue, as does the former Miss Flop Flop. We haven't done this yet. I haven't talked to anyone about who is paying, how we're paying, or how much is appropriate to spend on a wedding in a recession.
There are issues with people's expectations - my family has fancy, sit down dinner weddings with music and dancing. Mr. M-A is the first one to get married in his family of his generation, so we can set the standard there. I guess we can tell our family that having a wedding lunch is a British thing and maybe that will reduce expectations.