I'm three months out but the biggest deciding factor in the expense budget will be your guest list. The more people = more $$$$. Almost every single venue/caterer will require a per plate price, so for every person you invite that will add up your bill. You can look around for slightly cheaper caterers or venues that have a reasonable per plate price depending on what you wanna do - but if your guest list is big so will your final budget be.
The best advice is to allocate about 50/60% of your budget to venue/food/alcohol. Finding a venue that does a semi or all inclusive package (where you pay on per person rate rather then a venue rental fee, and also a per plate price for the caterer) can save you some money. However decide what your budget is, cut it in half, then divide that by the amount of people you want to invite. That final number will be what you should look to pay per person (including fees/gratuity). If it seems too low you need to either cut your guest list or up your budget.
In ranking order: Venue : $5,900 Dress: ~$3,000 (after alterations, veil, etc) Catering for 65 ppl. : $2,900 (Small, backwoods caterer &owner of our venue, unbelievable prices and heaping plates of delicious food) Everything else added made a grand total of about 20k-ish.
We opted to have our wedding in Ohio instead of the DMV where we live. Easily cut our costs in half, if not more.
So far, our biggest expense has been our venue. It came in at $8,000. I was expecting our catering to be outrageous for 300 people, but we got an amazing deal at $10 per plate, so that was a huge relief. I believe that's our second biggest expense and then photographer will come in third. Everything has been a lot more doable than expected, so this planning has been a breeze.
The most expensive was the venue/catering. My venue was semi-inclusive. The per person rate included food, alcohol, cake, ceremony space, venue.
Food and drink was the largest, ceremony site and photography tied for second. Our reception site was free - it was the gorgeous event room at our favorite restaurant. Free with a $750 minimum which we easily met, lol.
The total bill to the venue was about $26k and that included the venue space rentals for ceremony and reception, all food and drinks, as well as the room decor for both spaces, and DOC. We hosted about 125 people.
Catering was the most expensive for us. Along with the photographer.
Venue (same for reception and ceremony) 4500
Those are all of our major expenses! I kept decor cheap, we're doing slacks and ties for the guys instead of tuxes, and we're having a friend do videography. The venue was definitely the expense I thought I could get lower but they were way more expensive than I thought!
Our was the catering - our venue was actually free cause it was in house catering so that's how they made their money. 99 guests, our catering with tax/service fee came to about $4500 - that includes the meal and alcohol.