We didn’t spend a ton of money on food (about $30 per person, including appetizers) but it was really good – we had a great chef – and people definately noticed. We had a lot of people ask us who catered (although I have to say that I think part of the reason the food was so good is that our chef came with the venue – his kitchen was there. I have not had a lot of good "trucked-in" food, and I think that food catered off the premises is perhaps more likely to be dried out, overcooked, and generally inedible.)
We spent about $1500 on our band, who played all evening. We definately could have spent less (and certainly could have spent more) but the band was great – and everybody really enjoyed the music. The music and dancing is definately our greatest memory of the evening – because frankly you don’t get to eat a lot at your own wedding.
The cake was really great – not just to eat but as far as decorating. we had it decorated with a whole list of words related to marriage and our relationship. Not only did people eat almost all of it, but they spent a lot of time reading it. Every one of our guests who sent pictures has a dozen of the cake! It was about $800 for 150 really generous servings so again, not on the cheap side but certainly less than we could have spent.
I would agree that you have to set your priorities – where you spend your money will depend on what is important to you. We didn’t really "splurge" on any one thing, IMO (we did the whole thing for just under $15k). What we tried to do was to find something really nice for a price we could afford, in every case. And you really don’t have to spend a ton of money. My cousin got married last weekend, and her FI’s sisters did the food – which was homemade tamales, enchiladas, posole, spanish rice, and carne asada – and it was fantastic. We went back for seconds. I think that people get into thinking that more money equals more better, but you absolutely don’t have to spend $5000 to get nice wedding photos, or $100 a head to get really good food. Shop around, think about what YOU like and what YOU want, and don’t get suckered into thinking that you have to spend a lot.
And I do have to say something about the dress. I spent ~$700 on my whole kit – dress, shoes, undergarments, veil – including alterations. If you fall in love with a $5000 dress, I can certainly understand that. But you can absolutely get a gorgeous and well-made dress, at an actual bridal salon, for well under $1000. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to order internet, or shop at DB, or buy secondhand – although those are all reasonable options, I would do some actual shopping first, because it’s likely you CAN get a dress made just for you at an affordable price, and support a locally-owned business at the same time.