I really think it's a matter of location. I'm in a smaller town in NW Ohio and my budget is $5000 for 200-250 guests. (265 actually will be invited, but my future hubby and his mom think that close to 45-50 of those people won't be able to make it just because they're older/busy/VERY far away.) There are a few things my budget DOESN'T include, though. My dress, accessories, and shoes are being covered by my mom. She never got her dream wedding dress, and wanted to make sure I do. Also, my future hubby is covering beer/booze/soda/mixers for the reception, the rehearsal dinner, and of course, the honeymoon.
My reception hall is $475 (it's a hall owned by the local park district, that's why it's so cheap. also it's JUST the hall- no catering or any other options included). It does include tables and chairs, so I don't have to worry about that. I could have gotten a place that had everything included (food, beer, booze, etc), but honestly, by the time I'd have gotten food and even just beer for my guests at that place, I'd have been over budget. And that didn't include the amount of money for the church/organist, no decorations, guest book, unity candle, or anything. And to tell you the truth, I like the hall I've got better. It's newer, decorated more in my fiance and I's tastes (we are, what you could say, "country bumpkins"...no redneck/camo themed wedding or anything, but the hall is out in the country in almost the middle of nowhere, and that fits us totally), and just totally perfect for us. Also, it's not as ritzy as the other place.
We're doing the food ourselves (well, we're "hiring" friends to do it, but you know what I mean...). Caterers in our area are a MAX of $15 a head, with the avg price being about $8. BUT, we don't care for the caterers around here (their food tastes like cardboard) and are therefore hitting GFS and having a friend roast a hog (something ALOT of our guests enjoy, and practically expect coming from us). By the time all's said and done, I'll have food for an estimated 250 guests for less than $4 a head. And that's including what we're paying our friends to set it up.
Max for a photographer in my area is $1800 (not sure what all that includes, though- never checked him out) but mine is going to be $1200 and I get alot of "stuff" plus GREAT coverage. There's going to be 2 photogs there for the ceremony and reception. One does the more posed shots, while the other one does the detail shots. One is male, one is female, so I will be letting the girl in the room while I'm getting dressed, so she can get those types of shots. There's also another girl (for just the posed portraits before and after the ceremony) to make sure necklaces are straight, bra straps aren't showing, guys' pockets aren't inside out, etc....
Honestly, you're probably looking at the prices I've given you for my vendors and thinking, "I'm ready to move to Ohio." lol. OK, maybe not...lol. I really do agree with you and think it's all in where you're located. My town is about an hour south of Toledo, OH, and to tell you the truth, I seriously doubt that I'd even get these prices in Toledo (which is NOWHERE near as big as NYC...lol). I'm sorry I don't have many tips for you. I'm doing my invitations myself on the computer, along with my Save The Date magnets, programs, and thank you cards. I totally lucked out on my cake baker. She's one of those ladies who does it out of her home (no overhead...lol...gotta like that), and doesn't do it very often unless it's for a friend or a friend of a friend. I happen to be a friend of a friend, so I lucked out and am getting a baker who will do a castle cake (yes, I'm having a Cinderella theme) for just $1.25 a slice. (Good luck finding that ANYWHERE in NY state!! lol.) As far as my flowers, both my fiance and I have BAD allergies, as do most of our families, so we're going with silks. It actually works out for me better...I LOVE peace roses and was able to find silk versions that look amazingly real. Florists in my area don't even know WHAT a peace rose is, much less carry them!
Like I said before, sorry I couldn't give you more tips, but hope that I was able to confirm your suspicions about location having more to do with it than everyone thinks. (Trust me, guys, IT DOES!!!) Congrats, and happy planning!!