Weddings are these magical things that can turn dreams into reality. We dream of having our "Best Day Ever." However, this dream can have a hefty price tag, as the average wedding cost shows.
You may be wondering, how much does it cost to get married? The average wedding price is about $27,000.
For most of us, that's a lot of money! But don't worry, it's possible to have a fantastic wedding on a budget, too.
Why is the average wedding cost so expensive?
A wedding is an exciting way to celebrate your love and the start of your marriage. It's probably one of the most elaborate events you will ever throw and ask your loved ones to celebrate with you.
Of course, the average cost of a wedding and the median cost of a wedding depends on many factors.
There's food, music, location, and outfits to consider for your big day. Also, the bigger the guest list, the higher the price tag. Another reason a price can increase for a wedding is what day of the week and season you have it in.
So, that being said, let's dive into what the common wedding expenses are. Then you can decide how much money you really want to spend on your big day.
How much does it cost to get married? Average wedding price breakdown
It may help to have a look at what percent of the budget goes for each category for a wedding. In addition, there are hidden costs that you may not have considered yet.
Budget and percentages
Here is a breakdown of wedding costs based on percentages of your budget according to The Knot:
- 30% of your total wedding budget can be allocated to the venue.
- 6% to attire which includes gown, bridal accessories, and the groom's suit or tux.
- 7% of the budget would encompass flowers.
- Photography and/or video can make up another 13% of the budget.
- Decorations and lights take up about 5% of the overall budget.
- Wedding rings, transportation, officiant fees, wedding stationery, music, entertainment, and other random things will eat up the remaining 39% of the wedding budget.
Hidden costs of a wedding day
We covered the average cost of a wedding, but there are always additional wedding costs. There's so much more to plan for than just the cost of the ceremony and some food at the reception.
You definitely want to plan for extra expenses in your wedding budget breakdown. Some of these sneaky costs include:
- Additional postage for wedding invitations and thank you notes.
- Tax and gratuity for your vendors.
- Printing wedding photos and ordering wedding albums.
- Those pesky cake-cutting and corkage fees.
All of these things can add up to more than you originally planned to spend. To avoid this, have a budget for miscellaneous expenses associated with the wedding.
Most common wedding expenses that drive the average wedding price
We've looked at the percentage of your budget you'll likely spend on certain things, but what are the real numbers? Here are some common expenses and their price tags.
- Catering: $75 per person
- Wedding cake: $350
- Wedding dress: $1800
- Photographer: $2,000
- Videographer: $1800
- Venue: $10,500
- Wedding planner: $1,700
How much does the average wedding cost in different states?
Different states may have cost differences for wedding expenses. Remember this if you plan on having a destination wedding somewhere other than where you live.
But how much does it cost to get married in various states? According to Insider, the six most expensive states to get married, with the average prices, are:
- New Jersey: $53,400
- Rhode Island: $49,800
- New York: $48,600
- Massachusetts: $43,600
- Connecticut: $41,000
- Washington D.C.: $40,600
However, they also share the least expensive states:
- Utah: $19,700
- Wyoming: $19,800 -tied
- Montana: $19,800 -tied
- Idaho: $19,800 -tied
- Oklahoma: $21,200
- Arkansas: $21,800
As you can see, the cost of a wedding can really vary depending on the location. Which is something to consider when planning, in addition to other factors.
However, since you may be limited to a certain state because of guests or where you live, there are other ways to cut costs, as you'll see in the next section.
How to lower the average wedding cost for your event
With all the costs you've heard about up until now, you've probably gathered that weddings can be quite an expense. And of course, you want your big day to be amazing, but that doesn't mean you want to spend every last cent you have on it.
So how can you cut costs and still have the wedding of your dreams? Try these ideas to help with the average cost of a wedding!
Smaller guest list
Fewer people means you pay for fewer plates of food and cake, less seating, and possibly a smaller venue. While cutting the guest list isn't something everyone can or is willing to do, if you want to save significantly, send out fewer invites.
Different food options
People will expect to eat something when they come to your wedding, but that doesn't necessarily mean it has to be the most expensive option. You can mix things up and serve appetizers and desserts instead of dinner.
Another option is to have a buffet rather than a sit-down dinner. Buffet costs are typically less than catering, so you can save some money.
Time of day and day of week
A lot of people assume that the only time you can get married is on a Friday or Saturday evening. But there are plenty of other times available, and they usually cost less!
While you may need to have a weekend celebration due to guests' schedules, you can have a morning or afternoon wedding instead of an evening. Or if possible, have your wedding during the week, which will likely save you money.
More inexpensive venue
Before you commit to a specific place to have the wedding, consider less expensive options. For example, there are country clubs and 5-star hotels, but there are also plenty of other (less expensive) wedding venue options, like beaches, churches, and other less traditional buildings, like community centers or even Airbnbs.
If you're creative, some decorations are easy to DIY and will look just as nice. For example, you can make your table centerpiece instead of buying it, or get creative with bridesmaid’s bouquet options or bridal bouquet.
Of course, be mindful of costs, because it's easy to spend so much on supplies that you don't actually save money, so run the numbers first.
Don't serve alcohol
An added cost for weddings is alcohol. If you want to, you can skip this by not serving beer or cocktails at your reception. Instead, you can stick to coffee, tea, and maybe non-alcoholic cocktails.
Rent a wedding gown
A wedding gown is a beautiful treasure, but you really only wear it once. And they're expensive! If you aren't concerned about the sentimental value, you can rent your wedding dress as opposed to buying it.
Or you can purchase one and then resell it after the wedding to get back a portion of the cost.
Choose a different time of year
Prime wedding season is usually the end of spring, through summer, and into the beginning of fall. Usually, temperatures are mild and this is helpful for outdoor weddings. However, you can do things differently.
You could choose to get married during a less popular season, like November, January, March, and April. You can possibly have a lot of things you want at a cheaper price.
Before deciding, compare costs at the venue, caterer, etc., you're considering. See what season is the least expensive.
You may need to take into account that your wedding might need to be indoors, and you should be prepared for weather like snow or rain depending on the season.
How to achieve your financial goals while paying for a wedding
Having a budget is key to reaching your financial goals. Before you subscribe to bridal magazines, schedule venue tours, or book a dress shopping appointment, know what you can spend before you spend it.
If you're looking at the median cost of a wedding and it's too expensive, it doesn't mean you have to spend that amount.
Here are a few tips to help you stay focused on your goals while paying for a wedding:
Communicate with your partner
Don't leave your partner out of the wedding planning conversation. Remember, communication is key. They might not care about floral arrangements; however, the two of you should be open and honest about the expected contributions.
Determine who is paying for what
Will the wedding be solely paid for by you and your partner? If it is more than the two of you paying for the wedding, know precisely the amount of the contribution and when you will receive it.
You can't properly budget for a wedding if you don't know the total money coming in. Don't make assumptions about whether parents or other relatives will contribute to wedding costs.
Be wary of any strings attached to any wedding contributions you accept. For example, will your parents want to add an additional 20 guests to the list since they are helping you pay for wedding costs?
Avoid wedding debt
Starting a marriage with wedding debt is not advised, and it's unnecessary. Instead, make a plan so that your finances support your wedding plans. The average length a couple in the U.S. is engaged is 12 to 18 months.
So use that time to make a plan to pay off debt and start saving towards your wedding. Think about the outstanding debt you and your partner have.
Hash out the small details with a budget
What type of wedding celebration do you want? How many guests? Full dinner or appetizers and desserts only?
Don't despair if you haven't been stashing cash away for wedding expenses. Take a look at your budget and the median cost of a wedding, and determine how much you and your partner can save up in the next several months.
$500 a month? Maybe $1,000 in a month? Every dollar counts towards your goal!
And remember that making a budget together and discussing it along the way will help. Find the total you're comfortable spending and the total you'll spend for each part of the event.
Try to communicate about costs and discuss who is paying for what. It might help to get together once a week or once a month to talk about money. That way, you can ensure you're sticking with your budget.
Now you know how to plan for average wedding costs!
You may find the average wedding cost to be relatively high, but a wedding is just one financial goal.
Choose the wedding expenses that you care about the most and cut all others. Prioritize those things that you really want to splurge on and figure out where you can save.
I'm a firm believer that no one should determine how you spend your money except for you. Budgeting and planning will give you the freedom to be unapologetic about what you do and don't spend money on.
There is no rule book on how much you should spend. In most states, you can get a marriage license for less than $100.