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. In 2019, the average wedding cost was $28,000. Twenty-Eight Thousand!
Now let me clarify, that amount is the average cost of the ceremony and reception. That figure does not include the honeymoon, engagement ring or even wedding rings. Those additional costs average $10,000. Wow.
That being said, I love weddings. I loved planning my own and I enjoy attending wedding celebrations. If you are newly engaged, congratulations! There’s nothing like being a witness to a love story. And it's possible to have an amazing wedding on a budget.
Why are weddings 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 throw and ask your loved ones to celebrate with you. There’s food, music, location, and outfits to consider. But don’t leave your other financial goals and budgets behind.
Most common wedding expenses
Let’s take a look at some of the most common average wedding costs.
The average cost for a plated meal is $40 per person and a buffet-style is $27 per person.
An estimate for each cake slice is between $4 to $5 per guest. However, in cities like Manhattan and San Francisco, these figures can be more than doubled.
Wedding attire, planning, and photography
The amount a bride spends on a wedding dress varies by state. To see how your state fairs, check out this article. New York tops the list while northern Midwestern states like North Dakota and South Dakota are where brides spend the least.
According to the Knot, on average, brides are shelling out $1,631 for a wedding dress, $2,679 for a photographer and $2,002 for a wedding planner. As a result, it’s obvious why those average wedding costs can add up quickly.
Wondering how much it costs to get married? Use this wedding budget breakdown
As I planned my own wedding, I prioritized the things that were most important to me. For some, it might be wedding attire, the best DJ or live band, great food or perhaps having a plethora of lush flowers. Whatever it may be, weddings can be expensive! But do they have to be?
Keeping in mind that the average cost of a wedding will vary by region and season, let’s break down the average wedding budget.
The average wedding budget
Here are some percentage specifics according to Real Simple:
- 50% of your total wedding budget should be allocated to the reception.
- 10% to attire which includes gown, alterations, veil, bridal accessories, and the groom’s suit or tux.
- 10% of the budget would encompass flowers and decor which includes the floral arrangements for the ceremony and reception, bridal bouquet and lighting.
- Photography and/or video can make up another 10% of the budget.
- Wedding rings, transportation, officiant fees, ceremony site fees, favors, gifts, wedding stationery, music, and entertainment will eat up the remainder 20% of the wedding budget.
Be sure to check out the free Clever Girl Finance course on how to plan a fabulous wedding on a budget. It also includes a wedding budget template and other useful resources.
Hidden costs of a wedding
There are always additional wedding costs, so plan for them. These hidden costs can sneak up on you. 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.
You don’t have to go into debt to have a beautiful wedding. (Please don’t). Even the costs of a simple backyard wedding can add up quickly when you take into account additional lighting, table, and chair rentals. Having a budget for miscellaneous expenses could save you from financial wedding stress.
How to achieve your financial goals and pay for a wedding
As all Clever Girls know, 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.
Communicate with your partner
Don’t leave your partner out of the wedding planning conversation. 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 by you and your partner? If it is more than the two of you paying for the wedding, be sure to know exactly 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. 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. What outstanding debt do you and your partner have? Student loans, car notes, engagement ring purchase?
Hash out the small details
What type of wedding celebration do you want? How many guests? Full dinner or appetizers and desserts only? In addition, to the wedding fund, do you have a honeymoon fund and a regular emergency fund?
Don’t despair if you haven’t been stashing cash away for wedding expenses. Take a look at your budget and determine how much you and your partner can save up in the next several months. $500 a month? $1,000 a month?
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 strong 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.
Be wise, cautious and have the wedding you want. Once you have your debt-free wedding be sure to tag us by using #CGFwedding we’d love to celebrate with you!