A wedding is something we hope that we will only need to pay for once in our lifetimes, but when you factor in the high rate of divorce and the fact that parents are often lumbered with the cost of their kids’ weddings, this is usually far from the truth.
The average cost of a wedding in the US is around $25,000, which is a good ballpark figure for the average couple. But there is more to it than that. In this guide we will look at the average cost of a wedding (and its constituent parts) and the ways that you can reduce these costs.
How Much Does a Wedding Cost?
The average cost of a wedding is $25,000, a mentioned above, but it’s worth noting that over half of all couples will spend less than $15,000 on their big day, while a small number will spend in excess of $50,000.
The amount you spend is really down to you and it’s something that is hard to budget for. Unlike buying an engagement ring or car, it’s not something that follows a simple format, but just like those things, it’s something that can have a major impact on your life, your future with your partner, and your financial well-being.
One of the biggest mistakes that young couples make is to borrow a lot of money for their wedding and then spend the first decade of their married life paying it off. They go from debt-free singletons to a bankrupt couple—all for the sake of an official document. It’s crazy, and it’s why you should always budget, always look to cut corners, and never listen to the people who insist that a wedding is like a vacation in that, “You should just spend today and think about the consequences tomorrow”.
You want the big day to be special, but not so special that it ruins the rest of your married life, especially when you consider that financial issues are one of the leading causes of divorce.
Wedding Cost Breakdown
To help you save money and understand where your money is going, take a look at this wedding vast breakdown.
Average Wedding Photographer Cost
You can save money by hiring a friend to act as a wedding photographer, but this is not something we would recommend. We have seen this go wrong many times, and when you consider that those pictures will be a physical representation of your wedding day for the rest of your life (and the lives of your children and grandchildren) it needs to be special.
If you shop around you can get a very good photographer for $1,000 to $1,500. The average spend on a wedding photographer is $1,600, but you can expect to pay up to $4,000 for an experienced professional.
- Average Cost = $1,600.
- Upper Limit = $4,000+.
- Your Goal = $1,300 or less.
Average Wedding Dress Cost
The average cost of a wedding dress in the United States is $1,100, but if you want a designer label and/or a bespoke dress then that can increase to $5,000 and beyond.
This is an area in which few brides will want to sacrifice and it’s understandable. The budget conscious may want to consider renting a dress, bearing in mind that it will only be worn once, but if this is an area that you refuse to budge on then at least look into renting dresses for the bridesmaids’ and the groom.
- Average Cost = $1,100.
- Upper Limit = $5,000+.
- Your Goal = $1,100 or Less.
Average Wedding Cake Cost
A good wedding cake can cost hundreds, even though few people actually like the cake offered at the average wedding. And if you go for a grand and glorious cake, then you can pay upwards of $1,000.
This is an area in which you really can save a lot. Try an alternative that guests will appreciate, one that will stand out for being unique and innovative, as opposed to an overpriced traditional cake. Cupcake towers have become popular for this reason, but you can also build towers out of candies and other treats to really impress, and to save hundreds in the process.
- Average Cost = $450.
- Upper Limit = $1,000+.
- Your Goal = $150 or Less.
This is where the big money is spent and where the big money can also be saved. The average spend on a wedding venue is around $3,800, but that includes catering and other essentials. Due to the huge difference in venue and catering, this can climb as high as $9,000.
The easiest way to save money is to have the event in a family home or an outdoor space. This may be more suited to the wedding dinner or to the evening event—whatever works best for you.
An outdoor space like a beach or a garden will still cost money and involve some planning, but it can save you huge amounts and you can then simply hire a catering company to serve you and your guests.
If this isn’t your sort of thing then shop around to try and get a cheaper venue and remember that these venues can negotiate on the price. They may be able to knock some money off the total, they may be able to give you some free services. But you won’t get anything if you don’t ask.
- Average Cost = $3,800.
- Upper Limit = $9,000+.
- Your Goal = $2,500 or less.
Other Major Spends
The average cost of wedding flowers is between $300 and $350. This is an area in which it is difficult to budget. Just know that a little can go a long way. Don’t go for expensive roses on every table and in every corner—try spreading some color around.
Look for budget foliage and flowers that can keep everything fresh and beautiful without blowing the budget.
Wedding bands are often made of 14k to 18k gold and little else. These rings contain gold that is worth a fraction of the price tag and you’re really just paying for the craftsmanship as well as a “wedding tax”.
Shop around and you will be able to find rings that are just as pretty and contain just as much pure gold, but are available for a fraction of the price. You can also opt for a cheaper metal like silver.
Americans spend $1,500 on wedding rings on average, but in reality you could be spending half this without sacrificing quality.
The average price paid for a full service wedding planner in the United States is just under $3,000, with some charging up to $7,000. If you want a big wedding and you don’t have the time to arrange it, then this can be an essential purchase. But if you want to cut as many corners as possible then consider doing the work yourself, roping friends and family in to help you where you can.
There are many more costs involved with a wedding, many more things that you need to consider. This is why the average wedding goes at least 50% over budget–things just keep appearing. Just when you think you have it all sorted and planned, you remember something else.
There are other ways that you can save, but as with the wedding costs discussed above, you have to be prepared to cut corners:
Save The Dates can set you back up to $200 if you go all out for premium invitations and have to send these to dozens of guests. Opt for a free e-invite instead, adding a couple’s video or picture along with it to give it a personal touch.
A live band or DJ could cost upwards of $500 for the night. But there are other ways to entertain the guests, and by that time most of them will be drunk anyway. Ask a friend’s band to perform (we all know one) and pay them in free drinks or set-up a karaoke machine. If you have a really musical family and friendship circle, a microphone, a few instruments, and an open invitation will be all you need to get free entertainment.
Catering is expensive and a wedding typically involves a luxury three-course meal. Try saving money by skipping a course, offering a candy cart in place of a dessert, or simply by inviting fewer people to the wedding dinner and focusing more on the evening’s entertainment.
This is a tough one, but you don’t have to provide free booze. Some bars will let you host the evening entertainment there on the knowledge that you will bring in a lot of drinkers who will spend big. This is a great negotiating tactic, so make sure you use it well. You can also ask guests to bring booze instead of wedding gifts. Not only will they ensure the wedding is fully stocked, but at least half of them will also still bring a proper gift.