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Average Wedding Cost – All the Facts and Figures

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Getting married is one of the most special feelings a person can experience in their life. Whatever discussions and statistics people may float around the subject of marriage nowadays none of them can negate the fact of how amazing it is to vow yourself to your beloved for the rest of your life.

And yet, there is one annoying statistic that does tend to sour the mood at least a little bit – the average wedding cost most people face before they can start their family life.

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“How much should I spend on my wedding?” is a question that a lot of people ask themselves before they get married but the closer the wedding day gets that question often turns to “How much am I going to spend on my wedding exactly?!”

So, let’s take a deeper look at how much weddings cost, why they cost that much, and what can you do to moderate the often stunning prices at least a little bit.

What’s the median wedding cost in the U.S.?

Girl holding Champagne in wedding part

The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. will vary a lot depending on which site or research you look up, but most statistics put it between $30,000 and $35,000 for the last couple of years. That is a bit of a pointless statistic, however, as that number can fluctuate very much from state to state.

To give you some frame of reference, the average cost of a wedding in Manhattan, New York is north of $70,000 according to some estimates and $80,000 according to others. And this high level remains consistent throughout the rest of the state with New Jersey and Long Island both being over $60,000 on average as well.

On the other end of the spectrum, weddings in states like New Mexico, Alabama, Idaho, Mississippi, Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, Arkansas, and some others, consistently cost below $20,000 on average, with some weddings going for even less than $10,000.

What factors contribute to these high costs?

Outdoors wedding venue

Venues are often the biggest cost

There are multiple things that factor into the cost of a wedding, and while some of them can be tweaked a bit in terms of price, others are almost always expensive.

  • First and foremost, the city and state of the wedding will have a drastic effect on the overall price as we mentioned above.
  • The number of guests you’re going to invite is also crucial since every new guest adds to almost every item you have to spend on.
  • The venue is probably the most expensive part of wedding planning and the one on which people spend the largest chunk of money. This of course varies depending on where the venue is – in the city center (will naturally cost more), the beach, a farm? This is one aspect that you can save big on if you’re willing to compromise.  
  • The time of year you’ve picked and whether it’s in the peak season. Most weddings – some say close to 80% of them – fall between May and October with late summer and early fall being the most popular and most expensive period.
  • The décor you’ve chosen for the reception venue can also be quite expensive. It’s often a deceptive component in the overall price of the wedding as it’s composed of a lot of smaller things such as backdrops, flowers, decorations, and so on, each of which cost a negligible sum but that quickly accumulate to a scary number when you add them up together.

Who typically pays for the wedding?

While we’re talking about the median wedding cost, it’s worth examining who actually pays that cost. The tradition in the Western world for centuries has been that the family of the bride bears the most significant parts of the overall price.

In recent decades that tradition has slowly been negated but is still valid – throughout most of the United States, the brides’ families still pay most of the bills – roughly between 45% and 55% depending on the economic standard of the family. The family of the groom, on the other hand, usually spends just between 10% and 15%.

The rest of the expenses, which usually amount to anywhere between 30% and 40% on average, are covered by the bride and groom themselves, often with the help of a loan or credit.

The distribution of these expenses is also relatively standardized as the bride’s family will often take care of the reception venue expenses, which are the most significant expenses anyway.

The bride and the groom usually pay for things such as an engagement ring, the band, the photographer, and so on, which can also sum up to a rather significant percentage of the overall wedding cost.

The groom’s family, on the other hand, is usually given responsibility for just one or two of the more negligible expenses such as paying for the ceremony site, helping with the housing of the guests, and so on.

The reason we’re pointing this out and why it’s important if you want to try and tweak your future wedding’s cost is that by knowing who pays for what you can choose what to spend more on and what to spend less on.

Of course, we’re not trying to sow discontent between the soon-to-be-tied families of the bride and the groom by overcharging one side and sparing the other – we’re just pointing out that knowing who typically pays for what is important if you want to better balance the costs between the two families.

How to save on my wedding?

Couple in their wedding day

The face you make when you manage to get it all done within budget!

Now to the big question – what can you do to make sure that your wedding is both fabulous and affordable? Most of us plan for a huge and extravagant wedding throughout most of our lives. And even the skeptical and uninterested among us that aren’t too interested in the topic also tend to get quite hyped as the big day gets closer and closer.

However, the big checks that come with each wedding can also be quite “breathtaking” so let’s look into some creative and smart ways to reduce the costs of your wedding without necessarily compromising with the awesomeness of the event itself.

1- Reduce the number of guests

The average cost per guest of a wedding can vary between $100 and $600, so cutting even just a dozen of ‘unnecessary’ guests can be a great relief to your wedding budget. So, if you’ve been wondering how much a small wedding costs, the answer is – much, much less than a large wedding.

2- Prepare a wedding budget checklist way in advance

As with almost anything else in life, being well-prepared is the key to a successful enterprise. It’s normal for wedding preparations to begin months or up to a year before the wedding itself, but when it comes to planning the preparations – that can begin even earlier than that.

3- Book your wedding for the off-season

There are good reasons why people love getting married in the summer but the absurd budget summer weddings require is a pretty serious reason “against” them. Planning an early spring wedding or maybe even a winter wedding if that’s manageable in your area, can be a great money-saver. Besides, what’s so bad about getting married amidst blooming trees and flowers?

4- Pick an unorthodox reception venue

The startling prices wedding reception venues charge can be quite devastating to your budget, especially when you add all the supplementary décor expenses. However, an easy way to bypass all that is by just picking a venue that’s not typically used for wedding receptions. At the end of the day, all you need for a wedding reception is a large enough area to house and entertain your guests. Maybe consider an outdoor wedding reception?

5- Rent and reuse whatever you can

This is a big problem for a lot of newlyweds as they usually want everything in their wedding to be unique. And while we certainly understand and share the impulse, the fact of the matter is that buying new dresses, new suits, new backdrops, new tablecloths, and so on and so forth, can be quite straining for anyone’s budget. So, while some things are definitely better bought than rented, why not reuse some old (but nice!) family things as well?

6- If possible, try to completely skip some of the major expenses

There are a lot of major expenses in a standard wedding that can be completely skipped nowadays. For example, do you need a professional photographer? More and more people are taking on photography as a hobby today so a skillful amateur photographer family member can easily fill that role if you ask them – it can be their wedding gift for you.

Similarly, paying for live music can be viewed as unnecessary considering that you can prepare an extensive playlist yourselves and just get another family member to play it and manage it during the reception. Sure, this may not have the awesome feeling of having a live band at your wedding but it’s certainly not “bad” either, is it? One can easily find a certain dose of romance in the bride and groom preparing their own wedding playlist together.

7- Pick a location that will be as close as possible to most of your guests’ homes

Another major expense in most weddings is the housing of the guests before and after the wedding itself. Inviting ~100 people will often mean paying for 50-100 hotel rooms if you’re making the wedding too far away from your hometown. To fix this you can simply take a look at where most of your guests will be coming from and organizing the wedding in their vicinity – this way there’ll be no housing expenses at all.

If you’ve got a massive budget and have no restrictions that way, then go for it. After all, this is a once in a lifetime party with all your friends and family. But if you’re working on a tight budget, there are endless ways to cut down on the overall cost of your wedding.