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Wedding is one of the most important milestones in your life. It’s also one of the biggest financial decisons that you have to make as a couple. So, knowing how much weddings cost and how you can budget and plan for your wedding is very important because you don’t want to start your life together on a bad financial footing.
So, how much do people actually spend on weddings?
According to this study, Americans spend, on average, $33,391 on their weddings. That doesn’t even include any pre-wedding cost such as engagement rings, pre-wedding parties and pre-wedding photoshoot.
That’s a lot of money if you are earning an average salary.
For many people, this amount can also be used as down payment for their first house.
So, why are weddings so expensive?
And is it really worth to have an expensive wedding?
Most importantly, is there any way to keep wedding cost low and still make it a very memorable day for everyone?
Now, let’s first take a look at the detailed cost breakdown of a typical wedding.
Wedding Cost breakdown
If you are going to hold a wedding, here are the things you need to pay for:
- Wedding venue
- Wedding catering and alcohol
- Wedding decoration such as flowers and cake
- Wedding photography
- Wedding videography
- Bridesmaid dress
- Wedding invitation
- Wedding favors
- Wedding car
- Bridal makeup and hair
- Wedding accessories such as wedding bouquet and corsage
- Wedding gown bride and groom
- Wedding shoes bride and groom
- Wedding bands for bride and groom
Here’s a breakdown of the average wedding cost by percentage:
Wedding venue is generally the most expensive item on this wedding cost checklist.
A wedding venue is the place where you will hold your wedding.
Here are some examples of wedding venues:
- Country clubs
Depending on which wedding venue you choose, the cost varies.
So, what are the factors that can affect wedding venue cost?
- Location: Generally, the more central the location is, the more expensive it is. Also, if the wedding location has good view and is nicely renovated, it will most likely cost more.
- Wedding date: There are certain dates on which the location fee will be higher. Are there any dates that are more popular in your culture? For example, it will be more expensive on weekends than on weekdays because more people prefer to get married on weekends and hence more demand.
- Number of your guests: The more guests you invite and the bigger the space you need, the more expensive it is.
- Wedding venue package: For some venues (especially hotels, country clubs, bouquet halls), they offer wedding packages which include everything from catering to table and chair rental. So you don’t have to worry about doing it yourself. And depending on what is included in the package, the cost will vary as well.
For myself, I held my wedding in a hotel.
The wedding package that I chose includes everything from food, alcohol, table, chairs, cake and wedding decorations.
So, I don’t have to worry about coordinating between the vendors and the hotel venue managers and getting everything set up properly on my wedding day.
This is a big relief for me because I know some friends who had to handle everything from hiring outside vendors to set up tables and chairs to decorating the venue.
If you don’t have someone you can trust to handle everything for you, then it’s best to choose a wedding venue that offers an all-inclusive package.
As for the cost of wedding package, it really depends on the size of your guests.
Generally, hotels charge you a fixed cost per guest or per table.
So, the more guests you have, the more expensive it will be.
What about you prefer to hold your wedding out of town – destination wedding?
Destination wedding is increasingly popular as well, but destination wedding cost even more than traditional weddings because you have to cover the travel expenses, attire and meals of all your bridesmaids and groomsmen.
If you choose to cover the lodging and transport expenses for all your guests, the wedding cost can rack up easily.
Bridal Makeup And Hair
Bridal makeup and hair is a MUST for every bride because you want to look your absolute best on your wedding day.
Before I got married, I did a few of research on bridal makeup artists and hair stylists.
There are some people who can do both makeup and hair, but there are others who just specialise in either one.
Generally, it is cheaper to hire someone who can do both, and my makeup artist did a great job!
How did I decide on this bridal makeup artist?
First, I did a Google search on bridal makeup artists.
Also, I got a few contacts from my married girl friends.
After that, I went online and looked through their portfolios and see which makeup style is a good fit for me.
Besides portfolios, I also read their customers’ reviews on the Facebook page to see if the feedback is good or bad.
Price, at that point in time, was not really my biggest concern.
Yes, now you know that girls don’t mind paying to look pretty on their big day.
In the end, I picked an experienced makeup artist who specializes in natural bridal makeup look.
We also had a trial session to talk about my preference and also test out different makeup styles and hairstyle a couple of months before my actual wedding.
So, how much does bridal makeup and hair cost?
On average, its cost ranges from $150 to $600, depending on your location as well as the exact style that you want. If you have any additional request, you might be charged extra.
Wedding Attire For Bride And Groom
Wedding gown and wedding suits are a MUST for weddings unless you are one of the unconventional ones.
For wedding gowns, you have the option of either renting or buying a new one.
Renting is obviously cheaper with $250 to $500 for an average wedding gown.
But, if you mind wearing an used wedding gown, your next best option is to buy online as there are a lot of inexpensive yet good quality wedding gowns.
Here are some websites that you can check out for affordable wedding dresses:
Personally, I prefer to wear a brand new wedding gown for my wedding, so I bought one strapless wedding dress with a train online at quite an affordable price.
After my wedding was over, I listed online and sold it at a very small loss.
Although I lost a bit of money selling it away, it was still much cheaper than renting a wedding gown.
To me, it was worth it.
For my shoes, I didn’t buy expensive shoes to go with my wedding gown because no one would pay attention to what shoes I was wearing.
Now, for the groom’s wedding attire, you can either rent your wedding suits or buy it.
If you are only going to wear it once, then renting will make more financial sense.
On average, you can rent a wedding suit for about $150.
If you are going to buy, a nice suit will probably cost you between $300 and $800 in the mid-range.
Wedding Bands For Bride And Groom
First of all, who pays for the wedding bands?
Or the groom?
Generally, the bride and groom will shop for wedding bands and pay for them together.
But, it’s also common for the bride to pay for the groom’s wedding band and the groom to pay for the bride’s wedding band.
So, how much does the wedding band cost?
According to a study, couples spend an average of $1,500 on the bride’s wedding band and an average of $500 on the groom’s wedding band.
Did you notice the big difference?
This is blatant “gender discrimination” in pricing.
How big the markup in a bride’s wedding band is!
Why can they get away with it?
Because people are willing to spend ridiculous amounts of money on weddings and women care more about jewelry and “appreciate it” more than men.
Wedding Photography And Videography
The very first question that I want to ask you is whether you feel wedding photography and videography is necessary.
Both are meant to help you capture the important moments on your big day.
The average cost of a wedding videographer in the U.S. is about $1,799 while the average wedding photographer charges about $2,000.
The cost varies, depending on the experience of the photographer and videographer and also the wedding package they offer.
For example, if you require them to film everything from the ceremony to the reception, it would mean more working hours for them and hence it costs more.
For my own wedding, we decided to hire only a wedding photographer because we didn’t think a wedding videographer was necessary and we were also trying to cut down our wedding cost.
Do I regret it?
Yes, I wish I had hired a videographer to capture all the details, our vows, my husband’s wedding speeches and my family member’s expressions on my wedding day.
So, if cost is really a concern, here are some ways that can help you save money on wedding videography:
- Hire film students to shoot your wedding
- Reduce the wedding videography package
- Negotiate with your wedding videographer
- Ask friends to shoot it
Low-Cost Wedding Items
Wedding Accessories (e.g. Wedding bouquet & Corsage)
For wedding bouquet and corsage, you can save money by doing it yourself.
For my wedding, my dear mother-in-law helped me make a very beautiful wedding bouquet with fresh flowers bought from flower shop.
She also offered to take care of all the corsages for the groom and groomsmen.
Just writing this down makes me feel so grateful again that I have such a great mother-in-law.
For bridesmaid dress, I bought all my bridesmaid dresses online from overseas.
It’s much cheaper.
And it’s best to buy it at least two months before your actual wedding day because it might take quite long for them to ship over.
There is no need to get the same shoes for your bridesmaid because you can ask your bridesmaid to wear shoes of the same color.
According to TheWeddingReport, the average price for 150 invitations and response cards is about $250.
That does not include the costs for menu and program cards, thank-you cards, save-the-dates cards and place cards.
So, the average total cost for wedding cards would be around $750 before postage.
But, if you are getting a wedding package from hotels, they will most likely take care of menu and program cards and place cards for you.
So, how do you save money on cards?
Gone are the days when the only way to invite your guests is to print out physical copies of your wedding invitation cards and have them mailed to each and every one of your guests.
There are much cheaper and faster ways to invite your wedding guests.
For my wedding, I designed our e-wedding invitation card using free graphic design softwares and then sent it to all our friends and family electronically.
Wedding favors are small gifts that you give to all your wedding guests for attending your wedding.
Here are some interesting ideas for wedding favors:
- Mini champagne bottles
- Cocktail shakers
- Handmade Soaps
- Personalized Cocktail Glasses
- Personalized Lip Balm
- Bottle Opener
- Instagram Coasters
Depending on what kind of wedding favor you choose, the cost varies.
Now, how much does couples spend on average on wedding favors?
The average cost of wedding favors, according to The Knot’s Study, is about $250.
With the average number of 130 guests, that makes the average spend on favors per wedding guest roughly $2.
Where can you buy good yet affordable wedding favors?
Etsy is a good place to look for interesting yet cheap handmade wedding favors.
According to The Knot’s Study, the average cost of wedding transporation is about $800.
That includes wedding car rental and possibly car parking fees for your guests.
If you are going to rent a wedding car, they will likely charge you anywhere from $50 to $150 per hour, depending on the type of car and number of passengers.
For hotels and banquet halls, free car parking for wedding guests is usually included in your wedding package.
But, if you are holding your wedding at a venue that does not provide free parking, then you will have to factor in the car parking fees in your budget.
So, how do you save money on your wedding transportation?
For my own wedding transportation, my husband’s good friend let us use his car as the wedding car and he also offered to be our chauffeur.
Pre-Wedding Cost Breakdown
Before your wedding day, there are also pre-wedding costs that you need to consider.
Here are a list of things that you need to pay for:
- Diamond engagement rings
- Bridal shower
- Bachelor party
- Pre-wedding photoshoot
Diamond Engagement Rings
For engagement rings, it’s reported that average Americam couple spend $2000 to $5000 on an engagement ring.
First of all, I have to admit that I am not a diamond girl (yes, my husband is one lucky guy!)
The fact that everyone wants to buy a diamond ring for engagement and wedding is proof that diamond companies’ marketing campaigns are wildly successful.
In fact, diamond engagement ring didn’t become a thing until 1947.
Ever since it was portrayed in movies and advertisments that a diamond ring symbolizes never-ending love and commitment to each other, its popularity soared.
But, do you really need a stone to ensure that you and your significant other will have a happy and lasting marriage?
Here’s another reason I highly advise against getting an expensive diamond engagement ring.
Diamonds used to be a rare stone, but that is NOT the case any more after more and more diamond mines have been discovered.
The reason why diamond prices are still so high is because the diamond company called De Beers is controlling the prices through monopoly.
Did you know that the moment that you buy your diamond ring, the value of your diamond ring drops significantly?
So, there is not much resale value left.
Now, you might say, “Gladice, I am not going to sell my engagement ring at all, so does it still matter to me?”
Okay, I hear you.
If you are okay with buying overvalued diamond rings, that’s perfectly fine.
But, if you and your future spouse feel that it’s not worth it to spend so much on an engagement ring and would rather save the money for honeymoon or your first house, here are some good alternatives.
For example, there are many synthetic diamond rings that look exactly like real diamond rings but with a much lower price tag.
Generally, if you are the bride, you can either choose to have a bridal shower or a hen’s night.
The biggest difference between a bridal shower and a hen’s night is that guests are expected to bring gifts for the bride-to-be during a bridal shower.
For a bridal shower, it’s typically hosted at the bride’s home where everyone spends some quality time with the bride over tea and cakes.
For a hen’s night, it’s usually a night out in town or out of town in an exciting city. And there will be a lot of alcohol and fun games.
Since it’s a night out, the costs will be split among all.
Cost-wise, a bridal shower will definitely be much cheaper than hen’s night.
Now, what about bachelor’s party?
Generally, the groom doesn’t have to pay anything.
But, if the party is held out of town and everyone has to fly there, the groom is expected to pay for his own airfare.
Pre-wedding photoshoot is another thing you need to decide whether or not you want to do it before your wedding.
There are a few reasons why some couples want to do it.
- They want to frame the photos and display it at their wedding reception to show their friends and family.
- They want to create wedding memories
Personally, I think this is a complete waste of money.
After the wedding, you will probably never see most of these pre-wedding photos again unless you display one of them in your home.
Also, doing a pre-wedding photoshoot is not cheap.
Some good photographers charge up to a few thousands of dollars just for a pre-wedding photoshoot.
And if you do it in an exotic and romantic places overseas, it will definitely cost more.
Again, it’s really up to you and your partner.
Should You Have An Expensive Wedding
It really depends on how you see it.
If money is not an issue and you prefer a grand wedding, you should spend on whatever you like for your wedding day.
After all, it’s once in a lifetime.
But, having said that, I honestly don’t even remember much my wedding day even though my husband and I spent quite a fair bit on our wedding.
Maybe you feel that wedding day is just one day out of the many more happy days you’ll spend with your loved one.
And there’s a much better use for the money for your life together after the wedding.
So, you value the rest of your life with your spouse more than one big day with family and friends.
Whatever you decide, I just want to say that money does not make a great wedding.
It’s the happy feelings and fun moments that you create on the big day that will stay with you forever.
Money doesn’t create that.
Wedding Cost Calculation Tools
Here are some free tools to help you with your wedding budgeting and planning: