How Much Does A Wedding Cost?

Weddings are no longer the clear cut events they used to be. Not everyone wishes for a traditional church wedding, or even a fancy affair - weddings can be as simple as a barbecue in a backyard, or as lavish as 300 guests celebrating in a grand ballroom. Weddings have never been more different and more customized to each couple, and consequently, the cost for the big event can vary greatly.

a bride and groom looking at each other

Average Cost Of A Wedding

The average cost of weddings these days is between $25,000 and $35,000.

Here's a broad breakout of the individual costs:

How to Divide Up Your Budget

To look at it different way, if you know what your budget is, you can easily divide up what you can spend on each element. Also, find out ahead of time who is contributing what to the wedding budget - it's not all on the bride's parents anymore.

Regardless of the magic number you're working with, here's a breakdown of how it's likely to be spent:

  • Reception (site, food, drink): 42% to 50%
  • Photography: 8% to 10%
  • Wedding Rings: 5% to 8%
  • Flowers: 6%
  • Rehearsal Dinner: 6%
  • Wedding Dress: 5%
  • Videography: 5%
  • Reception Music: 4% to 6%
  • Groom's Formalwear: 3%
  • Hair and Makeup for Bride (and possibly Bridal Party): 2%
  • Invitations and Announcements: 2%
  • Church/Chapel/Synagogue: 2% to 3%
  • Wedding Cake: 2%
  • Ceremony Music: 2%
  • Transportation: 2%
  • Favors and Gifts: 2%

As you can see, the number one expense by far for any wedding is the venue for the reception, and the food and drink. Most caterers charge a certain dollar amount per guest, so the easiest way to trim down your wedding cost is to narrow down that guest list.

Of course, the above breakout is only a guideline. Perhaps you know your wedding DJ personally and are receiving a discount, so some of that money can be allocated to another category. Maybe you're skipping videography and can allocate more funds to the photographer. Or, you know you're going to want to spend a little more than normal on your wedding bands, so you decide to scale back a bit in a couple other areas.

Adjust the budget accordingly to your own preferences and priorities.

Where You Can Save Money

Flowers

Flowers for weddings are pretty expensive between the bouquets for the bridal party, decorations, and possibly also centerpieces and boutonnieres for the men. But flowers are also one of the easiest elements of a wedding to save money on. If you choose flowers that are in season you'll get the cost way down.

Roses are a great choice. Roses can be shipped easily so it doesn't matter if they're in season or not, they're not terribly expensive, and they go with nearly any decor or theme. And, if you're having a summer wedding, they hold up better in heat than other varieties that might wilt under the sun.

When You Get Married

Most people get married between May and October on a Saturday. If you choose a day off season, between November and April, and/or get married on a Friday or a Sunday, you'll undoubtedly save some bucks. You might also consider having a wedding earlier in the day, with a brunch or lunch instead of a dinner.

Wedding Dress

The average cost of a wedding dress is about $1,400. You don't need to spend over $1,000 to look beautiful on your big day. Some companies allow you to rent a wedding dress, or buy a slightly used wedding dress - if a dress was just worn once it's considered used, and you might be able to get an excellent deal on it. You could also try asking bridal shops if they offer any discounts or payment plans.

Where You Might Want to Splurge

Photography

Photos dictate how everyone will remember the event for years to come. With camera phones getting better and better there are a lot of amateur photographers out there, and it might be tempting to just have a friend take photos, but this would not be advised. Professional photographers are excellent at choosing the right angles and lighting, and they know what works and what doesn't because they've seen it all before.

You may want to consider hiring a second photographer for at least part of the event, or an assistant for the primary photographer. With two photographers, you'll be able to capture things happening at the same time, like the bridal party getting ready and the groomsmen getting ready. The primary photographer can grab shots of the bridal party arriving at the venue and the father helping the bride out of the limousine; the second photographer can get pictures of the decorated venue before the event, and then can get shots of guests as they arrive.

You'll never have another chance to capture all the little moments on the most important day of your life, so don't skimp with the photographer.

Music

While the photographer controls how everyone remembers the wedding, the DJ strongly influences how good of a time everyone has. Not all DJs are created equal, and you'll want to make sure you have a great one who is responsive to your needs and will allow you to have a "do not play" list. While you'll also of course have certain songs you'll inform the DJ to play, it's his or her job to feel out the crowd and play songs accordingly - you'll want a professional to handle this.

However, you can definitely save money on music by going with a DJ over a band.

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