A wedding is a happy occasion, but its high price tag can often cause significant stress for the couple tying the knot. There’s the venue, catering, photographer, flowers, music and much more — all of which can place a financial burden on your marriage right from the start.
Though the bill can be significant, some couples these days are eager to say “I do” with a big celebration despite pandemic fears, thanks to the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine and an overall decrease in cases. Here’s how to enjoy the wedding you’ve been dreaming of while sticking to a manageable budget.
Key wedding cost statistics
The average cost of a wedding in 2021 in the U.S. was $34,000, including the cost of the engagement ring), according to wedding-focused website The Knot. It estimates 2.6 million weddings will take place in 2022, compared to a yearly average of 2.2 million before the coronavirus pandemic.
Going over budget is common when planning a wedding — which is something a staggering 74 percent of marrying couples do, according to WeddingWire. Some go into debt to fund the big day, taking out wedding loans or paying vendors with credit cards.
Average Wedding Costs by State
Prices vary, of course, depending on the location of your wedding. A wedding in the South, for example, costs an average of $26,000, while one in the Northeast runs about $36,000, according to The Knot, which also breaks down the cost by state:
|State||Average wedding cost in 2021|
|North Dakota & South Dakota||$24,200*|
*Indicates 2019 data
Common wedding expenses
A significant portion of wedding costs likely consists of the venue and the catering. Their price can vary based on the number of guests and the type of meal served. A sit-down, plated meal often costs more than family style or buffet options. The price of your reception’s music also varies significantly, as a DJ generally typically costs a lot less than a live band.
|Common wedding expense||Average cost|
Source: The Knot and WeddingWire
Lingering supply chain issues and 40-year-high inflation mean you’re likely to encounter steeper prices on goods and services purchased for your wedding. Knowing upfront what you can expect to be charged for wedding-related purchases can help you avoid overpaying.
Ways to save money on your wedding
Build a wedding budget
You can avoid going into wedding debt by determining how much money you can afford to spend, as well as listing your planned expenses on paper or in a spreadsheet. This can help you decide how much to devote to each item, and you can also choose whether any costs should be trimmed or eliminated.
Similar to a household budget, you’ll likely refine your wedding budget during your wedding-planning process. Review your wedding budget regularly to make adjustments and ensure you’re staying on track.
Set your priorities
Part of creating your budget involves picking the components of your wedding that are most important to you.
It helps to ask, “What are your top three most important purchases for your wedding?” says Michael Dickey, co-owner of the financial coaching firm Fiscal Fitness Phoenix. “These are non-negotiables and are the top priority when creating your budget.”
After settling on your must-haves, look for ways to save on other wedding costs. Consider:
- Sending out wedding e-vites instead of paper invitations
- Picking a date that’s not in peak wedding season
- Buying in-season flowers
- Buying a department store wedding gown
Another way to save on expenses is choosing a venue that provides various reception essentials, eliminating the need to rent them separately.
“We see so many couples exhaust the majority of their budget on a venue and not have enough financial resources left over to hire their vendor team,” says Lee Dyson, owner of the Hey Mister DJ wedding entertainment service in Burbank, California. “Make sure you understand exactly what your venue provides and includes — catering, lighting, sound system, tables, chairs — as these additional hard costs really add up fast.”
As a starting point, Dyson recommends that the combined costs of the venue and catering should comprise no more than 30-50 percent of your total budget.
Where to stash your wedding cash
Where you keep your wedding fund is also important to consider.
You can park your money in a savings account or money market account that pays a competitive yield. You may also want to consider a certificate of deposit if your wedding date is at least a year away. In exchange for locking your money away for a prescribed term, a CD may pay more interest than a savings or money market account. Just be sure the CD matures before you need your money to avoid an early withdrawal penalty.
Whatever account you choose to park your savings, experts recommend keeping your wedding fund separate from your overall savings. You might also consider using a checking account for the convenience of paying your wedding expenses with a check or a debit card.
As expensive as weddings can be, couples shouldn’t put off saving for the big day. Planning and budgeting can help sharpen focus on needs, wants and costs and ensure a successful wedding. Keep in mind that the event is only a day, and starting a marriage on strong financial footing is at least as important as the big day itself.