How Much Do Weddings Actually Cost?

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For some, dreamy ideals of the perfect wedding swirl around in the mind years before the right person comes along. Weddings are often referred to as the best day of a couple’s life together, and a well-planned event is remembered by guests for years to come. However, the dollars and cents that go into planning a wedding can add up quickly, given the sheer number of details necessary to pull off an event for potentially a few hundred people. Everything from invitations and seating charts to food and alcohol must be budgeted for, regardless of the extravagance of your big day. If you’re on the cusp of planning for a wedding or have already started the tedious process, it is important to know how much weddings actually cost.

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Average Total Cost by State

According to recent survey data, the average cost of a wedding held within the United States is an impressive $31,213. That’s quite a bit of dough! Costs vary widely from state to state with the lowest average coming in at $15,257 in Utah. Overall, the celebration of your nuptials is lower in the Midwest and Southwest. Arkansas closely follows Utah at the lowest average cost. For those planning to get wed in the Northeast, however, the average costs quickly creep up. On average, couples planning their big day in Manhattan pay an average of $76,328 – the highest in the nation. Northern and Central New Jersey, and Chicago, Illinois round out the most expensive wedding areas throughout the country.

What Goes into Wedding Costs?

Keeping a lid on the exorbitant cost of a wedding can be a challenge. This is especially true if you don’t know all of the factors involved in planning the event. Traditional weddings often require planning for a reception space. Additionally, the items that go along with throwing a fabulous party, like entertainment and music, decorations, tables, chairs, and linens can add up easily. A ceremony space is a must for the most conventional couples, which can either be held at the same venue as the reception or in a different location altogether.

Adding to the list is the attire for the couple, which not only includes pricey suits or dresses but also accessories, shoes, hair, and makeup services. Flowers for bouquets, boutonnieres, and ancillary décor may also be needed. Some couples include gifts for the supportive friends and family who are an integral part of the wedding party. Photography, videography, parking, and transportation should also be considered. Invitations, save the date announcements, and wedding rings are other items to consider. If you’d rather not take on the arduous task of planning every detail of your event, plan to spend some of your wedding funds on a planner, too. Last but far from least is the food and beverages that will be provided during the reception.

Given this lengthy list, it is not surprising that the cost of a wedding skyrockets for some. The average cost of each wedding expense is as follows:

  • Attire and accessories: $1,629
  • Beauty treatments (hair, nails, and makeup): $129
  • Entertainment (live music or DJ): $1,389
  • Flowers and décor: $1,563
  • Gifts, including guest favors: $702
  • Invitations: $789
  • Jewelry, including wedding rings: $4,133
  • Photography and videography: $2,835
  • Event planner: $827
  • Venue, including catering and table/chair/linen rentals: $11,944

Budgeting for the Wedding

To steer clear of a massive wedding bill, budgeting ahead of time is key. Establishing a budget for a wedding is not much different than it is for monthly expenses, but there are a few key differences. First, family assistance is often a major help in reducing the out of pocket costs for your big day. If you know parents, grandparents, or other relatives are planning to lend a hand with the wedding expenses, talk with them openly about how much they plan to contribute before you start spending. Not sure if the family is able to help? Simply ask. The worst that could happen is that the wedding cost falls squarely on your shoulders as a couple. It may result in pinching pennies along the way. But knowing what you’re up against prior to starting your planning will help overall.

Another aspect of creating your wedding budget relies heavily on the type of event you want. If you’re planning a formal ceremony and reception, you’re safe to add a substantial amount to your venue and catering budget. Conversely, a celebration that is more casual in terms of location and feel often costs significantly less. It is also important to know your projected guest list size, as this has a direct impact on your total spending. Invitation costs, favors, food, and venue costs all rise as your guest lists grows. Building out your wedding budget should be based on these considerations. You’ll have far more success when you create a system of budgeting – and stick to it.

Tips for Reducing the Expense

The cost of a wedding does not have to overwhelming. There are a number of methods to cut out expenses. First, pay close attention to the contracts you sign, specifically for the venue and the caters. Are there “hidden” fees such as overtime or cleanup that add to the total costs? Will tips be included in the contracted amount? Are you paying for their servers, security staff, and/or parking attendants? Most of the time, wedding vendors provide this information up front in the contract, but it is up to you to know what you’re getting into.

Sizing down your total guest list also helps reduce the total cost, as that number directly affects every aspect of your planning. Taking just 10 guests off the list could put nearly $1,000 back in your pocket. Don’t be afraid to trim the headcount as needed. Additionally, keep things simple as much as you can, leaving out glamourous details that simply don’t fit into the overall budget. Oftentimes, pricey additions are a waste of hard-earned cash, and you nor your guests will notice their absence.

Finally, be prepared to negotiate with wedding vendors before an agreement is signed. It never hurts to ask. Some wedding professionals offer discounts for referrals, while others may cut off a portion of the cost if you leave a solid review of their services online. If they are unwilling to wiggle in terms of price, it may be worth seeking out alternatives. Whatever you do in your wedding planning adventure, keep your bottom line in mind.

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