This time of the year, plenty of young couples are tying the knot – and even more are beginning planning for a wedding next year. Unless you’re Jessica Biel, it’s important to know how much you can expect to spend on a wedding when preparing for your Big Day. Or at least it’s important if you’re the bride’s parents.
More than 18,000 service professionals specializing in wedding services, ranging from wedding photographers to customized wedding gown designers to DJs, have listed their services and average hourly rates on Thumbtack. We combed the data we have from these listings and from bids on real jobs to look at how much you (or the in-laws) should budget for a variety of wedding-related services.
We also determined the premiums you can expect to pay for wedding services above their non-nuptial counterparts. For example, we compared the price of hiring a wedding photographer against the price of hiring a non-wedding photographer, or a wedding planner against a non-wedding party planner. We did this by using regression analysis on categories where there are clear wedding and non-wedding variants. Is there a mark-up on prices as soon as you utter the word “wedding”?
Here’s what we found.
No wedding can legally happen without one, so you’ll have to shell out some bucks to have someone perform the marriage act. We mean the vows, not that marriage act.
Exactly how much you have to pay varies substantially. Based on the average rates of wedding officiants on Thumbtack, you can expect to pay between $136 and $279 per hour. The rates that wedding officiants charge vary depending on the size of the wedding, additional ceremonies performed within the wedding, and the location, as you will likely have to cover travel costs.
If you need to hire a wedding officiant for your ceremony – and you can’t get away with using Uncle Todd of the well-established Universalist denomination – then you should plan to spend $250-400 all in.
No wedding would be complete without photos of the happy couple, and selecting the right wedding photographer is a critical (and sometimes agonizing) process for any wedding. How much should one set aside to document the magic day?
We found that for our 11,000 photographers, the average range of rates is between $121 and $275 an hour. But there’s a big difference in average rates among cities. Here’s the city-by-city breakdown:
One interesting thing with this data is that as the average rate of wedding photography rises, so too does the spread of prices offered by photographers in the area. It’s much easier to go wild with a photographer in Boston than in Phoenix.
We also compared the hourly rates of wedding and non-wedding photographers listed on Thumbtack to estimate the premium that people pay for hiring a photographer for a wedding rather than for non-wedding purposes.
It turns out that wedding memories are a pricier level of priceless. After controlling for geographic differences – and it’s clear that location drives cost, particularly on the high end – we found that wedding photographers have 22% higher rates on average than general photographers.
Putting on a great wedding can require organizational skills beyond the capacities of mere mortals. That’s why it’s often preferable to leave it to a pro. Hiring a planner comes at a price, however, and that average price ranges from $77 to $172 per hour of planning. Of course, that money could save you many hours of headaches come wedding time. Unless you’re a mean blonde girl competing with J-Lo.
But is there a significant difference in the the hourly rates listed by wedding planners and party planners? It depends. On average, wedding planners listed a 31% higher minimum rate than party planners. However, there was not a statistically significant difference in the maximum rates charged by wedding and party planners. This would suggest even the best wedding is just a fancy party. Though we wouldn’t recommend saying that to the bride.
Wedding Videographer: Lights, Camera, Amex!
Photos are great, but a tad, well, static. For those who want to capture all of the action, plenty of videographers specialize in crafting the perfect wedding video. The wedding videographers on Thumbtack typically list their rates as between $189 and $372 per hour. It’s a hefty price to pay, but one that could be well worth it.
We found that those videographers specializing in weddings charge, on average, 43% higher rates and than their more generalized video counterparts.
Unemployed and handy with a video camera? Looks like the wedding videography business has some nice margins.
Tying the knot means time to celebrate. A DJ is the perfect addition to any wedding reception, and plenty of Thumbtack users hire DJs for the ceremony itself. To evaluate the true cost of getting your druncle to fully humiliate himself to “Purple Rain,” we analyzed nearly 7,000 DJ bids processed in the last couple of months on Thumbtack. Typically, people hire DJs for three to six hours for either just the wedding reception or both the wedding reception and the ceremony. Here’s a breakdown of the average and expected range of rates nationwide, depending on how many hours you want to book the DJ:
You can see a breakdown for the average cost of wedding DJs in different states here. DJs often travel long distances to perform at weddings, so we found rates to be fairly comparable at the statewide level.
We also examined whether DJs charge a wedding premium. In short, they do. Controlling for geographic variations in price, differences in the equipment that people request, and the different lengths of time that people book them, we found that DJs charge 29% more for weddings on average than they do for other events. As a point of comparison, we found DJs generally raise their price by about 8.5% for each additional hour beyond three or four hours that they perform. Performing at a wedding is about the equivalent of three hours of a non-wedding DJ’s time. That means that booking a DJ for three hours at a wedding typically costs the same as booking a DJ for six hours at a non-wedding event.
Like with wedding photographers, there could be unobserved factors making DJs charge more for weddings, such as greater experience or making special playlists, but there does seem to be a large premium to hiring a DJ for a wedding. Perhaps this song is really expensive off iTunes.
The Ten Most Affordable Cities in Which To Get Married
After seeing all of this data, you might be asking yourself, “I wonder where I could get the most wedding-night bang for my buck?” Well, pull your mind out of the gutter and read on.
We ranked cities across America based on a weighted average of their wedding service professionals, and we’ve complied a list of the most affordable cities for getting married in the United States. These prices are based on a barebones, three hour, 60-person wedding and include the cost of a planner, officiant, photographer, DJ, and videographer. We scaled up the cost of these services by three to estimate the total cost of a wedding, including a venue, dress, invitations, caterer, and other miscellaneous expenses. Remember that costs can escalate quickly once you start increasing the number of guests, increasing the length of the party, adding booze to the menu, or hiring the most experienced professionals.
- Tucson: $8,625
- Oklahoma City: $8,880
- Fort Worth: $9,425
- Baltimore: $9,600
- San Bernardino: $9,965
- Sacramento: $10,280
- Portland, OR: $10,590
- St. Louis: $10,775
- Dallas: $11,475
- Seattle: $11,940
If you’re a real bargain shopper, we found that in some of these places it’s possible to hire all of the wedding service professionals listed above – officiant, photographer, planner, videographer, and DJ – for as low as $800 in total. New York City, eat your heart out.
That’s it for our info on wedding services. Now, you just have to find a spouse. Luckily, there’s no shortage of sites to help with that.