The cost of a wedding can range anywhere from under $10,000 to over $100,000. How much you spend largely depends on the number of guests and the lavishness of your ceremony and reception on your big day.
You've probably dreamed of your perfect wedding day: the bride floating down the aisle in a white wedding dress, saying "I do," sealing the vows with a kiss and then throwing a huge party for all of your loved ones. Now, this dream is about to become a reality and you want every second to be perfect. But back to reality: weddings can be expensive, and there's the not-so-little matter of a budget.
With the help of the right professionals (and the right budget), you can plan the wedding of your dreams without breaking the bank.
What's in this cost guide?
- What affects the cost of a wedding?
- What does the average wedding cost?
- Where can you find a wedding cost breakdown?
- How do you determine your wedding budget?
- How can you hire a wedding pro?
- How can you save money on a wedding?
Many factors affect the cost of a wedding, and these include the number of guests, time of year, type of wedding venue, time of day, type of reception, food, furniture rental and the entertainment you choose for your guests. Will your wedding day take place at your church or an island resort venue? Will you have a brunch buffet or a five-course dinner reception? Do you plan to have a cocktail hour? Answering these questions will help you begin to price out your wedding budget before you begin spending.
To help you get a sense of the cost of a wedding, Thumbtack pro, Celeste Hicks, wedding planner and owner of B.A. Bride Wedding and Event Planners in Atlanta, offered these examples of total costs for weddings she has planned:
- A simple DIY garden wedding venue with crafty touches: $9,000
- An outdoor wedding venue in a pavilion for 80 guests: $18,000
- An elaborate wedding at a resort venue for 100 guests: $35,000
- A glitzy, glamorous New Year's Eve wedding: $40,000
In the U.S., the average wedding cost is $33,931, according to the most recent wedding cost survey from the wedding planning site The Knot. The cost can vary quite a bit by geography, with the least expensive occurring in the states of Idaho, West Virginia, and Wyoming and the most expensive occurring in the cities of New York and Chicago.
On average, couples host about 136 guests at a cost of $258 per person. Based on that data, here's a chart of the average cost of different sizes:
|Number of guests||Average cost of wedding|
The total cost of a wedding is the sum of your spending on many different services, venues and products. These costs may include couples spending on everything from a wedding dress, wedding rings and wedding website to a wedding planner and wedding coordinator, wedding photographer, venue, flowers, wedding cake, food, paper goods, wedding event staff, wedding DJ, wedding caterer, and reception venue. Price everything out and it can be eye-wateringly expensive. Here are some examples of average spending costs for wedding services:
Wedding planner: $1,000 to $1,400
Day-of wedding coordinator: $600
Wedding photographer: $800 to $1,000
Wedding caterer: $20 to $100 or more per person
Wedding cake baker: $350 to $450 total ($2.50 to $8 per slice)
Wedding event wait staff: $20 to $30 an hour
Wedding DJ: $325 to $660
Wedding pros charge in different ways depending on the service. For example, wedding coordinators may charge a couple a flat rate for a planning package that includes a maximum number of hours, with extra hours charged at an hourly rate. Wedding photographers typically price their services as a package, with a certain number of hours, editing and images included. Wedding cake bakers typically price cakes by the slice. Wedding wait staff and bartenders and DJs typically charge couples by the hour. And caterers typically charge an amount per person.
Creating a reasonable wedding budget based on what you can afford to spend without going into debt will help you start married life with a better financial position. Start by looking at all of your funding sources, including savings and contributions from family. Then add up the average costs of your ideal wedding by using this wedding budget calculator. If the numbers don't match, read on for cost-saving budget tips before spending a dime (such as trimming the guest list or doing without bridesmaids).
Make a list of wedding services you'll need for your big day, and browse Thumbtack to locate pros in your area. You may want to start with a wedding planner, who can guide you and offer tips and advice as you hire other pros. It's important to read reviews and see or taste the wares in person if you can. For example, look at a wedding photographer's portfolio of other couples they have photographed, and taste a wedding baker's cakes.
Not everyone can afford to spend like a royal for a wedding like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Want to tie the knot for less? You can save money and spend less on a wedding by using these budget-friendly tips:
- Tie the knot in low season: You can save significantly on almost all wedding services by getting married in the off-peak season, meaning any time other than late spring to early fall, and avoiding Saturdays. Wedding pros may need off business during downtimes and will likely offer you a deal. This tip will definitely help to keep your budget on track.
- Show off your personality with a DIY wedding: While you will need to hire some pros, going DIY for parts of your wedding and reception can save you a bundle. As the bride, can you sew your own wedding dress? Decorate the reception with peonies from your garden? As the groom, can you design your own invitations? Going DIY can save you hundreds of dollars and make your big day more fun and unique. It can also be a fun way for the bride and groom to spend time together before the pressure of their wedding day is upon them!
- Trim your guest list: While you may feel some pressure to invite your neighbor's best friend's cousin and the great aunt you've never met to your ceremony, remember you and your betrothed are the ones paying the tab. Keeping your guest list small will create a more intimate vibe and save you loads of cash. Additionally, consider having a private ceremony with your closest friends and immediate family. That way, you can save money on the ceremony costs and still invite Aunt Linda to the wedding reception.
- Cut unnecessary expenses from the budget. All these add-ons – from flowers to photographers and pre-wedding festivities – can make hosting a wedding down-right expensive. But while they might all seem obligatory, what you choose to include in your wedding is up to you. Instead of a full-service sit-down dinner at the reception, serve up a family-style banquet. Don't care about flowers? Don't get them. Want to cut the cost of furniture rental? Host your reception at a restaurant, who already has all the chairs and tables you'll need to properly host your guests. Save-the-dates looking expensive? Send out emails instead. Skip the wedding party if you're the bride and the idea of choosing bridesmaids has you breaking out in hives.
Following these tips will help you to keep costs down and to say "I do" to starting married life on solid financial ground!