It’s no wonder wedding planning is stressful. You’re constantly being told your wedding day will be the happiest day of your life. And on top of it, you and your family members are dropping a ton of money to make it happen. Talk about pressure! So how much does it cost to get married? The answer can be complicated.
According to a recent Bride’s survey, wedding expenses have skyrocketed in the past year. In 2018, an average wedding set couples back $44,000, up from $27,000 in 2017. The proportion of spending between categories remained relatively stagnant. Couples are just spending more across the board.
But don’t let that number scare you. Many outlets still put the average wedding cost in the $30,000 range. Plus, budgets can vary widely by state. According to a 2018 industry study by The Wedding Report, Inc., couples in Mississippi had the lowest total costs around $15,000. Hawaiians spent the most, with budgets nearing $40,000. Even more, a New York City wedding in Manhattan typically runs around $75,000.
When it comes down to it, it’s all about your priorities. It is very possible to have a $2,000 city hall elopement. It’s also possible to have a beautiful affair for 100 for $20,000 or less. Before the wedding planning begins, you and your fiance have to decide on your must-haves and nice-to-haves, the cost of those things, and what’s feasible. Read on to get all of your wedding budget questions answered.
Wedding Cost Breakdown
The cost of your venue and services will vary between different parts of the United States. Here’s an example of a wedding budget breakdown for a $30,000 traditional wedding with a church ceremony and hotel reception:
- Church rental for ceremony: $400
- Reception hall with caterer: $18,000 for food, alcohol, linens, tableware, and staff for 150 guests
- Photography and videography: $4,000
- Flowers: $2,500
- DJ: $3,000
- Clothing: $1,500 wedding dress and $300 suit
- Wedding cake: $400
- Hair and makeup: $200
Total cost: $30,000
That number will creep up if you pile on a lot of extras. Want one of those cute martini-glass mashed potato bars? Tack on another couple hundred dollars. If you prefer a live band, you’re looking at at least $4,500. If you aren’t the most organized, you may need a wedding planner. Their fee can run from $1,500 to $10,000. This budget also doesn’t include engagement rings and your honeymoon.
You’ll also have to factor in the cost of invitations, which can equal several hundred dollars, plus postage. Don’t forget the marriage license itself, which has a price tag of $30 to $150, depending on the state you live in. If you aren’t having a church wedding ceremony, hiring an officiant is usually about $500. The ever-trendy photo booth costs about $500.
Some wedding venues may offer everything for indoor affairs but don’t provide outdoor seating. So, if you decide to have your ceremony al fresco, you’ll need to pay for the chairs and any kind of arch or pergola. Plastic folding chairs can be as little as $1.25 each, while ballroom chairs with cushions run around $8 each.
How to Save Money on Your Wedding
Here’s some hard truth: The most expensive part of your big day is the reception. Food and drinks for your guests can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Therefore, the most meaningful way to save money on a wedding is to cut the guest list. The cost becomes exponentially higher based on the number of guests you invite.
Sit down with your fiancé and make some tough decisions. Do you need to invite coworkers? According to etiquette, only those in serious relationships require plus-ones.
After cutting the guest list, there are a few other ways to save big. You can make a really thought-out playlist and skip the DJ. Opt for DIY centerpieces and let the florist handle the bouquets. Or make your own bouquets with faux flowers and skip the florist entirely. Just be careful not to overdo it with the DIY approach and add major stress to your wedding day.
Open bar is a big expense. There are several ways to save money here. Be cautious if you’re considering buying the alcohol yourself. First, many venues don’t allow this. Second, it might not offer much savings and you can very likely end up with too much or not enough booze.
You can also go for a cash bar, but you’re guaranteed to see more than a few eye rolls from guests. Instead, you could get a beer and wine package or only bottom-shelf liquor.
You and your fiancé may decide you don’t need a videographer. You can also do a quick one-hour ceremony shoot and portraits to save on photography. Think hard about your budget here. When the wedding is over and everyone has gone home, all that will be left are the photos.
Plus, all those little things add up. Invitations, favors, wedding cake, ceremony music, and transportation will equal to a few thousand dollars. Perhaps you use Uber instead of a limo, if it’s readily available in your area. Maybe you have a small cake to cut for photos and serve doughnuts instead (trendy and cost effective).
Regarding ceremony seating, consider only getting chairs for close family and elder guests. If you’re not planning on a long ceremony, the remaining guests will be happy to stand and get a better view.
For invitations, you can opt for evites. Or, send paper invitations but use a free wedding website to manage RSVPs. This saves on printable response cards. It will also make the weight of your entire invitation less, which means cheaper postage.
How Much Does It Cost to Get Married If I Have a Backyard Wedding?
You might think putting up a tent in your backyard is a great way to throw a cheap wedding. Unfortunately, this is a myth. Anytime your venue doesn’t provide rentals, you’ll need to source them yourselves. This includes:
- Tables and chairs
- Serving dishes and pitchers
- Plates and cutlery
- Porta potties
- Access to water and power
You’ll need to pay someone for delivery and removal of all of these things, and these costs can add up fast. Plus, there’s your own sweat equity to set up and remove everything. Believe it or not, experts say having your wedding at a professional venue, like a hotel or country club, is the cheaper way to go.
So, How Much Does It Cost to Get Married?
As you now know, the answer is complicated. A city hall elopement with an intimate lunch can cost $2,000 or less. If you’re hoping to invite 100 or more guests, you can expect to pay anywhere between $20,000 and $50,000.
Still, financial experts agree — don’t go into credit card debt or forgo paying student loans for your wedding. It is, after all, just a day. Sit down with your fiancé and figure out your priorities. Set a budget that you and your family can afford, and be adamant about adhering to it.
Fancy favors, a cool band, and expensive signature cocktails aren’t what make your wedding a special day. It’s the love between you, your future spouse, and your close friends and family that’s important.