The Average Wedding Cost Is Actually Nowhere Near $28,000

Posted in Savings Account • August 2, 2013

average wedding costs
There’s nothing more heartwarming than celebrating the act of two people joining together in holy matrimony. A couple’s wedding day creates memories that last a lifetime for all parties involved. Unfortunately, the average wedding cost has grown significantly in recent years, according to estimates from the wedding industry, making it more difficult to save money to pay for this dream event.

But are the figures inflated to encourage couples and their families to spend more, or do weddings actually have to cost and arm and a leg to be amazing?

Average Wedding Cost Is Estimated at $28,000

Have you and your significant other announced your engagement and now are preparing to tally the overall cost of your wedding? After some research, you might be shocked by the fact that the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is equal to that of a brand new car or a hefty down payment on a home.

According to, the average wedding cost in America is now about $28,700 — up from $19,581 in 2009.

What could be driving up these figures? Has there been an increase in the cost of typical services like music and catering, as well as other elements like reception facilities, dresses, etc.? Have big dreams upped the standard for what an average wedding entails, or has the wedding industry simply inflated statistics in order to convince excited couples to spend much more than necessary for their big day?

The truth is a wedding doesn’t need to cost anywhere near $28,000 — a couple can definitely cut wedding costs and still celebrate their nuptials in style.

Elements and Costs of a Typical Wedding

With the average cost of a wedding estimated in the thousands, let’s break down the range of costs an average American could pay for a wedding that includes 100 people:

  • Wedding License: $35 (cost varies by state)
  • Wedding DJ: $100 to $300 per hour ($500 – $1,500 for 5-hour reception)
  • Photographer: $750 to $10,000
  • Catering: $20 to $350 per person ($2,000 to $35,000)
  • Flowers: $400 to $5,000
  • Reception Venue and Decorations: $300 to $10,000
  • Cake: $1.50 to $12 per slice ($150 to $1,200)
  • Dress: $100 to $5,000
  • Tuxedo: $100 and up
  • Officiant: $200
  • 2 Wedding Bands: $200 to $3,000
  • Wedding Invitations: $100 to $5,000

Some people prefer to hire a wedding planner to handle the details of the event. In this case, your cost is going up by another $1,500 to $5,000. And other elements not mentioned in the list (that are not necessarily vital to a wedding) could inflate costs further, including the videographer, rental car/limo, hair and makeup, bridal shower, bachelor party and wedding favors.

As you can see, a typical wedding encompasses a broad range of costs, depending on preferences. However, just sticking to the low end of expenditures, you can get away with a nice wedding that includes a lot of the major elements — most important being great food and music — for $4,835.

But these figures are based on averages pulled from a number of sources. The cost for each element of a wedding can vary significantly depending on where you live, what time of the year you’re getting married, how far in advance you plan and more.

Related — Are You Financially Ready Series: Get Married

Even in high-cost cities like New York or Los Angeles, though, it’s likely that you know people who have found ways to have a fantastic low cost wedding with absolutely no regrets.

Average Wedding Budget: Creating a Budget and Taking Advantage of Low Cost Wedding Ideas

So are you a person who wants a lovely affair without having to borrow money or take out a loan to cover the cost? Since the average wedding budget is in the ball park of $28,000, it’s time to learn how to budget a wedding while still putting on a classy event.

The first step when preparing for your wedding is actually setting up a wedding budget based on the number of people you plan to invite and the money you and your partner can easily save. The wedding budget should list “must-haves,” along with a separate section for “would-like-to-haves” — components that can be easily eliminated if they don’t fit within your budget.

Next, call around to price everything from venues for the reception to the cake and flowers. By acquiring estimates, you can quickly determine what’s not necessary for your wedding. If you find some costs are too high, but you don’t want to eliminate certain pieces of the puzzle, consider the following:

  • Wedding in a park: Many city parks allow people to have private gatherings at a low cost, and sometimes for free (but scope out the area first to make sure it’s spacious and suitable for well-dressed guests).
  • Use church basement for reception: Many church basements are accustomed to holding a large number of guests for dining functions. If you chose a church for your ceremony, you may be able to use the basement afterward to lower your costs.
  • Find a discount wedding gown: Many wedding shops offer annual sales on gowns that can drop the cost as low as $100. Shop early and find a gown within your price range you’re sure to love.
  • Have friends take pictures: Instead of hiring a professional photographer or videographer, ask a friend to take pictures and video-record the wedding and reception.
  • Rent a sound system: Rather than hire a traditional wedding DJ, rent (or find) a quality sound system and hook up an iPod to play hours of great music.
  • Eliminate the wedding party: While most wedding party members have to pay for their own outfits, many brides and grooms still chip in for accessories and gifts. To cut costs (and headaches) associated with bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers, etc. — and eliminate the cost of a wedding rehearsal and dinner — skip the wedding party altogether.
  • Buy low-cost invites, table decorations and more: Consider purchasing invitations, table arrangements and more from budget stores.
  • Trade wedding presents for food and cake: Save a large portion of your budget on food by reaching out to close family and friends and requesting they bring food to your affair (home-cooked or store-bought) in lieu of buying wedding gifts. This is an especially great option if you’re close to a talented chef or baker.
  • Ask your pastor to officiate: Rather than hire someone to officiate your wedding, consider asking your own church pastor, who will likely be happy to take the job for free. You can thank him or her with a nice gift.
  • Strategize flower placement: Consider purchasing flowers and only placing them in key areas where photos will be taken.

Related: 8 Money Issues to Resolve Before Walking Down the Aisle

Another option to consider is taking a vacation alone as husband and wife, and having the wedding and honeymoon in one trip. Or, if you really want a low cost wedding, you can simply opt for a courthouse or home wedding with a few friends and family. The choice is completely up to you!

You should feel free to spend any amount you want for your wedding as long, as you have been saving money and can afford it; it’s your big day and it should be as lavish as you desire. However, if you want to cut corners on the cost of marrying the love of your life — or simply aren’t interested in the frills of an extravagant wedding — it’s good to know you can still have a beautiful event within a modest wedding budget.


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We would love to hear your comments and feedback

  • Liz Greeley

    I did a lot of these tips for my wedding this August. Another thought on saving money is have your wedding catered by a REALLY good local eatery or diner,drive-in or dive. We have a BBQ joint catering our dinner and serving it on rented china. The cost for each person is then $15 for their dinner! And it’s not your typical ‘wedding fare.’ People will remember that too!

  • Laura

    Although a lot of these tips are great, if you’re a New Yorker the venue alone is about 20 grand. Cut corners where you can, but it’s impossible to be that cheap there.

  • Ash

    Drive 30 minutes from the city limits. There will be affordable options. Only if your heart is set on getting married at a particular latitude and longitude does the venue have to cost that much.

  • Bukfa

    I had a 60-guest city wedding in New York (Brooklyn) for 10 grand total. We got married in a park by the East River ($35 fee), had our reception at a local restaurant in DUMBO (cost of food only), and danced the night away in our favorite bar (cost of drinks only, plus crepe truck parked outside in case people had the munchies). Both venue bills came to around $2500. The rest was our outfits, parasols, centerpieces, etc. We did skip the cake (had cupcakes) and flowers.

  • Eric Voyers

    I am currently in the process of planning a wedding in New York and the cost is outrageous. I think most of these vendors are jacking thier prices just because they can.
    PS I am a wedding professional and this experience has taught me that my services are very very affordable compared to every other service that’s out there. So if you want to save money on a wedding video hire EZ Productions.

  • Whitey Brown

    Ask your PASTOR? Have your wedding at YOUR CHURCH? And your reception AT THE CHURCH or in A PARK? Gee, who would have thought of that?! Of course, if you are members of a church or temple, you’ll want the wedding there, with your priest, rabbi, or pastor officiating, but these people DO NOT DO THIS FOR FREE. They get the same honorarium (that’s what the donation to such an officiant is called) as the Universal Life Wedding Minister or JP who comes to hotels, etc. (which priests, rabbis and ministers will also do) does — $100 to $500+ depending on time involved and community custom. Ask if there is a usual or suggested donation. There will also be a donation for the use of the facility, and pre-marital counselling, which many denominations require or encourage, will also have a “standard donation.” Why on earth would this twit think your pastor (etc.) and church/temple would be FREE?

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