How Much Do Inaugurations Typically Cost?

washington DC capitol building
JRAphotographics /

President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration will probably look different than previous celebrations, with Biden’s planning committee announcing that attendance will be limited and that the traditional parade will “be more virtual than physical,” The Washington Post reported. Still, that doesn’t mean it will come cheap as there are still expenses related to security — which will certainly be heightened in light of the recent siege of the Capitol — as well as emergency services and cleanup operations, in addition to the costs for the festivities themselves.

Find Out: How Much It Costs To Become President of the United States

As the Post explains, “Without galas or hundreds of thousands of people converging for a parade, [Washington, D.C.’s] financial burden of hosting the inauguration may be significantly lower than in years past. But managing demonstrations and smaller-scale events amid a public health crisis may prove to be a less glamorous but equally significant cost.”

Based on past inauguration expenses, it’s easy for the even to cost well over $100 million. As we look ahead to the 59th presidential inauguration, let’s take a closer look at how much previous inaugurations have cost.

See: What It Costs Taxpayers for the President To Go on Vacation

President Donald Trump’s Inauguration Cost About $200 Million

Washington, D.C., spent $27 million to staff President Trump’s inauguration in 2017, The Washington Post reported. The majority of the spending was for law enforcement to control crowds and the parade.

Read: How Much Is President Donald Trump Worth?

In addition, private donations paid for $100 million of the costs of Trump’s inauguration, The New York Times reported. According to the Times analysis of those expenses, “there was $10,000 for makeup for 20 aides at an evening inaugural event. There was another $30,000 in per diem payments to dozens of contract staff members, in addition to their fully covered hotel rooms, room service orders, plane tickets and taxi rides, including some to drop off laundry.”

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Other expenses included a $1.5 million bill from the Trump International Hotel; $924,000 for 7-foot wreaths, flowers and other decorations; $2 million for online advertisements to bring in crowds; and $2.7 million to fly in a performance group. 

As for who pays for the rest, taxpayers do that, according to The New York Times.

Former President Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration Cost an Estimated $170 Million

Obama’s inaugural committee raised about $45 million to cover his 2009 festivities, with the rest of the $170 million budget coming from federal and local governments, ABC News reported. Expenses included a Bruce Springsteen concert, the parade, large-screen TV rentals for viewing on the National Mall, $700,000 to the Smithsonian Institution to stay open and the celebratory balls, in addition to all the costs for law enforcement and emergency services.

Keep Reading: Former President Barack Obama’s Net Worth

How Much Will Biden’s Inauguration Cost?

Even though Biden’s inauguration is anticipated to have less fanfare than previous ceremonies, Washington, D.C., is anticipating higher-than-usual security costs. The city initially asked for $35 million from Congress, but has since upped the ask to $45 million in preparation for heightened unrest on Jan. 20 and the days around it, The Washington Post reported.

When asked by The New York Times in December, an inauguration spokesperson would not say how much had already been raised through private donations or what the fundraising goal was, so it remains to be seen how much Biden’s scaled-down celebrations will end up costing.

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