Here’s How Much the Average Wedding CostsGet a beautiful wedding for less than the average wedding cost with these tips.

iStock.com / Jason_Lee_Hughes

Your wedding day creates memories that last a lifetime. Unfortunately, those memories often come at a high price — and that price is on the rise. The average wedding cost has increased significantly in recent years, making it more difficult for couples to save enough money to pay for their dream weddings or other goals like buying a house.

To see if you can avoid spending too much on your wedding day without sacrificing what’s important to you, here’s a breakdown of the average cost of a wedding and what exactly goes into that amount. But don’t call a wedding planner just yet — before you start writing checks to vendors, make time to have an open and honest conversation with your partner about money.

Average Wedding Cost: $35,329

If you and your significant other announced your engagement and are now preparing to tally the overall cost of your wedding, 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 house.

According to a recent study conducted by The Knot, the average wedding cost was $35,329 in 2016, up from $32,641 in 2015 and $29,858 in 2013 — a $5,471 increase over three years. These costs, although high, don’t include honeymoon expenses, which could add several thousand dollars to the final price tag. Despite the higher cost for weddings, however, couples are inviting fewer guests. In 2016, the average wedding had 141 guests, down from 149 in 2009.

The truth is, a wedding doesn’t need to cost anywhere near $35,329 — a couple can cut wedding costs and still celebrate their nuptials in style. Here’s how.

See: Should You Get a Wedding Loan?

Costs of a Typical Wedding

With the average cost of a wedding estimated in the tens of thousands, here’s a look at typical costs couples incur, according to The Knot.

Wedding Costs Breakdown
ItemCost
Wedding invitations$462
Photographer$2,783
Wedding dress$1,564
Groom’s attire$280
Flowers and decor$2,534
Venue$16,107
DJ$1,245
Catering$71 per person
Favors$268
Wedding cake$582
Source: The Knot 2016 Real Weddings Study

Other items mentioned in the list but that are not vital to a wedding include a videographer, rental car or limo, hair and makeup services, bridal shower, bachelor party, rehearsal dinner and ceremony musicians.Some people prefer to hire a professional wedding planner to handle the details of the event. When you factor in that wedding planner cost, your total will go up by another $2,037 on average.

A typical wedding encompasses a broad range of costs, depending on your preferences. Just sticking to the low end of expenditures, however, can get you a nice wedding that includes a lot of the major elements that are most important to you. And that’s what it comes down to when you’re budgeting: What is most important to you on your wedding day? Cut what is less important to you and stick to the few things that you’ll want to remember forever, whether that’s the music, the photos or the food.

Cheapest and Most Expensive Places to Get Married

The cost for each element of a wedding varies significantly depending on factors like location, the time of year you’re getting married and how far in advance you plan. Here’s a look at the most expensive cities and the cheapest states to get married in the U.S.

Top 5 Most Expensive Places to Get Married
CityAverage Cost
New York – Manhattan$78,464
New York – Long Island$67,831
New Jersey – North/Central$62,606
Chicago$60,035
Cape Cod, Mass.$58,608
Source: The Knot 2016 Real Weddings Study

 

Top 5 Cheapest Places to Get Married
StateAverage Cost
Utah$20,337
Montana$20,749
West Texas$21,688
Oregon$21,854
Idaho$22,018
Source: The Knot 2016 Real Weddings Study

 

Don’t Miss: Creative Ways to Say ‘I Love You’ Without Spending a Dime

How to Create a Wedding Budget for a Low-Cost Wedding

The first step in 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 save. The wedding budget should list must-haves along with a separate section for nice-to-have options — 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 suggestions to cut down on wedding costs while still having your dream wedding.

Send Out Electronic Wedding Invitations

Save some cash with eco-friendly save-the-date notices and invitations. You can choose from a variety of designs and styles to find something that suits your taste. Beyond the classic Evite, sites like Greenvelope, Paperless Post and Punchbowl offer a great selection of electronic invitations — many of which are free. You can also design your own invitation using Photoshop and email a PDF copy to your guests. With an artistic touch, your invitations can look just as elegant and personal as a traditional print invitation.

Get Married on Thursday, Friday or Sunday

Saturday is the most popular day of the week for weddings, so venues charge a premium for that day. Hold your event on a weekday or a Sunday and you could snag your top-choice venue for much less money.

Have a Wedding in the Park

Many city parks allow people to have private gatherings at low costs — or sometimes for free — but scope out the area first to make sure it’s spacious and suitable for well-dressed guests. You can go big on this idea while you stick to a small budget by considering national parks like the National Estuarine Research Reserves on the coasts.

Many parks allow you to have your wedding on-site for a small fee. For a special event in a natural setting, these reserves offer an unusual, low-cost option — and one that’s beautiful to boot, according to certified financial planner Rebecca Schreiber of Pure Financial Education. If you choose to have your wedding at a state or national park, a historical garden, or a museum, you might be able to deduct your venue fee as a donation on your taxes, so save your receipts consult a tax professional at tax time.

Host the Reception at a Community Center

Many churches are accustomed to holding large parties for dining functions. If you chose a church for your ceremony, you might be able to use its event hall afterward to lower your costs. Community centers can also be a budget-friendly option. You won’t have to skimp on style, depending on how you decorate and set up the venue, and you might be able to have the ceremony there, too.

Shop Discount Wedding Gowns

If borrowing a gown is not an option, you can take other routes to beat the average wedding dress cost. Many wedding shops offer annual sales on gowns that can drop the cost to as low as $100. Shop early and find a gown that you love and is within your price range. If having a designer gown is a priority for you, check out options like Rent the Runway, which, for reasonable prices, rents out dresses that would normally cost thousands of dollars.

Have Friends Take Photos

Instead of hiring a professional, cut the cost of a wedding photographer or videographer by asking talented friends to take pictures and record video of the wedding and reception. If you happen to be friends with a professional photographer, ask if he has a friends-and-family discount — be careful not to strain your friendship by asking or expecting them to do something for you for free when it’s what they do for a living.

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. Putting your playlist together with your fiance, bridesmaids, groomsmen, or friends and family can be a great experience and memory to cherish.

Eliminate the Wedding Party

Although 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, and ushers, eliminate the wedding rehearsal dinner or skip having a wedding party altogether.

Find Out: Is It More Expensive to Be a Bridesmaid or a Groomsman?

Buy Low-Cost Invites, Table Decor and More

Consider purchasing table arrangements and other decorations from budget stores. If electronic invitations aren’t your style or if sending handwritten thank-you notes after the wedding is important to you, you can look for invitations or cards at the same kinds of stores. Ask friends and family if they have items that you could borrow — and make sure to label and return them — such as strings of lights or vases for centerpieces.

Dodge the Sit-Down Dinner

“The number-one tip for saving on your wedding is not serving a sit-down meal,” said Sara Margulis, founder and CEO of Honeyfund. Save a large portion of your food budget by reaching out to close family and friends and requesting they bring food — home-cooked or store-bought — to your affair in lieu of buying wedding gifts. Doing this is an especially great option if you are close friends with a talented chef or baker. Another option is to put a fun, casual twist on the usual wedding fare by hiring a favorite food truck to serve your party.

Ask a Friend 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 or for a small fee. You can thank him with a nice gift. You could also ask a friend to be ordained for your wedding and to officiate as a wedding gift to you.

Trim Your Wedding Flowers Cost

Consider cutting your wedding flowers cost by only placing flowers in key areas where photos will be taken. If your wedding party will carry flowers, consider putting those bouquets on double duty as centerpieces during the reception.

Be Prepared to Negotiate

For every vendor you work with, brace yourself for negotiation. “Get ready to haggle,” said money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. “Don’t let your vendors know that they are your top choice, and ask if they can offer you a better rate or add value with free extras to make their offer a better value.”

For her own wedding, she said, “My live band gave me $100 off the dinner music hour simply because I asked. The venue coordinator was able to throw in a free champagne toast, and the hotel manager cut me a break on the cost of the hotel nights.”

Even in high-cost cities like New York or Los Angeles, it’s likely that you know people who have found ways to have a fantastic, low-cost wedding with absolutely no regrets. Margulis shared that she once attended a wedding that cost less than $1,500. “A public space for the ceremony, a small guest list, and Mexican catering truck made it happen,” she said.

Another option to consider is taking a vacation alone as husband and wife and having the wedding and honeymoon in one trip. Plan your wedding during an off-peak season to save more. And if you want a really low-cost wedding, you can opt for a courthouse or home wedding with a few friends and family.

Related: Honeymoon Destinations That Won’t Break the Bank

How Much Should Your Wedding Cost?

So, how much does a wedding cost? Regardless of actual figures and averages, you’re in charge of how much you spend. Spend any amount you want for your wedding as long as you can afford it; it’s your big day, and it should be as intimate or lavish as you desire.

If you want to lower the cost of marrying the love of your life — or simply aren’t interested in the frills of an extravagant wedding — you can still have a beautiful event within a modest wedding budget.

Laira Martin and Ruth Sarreal contributed to the reporting for this article.

Comments
  • 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

    @Laura,
    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

    @Laura,
    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.

    • Kat

      the pricing also reflects professionalism…you can’t redo a wedding, there is a ton of pressure on these vendors. That being said, you can always find deals, but you truly tend to get what you paid for when it comes to wedding vendors.

  • 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?

    • AW

      All of my friends who have had weddings at their churches were able to do so for free. My church doesn’t charge either. From my understanding, this is customary.

      • Kat

        if you’re a member of a church most will officiate for free but ask for a donation to clean the church…at churches that are more popular, especially the big cathedrals, a $800 or so fee is common

    • Khym

      of course they did. We have it here.. Even church members are helping one another, laboring, and it is completely for free..

    • SmallTownGirl

      I work @ a decent-sized Baptist Church – just a city of around 127K, but membership is around 2K – and the wedding venue (“Historic Sanctuary” – truly beautiful – early 1900’s) is free of charge to all church members. As is the chandeliered hallway and adjacent historic “parlor” where most receptions are held afterwards. It is customary to give an honorarium to the minister officiating and the musicians as well, but being a smallish town where several generations know one another, those are often refused!

  • Soiree Celebrations

    I planned my entire wedding in NY for less than 10 grand. i think it was close to $7,000 or a bit less. but I had a non traditional wedding. my ceremony was at a park and the reception was at a temple’s party hall. it was beautiful. i dont believe in paying almost $50000 on a wedding just for one day. its like you’re spending more than what you’re getting back in gifts. and it should be the opposite. lol. anyways, no one believes how much i spent. it was beautiful. which made me want to start my own party planning business. There are other brides out there like me. i know it. email me for info. partyplanningnow2@gmail.com

  • georgia

    i did mine for 18 and it was a great wedding on the water — so what ? what? huh? 🙂 Its because alot of people just contract out work, and cost control you would have is now gone to wedding coordinator, restaurant or venue… got to control each piece yourself.

    • georgia

      FYI i did use a day of coordinator, too

  • DJBobbyFreedom

    Sure, cut back on a few things, but not the DJ/Band, people need good entertainment!

  • Betty

    100 guests? Seriously? If you have a large family there is no way you can bring your numbers down to 100 guests. We had 250 with making lots of cuts. If it’s your second wedding or you are cutting out family I can see how you can get under 100, but personally, I have never been to a wedding in the north east that was smaller than 200 guests. Largest was 375 (bride was one of 4 siblings, groom was one of 6).

    Originally, we were looking at renting a barn in upstate NY and having it catered. A sit down dinner with 3 passes of hors d’oeuvres for 60 guests would run us $35,000. Ridiculous. We ended up spending roughly $100,000 and made a ton of items ourselves as we are designers (favors, invitations, seating cards, candle holders, etc). On top of that, our reception hall was owned by friends so we only paid $125 a head instead of $200+, had two floors of food for the reception, and our Venetian hour and cake were catered by a very good family friend at almost no cost. We didn’t go crazy with flowers ($125 a centerpiece, most places I was quoted $250), or dj ($5000 and he was average), or photographer ($3500, I printed all my own photos at home).

    Weddings add up. You didn’t add in the rehearsal dinner and brunch for wedding party and out of town guests, bride and groom’s hotel room, cars, fees for wedding location (our park charged $500, just as much as the church wanted), chair rental, set up and take down if you do have it in a park, tips for wait and barstaff, etc. etc.

    • bummersville

      uh, i cut my list to 75 because, MONEY.
      you dont need to invite everyone you said hi to your entire life

      signed, from a huge irish family in Brooklyn.

      • Doris Eck

        Our wedding was officiated at in a local park with Rose Garden. Our Mayor officiated ($100) License fee($35) Catering, including wedding cake and drinks ($450) Pictures and video ($0) done by family and friends. Dress, suit, shoes ($65) bought at discounter. Invitations with directions ($9.99) stock paper and self-designed. Flowers ($22) silk at Michael’s, bouquet, boutonnier and decorations. Paper goods and plastic ware, serving utensils ($7) Music entertainment ($0) self-supplied and brought along. Outdoor games ($15)
        Guests: 17
        Grand total: $703.99
        Happily married over 15 years and still frugal. Can you beat it?

    • purplravioli

      My fiance and I are inviting every friend and family member with whom we interact at least every couple months or so, and our final guest count is looking to be 25-35 guests. I am one of 4 siblings, fiance is one of 2. This is skewed by the fact that we’re living in CT right now and all of our friends live in FL; most of our friends either can’t afford to fly up here or can’t get time off. If they all came, we’d be at around 50.

      For us to reach anywhere close to 100 would require inviting every relative we can think of plus friends we barely, if ever, talk to anymore.

      I’d have to invite people I haven’t talked to since high school to get up to 375 guests, that’s insane.

  • Monikque

    That’s not true, if you know how to look around. I found a hall for 2,000 and got a video,photographer,and Dj 1300. 7 hours of video and photo, and 5 hours of Dj and Mc services. My family is going to help me cook, so the most I’ll spend is 7500 including my dress. Also brides go to the Bridal Shows, like bridal expo’s etc. You can get discounts on your dresses,win prizes. I went and got a 50 dollar discount, on my dress. Also if your shopping at David’s Bridal, go when they have big sales. They have one going on until September 30, 2014. But there will be more through out the year.