Americans expected to spending more than $1 billion on weddings taking place on a single weekend in August, giving a huge jolt to the wedding industry. More than 28,000 weddings were planned just for the palindrome date 8-18-18, according to The Knot — with an estimated 3.9 million guests spending hundreds of dollars each, reported Bloomberg. That Saturday and similar dates like 8-19-18 through 9-19-19 are highly desirable and competitive ceremony days for their numerical significance and generally pleasant weather. They’re also easier to remember for anniversaries.
Your wedding day should be one of the most memorable days of your life. Unfortunately, paying for the wedding can be a cause of financial strain or stress thanks to the high price tag that often comes along with it. Although the average cost of a wedding is still high, The Knot 2017 Real Weddings Study found that the price tag for the average wedding actually decreased from 2016 to 2017, as couples are focusing more on having personalized weddings rather than formal black tie affairs.
Find out what the average wedding cost is for U.S. couples, and click through to see which celebrities splurged the most on their own special days.
Average Wedding Cost: $33,391
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 The Knot’s study, the average wedding cost in 2017 was $33,391, which is actually down from 2016’s average cost of $35,329. That’s still an increase from $32,641 in 2015 and $29,858 in 2013, however. These costs, although high, don’t include honeymoon expenses, which could add several thousand dollars to the final price tag, as well as the impact of inflation.
Despite the high cost for weddings, however, couples are inviting fewer guests. But this seems to be a matter of providing guests with a better experience rather than a way to cut costs: The average guest headcount has decreased from previous years, but the average cost per guest has reached an all-time high at $268 — up from $194 in 2009. But Bloomberg reported that the average 136 guests per wedding could spend upwards of $900 each if travel is involved in attending ceremonies.
The truth is, a wedding doesn’t need to cost anywhere near $33,391 — a couple can cut wedding costs and still celebrate their nuptials in style. In fact, you can have a low-cost wedding and get married in a courthouse. The cost of a ceremony varies by courthouse, but you might be able to have one for as low as around $30 or upwards of $100.
How Much Does a Typical Wedding Cost?
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|
|Flowers and decor||$2,379|
|Catering||$70 per person|
|Source: The Knot 2017 Real Weddings Study|
Other Wedding Costs to Consider
Other items mentioned in the list but that are not vital to a wedding include a videographer, transportation, hair and makeup services, rehearsal dinner, a reception band 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 $1,988 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.
By using a DJ instead of a band at your reception, you’ll save an average of $2,788. And if the bride and bridal party do their own hair and makeup, you can save an additional $966.
The 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 to get married in the U.S.:
|Top 5 Most Expensive Places to Get Married|
|New York – Manhattan||$76,944|
|New York – Long Island||$61,113|
|New Jersey – North/Central||$62,074|
|Cape Cod, Mass.||$55,083|
|Source: The Knot 2017 Real Weddings Study|
The Cheapest Places to Get Married
In all of the cheapest places to get married, the average wedding cost is more than $10,000 below the national average. If you really want to save, consider having a “destination wedding” at one of these locations.
Here are the five cheapest places to tie the knot in America:
|Top 5 Cheapest Places to Get Married|
|Missouri (Kansas City)||$22,718|
|Source: The Knot 2017 Real Weddings Study|
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.
If you want to get married on a popular date like 9-19-19, you better start planning now. You might want to consider outdoor locations with less competition than in-demand venues that are harder to book. Just make sure you have the appropriate permits for your number of guests and a canopy or other accommodations should the weather turn on you.
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 — compounding the popularity of 8-18-18 — so venues charge a premium for that day. If you hold your event on a weekday or a Sunday instead, you could snag your top-choice venue for much less money.
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 and 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.
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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.
Check Out: The Most Expensive Royal Weddings in History
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.
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Rent a Sound System
Rather than hire a traditional wedding DJ, rent or find a quality sound system and hook up an iPod or smartphone 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 Bridesmaids and Groomsmen
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.
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, co-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.
Negotiate Now: Haggle Your Way to a Better Deal With These 11 Insider Tips
What Does the Average Wedding Cost?
Although the average wedding costs over $33,000, the actual cost varies greatly depending on where in the U.S. the wedding takes place, and can also vary greatly from couple to couple.
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When it comes to planning your own wedding budget, be realistic about what you can afford, and don’t be afraid to cut corners on aspects of the wedding that are less important to you and your spouse-to-be. The biggest expense is usually the venue, so it’s best to book your wedding location before considering other costs.
No matter how intimate or over-the-top your wedding is, your focus should be on having the best experience possible — while staying within a reasonable budget. And no matter the date — palindrome or not — it’ll always be a day you remember.
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About the Author
Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert.