You might be dreaming of a lavish wedding with hundreds of family members and friends in attendance that segues into a stunning, elaborate reception, but you should consider if the cost is worth it before you commit. According to The Knot, the average wedding cost is $33,931 — money that could be spent on things that might provide a better return on investment.
Not that your wedding celebration isn’t important — it is. But that doesn’t mean your budget has to equal the cost of a brand new car, a satisfying jumpstart on a retirement account or almost two dozen international getaways. Consider throwing your wedding for less, and use your savings to put toward other expenses that might offer you more satisfaction in the long run.
22.9 Months of Rent
The average rent in the U.S. is $1,480 per month, according to data from Zillow, which means you could cover almost two years’ worth of rent charges for the cost of one wedding. You might be able to save even more, however, if you live in one of the 50 best cities for renters.
For example, according to a separate GOBankingRates study, Springfield, Missouri, has the most affordable median rent — $695 — for a single-family residence out of America’s 150 most-populous cities, which equals less than half of the average rent costs of $1,480.
29.6 Months of Mortgage Payments
For a home just over $225,000, mortgage payments would be about $1,145 per month. When you divide the cost of the average wedding by that monthly figure, you could pay off almost 2.5 years of your mortgage. Plus, if you can buy a home for less than $225,000, your mortgage payments will stretch even further.
7.8 Years' Worth of Groceries
Opting out of an almost $34,000 wedding would cover your grocery bill for the better part of a decade, assuming your grocery bill never exceeded $363.58 per month. If a grocery budget of less than $100 a week sounds iffy, simple actions like clipping coupons and forgoing prepped ingredients for do-it-yourself options can help minimize your grocery bill come checkout time.
Between 2.4 to 2.7 Years of Child Care Costs
Average annual costs to raise a child range between $12,350 and $13,900. Considering the average cost of raising a child from birth to 18 years is between $222,300 and $250,200, you wouldn’t be able to cover the entire cost of caring for your child by calling off the wedding arrangements that cost tens of thousands of dollars. But you could certainly get a great head start.
Round Trip to 21 Different Countries
With the money you could save by ditching high average wedding costs, you could take 21 round-trip honeymoons to exotic locales — each lasting a week. For example, a visit to the Canary Islands would cost you right under $1,400 on average where you could lounge on world-class beaches, view towering volcanic peaks at some of the area’s national parks or sail on a catamaran.
Or if a city vacay is more your style, you could travel to Paris for a week for just under $2,000 on average where you could visit the Louvre, take in a cabaret show and enjoy panoramic views of the city from the summit of the Eiffel Tower.
A Year Raising 39 Pets
The average annual cost of raising a single pet for a year is $869, which means that you could hypothetically raise almost 40 pets for one year for what it takes to finance the average cost of a wedding. It’s doubtful, however, that most people would opt to take on the expense and care of a menagerie of animals in lieu of a wedding — unless they’re aiming for a divorce.
$50,226 After 10 Years of Investing
Here’s a smart idea: How about making money off of the money you could have blown on a wedding but opted not to? By investing the average wedding cost of $33,931 at an annual 4 percent return with no additional contribution, you could have a little more than $50,000 after 10 years — which equals $16,069 extra or roughly a 32 percent increase.
A Car From Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan or Toyota
For the average cost of a wedding, you could score yourself a new car that could also help you save on gas. The average cost of a new Hyundai or Kia model is $25,401, and an average-priced model from Honda comes in at $28,991. A Nissan model costs a bit more, averaging $29,956, whereas the average-priced Toyota model will run you the most at $32,777.
61 Years' Worth of Alcohol
With an average yearly alcohol expense of $558, you could purchase over six decades of your favorite wine, beer or spirits. Of course, if you’d rather not throw away thousands of dollars on this non-essential expense, you can cut your monthly alcohol costs by having a drink or two before going out, hitting happy hour specials or buying pitchers of beer or carafes of wine to share when out with friends.
A Full Home Kitchen Renovation
The average cost of a kitchen remodel is $20,474, which could be money well spent. Homebuyers often look at the quality of a home’s kitchen and bathrooms as a way to make purchasing decisions. A full-scale renovation might not be necessary though. A new floor or countertops, a coat of paint and some new appliances might be enough.
Your Entire Student Loan Debt
Considering that the average student loan debt is $29,800 as of 2019, you could potentially choose to pay off that debt instead of spending the money on a wedding. After wiping out your school debt, you’d still have a little over $4,000 to play with, which you could use for a one-week honeymoon, a down payment on a new vehicle or as payment for other debts.
Your Credit Card Debt — Paid Off 5.3 Times
Because the average credit card debt in America is $6,354, you could potentially pay off that debt over five times with the money you’d save if you decided not to foot the bill for an average wedding. But the leftover money — approximately $27,000 — could be put to much better use.
12% Down Payment on a Home
Although low down payment mortgage programs are available, such as FHA, your monthly payment will be higher and so might your interest if you choose to put the minimum amount down. Plus, lenders often require borrowers to carry private mortgage insurance if they put less than 20 percent down.
Although a 12 percent down payment is quite a bit more than the 3.5 percent down required for an FHA loan, you might want to look for a cheaper-priced home or save up until you can put 20 percent down. By doing so, you can avoid private mortgage insurance on a conventional loan, and you might even get a better interest rate, which could potentially save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
How to Save Money on a Wedding
Of course, $33,931 is the average cost of a wedding — not the amount you’re committed to spending — and there’s plenty of ways to bring wedding costs down to a more reasonable level. One of the best ways is to whittle down your guest list and only invite people who you stay in close contact with or with whom you have a meaningful, personal connection.
Once you have a small guest list, you can ditch expensive venues for a more intimate setting, such as a friend or family member’s backyard flower garden or historic home. Instead of a band, consider hiring a solo musician, such as a harpist or pianist. You can also opt to forgo expensive wedding invitations by making your own online and emailing them or calling guests personally to extend the invite. Finally, because you’re only having a small number of guests, you don’t have to worry about ordering expensive party favors or renting photo booths because you and your significant other will be able to gift everyone your personal attention.
Click through to read about 20 celebrity weddings that spared no expense.
More on Saving Money
- Money-Proof Your Relationship With These Easy Ways to Save as a Couple
- 10 Ways to Save for the Honeymoon of Your Dreams
- 6 Money Mistakes That Can Lead to Divorce
- Watch: Learn How One Frugal Couple Found Financial Freedom for Just $1,000 a Month
Methodology: GOBankingRates found the cost of an average American wedding by using data from The Knot and then analyzed various costs to see what an American would be able to get for that cost. The following costs were analyzed: (1) U.S. median rent sourced from Zillow January 2019 data; (2) U.S. monthly mortgage sourced from Zillow January 2019 data and mortgage rates were calculated from Zillow’s mortgage calculator; (3) Annual cost of groceries sourced from Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure 2017 data; (4) Annual child care costs sourced from the U.S. Department of Agriculture 2015 data; (5) Round-trip vacation costs from the U.S. to other countries sourced from the GOBankingRates study “Most and Least Affordable Places to Visit in Europe”; (6) The annual cost of a pet sourced from Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure 2017 data; (7) Average car costs from a manufacturer sourced from Kelly Blue Book’s March 1, 2019 press release; (8) Investment returns sourced from SmartAsset’s investment calculator assuming you invest at a 4 percent return over a 10-year period; (9) Annual alcohol costs sourced from Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure 2017 data; (10) Average cost of remodeling a home kitchen sourced from HomeAdvisor; (11) 401(k) return was calculated from SmartAsset’s 401(k) calculator; (12) Student loan debt was sourced from Student Loan Hero’s 2019 average student loan debt; (13) Credit card debt was sourced from Experian’s 2017 “State of Credit” data; (14) Mortgage down payment calculated from Zillow’s mortgage calculator based of the U.S. median home value from January 2019. Once all costs were sourced, they were then compared to the cost of an average U.S. wedding in order to find what you can obtain within each item category for the cost of a wedding.