Industry experts say the cost of a wedding on average is approximately $24,600.
Instead of saving for the price of an average wedding, get familiar with the average cost of wedding vendors and other essentials. That way, you can save money for your wedding, and not the average.
Keep in mind that the $24,600 average includes expenses like an engagement ring. (It does not include the honeymoon, which plenty of couples have opted to skip.)
And let’s address the masked elephant in the room: Covid has changed the entire wedding landscape. Thanks to the pandemic, smaller, outdoor ceremonies are all the rage — something that will ultimately save money for many happy couples.
Average cost: $30 to $100
The legally binding part of your wedding is usually the cheapest. While wedding license fees vary by state, they typically cost $30 to $100.
Average cost: 0 to $5,000+ plus
As part of your wedding planning process, compare the average costs of entertainment. The average cost of a wedding band is approximately $4,500, while the average cost of a reception Average cost of DJ is closer to $1,300.
This is one area where averages don’t mean much for your wedding budget. You don’t technically have to pay for entertainment — there is no rule that says you can’t plug your laptop into a speaker and DJ all by yourself.
Average cost: 0 to $20,000
Wedding venue price tags can vary quite a bit. Lots of couples have opted for a barn or a backyard for their ceremony and reception. In fact, those were the most popular wedding venues in 2020, according to Wedding Wire. Family backyards cost 0, while a rustic barn could easily set you back $20,000.
Average cost: $27 to $70 Per Person ($1,800 to $7,000)
For a sit-down dinner, couples can expect to spend $40 to $70 per person. (In a more expensive market, like New York City, seated dinners will cost closer to $100 to $200.)
Buffets and simple menus of tacos or barbecue are significantly cheaper, but also less popular due to Covid. (For the record, those types of buffet meals cost closer to $27 per person.)
Average cost: $400 to $500
Tiered cakes can cost a pretty penny. If your wedding cake is going to break the bank, think about having a smaller “slicing cake” for the cake-cutting ceremony, and then serve a variety of cupcakes, cookies, or other desserts.
Average cost: $300 to $12,000
Open bars can be exceptionally expensive, especially if you plan to serve high-end liquor. Many couples opt to save money by sticking to wine and beer, or wine and beer plus one signature cocktail.
Average cost: $1,500 to $4,000
Wedding planners usually charge a percentage of the vendor and venue cost, typically around 20%. Couples sometimes choose to save money by going without a wedding planner, or opting for a day-of wedding coordinator instead. With that said: Time is money. If you choose not to pay a planner, you will end up investing quite a few (hundred) hours of your own time into wedding planning.
Average cost: $300 to $4,500
This is another category with a lot of wiggle room. You can find less experienced photographers who will only charge a few hundred bucks, or get the all-star treatment for thousands of dollars.
Average cost: $1,000 to $2,500
Wedding videographers can be a significant expense, but they spare you a lifetime of only having your family’s home videos. (Why does your uncle only point the camera at his shoes?!)
Average cost: $150 to $2,000
The average wedding bouquet costs between $150 and $350. Bouquets for bridesmaids are only slightly less. Floral budgets start to add up when you rely heavily on flowers for décor. You may want flowers as centerpieces, garlands, flower girl wreaths, and cake toppers.
Average cost: $1,600
The average wedding dress cost doesn’t include a veil, comfortable heels, or other accessories.
Don’t forget: The groom needs to wear something, too! Although you probably won’t rent a tuxedo for a backyard wedding, a nice formal outfit for a groom will probably cost around $200 to $300.
Brides can expect to spend around $300 for professional hair and makeup.
Average cost: $500 to $1,000
Shuttles are a great idea (one could argue a must-have) for wedding receptions that serve alcohol.
Wedding budgets often boil down to location. States like Kentucky and Utah can offer gorgeous venues without a hefty price tag. If you’re set on getting married somewhere where real estate can come at a premium — like New York or New Jersey — the cost of your venue will be much higher.
If you do choose your small hometown for the big event, you may want to consider the cost of transportation for your friends and family. (Booking a hotel block in a more suburban or rural area may offset those expenses and still cost you less than getting married in New York City or San Francisco.)
As you add up your wedding expenses, don’t sweat it if the price tag is more than you had originally imagined. But also don’t set your heart on the first venue you visit or the first dress you try on. Most couples are engaged for over a year — make sure your wedding planning process includes comparison shopping.
When it comes time to pay the deposits, remember that you don’t have to put everything on credit cards. Many couples set up cash funds as part of their registry to help them cover wedding expenses. Some couples may also choose to take out a wedding loan.
When friends and family ask if they can help, don’t be shy about saying “Yes!” If you have a cousin who can bartend or a good friend who could be your photographer, that could offer significant savings.
Speaking of family and friends! One of the most effective ways to save money is to carefully craft your invite list. Instead of inviting everyone in your extended family, make a list of people who you know will want to attend. The same goes for friends.
Remember — $30,000 is just an average. Your wedding could cost more or significantly less. Thinking about average costs should simply start a discussion about what matters most to you and your partner.