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Home » Lifestyle Finance, Live

The Average Wedding Cost Can Cripple New Families

Last updated by on April 11, 2016

The Average Cost of a Wedding Has Increased Significantly

The average wedding now costs $32,641, according to CNN, up 4.6% from the prior year.

This is more than 10 times what my cheap wedding cost.

It’s also more than most student loan balances at graduation. Is this number reasonable? And what kind of impact does it have on newlyweds? Recent data shows that high wedding costs can lead to lower marriage success rates. So there may be more reason than you think to watch the cost of your wedding – because it can absolutely cripple a new family financially, just as it is getting started.

The Longer-Term Impact of Wedding Costs

The immediate price tag isn’t the only thing you should consider with a wedding. As Brett Arends of the Wall Street Journal points out, the average cost of a wedding can multiply over time when you factor in what that money could have earned in interest over the years. Brett points out:

If her savings earn 4% a year above inflation over the long haul, each dollar she spends now is actually taking $5—in today’s terms—out of her lifetime savings. If her money earns 6% a year above inflation, an estimate that is challenging but not ridiculous, she is taking out $11…Someone in their 50s today would have an extra $100,000 if they’d saved just $5,000 more 30 years ago.

Of course, this is assuming that the bride and groom are paying with cash that they have diligently saved up in anticipation of the big day. Most often, that is not the case. Weddings are debt traps! In which case, not only are you not making a return on the money you spent on the wedding, you are living with that debt for years, maybe even decades. Not a good way to start a lifelong bond. (continued below…)

The Guilt of Having Others Pay for your Wedding

average wedding costThe tradition of having the bride’s parents pay for everything is slowly eroding away, and according to a study done by theweddingreport.com, the bride and groom pay for the majority of expenses.

But maybe you’ll get “lucky” and daddy swoops in with his cape (money) and the increased expectations that the groom will never screw anything up that comes with it.

Sure, someone else might be footing the bill for your wedding might seem appealing at first. But think about this…if they are not extremely well off, they are probably dipping into their skimpy retirement account to help you out. And when they get older and can’t afford to pay for their own retirement, you’re going to have to either:

  • foot the bill for their assisted living
  • invite them to live with you

Bet that will make you think twice about accepting those wedding funds with open hands.

So How do You Keep your Wedding Expenses Down?

I’m going to give you the full story about how I was able to keep my wedding costs to just $2,500 in an upcoming post. But I’ll whet your appetite with three things to think about as you plan your wedding:

  1. This is your day. Keep that in mind as you plan. And don’t let others plan for you.
  2. Make your own traditions. Am I the only one who thinks that the ‘traditional American wedding’ is more like a funeral than a celebration? The McWedding tradition is one that is begging to be broken.
  3. You don’t have to invite everyone. Period.

Whatever you do, DO NOT crowdfund your wedding. It’s your responsibility, you pay for it.

Wedding Cost Discussion:

  • How much did your wedding cost or would you be comfortable spending on a wedding?
  • Do you have regret over how much your wedding cost?

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You can also explore every post I have written, in order.


10 Comments »
  • Miss Thrifty says:

    When I hear figures like that one for the average wedding, I get very upset. The wedding industrial complex and Pinterest are to blame. I enjoyed reading about your wedding on a shoestring budget and wish more couples would do like you did!

  • Trey says:

    As a loyal reader, I feel compelled to point out that you should replace “wet” with “whet.”

  • Steve says:

    This reminds me of an episode of Friends, where Monica learns Chandler has a lot of money stashed away. She’s really excited that he can use it to make the wedding more extravagant. He refuses to touch it, saying “do you want a great wedding or do you want a great marriage?” He also irritates Monica by constantly referring to the wedding as a party, but that’s really all it is.

    Smart man, that Chandler. If only the actor portraying him didn’t have terrible drug issues…

  • Sean says:

    Had an amazing wedding in a tourist town at a brewery almost 2 years ago AND a 2 week honeymoon in St. Lucia at high end resorts for less than that average wedding cost…all paid for with cash (actually cash rewards credit card and then balance paid next day)…

    To this day I still have a friend or two a month tell me or my wife how it was one of the best weddings they’ve ever been to.

  • Lexi says:

    $30K….WOW. I got married 5 years ago, and my wedding cost just under $10K. If I was doing it over again, I’d probably spend a little less, invite fewer people, and change/skip a few details. I hadn’t been to many weddings beforehand, so I didn’t really know what I was doing. But it’s not something I think about much, and those little details have almost zero bearing on my life right now…
    I agree with you on cutting down the guest list. It’s SO hard though – it was so awkward at the time. I was in college when I got married, and most people we knew had never been to a friend’s wedding. It seemed like everybody who’d ever had a conversation with one of us assumed they were invited to the wedding and could bring a date. I was uncomfortable drawing lines between friend groups and deciding who was in or out, so we just ended up inviting a ton of people.
    My biggest piece of advice for keeping wedding spending in check is to set a budget at the beginning, and prioritize which wedding traditions really matter to you. If you just decide on things as you go, you’ll likely get swept into overpaying for things you don’t really care about and that your guests will barely notice.

  • kim says:

    I find it insane that people put themselves into debt for a wedding. These numbers are very disturbing indeed. There are so many better places you could allocate your funds. A wedding is about so much more than this. Thanks for the thought provoking article.

  • A Dub says:

    My wife and I got married 10 years ago and spent $8K on the wedding and $5K on the honeymoon. My biggest advice is to skip the full size meal and alcohol. We had a “dessert bar” with cookies, various bite size treats and make your own ice cream sundaes. No one complained that they didn’t get a free steak dinner and wine.

  • I think that when people are planning a wedding they fail to think about the future. The excitement of planning a wedding can make you spend more money than you realize at the time.

  • Michael says:

    $30K….WOW. I got married 5 years ago, and my wedding cost just under $10K. If I was doing it over again, I’d probably spend a little less, invite fewer people, and change/skip a few details. I hadn’t been to many weddings beforehand, so I didn’t really know what I was doing. But it’s not something I think about much, and those little details have almost zero bearing on my life right now…
    I agree with you on cutting down the guest list. It’s SO hard though – it was so awkward at the time. I was in college when I got married, and most people we knew had never been to a friend’s wedding. It seemed like everybody who’d ever had a conversation with one of us assumed they were invited to the wedding and could bring a date. I was uncomfortable drawing lines between friend groups and deciding who was in or out, so we just ended up inviting a ton of people.
    My biggest piece of advice for keeping wedding spending in check is to set a budget at the beginning, and prioritize which wedding traditions really matter to you. If you just decide on things as you go, you’ll likely get swept into overpaying for things you don’t really care about and that your guests will barely notice.

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