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What Does the Average Wedding Cost?

Last updated by on 18 Comments

The Average Cost of a Wedding Increases Significantly in 2010

The 2012 average wedding costs $26,989, according to Brides Magazine.

This is more than 10 times what my cheap wedding cost – but more on that in an upcoming controversial post.

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?

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 wet 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.

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?

Related Posts:


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'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


18 Comments »
  • Ginger says:

    What a wonderful post, I am struggling with this right now as our wedding is in May. We did spend way more money than I think is sane but we did do some things to save money. Our DJ and our harper are friends of ours. Our DJ is giving us a great discount and the harper is playing as our wedding gift (the DJ does this as her day job and the harper does it as a hobby). We printed our own invites and wait till we found 50% of coupons from Michaels to buy them. Since we are having our wedding back home, we need to get hotel rooms and we saved hotel reward points and got sign up bonuses from cc to not have to pay for a room during the wedding (see my blog for my info on what we did). Also, when we went back the first time we told the gate attendant that we were willing to be bumped. They did so and the credit is enough for us both to go back for the wedding and for me to go back an additional time a few weeks before as well.
    Also, our photographer is an “ethnic” photographer, very popular in the Vietnamese community but has never done a “white” wedding. He was thousands cheaper than even a beginning wedding photographer and he has been doing weddings for 10 years. A friend of my mom’s used him in her wedding and recommend him to us.

  • Joe says:

    My wedding was nearly half the figure you gave as today’s average. But we had a lot of help. My cousin, who is a cake decorator, gave us a cake as a gift. My wife’s parents paid for her dress and accessories. We had our ceremony and reception at a banquet hall that had a landscaped garden and provided all tables, chairs and linens, in addition to food. We also got married on a Sunday morning, which was the cheapest catering deal we could find.

  • goblue255 says:

    Interesting thoughts, I’m looking forward to your upcoming post!

  • Paul says:

    Hate to admit it but ours was about 50% over the average. We both come from very traditional families and had a classic rehearsal dinner paid for by my parents and wedding paid for by the hers.

    I don’t feel bad about it at all. I would have preferred to have the cash for sure but it wasn’t a debate worth having.

    As for “you don’t have to invite everyone” I would extend that to “you don’t have to invite anyone.” By that I mean those that don’t get invited WILL try and make you feel guilty, to the point where I lost a long term friend over it. That said, it just showed me that we really were not great friends.

  • Jason L says:

    Wow, 26k seems on the low end, for sure. I’m wondering what a state-by-state breakdown is. I know that in California, everyone I know has weddings that are 50k and up….

    • Forex says:

      @Jason L…50,000$ for a wedding? come on my friend, that’s just crazy. I was hoping people would come to their senses and call weddings what they really are, just a show. My hubby and I got married at City Hall and we spent the wedding money on a small business and our kids. I believe it was the best choice all around. :) Bonnie

  • Slinky says:

    I just got married last year, and I admit my wedding came in under that average, but not by a ton. In the end, having the wedding I wanted was a personal decision about something that was important to me. I fully thought about opportunity cost and then I did it anyway. Sometimes, the right thing isn’t the smart thing. We did however, pay for it ourselves (and honeymoon) with cash.

    That said, my wedding probably would have “retailed” for twice what I paid. My husband’s work rents out the entire banquet floor of a victorian downtown hotel every year for a fundraiser. The back ballroom of this place was our dream location. By going directly to the catering manager we got the room for half what they rent it to other people, plus: A fruit display for hor d’oeuvres, upgraded bar package, reduced parking for the wedding party, use of the room for rehearsal, and an extra room for storage for the entire weekend. On top of everything you normally get when booking a wedding there.

    I got my dress on the last day of a designer’s trunk show – 20% discount. Some hesitation got me $200 more knocked off, and then when they wouldn’t go lower on the price, they said they’d have the dress made to order in my height. Since I’m 5’2″ and it would have been difficult to shorten, that was huge. I was further lucky in that a stock size matched my measurements perfectly and needed no alterations.

    My husband used to own a DJ business, and still had all his equipment. Another two friends DJ. Total cost: $100 for thank you gifts.

    My mother is an award winning florist and was kind enough to provide all the flowers as our wedding gift. They were ridiculously awesome.

    My husband dabbles in graphic art and design. I bought paper, he designed, printed, cut, and addressed all the invites. I helped stuff envelopes and put on stamps. We spent maybe $50 total with stamps and envelopes.

    And the last thing I can think of is that we saved on a cake knife by cutting the cake with a sword. That was pretty awesome.

  • Tom says:

    I am just wondering if you ever wrote that article on how you spent less on a wedding? If so, where can I find it?

  • katelyn says:

    I am so stuck! i need to know if a wedding package held in a hotel for ceiling draping, 2 kegs, hosted sodas, butler served hors D’oeuvres, sit down dinner for up to 150, wedding cake, and dj, also including tax and service charge for 7000 is a good deal or not! my mother doesn’t seem to think so! help

  • Tia says:

    HELP! We have talked about getting married, but once i told him how much my friend has spent so far he wants to do it the simple way. I want to remember my day. Justice for peace is not an option for me. How can I make my dream come true without spending over 5,000 or less??????????? Is it possible??

    • My wedding-- says:

      My wedding probably cost around $5000–but I was super cheap. We had our wedding and reception in a friend’s backyard for free. It was lovely but just a really just a simple backyard decorated and landscaped nicely. She had had 3 of her daughter’s receptions back there. I did have traditional wedding invitations printed ($200) and rented chairs and a dance floor. The tables we got from our church. Flowers I had done from someone who just worked from her home (they were lovely–I’ve worked as a florist before and done weddings so I was picky about that), but still only cost $300 or so. The wedding dress I bought for $500 with alterations another $75 (a lady who again, worked from her basement). The cake was made by a friend of my sister’s–not sure the cost anymore, I think it was $150 or so. We rented tuxes. My sister’s sister-in-law catered, sort of–my sister, mother-in-law and I all bought all the food beforehand on sale and did much of the prep work. It was a fairly small wedding, I invited my huge–think triple My Big Fat Greek Wedding sized–family to come, but they live all over the US and Canada so I knew most wouldn’t come except a few from the closest states. My brother-in-law was our photographer for free. We had a wedding luncheon of free pizza because my husband worked for a hub center of Papa John’s at the time and they gave it to us free as a wedding present. Anyway, there’s always odds and ends here and there that add up, but I payed for it all myself and it was roughly $5000-$6000, and then I paid for our honeymoon to Hawaii as well (another $2000). We stayed at the cheapest place on Maui and brought stuff to make sandwiches for most of our meals from Walmart. I never expected a huge wedding and so I was quite happy with how it all turned out. The only thing I wish I had spent more on was the bridesmaid dresses–someone made them for me–my sister arranged it all, so I never even spoke to the lady, and she ended up charging more than I would have paid buying them from a shop and they looked awful!!! So awful.

  • The bride’s brother, by way of example, is a great photographer
    and has been for a time. While wedding photography is not off-limits to
    beginners, it’s best left to those who have had
    a long period on the job training. adsense_ad_unit += ‘

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