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How Much Does the Average Wedding Cost? (And How Do You Fund Yours?)

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Between the venue, ceremony and event photographer, weddings can easily eat up your savings and put you in a financial hole if you’re not careful. But just how much does the average wedding cost, anyway?

In 2021, the average wedding ran approximately $34,000 (including the engagement ring), according to The Knot’s Real Weddings Study. Wedding costs can skyrocket even higher depending on factors like the size of your guest list and choice of venue.

To help you budget, we break down spending by different categories so you can get a better sense of what your wedding might cost, and ways you can afford your big day.

Average wedding cost by goods and services

Wedding expenses can quickly add up, with some of the largest costs being your venue, band and wedding planner. In 2021, couples hired, on average, 14 vendors to supply goods and services for their wedding, including catering, decor and entertainment, according to The Knot.

When trying to get a sense of what you might need to budget for your wedding, start by looking at typical wedding prices, such as for the venue, food and drink, and attire. In particular, the average price for renting a venue — $10,700 — can take up about a third of the average wedding cost, so you’ll want to keep that in mind when budgeting.

Here’s about what you may end up paying when it comes to hiring vendors:

Goods or servicesAverage cost
Reception venue$10,700
Live band$4,500
Wedding planner$3,000
Photographer$2,500
Flowers$2,300
Wedding dress$1,800
Videographer$1,799
DJ$1,400
Transportation$750
Photo booth$650
Wedding cake$500
Ceremony music$500
Wedding officiant$300
Tuxedo/suit$270
Hair/makeup$250
Catering$75 (per person)

Data based on a study by The Knot and the WeddingWire

Venue

For some couples, the venue can make up around a third of their total wedding spending, at an average cost of $10,700. Should you rent a venue that includes catering and alcoholic beverages as part of the overall rental package, that cost can bump up to $15,800.

Music

Couples found the average price for hiring a live band to play at the wedding to be $4,500 which can end up being one of the most expensive costs of a wedding. A DJ, on the other hand, could be a bit cheaper at $1,400. You may also have to hire someone to play music for your ceremony which costs an average of $500.

Wedding planner

Wedding planners can take a load off your shoulders by taking on some of the responsibility of preparing for your wedding. A wedding planner can help you put together a budget, help you find deals and help you understand your vendor contracts. However, wedding planners can add quite a bit to your bill, on average an extra $3,000.

Flowers

Flowers for a wedding are no small cost, sitting at an average $2,300. The kind of decorations and flowers used, however, will have a strong influence on this cost, as will the venue space and guest list.
If you’re opting for an empty rental space to save money on the venue, you may need to also account for the cost of renting furniture from an outside vendor. That could put you well over the average cost.

Catering

Couples who opt for a catered wedding as opposed to getting food through the venue should expect an average cost of $75 per person. But your costs will vary based on the types of food you serve.
But, don’t forget the wedding cake: It adds another $500, on average.

Wedding dress and tuxedo

Attire costs are impacted by how formal couples want their event to be. When it comes to getting dressed, tuxedos and suits are generally cheaper, with an average cost of $270. Wedding dresses, on the other hand, may cost you an average of $1,800.
If you also want to have any hair and makeup professionally done, it may generally cost you another $250 per person.

YearAverage cost
2015$32,641
2016$35,309
2017$33,391
2018$33,931
2019$28,000
2020$19,000
2021$22,500

Average wedding cost by state

According to a survey of 15,000 couples by The Knot, newlyweds spent an average of $28,000 on their ceremony and reception in 2021. To put this into perspective, here are some other statistics to compare:

  • Students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree accrue an average of $28,400 in student loan debt.
  • When borrowing for an auto loan, Americans typically take out an average of $39,721 for new vehicles and $27,291 for used vehicles.

However, the average wedding cost varies greatly depending on which state you live in. Those that were among the biggest spenders were in areas in the Northeast like New Jersey ($47,000), the District of Columbia ($44,000) and Rhode Island ($43,000).

Spending tended to be the lowest in Idaho ($16,000), Oklahoma ($16,000) and Wyoming ($15,800).

Here’s what couples typically spend on their nuptials on a state-by-state basis.

How to budget for your wedding

You can tailor your wedding to your preferences and priorities, giving you the flexibility as a couple to splurge on wedding costs that are important to you and to be frugal elsewhere. You may, for example, choose to have a destination wedding with a small guest list, or rent your wedding dress or tux instead of buying.

To help make your wedding more affordable, here’s a few budgeting strategies you can implement:

Shop around for a cheaper venue

From banquet halls to castles, country clubs to mansions, there are many different options for a reception venue. Choosing a free location is a no-brainer if you have that option.

You may also want to consider looking for spots outside of metropolitan areas. Businesses in cities tend to have to pay higher costs in rent. By exploring outside urban areas and focusing more on rural options, you may be able to save when it comes to renting a venue.

Find less expensive food options

Picking alternative options for reception dining can save big money on overall costs. Bar tabs can quickly add up and catering can be expensive. Some cheaper alternatives can be to hire a local restaurant or food truck and serve substantial dishes instead of hors d’oeuvres.

Limit the hours the photographer is there

While hiring a photographer and videographer to stay for the entire day can be a fun way to memorialize your big day, this can end up being one of your most expensive costs. Instead, think about the pictures you’ll want to frame — the big moments like cutting the cake and exchanging vows — and let the photographer leave once those are taken.

Don’t be afraid to DIY

Do-it-yourself projects like decor and wedding invitations can also help save you a chunk of money on your wedding. However, keep in mind, this can eat away at your time instead.

Don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for help, especially if they have a special skill. For example, you may ask a close photographer friend to snap shots at your wedding. Just don’t sacrifice your wedding or your relationship if you aren’t sure the person can meet your expectations.

Pare down your guest list

Your guest list can not only impact how much you spend on catering, but it can also affect the size (and thus the price) of your venue.

According to The Knot, in 2021, couples invited an average of 105 guests to their wedding. However, this number typically depended on what time of year their wedding was. Couples who were married anywhere from January to June tended to have less guests (94 on average) due to weather challenges. Those who got married anywhere from January to March had even less (83).

How to fund your wedding

You might have your budget established, but that doesn’t mean you know where you’re going to get the funds to pay for all your wedding expenses. Consider the following options.

Savings

If you choose to use your savings to pay for your wedding, make sure you also save more along the way and see what family members want to contribute. This way, you can be prepared for any unexpected hiccups.

While using your own money to pay for your wedding instead of taking out a personal loan or credit card can help you to avoid interests and fees, it may leave you in a more financially vulnerable position.

ProsCons

  Avoid paying interest or other fees

  You’ll have a clear picture of much you can afford to spend

  May leave you short on cash

  May not be able to afford unexpected or last minute costs

Unsecured personal loan

A wedding loan — also known as a personal loan — is an unsecured loan that generally has a fixed interest rate and payment. Often, for those with good credit, personal loans offer better interest rates than credit cards.

However, in order to qualify for a personal loan, you’ll need to have a good credit score and credit history, so if your credit could use some polishing, this may not be the right route for you.

ProsCons

  Expand your budget since you can typically borrow $1,000 to $50,000

  Don’t have to put down collateral

  May receive a lower interest rate than credit card

  You may have to pay interest and fees

  May take several days to receive funds

  Eligibility and rates depend on your credit

Credit card

Credit cards can be a straightforward way to supplement savings when dealing with both expected and unexpected wedding costs, particularly if you can acquire cards with low or 0% intro APR. Credit cards can be especially handy should you encounter unexpected costs.

However, if you’re not careful, you could easily acquire quite a bit of debt that may be difficult to pay off down the road. This is where planning out a budget ahead of time can come in handy and help you to avoid spending more than you need.

ProsCons

  Borrow what you need on an as-needed basis

  May earn rewards depending on credit card

  Don’t need to put down collateral

  May come with higher rates than personal loans

  Easy to rack up debt if you’re not careful

  Spending limit may not be as high as personal loan

Methodology

LendingTree researchers based data on the 2021 Real Weddings Study by The Knot on the average cost of weddings per state as well as the average amount couples spend per vendor. The Knot surveyed more than $15,000 couples. Researchers also drew information on the average cost of wedding goods and services using data from the WeddingWire.

 

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