A look at the top 4 expenses that go into weddings and some pro-tips to save money.
How much does a wedding really cost?
Planning a wedding. It can be the best of times and the worst of times. If you are anything like most brides, you enjoy your engagement for approximately 2 minutes before the stress of it all set in. There’s details to figure out. Finances to be discussed. Pinterest centerpieces to be created. Big decisions to be made. All within a matter of months. Living in a social media heavy world doesn’t seem to help either, as you scroll through people’s feeds and see their flawlessly orchestrated weddings…and then find out how much money went into all of that. The amount of money that goes into weddings can be daunting. According to weddingstats.org, the average wedding in 2020 cost $30,433. (*Insert stat about how much that could buy you*) This number varies greatly by geographic location, with Utah being the lowest ($13, 214) and New York City being the highest ($70,730). Additionally, take into account that these are the averages…there are many couples that go way above that amount, and some that spend considerably less.
However, just because things have always been this way, doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Now more than ever, is a great time to rethink the way you want your specific wedding day to go. If we have learned anything as a nation and a world during COVID-19, it is how to be innovative. Schools, conferences, concerts and birthday parties do not look the same in 2020 as they did in 2019. And who says weddings should be any different?! When it all comes down to it, the most important piece is the love between you and your partner and getting to share that with all of your loved ones. In this article, we will take a look at some of the biggest expenses that go into wedding planning and some secret “hacks” that can help you spend less and PARTY more!
Before beginning to plan ANY part of your special day, it is important to sit down with your partner and settle on a number that you are both comfortable with. A number that is going to allow you to feel celebrated–but also isn’t going to send you into major debt post-wedding. *Hint: be smarter than other people. According to weddingstats.org, 50% of people spend more on their wedding day than they had originally budgeted for. The next big thing is to think through what are your top priorities when it comes to your wedding day. And what can fall to the way-side if numbers are getting tight. Having these priorities in line beforehand, will help you to determine which areas you can splurge on and which areas you can DIY. Next up, let’s dive into the top 4 biggest wedding expenses–and ways to be smart about them.
Top Four Biggest Wedding Expenses
1. Guest List
Perhaps the biggest expense when it comes to weddings is the guest list. The amount of people that you invite to your wedding directly correlates to the amount of money that you will shell out. On the lower end, the average cost per guest at an Alabama wedding is $127/head. On the higher end of things, the average cost per guest at a New York wedding is $252/head, according to Valuepenguin.com. For some people having a big wedding is a non-negotiable and they can’t imagine not having a bumping dance party with 250 of their favorite people. However, just be prepared to incur most of your costs with wining and dining your guests.
*Wedfuly pro tip: Rethink your guest list and opt for a micro-wedding: aka the best of both worlds! Carefully comb through your guest list and include your immediate family and dearest of friends. Then invite the rest of your guests to join you from the comfort of their own homes via a Wedfuly virtual wedding. Encourage your guests to form smaller groups and host watch parties with other friends, to bring up the festivity level! By having a micro-wedding you will get to enjoy the intimacy that a small wedding brings, while also including an unlimited number of virtual guests. You will also avoid a lot of the stress that comes with hosting a massive event and will get to feel truly present with the ones you love the most.
The wedding venue is generally the first piece of the puzzle that couples decide on when planning their wedding. Depending on the demand, some venues can take years to secure and therefore couples act fast. Additionally, once the venue has been picked, it becomes easier to decide on food/drink, entertainment and decor. The venue is also the biggest pocket drainer. According to Wedding Forward, most couples spend around 40-50% of their budget on their venue, at an average of $6,000. (*Note: this generally doesn’t include any of the extras mentioned above.)
Wedfuly pro tip: Try thinking outside of the box when it comes to venue. Do you or a close friend/family member have a beautiful backyard? What about a nearby local park? If you don’t have any personal connections to a great space, consider an Air BnB or VRBO in a desirable location. Opting for an outdoor space will greatly reduce the cost and bring up the “hygge factor.” For a spring/summer wedding: opt for a tent with string lights, outdoor fans and a beautiful flower arch for your ceremony. For a fall/winter wedding consider a tent with heaters to keep your guests warm and boogey-ing on the dance floor all night long. By choosing a non-traditional venue, you will avoid some of the common expenses that come along with venues.
- Some venues require you to use their caterers only and won’t allow you to bring in outside vendors. This can limit your food options and leave your guests with the dreaded “fancy dinner but still hungry feeling”. By choosing a backyard venue, you can feed your guests whatever you want…at a much lower cost. Whether you opt for a private chef or catering from Chipotle, your guests are bound to leave full and happy.
- Additionally, some venues require you to purchase alcohol per head (i.e. assuming every single guest will drink 4 drinks) This can leave you with a hefty bill and many guests that don’t end up drinking that much. They can also tack on bartending and gratuity fees–yikes! Again, by choosing a backyard venue you can get around this. Making a big Costco run for alcohol will save you large amounts of money and if you have leftover wine…looks like another reason to celebrate!
Flowers for your wedding are a sneaky expense that many brides don’t anticipate. Traditional wedding flowers include a bridal bouquet ($150-$350), bouquets for the bridesmaids ($65-$125), boutonnieres for the groomsmen and dads ($25-$45), corsages for the mothers of the bride and the groom ($32-$65). Additionally, anyone else that is participating in the ceremony (readers, musicians, greeters, ushers) should also have a corsage or a boutonniere. Your flower girl needs petals to toss and your venue will need some decorative floral arrangements as well (these can range from $75-$400 a piece). According to Brides.com and L.A. wedding planner, Tessa Lynn Brand, a good rule of thumb is to allocate $3,000 to flowers.
*Wedfuly pro tip: Consider enlisting the help of a crafty friend with an eye for beauty. Give her a “vision board” of what you are envisioning for your flowers and send her off to Trader Joe’s (they have great flowers at an affordable price!) or your local grocery store. Also consider picking up vases from local thrift stores or purchasing Mason jars in bulk. Make sure she purchases greenery as well, as this looks great in bouquets or displayed on tables.
If flowers are one of your non negotiables, consider these tips from the Knot, to help you save some money.
- Stay local and seasonal when selecting your flowers. Or choose from year-round blooms like roses.
- Choose big blooms–like orchids and hydrangeas to get the biggest bang for your buck.
- Repurpose your flowers. Let’s say you decided to put most of your money into your bridal bouquet. You can stick that bouquet in a vase of water at the reception to make a beautiful floral arrangement on a table!
Ahhh–wedding dress shopping. If you’ve ever watched “Say Yes to the Dress” before, you have an idea how dang expensive wedding dresses can be. But just because you can’t afford a $40,000 dress from Kleinfeld’s does not mean you are out of luck. According to a study conducted by the Knot when they surveyed 27,000 brides who got married in the last year, the average cost of a wedding dress was $1,600. Additionally, take into consideration that wedding dress alterations can also add up. Some tailors charge a flat rate to alter your dress ($500-$700), whereas others charge based on the specific alterations that you need done. For example: $225 to shorten the dress and $150 to resew any seams.
*Wedfuly pro tip: There are many alternatives if you are looking for a way to be thriftier with your dress purchase! Consider purchasing a dress off the rack. This will greatly bring down your cost and allow you to get a *splurge* dress you might not have been able to afford otherwise. *Note: this can also be a great option if you don’t have the time to wait for a special ordered dress to come in. Another option to try is to purchase a gently used wedding gown from sites like nearlynewlywed.com or stillwhite.com. These sites allow you to put in your max budgets and shop from thousands of gently worn wedding dresses that are still in great condition. Lastly, consider looking at sites like Etsy, BHLDN, Nordstrom and Rent the Runway for tons of options–at a much lower cost than typical bridal stores.
No matter how you shake it, weddings are going to have certain expenses that are unavoidable. That’s the name of the game. After all, what other day of your life do you throw a big party for all of your favorite people?? The goal is to not to feel stressed about the fact that you are spending money, but to spend it intentionally. Balancing the fact that it IS your special day and you deserve to feel celebrated…..with the reality that there will also be MANY other special days beyond it. So start with your budget. Narrow down your priorities. And then plan the wedding of your DREAMS.