Every couple dreams of having the perfect wedding. Turning those dreams into a reality can get expensive quickly. Today, we’re going to answer this question every bride and groom ask: How much should you spend on a wedding?
The average American wedding costs between $20,000 and $30,000. Does that sound too high for one day?
Your wedding is a special day. You should make it a memorable experience. But that doesn’t mean you need to use your life savings in the process.
There are many ways you can have a memorable wedding without sacrificing quality. With our tips, maybe you can marry for less than $10,000!
How Much Should You Spend on Your Wedding?
You might want a royal wedding like William and Kate or Harry and Meghan. Without security, Harry and Meghan’s ceremony cost $2.7 million! Even though you don’t have several million dollars for your wedding doesn’t mean you can’t have the wedding of a lifetime.
For the rest of us earthlings, you might decide to only spend what you can pay cash for. That means not getting a loan or carrying a credit card balance.
Even if you’re parents are paying the bill, maybe you can honor them by making smart decisions. Remember, you can still have a beautiful wedding that doesn’t cost $30,000. Our wedding only cost $1,500, and it’s one of the most enjoyable memories of our marriage.
When planning your wedding, don’t focus solely on cost. But, you should pursue two goals:
- Cut costs when possible on the “negotiable” expenses
- Don’t enter marriage with a mountain of wedding debt
Struggling to pay the bills isn’t a fun way to begin married life. If having an expensive wedding is going to put you in this position, consider a smaller wedding. Having a healthy relationship is more important than recreating a royal wedding. While you’re wedding should be special, it’s only one day as a married couple.
Your friends and family prefer you to have a happy marriage than to have the wedding of the century. If having a simpler wedding means a happy marriage, choose the happy marriage.
Chris Peach and his wife paid just under $20,000 for their wedding. With a few simple changes, they could have paid $10,000 instead and not been in debt for the next three years. Do you really want to be paying for your wedding for the next three years?
A Sample Wedding Budget
Every couple is going to have different wedding expenses. Some couples can spend more money than others. And, some couples don’t have to pay for certain expenses.
- Reception: 48%
- Wedding Ceremony: 3%
- Attire: 10%
- Flowers: 10%
- Entertainment and Music: 10%
- Photography: 10%
- Stationery: 2%
- Wedding Rings: 3%
- Parking and Transportation: 2%
- Gifts: 2%
Following this budget, if you need to spend $10,000 to rent a venue, you’re on track to spend $20,000 on your wedding.
You also need to set aside extra cash for your honeymoon. And, you might have some other unexpected expenses at your wedding too.
Tips to Save Money On Your Wedding
Weddings can get expensive quickly. But, you can make some simple changes to save money on the most common wedding costs.
To help make the planning process easier, follow these two rules.
Rule #1: Plan Your Wedding as a Couple
Planning your wedding is an exciting time. This is one of your first chances to make decisions as a couple. Before you start planning, it’s not a bad idea to set a spending limit.
You can also ask your married friends what they would do differently for their wedding. Use their experience to help you avoid unnecessary expenses and to minimize planning stress.
Prepare for Your Family and Friends to Offer “Helpful” Advice
I’m going to give you some of the wisest advice we received in our pre-marital counseling. It can save you money and undue stress as you plan your wedding.
Your spouse is your first priority. After all, you’re living the rest of your life with them.
This tip comes from personal experience. Your family and friends love you and have good intentions. But, their wedding advice can go too far sometimes.
Prepare for your family and friends to pressure you to make wedding decisions you both don’t want. In some cases, they want you to invite people that are family you have no relationship with. Other times, they might think you’re spending too much on certain purchases.
You don’t have to say “Yes” to their wishes.
If they’re paying for the wedding or reception, you should respect their advice. At the end of the day, it’s your wedding! You can make it as simple or elegant as you wish.
Rule #2: Decide Who Pays for the Wedding
Asking mom and dad if they’re going to help pay for the wedding or reception can feel awkward. But, knowing who pays for what is very important. You have a clear idea from the start what your spending limits are.
Families usually pay for the wedding instead of the married couple. But, if the wedding costs more than the families can contribute, the wedding couple must pay the difference.
It’s tradition for the bride’s family to pay for the following wedding costs:
- Venue Rental
- Bride’s Wedding Dress
- Decorations and Stationery
- Reception Dinner
The groom’s family usually pays these expenses:
- Rehearsal Dinner
- Groom’s Outfit
- Reception Entertainment and Liquor
Every family pays for weddings differently. Some families may pay for the wedding but have the wedding couple pay for their honeymoon. Depending on your age, the bride and groom might foot the entire bill for the wedding and reception.
Plan These Two Wedding Costs First
The guest list size and wedding location are going to be the two largest costs.
Once you determine who is invited and where you’re getting married, you can focus on the other wedding costs.
Which cost to tackle first depends on the couple and your situation. As a couple, sit down and express your wishes to each other.
Set the Guest List
Making the guest list is the biggest challenge for most couples. You want so many people to attend. At the end of the day, space and money are limited.
As soon as you invite one group of friends or family, you soon feel obligated to invite others. Some friends and family will feel disappointed they can’t attend.
As a couple, decide who you must invite. After that, take venue size and catering costs into consideration.
For the wedding reception, each guest adds to the catering costs too. So you have to look beyond the venue rental costs. You can always have a small wedding and a larger reception.
If you see most of the potential guests on a normal basis, it’s easier to keep a smaller invite list. But if your wedding is one of the few times you can get the entire family together, a larger wedding is worth the cost.
Choose a Wedding and Reception Venue
On average, renting a venue is half of the total wedding cost. Most couples spend between $2,700 and $10,500 on wedding venue rentals.
The main reason our wedding cost only cost $1,500 is that we didn’t have to rent a venue. Venue rentals are usually half of the total wedding costs.
You may need to rent two separate locations. One for the wedding ceremony and another for the reception. Being able to host both events at the same place can save you money and travel time.
Keep in mind that some reception venues require you to use their on-site catering services. They might not charge rent, but make up the cost in how much food you order. If you don’t have to use their catering services, you can hire a local caterer for less or even bring your own food.
How much you pay for a venue also depends on these factors:
- Day of the Week
- Peak Season or Off-Season
- Size of City
- Type of Venue
Saturday is the most expensive day to get married. And, weddings in large cities cost more than in smaller cities.
Other Ways to Save Money On Your Wedding
After you set the guest list, location and wedding date, it’s time to focus on the other expenses.
If you’re over budget on the venue or guest list, you can save money in these areas.
Save Money on a Wedding Dress
The average wedding dress costs $1,500 to buy. This includes the dress, shoes and veil.
Here are several ways to save money by buying your wedding dress:
- Buy Off-Season
- Choose a Simpler Dress
- Avoid Custom Alterations
- Buy a Used Dress
You can also rent your wedding dress. Rent the Runway lets you rent a basic wedding dress for only $30! Many dresses rent for 85% less than their retail value. If you don’t want to keep the dress as a keepsake, don’t feel ashamed if find a dress you can rent.
Ask Friends to Help
Asking your friends and family to participate in the wedding goes beyond being in your wedding party.
You can ask your friends to use their talents as follows:
- Play Music in the Ceremony or the Reception
- Take Photos or Video
- Decorate the Wedding Cake
- Make Alterations to Your Dress
Your friends have skills and they can be willing to help make your day special. Although you should give them a thank you gift, they can be cheaper than hiring a professional.
There are other ways your friends can help. Just ask or see if they volunteer.
Skip the Open Bar
Nothing screams an expensive wedding than an open bar. The reception can cost as much or more than the actual ceremony.
Expect to pay between $10 and $30 per person in catering fees. If you offer an open bar, you can pay approximately $60 per guest.
You’re already providing the meal, so don’t feel bad if you don’t pay for the alcohol. You can still offer non-alcoholic beverages for free.
How much the caterer charges depends on several factors:
- The type of food and drink you’re serving
- Number of tables, chairs, and linens
- Service Charge to pay servers
You can save money on food costs by providing appetizers instead of an actual meal. If possible, try not to hire servers. Even better, have your family bring all the food. Your venue must allow outside catering to provide your own meal.
Don’t Hire a DJ
Another way to reduce your wedding reception costs is to not hire a DJ or live band. You can still have a friend emcee the event. If you have a friend who loves being a DJ, maybe that can be their wedding gift to you!
Bring your computer or tablet and connect it to the sound system. Everyone still has a fun time doing the Electric Shuffle and Cha Cha Slide. You can also create a custom playlist with Spotify Premium too.
During the wedding ceremony, you can also use professional tracks instead of hiring a live musician. It’s not uncommon for a couple to play recorded music for the procession. Or, you can have a friend play the piano, violin or guitar for your music too.
Get a Sheet Cake and Cupcakes
The fancier the wedding cake the more it costs. To save money on dessert, you can buy a two-tier wedding cake. Use this cake to cut the first slice and for pictures. But, you can serve the remaining guests from a sheet cake or cupcakes. These two baked goods are cheaper to make and they’re just as delicious!
A second option is to only serve a sheet cake or cupcakes. You can still decorate them, but it’s cheaper than paying for a tiered cake.
Finally, you can serve smaller slices to make your cake feed more people. You might be surprised at how many people don’t eat wedding cake. Going simple means fewer leftovers!
Print Your Own Invitations
By going to a craft store, you can find DIY wedding invitation. You can print the invites yourself to mail to the invitees.
To save time, you can also design your own invites online. Vistaprint is one option with affordable designs.
Tip: Use Ebates to save money on your online wedding purchases. Get a $10 cash bonus with your first $25 purchase too.
Decorate with Artificial Flowers
Buying real flowers from the florist is beautiful, but can be expensive. You have several options to save money on decorations:
- Buy artificial decorations or in-season flowers
- Use more greenery
- Decorate with non-floral decor
- Rent decorations from the venue
- Pick flowers from a friend’s garden
Another option is to marry in a church near a major holiday. For a December wedding, the church will have Christmas decorations in place.
For our wedding, we used hydrangeas that my wife’s grandfather grew. In-season flowers are cheaper than out-of-season flowers. My wife loves the beach, so we substituted seashells and sand for flowers too.
Hire an Associate Photographer
Instead of hiring the best photographer for your area, ask for their associate. They can be cheaper for similar photo positions and quality.
You can also ask a friend with a professional camera and photo editing software to capture your special moments too. The photo editing software is a must to get the best camera effects.
These days, even your smartphone camera can take some good pictures. But spending some money for a photographer is money well-spent.
Buy Used Wedding Bands
Guys, read this next sentence twice: The engagement ring isn’t the same as the wedding ring. While grooms only get one ring, your wife wears two rings.
To save money on your wedding rings, you can buy used jewelry. My wife’s wedding ring is secondhand and still in excellent condition. You can find used jewelry at your local jewelry stores and online.
Other Wedding Expenses You Don’t Think About
You should also set aside some cash for those unexpected wedding expenses. The Knot recommends keeping up to 5% of your budget for these expenses.
Some overlooked expenses include:
- Thank You notes for wedding gifts
- Postage for invites and thank you notes
- Wedding favors for each guest and wedding party
- Marriage License
- Officiant Fee
- Vendor Gratuities
- Beauty Treatments
When getting estimates from caterers and others, look for the “++” symbol next to the price quote. This isn’t a type. Double plus signs mean taxes and gratuity cost extra. You might not know the final tab until after the wedding.
Don’t Forget About the Honeymoon
You might not include your honeymoon into the wedding and reception costs too. Some couples spend less on the wedding to have a better honeymoon. After all, the wedding and reception are only one day, but the honeymoon is several days long.
Others prefer a grander wedding to spend more time with family and friends. They take “mini-moons” or delay their honeymoon a few months until they save enough cash.
Do something exciting for your honeymoon. Make sure it’s just the two of you. Whether it’s a long weekend or an entire week, getaway and escape the daily grind. Relax. After all the wedding prep, you’re happy to be alone together.
Look for travel deals online or for honeymoon packages. You might take a short cruise or rent a secluded cabin.
Tip: Use this link to save $40 on your first Airbnb stay and book your honeymoon suite!
Get Married for $2,000 or Less
Going to the courthouse is the cheapest option for about $100. But let’s face it, not everybody wants that experience. Your family and friends want to enjoy the celebration with you. And, you may desire a traditional wedding yourself.
It’s possible to spend less than $2,000 on a wedding and still have a grand event.
Take our $1,500 wedding for example. Before you think we’re stingy, we wanted a small, private wedding. Only our immediate family members like parents, siblings and grandparents were invited. Very close friends came too.
Our wedding took place in my in-law’s backyard on July 4th weekend. I still had the privilege of seeing my wife walk down the aisle in her wedding dress. We exchanged rings and got to celebrate the day with our closest family members and friends.
We grilled hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch. Our group was small enough that we could spend time with our guests and not feel rushed.
And, not having to rent a venue or pay a caterer saved us thousands of dollars. We got married the easiest way we knew how while having a charming wedding.
Get Married for $10,000 or Less
For most couples, keeping the wedding costs below $10,000 is a more realistic goal.
Most people have to rent a venue which costs big bucks. To save on rental costs, try asking your church to host the ceremony and reception. Your home church can be cheaper than most rental venues since you’re already a member.
You can also try these hacks to keep the tab below $10,000:
- Ask Your Friends to Help with Ceremony or Reception
- Simplify Your Decorations and Attire
- Provide Your Own Food
- Serve Heavy Appetizers Instead of Regular Meal
- Don’t Pay for Alcohol
- Stream Music Instead of Hiring a DJ
- Skip Wedding Favors
Each wedding is different and you don’t have to do what your friends do. You can skip certain things like handing out wedding favors to guests or having fewer decorations.
Another option is having a private ceremony for free and a large reception so your friends and extended family can visit.
At the end of the day, you’re still getting married.
Marrying on any day but Saturday or in the off-peak season can reduce costs too.
A Fun Way to Have a $20,000+ Wedding
If you can afford a $20,000 to $30,000 wedding, you might try a destination wedding. These weddings might take place on the beach or in a foreign country. Your wedding spot can also double as your honeymoon.
Your guest list will be smaller unless everybody pays for their own ticket. Destination weddings can be a true lifetime experience.
Can’t Afford Your Dream Wedding?
Are you still not sure if you can afford your dream wedding? Get inspired to hit huge money goals during your engagement.
You can only cut costs so much and still have an awesome wedding with family and friends. Postponing the wedding date or going into debt aren’t your only two options.
Your wedding can be the perfect reason to start a side hustle. Once the big day arrives, worrying about money won’t be on your mind. Only the chance to spend the rest of your life with the person you love most!
How much should you spend on a wedding? The answer depends on where you live and the size of your wedding. Just because culture spends $30,000 per wedding doesn’t mean you have too. A noble goal is to not go into debt to get married. Your friends and family are happy to spend the day with you.