Calculating the average price of a wedding is becoming more difficult as time passes. The cost of living continues to rise. As a result, venues, food, attire, and venues are getting more expensive.
People are also willing to spend more on their big day. Couples want to take advantage of new technology and trends, and they want something lavish to show off on social media.
Simultaneously, many couples are shirking the tradition of grand celebrations in favor of small, casual groups.
There are a lot of variables that go into the average cost for a wedding, which can get quite confusing. Keep reading and we will fill you in on each category of expense that contributes to your wedding budget, how things differ from state to state, tips on how to cut costs, and other wedding cost factors worth considering.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a good budget for a wedding?
A “good budget” means enough money to cover 50-100 guests without having to sacrifice or cut corners. That amount is from $1900 to $54000. Why such a drastic range? The simple answer is that things vary greatly from state to state.
What is the average cost of a small wedding?
A small wedding is defined by 50 guests or less. The average price of a wedding of this size ranges between $10,860 and $15,500. The first step in determining where to start when planning a wedding is the guest list. This is THE determining factor of your wedding budget.
Average Price Of A Wedding Features
The first step in determining the cost of average American weddings is to decide on your guest list and personal style and to solidify a comfortable wedding budget. It should come as no surprise that the more luxurious your taste is and the more guests you invite, the more expensive your wedding will be.
The easiest way to understand the average American wedding cost, and to stay organized, is to break the event down into manageable categories. Below, you will find major wedding event features, what costs to expect, and how to save in each case.
- Reception venue
The largest contributor to national average wedding costs is the venue and food. The average cost for this combo is $7300. The venue itself averages $3100 with food costs around $100 per plate. Your guest list determines how large and expensive your venue should be, and how many plates to include.
When wondering how much does the average wedding cost and how much rings cost, keep in mind that rings have a ton of variables. Engagement rings carry a huge range of costs from $100 to over a million dollars. We recommend following the tradition of spending 3 month’s salary with the understanding that only 7% of grooms will spend more than $10,000. In regards to beauty, the cut of the ring is far more important than the size.
- Music Entertainment
Musical entertainment is a good potential category to lower the average cost of a wedding reception. Your typical music choices are a playlist, a DJ, or a live band. A self-made playlist only requires equipment rentals. A DJ carries an average cost of $1800 for the ceremony and reception. You can expect to pay an average of $3500 for a live band.
The quality of photos that smartphones provide these days has resulted in many couples choosing a friend or family member to take on the responsibility. This has caused the average cost of professional photography services to rise to over $4500, and the entire average price of a wedding in America.
- Décor And Florist
Your choice of venue can dramatically impact the cost of décor and flowers. Larger spaces require more decorations while outdoor venues require additional rentals. $2750 is the national average for wedding décor and flowers. As a rule, assign 10% of your total wedding budget to go towards these items.
The groom will typically rent his suit or tuxedo. The bride, however, will purchase her gown. In both cases, accessories, shoes, hair, makeup, and alterations all contribute to an average cost of $2000 for the bride and $450 for the groom.
- Wedding Cake
The current wedding cake trend is to purchase a ‘presentation’ cake for photos, cutting, and keepsakes at an average cost of $570. Additional sheet cakes are purchased at an average of $3.90 per slice for guests to eat.
Often, your wedding venue will include transportation as part of a package deal. In cases where you have to account for this separately will run an average of $800 for 3 hours worth of shuttle bus or limo service.
This category also varies greatly, depending on the number of guests and the quality of gifts. In general, wedding favors receive 2% of your wedding budget or an average of $3 per person. Of course, there are much cheaper and more expensive options.
Average Price Of A Wedding Venue
The wedding venue that you choose determines many factors of your total wedding cost. The size of the venue facilitates how many guests participate and the cost of décor. The location influences the required travel arrangements. There are also package deals that can help offset other segments of your wedding budget.
Here are a few examples of what you can expect for a variety of budgets.
- Ocean blue, New York
These $3000 to $11000 packages include alcohol and provide beachfront scenery. Indoor options accommodate up to 240 guests while outdoor options seat up to 200 people.
With the combination of picturesque Hampton’s photo ops and plenty of activities for guests to indulge in, this option is perfect for couples wanting the perfect balance of luxury and haute couture foods and cocktails.
- Gardener Ranch, California
This Carmel River destination can accommodate 150 indoor guests or 200 outdoor guests. Wedding packages begin at $25000 offer intimate entertainment such as traditional tea ceremonies, cooking classes, and rustic indoor charm.
This option is ideal for couples who prioritize natural beauty and the simpler things in life.
- Garden Of The Gods Resort And Club, Colorado
This resort overlooking Pikes Peak in the Colorado Rockies offers a full suite of wedding services in their packages. Beginning at $145 per person, you can expect luxury provisions including sparkling wine for toasts, 2 or 3 courses plated meals, hors d’oeuvres served by butlers, cake cutting services, and top-of-the-line table settings.
- Miramonte Indian Wells Resort And Spa, California
This desert oasis surrounded by mountain vistas is the ideal destination for many couples. Plate rates start at $100 per person with wedding packages beginning at $150 per head. Choose between stunning garden, terrace, or ballroom venues suitable for up to 300 guests.
Both the couple and guests will be treated to luxury spa amenities and gourmet menu options.
- Allegretto Vineyard Resort, California
Vineyards, rolling hills, and orchards are the signature sights at this Mediterranean-inspired resort. Meals range from $29 to $170 per person with venues accommodating 250 inside or 325 outdoors.
Guests will be treated to luxury accommodations and entertainment via the wine tasting room and local excursions such as hot air balloons and horse rides.
Average Price Of A Wedding In The COVID-19 Era
For the first time since we have started measuring the average price of a wedding, numbers are down. In 2019 the average price of a wedding was $28000. In 2020, however, we have seen Covid-19 reduce this figure to a drastically lower $19000 on average. This reduction is a direct result of how the entire wedding industry had to adjust to new normals.
Here are a few new versions of the traditional wedding and associated costs.
This Covid-19 wedding mimics the traditional wedding structure as closely as possible. The main difference is that guests are directed to arrive in staggered shifts in order to adhere to social distancing.
This is a fantastic solution for couples that don’t want to compromise on their venue or guest list. The only adjustment needed is the length of time since many components of the wedding will have to be repeated as guests rotate.
In regards to costs, this will run at the same rate as a typical wedding, with additional costs going towards extended venue time.
A micro wedding indulges in all of the fun and excitement of a traditional wedding, but with a guest list pruned down to the bare essentials. The guest list of 50 people or less usually consists of the wedding party and the closest family members and friends.
Financially you can expect to pay the same as a traditional wedding minus the costs of a reduced number of plates, smaller venue, and less decor.
However, couples should be cautious of this option. The initial notion of savings puts you at ease, making it easier to splurge and lose track of your budget. For example, many couples upgrade to top-shelf cocktails or plan a destination wedding.
This is a wedding ceremony that involves up to 10 people. This option forgoes all of the frills and focuses exclusively on the formalities. Officiants can be virtual, florals can be reduced to just the bouquet, and meals are minimized and adhere to social distancing.
This is potentially the least expensive wedding option available. However, many couples are choosing to go through with a minimony to keep their original dates and attain the legal status, but plan to follow up with a Sequel wedding.
The result of this is paying for 2 separate events, negating the initial savings.
To add more context to your calculations, here are all of the components that contribute to your total wedding budget. Breaking them down allows you to focus on what you value most, and to identify opportunities to save on items that don’t matter to you as much.
Again, these are the averages that can vary greatly from state to state.
- Attire: The bride’s gown carries an average of $1600. The groom’s tux rental ranges from $300 – $600
- Makeup, hair, pedicure, manicure: $219
- Entertainment: $1200 for a DJ or $3700 for a live band
- Favors: $380 which can be reduced with a little DIY effort
- Décor: $1000 – $1600 depending on if the space is indoors or outside.
- Cake: $1600
- Photography and Videography: $3500 for professional-grade services.
- Catering, venue, and rentals: $6854 for resorts or banquet hall-level venues. Backyards and public parks can greatly reduce this figure.
Build Up Your Personal Wedding Cost Breakdown ASAP!
The most constructive way to understand what goes into wedding expenses and to plan and follow a budget is to break things into categories and assign a percentage based on what you value most. Here is what we recommend.
- Venue: 30%
You stand to save quite a bit with off-season locations, public rentals, or backyard events. However, venues often provide wedding packages with services that you would otherwise have to pay for separately. Compare these features directly for accurate calculations.
- Food and beverage: 20%
When working with a formal wedding venue, packages often include per-plate rates that are often less expensive than hiring independent catering. Compare the entire costs.
- Photography and Video: 12%
Images and video are among the only wedding-day items that last beyond the day. It feels a little strange to pay so much when all of your friends and family members have phones with them. But, you can’t argue with the quality of your lifelong memories. Choose carefully.
- Entertainment: 8%
Most couples choose between a DJ or a live band. Other couples have their hearts set on fireworks, magicians, oversized games, and the like. The more elaborate you want your event to be, the more it is going to cost.
- Flowers: 8%
The bride’s bouquet, flowers on the archway, and floral centerpieces, all contribute to the cost of florals. Indoor settings require more decor than outdoor venues.
- Rentals: 20%
It’s far less expensive to rent linens, seats, tents, tuxedos, and other wedding staples than it is to buy.
- Wedding rings: 2%
These rings will be worn every day for the rest of your lives. Do not skimp on quality or comfort.
5 Main Ways To Lower Your Wedding Costs
Now that you know all of the different categories and associated costs, you can begin to look at where you can cut corners without sacrificing your aspirations.
- Ask for help your friends
Friends and family are invaluable resources when it comes to wedding preparations. Enlist their help with DIY crafts, ask for contributions such as seating and food, or encourage them to provide DJ and photography services.
- Look into suburban venues
The further you get from metropolitan cities, the less expensive things become. There is less competition, and less affluent couples bidding on venues.
- Avoid a peak season
Peak wedding season occurs between June and September when the weather is ideal. Because it’s the most popular time of year to get married, it’s also the most competitive. Venue and service rates soar during these months. If you are looking to save money without sacrificing quality, consider booking outside of peak season.
- Trim a guest list
Each person you invite to your wedding carries associated costs. You can expect to spend more on food, favors, larger venues, more decor to fill the venue, additional travel and accommodations, and many other items. To save money, keep the guest list to a minimum.
- Don’t choose a special day
Certain days of the week (Saturdays) are more expensive than others. Beyond that, your wedding venue date may be competing with other local events such as holidays or special events like the grand prix, business conventions, or social/political events. Do your research and make sure that you are not paying inflated costs.
The average price of a wedding is expected to rise after Covid, and to continue to rise to keep up with inflation. We can also predict that new trends and technology will offer innovative ways to celebrate the big day. Regardless of what the future has in store, it’s always going to be wise to follow our prescribed process of fixing a budget and then breaking your expenses into manageable categories.