The MANual: Money
The Brutal Wedding Budget Basics (Revisited)
How much should a wedding cost? The word “average” is fraught with ambiguity; it depends on how big the wedding is, where it’s located, how awesome the cake is, and who designed your suit. In the US, the typical wedding is $25,764*, not including honeymoons. But prices will be dramatically higher in major cities, and lower in small towns. The biggest driver of cost is the number of guests. Below, we feature wedding stats for almost every imaginable expense — and how much of the pie each category eats up.
Average Wedding Cost By Reception Size
Less Than 50 people: $9,372-15,619
Between 50 & 100: $13,719-22,865
Between 101 & 200: $21,062-35,103
Between 200 &300: $29,178-48,630
More than 300: $60,095-100,158
The big-hitter. If you can tame the cost of your reception, everything else will fall in line. This includes food ($4,667), booze ($2,374), rentals of tables, chair, lights and so on ($1736), rental fees for the venue itself ($3,611), and the damn hunk of flour and sugar that is your cake—about $418—more than a decked-out Microsoft Xbox or Sony Playstation. If there’s one place not to skimp, it’s on the boozing. Never force your family and friends to pay at a cash bar. There are better ways to cut the costs of your wedding.
Photography and Video: 10%
Maybe you’ll want your buddy Keith to snap pictures with his Cyber-shot RX100 Mark IV. She’ll want some professional wedding photographer who charges $1,600 (the national average) and gushes about the importance of “candids.” Guess who wins? Truth is, she has a point. Once the wedding is long over and you’re still wondering why you blew so much money on a single night, at least you’ll have great photographic memories to look at. Also? Get the video, too. You’ll want the toasts, dances, and roasts available for repeated viewing.
The rehearsal dinner gobbles up half of this ($570), the rest is the ceremony decorations, officiant’s fee ($214), the wedding license ($10-$115), etc. Ironically, the only stuff that matters from a legal point of view—the license and the ceremony—is just about the cheapest part. So remember that a wedding does not, by definition, need to be expensive. The sizzle costs more than the steak.
We’re including both the engagement ring ($3,402) and the wedding bands—his costs $455 and hers is $782 on average. This does not include the matching bracelet, necklace or earrings (she may ask).
Can you imagine forking over a thousand bucks for a putter that you’d only golf with once? Welcome to the crazy-land of wedding dresses. Note: if you don’t already own one, now might be a good time to invest in a good tux. Chances are you’ll be going to a lot of weddings in the near future besides your own. Look your best at each one. Average cost (rent or buy) of a tux: $209 (tack on another $100 if you also want cufflinks, a cummerbund, tie, a pocket square and shoes). Average cost of a wedding dress: $1,220, not including headpiece, veil, shoes, lingerie, sash, handbag, or garter.
Other Stuff: 10%
Have you considered invitations ($225), postage ($100), thank-you cards ($90), reception menus ($125), save-the-date cards ($112), ceremony programs ($128), wedding favors ($239), gifts for attendants ($103) and gifts for parents ($122)? Leave some budget for tips, too, which will likely exceed the $384 average.
Flowers All Around: 4%
Don’t try and fight it. Think of flowers like paying taxes—you don’t love it, no one really needs it, but you still have to pay it. A bouquet is $339, boutonnieres and corsages are $148, and the arrangements with event table centerpiece will exceed $1400.
This is all you. As groom, you are expected to procure music that doesn’t suck. And this can make or break the reception. Not even lobster bisque tastes good when accompanied by the Jonas Brothers. If you’re looking for places to scrimp, this ain’t it. DJs cost $736, a live band is $1700, but if it’s a soloist or small ensemble it’s less, at $618. Don’t forget lighting! That’s $337 more.
Not even included in that $25,764 is the honeymoon. But you should bake it into your overall cost structure, this way, later, it won’t feel like a sucker punch to the gut. Expect to dedicate between $4,000 and $5,000.
So those are the costs. Now, you need to find out who pays for what…
* Stats range depending on the source. We cite 2017 data from Costofwedding.com.
Join The Plunge (Don’t Worry: It’s Free)
Even More Money
Think about renting a wedding tux, consider a suit instead, avoid big-name designers and purchase only clothes you’ll wear again in other situations.
Common tips include buying a pre-owned wedding dress, renting a wedding dress or going with gowns, dresses, and suits that aren't specifically for weddings.
Prices for the tux or suit, rented or purchased, custom or off-the-rack—plus accessories.
When it comes to money, honesty is the only policy
We share tips to save money on flowers, photographers, invitations, food and more.