How Much Does a Wedding REALLY Cost?

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weddingWhether you’re engaged, or secretly thinking about diamond rings, seven tiers of lemon cake, and the most rockin’ wedding reception since the famous JK wedding on YouTube, you can’t afford to forget about money. Even before your impeccable save-the-dates go out, you’re going to be opening up your checkbook…and you’re not going to close it til after you’ve said “I do.” So, how much does a wedding really cost, and who’s going to pay for all this?

Sock It Away Early

Most couples start planning seven months to a year before the wedding—but the average engagement period is about 16 months, so it wouldn’t hurt to start saving cash even before you have a date, venue, or ring picked out. Some national wedding stats:

  • Average traditional wedding total = $30,000, though the price varies greatly depending on your venue.
  • Average dress, plus accessories and a veil = $2,000.
  • Average photographer (for shoots, editing, and prints) = $2,300.
  • Band = about $2,000.
  • D.J. = about $800.
  • Wedding cake = about $550.
  • Tips = 15% for each of the following: D.J./band, photographer, waiters, maître d’, and limo driver.

No matter your budget, expect to spend a minimum of 50% of your total on the reception.

All in the Family

Tradition (and Emily Post) say that the bride’s family usually pays for the ceremony and reception, while the groom’s family usually pays for the rehearsal dinner and honeymoon. But, in modern times, couples are getting married later and standards are changing. “More and more, I’m seeing the bride’s family and groom’s family each kicking in 25%…and the couple [paying] the rest,” says Alison J. Dix, a professional wedding planner. So, don’t be shy about asking both pairs of folks if they’d like to help contribute to your wedding, especially if you don’t have huge cash reserves yourself. Just remember that the more Mom pays, the more say she gets in the planning process—which means that you may end up with a venue you dislike (or centerpieces from Precious Moments).

Cut Your Mother’s Third Cousin’s Dentist

Since the biggest expense in the reception is food, trimming your guest list is the easiest way to cut costs. There are many useful barometers, but one good way to decide who makes the cut is to ask whether you’d feel awkward going to dinner alone with each guest. If the answer is a resounding yes, then consider cutting that person from your list. More questions to ask yourself: Have you two seen or spoken to each other within the last six months? Have you received invites to this person’s milestone events? Is this person really close with other invited guests? Additionally, not everyone deserves a plus-one. The best rule of thumb is to invite the significant others of your pals who are in committed, long-term relationships. When thinking about those who aren’t, try to help them find other guests to travel with, and be mindful not to sit them alone at a table full of couples.

Remember What They Say About Assuming

Although a certain number of your guests will undoubtedly not be able to make it to the reception, don’t assume that a certain percentage will drop out and then over-invite. Many couples choose to invite guests in waves in order to invite second choices after some first choices drop out. But, note that this takes careful planning: You’ll need to send your “A list” invites at least eight to ten weeks before the wedding, says Wendy Vyborney, a wedding etiquette expert. Stay on your A-listers to RSVP quickly enough for you to give your B-listers time to make travel arrangements.

Click here for a step-by-step checklist for planning your wedding, including tips to reduce your total costs.

We know that this is a big day, but planning for it well in advance will leave you to concentrate on the joy of that trip down the aisle. And hey, you can rock out to Chris Brown even before you make it to the aisle. (After all, it’s a song you’ll never want to finish.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=97400030 Meghan Lazier

    If you're trying to save money on your wedding, why not try wedding classifieds? Savvy Cinderella is like a Craigslist for brides. Looking for a once loved ring pillow? Searching every online boutique to find that designer wedding dress you love online? Look no further. Brides-to-be browse can browse listings for fabulous wedding day finds. Newlyweds can list their wedding finds here after their big day is done for a bit of extra cash. Savvy Cinderella even offers free listings at http://www.shopsavvycinderella.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=97400030 Meghan Lazier

    If you're trying to save money on your wedding, why not try wedding classifieds? Savvy Cinderella is like a Craigslist for brides. Looking for a once loved ring pillow? Searching every online boutique to find that designer wedding dress you love online? Look no further. Brides-to-be browse can browse listings for fabulous wedding day finds. Newlyweds can list their wedding finds here after their big day is done for a bit of extra cash. Savvy Cinderella even offers free listings at http://www.shopsavvycinderella.com

  • Mylographics

    Personally I think its all too overpriced. 

    A “professional” photographer is a joke. I’m glad I have friends that can take a simple picture. As far as editing goes, being a graphic designer I can’t help but feel how romantic it would be to edit the pictures yourself with your new wife.

    Printing high quality photos either at your home (with your wife, again romantic) or even going to kinkos can save you over a thousand bucks!

    A DJ would be a little tricky, but how hard is it to have a good friend rent some equipment and bring there iPod. I’ve been to a few weddings and The only thing that really seems expensive is the sound equipment! Why not use that 800 bucks and buy your own???

    As for a wedding cake. 550 dollars? I’d rather give my friends a month to learn how to decorate a cake and throw them 200 dollars and have an INSANE CAKE.

    Wedding invitations, like photography could E A S I L Y be created by yourself and your loved one. I guess being a pro at photoshop has it’s benefits, but I’m SURE that you can google a free application that pretty much creates everything for you.

    Even Microsoft Word has pretty insane presets for stuff like that.

    As for the wedding dress, that’s obviously going to set you back, but I know that I can rent a tux for a 100 bucks easily.

    I’m in no way a cheap person, but I can’t help to think that if your getting married, why lose out on all the excitement of doing it yourself with your loved one. The “average” engagement time is 16 months, that’s a V E R Y long time to get things set up and you can save a lot of money!

    I’d prefer to enjoy this experience yourself instead of having overpriced photographers and wedding planners snatch your money and create something boring  like they do for all of there clients.

    Again, I can’t stress how romantic it would be to do all of this yourself with your soon to be wife. 

    I’m a graphic designer and it saddens me people overcharge for things like wedding invitations and photo printing. 

    I can seriously create a wedding invitation in 30 min.

    • IndyMon

      Save more on the photography by taking selfies the whole day with your iPhone. That way, you don’t need to edit them. For the wedding cake, just stop by Walmart on the way to the reception and get 4 sheet cakes. Or buy them the night before and stop by the house to pick them up before the reception. Or just let them sit in the vehicle all day to soften up by the time you get to the reception. Design the invitation on a 4×6 template so you can have them printed at Sams Club on 4×6 photos (@ $0.13 apiece). Save on stamps by addressing and stamping the 4×6′s directly on the back (at postcard rates), and just have the guests text you their RSVP. For flowers, just plant a garden of flowers in the spring and pick them on the morning of the wedding. Google how to make a bouquet and boutineer and become an expert florist overnight. Don’t serve a meal after the wedding; just have some hors d’oeuvres, which will help the reception go faster since most people will leave in an hour to grab a bite at the nearest Burger King.

  • pnidream

    The link for checklist for planning your wedding doesn’t work!  Please fix!