The Price of Commitment: What People Spend on Engagements

Libby Kane

What People Are Spending On . . . the Proposal

You’ve probably seen videos of some pretty incredible will-you-marry-me asks: From a marching band in midtown Manhattan to a song-and-dance routine on a suburban street in Portland, Oregon, some people go all-out to utter those four simple words.

For instance, The New York Times looked further into the flash-mob proposal of 43-year-old David Centner, who proposed to his girlfriend in July of 2012–in front of a crowd of people dancing to “I’m All Yours” by Jay Sean.

Sure, the memories are priceless, but the event? It cost over $7,300!

The marching band in Midtown, which required 140 instrument-wielding high schoolers bussed in from the suburbs, cost about $7,000–not including flying in relatives to witness the show this past June.

Of course, not everyone spends thousands of dollars on this one moment. But are people spending more on proposals, in general?

RELATED: I Threw a 100-Person Wedding for Under $4,000

According to proposal planner Michele Velazquez of The Heart Bandits, the answer is yes. “In the past, most people proposed in a restaurant, at home or just in a pretty setting–there were no photos, there was no hoopla,” she says. “Now, our clients generally spend between $500 and $3,000 on a proposal.”

Why such fuss? “‘How did they propose?’ is one of the first questions everyone is asked when they announce their engagement,” Velazquez explains, ”so the story needs to be special.”

But if you aren’t planning to shell out thousands to ask the question, don’t worry–you’re in the majority. In a 2012 survey conducted by TheKnot and Men’s Health, 99% of men surveyed said that they didn’t use a proposal consultant, and 72% said that their proposals weren’t documented through photo or video.

This doesn’t mean that the proposal wasn’t special: Among women surveyed, 29% said that their proposals happened at a place that had meaning (like the location of their first date), and 47% said that the surprise factor was “very important.”

So They Said Yes … Now What?

“People are spending more money on the proposal because they’re putting more into its uniqueness and sincerity,” explains Kailen Rosenberg, relationship expert and founder of Kai-len Love and Life Architects. ”But they are spending less on the wedding. We’re seeing more people who are doing elaborate proposals, and then eloping or having small weddings.”

Okay, maybe not that small: According to TheKnot, among engaged couples who didn’t plan the wedding themselves, the average cost of the big day in 2011 was about $27,000.

Given this not-so-modest figure, couples need to keep in mind that there’s another big day that’s just as important: The day you and your partner open up about your finances.

RELATED: Planning a Wedding? Then Getting Hitched Bootcamp Is for You

“If you haven’t talked about finances with your significant other, you are not ready to get engaged,” says our financial advisor Sophia. “A lot of couples haven’t talked about the amount of credit card debt or student loans that they have, but these things will definitely play a role when you combine your finances.”

We know having the “money talk” isn’t easy—it’s hard just to look at your own bank balance sometimes. But you’ll need to work as a team for the rest of your lives, so getting off on the right foot today will help set you up for financially happy ever after.

  • Howel2ce

    “…clients generally spend between $500 and $3,000 on a proposal.” “The average cost of the big day in 2011 was about $27,000.” Seriously? I really do not understand why people feel the need to spend so much money on a wedding. I was married earlier this month and the entire event cost us less than a $1,000. I’m still getting comments that the guests had a lot of fun and it was one of the most relaxed weddings they had been to. We were looking forward to bringing family and friends together, and that’s what happened. A couple things may not have gone as planned, but at the end of the day we were married and surrounded by the people we love, and that’s all that mattered to us.   

    • http://Www.Plantingourpennies.Com/ Mrs PoP @ PlantingOurPennies

      I am totally with you – our wedding cost less than $250! ( )

      Yes, we eloped.  But then we came back and with all the money we didn’t spend having a big wedding, we bought a house, fixed it up together, and THEN threw a party where we invited lots of family and friends.  The belated wedding reception/housewarming was still less than $1000 and everyone had a great time.  

      It doesn’t take a lot of money to celebrate love.  =)

  • Guest

    Let’s see, spend thousands of dollars for a pretty rock to get someone to come live with me, sponge off of me, then take half of the assets when she leaves?  Not likely, and I’ll tell any and every guy, until there is equity and fairness in a marriage for the guy, DON’T DO IT.

    Live with her if  you want, but DON’T give her legal or any other kind of access to what you worked so hard for.

    • iGranny

      Maybe your taste in women is off.

      I have yet to have a set of family members divorce, and the women that have raised me have not only provided for themselves and their families, but have also stuck it out with men who seem just as bitter as you through all of the trials and tribulations, sickness and health; There has been no sponging, and for many of them, no expensive engagement rings or events, they got married for the union, not for the hoopla.

      Thank you for not wanting to marry. Your attitude alone is enough to ward people off.

      • Guest

         Maybe it is off.

        But consider that all of my male friends who are divorced and all but a very few who are married, have all said they would NOT do it again if they had the chance.

        They don’t regret their children, just the wife and marriage.

        Marriage is a no win proposition for the guy and a no lose for the woman.

        Once a person is bitten by dogs often enough to recognize the true nature
        of a dog and not trust them, is that the dogs fault or the person?

        Once you’ve been fleeced by someone promising something too good to be true, who’s at fault for your not trusting others making similar promises?

        But, yeah, it’s probably just me.

        No thanks are necessary as I don’t mention this to appease or satisfy you.  Just a simple statement of true nature and to forewarn other men who are tempted to make a huge mistake.   Have her go find easier pickings, someone easier to fleece.

        • clumsatron

          Wow. Just, wow. 

          Definitely don’t get married with that attitude.  You’re definitely coming off as  what I would call bitter and biased.   Most marriages have to last a long time in order for the woman to end up with half of the assets.  (Community property States excepted)  Additionally, if both parties contribute HALF, they should be entitled to half if the marriage ends.

          If the family has children and agrees that one of the two parents stay home with the children, that person should still be entitled to half because they are raising the children, which is a full time job.

          If people are that concerned about being taken advantage of then they’re with the wrong people. And if they have significant assets achieved prior to marraige then a pre-nump should protect those just fine.  (Again, most judges in my State would consider those as non-maritial assets.) 

          My boyfriend and I have lived with each other for 5 years now, we split everything. When he was unemployed I paid for everything – we put money into a joint account that covers all of the household bills and whatever is left over goes into our own accounts to do with as we like.    

          I’ve known plenty of women who have been taken advantage of by their male partners, so your complaint could go either way.    


          • clumsatron

            Oh, and when we get married we are signing a pre-nump, because my boyfriend owns the house we live in and I have assets inherited from family members I would like protected.

             I consider the money I put into it as money I would have paid in rent so it washes out.  IMost of our friends are married and I can definitely say that none of them are living the sponge lifestyle you’re complaining about.   

        • Bobbih

           huh.  just a simple statement of true nature.  yep, you are with the wrong women.  I’m sure all your divorced friends were the “perfect” husbands. Right.  There are two sides to every story and I am sure you heard his side.  Sorry your friends chose…wrong.

  • Kristen

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