What all exactly does that total include? Honestly, the list of possible wedding costs is as long as the train on Princess Diana’s wedding dress. But let’s start by saying your wedding does not have to cost $40,900. Or even $4,090. This day is about you and about love—not a price tag.
Now, let’s go over some of the most common costs that can help make your wedding day the most magical day of your entire life.
How Much Does a Wedding Cost: Quick Facts
- Average cost of a wedding (ceremony and reception): $30,000
- Average cost of a wedding (ceremony and reception, engagement ring and honeymoon): $40,900
- Percentage of couples who up their initial budget: 60%
- Most expensive parts of a wedding: venue and reception
- Average vendors hired: 14
- Most popular venues: farms and barns or banquet halls
- Average guest count: 117
- Average cost per guest: $256
- Percentage of wedding costs the couples pay for themselves: 49%
How Much Does a Wedding Cost: National Averages
Before we get real detailed about things, here’s an overview of the numbers on some common wedding costs—in alphabetical order.
Engagement ring: $5,800
Flowers, lighting and décor: $3,900*
Gifts and favors: $400*
Groom’s attire: $290
Hair and makeup: $250
Photography and videography: $4,400*
Rehearsal dinner: $1,900*
Wedding bands: $2,200*
Wedding ceremony: $700*
Wedding dress: $1,900
Wedding planner: $1,500*
Many sources are taken from The Knot.5,6 Any numbers with an asterisk are taken from WeddingWire, U.S. Marriage Laws, U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, or a combination of WeddingWire and The Knot.7,8,9,10
And how do couples pay for all this? Most tap into their checking account (57%) or pay cash as they go (54%). That’s. Awesome. News. Others are dragging payments into the future by plopping costs onto their credit cards (39%), and nearly a third are lucky enough to pay for some costs with wedding gift money (28%).11
By the way, if you added up all those possible wedding costs and thought, Why is that more than $40,900? Well, the key word there is possible. The $40,900 average is based on what couples say they did spend. And the averages we listed are based on the couples who spent money on those specific categories.
Every single couple in America doesn’t want every single item on that list. (Not everyone’s hiring a limo driver or decorating with fairy lights.) And you shouldn’t feel pressured to pay for any of those things you don’t want or can’t afford! Ever.
Now it’s time to go deeper into these wedding costs, in the order that most people start paying for things.
Average Cost: $8,000
Is that way more or way less than you thought? Either way, keep two things in mind before you open that ring box to the words “Will you marry me?”
- Do not go into debt to buy an engagement ring. Set a budget and save up cash. You’re supposed to be walking into a shared financial future. Don’t start out on the wrong . . . knee.
- Remember, the proposal is about marriage—a life together—not a ring.
“With this ring, I thee wed” are classic words said right before “you may now kiss the bride.” And those rings are one of many wedding costs.
Every savings goal starts with a budget. Create yours today with EveryDollar.
His and her wedding bands total an average $2,200.13 Many people look for bands that coordinate with the bride’s engagement ring, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Get something that suits your personality and fits the budget.
Average Cost: $11,200
The venue tends to be the first thing couples search for. It is, after all, where the magic happens! Also, the good spots tend to get snatched up super fast. Maybe that’s why 57% of couples talk about venue type before they even get engaged.14
How much do couples usually spend here? Well, it’s a pretty big-ticket item. The location of the ceremony and reception runs an average of $11,200.15
Average Cost: $1,900
What’s a wedding without a wedding dress? Still a wedding, technically, but anyway . . . shopping for this gown is a huge moment in a woman’s life. In fact, 54% of brides try on about six dresses before they find the one they say yes to.16 And how much does that yes cost? An average of $1,900.17
Some of you nodded your head at how reasonable that number seems. Some of you did a literal spit take with whatever you’re sipping on as you read this.
The dress is important. Seriously. But that doesn’t mean you have to hand over more than a month’s rent on the average one-bedroom apartment to feel beautiful and make beautiful memories.
Note: The dress isn’t all the bride needs to think about when it comes to wedding day attire. Veil or no veil? Converse or couture heels? Pearls or diamonds? (Jewelry is about a $200 expense, by the way.)18 Don’t forget to plan for these in the budget too.
Attire for the Groom
Average Cost: $290
It’s time to suit up. Or tux up. That’s one of the first decisions for the groom (or his bride): What will he wear?
The average spent here is about $290—and remember, the benefit of going the suit route is buying something you can use again.19 But a tux . . . you’re probably not going to need that thing again, unless you want to dress up as Mr. Peanut for Halloween.
Average Cost: $560
Save the Dates
Stationery for a wedding comes to an average of $560.20 And that all starts with save-the-date announcements. These feel like a must these days (either because of everyone’s incredibly busy lifestyles or the incredibly clever marketing from paper companies).
You can skip the paper version and send an email with the link to your wedding website—if you’re one of the 79% of couples who create a website to share details about your big day with your guests.21 Or you can have your mom call everyone. You know she wants to anyway.
Invitations, with RSVP cards included, are the next stationery expense. And don’t forget the stamps, both for what you send out and what comes back. It’s quite common for the RSVP envelopes to be labeled with your address and a stamp for convenience. (But you could skip the RSVP cards and ask for text or online responses.)
The final paper items you need to worry about are the thank-you cards—which call for more stamps. Of course, you can share a verbal thanks, send an email, or give a social media shout-out. But nothing compares to sending physical, handwritten thank-you cards to people who spent their time and money to congratulate you and celebrate your love.
Average Cost: $26–241
Here’s a fee many forget to budget in: the marriage license. This formal piece of paper is what makes your marriage legally binding. You need one.
The cost can range from $10–115, depending on your state and sometimes even your county.22 In Tennessee, you can get a discount if you complete premarital counseling, even if it’s a free service offered by your minister!
Before the actual wedding, you’ll need to go into the county clerk’s office together (with valid identification) to apply for your license. They’ll give you the paperwork you need to sign (and get signed by witnesses!) on your actual wedding day. Send that away by mail, and you’ll receive an official license in the mail. But you don’t want just one copy. Order extras! Why? Read on.
If you’re one of the 77% who decide to change their last names after getting married, your (paper)work has just begun.23
You’ll need to apply for a new Social Security card (which is free if you go through the Social Security Administration) and passport (around $110). Pro tip on that last one: If your passport is less than a year old, you can get an updated one with your new name at no cost!24
And don’t forget your driver’s license, which has a different fee depending on what state you’re in. Here in Tennessee, the cost is about $16.25
You’ll also need to change your name with your bank and job. Oh, and you’ll need an updated library card and gym membership ID—and with all these changes, people want to see a copy of your marriage license. Since you’ll be mailing it off for some of these, it’s easier to have more than one copy (like we said earlier).
It takes time, effort and money to get your name updated on everything, so maybe put your wedding video on in the background to set the mood while you’re sorting through websites and signing checks to one government agency after the other. (Hey. You’re signing your new name. That’s fun!)
Average Cost: $1,900
The night before the wedding, the couple, their family and the wedding party generally do a run-through of the ceremony followed by a rehearsal dinner. The cost of this prewedding event is about $1,900.26 That can cover the food, venue and beverages.
Average Cost: $800
In most cases, this transportation budget line (which is an average of $800) is used for renting a limo or large vehicle to get the couple, the bridal party or the family from one location to the next.27 Of course, if slowly floating down from heaven in a hot-air balloon is where you want to spend the bulk of your wedding budget, you can just lower your spending somewhere else to afford it all.
But seriously: People probably won’t remember how you arrive. Unless it’s in a hot-air balloon. No one’s forgetting that.
Wedding Ceremony Costs
Average Cost: $700
While some officiants charge and some don’t (the average cost being $250), giving them cash or a small thank-you gift is always a good idea.28 After all, their signature will sit on your marriage license for all time.
Ceremonial tunes average $450.29 If having a string quartet is key to making your wedding dreams come true, you might pay even more for that.
Hair and Makeup
Average Cost: $250
Beauty services can range from having hair, nails and makeup done to far more complex beauty rituals. Brides spend an average of $250 on their hair and makeup for the big day.30
Flowers, Lighting and Décor Costs
Average Cost: $3,900
Oh, and most weddings include bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres—and some even have a flower girl sprinkling freshly-plucked rose petals down the aisle. (The flower girl isn’t part of the $3,900—but her pre-plucked petals are.)
Photography and Videography Costs
Average Cost: $4,400
He said, “Will you?” She said, “Yes!” Now it’s time to make the announcement. What better way than with engagement photos? (Heck, some guys hire someone to film or photograph the moment they pop the question!)
When you’re searching for the perfect wedding photographer, consider one who includes engagement photos in their wedding packages. It’s a great way for the photographer to get to know you as a couple, as well as to learn what you want from photos before the big day.
Ceremony and Reception Photos
You obviously want the actual ceremony photographed. From the walk down the aisle to the groom’s face as he sees his bride to the first kiss as husband and wife—all of these moments need to be captured.
Many couples pay to have the reception photographed as well, or at least portions of it. It often depends on whether the photographer’s working by the hour or by the gig. And because these photos last a lifetime, the photographer is usually the fourth-highest expense at $2,600.33
Not only do you want still shots of your wedding moments, but you probably want your ceremony (and maybe the reception) filmed too. Whether you’re looking for a basic recording of the event or an elaborate movie-like experience, videography is a hot-ticket item these days, averaging $1,800.34
We didn’t add these in the total average cost of this section since they aren’t as common as hiring a photographer and videographer, but photo booths at weddings are becoming incredibly popular, so we’ll give them a mention. These create entertainment for your guests and offer a free (to them) memory for friends and family.
We did some searching online for photo booth costs in the Ramsey hometown of Nashville and saw prices ranging from about $200–450, depending on whether you’re giving guests printed pictures or just emailed images.
Wedding Planner or Coordinator
Average Cost: $1,500
A wedding planner or coordinator handles all the details: from answering Uncle Rosco’s texts about parking to cueing the sound person to play “I Feel Good” by James Brown at the exact moment you’re pronounced husband and wife.
Having someone plan, coordinate or be the point person for your wedding can be well worth the money. Couples spend an average of $1,500 hiring someone to do just that, whether it’s a person who directs on just the day of or walks with you from day one.35
Average Cost: $13,085–15,285
We mentioned before that the venue is the top expensive item in most wedding budgets. And coming in second place is . . . drumroll please . . . oh, you probably guessed it: food. Catering costs come up to about $75 a guest—and the average guest list includes 117 people.36 Math that out and you get $8,775.
That means the average couple, along with their closest 117 friends and family, eat about a third of the total average wedding cost. Literally.
That also means food is a fantastic place to save on wedding costs.
Peace and quiet is a goal of retirement, not your wedding reception. You need music. And if you’re the type of couple whose relationship started on a shared love of music, the jams at your reception might be one of your top three spending priorities.
Of course, some couples just create their own playlist and plug into the venue’s sound system. Then they won’t have to worry about “YMCA” playing (unless they want it to).
Beverages are a must. But that could mean offering just water, soda and iced tea—and maybe having champagne for a toast. A high number of couples (78%) offer an open bar, and $2,300 is the average spent on alcohol and liquor.41
You don’t want to leave your guests thirsty, but what you offer should be far more about the vibe you want and the budget you’ve got.
Gifts and Favors
Average Cost: $400
Wedding Party Gifts
A good wedding party does more than stand beside you as you promise each other forever. A thank-you present for their involvement isn’t required, but it is considerate.
Wedding party gifts usually reflect your relationship with the person. Or they can be something to use during the wedding, such as jewelry or a wedding-themed bow tie. This goes for any bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, ring bearers and such.
Couples spend an average of $400 for these gifts plus favors.42 Speaking of which . . .
Though this tradition has dropped 21% in popularity over the past five years, handing out wedding favors is still quite common.43
Now, don’t break your bank or make it all about showing off to guests or strangers on social media. If you offer favors, think of it like this: They should serve as a token of thanks, a remembrance of the day, and a symbol of you as a couple.
Average Cost: $5,100
A honeymoon can range from the ultra luxurious to the ultra chill, and the average cost here is $5,100.44 When you’re planning, think about these three things: your couple personality, your time off allowed, and your budget.
And hey, if you don’t have a lot of money to enjoy the vacation of your dreams right after the wedding, it doesn’t mean that day will never come. In fact, we believe it will, as long as you’re willing to get yourself into a good spot with money first.
Go ahead and plan some extra in the budget for anything you might forget! If you don’t end up spending this, put it in savings or treat yourself to something extra on the honeymoon.
Communicate About Wedding Costs as a Couple
Before we put a giant white bow on all this info, here are some last things you might want to think about adding to your budget:
- Some couples cover the cost of accommodations for out-of-town guests.
- You might want to book a place to stay the night before and the night after your wedding—for you and maybe even your wedding party.
- Although you probably won’t pay for your bachelor or bachelorette party, you might have to pay for travel.
Honestly, the best thing you can do while you’re figuring out how much you have to spend on your wedding is to make a budget. It might not seem romantic, but it can be. Make a playlist of your favorite love songs to set the mood. Build a charcuterie board. And start talking through what you can afford and what you don’t even care about!
If you don’t have a budget, download EveryDollar. This free app will help you start budgeting for your wedding—and everything else in your lives—while you’re prepping to turn two incomes into one.
In the end, the best advice we can give, beyond making and keeping your wedding budget, is to remember the wedding is about you—and not about impressing or entertaining others.
Communicate clearly and constantly together about what’s important and what’s not, and you’ll be on your way to the wedding of your dreams.