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How Much Does a Wedding Cost? Best Wedding Budget Guide

The average wedding cost in the United States is around $30,000! For most people, this is an unrealistic expectation and they will spend much less. (Remember, you only need a few $1M weddings to make the average go that high.)

I’ve put together this guide to help couples budget for their wedding and get a good idea of how much they will need to save/spend, depending on what they want.


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Wedding Cost Breakdown

How much does a groom’s suit cost?

The groom’s tux or suit rental for your wedding day will cost between $100 and $230 depending on the type or suit or attire and what accessories he would like included with the rental.

How much does it cost to get a wedding planner?

You can hire a wedding planner for $800 to $2000. They will take care of all the details to ensure your wedding day runs smoothly.

How much do nice wedding invitations cost?

You can expect to pay anywhere from $1.00 to $2.00 for wedding invitations, depending on the quality and design.

How much does a nice wedding dress cost?

You can expect to spend $1100 on average for a wedding dress. There are options in all price ranges for you to select from, so don’t worry if this is out of your budget. Check out our wedding dress buying guide to find the perfect dress for you!

Continue reading for more detailed information about how much your wedding will cost.

I breakdown each cost and give you an inexpensive estimate and a premium estimate!

Use the quick links below to navigate to each category and find the cost estimates!

In this article...

The Variables

There are a few things that will greatly affect your wedding costs. As you go through the list of costs on this post, you'll need to keep these things in mind when determining how much you need to budget.

How Much Help Will You Have?

You need to think about the people around you, their strengths and weaknesses, and their availability and willingness to help. The more people you can get to help you the less you'll need to hire out.

Perhaps there is someone in the family who does photography. He or she might be willing to do it for free or at a family discount. Is there someone who is really good with organization and planning? Maybe they would be willing to help coordinate things so you don't have to hire a wedding planner or day-of coordinator.

Location, Location, Location

There are all sorts of places you could get married and have a reception. You need to think about what you want... so you want an elaborate specialty location or maybe a local park has a nice spot that you can get for a lot cheaper (or maybe even free)?

Also, if you attend church at a smaller local building, you may be able to get the location for free or at a member discount. Some churches are even big enough to hold the ceremony and reception at the same location. Maybe you have a family member who goes to church somewhere that would offer the building for free or at a discount?

Guest List Size

This one is pretty obvious, but the more people you invite, the more expensive it gets. More people means

  1. more food

  2. a bigger location

  3. more decorations to fill a bigger space

  4. more rental costs if you have to rent tables and chairs

  5. etc.

The guests are really important to a wedding so it might be difficult to limit the number. If this is the case, you may need to cut corners on other areas of your budget. Just keep this in mind.

The Time of Year

The most popular time of year to year married is late spring to early fall. This is the time when everything will be the most expensive, especially venues. There are low-season prices and peak-season prices to keep in mind.

The availability of places is also a factor. If you are wanting a certain place during peak season, you may need to book the venue a year in advance. You'll have a better chance of getting that place on short notice if it's the off-season.

Do Your Research

Don't just settle on the first place you find, whether it be for flowers, tuxes, dresses, invitations, etc. Research costs and check out multiple places before making a decision.

Also, don't forget to look for online sources as well. You can often find things a lot cheaper if you're willing to buy them online before actually seeing them. Besides, most companies have an excellent return policy so if something doesn't look the way you thought, you can easily send it back. This might not be the best option if you are planning a super quick wedding, so keep your timeline in mind.

The Art of Negotiation

There are situations where negotiating could be an option. Just be careful to do it respectfully... you don't want to lose the vendor completely in case they push back. The professionals you're negotiating with have set their prices that way for a reason.

If you're looking at wedding venues, you may be able to negotiate the price if you are willing to have your ceremony and reception at the same place.

Additionally, you may be able to lower prices for yourself if you decline services that are included as part of a package. For example, maybe your catering package includes an open bar. You can decline the bar and save money by not having that part of the package.

Plan for Unexpected Costs

As with any event, you'll want to plan for surprise expenses. Maybe you didn't realize that the cake baker and florist charge an additional $20 each for delivery. Or maybe you will end up needing last-minute rush alterations on your dress. It's recommended to take on an additional 10% to your budget for unexpected costs.

A Breakdown of Wedding Costs

Invitations



Premium Cost: $1.50 per invitation, on average from Shutterfly


Inexpensive Cost: $1.00 per invitation, on average from Walmart

These prices only include the wedding invitation. If you want response cards, save the dates, thank you cards, programs, menu cards, etc. the price just keeps going up. Here is a breakdown of average prices on all of these printed products:

  1. Save the Date cards: $1.05 each

  2. Response/RSVP cards: $1.05 each

  3. Thank You cards: $1.70 each

  4. Wedding Programs: $2.32 each

  5. Menu cards: $1.20 each

Also, you'll need to pay for postage for both the invitation and RSVP response card with pre-stamped envelope. The current postage rate is $0.55, so you will need to budget an additional $1.10 for postage.

If you're trying to save money, you could forgo the save the date cards and menu cards. For thank you cards, you could just buy a generic, non-personalized pack of thank you's to send out after the wedding. Also, if you're more tech-savvy, instead of sending out RSVP cards, build a wedding website with built-in RSVP option and simply include the URL on your wedding invitation. Just make to sure think about how your guests will handle this and if you think they'll be able to figure out how to RSVP online.

Wedding Planner & Coordinator



Premium Cost: $2,000 to hire a wedding planner to handle all details


Inexpensive Cost: $800 to hire a day-of coordinator to help only on the day-of

A wedding planner or day-of coordinator can definitely help you stay sane, but it comes at a cost.

A wedding planner is going to help you with all the stages of planning your wedding, from choosing the cake and hiring a florist to booking venues and organizing all the details. Whereas as day-of coordinator is only going to handle all the details for the rehearsal and day of the wedding. She'll make sure that vendors show up on time and with the proper details and so forth.

A wedding planner or coordinator is definitely not a necessity, although it is nice to have one person dedicated to making sure everything runs as planned. You can simply keep track of your own planning with a wedding planner book. I highly recommend The Knot Ultimate Wedding Planner and Organizer for keeping track of everything.

Having someone who knows all the details for the rehearsal and day-of is I a great idea to help take some stress off you. Instead of hiring a coordinator, you can always ask someone you're close with to do this for you. It should be someone who has exceptional organizational and planning skills!

Wedding Dress



Premium Cost: $1,100 for a higher end dress on David's Bridal


Inexpensive Cost: $300 for discounted dresses on Dressilyme.com

There are so many options when it comes to finding a wedding dress. Bridal shops like David's Bridal keep a lot of styles that you can try on in the store. A lot of times this comes at a higher cost.

If you're looking to get a beautiful dress for much cheaper, you can find some great deals on Dressilyme.com. You might be a little worried about buying a dress online that you haven't tried on first. I've checked out Dressilyme and read a lot of reviews indicating that a lot of people are very happy with the dresses they received. They also have a good return policy, so if it' doesn't end up fitting you as you hoped, you can return it within 5 days of receiving it. You can send in your custom measurements and have them tailor the dress for you or you can order a standard dress size.

If I were doing this, I'd just order a size larger than what I normally wear (they also provide measurements so you can measure yourself). Then I'd just take the dress to a local tailor and have it sized specifically to me.

Some other expenses you need to consider are (prices are estimates):

  1. the veil: $35

  2. hair pieces: $15

  3. shoes: $50

  4. undergarments: $40

  5. Alterations: $300

Groom's Attire



Premium Cost: $230 rental per person for high end tux and all accessories at Men's Wearhouse


Inexpensive Cost: $100 rental per person for tux and all accessories at Men's Wearhouse

Men's Wearhouse is probably one of the best places to get the Grooms attire (and then your groomsmen can order the same style for themselves). You can rent your tux or suit right online and have it shipped to you.

The nice thing about Men's Wearhouse is they rent the "look". Meaning, each rental includes the jacket, pants, vest, shoes, tie, cufflinks, etc. A really great deal!

Wedding Photographer



Premium Cost: $3,000 which includes 10 hours of shooting, prints, edited files, and photo book.


Inexpensive Cost: $1,000 which includes 4 hour of shooting and high resolution digital photos.

Hiring a wedding photographer is one area where a lot of people prefer not to skimp. Your wedding day is one that you'll want to remember for a long long time and great pictures will help you do that.

It's recommended that you plan on at least 10% of your wedding budget being put aside for the photographer. However, if you have a family friend or relative that does photography, they may be willing to do it as a "wedding gift" or for a discounted rate. You just have to ask 🙂

Some other expenses and add-on's that you may need to take into account are:

  1. Second photographer: $250

  2. engagement photo shoot: $400

  3. photo booth at the reception: $300

  4. an additional hour of shooting: $100 per hour

Wedding Videographer



Premium Cost: $2,000 for 2 cameras capturing the ceremony & reception and professionally edited.


Inexpensive Cost: $750 for a single camera video of ceremony only that can be 60-90 minutes long

A video of your ceremony and reception captures memories that you'll be able to relive for years to come. Having a video capture the day is such a great idea but could also cost a pretty penny. Depending on how much you want to capture, the prices and packages vary.

You can definitely save money by filming only the ceremony. Also, if you have editing software or know someone who does, you can save money by editing it yourself.

Also, if you're not worried about professional editing, you could just set up a few cameras on tripods and ask a few friends to man them as the ceremony is happening. You can easily take the footage and make your own video.

Some average costs for additional services may include:

  1. second camera and videographer: $100

  2. some charge extra for editing: $75

  3. extra DVD copies: $25 each

  4. photo montages: $2.50 per picture

  5. Documentary style interviews: $100 to $500, depending on the limit

Transportation



Premium Cost: $400 for a passenger van for 6 hours


Inexpensive Cost: $100 per trip for a limo

This really depends on how fancy you wan to get. If you'd like to have one vehicle for the entire wedding party and immediate family to travel in, you could go with one of these options.

Money saving options could be asking someone who wasn't in the wedding to provide transportation for certain people (maybe for the wedding party, parents of the bride and groom, etc.)

You could also have everyone arrange their own transportation for pre-wedding activities and then have one limo provide transportation from the ceremony venue to the reception. If your ceremony and reception are at the same place, there isn't much need for transportation at all.

Hair and Makeup



Premium Cost: $250 includes full bridal up-do and airbrush makeup


Inexpensive Cost: $150 simple hairstyle and traditional makeup

There is nothing like making your face shine even more with professional hair and makeup to match your stunning dress.

Hair and make up doesn't have to be elaborate, but it can be if you want. You can save money by asking a relative or friend to be on hand to do your hair and make up.

Some other costs you'll need to consider are:

  1. fake lashes, airbrushing, and other special techniques: ??

  2. mileage if hair stylist or makeup artist has to travel: $5 per mile

  3. additional people if you are paying for their hair and makeup: $125 per person

  4. touch-ups throughout the day: $25/ hour

  5. trail run: $75

  6. gratuity: 15-20%

Pre-wedding beauty average costs:

  1. tanning: $40

  2. Massage therapy: $70

  3. Facials: $65

  4. Manicures: $25

  5. Pedicures: $40

Flowers



Premium Cost: $3,000 full floral decor


Inexpensive Cost: $750 minimal floral decor

Prices on flowers can vary greatly. There is a huge debate about whether or not artificial flowers or fresh flowers are the best option, but in the end the cost really isn't that different. It more a matter of what you like and what makes the most sense for you.

Keep in mind that prices and availability of fresh depend on the time of years. Learn all about using fresh or artificial flowers here.

If you want less expense on flowers, you can definitely cut back. You can even use a variety of fresh and artificial if that helps with your budget.

Here is an idea of what some of the main floral pieces will cost:


  1. Bridal bouquet: $200

  2. Bridesmaids bouquets: $95 each

  3. Boutonnieres: $30 each

  4. Wrist corsages: $55 each

  5. Reception flowers: $250

Officiant



Premium Cost: $300


Inexpensive Cost: $100

Most officiants are affiliated with a religious organization and don't have a specific fee. They typically rely on donations only. Prices can vary depending on whether you're a member or not.

If your officiant is the justice of the peace or some other secular organization, they will have their own fee structure.

Ceremony Venue



Premium Cost: $1,500


Inexpensive Cost: $500

The cost of the ceremony venue varies depending on whether you plan the have the reception in the same location or not. If you plan to have a church wedding with the reception at a separate location, the cost is much cheaper.

However, some specialty venues with scenic views and so forth will cost a premium.

Some additional costs to keep in mind for your wedding ceremony are:

  1. chair rental: $2.00 each

  2. parking if the location requires paid or valet parking: ??

  3. ceremony decorations: $500

You can save money on the venue if you're willing to do an outdoor wedding on a family member's property, for example. Maybe someone you know is willing to lend out their barn if it's in good enough shape to hold a wedding. You can also cut back on the decorations and just let the happy couple and their wedding party light up the day.

Lastly, if your venue would require guests to pay for parking or valet, it might be best to find another location. It's not fair to make your guests pay for parking but you may not be able to afford to prepay for the day.

Reception Venue



Premium Cost: $15,000 includes everything from catering to tables & chairs


Inexpensive Cost: $3,000 includes the venue only; must hire other vendors

The price ranges for wedding reception venues can vary extensively depending on the location, style, and included services.

Before deciding on a wedding reception venue, there are a variety of questions to ask that will help you determine how much extra you'll need to spend.

You can often save money by having the ceremony and reception in the same location. You also need to consider whether or not you'll have to provide your own catering and table/chair rental. You'll need to know your prices because it might be the same cost or cheaper to pay more for a venue that provides all those things in the cost. To read more, check out our 15 Things To Do Before Booking a Wedding Venue post.

Other costs that you need to keep in mind:

  1. table/chair rental: $3.00 per chair, $6.00 per table

  2. Catering: $40 per person

  3. Reception Decorations: $300

  4. DJ: $2500

You can save money on reception decorations by asking someone to transport the ceremony decorations to the reception venue. This is especially helpful if your reception is NOT immediately following the ceremony.

DJ



Premium Cost: $2,500 for a professional who makes sure you have the perfect reception music.


Inexpensive Cost: $400 a part-time DJ who has limited time to prepare for your reception.

A good DJ can make all the difference at a wedding reception and getting the guests involved in the celebration can be a challenge. A full-time professional DJ will spend hours ahead of time picking music based on your taste and requests. Whereas a part-time DJ has less time to prepare and tends to just "shot-from-the-hip". This doesn't mean that all part-time DJ's are bad. It's important to ask good questions and know exactly what you're getting when you hire someone.

Professional DJ's bring their own equipment, pre-selected music, and carry insurance in the event of any mishaps. DJ packages are often limited to a number of hours per event. They even sometimes include special lighting!

Some additional costs that you may run into are:

  1. additional hours: $125 per hour

  2. lighting: $250

  3. photo booth: $300

Catering



Premium Cost: $40 per person for plated meals


Inexpensive Cost: $28 per person for buffet style

Hiring a catering company often includes the food, beverages, staffing, and even table/chair rentals. They will also provide all table service, plates silverware, glasses, etc.

The types of catering vary as well. Plated meals are served at the by a member of the wait staff. Guests will have ordered their meal in advance (usually on the RSVP card). Buffet style meals are much more casual and often cheaper due to less wait staff needed. Family style meals are done where large platters of food are placed on each table and are passed from person to person. Food Trucks are also a great option where guests can get hot food and take it back to their table. Lastly, there is cocktail style meals where there are hors d’oeuvres at stations around the room and guest mingle from station to station.

Additional wedding costs could include:

  1. bar service: $15 per person (unless you opt for a cash bar)

  2. gratuity: $250

Wedding Cake



Premium Cost: $700 large cake due to guest size


Inexpensive Cost: $300 small cake due to guest size

The cost of wedding cakes largely has to do with the number of guests and the number of slices you'll need. The style of your wedding cake is also a factor to determine how much work it's going to take the baker to get the look you want.

Wedding cakes that feature a lot of design elements, including sugar flowers, fondant details, many tiers, and unique shapes cost more. Simple cakes with class buttercream frosting and filling with fresh flowers and fewer tiers.

The cost of the cake should include the cake itself, decorating, the cake tasting, delivery, and set-up. Some prices also include a top layer meant to be saved for the couples first anniversary.

Some additional costs that you might incur are:

  1. cake topper: $40

  2. cake set-up and delivery: $75

  3. cake cutting & serving utensils: $10

  4. cake cutting fee: $3 per slice

You should make sure to read the contract fully and ask your baker what is and is not included with your cake package. Be aware of all fees ahead of time!

Wedding Favors



Premium Cost: $5 per person


Inexpensive Cost: $2 per person

Wedding favors don't seem that expensive, but even if you only have 100 guests, you talking $200 to $500 just for wedding favors. Wedding favors are definitely a better idea if you have a smaller guest list. However, it's completely okay to skip the wedding favor. In fact, most weddings I've been too didn't even have a wedding favor for guests.

If you do decide that you want to have wedding favors for guests, here are some inexpensive ideas:



  1. Seed packets

  2. Smore's kit

  3. Glow sticks

  4. Tea bags

  5. Bookmarks

  6. Cookies

  7. Popcorn

  8. Custom magnets


  1. Mints

  2. Etched mason jars

  3. Spices

  4. Mixed Nuts

  5. Coffee

  6. Homemade soap

  7. Hot cocoa

Unexpected Costs

  1. Bridesmaid proposal gifts: $20 - Many brides like to creatively ask their girls to be a part of their wedding party. Compile your Bride Tribe in style.

  2. Marriage license: $15-20 - Prices vary depending on the state and county you're applying in.

  3. Welcome bags for out-of-towners: $15 - Many couples like to include a nice welcome bag in the hotel rooms of out of town guests.

  4. Unexpected guests: $30 - There are always the "plus one" guests that weren't invited or expect that you'll end up having to pay for. The cost of these unexpected guests varies depending on your meal costs.

  5. Gifts for the wedding party and parents: $20 per gift - It is customary to give a gift to each member of the wedding party and the parents for all their help and support.

  6. Vendor meals: $30 - People such as your photographer and wedding planner/coordinator who are spending the day with you will need to eat at some point as well. Therefore, the number of meals you plan should include them.

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kristin-the-wedding-blogger-2020-300x300.png

Hi, I’m Kristin. While I haven’t found my Prince Charming yet, I’ve been dreaming of getting married for a long long time. I started this site as a place to record all the things I’ve found and researched in preparation for my own wedding someday. I can’t wait to share it all with you!

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