If you’ve recently gotten engaged, you might notice the giddy joy of fresh engagement slowly giving way to some of the more challenging realities of wedding planning. Don’t get us wrong; planning your wedding is surely going to be a lot of fun–but it’s also a huge and very expensive undertaking. If looking at your wedding checklist gives you anxiety, you’re not alone. You might be asking yourself, “how much is this going to cost?”
Luckily, we’ve got your back. We’re going to break down the price ranges for all of the common wedding-related expenses you might encounter. Many of these expenses are totally optional; remember, your wedding is YOUR day, so you should tailor it to the interests and personalities of yourself and your partner while staying within whatever budget is right for you.
Of course, the cost of a wedding can vary widely depending on how many guests you invite, where you live, how lavish you want the ceremony and reception to be, how much you spend on outfits, and many other factors. One bride we spoke with had a beautiful, unique, and very memorable wedding that cost her and her husband under $4,000 because she did many aspects of her wedding DIY-style. Others spend upwards of $50,000.
In order to help streamline your wedding planning and budgeting processes, we’ve curated a list of common price ranges for wedding-related expenses. Below are the ranges for what you can expect to pay for a venue, attire, catering, beauty treatments, a cake, invites, music, photos and videos, transportation, a wedding planner, rings, the prenup, and any extra costs/your emergency fund.
The average cost overall: To give you a ballpark estimate of some middle-of-the-road figures, the average wedding in the USA costs $28,000, or $34,000 if you include the engagement ring. Wyoming is the cheapest state in which to get married (that is, if one is local there), with a Wyoming wedding averaging only $15,800. Idaho and Arkansas are close behind, at $16,000 each. By contrast, New Jersey is the most expensive state in which to host a wedding, with the average wedding cost clocking in at $47,000.
Therefore, the short answer to the question “how much will the wedding cost?” is that it’s likely to be anywhere between $4,000 to $50,000, depending on a range of factors which should thankfully be all within your control.
Venue: Couples spend an average of $12,343 to $14,006 on venue rental for their weddings. If you’re concerned about the cost of a wedding venue, consider changing the timing of your wedding. For example, you might get married on a weekday, have your wedding outside of the high season in your region or state, or tie the knot in the evening rather than during the daytime. Alternatively, some couples choose to get creative with their choice of venue in order to save money. Does your family home have a large backyard? Get married there! Does a friend of yours have extra space? They’d probably be delighted to have you use it for such a meaningful purpose.
Attire: In 2021, the average wedding dress cost $1,800. However, when it comes to dresses, the sky’s the limit. If you’re looking for something more affordable but still gorgeous, Kennedy Blue has wedding dresses for as low as $300. Grooms, on the other hand, spend an average of $350 on their attire. Try Indochino for very nice mid-range suits.
Catering: The average cost of wedding catering in the USA is $75 per person. Catering costs also vary based on whether a couple has a destination wedding or gets married in their hometown. If they get married nearby, they pay an average of $72 per guest for catering versus $92 if they have a destination wedding. If you’re looking to save money on catering and you’re willing to defy convention a little bit, the bride we spoke with, who managed to have a wedding for under $4,000, employed a very creative catering option: Her family and friends stepped up to make food, and most of the guests made or brought something to share, potluck-style.
Cake: No wedding is complete without a cake. The average cake will set you back $350, with typical prices ranging from as low as $125 to as high as $700. To save money on your cake, try this secret hack: Order one or two smaller-sized display cakes to use, particularly when you and your partner cut the cake together. Then, supplement the cake supply with sheet cake which is kept in the kitchen and brought out on plates for guests. This can save you around 20% per slice.
Beauty treatments: Most women get their hair and makeup done professionally for their weddings, although, of course, this is totally optional. The average spend for pre-wedding hair and makeup is about $300, although the typical range is from $150-$600 depending on location and level of service/intricacy. Some brides prefer a more natural look, while others want to go all-out and make sure they look perfect on their wedding day. If this is you, don’t economize on beauty. Your wedding is one of the biggest days of your life, and there’s nothing wrong with paying a little extra to highlight your best qualities.
Invitations: Couples spend an average of $530 on wedding invitations and stationery. This usually includes save-the-dates, wedding invites, and RSVP cards. Some couples choose not to send save-the-date cards, especially if they have a short engagement. Costs will also vary depending on the number of people invited to the wedding, on the level of customization, and even depending on the ply of the paper used for invitations. Some couples choose to save money on invitations by doing everything online, which is usually cheaper.
Music: Your wedding band or DJ will cost an average of $500. Prices for wedding music have actually gone up in recent years because couples have begun attributing greater importance to the music at their weddings and what kind of experience it creates for guests. The price tag can vary based on how in-demand your musician(s) is/are as well as their level of experience and expertise. To cut costs while supporting your local rock stars, scope out lesser-known local bands in advance and find one you really like. They’ll probably be stoked that you want them to be a part of your big day.
Photos and videos: The average wedding videographer charges $1,400 to $3,600, while a photographer will likely charge between $2,500 to $5,000. That said, photos could be as low as $1,000 and as high as $10,000. Therefore, the combined average for photos and videos is about $3,900 to $8,600.
Transportation: Wedding day transportation could range in style from a limousine to a party bus, with costs varying accordingly. Couples spend $900 on transportation on average. In order to avoid spending too much on transportation, try to be strategic about selecting a reception venue that’s nearby where you have the ceremony as well as where your guest accommodation is located (if you’re providing guest transportation). Better yet, do the reception and ceremony in the same place.
Wedding planner: The national average for the cost of a wedding planner is $1,700, with planners of destination weddings charging an average of $2,200 and planners of hometown weddings charging an average of $1,600. Naturally, couples who need their wedding planners to be more involved and juggle more moving parts should expect to pay more. In order to make sure your money is well-spent, it’s important to be very intentional about the process of hiring a wedding planner. First, identify your weaknesses. Are you great at decorating but awful at organizing? Select a planner who excels in logistics and organizing. Also, ask around in your social network; someone might have recommendations for a top-notch wedding planner. Finally, make sure you meet your wedding planner in person before committing because it’s important that you like them as a human being. After all, they’re going to be intimately involved in a very important milestone in your life, so you’re going to want to ensure that you share some values and that your vibes mesh well together.
Rings: There is substantially less data available about the average cost of wedding rings. Rings are one of the biggest wildcards when it comes to wedding budgeting because prices vary so widely depending on the type of material used for the rings. Oddly, national averages sometimes vary largely year-to-year, as well. For example, in 2020, couples spent an average of $3,756 on wedding rings, whereas in 2018, the average spend was $7,829.
The prenup: Prenuptial agreements can range from $1,000 to $10,000. Couples who use HelloPrenup save an average of $1,900 on their prenups by using a customizable online prenup platform rather than hiring attorneys. The cost of a prenuptial agreement drafted through our software is $599. Our service walks you through the different clauses you can include (or not), breaks down all your options in an easy-to-understand way, and identifies discrepancies in your desires so that you can negotiate together (no adversarial attorneys getting in the way) to craft an agreement that works well for both of you.
Emergency fund: There are bound to be a few unexpected twists and turns in the process of planning a wedding–and sometimes, those bends in the road can be costly. For example, let’s say your DJ gets COVID, and you have to hire another one at the last minute–that’s likely going to be more expensive. Or, perhaps you order your wedding dress online to save money, but it needs alterations that aren’t covered by the supplier. Unfortunately, unexpected expenses are a part of wedding planning. That’s why it’s so important to have an emergency fund. Budgeting for surprise expenses means you’re more able to roll with the punches without getting stressed out when they do pop up. Your recommended emergency budget will depend on your overall budget. Couples are advised to allocate 5% of their overall wedding budgets to unexpected expenses.
Keep in mind that the numbers above are averages; your mileage may vary. There are innumerable ways to plan your wedding on a budget, just as there are many avenues through which you can make your big day as luxurious and extravagant as your heart desires.
Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]