The biggest myth about what your wedding should cost

There’s nothing more heartwarming than celebrating the act of two people joining together in holy matrimony. A couple’s wedding day creates memories that last a lifetime for all parties involved. Unfortunately, the average wedding cost has grown significantly in recent years, according to estimates from the wedding industry, making it more difficult to save money to pay for this dream event.

But are the figures inflated to encourage couples and their families to spend more, or do weddings actually have to cost and arm and a leg to be amazing?

Average Wedding Cost Is Estimated at $29,858

If you and your significant other announced your engagement and are now preparing to tally the overall cost of your wedding, you might be shocked by the fact that the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is equal to that of a brand new car or a hefty down payment on a home.

According to TheKnot.com, the average wedding cost in America is now about $29,858 — up from $19,581 in 2009.

What could be driving up these figures? Has there been an increase in the cost of typical services like music and catering, as well as other elements like reception facilities, dresses, etc.? Have big dreams upped the standard for what an average wedding entails, or has the wedding industry simply inflated statistics in order to convince excited couples to spend much more than necessary for their big days?

The truth is a wedding doesn’t need to cost anywhere near $29,858 — a couple can cut wedding costs and still celebrate their nuptials in style.

Elements and Costs of a Typical Wedding

With the average cost of a wedding estimated in the thousands, let’s break down the range of costs an average American could pay for a wedding that includes 100 people:

  • Wedding License: $35 (cost varies by state)
  • Wedding DJ: $100 to $300 per hour ($500 – $1,500 for five-hour reception)
  • Photographer: $750 to $10,000
  • Catering: $20 to $350 per person ($2,000 to $35,000)
  • Flowers: $400 to $5,000
  • Reception Venue and Decorations: $300 to $10,000
  • Cake: $1.50 to $12 per slice ($150 to $1,200)
  • Dress: $100 to $5,000
  • Tuxedo: $100 and up
  • Officiant: $200
  • Two Wedding Bands: $200 to $3,000
  • Wedding Invitations: $100 to $5,000

Some people prefer to hire a wedding planner to handle the details of the event. In this case, your cost is going up by another $1,500 to $5,000. And other elements not mentioned in the list (that are not necessarily vital to a wedding) could inflate costs further, including the videographer, rental car or limo, hair and makeup, bridal shower, bachelor party, and wedding favors.

As you can see, a typical wedding encompasses a broad range of costs, depending on preferences. However, just sticking to the low end of expenditures, you can get away with a nice wedding that includes a lot of the major elements — most important being great food and music — for $4,835.

But these figures are based on averages pulled from a number of sources. The cost for each element of a wedding can vary significantly depending on where you live, what time of the year you’re getting married, how far in advance you plan along with other factors.

Even in high-cost cities like New York or Los Angeles, though, it’s likely that you know people who have found ways to have a fantastic, low-cost wedding with absolutely no regrets.

How to Create a Wedding Budget With Low-Cost Wedding Ideas

So, are you someone who wants a lovely affair without having to borrow money or take out a loan to cover the cost? Since the average wedding budget is in the ball park of $28,000, it’s time to learn how to budget a wedding while still putting on a classy event.

The first step when preparing for your wedding is actually setting up a wedding budget based on the number of people you plan to invite and the money you and your partner can easily save. The wedding budget should list “must-haves,” along with a separate section for “would-like-to-haves” — components that can be easily eliminated if they don’t fit within your budget.

Next, call around to price everything from venues for the reception to the cake and flowers. By acquiring estimates, you can quickly determine what’s not necessary for your wedding. If you find some costs are too high, but you don’t want to eliminate certain pieces of the puzzle, consider the following:

  • Wedding in a park. Many city parks allow people to have private gatherings at low costs, and sometimes for free (but scope out the area first to make sure it’s spacious and suitable for well-dressed guests).
  • Use a church basement for the reception. Many church basements are accustomed to holding large parties for dining functions. If you chose a church for your ceremony, you might be able to use the basement afterward to lower your costs.
  • Find a discounted wedding gown. Many wedding shops offer annual sales on gowns that can drop the cost as low as $100. Shop early and find a gown within your price range you’re sure to love.
  • Have friends take pictures. Instead of hiring a professional photographer or videographer, ask a friend to take pictures and video-record the wedding and reception.
  • Rent a sound system. Rather than hire a traditional wedding DJ, rent (or find) a quality sound system and hook up an iPod to play hours of great music.
  • Eliminate the wedding party. While most wedding party members have to pay for their own outfits, many brides and grooms still chip in for accessories and gifts. To cut costs (and headaches) associated with bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers, etc., eliminate the cost of a wedding rehearsal and dinner, or skip the wedding party altogether.
  • Buy low-cost invites, table decorations and more. Consider purchasing invitations, table arrangements and more from budget stores.
  • Trade wedding presents for food and cake. Save a large portion of your budget on food by reaching out to close family and friends and requesting they bring food to your affair (home-cooked or store-bought) in lieu of buying wedding gifts. This is an especially great option if you’re close friends with a talented chef or baker.
  • Ask your pastor to officiate. Rather than hire someone to officiate your wedding, consider asking your own church pastor, who will likely be happy to take the job for free. You can thank him or her with a nice gift. You could also ask a friend to be ordained for your wedding and officiate free of charge, in lieu of a physical wedding gift.
  • Strategize your flower placement. Consider purchasing flowers and only placing them in key areas where photos will be taken.

Another option to consider is taking a vacation alone as husband and wife, and having the wedding and honeymoon in one trip. Or, if you really want a low-cost wedding, you can simply opt for a courthouse or home wedding with a few friends and family. The choice is completely up to you!

You should feel free to spend any amount you want for your wedding as long as you have been saving money and can afford it; it’s your big day and it should be as lavish as you desire. However, if you want to cut corners on the cost of marrying the love of your life — or simply aren’t interested in the frills of an extravagant wedding — it’s good to know you can still have a beautiful event within a modest wedding budget.

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