How Much it Really Costs to Throw a Traditional Wedding

The following is a guest post from our friend Jessica at Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses. If you are interested in guest posting, please see our guest posting guidelines.

Mo money Mo houses

Hi! My name is Jessica and I blog over at Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses, the personal finance & lifestyle blog with a dash of sass.

If you’re like most people, you may have dreamed about your wedding day since you were a little kid. But, did you also dream about maxing out your credit cards, asking your parents for money, and still going into debt after the “I do”s? Probably not, but unfortunately that is a sad reality for many couples who may not have crunched a few crucial numbers when deciding to throw a big, fat, traditional wedding.

You may have heard that the average wedding today costs around $26,000. I know that sounds like a ridiculous amount of money to spend on one day, but believe me, it’s not a hard task to do if you aren’t paying attention. I’m actually just a few months away from my very own wedding, and despite being extremely frugal and a personal finance blogger to boot, my wedding is not going to be cheap. It’s definitely nowhere close to the average, but it’s looking like it will cost my fiancé and I about $15,000. And that’s not including both of our bachelor and bachelorette parties in Las Vegas!

So, why are weddings so darn expensive? Here’s a look at a few price tags to give you an idea…..

Transportation

If you want to arrive in style, then it’s doubtful you’ll be taking a cab to and from the ceremony. If you want to give your wedding party a ride too, then you’ll most likely have to rent a stretch or SUV limousine. Prices can vary….but from my research, renting a limo in my hometown, Vancouver, costs about $150 per hour. We’re booking ours for 4 hours so that’s $600 right there. Ouch!

Flowers

I’m not a big flower person, so we are going the minimal route with our arrangements. That being said, for bouquets for the bridal party and myself, boutonnieres for the groom, groomsmen, and parents, and flowers for the reception, are costing us another $600.

Venue/Food/Liquor

We are having our reception at a facility at my old university, which means I can take advantage of their special alumni discount. But even with that little perk it still isn’t cheap to rent out the place for an entire day, plus feed and quench the thirst of 80 people. On top of that, like many other wedding venues, we are contractually obligated to spend a minimum amount of money that day. The price tag for everything is about $6,000. I wonder if  it would be tacky to doggy bag the leftovers?

DJ

At first I was set on just doing it on the cheap, setting up my laptop, and blasting tunes from some of my party playlists. But as our wedding date kept creeping closer, I realized I had absolutely no time to arrange our entire night’s music and decided it would be best to hire a DJ. Luckily we found one who is a friend of a friend (discount!) but it’s still costing us $500. That’s actually a pretty good deal considering most wedding DJ’s cost $700 – $1000. Now that’s a side gig I wouldn’t mind having!

So if you are newly engaged and aren’t sure if you want to have a big, fat, traditional wedding, just remember that the  “big, fat” part refers to the bill you’ll be handed at the end of the night. But hey- I’m still doing it, so as long as you can afford to pay for it in cash, I say good luck to you on the planning and get on Pinterest, it’s a godsend!

Holly’s Two Cents: I personally bought my unity candle and wedding invitations at a garage sale….so I cringed at some of these costs! However, as long as an individual is paying in cash for their wedding and not forgoing other savings goals or sacrificing too much, I don’t see a problem with having a nice wedding.

Comments

  1. I am impressed at the cost of flowers, considering this is the minimal route. Not sure I would want an expensive wedding, since I would probably have to pay for it haha. My sister had a $20K one and it was great, but pretty simple, at my grandparents’ house, simple dress, simple flowers… It is amazing how all those expenses add up.

  2. I haven’t yet gone through the wedding process, but have a number of friends who have and I’ve come to the conclusion that all weddings are needlessly costly. I think I’d be happy with the local courthouse or priest, a dinner for close family and friends (10-12 people max), and a honeymoon. I’d probably splurge on the limo too.

  3. It is an expensive day that’s for sure. I had a great time at my wedding, but looking back there were so many things we didn’t need to spend as much as we did.

  4. I love the Faith Hill song Hey Baby Lets Go To Vegas. Wedding and honeymoon in one inexpensive package.

  5. This is so true. It all really adds up. The one thing I actually regret not spending some money on was the band/DJ. We had a friend do it, and to be honest he did a pretty bad job. But for the rest of it, like Glen said we had a great time but it was crazy how much it all cost.

  6. Things can get SO expensive, this is true. We just went to a wedding last summer, however, that the couple paid for in cash, for way less than $15k for a good 200 people, and it was just lovely. They did a lot of stuff DIY, spent the money on the food, but had a cash bar for alcohol, etc. But like Holly said, if you’ve got the cash and want to spend alot, go for it. It’s important to balance budgeting with your dreams, I think.

  7. Weddings are so expensive! Even the “lower-end” (pricewise, not qualitywise….) is pretty dang expensive. I definitely second your opinions and would warn anyone who is newly engaged to really keep in mind that your wedding likely is going to hit your bank account somewhat hard.

  8. I’m so glad we’re not having a traditional wedding. We’re spending much much less than that on everything from the engagement ring to the whole wedding. We set a budget and we’re sticking to it. Only inviting 20 people helps… close family only!

  9. The thing that drove me nuts when we were getting married was when you mention the word wedding it just seemed like a premium was always added. We did a lot of the things ourselves and my father in law gave us a budget which helped us immensely.

  10. Love this post of course! For us, it’s photography that will be the most expensive. I am fine with that though because it seems like most bride’s biggest wedding regrets is not finding a good enough photographer.

    • I agree. I wish we had spent money on good pictures. Our pictures were good and free. A family member who photographs as a hobby took them, but in the future I want to take a couple’s photo shoot with a great photographer.

    • My parents had a friend do their photos for free and they turned out terrible! So I made sure to get a decent photographer, even if it’ll cost me. I think photography is one of the most important parts of a wedding since you’ll have those photos forever.

  11. First and foremost, congratulations on the upcoming wedding! :)

    Any way you can get friends to help you out with some of the DIY things you mention? If your female friends are anything like mine, they’d pounce on the opportunity :)

    • Thanks!!! My friends did help out a bit, but I’ve realized I do like to take control a bit, so I ended up doing almost all the decor and DIY stuff myself. But they’re definitely gonna be put to work the day of that’s for sure! lol

  12. Here’s what my wife and I did. We got married at a courthouse without telling anyone. Yeah, it pissed people off, but it was nearly free. Years later is when we threw our reception party. Since we’d been married for so many years, there wasnt’ this pressure to have everything “just so”, and so we could go super cheap on some things and spend a lot of money on what we wanted. No flowers, no crazy awesome venue, no limos, all we needed to spend on was a good DJ and an open bar.

    P.S. What’s the deal with the limo thing and “arriving in style”? When did people stop just driving themselves? That’s a huge savings right there, and then you get to come and go as you please. ANd take the best route to get somewhere.

    • That sounds like a great idea, I like that! We’re honestly doing the limo because so many of the people in our wedding party don’t have cars haha. Plus when do you ever get to drive in a limo?

  13. I am attempting to have a wedding for under $5K. So far we are on track with two major contingencies outstanding: DJ and Catering. I am not holding my breath.

  14. The costs of a wedding make me cringe. I’ll be getting married (hopefully) in the next couple of years and would like to keep it far, far under $10,000. I think it’s doable but I’m nervous, anyway!

    • Honestly, I’d say to do that, elope! Go to Mexico with you, your hubby to be, and close family. It’s definitely something my fiance and I have been thinking about (too bad it’s too late for that now haha)

  15. Very timely post for me since B and I are getting married in September in his parents’ backyard. We’re going the non-traditional route and hope to keep costs to around $2500. Food is catered in at $18/person for 45 people and that will be the biggest expense.

  16. My buddy just decided to forgo the traditional wedding and they are now getting married at the court house. They used the funds that would have gone toward the wedding for a down payment on a house. They plan on moving in and then throwing a big party, just like a wedding.

    • Your buddy made a good decision. We used that route as well, but after three years, my husband and I decided to have a traditional wedding. It would have been a very special but expensive occasion but to save on expenses, we went the DIY and “networked” our friends and relatives. For example, my husband is a graphics designer. He designed our wedding invitation and printed them. My cousin is a DJ of a local bar. I assigned him to take care of the sound system and music. We have friends who are into professional photography and limo car rental. We asked for a discount, but they rendered their services for free! In exchange, I helped promote their businesses to our friends and colleagues. My auntie made my wedding gown and the wedding party’s dresses while her husband, who was a restaurant chef, took care of our food and buffet table. We bought local flowers and my sisters arranged them. Lastly, we had our wedding reception at my grandfather’s house. His garden is large enough to accommodate our guests.

  17. Oh man this is why if I ever get married I just want to run of to Hawaii and have something super simple and have it be combined with a honeymoon (unless of course my future hubby is super rich and wants a more lavish Hawaii wedding-lol!). But I’ve never been a traditional kind of girl, so it’s easy for me to say. I think as long as you save for it and don’t go into debt you can do whatever you like. But I’d still rather have the money in my pocket.

  18. I guess the beauty of a small town is that things are so much cheaper and there are no limo or cab services! It also helps that we got married in the national forest, so the venue was free and the scenery was the decorations. We did pay for a venue for the reception, but I think everything came to under $5K. I think it’s your day, so you should do what you want as long as it doesn’t go on a credit card. I still remember my wedding day with nothing but smiles because it was exactly what we wanted, not my parents or inlaws but us, so it was perfect. I think as long as you hold true to what you want and aren’t trying to make everyone else happy, it will be a wonderful day. Congrats!

  19. Thankfully our wedding didn’t cost us anything as my wife’s’ parents paid for it. I think it was under $10k though. Holly, glad to hear that you were able to get some great wedding finds at garage sales, that is awesome!

  20. I got married a little over 2 years ago and I went into debt for my wedding. I regret making dumb financial decisions before, during, and after, but the wedding itself, I don’t regret. I should’ve prepared for it and adjusted my lifestyle to be able to pay for it, but since I didn’t, that caused a problem. But like I said, I don’t regret having my wedding. It was a memorable day and a happy day.

  21. Wow that’s steep! I think my budget for my wedding puts me at under $5k, but we’ll see how many extra expenses we incur the week of!

  22. Yep, I always cringe when looking at these numbers. I only got married a year ago and have already tried to block the numbers out of my head. Our families paid for most of it, though, and we were certainly below the average cost.

    I will say this, luckily for me, I was part of a friend’s wedding in which he tried to do too many things himself and you could definitely tell. So, I was not as hell-bent as I would have been otherwise to cut more corners.

  23. I’d guess my wedding was on pare with the national average, whatever that was 23 years ago. :) My father paid for it and spared no expense. I’m incredibly grateful for his generosity, especially considering the fact he had 3 daughters! It sounds like you’ve been very mindful of costs and creating the wedding you want within your means – which is the best way to do it. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding – and many happy years together.

  24. We got married in Vegas and even did it when my wife was down for a business trip so it cost almost nothing. I can’t imagine spending so much on an “event”. If you have to do something like that, just work very, very hard to keep the costs down. It’ll make your marriage SO much better!

  25. I would want a pretty simple wedding, but know that if we were to have it in San Diego that it would still be expensive. I’m surprised with the flowers – that sounds really reasonable!

  26. I had the wedding my mother always wanted for herself. We sent out almost 600 invitations. My dress was custom made of beautiful silk and french lace. My parents spent a fortune….but it was what they wanted.

    My husband and I would have been happy with a few friends and family in my parent’s back garden….but you just don’t say no to my mother. That was over 20 years ago and what I remember most about the day were my beautiful flowers. The woman we hired liked using local flowers that were in season. My mother and her friends collected flowers from their gardens and she worked her magic on the arrangements. This was probably the most reasonable expense of the day and the fact that friends picked flowers from their own gardens made our arrangements that much more special to us.

  27. I didn’t see anything in your budget for hair and make-up or photography. These are very important parts of a wedding budget and the photography can be a big chunk for sure. Just wondering what your thoughts were on these items.

    • Oh that’s in the budget too, I just didn’t include it in the post. It’s costing me about $600 for hair and makeup for myself, 4 bridesmaids, and my mom which is pretty reasonable, especially since the two hair/makeup people are coming to my house to do it all.

      • Oh, and photography, we have a friend who is a professional photographer do it, so we get a discount. It’s still costing just under $2000 for engagement photos and 8 hours with two photographers on our wedding day. I did a lot of looking around and that’s a pretty good value for the price.

  28. Yup, the grand totals seem like huge amounts of money, but it is so, so, so easy to have everything add up to those numbers! That’s even being cheap on a lot of things.
    *sigh* weddings are crazy! Have yourself a fantastic time :-)

  29. It’s amazing how much a wedding can cost. I know their are some great ways to cut cost when it comes to a wedding but some people tend to go way overboard and don’t care what the price tag is. In my case I was lucky enough to have our parents foot help foot the bill for it.

    • We’re lucky too, we are getting a bit of help from our parents which is awesome. Of course the key thing we did was to budget assuming we had to foot the bill, and when we found out they were going to contribute, it was just icing on the cake really.

  30. You forgot to mention photographer(s). They are a HUGELY important piece and cost of the wedding expense list. Typical fees from DECENT photographers starts at $1500 and goes up from there. Why? It’s a complicated craft to get the photos just right. I get a lot of comments from people saying “I wish I had hired you.”

    One of the biggest pitfalls of using friends/family means you might not get good coverage. You need an outsider to avoid family bias. (Family members typically shoot whom they know and ignore the people they don’t) Or worse, you get a family member who while well intentioned, he/she has no comprehension of what they need to do, where to be, how to get the shot without being intrusive, or even knowing how to work their camera for the situation. Insist on a pro with experience, and more than one camera!

    Sorry for the quasi rant!

    If you want to have excellent photos to remember your day, then you need a pro.

  31. Christine Weadick says:

    A friend of my daughter was married a few years ago, she paid dearly for her dress but that was what she wanted. I did alterations for the wedding party but didn’t charge much, part of her wedding gift. She did the decorations, and invites herself Thanks to Michael’s Crafts. They cleaned out the drive shed at her hubby to be’s parents place and that’s where the reception was. It was lovely……….

  32. I DIY’d everything I could and found a venue that would allow outside food. We hired a catering company to do a full BBQ buffet style, the food was unbelievable (salmon, chicken, gourmet burgers… homemade breads) it was so good and for 110 people tip included only 3500. We also rented nice SUV’s from a car rental place rather than a limo for the bridal party, with a friends discount we ended up paying like $100 total for both.

  33. The photographer for our wedding was pretty steep. I wish that we had asked my in-law’s neighbor who took photos for my brother-in-law, for free. Since we knew her, the photos turned out much more lifelike and less posed.

  34. I always cringe when I hear some of the amounts that are spent on weddings. I can’t help but think that the amount of money spent on a wedding would go a long way towards a down payment on a first home!

  35. Since we’re newlyweds, I always enjoy seeing posts about the cost of weddings. Loved reading your take!

    My husband and I had sticker shock when we started planning our wedding. We initially planned to spend around $25,000, but as soon as we started speaking with vendors, we realized that we would either need to adjust our budget or our expectations. The average wedding cost in our area is nearly $50k (yikes!). We ended up increasing our budget and forgoing a few things, such as a videographer. We still stayed well under the average for our area. It does make me cringe to think of how much we spent on our wedding. But, we didn’t go into debt for our wedding and we didn’t drain our bank accounts in the process. It was an important day for us and our families, so I don’t regret the cost at all.

  36. It seems that many newlyweds’ relationships are tainted by the debt that follows from the wedding… Hopefully they can get past any sense of blame.

  37. It’s so easy to get expenses to that level with a traditional wedding. Just comes with the territory! Add in the cost of the ring (cost to the guy), the honeymoon, etc. – and it’s a massive amount of money. It’s probably very easy for a couple to go from $15k to $40k for a wedding, so it does take self-control and a sense of the bigger picture.

  38. As their only daughter, my parents really wanted to give me a big wedding. And invite their entire extended family. My wedding is shaping up to be quite expensive (around $30k). You had better believe that if my fiance and I were paying for it ourselves, we would be going the extreme frugal route. Even with my parents paying for it, I wanted to keep it on the frugal side, but with every decision that needs to be made, my mother tries to sway me to the more expensive option.

  39. Brianna says:

    A wedding is only as expensive as you make it. It’s so exhausting seeing that the average cost of a wedding is $25k. I had a decent wedding with around 75 guests for $5k. We didn’t use a ‘wedding’ venue (this is where the majority of the costs will come from)….we rented an RV Park and turned it into a wedding site. We got married by the creek, there was a reception area that fit everyone comfortable, and plenty of parking (in way of rv spots). No one even noticed it was an RV park until we showed them the hookups. We rented the entire RV park for $800 for the weekend…for the weekend!!

    I borrowed my dress from a friend. I seriously cannot justify spending money on a dress that I will only wear one time! The dress looked great, I have wonderful pictures because of it, and I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to do with a $1k dress.

    I bought my flowers on samsclub.com. I was really nervous about this, but I bought the pre-arranged wedding bouquets and they turned out wonderful! When we received them, all we had to do was place the bouquets in water until the ceremony! I highly recommend this!!

    One of the biggest cost savers was my family! They helped me decorate the venue, and prepare the food for the reception…yes, we had sandwiches, veggies, and fruit for my reception that we bought from Sams, but it was a very casual wedding and it worked for us! We also bought cans on beer on sale for the Super Bowl (since we weren’t at a wedding venue, we didn’t have to buy their alcohol/food or have licensed bartenders serving the beer) for our March wedding.

    If anyone would like additional suggestions on saving money on your wedding, please e-mail me. bschilling09@gmail.com I would love to help, and it’s ridiculous that most weddings cost 2x the price of my brand new car!

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