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While so many people dream of their special day, it’s worth asking the question: Is it worth the price?

Love conquers all, right? It’s a nice thought, but as the price of having a fantasy wedding continues to soar, so many couples are left wondering if it’s worth it to have a grand showcase and celebration for their first moments bonded in holy matrimony.  In fact, the numbers appear to back these concerns, as the average cost of a wedding in 2022 was $30,000, a $2,000 increase from the 2021 total [1]. When the median household income in the United States is just over $70,000, it’s easy to see how a large wedding can upset the delicate financial balance inside your home [2].

Now, we aren’t telling you to elope, arrange for a courthouse marriage or even forgo the ceremony you’ve been looking forward to since you were young. We are, however, suggesting that there might be areas in which costs can be cut, possibly freeing up funds for potentially more important or desirable expenses and luxuries. The Knot, a popular wedding-planning site, assembled a list of just some of the most common expenses you should expect to incur when planning for your wedding, along with their average price in 2022[1].

  • Average cost of reception venue: $11,200
  • Average cost of wedding photographer: $2,600
  • Average cost of wedding/event planner: $1,900
  • Average cost of live band: $3,900
  • Average cost of reception DJ: $1,500
  • Average cost of florist: $2,400
  • Average cost of videographer: $2,100
  • Average cost of wedding dress: $1,900
  • Average cost of wedding cake: $510
  • Average cost of catering: (price per person): $75
  • Average cost of transportation: $980
  • Average cost of favors: $440
  • Average cost of rehearsal dinner: $2,400
  • Average cost of engagement ring: $5,800
  • Average cost of wedding invitations: $510
  • Average cost of hairstylist: $130
  • Average cost of makeup artist: $120

While this can add up quickly, it can give you a good idea of where you might spend the majority of your budget as well as where you may be able to make some cuts. First and foremost, the guest list appears to be the best place to start. In 2022, couples hosting weddings with 50 or fewer guests spent an average of nearly $15,000, while couples who invited between 51 and 100 people paid nearly $25,000. The average price for a wedding with more than 100 guests was just over $38,000, so trimming your guest list to only those who absolutely must be there can be helpful if you’re looking to bring down the bill [1].

Obviously for some with larger families, this might not be an option, but the average couple spends roughly $266 per wedding guest, so slicing your guest list by 50 people can save you an average of more than $13,000. It’s also important to know that being more selective with your guest list doesn’t necessarily mean that your wedding will be less significant or impactful. In fact, you might even enjoy the feeling of a more intimate wedding with your closest friends and family whom you expect to be around for the rest of your life.

Another great way to save money is by hiring a wedding planner and using a budgeting tool [3]. While the services of a wedding planner average about $2,000[1], the entire job of the event planner is to remain within budget. They may also know other ways of saving or finding deals that aren’t available to a couple that plans for a wedding just one time. Furthermore, whether you’re keeping tabs or your planner is, a budgeting tool can help you track your spending and ensure that you don’t spend in excess on one particular category. It might also help you get more creative and work within your means and imagination, possibly even making your wedding a more personal experience.

Moreover, if you’re certain you’d like to bring your childhood dreams to life, you can save money by planning early. In addition to increasing your options by aligning your timeline with venues and vendors, you might be able to secure a more buyer-friendly rate while still allowing yourself the flexibility to opt for better or more cost-effective options should they avail themselves in the near future. Remember, pushing out your wedding doesn’t lessen the strength of your bond. Marriage is intended to last forever, and extravagance at the cost of debilitating debt can potentially lead to a more difficult happily ever after.

Additionally, your wedding may be more reflective of your financial circumstances than you even realize. For example, it’s important to communicate and prioritize. Work with your partner to find areas in which you’re willing to compromise and areas in which you aren’t. If you’re a foodie and you want to remember how delicious the various dishes were, it might be a good idea to spring for your top choice in caterers. At the same time, if your family doesn’t drink alcohol, you might be able to save around $2,500 by having a dry wedding [4].

So, to answer the original question of whether or not a wedding is worth the money, yes, but it’s probably only worth it if you plan within your means, which can depend on your unique situation, your relationship and your goals. If a grand wedding is within your budget, you aren’t interested in sparing any expense and your pursuit of other goals isn’t hindered, it may be worthwhile to invite extra people or tack on an open bar. However, if you’re looking for a more cost-effective way to show your love, you can explore other avenues or cut costs without sacrificing or devaluing your marriage.

Whether you are planning on paying for your own wedding—or helping your grown children or grandchildren pay for theirs—let’s talk about how a wedding fits into your financial plan.
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