In 2021, the average wedding cost more than $22,000! That’s enough money to buy a brand new car or put a down payment on a small home. But why are weddings so expensive?
Weddings are expensive because they incur considerable costs, from wedding venue deposits to catering expenses. Couples looking to get married often need to budget for wedding invitations, a marriage officiant, photography services, formalwear, decorations, and much more.
Let’s explore the most common expenses that can make weddings pricey events. That way, you’ll be able to understand what goes into making a wedding a memorable and exciting event!
Why Are Weddings So Expensive: Summary List
- Wedding expenses quickly add up
- Music for the ceremony and reception is costly
- Seating is often incredibly pricey
- Providing unique wedding favors can be expensive
- Keeping your guests well-fed is challenging
- The cost to hire a marriage officiant
- Photography services can be costly
- Wedding formalwear isn’t cheap
- Decorations can be expensive
- Wedding venues are pricey
10. Wedding Venues Are Pricey
The location of your wedding ceremony has a significant impact on your wedding budget. For example, couples who decide to marry on a public beach or in a national park might save hundreds of dollars on venue fees.
However, some areas discourage couples from marrying without prior notice and hefty deposits. Additionally, these places don’t often have appropriate spaces for receptions.
That’s why many couples opt to reserve a wedding venue. But booking a spot to hold your ceremony and reception is often one of the costliest parts of getting married.
Small venues (such as local community centers) might charge as little as $400. But larger venues (such as luxury hotels and convention centers) typically charge upwards of $2,000 to host a wedding event.
9. Decorations Can Be Expensive
No wedding would be complete without gorgeous decorations, from fresh flowers and bright white table linens to sparkling fairy lights. But the cost of decorating a wedding ceremony and reception often reaches $1,000 or more.
If your chosen venue is tiny (and you’re only anticipating a handful of guests), you may be able to save a little money on decorations. However, if you’re getting married on a large property and hosting a reception in a massive building, you’ll likely end up spending a ton of money on decor.
Consider the fact that many weddings feature:
- Hanging lights
- Aisle runners
While the individual prices of these decor items range from $5 to $100, you’ll likely need to purchase multiples to ensure a fluid ambiance.
8. Wedding Formalwear Isn’t Cheap
Though some couples may choose to dress in semi-casual clothing to celebrate their big day, those hoping to celebrate a traditional wedding will need to invest hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars into wedding-appropriate formalwear.
For brides, the typical clothing list includes:
- A wedding dress or gown
- A bridal slip
- Bridal lingerie
- Bridal jewelry
- A bridal veil or headpiece
- Bridal gloves
- Bridal shoes
For grooms, wedding attire typically consists of:
- A tuxedo
- A dress shirt
- Dress shoes
- A vest
- A tie
- An undershirt
- Cuff links
- A high-quality belt
The average price for a wedding dress is more than $1,500, with some gowns costing over $4,000! A tuxedo isn’t far behind in price, with an average price tag of about $400 to $600.
These garments often require professional dry cleaning before the big day. This service might not be quite as pricey as the cost for a tuxedo and wedding dress, but it also adds to the final expense.
That’s not to mention customized bridesmaid dresses, groomsmen tuxedos, and clothing alterations to ensure everything fits perfectly. While some guests may be willing to chip in to purchase wedding clothes, others may rely on the couple for these garments.
7. Photography Services Can Be Costly
A well-planned wedding can live on in your memory for a lifetime. But that doesn’t mean you won’t want pictures and videos to share with friends and family!
The vast majority of couples looking to get married will want to hire a wedding photographer or videographer to document their wedding. But these services don’t come cheap.
Wedding photography packages range in price from as little as $1,000 (photos only) to a staggering $10,000 (photos and high-quality videos). As such, couples will need to budget for these iconic photos and video snapshots.
If you’re looking to reduce wedding photography expenses, you may be able to enlist the services of a photographer friend or a talented family member. Still, the highest-quality wedding pictures and videos are only available via experienced photographers.
These professionals typically have years of experience documenting wedding ceremonies and receptions, giving them a skillful advantage over guests wielding smartphone cameras.
6. The Cost to Hire a Marriage Officiant
No matter who you decide to officiate your wedding, you’ll likely end up spending between $500 and $800 to hire this crucial person. This person officiates the wedding ceremony, guiding the couple through their vows.
The officiant is also responsible for signing the marriage license validating the wedding. Without an officiant, couples may find that they must delay submitting their marriage license paperwork.
Only specific individuals can officiate a wedding. So, while you might be tempted to have a close friend or family member be your officiant, they’ll likely need to be a notary or an individual who is authorized to solemnize a marriage.
As a result, this particular expense is virtually unavoidable.
5. Keeping Your Guests Well-Fed Is Challenging
Unless you plan to skip the reception, you’ll also need to consider feeding your guests. After all, weddings can be hours-long affairs, and guests often anticipate enjoying a meal after the ceremony.
Many weddings are catered, featuring either self-serve buffets or pre-arranged table-delivered meals. Generally, buffet-style catered meals are more affordable, but the price to arrange one can still compete with the most expensive buffets in the world.
A wedding buffet averages about $27 per guest, while a served dinner averages about $40 per guest. Still, it’s also crucial to consider the cost of hiring servers and chefs.
Overall, couples can expect to spend a minimum of about $300 on catering for small weddings (ten guests or less). However, larger weddings, especially those serving luxurious meals, may incur a catering cost of $5,000 or more, especially if there’s an open bar.
4. Providing Unique Wedding Favors Can Be Expensive
Wedding favors allow guests to take home small mementos of your big day. However, some wedding favors can be surprisingly expensive, especially when your guest list consists of dozens of attendees.
Many couples want to gift guests with a mix of precious and typical souvenirs. A great example is a tiny gauze bag with each guest’s birthstone, a few branded mints, and a personalized candle. These wedding favors might not seem like a costly gift.
But the most expensive birthstones can cost several thousands of dollars (even for small stones). Besides, you’ll need to multiply the total cost of each gift bag by the number of attendees.
So, even simple wedding favor bags that cost as little as $10 to create could end up costing you between $100 and $1,000, depending on the number of guests.
In addition, ordering personalized tokens with you and your partner’s name or initials raises prices even more, as customized wedding favors require more work than generic ones.
3. Seating Is Often Incredibly Pricey
Have you considered where your guests will sit when watching you exchange vows or perform your first dance with your partner? If not, you might be in for a pricey surprise.
While some venues offer seating as part of their wedding package, others do not. In the latter case, you’ll need to either purchase or rent chairs and tables for your guests.
Naturally, purchasing several dozen chairs and tables is bound to be more expensive than renting them. However, either cost can add hundreds to thousands of dollars to your wedding budget, particularly if you’re keen on avoiding cheap seating options like metal folding chairs.
To put this in perspective, consider the price of a single white resin folding chair, which is about $30. Now multiply that cost by the number of guests you’re anticipating at your ceremony!
Depending on the size of your wedding, you could easily spend between $300 and $3,000 on chairs for the ceremony. Of course, tables are even more expensive.
Rental chairs can cost as little as $2 per chair (for metal options), but prices can also reach about $18 per chair (for high-quality wooden options). As a result, rental chairs and tables can also end up costing you several hundred dollars.
2. Music for the Ceremony and Reception Is Costly
When you picture yourself walking down the aisle, do you hear the sound of “Bridal Chorus (Here Comes the Bride)”? Even if you imagine a different romantic song playing, one thing is for sure—the music doesn’t just magically appear!
Instead, it comes from a sound system or live instrument. The same is true of music played during a wedding reception.
Now, if you own a massive sound system, you might be able to save several hundred dollars on music for your wedding. However, more significant ceremonies typically require multi-speaker setups, which the average person doesn’t have sitting around their home.
Consequently, many couples hire wedding DJs or live bands to add beautiful music to their ceremony and reception. But the costs for these services can range between $1,000 and $4,000.
Typically, a DJ’s services cost slightly less than a live band, but either option adds a significant chunk of change to your wedding expenses. Of course, the alternative (no music at all) can result in a ceremony and reception that’s awkwardly silent or serious.
1. Wedding Expenses Quickly Add Up
As you can see, the individual elements that comprise a traditional wedding can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. When you add these expenses together, the final bill can be outstanding.
Prices are bound to climb even higher for those interested in a destination wedding. The cost of airfare, hotel stays, and local activities typically adds a few thousand dollars to the event.
And speaking of hotels, your guests will need a place to stay when attending a wedding far away from their hometown. For this reason, many couples opt to reserve several rooms in a local hotel to ensure their guests have a safe and centralized place to stay before (and sometimes after) the ceremony.
This additional expense can also make a wedding incredibly expensive, as a single hotel room often varies in price from budget-friendly ($70 or less) to pricey ($300 or more). Depending on the number of guests staying on location, you could end up spending an additional $700 to $6,000 to ensure your friends and family have access to nearby accommodation.
Overall, couples need to budget for a multitude of expenses, including (but not limited to):
- Wedding formalwear
- Bridesmaid dresses
- Groomsmen tuxedos
- Bridal bouquets
- Centerpiece flowers
- Venue decorations, lighting, and seating
- Photography and/or videography services
- Live music (or pre-recorded music player via a sound system)
- Catered meals for attendees
- Alcoholic beverages for adult guests
- Venue fees and deposits
- Nearby accommodation
- Transportation to/from the venue
- Hiring a licensed officiant
- Providing wedding favors for guests to take home
Note that this is just a general list of wedding expenses. For example, wedding formalwear can consist of more than a dozen specific clothing items, including a wedding dress, bridal veil, shoewear, garters, and a groom tuxedo.
If you’re unsure how much to budget for your upcoming wedding, an expense spreadsheet or checklist can help.
Research the prices for your preferred venue, decorations, etc. List each amount next to the item name on your spreadsheet. Then add these expenses together to generate an estimated total for the event.
While you’re at it, you might also want to begin budgeting for your honeymoon! After all, the most expensive cruise ships and international vacations might dwarf your wedding expenses.
Are You Preparing for an Expensive Wedding?
So, why are weddings so expensive? The answer is that weddings come with tons of expenses, many costing hundreds of dollars.
Weddings are designed to be large celebrations full of dancing, feasting, and beautiful decor. Though they might be expensive, a well-planned wedding brings happiness to all who attend and is a perfect memory to carry with you for all your life.
If you’re interested in learning more about the most expensive experiences in the world, be sure to check out these related articles now!