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The Average Cost of a Wedding: A Complete Guide


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Are you helping a loved one plan their wedding or even starting to plan for your own? Planning a wedding is a lot of fun, but it’s also stressful. You want the best wedding possible, but weddings can come at a hefty cost.

The average cost of a wedding is pretty high, but it totally depends on what kind of wedding you’re going for. Do you want a simple elopement, a full party with hundreds of guests, or somewhere in between?

We’re here to talk about basic wedding prices and what goes into them so you can start budgeting. Keep reading to learn more.

What Goes Into the Average Cost of a Wedding?

The average cost of a wedding in the United States is about $30,000. This number gives many soon-to-be newlyweds sticker shock, and for good reason. That’s more than some new cars, down payments on houses, and over a year of rent for many people.

But what goes into that cost? Why is it so high? Can’t you just get an officiant and some friends and throw a party?

You can do that, but if you want all of the bells and whistles, you’re going to need to shell out for them. Here are just a few things that go into the average cost of a wedding.

Photographer Prices

If you want an expert photographer to capture your wedding, it’s going to cost you a pretty penny. That said, this is one of the most worthwhile expenses. Even people who choose to have elopements or intimate weddings often hire photographers.

Anyone can take a picture of your wedding, but expert photographers come with professional cameras and lenses, helpers, and sometimes videography equipment. They know how to take clear photos in various lighting conditions and they have professional editing tools.

Because of the cost of their tools and the value of their time and experience, they deserve the money.

The average cost of a basic wedding photographer in the U.S. is $2,000, but there are outliers. Some people pay over $10,000 for wedding photography.

Location or Venue

Where are you planning to have your wedding?

The location is everything when it comes to the cost. If you have your wedding in your backyard it will cost less than if you have it in a fancy wedding venue.

If you plan on traveling for a destination wedding, you’re also going to pay for flights and extra wedding planning. You can learn how to plan a waterfall wedding in Iceland, an island wedding in Hawaii, or even a magical wedding in Disney World.

Many couples expect to pay 45% of their wedding budget on a venue, though it will be more if they’re traveling and less for simple weddings.


The food! Every wedding needs tasty food. Catering is expensive.

Sometimes venues come with caterers. This cuts down on the costs a bit, but not by much. So how much should you expect to pay?

The cost per person for catering tends to range between $27 and $40 depending on the style of the meal. It can cost more if there’s alcohol involved or there are food restrictions.

You should also tip your caterers, adding another 15% to 20%.

The Wedding Cake

Speaking of food, you can’t forget the star of the show: the wedding cake.

There are several ways to do this. Professional wedding cakes tend to cost around $350 on average, but many people spend more on fancy decorations or flowers.

Often, there are other dessert options as well to account for food restrictions or for many guests. There may be a wedding cake and cupcakes or a sheet cake.


If one of the spouses is going to be wearing a wedding dress, you’re in for another large expense. Unless you happen to be getting a dress from a relative or choosing a simple dress from a normal retailer, dresses are expensive.

Depending on the area that you live in, the average wedding cost varies between $1,200 and $2,000. This is a lot of money, but you get a designer dress that you can treasure for a lifetime.

The cost of a suit is far less than the cost of a dress. Bridesmaid dresses are also more affordable than wedding dresses.


There are plenty of smaller costs associated with weddings. These include flowers, decorations, party favors, entertainment, and more. While these things are important, they’re more affordable and they’re optional (aside from the main flowers in the bouquet.

Don’t forget them when you’re budgeting.

Cutting Costs: Where to and Where Not To

So where can you trim down your wedding costs?

First and foremost, do not lie to your vendors about what you’re doing. Many people say that you can cut costs by saying that this isn’t for a wedding, but this can result in poorer-quality service or even the vendors canceling altogether.

We don’t suggest cutting costs on your photographer. Otherwise, there are a few things that you can do to save money.

You could simplify your wedding. Make it a simple affair with a potluck in a backyard or on the beach. There’s nothing wrong with a fun outdoor wedding and by doing a potluck, you’ll cut down on catering costs.

For your dress, you can buy secondhand or go to a standard retailer. There are dresses that would be great for weddings on sites like Modcloth.

For your desserts, you could omit the fancy wedding cake altogether, but we don’t suggest that. Instead, get a smaller cake for the bride and groom to enjoy and get a more affordable sheet cake or individual cupcakes for the rest of the guests.

Are You Budgeting Right for Your Wedding?

The average cost of a wedding is pretty steep, but when you consider all of the things that go into it, it makes sense. You want professional vendors, a great venue, and a great experience. The cost of a good wedding is worth it.

That said, you shouldn’t bankrupt yourself for your wedding. Don’t be afraid to cut costs where you can so you can put that money toward a house or a honeymoon.

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