The Cost of a Wedding: How Much Are Couples Spending?
Weddings are full of activity, anticipation, love, and money spent. In 2021, a wedding averaged $27,063, over 35% higher than the previous year. Of the weddings recorded, the five most expensive items couples paid for were the venue, food services, the engagement ring, a live band, and having a wedding planner, according to the Wedding Report.
The Wedding Report, the primary source for the statistics on this page, provided several average costs for services and items prevalent in weddings across the U.S. MoneyGeek reminds readers that weddings are personal affairs and not every couple will decide to spend on all items mentioned. The purpose of this page is simply to give readers a gauge of how much they could potentially spend on a per-item basis should they choose to include a particular item in their wedding.
Wedding Cost Breakdown
When people think of weddings, they remember specific moments. They remember the bride walking down the aisle and the couple saying, "I do." However, so much more goes on behind the scenes and leading up to the big day.
If you're planning to tie the knot, it's crucial to understand the financial implications of having a wedding. Even after the wedding day, you and your partner will have to manage your finances as a married couple.
MoneyGeek evaluated the various contributors to wedding expenses by category and item. Further, you can use this information to see how each affects your wedding budget.
Please note that all average costs are the average amount spent by a couple that elected to include the good or service in their wedding; these averages do not count couples who spent $0 on the good or service.
The bar graph shows how different expense categories contribute to the average cost of a wedding. On average, couples that utilize the above services spend over $12,000 on a wedding planner/coordinator, catering and bar services.
Costs for the ceremony officiator and beauty and spa services are at the spectrum's other end. These are the least expensive categories, each averaging less than $250 for those who elect to use these services.
Most Expensive Single Items
When you analyze average wedding costs, some expenses will outweigh others. MoneyGeek highlights the five most expensive areas. With this knowledge, you can determine what you must set money aside for (and how much).
The five most expensive single items for 2021 weddings are as follows:
- Wedding Venue (average cost of $5,220): Rental space will depend on your number of guests. The more guests you have, the more space is needed. Rates also increase if the venue cost doesn’t include tables and chairs. You'll pay for that service or set them up yourself. The median spent on a venue in 2021 was $2,587.
- Food Service (average cost of $4,164): Consider the size of your wedding party. You want to ensure no one is left un-fed during your wedding celebration. Most couples spend about $2,906, which is below the average.
- Engagement Ring (average cost of $3,603): The median spent on an engagement ring in 2021 was $2,111. A ring’s price depends on several factors, such as the stone used, cut and clarity.
- Live Band (average cost of $2,856): Hiring a DJ may be more affordable, but it has a different effect than live entertainment. It costs to hire a professional musician. The median spent for live entertainment in 2021 was $1,682.
- Wedding Planner (average cost of $2,761): The grander the event, the more hours invested by your wedding planner. This could affect their rates. Most couples spent around $974 on a wedding planner in 2021.
It's essential to consider that the cost of these items is affected by multiple factors. These could help you manage your expenses better when planning your wedding.
You don't have to use all of your savings to have a memorable wedding day. Although MoneyGeek presents the average cost of various expenses, it's best to note the median spent.
Remember, you can spend strategically and still have a beautiful wedding. You and your partner can decide which areas are worth splurging on and which ones you can forgo.
Wedding Attire and Accessories
It’s special when a wedding dress can be passed down to a daughter or granddaughter. However, some brides prefer to pick their perfect dress. Time and money go into the wedding dress shopping process. And, there's more to this category than the bride’s wedding gown alone. MoneyGeek details these below.
Although the foremost wedding attire that comes to mind is the bride's wedding dress, you must also ensure attire for the groom, his groomsmen and the bridesmaids accordingly. Here are the items in this category with their average cost and median spent:
Accessories for Tuxedos or Suits
Rental or Purchase of Tuxedos or Suits
Event Catering, Bakery and Bar Service
No wedding would be complete without a reception. And no reception is successful without good food and drinks. Couples invest in selecting the right caterer that can provide for meal requirements. And, of course, you can't forget about the wedding cake.
The wedding cake, catering and bar service categories are no small expense. Its average cost comes to $6,762.
- Wedding Venue Food Service (Catering): The average cost for catering services increased 36.5% from 2020 to 2021. It's also one of the most expensive areas, amounting to $4,164. The median spent in 2021, however, was only $2,906.
- Wedding Bar Service: In 2021, bar services averaged $2,144. Your guest list and the alcohol you serve affect your cost. Serving signature drinks can also increase expenses.
- Wedding Cake: Eighty-one percent of couples who married in 2021 opted to hire a professional to make their wedding cake. You (or your baker) must consider how much batter you need and how many tiers your cake will have. On average, couples spent over $400 in 2021 for their wedding cake.
Sales for these categories totaled around $10 billion, contributing 20.47% of the industry's revenue.
Beauty Care and Spa
It's not just your dress that needs to be perfect on your wedding day. Your hair and nails count, too. Although it doesn't affect your budget considerably, with an average cost of $221, it’s still an area that you’ll want to budget.
The average cost of these three items don't vary much. The table below shows the average price and median spent for 2021.
Manicure and Pedicure
Although brides can save money by doing their hair or makeup, most prefer to hire professional hair stylists and makeup artists. One thing that could drive up the cost is shouldering the services for your bridesmaids. If you are graciously covering the expenses of your bridesmaids, factor this into your wedding budget.
Besides the number of customers, makeup artists also consider the materials they use and your preferred service. For example, airbrushing your makeup will generally set you back more than using brushes and sponges. It is worth remembering that weddings do not require professional makeup artists and it is entirely possible for brides and bridesmaids to simply do their own or each others’ makeup to save on cost.
Photography and Video
Another high-cost category for weddings is photography and video services. Its average cost for 2021 was $5,467.
Weddings are full of memories; it would be a shame if they weren’t captured. Although everyone has a camera phone these days, nothing beats having a professional photographer.
Wedding photographers and videographers didn’t make MoneyGeek’s most expensive single items list. In 2021, the average cost for photography and videography was $5,467.
If we break it down, the following items contribute to this category:
Wedding Albums or Photo Books
Prints or Enlargements
Digital or Photo CD/DVD
A professional photographer is one of the most popular vendors at weddings. Around 90% of couples hired them for their special day. How much you spend depends on the services selected. Most photographers offer various packages. Some bring a second photographer to the event, which can increase their rate.
Another item contributing significantly to this category is videography. In 2021, 37% of couples opted for a videographer. It's crucial to note that although a smaller population hired a videographer, its average cost is only $291 lower than a professional photographer. Despite a significant number of couples hiring videographers, most still opted not to have them and may be considered an optional expense.
Some couples plan a DIY wedding, where they do everything independently. Others prefer to let someone else handle all the arrangements and spare themselves the stress. Having a wedding planner or coordinator is an excellent idea, but it will cost you. In 2021, this category’s average cost was $6,362.
Incidentally, one of the items in this category is part of our single most expensive item list. A wedding planner came in at number five, averaging $2,761. The others are as follows:
Most people use the terminology coordinator and planner interchangeably, but it's crucial to understand their differences. Not only does it help you get the service you need, but it also affects your budget.
A wedding planner, which typically costs more, helps you from the day you decide you want to get married. They provide extensive and in-depth service, such as coordinating your hotel, venue and vendors, attending vendor meetings and making and tracking payments. They'll also monitor everything on the actual wedding day.
A wedding coordinator's focus is ensuring everything goes smoothly on the wedding day. They meet with couples a month or two before the wedding and check on things you handled. If you only want someone to manage your rehearsal and oversee the wedding, a coordinator is a better (and more affordable) option.
Then some services charge per hour, like event consultants. It's a solid option for couples who prefer to do most of the work on their own and only want to bring a third party to confirm whether or not they're on the right track.
However, less than 20% of couples who married in 2021 used any of the services mentioned above. This shows that this item is considered optional by most couples. However, as mentioned earlier in this section, wedding planners and coordinators do take away the stress of organizing the wedding from the couple and may be worth considering to some.
Event Location and Venue Rentals
It isn't just real estate properties that are all about location. The location and venue for your wedding play a huge role in making this day special, experientially and financially.
The combined average costs of event locations and venue rentals in 2021 were $6,834. That’s more than any other category on MoneyGeek’s list.
Overall, the wedding venue is the single most expensive wedding purchase. Couples spent roughly $5,220 for their venue and $1,614 for event rentals.
However, if you look at the median spent, it's considerably lower at $2,587. It means most people spent about half of the 2021 average cost of wedding venues.
Some factors that influence wedding venue costs include:
- Location: Some states, like San Francisco or New York, are more expensive options.
- Schedule: Getting married on a weekday during winter will save you money compared to a weekend wedding in June.
- Size: Your venue depends on how many guests you have. The more guests, the bigger the necessary space.
- Inclusions: Some venues are all-inclusive, which means they'll provide the tables, chairs, stage and, sometimes, food. Others only offer the space. The inclusive option is more convenient but also more expensive.
The average cost for event locations and venue rentals increased by double digits from 2020 to 2021 — 28.5% and 13.8%, respectively.
Typically, weddings have some form of entertainment. Some couples prefer to have a string quartet, others a live band. Nowadays, most opt for a DJ or a host. Unless a relative or a friend offers to do this for free, it's safe to assume that you'll have to factor it into your budget.
Wedding entertainment comes in many forms. Those included in MoneyGeek’s data are as follows:
DJ or MC
Musicians (Either Soloists or Ensembles)
While a live band can be expensive, only 18% of couples opted for one. A whopping 70% preferred having a DJ or someone hosting their reception.
From a macro perspective, this category made up 5.58% of the wedding industry's revenue in 2021. Having some form of entertainment for guests is a thoughtful inclusion for a wedding. But more intimate and humbler weddings can do away with the entertainment and simply be a closer event between the couple and their guests.
Everyone wants to arrive at the wedding venue in style. For some couples, this is stepping out of a classy car or a stretched limo. Although only two-fifths of 2021 couples opted for transportation this upscale or other, it's worth exploring at $1,372.
The general preference for wedding transportation is a limo rental. Most couples spent less than the average at $454 in 2021. The median spent was only $359.
It's worth noting that of the items in this category, the sales for other transportation were almost double those of limo rentals. Some couples hired car services for their guests (or, at least, their entourage). Your chosen transportation will depend on your budget.
In 2021, 19% of weddings were destination weddings. In this case, wedding transportation is significantly more as couples usually pay for their guests to fly in. It is worth remembering that wedding transportation is an optional cost for weddings choosing humbler locations/venues.
Flowers and Decoration
No one likes a drab wedding. Decorations and flowers make for a beautiful wedding. Most couples spend money on it because it’s one way to enhance a wedding aesthetically at a reasonably affordable price.
Several items fall under this particular category, which, as a whole, averaged $2,245 in 2021. The figures below show the average cost and median spent for each item.
Wedding Venue Flowers and Arrangements
Wedding Venue Decorations
Wedding Venue Table Centerpieces
Wedding Venue Accessories
Boutonnieres and Corsages
Most couples choose to have flowers and decorations. However, this category only contributed around 7% of the wedding industry's revenue in 2021.
Gifts and Favors
Do you need to give out wedding favors? Not necessarily. However, it's become a tradition. Almost 80% of all couples spent money on wedding favors in 2021, spending an average of $871.
Whether it's a trinket or more, giving out wedding favors is how couples show appreciation. Here’s a breakdown of this category:
Tips (for services)
Gifts for Parents
Gifts for Attendants
Worth noting are the large amount of tips under this category, it's an expense most couples deem necessary. Out of all the weddings in 2021, 83% added tips to their services.
Fortunately, it isn't a high-cost category, relative to the other and more essential items in a wedding.
Couples who tied the knot in 2021 spent an average of $1,087 on wedding invitations, save-the-dates, thank-you cards and other printed decorations.
Spending more than a thousand dollars on this category may seem excessive, but you'd be surprised at how many things involve stationary, cards and printing.
Invitations and Reply Cards
Save the Date Cards
Thank You Cards
Table Name and Place Cards
Despite the lengthy list of individual items, its sales amount to $1.36 billion — only 2.6% of the industry's total revenue. Fortunately, invitations can be made simpler or through electronic means and can be a simple but good way to saving on potentially a few hundred dollars that can be allocated elsewhere.
Considering that this category deals with jewelry, precious stones and metals, it isn't surprising that it ranks as the third-highest cost overall. Couples spent an average of $5,549 on wedding jewelry in 2021.
It likely comes as no surprise that the engagement ring is the largest expense in this category.
Wedding Ring or Band (Partner 1)
Wedding Ring or Band (Partner 2)
Engagement rings typically cost more than wedding bands because of the presence of a diamond. Its quality — gauged through its color, clarity, cut and carat — affects its price.
In comparison, wedding bands usually have simpler designs — some don't even have precious stones. However, your choice of metal may cause the price to rise.
The engagement ring proved most important as 84% of 2021 couples budgeted for an engagement ring. Other wedding jewelry, such as wedding bands, proved less pertinent.
Revenue-wise, this category contributed significantly to the wedding industry. It brought in over $8 billion, making up 16% of the wedding industry’s revenue.
Other Events & Items
Some items fall outside of our specified categories. However, the rehearsal dinner expenses and lodging are still worth mentioning because if one or the other were included they contributed to additional costs the couple may have to foot.
Hotel Room for After the Reception
Several factors contribute to the cost of a rehearsal dinner. These include the number of guests, your venue and your menu. While some reception venues include hosting a rehearsal dinner as part of their package, some don’t.
Fortunately, most couples spent less than the average cost. These two areas contributed slightly over 2% to the industry's revenue, with $1.34 billion in sales. Overall, rehearsal dinners and hotel rooms for the receptions can be considered excesses save for the grandest of weddings. Most couples who will opt for humbler set ups can do away with this expense and still have a memorable event.
Impact of COVID-19 on Wedding Costs
While some couples prefer to keep the ceremony intimate, most go all out. They invite friends from different phases of their lives, and family members from all over the country would fly in. Unfortunately, with crowd-control regulations and travel restrictions in place, these were no longer possible.
Historically, the wedding industry has always been a lucrative one. The average cost of weddings was over $24,000 in 2018 and 2019. However, when the pandemic hit in 2020, this figure dropped to under $20,000.
COVID-19 affected several aspects of wedding preparations and expenses. For example, over 40% of couples who planned to get married in 2020 decided to postpone their ceremony to 2021. There were $1.02 million fewer weddings in 2020 than in 2019. Meanwhile, over half of those who opted to push through with the ceremony in 2020 slashed their guest list by around 41%.
The industry began picking up in 2021, with the average cost of weddings increasing to around $27,000. With people working to improve their finances after COVID-19 and restrictions easing, forecasts for the wedding industry remain optimistic. The forecasted average cost of weddings for 2022 to 2024 exceeds $23,000.
Average Cost of a Wedding FAQ
There are many costs associated with weddings — those for the ceremony and the preparation. Planning a wedding can be overwhelming. The MoneyGeek FAQ section may provide you with answers to help ease any wedding anxiety.
Expert Insights on Wedding Costs
MoneyGeek included insights from industry leaders and subject matter experts to broaden our understanding of the average cost of weddings. Their insights and advice can provide vital information beyond the numbers.
- Why are the prices of some items inflated within the context of a wedding?
- How significant was the impact of COVID-19 on wedding expenses?
- What advice can you give couples to help them manage wedding costs without sacrificing the quality of the event?
The Couples Financial Coach
In-House Wedding Expert at Joy
Founder of Weddings & Brides
Founder of TheBudgetSavvyBride.com and Published Author
A wedding can be costly, and you must consider several factors to ensure you and your partner remain financially healthy. MoneyGeek shares several online resources to provide more information on how couples can manage their finances better.
- 4 Ways to Resolve Financial Conflicts With Your Partner: Finances play a crucial role in every relationship — and if you’re unable to handle finances well, it can lead to disagreements within a partnership. MoneyGeek shares strategies to help you avoid conflict.
- How to Discuss Finances With Your Partner: Money can be a sensitive topic, and not everyone is comfortable discussing it, even with their partner. However, it’s a vital conversation for a healthy relationship. MoneyGeek helps facilitate these conversations in this article.
- Getting a Wedding Loan: Is It Worth It?: Weddings can be expensive, and there might be alternatives to using your savings. One way to fund your ceremony is to take out a loan, but should you do it? MoneyGeek discusses its benefits and drawbacks.
- 6 Tips to Help LGBTQIA+ Partners Plan Their Estate: Estate planning is crucial, but the process might be more complicated for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. MoneyGeek shares some strategies to help you determine your best course of action.
- Joint Car Insurance for Married and Unmarried Couples: Car insurance is crucial, but having separate policies means paying two premiums. Purchasing a joint auto insurance plan can be a money-saver. See if you and your partner qualify for a joint plan.
- Your Financial Guide to COVID-19: The pandemic financially put many people in a hard place. MoneyGeek provides multiple resources for maintaining your financial well-being.
About Angelique Cruz
- The Wedding Report. "2020 Covid-19 Wedding Market Impact." Accessed November 8, 2022.
- The Wedding Report. "2021 Covid-19 Wedding Market Update." Accessed November 8, 2022.
- The Wedding Report. "2021 Wedding Cost in the U.S. Increased by 25% to $27,063." Accessed November 7, 2022.
- The Wedding Report. "Your Free Wedding Report for United States — 2021 Statistics." Accessed November 7, 2022.