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The Cost of a Wedding: How Much Are Couples Spending?

Advertising & Editorial DisclosureLast Updated: 1/11/2023
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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.

Average Cost of a Wedding Breakdown

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).

Top 5 Most Expensive Items in a Wedding

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.

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DON’T KEEP UP WITH THE JONESES

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.

Average Cost and Breakdown of Weddings Attire and Accessories

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:

  • Item
    Average Cost
    Median Spent
  • Dress Accessories

    $245

    $109

  • Accessories for Tuxedos or Suits

    $100

    $56

  • Rental or Purchase of Tuxedos or Suits

    $273

    $176

  • Wedding Dress

    $1,499

    $889

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.

Average Spend on Event Bakery, Catering & Bar Service

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.

Average Cost and Breakdown of Beauty Care and Spa for Weddings

The average cost of these three items don't vary much. The table below shows the average price and median spent for 2021.

  • Item
    Average Cost
    Median Spent
  • Hair Service

    $88

    $67

  • Makeup Service

    $76

    $59

  • Manicure and Pedicure

    $57

    $45

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.

Average Cost and Breakdown of Wedding Photography and Video

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:

  • Item
    Average Cost
    Median Spent
  • Wedding Photographer

    $2,003

    $1,183

  • Wedding Videographer

    $1,712

    $892

  • Wedding Albums or Photo Books

    $483

    $152

  • Photo Booth

    $405

    $243

  • Engagement Session

    $331

    $152

  • Prints or Enlargements

    $273

    $113

  • Digital or Photo CD/DVD

    $260

    $63

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.

Wedding Coordinator/Planner

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.

Average Cost and Breakdown of Weddings Coordinator/Planner

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:

  • Item
    Average Cost
    Median Spent
  • Wedding Planner

    $2,761

    $974

  • Hourly Services

    $2,002

    $719

  • Wedding Coordinator

    $1,599

    $522

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.

Average Spend of Wedding Event Location and Rentals

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.

Wedding Entertainment

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.

Average Cost and Breakdown of Wedding Entertainment

Wedding entertainment comes in many forms. Those included in MoneyGeek’s data are as follows:

  • Item
    Average Cost
    Median Spent
  • Live Band

    $2,856

    $1,682

  • DJ or MC

    $853

    $698

  • Musicians (Either Soloists or Ensembles)

    $799

    $393

  • Entertainment lighting

    $414

    $202

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.

Wedding Transportation

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.

Average Cost and Breakdown of Wedding Transportation

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.

Average Cost and Breakdown of Flowers & Decorations

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.

  • Item
    Average Cost
    Median Spent
  • Wedding Venue Flowers and Arrangements

    $506

    $207

  • Wedding Venue Decorations

    $495

    $315

  • Bouquets

    $389

    $229

  • Wedding Venue Table Centerpieces

    $359

    $202

  • Wedding Venue Accessories

    $327

    $264

  • Boutonnieres and Corsages

    $169

    $125

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.

Average Cost and Breakdown of Gifts & Favors

Whether it's a trinket or more, giving out wedding favors is how couples show appreciation. Here’s a breakdown of this category:

  • Item
    Average Cost
    Median Spent
  • Tips (for services)

    $387

    $289

  • Wedding Favors

    $200

    $96

  • Gifts for Parents

    $184

    $82

  • Gifts for Attendants

    $100

    $39

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.

Invitations

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.

Average Cost of Wedding Invitations

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.

  • Item
    Average Cost
    Median Spent
  • Invitations and Reply Cards

    $190

    $140

  • Reception Menu

    $146

    $94

  • Ceremony Program

    $143

    $110

  • Engagement Announcement

    $136

    $131

  • Save the Date Cards

    $134

    $97

  • Thank You Cards

    $98

    $50

  • Table Name and Place Cards

    $97

    $45

  • Postage

    $84

    $75

  • Guest Book

    $59

    $37

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.

Wedding Jewelry

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.

Average Cost of Wedding Jewelry

It likely comes as no surprise that the engagement ring is the largest expense in this category.

  • Item
    Average Cost
    Median Spent
  • Engagement Ring

    $3,603

    $2,111

  • Wedding Ring or Band (Partner 1)

    $818

    $473

  • Wedding Ring or Band (Partner 2)

    $492

    $254

  • Necklace

    $254

    $75

  • Earrings

    $207

    $66

  • Bracelet

    $175

    $68

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.

Cost of Other Stuff in a Wedding
  • Item
    Average Cost
    Median Spent
  • Rehearsal Dinner

    $683

    $431

  • Hotel Room for After the Reception

    $439

    $250

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.

Average Cost of Weddings, 2018-2024 forecasted

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.

  1. Why are the prices of some items inflated within the context of a wedding?
  2. How significant was the impact of COVID-19 on wedding expenses?
  3. What advice can you give couples to help them manage wedding costs without sacrificing the quality of the event?
Jessica Bishop
Jessica Bishop

Founder of TheBudgetSavvyBride.com and Published Author

Katie Brownstein
Katie Brownstein

In-House Wedding Expert at Joy

Kirsten McKinley
Kirsten McKinley

Founder of Weddings & Brides

Related Content

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About the Author


Angelique Cruz headshot

Angelique Cruz holds a degree in psychology. She began a freelance writing career with articles focusing on personal development and growth. Her expertise eventually expanded to include personal finance, such as auto, homeowners and auto insurance.


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