Weddings can be expensive, so take the time to budget and save for the event of your dreams.

By Erica Sandberg and Emma Kerr, US News & World Report featuring  Julia K. Pham, CFP®, AIF®, CDFA®

Get prepared, eager brides and grooms: Wedding costs are high across the United States. In 2022, The Knot Real Weddings Study revealed the average ceremony and reception cost the happy couple $30,000. While such an outlay may be doable for some couples, it’s far too high for many.

Without plenty of excess cash at your disposal, it’s a good idea to start planning as soon as possible. Inflation and post-pandemic demand is causing the cost of venues, food and service prices to escalate.

To prepare, you’ll need to know how much you’re willing to spend, create a realistic budget, seek bargains and be willing to make sacrifices so you can have enough to pay for the big day.

Average Cost of a Wedding

The cost of a wedding varies by many factors, including the state in which you live. For example, The Knot study found the average cost in Oklahoma was $16,000, while in New York it was $46,000.

Of course, the more elaborate your plans are, the more it will cost. Fees for a courthouse ceremony can be less than $100, while a celebrity-style wedding with a destination location, designer gown, big guest list, top-notch catering and open bar can easily cost more than $100,000.

So, Who Pays for It All?

Although it’s traditional for the parents of the engaged couple to pitch in, a 2023 survey from the online wedding planning company Zola found that most couples contribute to their wedding bills. Twenty-nine percent say they planned to optimize credit cards, 26% said they would money they saved and another 24% said they’d include cash funds on their registries to cover the costs.

Define Your Wedding Budget

The first thing Mindy Rossignol, owner and lead planner at Private Weddings and Events in New Hampshire, does with a couple at the outset of the planning process is prioritize. She asks couples to rank categories on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest priority and 5 being the highest. These categories might include flowers, food and music.

From this point, couples can begin to build a budget. And according to Rossignol, it’s critical that couples do this before booking venues or vendors for the wedding because the process involves isolating what’s truly important to them.

“I say, ‘OK look, you do not have enough money in this category for a band, so where do we want to pull from?’ Say we pull from flowers. You’re going to lose a few extra arrangements,'” Rossignol says.

We work out the full budget before we start booking anything because that’s where a lot of people get into trouble. They’ll go book their dream venue and realize they spent 70% of their budget and don’t have enough money left over for everything else,” she adds.

If you will be receiving financial assistance from relatives, that money may not be enough to cover all the expenses. Rossignol says it’s common to see couples get help from families but make up the difference by saving for high-priority items like a band instead of a DJ, which would be much less expensive.

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