A Breakdown of the Costs Associated with Weddings

A sign pointing to different wedding events.

When it comes to skyrocketing costs, weddings are right there with college tuition.

That's something anyone who has done even the most rudimentary bit of wedding planning can attest to. The price of a conventional wedding continues to rise at a record pace. According to CNN Money, the average cost of a wedding in 2015 was more than $32,000 -- a figure that represents a $5,000 increase in just five years.

To help you manage your matrimonial budget, we've outlined the primary costs attached to a typical wedding. We've also detailed a few ways you can keep expenses under control without cutting corners.

Pre-Wedding Expenses

Unlike many other big ticket expenses, weddings are a bit unusual in that significant costs begin to accrue long before the actual event. Engagement parties and wedding showers are two examples of this. While neither should represent more than a few percent of your total wedding budget, the cost of these pre-wedding social events should be closely accounted for.

Other pre-ceremony costs include wedding invitations, programs, escort cards, attire, and rings -- the last two of which are usually classified as major expenses and are typically somewhere between five and ten-percent of the overall budget.

Event Expenses

While the wedding ceremony usually only represents a few percent of the standard wedding budget, the reception is the single largest expense. Generally about half of the total budget is dedicated to facility rental, food, cake, entertainment, gifts for guests, drinks, flowers, decor and popular optional amenities such as chocolate or candy stations and photo booths.

Additionally, the services of a professional videographer or photographer will typically cost several thousand dollars, making it a substantial part of any wedding budget.

After The Wedding

Post-wedding expenses tend to vary wildly -- some of us opt to fly to our honeymoon immediately, while others forego a trip entirely. The average couple spends a little more than $5,000 on a honeymoon.

There are a few other minor residual expenses for which to account, including thank you notes.

How To Keep Costs Down

The thought of spending $32,000 on a wedding (and $5,000 on a honeymoon) is enough to temper even the most ardent pre-matrimonial bliss. You can, however, work to hold costs down by following a few tips:

  • Form a wedding budget and strictly account for all money spent
  • Start planning early (a minimum of one year out) to avoid paying high fees to wedding vendors
  • If you've got a friend or family member who has wedding-related skills (photography or baking), use them instead of hiring vendors
  • Use Craigslist and apps such as Thumbtack to find more competitive bids for wedding services
  • Use technology to make your wedding planning more efficient
  • Pare down the guest list
  • Don't fall victim to the notion that there is one perfect (and expensive) form of wedding

The Takeaway

Weddings are a significant expense -- and getting more expensive every year. They should never be a source of financial anxiety for new couples, however.  Follow the advice listed above to keep your costs manageable.