Here’s a shocking fact: the average couple spends $32,641 dollars on a wedding.
In some places, that average jumps all the way up to $82,000!
Eighty. Two. Thousand. Dollars.
Aside from the fact that’s enough to pay for an entire college education, most couples describe wedding planning as a stressful and overall pretty unenjoyable process.
That’s no surprise. A similar study found the average couple spends 11.7 months planning their wedding, at an average of 6.3 hours per week. That’s a part time job!
And then, to decompress after the brutal process, the average couple attempts to buy back their sanity with a well-deserved honeymoon. At an average sticker price of $4,000 to $5,000!
Is it any wonder young people struggle so much in getting ahead?
Why We’re Opting for a Wedding 92% Cheaper than Normal
As you can probably tell from the title and intro of this article, that all seems like a huge waste of time and money to me.
$30,000 is enough to:
- Put a 5-20% down-payment on a $150,000-$600,000 home or investment property!
- Pay for your kid’s entire college degree. (Even if your wedding was more of the shotgun-type, and the baby popped out immediately after your big day, that sum should still grow to $85,000 by the time your kid is 18. If you’re like most couples and wait a few years, it’d be closer to $100,000.)
- Fund most of your retirement. (Put into a retirement account, $30,000 should grow to somewhere around $300,000 by the time you’re retirement eligible.)
And if all else fails, $30,000 is enough for a seriously epic honeymoon!
Not to mention, 6 hours a week of planning for 11.7 months is probably enough to earn well over $11,000 doing some basic side hustles in the gig economy. You could probably even start a business with that amount of free time!
Thankfully, Lady Money Wizard is on the exact same page as me on this one. In fact, she actually brought up her own opinions (even stronger than mine!) about this topic pretty early on during our dating. One of the many reasons I knew I’d found a good match!
Our Wedding Budget – $2,750
Yep, a whole 8% of the average wedding spend.
Lentil soup for all the guests?
Like most frugal living, it’s all about throwing away your pre-conceived ideas about what is normal, and instead spending money only on what’s most important to you.
That little thought experiment brought us two major realizations about the usual wedding.
#1 Mindset Shift (Most Important) – How many people do you actually want at your wedding?
Having a wedding with 250 people is a lot like having a Facebook account with 4,000 friends. Most you haven’t talked to in years, and you can probably count the people who really matter to you on one hand.
This was the biggest mindset shift we undertook in planning our wedding.
Essentially, it meant inviting our closest friends and our closest family members.
This is the toughest part. And you will feel an unbelievable amount of social pressure on this one. But stick to your guns, and both you and your psuedo-friends will be relieved about the lack of obligation.
Our final number? 58 invites.
Yes, unfortunately that means Aunt Petunia, who hasn’t so much as sent me a Christmas card in 20 years, doesn’t have to feel obligated to attend a wedding she’s probably not all that interest in anyway.
#2 Mindset Shift: Ceremony or No Ceremony?
We voted no ceremony. We’ll be going to the courthouse with our immediate family, then throwing an awesome party with our closest friends after.
The emphasis on party isn’t just a wording change. It’s a mindset shift that takes the wedding from “No Expenses Spared, Extra-Fancy Disney/Hallmark Movie Re-creation” to “Our somewhat splurgy, yet totally down to earth celebration with our best friends.”
Total Budget Breakdown – A Dream Wedding for $2,750
Reception Venue – $800
This is probably our single biggest point of savings.
It was partially made possible by our small guest list, and partially due to a refusal to consider some of these insane going-rates for wedding venues. ($12,000 for one night?? Yea… we’ll leave that to all your billionaire customers…)
Our secret weapon? A party-boat docked in a beautiful harbor. Ours for the entire night, at nightly rate of $800/night.
Photographer – $0
We lucked into this one when a friend who owns a photography business wanted to build up her wedding portfolio. So, she offered to do the courthouse ceremony for free.
As far as the reception, all 58 guests have camera phones attached to their hips at all times. We can set up a google drive for sharing.
Wedding/Event Planner – $0
Totally unnecessary if you’re not trying to throw a party like a Russian Oligarch.
DJ/Reception Band – $0
Our DJ goes by the name “Spotify” and he specializes in “Playlists.”
Florist/Decor – $100
No idea how people spend thousands of dollars on this. At most, we may pick up $100 of flowers from the local farmers market, which should be plenty to deck out the boat.
Videographer – $0
People can record with their phones, if they want.
Wedding Dress – $0
No “Say yes to the debt” here. Lady Money Wizard went shopping for a cute and informal dress online, and ended up finding one she looks beautiful in for less than $100 bucks.
Groom attire – $0
I’ve got a closet full of suits, business casual, and dapper digs. I’ll be alright.
Wedding Cake -$50
Again, no idea how people are blowing an average of $600 on these.
Several married folks have told us Costco cakes are the way to go here. Apparently, they’re delicious and feed 50 people for $18.99.
For good measure, I’ll also probably pick up my favorite donuts in the Twin Cities. Because, hey… it’s my party and I can eat donuts if I want to.
And besides, who doesn’t love donuts?
Ceremony Venue – $115
Apparently, the courthouse fees run $115 in the state of Minnesota.
Based on my unscientific polling, everyone is bored to tears during the ceremony anyway. So, we’ll do a quick courthouse “ceremony” with our immediate family before throwing the party.
Ceremony Musicians – $0
Don’t think the courthouse approves of these.
Officiant – $0
Catering – $1,300
Now, the fun part!
We originally looked into food trucks, because that just sounded awesome. Unfortunately, to cover the cost of hauling one of those massive trucks out to your location, the typical food truck had a $800-1,000 minimum order.
And of course, we weren’t just looking for one truck. We’re planning a FEAST over here!
So instead, we started looking into simple catering options from some of our favorite restaurants. We eventually settled on a delicious three-pronged attack on us and our guest’s bellies:
1. Taco bar from the best Mexican restaurant in town – $250:
2. Pad Thai, Red Curry, Fried Rice, and Eggrolls/Wontons from the best Thai restaurant in town – $200:
3. A late night visit from a New York style hot dog cart (Had to get a food truck out there somehow!) – $300.
We’re also budgeting about $500 for a beer and wine shopping spree at Total Wine. (I’ve heard they let you return all unused alcohol on bulk orders for a full refund, in case the party doesn’t get quite as wild as we expect.)
And we’re not going with cheap kegs of Coors Light, either! I’m hoping for my out of town guests to get a sampling of Minnesota’s best local breweries. This looks possible, since the boat is BYOB. (Unlike most $12,000+ venues which apparently limit the types of alcohol served.)
Transportation – $0
I’m not even sure what this category is, but apparently the average couple spends $900 on it.
I do know the hotel we arranged for our guests offers a free shuttle to the boat.
Favors – $0
We’ve politely requested that our guests not give us any gifts. Their presence is more than enough.
The no gift rule also means we’re not handing out party favors. Sounds fair?
Rehearsal Dinner – $0
Nothing to rehearse if there’s no ceremony.
Engagement Ring – $113
I know diamond engagement rings are a marketing scam created in 1948, but doesn’t that mean there’s still got to be millions upon millions of diamond rings out there, sitting in Grandam’s jewelry box from the late Great Aunt SoAndSo?
Turns out, there are. And we found a family heirloom for Lady Money Wizard that she’s absolutely in love with.
I got it resized for $113.
Invitations – $30
We’re going with custom made postcards from Canva.com, which run $18 for a set of 50. (On premium deluxe paper, no less!)
I expect another $12 worth of postcard stamps.
Hairstylist and Makeup Artist – $100?
No idea about this. I’ll leave this up to Lady Money Wizard and others much more qualified than me to decide.
Miscellaneous – $150
It’s still a wedding, so I’m sure there will be surprises and overages. So, I’m adding this one as a placeholder to be prepared, or at least end up pleasantly surprised and under budget.
I realize this set up isn’t perfect for everyone, and I’m not saying it is.
But as we always talk about on this site, the biggest battle in mastering your spending is shedding the societal pressure of what’s “normal.” And instead, designing your spending patterns in a way perfectly suited to what makes YOU happy.
For us, that’s a low key wedding topping out around $2,750.
Hopefully you enjoyed this peek into our wedding spending! Let me know if you’ve got any wedding saving tips!
PS – If you need a little help with your budgeting (wedding or otherwise) I continue to recommend Personal Capital.
Almost Married says
Loved this post as I am getting married this weekend! I’m excited we followed some of the same things as you with our Spotify playlists, Costco cake, cheap online dress, friend photographer, and smaller guest list. Our guest list was bigger than we originally wanted (around 85), but the groom’s parents also chipped in to cover some of the things they wanted. Our food/drink budget is most of the cost of the wedding because it was important to us so we are having a mashup sushi/taco bar and open bar for guests. Looking back, we might have found a venue that allowed us to bring in our own food/alcohol to save a lot more, but the $0 venue rental fee sold us up front. Lesson learned. I thought we were good at cutting costs, but this blows it out of the water. Congrats!
The Money Wizard says
Sushi/Taco bar sounds awesome.
Congrats on your wedding! And double congrats on keeping it low-cost. Have fun this weekend!
Ian Moore says
Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!!
My wife and I kept it on the cheap as well. We did opt for a not-so-cheap photographer, but I thought it worthwhile at the time.
Photography is now a side hobby of mine now and a friend had asked me to do his wedding, along with another talented female photographer. Having helped with a couple other weddings, I think two to cover ceremony and reception seems to me the bare minimum – especially given size. In that one instance of my friend’s wedding, I opted to switch to video at reception and she continued with pictures; I know my older sisters really appreciated having video at their receptions.
Something you’ve probably considered (if you haven’t already) is how do you want to be able to look back at the day and share those memories (e.g. photo album, video, something digital)? I certainly understand and appreciate your approach for pictures and video. Glad you have a friend who can help.
Given that wife and I had friends and family in different places, we also had a follow-on party to celebrate with those who couldn’t make it. I wonder, if paired with a holiday that others are traveling for, could there be a potential to party with family and friends at or around a holiday and thus further reduce possible expense?
The Money Wizard says
Good points, thanks Ian!
Loved the post! My sister just had her wedding last month for $5,250. She did a lot of the planning on her own which helped but she had a formal ceremony, a few more guests, and a photographer. Without those, she may have been on par with you.
Compare that to my best friend’s wedding that he’s having in January at Disney World for $52,000… he and his fiance met and work at Disney so they only saw it fit to have a Disney wedding. It should be awesome but all for one day? Not worth it in my books.
I’ll refer to your guide when planning my future wedding.
The Money Wizard says
That’s an impressive price for a full ceremony. Congrats to your sister!
That $52,000 Disney wedding… sounds like a great time, I just cannot imagine spending a full year’s salary on one day. That’s life changing money – thinking about all its other uses would stress me out too much. But hey, to each their own!
Congrats, MoneyWiz! It seems we had somewhat of a similar wedding party in last year’s July as you are going to. Although being frugal like you we really didn’t look a at the dollar for our wedding.
As a result we spent almost 6500€ (party, fees AND honeymoon combined). But this included a pair of handmade custom rings with our names and date of marriage engraved in the inner. The party featured a custom burger buffet, Schnitzel buffet, historic ice cream truck and lots of drinks for our 100 guests. Our 12 day honeymoon was a road trip in the Republic of Ireland including flights, rental car, BnB/hotels, foods (bar or restaurant at least once a day), drinks and all entry fees for castles, mansions, museums, brewery tours, whisky tasting and a lot more entertaining stuff)… Well, maybe we did compare prices and dismissed things we found not worth the buck, but in the end we didn’t miss anything, had a blast and could concentrate on celebrating with our family and friends, maybe that was even a result of having no distracting program points to check on a list, which is a win-win (fewer costs and more joy) 😉
I wish you all the best and hope you will have as much fun during your wedding as we had during ours.
Gary @ DebtFreeClimb says
Nice Job on planning! I’m impressed with the intentional decisions yall made to keep costs super low.
I’m getting married in January and it’s looking like I will be paying around $20k. The biggest expense for me is b/c of the number of people. We are going to have around 175-200. Both of our families are pretty large and traditional so all the aunts/uncles got an invite (my parents are going to help cover some of the extra people). Still, for that many people, it’s pretty freaking pricey.
We cut costs by keeping the food at $15 per person, used vista print for our invites, cheaper DJ, no kids, and bought a $700 engagement ring, but the killer is the venue/church costs and the cost of the food/drink staff for that many people.
On the plus side, I put all my wedding spend on travel credit cards and got a pretty sweet honeymoon to Bali for 2 weeks (business class flights and all) for next to nothing.
Sounds like you got everything figured out! Best of luck!
Samantha Zee says
Hey, name drop your favorite food places please, I’m in the Twin Cities and one of the reasons I like following you is because it shows me more of my area that I probably didn’t know about!
Also I’m getting married here in MN with 250 guests, but we’ll have been engaged for 3 years (fiance really wanted the specific date and day) and so we’ve been able to save a bunch ahead of time. Thanks to paying in cash, literally every expense we’ve had for the wedding has been discounted. We’ve saved about 23k and we are coming in just under 20k with everything thanks to signing up early and cash discounts! (Though you are right, still super expensive and could definitely be used for something more than just a day of partying)
Super jealous of how awesome but also chill your wedding sounds. With this larger wedding I’m definitely not having fun planning it, but the actual event should be a blast. And as long as we get married, it’s a success. More wedding planning posts! I’m going to look into your postcard idea! Thank you! :]
Mike Pouch says
[Sorry in advance for this essay – I started typing and realized I had a lot to share about this topic!] Great article that a lot of people need to hear (though unfortunately, the type of person who spends $35-80K on a wedding is probably not the type who reads your blog)! While I didn’t keep complete records when I got married (5 years ago this October), nor was I as financially savvy, my wife and I managed to keep our wedding to around $5,000 total (though, realistically probably around $3,000 if you factor in unused beer, wine, and nice cheese that we kept and had a stock of for many months after our wedding, catering equipment we bought and then could have owned or sold (but donated to our church), etc.).
Some of the big ways we saved were having our ceremony at our church and using the parish hall as our venue, both of which were free, but we gave our church a small donation ($300) as a thank you. We kept our guest list to around 60 guests (mostly my wife’s large family and our small friend group). My wife, being a graphic designer and general artist, designed our invitations and whatnot, plus ordered flowers in bulk and put together all the arrangements/thoroughly decorated the parish hall for cheap (but nice!).
Because we weren’t using a traditional venue, we were not tied to a “required caterer” – so (as a trained cook) I decided to spend two days (and the morning of the wedding!) in the church kitchen cooking ALL the food (which was by far better than the standard wedding caterer)! Definitely not for everyone, but I enjoyed every moment of it and was cool as a cucumber leading into the ceremony. I placed an order through a food distributor I knew of and got some extremely high-quality ingredients for very cheap – salad and four very nice dishes cost less than $5 per guest! Our church’s “women’s guild” volunteered to serve the food – we gave them a $200 donation.
We bought a few WHEELS of very nice cheese from Whole Foods which only cost around $350 – this included a nice discount and they threw in the accouterments for free – even though people could eat as much as they wanted (and did), we still had probably 2/3 of the cheese uneaten which we kept/I “generously” (see: drunkenly) gave away at the end of our reception. Actual cost of eaten cheese was probably around $100. Again, this was incredible cheese that would likely not even be offered by most caterers, and certainly not for cheap!
I went crazy and got 50 bottles of a pretty nice wine (perhaps 1 bottle per drinking age guest was a bit much, esp. considering the sheer number of guests who were non-drinking Mennonite family!), as well as 20+ bottles of nice corked 750ml beers… Those were partook were merry, for sure, but we of course had a substantial amount unopened bottles which we kept. Again, not having a catering company allowed us to serve much nicer alcohol for significantly cheaper.
We discovered it was significantly cheaper to just buy (through a restaurant supply store), rather than rent (though a catering rental company), chaffing racks, serving pans, and nice white tablecloths, and you’d be surprised at the nice silverware (often real silver) and wine glasses for dirt cheap at thrift stores! After the wedding, we ended up donating much of this to our church too!
We had a photographer friend take our photos (inexpensive) as well as do some filming. Additionally, other guests took pictures and videos which I collected and assembled into a nice wedding photo book (as an anniversary present), and I edited together as our wedding video (a later anniversary present).
A quick run though of other expenses: $290 wife’s ring (her engagement ring which we also used as her wedding ring), $85 my ring, $450 wife’s dress (cost of dress, plus import fees and shipping – a very nice white floral designer dress imported from England that was not a “wedding dress”, but totally was beautiful as one without adding many thousands of dollars tacked on for being an actual wedding dress), $400 suit plus tailoring plus nice dress shoes which I then had for work/future events; $330 for an amazing wedding cake (significantly cheaper than normally charged from a baker co-worker/friend from an old restaurant I worked at), $0 DJ (laptop with playlist hooked to nice speakers already owned), $150 church organist (free, but we paid anyway); $175 for cellist (you can hire student musicians who are very good for cheaper than fully working musicians), $0 pianist during dinner hour (family member who volunteered); $100 for favors (4 oz. jars of homemade caramel (I made three types, of which one was a Woodford Reserve bourbon caramel – this drove the price up a little!)), $162 for printing our save the dates and wedding suite.
Mister Truck says
Compared to the bland food served at the last expensive wedding I attended, I would have loved a hot dog cart and even lentil soup (mmmm)! Congrats dawg.
Got married a month ago and we only spent about $3000. That doesn’t include the rings because we did splurge a little on those because we wanted something unique. We had our immediate family there (25 of us in total) and rented a “villa” in the country on Air B&B for two nights which included our wedding night stay. The ceremony was in the back yard under the pergola and was officiated for free by a family friend. We did hire a photographer but since it wasn’t a full blown wedding we only paid for a “session” because she was only there for about an hour. My dress was $160 and my husband got a new pair of pants and a dress shirt for about the same price. Custom cake from a local grocer for $25, snacks and beverages we supplied and a few flowers from a local nursery rounded out the decor. After the ceremony we took everyone out to dinner at a fancy local steak restaurant which was the majority of our budget. Everyone went on and on about how sweet, lovely and intimate the whole experience was. Wouldn’t have changed a thing! Congratulations to the two of you!!
My mate tried to showboat me that he is dropping £40k ($49 k usd) on his wedding… his my mum (I rarely got on with) said to me how that cash could pay for a small wedding, once in a life time holiday AND a deposit on a house. I’m so lucky that my partner believes in the frugal lifestyle as me. To spend that much in one YEAR is ludicrous, let alone one DAY! Nice post, I might forward it to him.
Congratulations! You’ll have to let us know how it goes!
Similar to another poster above, I also got married last weekend! That’s my favorite thing about this blog – I feel like we’re going through the same experiences together.
I read this post the week before my wedding and was a bit jealous. We went ahead and had a big wedding. It ended up being great, but I could have saved a lot of money while reducing the stress leading up to the big day by following your suggestions. The booze cruise sounds awesome! I hope you have a wonderful day.
PS – are you planning on merging the wife’s assets into the monthly updates?
Allison Walker says
Congrats! I love this post and think you will have an amazing time! We’ve been married 9 years and although we were far from the $30k norm, I wish we did things more low-key, because as you point out, I think it would have been more enjoyable. Honestly, at this point of our lives I would have opted for something a lot more like this, and spent the difference on the honeymoon instead 🙂 You’re doing it at a fraction of the cost, but I think you’ll have 150% of the fun!! Enjoy the journey to your wedding day!!