Why Are Weddings So Expensive? +9 Tips To Help You Save

Something you already know – weddings cost a ton of money.

In 2016 according to “Cost of Wedding's” website the average wedding was running a couple $26,720. The popular wedding website The Knot claimed an even higher average of $35,329.

The results were pretty obvious – weddings are expensive.

If you happen to be in the process of planning a wedding, you might have just seen those numbers and found yourself shaking your head in disbelief.

Or perhaps you have started calling vendors and even started to create a budget and realized your wedding is going to be expensive.

However, just because your friend had a wedding that cost $50,000 or you saw a few vendor quotes that were way out of your price range doesn't mean you have to spend your first home's down payment on a 5-hour party.

You can still save money on your wedding and have an awesome time!

Here are some wedding savings tips to help you get started! But first…

Why are weddings so expensive?

Ever since I have my wife and I got married in 2016, weddings are simply not the same.

I know every time I go to a wedding I am counting the dollar signs:

  • The vase on the table must be $50.
  • The unlimited premium liquor – several $1,000.
  • The videographer in the tight khakis – $2,500.

You catch my drift.

From the decor to the dress, the tables to the chairs, there are components of a wedding (some necessary, some not) that make weddings super expensive.

Before discussing wedding savings tips, it's important There are really 6 main reasons why weddings can be so expensive. Hands down though,  the biggest reason most people are throwing down over one-third of the average household median income is:

Wedding Expense #1 – Trying to keep up with the Jones’s. 

Not only does the markup for wedding expenses jump the minute you say the word wedding, keeping up with everyone else is at an all-time high thanks to social media.

Elegant dresses, beautiful hair, amazing venues, and endless fond memories are all posted onto Instagram and Facebook sparking the competitive trait in all of us.

The millennial generation now has the likes of Pinterest to compare every aspect of their wedding too, in order to create that “Special Day.”

However, like the old adage states, don't try to keep up with Mr. and Mrs. Jones down the street – they can't keep up with themselves. This couldn't be truer than with weddings…

  • Mr. & Mrs. Jones paid for their son/daughter’s wedding.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Jones just reverse mortgaged their home to pay for said wedding.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Jones cashed in on some of their retirement

While the wedding you might have recently gone to was filled with 200 people and the flower display was out of this world – what we all might be failing to recognize is that in a matter of 4-5 hours $20,000-$40,000 worth of someone's savings (or credit) was gone.

Sure, there will be some great memories, a three-minute highlight video, and lots of photos – but the long term financial impact of one night (much like buying a new car) can actually be devastating if not handled properly.

We can all think of ways to spend $40,000 and depending on you frame it – a 5-hour party doesn't sound like the best allocation of funds.

Quick tips for wedding savings to avoid the comparison trap:

  • Don't worry about impressing other people on your big day
  • Focus on what you want for that day, it's your day
  • Keep in mind marriage is designed to last a lifetime, so the one night is special, but it doesn't have to cripple you financially!

Related Content: The Marriage & Money Convo You Need to Have

Wedding Expense #2 – Location.

Depending on where you choose to have your wedding, you can quickly eat the bulk of your wedding budget with just the venue location.

For example, some venues alone are $10,000. If your budget is $15,000 that doesn't give you much wiggle room for all the other expenses.

A venue tip – Don't get married on a Saturday if at all possible and use a venue that doesn't require “their vendors.” Ideally, an inclusive location – bar – food package is your best option!

Wedding Expense #3 -Vendor Hike-ups.

One in four vendors will hike up the cost of their service the second they hear the word wedding!

Items such as:

  • Administrative service costs,
  • Cake cutting fees,
  • Things plates sit on,
  • Chair upgrades and more,

All these little things add up, and they add up quickly.  Vendors know how it works.

It is only $1 to upgrade “This item,” adds up quickly when there are 200 chairs, 200 plates and so on. Be sure to be aware of vendor hike ups when you're planning your wedding!

Wedding Expense #4 – Guest List.

The amount of money you will spend on your wedding boils down ultimately to the number of guests you plan on inviting.

If you have a guest limit in your head, consider cutting in half, because the #1 wedding expense is your guest list.

Every family member, friend, cousin, cousin’s boyfriend of two weeks, best friend's current lady friend from last Friday, and so on does not have to be at your wedding.

Wedding guest lists can add up in a hurry so be sure to be conscious of who you invite. See wedding savings tip #2 below for a great strategy to help you!

Wedding Expense #5 – Food.

This can escalate just as quickly as all the service costs and vendor hikes. Pay for a plated dinner and you will quickly have a huge bill on your hands.

Consider a buffet style or even hiring a family friend if possible. People want to eat food and wash it down with alcohol – chances are they won't really remember the appetizers, so don't go crazy when planning!

Wedding Expense #6 -Alcohol.

Alcohol (Brad Paisley's voice) is expensive.

Having an open bar is really expensive. Consider all options like beer & wine only, or when applicable providing your own. 

As one wedding planner put it,

Don't have liquor at your wedding. You will regret the bill and some of the questionable activities of some people. Beer and wine are perfect!”


9 Wedding Savings Tips You Should Consider

Save Money on your wedding

Now that we have identified some common pitfalls where wedding costs jump exceedingly fast, here are a few tips to help you save on your big day!

These tips go in order and if you follow each of these wedding savings tips you will more than likely have an awesome wedding that you can afford!

1. Budget Your Wedding.

Step 1 when you're planning a wedding is to create a budget before you do anything else.

A wedding budget determines:

  • The size of your guest list
  • The location of your wedding
  • The size of your wedding party
  • What kind of media and entertainment you will use
  • Food
  • Alcohol
  • Gifts

What a wedding budget does first, it helps create awareness around what is truly most important to you and your partner on the day of your wedding.

 At the end of the big day, it is the company of friends & family, coupled with all the fun you will remember, not the decorations or even the food.

So here is how you can create a budget for your wedding:

  1. Sit down with your significant other and make a list of EVERY possible expenses.
  2. Be sure to include venue, decorations, photographer, cake, and all the other common wedding expense items
  3. Next, do not assign mone to any item YET. Instead, identify your maximum operating number.
  4. If you have financial help from a family member, make sure you know the exact number and always be conservative with your estimations on your budget (think worst-case scenario)
  5. Don't assign any price YET, that will come when you start locating vendors and venues!

A simple wedding budget can look like this:

25d857 3da5ebc619bb4647820b333867f0bdd6mv2
Screenshot of our wedding budget from 2016^

This was the final expense list for our wedding. We had a budget of $15,000 and we went over by $320. As you can see 59% of our budget went to food, alcohol and the venue.

Luckily, some of the expenses such as the cake were gifts from family members!

2.How to slash your wedding guest list to save.

The biggest challenge when it comes to saving on your wedding is limiting the guest count. However, this is vital before filling out your budget sheet.

Scaling back your guest list can be challenging because there are feelings involved with every single person you think about:

  • Some people you love
  • Some people you like
  • Some people you don't like but you have to invite

This is a challenge for most because of all the friends and family in our lives we have to consider. However, in the day and age where wedding costs are astronomical, most understand.

A tip to help out with the mental anguish you might be feeling is to consider that there are also the expenses on the guest's end, so it can even be a win-win when you don't invite someone.

Here is a strategy to help you with your guest list:

On a piece of paper or Excel spreadsheet, create three columns and label them:

  1. Must invite
  2. Should invite
  3. It's been a long time/don't have to invite

Must Invite: Under each column, start listing out names. For example in column one “Must Invite” this will include mom, dad, siblings, grandparents, super close friends. This does not include the people your parents expect you to invite – they go under should invite.

Should Invite: List all the cousins, aunts/uncles, friends that you would like to have at your wedding OR that your parents might expect you to invite (side note, if you're paying for your wedding DO NOT feel pressured to invite anyone, it's your dad and your money).

Long Time & Don't List: In this list, write down all the names of the people you don't talk to but maybe thought about inviting, or the people you don't really want to invite. For example, your cousin's boyfriend would go on this list.

Keep this list handy and get a quick count for each column, you will need this later!

3. Choose Your Wedding Venue Wisely.

Once you have your budget maximum and guest list, now you can start exploring venues.

Make sure you choose your venue wisely. Explore venues that can take care of food, alcohol, services, planning, and everything in between all for one price.

These are best-case options that keep costs low. Other options for wedding savings tips when it comes to your wedding venue include:

  • Destination weddings
  • All-inclusive venues
  • Getting married at a church or on a college campus
  • Ceremony and reception all at one place
  • Park rentals
  • Ask a family member or friend to use their home/backyard

The best tip when it comes to selecting a venue is to make sure it meets your budget. You will have to adjust your guest count and budget based on your venue, but be sure to stay within your budget!

4. Get beer and wine only for your wedding!

Beer and wine is enough for people to have a good time. At the end of the evening, if you or a loved one is forking the bill – nobody has any say about it in the first place.

wedding savings tips beer

Be sure to minimize your alcohol costs and explore all options. The best-case scenario is it is included per guest. Second, you can provide it. Keep in mind there is a premium mark up when you go with a caterer or venue that provides alcohol.

If you really must have liquor consider off-brand or even a cash liquor bar. Don't be surprised when most people “settle” for the free beer and wine.

5. Wedding food savings tips:

Buffet style and stations are the current wedding craze.

Buffet styled foods at a wedding let people get as much food as they please and everyone eats at the same time. The cost is significantly cheaper using buffets or stations as well, versus a sit down served meal.

Surveys have shown that buffet-style dinners are not only cheaper, but they're preferred by wedding guests since they can all eat at once and choose their portion sizes!

Consider these ideas:

  • See if you can sub out food to a family member or friend (someone who owns a smoker)
  • Get creative and serve food that is outside the wedding norm
  • Go buffet when applicable
  • Don't feel like you have to keep up!

And remember, if people don't like the food they will never tell you anyway 🙂

6. Wedding Music.

Everyone knows a DJ.

Ask around for a reasonably priced DJ and be sure to get a DJ who will assume the role of keeping the wedding on schedule – no need for a planner! 

Just make sure to reach out to a DJ's past wedding clients before hiring one and do your research.

A live band is cool, but $4,000 can be a little pricey. If you're someone who really wants a live band at their wedding, you will have to make cuts in other areas!

7. Wedding Party Gifts.

Stick to your budget and don't overdo this one. Socks and a tie for the guys and makeup for the girls works perfectly. 

Get creative and see how a simple search on Etsy can help you with those wedding gifts.

8. Flowers & Decorations.

Here is where you can spend or save a lot of money on your wedding – flowers.

Do some planning and get creative when it comes to flowers. See what you can make, for example, people make maple slabs for each table and the cake.

Consider ordering flowers wholesale and doing them the night before while drinking wine in the suite. Pinterest has great ideas too and the vases can be simple, like mason jars!

9. Photography & Videography Wedding Savings Tips:

A great photographer is key to capturing your wedding.

Look into someone starting out and check out their portfolio just to make sure they know what they are doing. This is an area you want to make sure you get right but also save on your big day.

As far as the videographer, there are options that are cheap. For example, Wedding Mix is a company that sends cameras on your wedding day that allows the guests to film the wedding or download an app and film from their phone.

All the videos go to a cloud and you can make epic highlight videos. Wedding guests love the engagement and ability to participate!

A final word on wedding savings tips:

In the end, weddings are meant to be fun, not stressful and I told you would we could come back to savings tip #1 and #2.

  1. Now that you have accounted for the bulk of your expenses, it's time to get ever sort of quote possible and explore all options for each item
  2. Once you have your prices, think of your wedding budget as a puzzle and start piecing together everything!
  3. Lastly, remember that list you made of people? The way to cut your costs is to cut back your list, starting with the “Don't Want” list.

If you follow step 1 and step 2, you can identify the correct venue (#3).

After that, you will figure out the rest and always be sure to keep in mind -wedding vendors know people are excited about their wedding. That coupled with inexperience, it is really easy to see how wedding costs quickly add up.

You only get one shot at your wedding so keep that in mind but realize the actual meaning behind a wedding. Flowers, food, and fun are great – but it is the union between two people that is the most important. 

Don't try to impress people or make sure everything is perfect… chances are you will have a higher chance of a “let down.”

Instead, make sure you just have fun, don't take things serious and stay focused on keeping each other happy! 

Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $200,000 in student loans with his wife in less than four years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post and more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, helping others with their debt and recommend using Personal Capital to track your finances.