How Much Does a Wedding Really Cost Anyway?

We surveyed brides-to-be to get to the bottom of this nagging question

Updated 04/19/17

How Much Does a Wedding Really Cost?

The memories you’ll have of your wedding day are priceless, but to perfectly orchestrate the ceremony of your dreams? That comes with a significant price tag. From the dress to the flowers, invites, music, photography, and food...those elements add up—fast. So, what does a wedding really cost? We surveyed brides-to-be to get to the bottom of this nagging question.

For more than 20 years, Brides has regularly surveyed brides-to-be and newlyweds about their wedding budget. (Yes, you absolutely need one.) And while the overall cost—between $26,000 and $28,000—has remained pretty consistent over the past decade, a lot of factors have changed significantly. For example, instead of relying on Mom and Dad to foot the bill, couples are now more likely to pay for the wedding themselves. And more than half are paying with plastic. Couples are also dropping their guest count (from 142 to 135 on average) to afford splurges in other areas of their event. No hard feelings, second cousins you haven’t seen in forever...

That’s not to say today’s brides are just going on spending sprees; 89 percent of the couples surveyed set a wedding budget, and 57 percent extended their engagement to save for the wedding they wanted. (Just keep an eye on that bottom line, because 35 percent still spent more than planned—ouch.)

So where do all those dollars go? The reception is consistently the greatest expense—$11,380 on average. But more than ever, couples are willing to spend on the details that help them personalize their ceremony and showcase their style, like the $1,220 spent on flowers (could be roses, could be ranunculus). To make sure your guests dance the night away to your favorite tunes, think $1,508 for reception music. Style-setting brides have upped their fashion budget over the last decade, paying around $1,500 for their ceremony dress. (That’s an increase of almost $500 since 2006!)

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