How Much Should You Spend On A Wedding?

From venue dates to dietary restrictions to deposits and deadlines, planning a wedding can be an incredibly stressful (not to mention expensive) endeavor. Even so, according to a report from Zippia on the U.S. wedding industry, a record 2.24 million weddings were estimated to occur in the United States in 2023, meaning that couples planning their dream event aren't alone in their frustrations or their expenses. Per The Knot's 2022 wedding study, couples spent an average of $30,000 (including ceremony and reception) on their wedding. However, when you factor in inflation and higher prices in general, the amount has only continued to grow. Estimates from wedding e-commerce company Zola show that the average 2024 wedding total is closer to $33,000.

It goes without saying that the cost of a wedding will highly depend on geographic location, with smaller cities and Midwestern weddings averaging around $24,000 compared to metropolitan cities reaching closer to $40,000. On the far ends of the spectrum, weddings in New York City averaged $60,000 whereas weddings in Sacramento, California, cost $24,000. While how much you ultimately decide to spend on your wedding is dependent on your personal priorities and budgetary restrictions, it can be helpful to know exactly what planning elements will end up costing more than others. Plus, having a general idea of what exactly you'll need to budget for can be an important first step in the planning process.

How wedding expenses break down

In 2022, couples hired an average of 14 different vendors for their weddings. These vendors were hired to take care of everything from dresses to the cake to the venue; they also tend to be the most expensive elements of a wedding. On average, the venue accounts for the biggest chunk of wedding expenses, with the average price costing between $6,500 and $12,000. Catering, meanwhile, is the next most expensive element, averaging between $6,500 and $10,000 per wedding.

In fact, in 2022, according to The Knot's survey of 12,000 couples, the average cost per wedding guest was $256, and a lot of this expense came down to food. Hiring a band or a DJ to provide the music is another high-price wedding vendor expense, with an average cost of between $2,000 and $7,000. According to Vogue, a good rule of thumb for keeping expenses down is to ensure your combined venue, food, and alcohol expenses don't exceed 40% of your total wedding budget.

This said, you might be surprised to learn what you'll likely spend the least on for your wedding. Despite the importance that's generally placed on it, the wedding cake actually tends to be one of the cheapest wedding purchases. The average cake costs between $600 and $900 depending on just how many people are invited to attend. Similarly, hair and makeup services for the bride and wedding party also tend to be more affordable than other pricier wedding elements.

How couples pay for their wedding

The Knot's 2022 wedding study also found that, on average, millennial couples pay roughly half of their wedding costs themselves (49%), with financial assistance from family members picking up the difference. However, this portion increases considerably for Gen X couples who pay about 81% of their wedding costs. Beyond age differences, though, it's also important to realize how significantly family dynamics can play a part in how much a couple might spend on their wedding. For instance, LGBTQ+ couples face higher percentages, with the average couple shouldering roughly 56% of their wedding costs themselves. However, according to Zola, 38% of LGBTQ+ couples pay for the entire cost of their wedding (compared to only 27% of heterosexual couples who do the same).

Most couples use a combination of checking account funds (57%), credit cards (39%), and money from either gifts or their wedding registry (28%) to pay for their portion of wedding expenses. Yet, the risks of falling into credit card debt can be high when it comes to wedding spending, especially if you find your guest list growing. Perhaps one of the most important things to keep in mind is that the size of a wedding can greatly impact a wedding's budget. Zola reports that the average invite list for a 2024 wedding is 145 people (with roughly 75% of these RSVPing yes). This number can and will change your overall expenses. From factoring in catering prices (especially if caterers are charging per plate) to venue limitations, keeping your wedding a small affair can be a great place to start for budgeting purposes.