Money can’t buy you love…

Bling droppers

…but it can buy you a big fancy wedding! According to, the average price for a wedding in the U.S. is $26,800. The general breakdown they give is thus:

Wedding Attire $1,841.00
Wedding Ceremony $2,337.00
Wedding Favors & Gifts $1,104.00
Wedding Flowers $1,136.00
Wedding Jewelry $1,739.00
Wedding Music $922.00
Wedding Photography $2,659.00
Wedding Reception $13,692.00
Wedding Stationery $809.00

The site features a wedding cost calculator based on zip code, which is pretty cool. A wedding in the city in which I live costs somewhat more at $28,944. Most weddings in the town I grew up in cost around $39,664. Where my paternal family lives, however, a wedding will “only” set you back $18,492.

For those of you out there who are married, I would love to know roughly how much your wedding cost. Or, if that’s too personal, perhaps you could tell me what the most expensive element (dress, catering, hall, etc.) was and how much that cost.

And here’s a little food for thought from

A spokesman for insurers Weddingplan, said: “A wedding is one of the biggest financial outlays a couple will ever make.”

The cost of getting married has risen 75 per cent since the firm carried out its first poll in 1998.

68 Responses to “Money can’t buy you love…”

  1. Annalucia says:

    The Annalucia she frankly cannot remember what her wedding cost, and even if she did she might not be able to translate the prices into 2006 dollars (she was married in the summer of 1978). But she can give a rundown of the particulars:

    Wedding attire: the Annalucia and the Tedesco, who were both unchurched at this point, went to City Hall and were married in their street clothes. She cannot remember what the license cost but the price it was not exorbitant. The witnesses were the Annalucia’s younger sister and the Tedesco’s friend Ernie.

    Wedding ceremony: See above

    Wedding favors and gifts: She is assuming that means gifts to guests, attendants, etc. None.

    Wedding flowers, jewelry, music, photography: None.

    Wedding reception: this was held at the house of the Tedesco’s elder sister and consisted of a buffet dinner and a large decorated sheet-cake, plus champagne, the cork of which punched a hole in Sister’s kitchen ceiling when the Tedesco tried to get it out of the bottle.

    (For those who may be wondering about the time-frame: the wedding took place at the City Hall on the 23rd of June, and the reception/party on the 24th, which was a Saturday.)

    Wedding stationery: none. Guests were either invited by telephone or by letter written on the stationery bought at Walgreen’s.

    The Annalucia realizes that this is nobody’s idea of a dream wedding, and perhaps if she had been older or wiser or had had a generally more civilized upbringing (but that is another story) she might have done things differently. But the guests all seemed to have a good time nonetheless, and the Annalucia and the Tedesco are coming up on their 28th anniversary next June, and have five children and one grandbaby, so one can safely conclude that the story has ended happily despite its slapdash beginnings.

  2. Laura says:

    My wedding, which took place in 2001, cost $6000 including honeymoon ($3000 wedding + reception, $1700 plane tickets, the rest car rental & hotel fees).

    If I had it to do over again, I’d get a dress I liked more (though it might not be more expensive). Never let your Mom boss you into a particular dress. 🙂

    Like The Annalucia, we didn’t feel the need to spend a lot on the trappings. Luckily for us, I have a mother who has a beautiful wild backyard garden surrounding a big patio, so….

  3. Never teh Bride says:

    Thanks, guys! It’s good to know that the “average” includes people who spend a lot less. I’ve recently changed my tune and have decided that I want to someday have a family-only wedding (I have a HUGE family) and then a party for friends later on. Since I do want to have it at my grandma’s beachfront property where the swimming is good, I’ve decided I want to have a bbq reception and tell guests to bring swimsuits if they want to. If I had it there and didn’t do that, all of the cousins who ALWAYS swim at mum mum’s would be horribly disappointed 🙂

  4. Sonetka says:

    I was married in 2002 and it totaled about $5,500, including honeymoon – for the wedding itself the costs were roughly $3500, by far the most expensive part of which was the reception for 60, which cost about $2800 (dry reception, very good food – we didn’t want to stint on that, we just wanted to avoid a situation where the alcohol tab bankrupted us and we didn’t want the guests to have to scrabble for cash – hence, soft drinks, but no alcoholic drinks were available). I think it helped that we only had one attendant each and so weren’t dropping enormous amounts on attendant gifts or flowers. I looked up the average amount for the suburb we lived in at the time and apparently in worked out to $38,000, which is astonishing to me; it’s not a particularly fashionable suburb or anything.

  5. Gigolo Kitty says:

    The price tag would be a bit more if you rented the Palace of Versailles (a mere $78 million bill for the wedding).

  6. Spring says:

    My wedding cost a grand total of $303.

    That’s about $198 for the engagement and wedding rings (my husband’s came with the set for free) – we had to put it on a payment plan, $68 for the license and the fee for the woman whose only job was just to marry people in the state of Virginia, $17 for the dress that I got at a thrift store (brand new, still with tags I. Magnin cocktail length superfantastic dress that I can still wear due to its timeless appeal) and $20 for the shoes, which sad to say weren’t all that great but it was what I could afford. My husband wore his dress blues and looked superfantastic!

    And that was stretching our budget.

    The only person invited was someone my husband knew who had a nice camera. It’s not that we hate our families, they were just all out of state.

    You don’t need a huge, expensive, stressful wedding to have a happy marriage. 🙂

  7. jj says:

    Well, I was married in 2005 and it was the whole she-bang… friends and family, a nice dress, dinner, drinks (wine & beer only), lovely cake. The whole thing came to somewhere around $10,000 and I’m in southern california which tends to be a pricey market. I did shop around carefully, we’re foodies so good food was a big priority, and skimped on some things that weren’t as important (You can do simple rose bouquets for $350? You’re hired!).

  8. Never teh Bride says:

    Oooh, Spring. Dress blues are sooooooo handsome! I just love me a man in uniform.

  9. Cherie says:

    Our wedding in 2003 cost about $3,000. About half of that was on food–we are both big foodies and were okay with that. Folks are still talking about the food. We had good wine and beer, but no hard alcohol. My mother made my dress. We got married in a national park, which was free although the permit to do so cost $50. We rented a historic schoolhouse for the reception for $250. Husband had to buy a suit for a few hundred. For flowers we just collected leaves and wildflowers (it was autumn). Simple, pretty, cheap.

    Seriously, almost $30,000 for a wedding? Who are these people?

  10. Kara says:

    Wow – I almost hate to pipe in here lest people think I’m crazy, but I got married last summer in Seattle and spent (for about 120 guests) close to $40,000. And that was honestly not going out of my way to spend a ton of money. I can’t even imagine what you would get for $3000????

  11. Kara says:

    Whoops- did not mean to submit. I completely admire people that do it on a shoestring, don’t get me wrong!! I just wouldn’t have been happy with something really super small that didn’t include our whole families and friends.

    Breakdown of the large stuff – photos about $3000, flowers $2000, videographer $3000, band $1000, catering etc about $100 per head, dress $600, cake about $600, our honeymoon about $5000…

    It all adds up!

  12. Lori says:

    One of the partners at the CPA firm where I work spent $40,000 on his daughter’s wedding. (Keeping it in perspective, that’s a little more than what the average American earns in one year.) I hope those who spend that much aren’t going into debt to do so.

    A former coworker got married on a Friday. I don’t know how much she spent, but she said that it was cheaper on a Friday than on a Saturday (I suppose she meant renting the hall, etc.)

  13. Christina says:

    We got married in Disneyworld, which cost us a grand total of about $6,000 (including the almost 1 week total vacation), but did not have the expense of guests and a large reception, it was just us and our immediate family. Was the perfect wedding, IMHO. 🙂

  14. Sheas says:

    My husband and I were married in 2002 for roughly $3000. We had an informal ceremony in my parents garden, and a very informal luncheon at a local eatery after. We borrowed a nice camera from a friend, my sister was our “photographer” for the day. We also had another uncle who was more than happy to cover part of the photography duties. Our “get-away” car was my dad’s restored Austin Healy convertible. We had roughly 100 people attend the ceremony and reception. Everyone was packed up and on their way home around 4 PM, when we left for our “mini-moon”.

    Our “mini-moon” was for three nights in a near-by city. The cost of that trip is figured into the $3000 figure.

    I should also add that I was 21 years old and my husband was 23 years old. We were young and were already on our way to having decent careers. We both have loving families that completely supported us. I could have had a huge crazy wedding ceremony if I wanted to have it, but that just wasn’t for me. Having a small ceremony took a lot of pressure off of the day because nothing had to be “perfect”. It was just two families joining together to celebrate in our happiness and love.

    I recently took part in a huge wedding ceremony that I’m sure was over the $10,000 mark (which is big for this part of the country) and I had my jaw clenched the entire time. Everything had to be “perfect” and the bride was threatening our untimely deaths if we botched anything up.

    If I ever had any doubt about having a small ceremony, they were completely diminished by that experience.

  15. Joanne says:

    Hmm. I think my wedding cost around … well it was about $13,000 for the reception. That was a buffet dinner and top shelf open bar for about 175 for like five hours, with a dj. The dj cost $500. We gave the priest and altar boys like $250. My dress was $189 (TOTAL STEAL – and my shoes were $90. His tux was $150. Our invites were like $600, including postage. Flowers were like $350 (I had two pieces made for the buffet and I did the rest myself). Gifts were like $200. The photographer was four THOUSAND dollars. I guess it was around $20,000? Thank God we didn’t pay $12K of the reception. Oh and I live in Indianapolis, Indiana, but I’m from northern NJ, where I’m sure it would have all cost a bazillion dollars more.

  16. Joanne says:

    Oh crap, I totally didn’t include the honeymoon were we supposed to do that? We spent probably around $3000 on that. And I forgot our rings, my engagement ring doesn’t count right? But our rings were like $1,000 I think, they’re platinum and my husband got a pricey comfort band thing. We didn’t take out a loan, my Dad gave us $12K and we paid the rest. I waited tables as a part time job and I used to love when I would make like $200 in a weekend and I would think, “dress, paid off!” In a way, I would have loved to have had a small wedding but it would not have been worth the ire we would have faced from our large families. Looking back, (ha – not too far back, I’m only married 1 1/2 years) I wouldn’t do it any different, everyone had a good time, a lot of my family came in to town from NJ which meant a lot to me. I would, I guess, get different, cheaper, more comfortable shoes.

  17. rubytramp says:

    Heh, I’m a non-traditional older bride and I got married (8 weeks ago!) for only around $8,000 – in NYC!

    See, it can be done!

  18. JaneC says:

    I was involved with the wedding of a friend last May–in Napa, CA, where the “average wedding cost” according to that website is $36,716. The bride told me that they’d managed it for less than $6,000. I believe that included the honeymoon.

    Of course, it helps to have friends. I’m a professional musician, and offered my services as a wedding gift. I would normally have charged about $500 for the amount of work I did for that wedding. They also have a friend who is a photography student, who also gave her services as a wedding gift–and she did a beautiful job. The bride and bridesmaids bought roses and ribbon wholesale, and put together the bouquets themselves. The simple bouquets were placed into vases on the bridal party’s table at the reception, thus serving double duty as table decorations. The church where they were married has a beautiful garden and patio, and the reception was held there, with the buffet-style luncheon food sheltered in the church hall, prepared by family, overseen by a friend in the catering business.

    It was easily the loveliest weddings I’ve ever attended–and, because I’m a musician, I’ve been to at least fifteen weddings in the last six or seven years. The only thing that didn’t go as planned was the DJ. The couple had burned CD’s of their favorite music, and the CD’s wouldn’t play in the DJ’s machine (even though the couple had tested the CD’s in several of their own players). The DJ had some other music with him that was entertaining, even though it didn’t really suit the couple’s personality. No one minded much.

  19. Sibyl says:

    Not married yet, but here’s the current tally:

    Rings: $130 (incl. engagement ring)
    Dress: $600 (this is my mom’s fault)
    Food: $1500 (approx, including site — reception and ceremony at a restaurant)
    Groom’s suit: $350

    I don’t know how much invitations and such will cost, plus we’re taking the attendants out to dinner as their present, so tack on some more money and let’s say… oh, $2800. Which is remarkably close to my original goal of $2000 and would be closer if my mom hadn’t gone and bought The One True Dress even though I *told* her not to. Sigh.

  20. Raven says:

    We were married in 2001, and spent $10K including honeymoon. The big ticket items were, the catering at just a tidge under $3000 (for a hundred people), the photography at $2400, and my dress which was $920 including tax (it was a Vera Wang, marked down from $5000, so i consider it worth it). We were gifted some things, which helped, but we did not need to charge anything at that time. If only we were so well off now!

  21. kopup says:

    We were married 3 years ago in Vegas. In our street clothes with no rings. It was just the 2 of us, no friends or family.

    $55 – marriage license
    $40 – drive-thru ceremony
    $40 – tip for the priest
    $ 1 – bag of cheetos.

    That makes a total of $136.00

    For the reception we went to the Star Trek Experience.

    We’ll probably have a “real” wedding someday though.

  22. MS says:

    We were married in 1995 for about $2500. (not including honeymoon). All of which we paid ourselves, and we were 21 and 24 at the time. Don’t remember the breakdown exactly, but:
    $500 — my dress.
    My husband bought a dark suit at JC Penney, which he could wear again later.
    $200 — to the church (which was beautiful all by itself)
    $150? maybe? for flowers from a grocery store with a floral shop
    cake done for free by a friend who happens to make wedding cakes (and it was really good!)
    $150 to rent a formal room at our University for a reception
    Organist at the church was a family friend, who played for free
    No videographer, cause I really didn’t care
    Favors – none (where we live – North Texas – no one does this.)

    We had 200 guests. Most of the money went to food at the reception (no alcohol).

    My sister was married this past August and spent around $7000 (for about 200 guests.) Again, she and her husband paid for it almost entirely on their own.

    It is possible to have a wedding that is not super-small and not spend $26000. It does mean you won’t have everything that the wedding magazines will tell you you MUST have.

  23. Shoes? For ME??!! says:

    We spent about $6,000 total, EVERYTHING in 1992 for our Florida nuptuals! We had a sit down dinner for 120 in a historic mansion with rum punch, beer, wine and vodka punch. I bought my dress at a close out/trunk sale for $400! We used my husbands late mom’s favorite ring, and he used his dad’s platinum wedding band. The table decor was simple, BALLOONS!! I know, tacky, but the pictures and wedding video look awesome after all these years. We spent 10 days in CA and now 13 + yrs later we’re still married and happy!! We had bought our 1st home 2 yrs prior, so we didn’t sacrifice security for the one day whoop-dee-do. I wouldn’t change a thing, except maybe those bridesmaid gowns and head pieces…

  24. Lydia says:

    Here are my current totals for around 150 guests (two large families) at a Saturday wedding in the Chicago suburbs:

    $7200 for reception hall/flowers/food/cake/open bar
    $950 for my dress (way more than I thought I’d spend)
    $2800 for photographer
    $800 for DJ
    $800 for flowers
    $400 for church “donations” to priest and musicians

    I’m planning the wedding from another state, so there’s not a lot of DIY that’s possible. The reception is the most expensive part, but we thought that would be the case. Anything we haven’t estimated yet is pretty much small stuff. So it can be done for under $20,000. If you have a big family, it gets a bit harder.

  25. Julia says:

    Those ‘average’ prices seem pretty extreme, but I suppose the occaisional two million dollar wedding comes along and skews things. Not that getting married is cheap- I was married in 2001, and we had about 100 guests at our wedding. (Again, two large families.) Even though my family owns a florist shop in Seattle, so the flowers were a gift, and my father-in-law is a chef, so he prepared all the food, by the time we’d rented an old house for the reception, purchased my husband a suit and me a dress (well, a skirt/top combo thing, bought on clearance for about $125), bought rings, and donated money to the church that we were married in, we’d personally spent about $3000. My parents probably spent $3000 more on food, wine, and about ten cakes (I’m Czech, so we tend to have many different normal-sized cakes instead of one official Wedding Cake), and my in-laws chipped in another $500 or so- and this was for a wedding without a photographer (my best friend was assigned the job), a DJ, a wedding party, or an open bar. Paying for all that left me with *just* enough money to go on our ‘honeymoon’- to the movies.

  26. Tonya says:

    My area (western Colorado) averages about $15,000 according to I’m guessing my family spent less than $5000 in the year 2000. My dress was about $200-300 (that was just fabric, my mom made it for me). My hubby’s ring was about $400-500; mine was about the same but it was also my engagement ring so that was 2 years before the wedding. We didn’t pay anything for the church because it was our home church. The pastor’s honorarium was maybe $50-$100. The cake was $150 tops – very simple three layer (chocolate, carrot cake, and white cake) with fondant and hardly any decoration. It was simple and beautiful. My grandmother and her friend did the cake reception flower arrangements, and they looked professionally done. Flowers were probably $300 tops – just did bouquets and the cake reception flowers. We decorated the church with pine boughs from the mountains (free) and white christmas lights ($1 each at the dollar store). No favors for the attendants, we just housed them and paid for their rental car. The reception was a BBQ catered for maybe $10 a plate for 150 or so people. No alcohol, no DJ, just friends and food and a volleyball net. Various and sundry wedding accessories, like carpet runner and pen and guest book totaled $200 max. Didn’t have a veil.

    I think that’s about it. We’re still happily married. 🙂

  27. Kat says:

    I think I’m “jj” all over again…I was married in the summer of 2005, and it was also the whole she-bang. About 125 guests, nice dress, full catered dinner, drinks (sodas, pear cider, and champagne only), rented outdoor garden with ocean view, ceremony and reception setup, etc. The whole thing, week-long out-of-state honeymoon included, cost about $11,500. The website says a wedding in my southern California beach town averages $33,232, and the cost a few towns north where we held the ceremony and reception averages $35,912 (website says this cost does not include honeymoon or rings). Like “jj” says, shopping around is majorly important…we did it for everything. We also have several talented friends and family members who took care of photography, dress mending, invitation/stationary printing, and custom wedding ring making at the cost of supplies only as their wedding presents to us. The most expensive element was definitely the food and drink…that cost over $5,000.

  28. Carol says:

    We got married in November 2001. Total: $1,765
    Rings: $400 (plain gold bands)
    License: $40
    Judge: $100
    Flowers: $0 (wedding gift from friend who married a florist)
    My gown: $200 (discount shop, same dress retail was $1,400)
    My shoes: $45 (eBay!)
    Tuxes: $250 (husband, his best man, my man of honor)
    Church: $0 (got married on the side of a mountain near an ancient Indian spring)
    Reception for 15 people: $250
    Gas to drive to West Texas from Houston: $80
    Hotel room 3 nights: $400
    Two Week Road Trip Honeymoon: $0 (funded by wedding gifts in the form of cash)

  29. Rachel says:

    About $3500 in November of 2002. Like many of the other commenters we had several price cuts – the church and minister were free (there was a cleaning charge for the church, but the cleaner of the church is my grandmother-in-law, and she wouldn’t take any money; my uncle performed the ceremony); my father-in-law catered the event; our photographer was professional, but a good friend of my husband – we paid for supplies and time, but the negatives and copyright were transferred to us); the reception hall forbad liquor; our honeymoon was a gift; my rings were family heirlooms; etc. We paid retail for my dress, his ring, his suit, the flowers, and the cake. We had about 75 guests, and everyone had a wonderul time. I can easily imagine spending more and having the wedding elsewhere, but we had an 8 month old and money was tight…

  30. Bethany says:

    My wedding in 1998 cost less than $5000, not including the rings. The engagement ring my husband bought cost a couple of months substantial pay, but the wedding set we wore was bought on sale – the engagment and bride’s rings set was something like 60% off, plus the groom’s ring was included for $1 or something ridiculous like that. I’d have to look at the ad to be sure, but we paid far less than half of their worth.

    My wedding dress was a $300-something JCPenney number (and was actually quite nice). I don’t know how much my husband’s tux cost, but I do know he bought it, and I can’t imagine he spent more than a few hundred. Reception was cake, punch, nuts, and mints, all homemade and for only about 25 guests. An aunt who was working as a florist gifted me my flowers. Paid $500 for a limo, probably comparably for the photographer and photos (maybe a little more, but not much). Most of the decorations were bought at Hobby Lobby and Party Warehouse. The chapel was free since my mom works at the university on which campus the chapel is located (awkward sentence). The judge cost about $100 or so. $50 for the license. Music was ripped from CDs I already had and some of those super-cheap ones you can get at checkout stands that only have four or five songs for about $2.50. Attendants purchased their own outfits that could be worn for other things, with the exception of the flower girls/ring bearer, whose dresses were made out of gingham check bought on sale (and they wore those dresses to death after the wedding).

    I would’ve liked to have been able to spend a lot more on it if only to have been able to have a nicer reception facility than the basement of a church I didn’t even attend, but for what was spent, it was quite nice.

  31. Inky says:

    Hi – we were married in San Diego, Halloween 2003 and for about 64 guests the whole shebang rang in at about 20K. We spent the most on the reception (duh!) and photography, then our clothes. Best party I ever had.

    My first marriage/wedding was in 1989 and for about 200 guests that tragic, typical marshmallow wedding ran around 25K.

  32. Kitty says:

    Drunk in Vegas, $55 including the limo to the chapel.

  33. La BellaDonna says:

    Under $1,000 in 1980 for a church wedding with four attendants each, paid for by yours truly (and nothing from the husband-to-be; ladies, this is a sign, not to be ignored); the bride in white velvet, white brocade, gold trim and embroidery, the groom in white velvet, white brocade, silver trim and pearls, all done by yours truly. There was a lot of work contributed by friends and yours truly, and again, virtually nothing from the husband-to-be; did I mention that this is a sign? That wedding came unstuck after 23 years. I have a dear friend who paid about $25,000 at the same time; that one came unstuck, too. The sign seems to be not how much money, but how much help, the partner contributes – at least in my own experience.

  34. Susan says:

    In 2002 we had a cliffside ceremony and reception for ~ $11K (separate of honeymoon) in a seaside inn up in Elk, California- the biggest costs included about $3K food (50 people x$40 for a sit down barbeque dinner with salmon and beef) and drinks, $2K of hotel rooms for wedding party+ family, including a really nice romantic cottage for 2 for us. We had limited services to pick from in that part of the coast, but had we done something as nice in San Francisco, it would have easily cost 30% more for a setting a lot less charming.

    I think one of the secrets to keeping a wedding both enjoyable and affordable is limiting the guests- the inn that we picked could host at most 50 people, so we had to be careful in who to invite and who not to. But realistically, more than 50 people and we would have gone crazy trying to be social and spend some time with everyone (I hate going to weddings where I get to talk with the bride for 10 seconds in the receiving line). We also chose to forgo a lot of the silly extras that the wedding industry likes to push on people. I’ve been to so many friends’ houses where their silver-plated, beribboned, rose-encrusted doohickies are just sitting on the shelf, gathering dust. My only weakness was the dress (which was too expensive, but ooooh, it was very pretty). My 2 bridesmaids picked own their dresses. The guests got home-made chocolates from a friend (his wedding gift to us), which were much more appreciated than a mini pictureframe or other useless doohickey engraved with “Susan and Chris, May 2002.”

    From what I’ve read, everyone here seems sane, and I was surprised to see my wedding was on the cheaper side. But I know someone who spent $1K on her “Muslin” dress fittings, which they apparently use to make the adjustments before they cut her custom gown out of really expensive material. Pardon my cattiness, but she would have been better served by taking that money and joining a gym for 3 months, then buying someting off the rack.

    And yup, still married.

  35. Kate says:

    Geez. My area averages $45,000 for a wedding – that’s more than Manhattan!!! I didn’t think Houston was such a pricey wedding market. That makes me very nervous for the wedding that I know I’ll have to start planning in a year. Maybe we’ll just elope…

  36. Karen says:

    I’m getting married in May, and we’re spending about $25,000 on 60 guests, all but 3 of whom live out of town and will need to be entertained the entire weekend. I couldn’t ask our families to fly across the country to where we live and get hotel rooms to see us get married without giving them a really fun weekend, so we’re having a big dinner for everyone on Friday, the wedding Saturday, and a brunch on Sunday. We would have been fine doing something small with just our immediate families (probably would have preferred it, actually), but the suggestion led to a lot of hurt feelings among the aunts, uncles and cousins when it was (very briefly) suggested. So here we are.

  37. dimestore lipstick says:

    1985, and $1500. For wedding, invites, flowers, clothes, my hair, reception (with open bar!), rings, photos, and wedding night hotel. As was said earlier, it helps to have friends. My photographer, bartender, caterer, soloists, liquor supplier, and cake baker were all friends or relatives, and worked gratis or provided huge discounts. I had a garden reception at my parents’ home, and that saved us a bundle.

    Keep in mind that this was in the mid-1980’s, when weddings were just starting to be the huge affairs they are now. Living in the middle of Illinois where the trend had yet to catch on, I was still able to get away with doing things “small’.

  38. Asiji says:

    My wedding was about 8k (not including the honeymoon), and I think I got a fair deal. While it was a small wedding (40 guests), I wouldn’t have wanted many more than that, as I hardly got to spend time with people as it was.

    We found this absolutely beautiful little chapel in what was originally a mining town and has now turned into where people who think the nearby suburbs are too crowded and “common.” For the ceremony and reception, we got the hall for less than $1000, but was still very beautiful. (Take a look, although the website’s shots of upstairs are not as pretty as they were in our pictures)

    They had lists of vendors, but we still did our shopping around. Nothing except the tuxes were rented for this. The chapel had silk arrangements of lilies and bows on all the pews included, as were the candle and white flower arrangements at the altar. We got a local church organist on her day off for cheap, and our rings were custom-made by a local independent jeweler, and we watched the price of gold fluctuate until it dipped, and got our estimate that day. Our minister ended up taking a liking to us, and refused to charge us for our pre-marital counseling (not Catholic, but we figured it couldn’t hurt), so long as we promised to include him on our Christmas letters, as he wanted to keep tabs on us.

    My dress was from David’s Bridal (about $300) and only needed a French bustle. The clerks were positively shocked, as I was the first person they’d ever seen who found a dress that needed absolutely no real alterations to it. (Also means I can eventually re-sell it and include that there are no alterations except for the French bustle, which will be a real plus)

    Since my husband and I have alcoholics on both sides of the family, we had a dry reception. (which people later told me is just about the only way to have a dry reception without looking cheap) I found a caterer who worked out of her home (remodeled her kitchen years ago to put in professional equipment, and keeps her costs down that way, and the food was delicious!!) with several assistants. Maybe about $30 a person, with 2 entrees and a dessert for each person. Sparkling pear juice tastes just like champagne! Tables, chairs, etc were all included (including cute white silk rose balls dangling from the ceiling) and our centerpieces were fancy bowls of water with floating rose candles in our wedding colors (cheap at BigLots).

    My matron of honor insisted that she sew my veil by hand, so it was about $10 in materials, but instead of plain white it was a silver mesh veil with the exact right shade of royal blue trim, with small clusters of matching blue Swarovski crystals. Tuxes we shopped around at every place we could find until we found the cheapest that had the one we wanted, and told places, Y has it for $X, until we dipped below $50 a person. For flowers, noone would guarantee us blue flowers that wouldn’t turn purple by the wedding, so we hit the florist section of a grocery store the afternoon before and hand-picked a blue hydrangea bush (luckily my matron of honor was a botanist and knew how to keep them blue overnight) and hand made my bouquet and my matron of honors, and the florists made our corsages using leftover ribbon from my veil to ensure a match. (Remember those grocery store corsages from prom? Well, if you do your research and order ahead of time, they’re just as pretty as a normal florist, but a quarter of the price, even for roses.)

    Our photographer was great, he was doing this part time, and everything was done digital. For $100 he gave us a CD of all of our wedding photos in high enough resolution for 14×11, and we can always go back to him to have larger prints made on his professional equipment. In addition, he also does photo retouching, and showed me samples of erasing acne, stains, and even unwanted family members from photos (although what I thought was funniest was his “granparent-friendly” graduation photos, where he removed tattoos and piercings, so that even staring point-blank at a 14×11 photo and knowing it had been altered I couldn’t tell.)

    For the honeymoon, we had made reservations at a nice hotel near some hot springs and planned to just have one really nice dinner there. However, we were suprised at the amount of money we recieved in gifts at our wedding. We didn’t count, and instead just stuck all the money in my husband’s wallet (no pockets in a bathing suit, which is what I wore for most of the honeymoon), and we were able to eat at this wonderful deli for lunch every day and our (now) favorite steakhouse every night. We were pretty frivolous and just spent all the money we were given for the wedding, so I don’t know how much that was, and realize we could have done it much cheaper with planning, but having that fat stack of cash right in our hands kind of went to our heads. We went back for our 1-year anniversary, and this time we got the honeymoon suite with the jacuzzi in it!

    That’s everything I can remember on prices for the wedding, but I am very satisfied because while we spent more than a “typical budget wedding”, it didn’t look like we cut corners.

  39. Asiji says:

    I almost forgot: invitations. This is probably the biggest area where we saved money. Believe it or not, Michael’s craft stores have absolutely gorgeous invitation kits (50 invitations w/envelopes, and 50 reply cards w/envelopes) for 30 bucks to print your own. And in most places, if you check your sunday circular, there are 50% off any one item coupons. Beautiful invites! Also, check out stationery stores (not stores that happen to sell it, stores that don’t sell anything else except for paper products). They are a little more expensive, but you can get lilies in relief, 3-part folding invitations, silver leaf, etc for incredibly cheap.

  40. VeddyVeddyBadAng says:

    Here in Dayton, Ohio, we spent $10,000 in ’99 for the wedding and the rehearsal dinner. That was for a nice sit-down dinner for 100 at an historic house. The rehearsal dinner was a buffet dinner for 60 people, at another historic house. I did a lot of DIY on the decorating and invitations.

    Most of the cost was for food and beer and wine I think that it’s important to spend more for the guests’ comfort to ensure that everyone has a good time, and then skimp on stuff that may just look nice to you, but no one else will notice (like extravagant flowers, fancy favors, a limo or a videographer). We did splurge a little on a good photographer, since that would be the record of the day for all posterity!

  41. Bluelise says:

    I got married in summer of 2004 and spent about $16,000 on the wedding. The reception was the costliest part, at about $8,000. We got deals on most everything else and a deep discount on the flowers because a close family friend is a florist. We had about 150 guests at our wedding.

  42. Camille says:

    Here in Los Angeles, I got married in 2004 for right around $38,000. My mil wanted all the trappings, and we had 155 guests for a sit-down dinner with all the trimmings. My mom offered us $10K to elope, and, looking back on that damn wedding (which was a great party, btw), I wish we’d taken it.

  43. SDP says:

    I was married in eastern Iowa exactly five months ago tomorrow, and I think it cost a little more than $30,000–all things considered. My parents contributed half and we paid the other half. His parents paid for the rehearsal dinner. We had around 190 guests with a plated dinner and beer and wine at the bar. We really tried to be conservative on things, but the costs just add up. Although I loved my wedding dress, now that it’s in a box in my old bedroom at home, I really wish I would have gone for something less expensive–the cost was about $2,000 just for that. If my parents hadn’t been able to contribute, we probably would have gotten married on a beach somewhere. All in all, it was a great day–but I could have done without all the planning stress leading up to it. It doesn’t take a huge wedding to make a happy marriage–I think too many people get wrapped up in the planning of a huge event and don’t consider the gigantic commitment they’re about to make. Marriage does take a lot of work and compromise–listen to me, only married 5 months! Ha.

  44. Never teh Bride says:

    I just want to say thanks to everyone who has shared their wedding costs and breakdowns. So eye-opening! And such a wide range. That’s fabulous in and of itself!

  45. jj says:

    Haa haa… Kat, you are totally my bridal budget twin!

  46. Herb says:

    My sister had the whole princess coronation thing w/ ~300 people (or more), though I think my folks picked up a big chunk of the tab. Those huge weddings don’t strike me as very much fun, but they seemed to like it.

    I got married in Annapolis in 1997. We planned the whole thing ourselves (though family members kicked in to help with some things). We were engaged for 14 months, so we wound up paying for different items over time, and I don’t recall the total figure. We had ~85 people (more than 1/2 family) and I think the bill was under $10k (maybe ~$6k) when all was said & done.

    The dress was somewhere between $750-$1,250. The caterer charged us $25/table (12-14 tables maybe) to do flowers @ the reception, and they totally rocked (bowls of fresh cut roses). Maybe $25-$30 per person for food (dinner + hors d’oeuvres). My mother in law insisted on bringing platters of shrimp from Costco, which we didn’t need but were nice. My inlaws donated the booze, but we had to purchase a temporary liquor license from the facility (a state owned historic pub/garden located on the water) which was $100 or $200 I think. Facility was $200/hour or something like that (wound up being less than $1k). Tuxes ran about $100 each (rented). I borrowed socks from my uncle, because I spaced out. My dad supplied a brand new Cadillac (a company car) for free to ferry us from the church to the reception. Priest fee was $200-$400 (I don’t recall) + he attended the rehearsal dinner.

    My folks picked up the rehearsal dinner costs. We had a crab feast at a local crab house – picnic tables, brown paper, pitchers of beer & wine on the water. It wasn’t overly expensive – $20 a person total, maybe (I’m just guessing at this point) but was a lot of fun.

    Cake was $300, I think. I remember some of the cakes we looked at cost $2k-$3k, and being appalled. They were nice, but come on – it’s just a cake. DJ was $150 or so, but he wasn’t so great (kept sneaking off to smoke, didn’t play the songs we wanted, and kept weaseling hors d’oeuvres.) Wedding license was $125 or so. Got a deal on hotel rooms (brand new hotel) for ~$85 / night for suites.

    Worked out well & everything had been paid in full by the time it was over. A complete pain to plan, but really a great weekend. The weekend will be a whirlwind. My sole advice is keep it as small as possible. Otherwise, you’ll just be running around trying to say “Hi – thanks” to everyone.

  47. Linda says:

    We got married 10 years ago 1995 – New Years Eve!
    We went all out – Dad paid for it too. I’m a lucky girl. We did one stop shopping – Married at the hotel – All of this was included in the price: food, cake, reception hall, 5 hours open bar, champagne toast – wedding and at midnight. It also included our room for the night, another room for my best man and his wife, and the adjoining suite which we used for babysitting during the wedding and a party after)- $13,000. We had 200 guests. It was a steal.
    Babysitting during the wedding – $300
    My dress and veil, shoes – $1300. Including alterations – plus size dresses are a tough come by – I went for fittings every week. I wore it again this New Year’s eve and I’m wearing it again when we go to Las Vegas this year and get married by Elvis.
    His tux – $80.
    Our rings – $4600.
    DJ – $1000
    Photos – $1500
    It was worth every penny – and we’re still living happily ever after.
    Oh – we’re in the suburbs of the Washington DC area.

  48. Linda says:

    I forgot! Flowers – silk pointsettias with real red and white roses!

  49. Chaeriste says:

    I am getting married 4/30/06 and our budget is $5,000, maximum. Our reception is $2800 (everything included, cake and all), I’m hoping to get my dress for $100 at the ‘come and get it’ bridal sale this week, and our reverend is $400, but we do love her so. 65 people, us included, and my mother has nothing at all to do with the planning. It’s our choices. And I’m thinking of wearing a pink dress and those lovely AK shoes! I’m 35, by the way… so don’t lose hope! I waited for him for years. CIAO!

  50. Katie says:

    My wedding this past summer in Madison, WI cost just over $10,000. My dress was my grandmothers (she paid $17 to have it made specially for her in 1948) and I paid exactly $40 to have it hemmed an inch (otherwise it fit perfectly, I’m just really short). The flowers were less than $1000. The most expensive thing was the catering bill of several thousand dollars (between the food and the bar bill).

    I had a cheap wedding, but it was elegant and beautiful.