Cost of a Wedding – Can I Afford It?
Q: What will my wedding cost?
A: The short answer is, no one really knows. That may be unsatisfying to hear, but all sorts of variables are going to affect the cost of your wedding. Googling wedding checklists and price guides can be daunting, and you may be expected to figure out how much you want to spend on things you had no idea existed before you started planning the wedding. Before you get too deep, answer three questions that will most impact your price:
- Where do we want to get married? Rural locations that you find close to home are far less expensive than big-city or destination weddings. For example, the average Manhattan wedding is around $70,000, while the average Alaska wedding is only $10,000.
- How many people are we going to invite? Smaller weddings are less expensive than larger ones, so if you have a tight budget, consider leaving out some third cousins.
- Do you prefer beluga, osetra, or sevruga caviar? If you thought those were the names of famous families on “Game of Thrones,” you can probably get away without having many luxury options.
Q: Okay, so what does the typical wedding cost?
A: Numbers vary wildly depending upon the publication, but most sources put the average wedding cost at between $25,000 and $32,000. Unfortunately, that number is misleading. First, it’s a figure that comes from wedding magazines and blogs. Most people who read wedding publications are more likely to splurge than those who don’t. Second, a few very expensive weddings throw off the entire average. For example, if 10 couples spent $10,000 and one couple spent $175,000, the average wedding price would be $25,000. The last few Kardashian weddings alone could throw off the entire national average for decades!
So, ignore all of the websites that tell you the average couple spends a fortune. Ignore the emails people send you that say the average wedding costs more than Americans’ median annual income. Don’t let wedding planners or wedding vendors use bad math to bully you into spending more than you can (or want to). Typical weddings over the last few years tend to cost between $10,000 and $18,000 excluding the honeymoon. Many weddings cost a lot less than that.
Q: Who’s going to pay for this?
A: Unfortunately for the happy couple, the days of expecting the parents of the bride to foot the entire bill are somewhat over. Increasingly, wedding costs are divided among any family members from either side who are willing to “pitch in,” but the bride and groom have been picking up more of the tab in recent years.
Q: Can I pay for my wedding on my credit card?
A: Credit cards are a very common way to pay for weddings, but your credit union may have better loan options, so check with us first. If you do use a credit card, be sure the interest rate isn’t too high. If you put an $18,000 wedding on a credit card with a 16% interest rate, it will take 10 years of $300 payments to pay off.
Q: Ugh, this is a nightmare. Is it too late to elope?
A: That’s up to you. But if your family would be disappointed or if you can’t bear to miss out on a magical day, there are plenty of less painful ways to pay for your wedding.
Q: OK, so what other ways can I use to pay for my wedding?
A: Some couples have tried crowd-funding the honeymoon, using services like KickStarter or Honeyfund. Those couples register for honeymoon items, like flight upgrades or spa packages, instead of traditional items like kitchen goods. Some couples have received sponsorships for specific vendors, although many vendors prefer not to do it. Both take a lot of time, and some guests find alternate sources of funding tacky.
Q: If I’d rather not make the wedding my full-time job, what can I do?
A: If you (or the parents of the bride and/or groom) have a home equity loan, you can tap into your equity. Similarly, any equity in a business can be used to secure financing for your