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Average Cost of a Wedding in 2021

By Krystal Etienne · August 02, 2021 · 6 minute read

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Average Cost of a Wedding in 2021

Dress? Check! Rings? Check! Masks? It’s no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has totally upended the wedding industry. Both state- and federal-level mandates have imposed restrictions that would rightfully make any wedding planner throw in the towel. But with 93% of couples originally set to wed in 2020 still intent on holding their nuptials, most couples are taking on this extra stressor in stride.

But what does that mean for cost? The 2020 wedding season introduced a slew of new wedding trends such as sanitizing stations, virtual streaming, and secondary celebrations. The question is, how does that impact your already complex planning, and what does that mean for your bottom line in 2021?

Wedding planning is a tall order, especially with the aftermath of a pandemic, but it’s not impossible. Here’s a look at what you can expect from venues, vendors, and other costs as you plan this happy day.

What Is the Average Cost of a Wedding?

According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding ceremony and reception in 2020 was $19,000. This is nearly one-third less of the costs from 2019, which averaged $28,000 for both events.

The drop in spending can be directly attributed to Covid-19, although one-third of couples who kept their 2020 wedding dates opted to hold mini ceremonies that averaged fewer than 20 guests. This tactic allowed them to keep their special days, conform to any covid gathering restrictions, and significantly cut costs in the process. But what do these trends mean for 2021 planning?

As brides and grooms rush to reclaim the large celebrations they were denied in 2020, they’ve budgeted approximately $22,500 for 2021 receptions, similar to the $23,000 spent on receptions in 2019. With the worst of the pandemic seemingly behind us, these couples are planning ahead with no inhibitions. It’s important to note however, that true wedding costs will vary based on how elaborate the event and the unique vendor and venue costs of the region.

What Goes Into the Cost of a Wedding?

Planning a wedding is a huge undertaking. From the dress to the decor, there are so many details involved that many couples choose to pay the $1500, on average, for a professional wedding planner to handle them all.

Also, because 2020 was such an anomaly for the wedding industry with most couples choosing to scale down their events, reviewing average wedding spending from 2019 will provide a better look at what to expect. These 2019 numbers are courtesy of The Knot’s Real Wedding Survey.

Pre-Wedding Costs

The purchase of engagement rings is generally what kicks off the entire wedding planning process. While the tradition of spending three month’s salary on a ring may be old and outdated, couples are known to spend $5,500 on rings on average.

The cost of wedding invitations can vary widely depending on many factors. Handmade paper will cost more than cardstock. Letterpress printing will cost more than digital printing. More guests means more invitations, which means a higher cost. The average cost of invitations is $590.

Then comes the dress, which can take months to find. Assuming you’re not bent on purchasing an elaborate couture gown, but definitely want to secure something nicer than what might be found on a bargain rack, a dress can average $1,600.

It would be a mistake not to hold a rehearsal with your full wedding party, and taking the opportunity to treat them to dinner, thanking them for being a part of your celebration, is tradition. Rehearsal dinners can cost around $1900.

Recommended: The Cost of Being in Someone’s Wedding

Vendor Costs

What is your big day if no one is there to capture it? Photographer costs can be as high as $2400 for a wedding. Should you choose to film it as well, you can expect to pay around $1800 for a videographer.

Wedding photos are lifetime memorabilia and people want to look good in them. Average costs for professional services are $110 for hair and another $100 for makeup.

If you need transportation to the wedding, from the wedding to the reception venue, or for a guest shuttle, it can cost around $800 on average.

Wedding decor is a must, and flowers are one of the most common choices. From the choice of your bouquet to the centerpiece arrangements on your guest tables, a proper florist can average $2000.

The star of the show—after the bride—is the cake. Whether traditional white or unconventionally colored, tiered or cupcakes, a wedding cake can cost around $500.

Reception Costs

The reception venue will likely be your largest expense. It is where you will feed and entertain your guests for the longest portion of your celebration and, depending on the type of venue you book, it may or may not come with decor. This can cost around $10,500.

You can’t let your guests go hungry. Catering your reception, accounting for any special dietary restrictions, and toasting with champagne, you’ll pay around $70 per person. If you want to offer top-shelf liquor, that cost can increase.

Now let’s dance! The music is what will set the tone for your celebration, and it’s likely what your guests will remember most after your “I dos.” A DJ can cost around $1200 for a wedding. A live band on the other hand will cost significantly more at $3700.

Some couples choose to give their guests wedding favors, a gift that says ‘thank you for coming.’ Purchasing favors for your guests that remind them of the great time they had on your big day will cost around $400.

A few ways that can help you cut spending costs include trimming the guest list, opting for a cash bar, and enlisting family and friends to help you DIY a few things. Make a shortlist of the planning details that are most important to you and you don’t want to skimp on, and consider spending less on the unlisted details that aren’t as meaningful. Also, be sure to leave a buffer in your budget. You never know if you’ll have to cover an unexpected wedding expense or even a last-minute guest, and having extra room in your budget will allow you to cover those costs without overspending.

Recommended: Affordable Wedding Venue Ideas

Smart Ways to Finance a Wedding

Knowing how much you can expect to spend is only one half of the wedding planning puzzle. The other half is actually funding the spending. With average wedding costs in the tens of thousands of dollars, it’s important to plan ahead so you can enjoy your special day with minimal stress.

Gifts and Contributions

A bride and groom seldom pay for their wedding alone. As a matter of fact, in 2019, couples only contributed 41% toward their total wedding costs with their parents taking on the brunt of expenses. Immediate family members can be a resource to help cover costs and are often happy to do so. Whether it’s the groom’s family that agrees to cover rings and clothes, or the bride’s family that takes care of the flowers and food, having a family discussion about who is able and willing to cover what on your big day can help relieve some of the spending stress.

Also, contributing cash isn’t the only way to help. Any time your family, friends, or even your wedding party can offer with planning, creating, or decorating anything that you might have otherwise paid someone else to do can help keep your budget in the black.

Recommended: Wedding Gift Etiquette

Savings

Being able to cover costs with funds from a saving account is one of the more ideal ways of covering large wedding costs. Couples that plan long engagements might be able to take advantage of this method more so than those with short engagements, simultaneously saving for and planning their big day over several months or years.

Retaining a comfortable amount of savings separate from wedding funds to have on hand for an emergency is always a smart money move that can help prevent financial roadblocks in the future. As much as you may want to fund your big day with savings, if doing so will put you in a financially precarious position or prevent you from reaching other financial goals, it may be better to err on the side of caution. Having those funds post marriage may be more important than spending them now.

Credit Cards

Credit cards provide quick and immediate access to cash that can be used to cover wedding costs. If you have particularly high credit limits, and not much cash on hand, it may be possible for you to cover the entire cost of your wedding on a credit card.

Though this may be one option among many, using your credit card might also come with a few drawbacks, such as high interest rates and an increase in your credit utilization ratio. Charging wedding purchases to your credit cards means you’ll be subject to paying interest on those charges until you pay off those credit cards. Also, using large amounts of credit will increase your credit utilization ratio and could, in turn, trigger a drop in your credit score. If that scenario will keep you from reaching future financial goals, you may want to think twice about using this method.

Personal Loan

Applying for a personal loan is another method for securing wedding funds. Personal loans tend to offer qualified applicants lower interest rates than traditional credit cards. A personal loan may also have a fixed interest rate that can help you manage and maintain steady payments over the life of the loan.

Another benefit of a personal loan is that it can help you build your credit. Diversifying the types of credit you have helps the three credit bureaus view you as a responsible borrower, and in turn may raise your credit score.

The Takeaway

Average costs are just that: average costs. Planning a wedding doesn’t have to be a budget breaker, but an event with this significance does come with some costs that probably don’t easily fit into most budgets. Using a personal loan to pay for wedding costs is reasonable if you are financially able to repay it.

SoFi wedding loans have no fees, low fixed rates, and can save thousands of dollars in interest compared to using a credit card. Getting prequalified takes just a few minutes, and loans can be funded in as little as three days.

Check your rate in two minutes.


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