The Ideal Wedding Budget May Be Smaller Than You Think

Popular wedding sites claim the average wedding costs $29,000. Countless media reports have repeated that number while leaving out an important caveat: Averages can be misleading. Even one extravagant wedding may skew the average to be significantly higher than what most people actually paid.

SoFi wanted to know: How much does a wedding really cost? We surveyed 1,000 men and women across the country and then crunched the numbers. Read on to find out what we discovered.

How Much Did the Wedding Cost?

50% of respondents’ weddings cost less than $10,000

Total wedding budget breakdown:

•   Less than $10,000: 50%

•   $10,000 to 19,999: 18%

•   $20,000 to 29,999: 12%

•   $30,000 to $39,999: 10%

•   $40,000 to $49,999: 6%

•   $50,000 or more: 4%

Half of respondents to our wedding survey spent less than $10K on their ceremony and reception. That’s considerably less than the $29K figure that’s been popularized as “average.”

We’re not saying that the $29K budget is inaccurate — after all, half of respondents paid more than that. However, averages in general are notoriously confusing. Only 22% of couples in our survey spent about $29K (between $20K and $39K). And just 10% paid more than that.

But why does this matter?

There’s a concept in behavioral economics called anchoring. It describes how numbers can influence consumer decisions by unconsciously becoming our reference point for what’s standard or “normal.”

Let’s say you’re in the early stages of wedding planning. If you stumble across an authoritative $29K estimate, from then on you may view anything less than that as a “low-budget” wedding. And when figuring out your own wedding budget, you may make decisions that bring you closer to that total — even if a $10K wedding is more aligned with your savings and taste.

Most Common Wedding Regrets

The most common wedding regret? Spending too much money.

15% of respondents said their biggest wedding regret was spending too much money. Other common wedding regrets:

•   Type of wedding (traditional, elopement, courthouse): 10%

•   Letting other people dictate wedding decisions (guest list, location, bridal party): 10%

•   Drinking too much the night of the wedding: 9%

•   The guest list: 8%

You may have heard of a phenomenon called the “vacation mindset,” which drives travelers to splurge on special purchases they wouldn’t consider on their home turf. Well, a similar wedding mindset can push couples to indulge an uncharacteristic desire for luxury. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event! Your wedding should be as big as your love for each other!”

After the wedding, as the bills roll in, so does buyer’s remorse. And now, other big-ticket goals that took a backseat to the wedding — buying a home, having kids, expanding a business, or saving for the long term — now feel more urgent.

Nearly half (46%) of respondents who got married in 2020 or later had a nontraditional wedding (they eloped or got married in a courthouse).

Traditional or Not?

•   9% of people eloped. Of those, 6% had a reception with friends and family later.

•   25% of respondents got married in a courthouse. Of those, 18% had a reception with friends and family later.

The pandemic likely drove many couples to forgo big group events in favor of smaller celebrations. But there are other reasons behind the popularity of nontraditional weddings, according to several wedding vendors we spoke to:

3 Reasons to Have a Nontraditional Wedding

Financial goals:
“It’s no surprise that couples might want to scale back their wedding,” says Jim Campbell, founder of Honeymoon Goals. “They don’t want to spend years saving for an elaborate event when they could be saving for other things instead, like traveling together.”

“The last few years have shown people how much they value their free time,” observes Maddie Ward, of Sonnet Weddings. “Elopements and courthouse weddings are definitely lower-cost, but there’s also much less of a time investment in planning. The prospect of spending a year or more involved in a time-intensive endeavor with your partner has many people looking at alternatives.”

“The No. 1 reason to scale back to a micro wedding or elopement is stress!” insists Lee Ramsay, of Lee Ramsay Events. “More guests means more money, and more money means more problems. Save your dollars, and avoid the headache of attempting to make everyone happy.”

The venue (23%) was among the biggest wedding expenses.

Of those who said the venue was the most expensive, the most commonly reported cost was $10,000 (11% of respondents). The most expensive venue cost reported? $500,000.

It’s safe to say that those who spent $10K on their venue had higher overall budgets. Those with smaller wedding budgets often got creative about the venue, choosing a park, beach, or private home or yard.

How Couples Save on Wedding Costs

Other common ways people saved money on their wedding venue were:

•   Limiting the number of guests: 31%

•   Using buffet or family-style food service: 29%

•   Booking a venue that didn’t require additional rentals (chairs, tables, tents): 26%

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of respondents had expenses pop up that they weren’t prepared for.

Sneaky Weddings Costs That Surprise Couples

The most common fee that snuck up on people? Marriage license and officiant fees: 23%.

Other common surprise costs reported by respondents:

•   Taxes and service charges: 17%

•   Pre-wedding events like the rehearsal dinner or welcome party: 15%

•   Meals for vendors: 13%

•   Overtime charges for vendors: 13%

•   Gratuities for vendors: 12%

•   Postage for stationery (invitations, RSVPs, thank you cards): 12%

82% of respondents who had a wedding planner said their planner helped them save money.

“Wedding planning is a lot like cooking. The more you do it, the better you get at it,” explains Jim Campbell. “The more weddings you plan, the better you get at saving money.”

According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding planner is about $1,900. But a planner’s fee can vary widely widely depending on a number of factors:

•   Location: A destination wedding requires more coordination than a hometown ceremony.

•   Services required: A full-service planner costs more than someone hired to manage certain elements, such as the seating chart or budget.

•   Fee structure: Planners may charge a flat fee, hourly rate, or a percentage of your overall budget.

Only 25% of our respondents hired a wedding planner. (Another 13% said a planner was included with their venue.)

Ryan Mayiras, of Candid Studios wedding photography, thinks many couples don’t need a wedding planner. “Believe it or not, we recommend that most of our customers skip the wedding planner step. Good vendors will go out of their way to help couples plan their wedding,” he says. “We have a collection of timeline templates that we send to our customers for reference. They can skip the planner and go with a day-of coordinator instead. A coordinator is more affordable and will keep the event on schedule, so the couple doesn’t need to worry during the wedding itself.”

Who Paid for the Wedding?

Who paid for the wedding?

39% of respondents said the couple paid for the total cost of the wedding on their own. Of this group:

•   70% said their wedding cost less than $10,000.

•   88% said it cost less than $30,000.

45% of respondents said their parents helped pay for the wedding. 27% said their partner’s parents helped pay.

Aside from the venue, the biggest wedding expenses

Of those who said the food and drinks were the most expensive, the most commonly reported cost was $10,000 (10% of respondents). The next most commonly reported cost for food and drink was $1,000 (8% of respondents).

Those who said the rings were the most expensive reported a wide range of dollars spent. Regardless of the total wedding budget, many couples (35%) splurged on their rings. Here were some of the most commonly reported costs:

•   $300: 5%

•   $500: 7%

•   $1,000: 8%

•   $2,000: 7%

•   $2,500: 5%

•   $3,000: 6%

•   $5,000: 7%

Popular money-saving tactics

The most common ways people saved money on their wedding attire:

•   Shopped around for deals: 33%

•   Bought a dress off the rack: 26%

•   Rented suits: 23%

18% of people said they didn’t try to save money on attire.

The most common ways people saved money on their wedding vendors:

•   Did their own hair and makeup: 38%

•   Hired a friend to do photography/videography: 32%

•   Didn’t provide transportation for wedding party or guests: 30%

The most common ways people saved money on their wedding decor, stationery, and gifts:

•   DIYed decor: 26%

•   Didn’t give gifts to parents: 25%

•   Didn’t give gifts to out of town guests: 24%

Money-Saving Tip

Ashley Meyer of Meyer Photo Video offered other money-saving tips:

•   “Skip traditional paper invitations and stamps, and opt for email invitations.

•   “Save a few hundred dollars by asking a close friend or family member to get ordained online to officiate your wedding.

•   “Join local bridal Facebook groups to buy discounted wedding items from couples who already tied the knot. Couples sell everything from their wedding dress and veil to candles and signage.”

What couples splurged on

The most common splurge was the rings (35%). Other wedding items that respondents splurged on:

•   The food: 32%

•   The dress: 27%

•   The drinks: 23%

•   The venue: 20%

Many wedding planners we spoke with recommended splurging on photos. Yet only 17% of respondents said they splurged on photography/videography.

The real takeaway? Couples don’t have to splurge on anything. You may feel better after your big day if you save your splurging for a new home or fat retirement account.

Financing a Wedding

Should you need a bit of financial assistance to put your wedding savings over the top, a personal loan is a better option than high-interest credit cards. With low rates and no fees required, SoFi can put those final funds at your fingertips the same day as your approval. That way, rather than anticipating how you’ll pay the bills, you can relax and enjoy your wedding.

Learn how SoFi can help you finance your big day.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see Equal Housing Lender.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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What Factors Affect Your Credit Score?

What Factors Affect Your Credit Score?

Your credit score is one of the most influential measures that determine whether you’ll be approved for loans and credit cards. A number of factors go into calculating a credit score, including your history of on-time payments and how much debt you owe as well as what types of credit you have and how long your credit history is.

Knowing what affects your credit score is the first step to ensuring your score stays high so you can qualify for financing opportunities when they arise. We’ll address all your questions about what affects your credit score, as well as how to keep track of it.

Recommended: What Credit Score Is Needed to Buy a Car?

Why a Good Credit Score Is Important

In a nutshell, having a good credit score provides opportunities for you financially and can help you spend less overall on financing. If you want to buy a car, a good credit score can help you secure an auto loan at a low rate. Similarly, having good credit is key to opening a credit card.

Having a bad credit score — generally anything under 500 on the scale of poor to exceptional credit — can limit your financial opportunities. If you have bad credit, you may not qualify for loans that you apply for, or if you do, you may have higher interest rates. You also may not get approved for a credit card, unless it’s a secured card, which requires a deposit and has a low credit limit. A bad credit score could even hamper your job search, particularly if the job involves handling money.

The bottom line is that having bad credit hinders your ability to grow financially, so it’s important to do what you can to maintain a good credit score.

Recommended: 8 Reasons Why Good Credit Is So Important

Check your score with SoFi

Track your credit score for free. Sign up and get $10.*

Recommended: What Is The Difference Between Transunion and Equifax?

5 Factors That Influence Your Credit Score

The first step toward building your credit score is understanding what factors help to determine it. In general, these are the five credit score factors that shape your score:

Factor #1: Credit Utilization

When it comes to what affects your credit score, one of the most important factors is how much credit you have available versus how much debt you currently have. It’s called your credit utilization, and you can calculate this number by dividing your outstanding debts by your total credit available.

Let’s say you have three credit cards with a total credit limit of $30,000. You owe $3,000 in total. So your credit utilization would be:

3,000 / 30,000 = 0.10

Your credit utilization of 10% (you’re using 10% of your total available credit) is great, as lenders generally want to see a utilization rate below 30% to approve a loan application.

Factor #2: Payment History

You might not feel like an occasional late payment on a credit card is a big deal, but it can impact your credit score negatively. In fact, payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO score (the scoring system for the credit bureau Experian).

The easiest way to raise your credit score? Pay your bills on time. Many loans and credit cards will allow you to set up autopay, which is a foolproof way to make sure you never miss a payment.

Factor #3: Credit History Length

You’re not born with a credit history; it has to be built over time. Many college students start the journey by opening their first credit card account. This is a great place to start, though remember that good habits like paying on time and keeping your credit utilization rate down will help build good credit.

And lest you think if you want a new credit card you need to close an old one, you don’t. The longer you have relationships with credit companies, the better your credit.

Factor #4: Types of Credit

While this factor isn’t nearly as important as the others, the types of credit you have can impact your credit score. Having a nice mix of credit — such as credit cards, a home mortgage, and an auto loan — can contribute positively to your credit scores, though it isn’t required.

Recommended: Should I Sell My House Now or Wait?

Factor #5: Recent Applications

Whenever you apply for credit, whether that’s a car loan or a credit card, there is what’s called a “hard inquiry” on your credit report. If you make several applications within a few days or weeks of one another, it may be seen as derogatory on your report, and your credit score might dip a bit.

Consider your credit needs carefully and try to look for lenders that let you see if you prequalify, since that is considered a “soft inquiry” and won’t impact your credit the same way.

Remember, There Are 3 Main Credit Scores to Consider

While the factors above are what generally affect your credit score, you actually have three different credit scores, each of which may be calculated slightly differently. These three credit scores come from the following three personal credit bureaus that track your financial activity:

•   TransUnion

•   Experian

•   Equifax

Each bureau has its own credit scoring system that it uses to determine your score. Some loans and credit card companies report to one or two bureaus — or even all three — so it’s important to know that your activity may show up slightly differently depending on the reporting agency.

How to Track Your Credit Score

Now that you understand what affects your credit score, it’s your responsibility to stay on top of your score so you know when it changes. Each credit scoring bureau updates scores on a different schedule, but you can expect updates roughly every 30 to 45 days.

There are several places you can check your credit score. Some banks and credit card issuers offer the service free to customers. Additionally, you are entitled to one free credit report a year from
, which provides your credit reports and scores from each of the three credit bureaus.

Tracking your score is important even if you don’t plan to take out a loan or open a credit card any time soon. Make sure to regularly review your report to ensure there are no discrepancies, such as a late payment you know you didn’t make, or an open account you closed. If you see anything that is incorrect, contact the credit bureau immediately to get it resolved.

Recommended: Does Net Worth Include Home Equity?

The Takeaway

Once you understand what affects your credit score, you have the power to improve your score by taking steps such as reducing your credit utilization and paying your bills on time. As you build your credit, you will qualify for better loan offers and interest rates on credit cards, which can empower you to purchase what you need without high expense.

Take control of your finances with the SoFi money tracker app, which allows you to track your spending, set goals, and monitor your credit, all in one place.

See how SoFi can help you easily keep track of your credit score and what affects it.

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Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

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Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.


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green and white toy houses

What to Know About Government Home Loans

Conventional loans are the most popular kind of mortgage, but a government-backed mortgage like an FHA loan is easier to qualify for and may have a lower interest rate. FHA home loans have attractive qualities, but borrowers should know that mortgage insurance usually tags along for the life of the loan.

As of March 2023, new FHA borrowers will pay less for insurance. The Biden-Harris Administration announced it was reducing premiums by .30 percentage points, lowering annual homeowner costs by $800 on average. The administration hopes the cuts will help offset rising interest rates.

What Is an FHA Loan?

The Federal Housing Administration has been insuring mortgages originated by approved private lenders for single-family and multifamily properties, as well as residential care facilities, since 1934.

The FHA backs a variety of loans that cater to the specific needs of a borrower, such as FHA reverse mortgages for people 62 and older and FHA Energy Efficient Mortgages for those looking to finance home improvements that will increase energy efficiency (and therefore lower housing costs).

But FHA loans are most popular among first-time homebuyers, in large part because of the relaxed credit requirements.

Recommended: Tips to Qualify for a Mortgage

FHA Loan Requirements

If you’re interested in an FHA home loan to buy a single-family home or an owner-occupied property with up to four units, here are the details on qualifying.

FHA Loan Credit Scores and Down Payments

Borrowers with FICO® credit scores of 580 or more may qualify for a down payment of 3.5% of the sales price or the appraised value, whichever is less.

Those with a poor credit score range of 500 to 579 are required to put 10% down.

The FHA allows your entire down payment to be a gift, from a family member, close friend, employer or labor union, charity, or government homebuyer program. The money will need to be documented with a mortgage gift letter.


Besides your credit score, lenders will look at your debt-to-income ratio, or monthly debt payments compared with your monthly gross income.

FHA loans allow a DTI ratio of up to 50% in some cases, vs. a typical 45% maximum for a conventional loan.

FHA Mortgage Insurance

FHA loans require an upfront mortgage insurance premium (MIP) of 1.75% of the base loan amount, which can be rolled into the loan. As of March 2023, monthly MIP for new homebuyers is 0.15% to .75% — most often 0.55%.

For a $300,000 mortgage balance, that’s upfront MIP of $5,250 and monthly MIP of $137.50 at the 0.55% rate.

That reality can be painful, but MIP becomes less expensive each year as the loan balance is paid off.

There’s no getting around mortgage insurance with an FHA home loan, no matter the down payment. And it’s usually only shed by refinancing to a conventional loan or selling the house.

FHA Loan Limits

In 2023, FHA loan limits in most of the country are as follows:

•   Single unit: $472,030

•   Duplex: $604,400

•   Three-unit property: $730,525

•   Four-unit property: $$907,900

The range in high-cost areas is $1,089,300 (for single unit) to $2,095,200 (four-unit property); for Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the range is $1,633,950 (for single unit) to $3,142,800 (for four-unit property).

FHA Interest Rates

FHA loans usually have lower rates than comparable conventional loans.

The annual percentage rate (APR) — the annual cost of a loan to a borrower, including fees — may look higher on paper than the APR for a conventional loan because FHA rate estimates include MIP, whereas conventional rate estimates assume 20% down and no private mortgage insurance.

The APR will be similar, though, for an FHA loan with 3.5% down and a 3% down conventional loan.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.

FHA Income Requirements

There are none. High and low earners may apply for an FHA loan, but they must have at least two established credit accounts.

Recommended: How to Afford a Down Payment on Your First Home

Types of FHA Home Loans


That’s the kind of loan that has been described.

FHA Simple Refinance

By refinancing, FHA loan borrowers can get out of an adjustable-rate mortgage or lower their interest rate.

They must qualify by credit score and income, and have an appraisal of the property. Closing costs and prepaids can usually be rolled into the new loan.

FHA Streamline Refinance

Homeowners who have an FHA loan also may lower their interest rate or opt for a fixed-rate FHA loan with an FHA Streamline Refinance. Living up to the name, this program does not require a home appraisal or verification of income or credit.

The new loan may carry an MIP discount, but you’ll pay the upfront MIP in addition to monthly premiums. An exception: The upfront MIP fee of 1.75% is refundable if you refinance into an FHA Streamline Refinance or FHA Cash-out Refinance within three years of closing on your FHA home loan.

Closing costs are involved with almost any refinance, and the FHA doesn’t allow lenders to roll them into a Streamline Refinance loan. If you see a no closing cost refinance for an FHA loan, that means that instead of closing costs, a lender will charge a higher interest rate on the new loan.

You’ll continue to pay MIP after refinancing unless you convert your FHA loan to a conventional mortgage.

FHA Cash-Out Refinance

You don’t need to have an FHA loan to apply for an FHA Cash-Out Refinance. Whatever kind of loan the current mortgage is, if the eligible borrower has 20% equity in the home, the refinanced loan, with cash back, becomes an FHA loan.

The good news: Homeowners with lower credit scores may be approved. The not-great news: They will have to pay mortgage insurance for 11 years.

Any cash-out refi can trigger mortgage insurance until a borrower is back below the 80% equity threshold.

FHA 203(k) Loan

In addition to its straightforward home loan program, the FHA offers FHA 203(k) loans, which help buyers of older residences finance both the home purchase and repairs with one mortgage.

An FHA 203(k) loan can be a 15- or 30-year fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage.

Some homeowners take out an additional home improvement loan when the need arises.

FHA vs Conventional Loans

Is an FHA loan right for you? If your credit score is between 500 and 620, an FHA home loan could be your only option. But if your credit score is 620 or above, you might look into a conventional loan with a low down payment.

You can also buy more house with a conventional conforming loan than with an FHA loan. Conforming loan limits in 2023 are $726,200 for a one-unit property and $1,089,300 in high-cost areas.

Borrowers who put less than 20% down on a conventional loan may have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) until they reach 20% loan-to-value. But borrowers with at least very good credit scores may be able to avoid PMI by using a piggyback mortgage; others, by opting for lender-paid mortgage insurance.

One perk of an FHA loan is that it’s an assumable mortgage. That can be a draw to a buyer in a market with rising rates.

The Takeaway

An FHA home loan can secure housing when it otherwise could be out of reach, and FHA loans are available for refinancing and special purposes. But mortgage insurance often endures for the life of an FHA loan. The Biden-Harris Administration recently reduced monthly MIP for new homebuyers to help offset higher interest rates.

Some mortgage hunters might be surprised to learn that they qualify for a conventional purchase loan with finite mortgage insurance instead. And some FHA loan holders who have gained equity may want to convert to a conventional loan through mortgage refinancing.

SoFi offers conventional fixed-rate mortgages with competitive interest rates and cancellable PMI, as well as refinancing. Check out SoFi’s low rate home mortgages.

Qualifying first-time homebuyers can put as little as 3% down, and others, 5%.

View your rate today.

SoFi Mortgages
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SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see Equal Housing Lender.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.


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