2024 Wedding Cost Calculator with Examples

By Kim Franke-Folstad · February 16, 2023 · 13 minute read

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2024 Wedding Cost Calculator with Examples

The question was popped, the answer was yes, and now you’re ready to plan your dream wedding. Which means it’s probably time to set up a meet-and-greet between your vision board and your bank account.

Wedding costs can add up quickly, and if you’re just winging it, it’s easy to get carried away. Using a wedding cost calculator as you work through the planning process can help you manage your money better and create a more realistic budget.

Read on for a breakdown of the costs you can expect as you prepare for your big day.

Key Points

•   The wedding cost calculator helps estimate the total cost of a wedding based on various factors.

•   It takes into account factors such as location, guest count, venue, catering, attire, and other expenses.

•   The calculator provides an itemized breakdown of costs and allows for customization based on personal preferences.

•   It can help couples create a realistic budget and make informed decisions about their wedding expenses.

•   Using the wedding cost calculator can help reduce stress and ensure financial preparedness for the big day.

How Much Will My Wedding Cost?

The cost of a wedding depends on several factors, including where you live, your wedding date, and the size of your guest list. If you go all-out with a big bridal party, designer duds, and a reception for 200-plus, your bill could be significantly more than the current median of $10,000. If you decide to go with a simple ceremony at City Hall, on the other hand, followed by a modest dinner with a few friends, your total spend will likely fall way below the typical wedding cost.

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What Does the Average Wedding Cost?

The most recent SoFi survey found that the median wedding cost is $10,000. But again, that number can vary widely.

Studies have found that couples who live in the South typically spend a bit less on their wedding, while those who live in bigger cities, particularly in the Northeast, can expect higher costs. Trying to match or exceed the standards set by others in your social group can also affect your bottom line.

The popular wedding website The Knot says couples who live in the South typically spend a bit less on their wedding, while those who live in bigger cities, particularly in the Northeast, can expect higher costs. Trying to match or exceed the standards set by others in your social group can also affect your bottom line.

Recommended: Is It Smart to Finance a Wedding?

What Goes into a Wedding Cost Calculator?

A wedding cost calculator uses average wedding costs to help couples break down the expenses they can expect to encounter as they plan their wedding. This budgeting tool can assist couples and their families in prioritizing how they want to spend their money. (Is a designer dress a must? Is a buffet or sit-down dinner a better choice? How many guests can you really afford?)

You also can use a wedding calculator/budget as a checklist to ensure you’ve covered all the details, so there aren’t any surprises (or unexpected wedding expenses) as you close in on the big day.

How to Calculate Wedding Costs

To keep things in perspective and set reasonable priorities, you may want to start by designating a certain percentage of your overall budget for each cost category. A $2,000 dress, for example, would be 10% of a $20,000 budget. A $10,000 reception (venue, catering, music, etc.) would take up 50%. That would leave you 40%, or $8,000, for the rest of your costs (the tux, flowers, photography, etc.).

Knowing the average costs for various categories can also help you fine-tune your budget and save for your wedding. Here’s a look at some of the most common wedding expenditures.

Before the Big Day

You can count on racking up some wedding bills long before you hear wedding bells. (Which is why it can be helpful to use a spending app as soon as you start planning.) Here are some costs you may incur early on in your preparations:

Save the Date Cards: If you want to let your guests know waaay ahead that your big day is coming up, sending “save-the-date” alerts can help. Postcards generally cost 20-55¢ each; refrigerator magnets can range from 30¢ to $1.60. (Costs per item typically go down when you order more.)

Invitations: Two major factors will affect the cost of sending out wedding invitations: An elaborate invitation or one that’s designed just for you will cost more than a standard design. And, of course, you’ll pay more for invitations and postage if you have a large guest list. (Don’t forget to put stamps on the RSVP cards included in each invite.) You could end up paying from $2 to $10 for each invitation and postage.

Wedding Planner: How much would you be willing to pay to hand over some of the stress of planning your wedding to a professional? U.S. couples spend an average of $1,500 for their wedding planner’s services, but your price may vary depending on your planner’s expertise and level of involvement, and the size of your wedding.

Marriage Ceremony

Though it’s what the big day is all about, and the reason friends and family have gathered, it can be easy to overlook the actual wedding ceremony when budgeting. Here are some costs to keep in mind:

Marriage License: This document, which authorizes a couple to marry, can cost anywhere from $20 to $150. You can get your exact cost by calling the issuance office in the county where you plan to marry. In some states, you may be able to lower the cost by taking a marriage preparation course.

Officiant Fee: The officiant is the person who is legally authorized to perform your ceremony. It can be the minister at your church or someone who performs weddings as a full-time or side gig. Officiant fees can vary from about $250 to $800.

Ceremony Venue: Unless you exchange vows at the same location as your reception, you’ll likely have to budget a separate amount for this venue, whether it’s your church, the beach, a private garden, or a public park. The cost will depend on the location and how long you use the space. (Even if it’s a public place, you may have to pay for a permit to hold your ceremony there, or a by-the-hour rental fee.)

Churches typically ask for a “donation,” which can be a mandatory amount or pay-what-you-wish deal. Unless you’re headed to the courthouse, be prepared to pay between $300 to $1,000-plus for a ceremony venue.

Decorations: The cost of decorating for your ceremony will depend on how elaborate you want to get — and what your venue will allow. Keeping it simple with a flower arrangement at the altar could be $60 to $450. But adding ribbons and flowers to the pews, petals in the aisle, or a flowered archway can bump this portion of your floral budget to over $1,000.

Ceremony Music: You’ll likely want to have some kind of live music at your ceremony — maybe a soloist, the church organist, a quartet, or a band. The cost for music can vary significantly depending on how big you go, and can range from $200 to $400 per hour.

Reception

The reception is typically the largest wedding expense and can include several subcategories — from food and entertainment to decorations and, of course, the cost of renting the venue where guests will gather to celebrate. According to WeddingCalculator.com, the average reception ranges from $4,000 to $20,000.

Some all-inclusive venues charge one price for catering, decorations, and more. If you have to hire multiple vendors, though, you’ll need to keep these separate costs in mind:

Venue: Depending on the size and location of the hall, country club, restaurant, etc., you can expect to pay $2,500 to $7,500 just to rent the space for your party.

Catering: The cost of feeding your guests will depend on what you serve (appetizers or a full meal) and how it’s served (buffet or by a waitstaff). Costs generally range from $30 to $80 per guest. You may have to pay extra to rent serving equipment or pay waitstaff at some venues.

Drinks: If you decide to offer an open bar with unlimited alcoholic beverages, you can expect to pay $10 to $20 per person per hour, or more.

Entertainment: Couples often argue over whether to hire a DJ or band — and cost can be the deciding factor. A DJ might charge $450 to $1,250, depending on their popularity, equipment, and how long they’re expected to keep the party going. A live band generally charges a bit more, from $750 to $1,500 for about two hours. (You may have to pay more if you have to rent sound or lighting equipment.)

Decorations: If you decide to add decorations to the venue (with ribbons, confetti, balloons, etc.), you will likely have to pay extra — from $100 to $1,000. A floral centerpiece for each table might incur a separate cost, so it’s important to be clear about what’s included in your package.

Recommended: Wedding Gift Etiquette

Wedding Cake

The cake you choose for your wedding is about much more than dessert. Cutting the cake is a fun tradition and it can be a great photo opp. Design, size, the number of tiers, and delivery can all impact the cost, but plan to pay $3 to $8 per person. The average cost of a cake is about $500.

Photographer/Videographer

If you’re hoping to capture the best moments of your wedding, you may want to make the photographer, and maybe videographer, one of your budget priorities. Depending on the package you choose, you can expect to pay from $1,500 to $3,000 for wedding photos. A videographer can cost $1,000 to $2,500.

Flowers

We covered the cost of using flowers to decorate for the ceremony and reception above. Here are some other costs to consider:

Bridal Bouquet: The bride’s flowers are in the spotlight throughout the day — in photos, during the ceremony, and even at the reception. For the bouquet of your dreams, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $350.

Boutonnieres for the Guys: If the groom will be wearing a suit or tux, a boutonniere is almost a must, and it will run from $10 to $50. Multiply that price by the number of men in the wedding party if Dad and the other guys will get them, too.

Bridesmaids Bouquets: These smaller bouquets typically cost $25 to $100 each.

Corsages: Corsages, which can be a nice way to recognize special family members and friends, may cost $15 to $30 each.

Petals for Flower Girl: A bundle of rose petals for the flower girl to scatter can cost $20 to $25.

Bride’s Wedding Outfit

The bride’s ’fit — the dress, veil, shoes, jewelry, and more — often takes up a significant amount of the wedding budget. The bride’s wedding dress alone can cost, on average, $1,000 to $4,000. And that’s before alterations (typically $125 to $250).

Groom’s Wedding Outfit

The groom’s gear generally reflects the formality of the wedding, but most men still wear a tux or suit. Purchasing a new tux can cost $500 to $1,000. And tailoring may cost extra. Renting a tux can cost $200 or more.

Wedding Party Costs

Traditionally, members of the wedding party pay for their own outfits, but there may be other expenses you decide to cover if you want to help out with the cost of being in your wedding.

For example, if you’re hiring someone to do the bride’s hair and makeup (average cost: $300), and you choose to include the bridesmaids, you can expect to pay about $150 per person. As with most wedding-day costs, however, you’ll likely encounter a wide range of prices.

Transportation

If you and your wedding party hope to travel in style on your wedding day, you want to look into renting a limo, horse-drawn carriage, party bus, or some other type of transportation. Couples spend an average of $750 for wedding day transportation, but costs will vary based on location, how many vehicles you need, and how many hours you need them.

Wedding Insurance

Once you start budgeting for your wedding, you may decide it makes sense to purchase insurance to protect your investment. Wedding insurance can cover you for several worse-case scenarios. The cost of this type of special-event coverage depends on what you decide to include in your policy. The average cost of a wedding insurance policy is $275.

Total Wedding Cost Example

Until you start making calls and getting price quotes, it will be challenging to get even a rough estimate of how much your wedding will cost in total. But the sooner you start filling in some of the blanks on your budget, the sooner you’ll be able to prioritize where you want your money to go — and get a better idea of what the final bill will be.

Here’s an example of what a couple with a budget of $14,000 and a guest list of 50 might come up with.

Cost

Percent of Budget

Invitations $420 3%
Ceremony: $560 4%
Ceremony Venue $310
Officiant Fee $250
Reception: $6,020 43%
Venue with Wine Bar $3,000
Buffet Dinner $2,220
DJ with Equipment $800
Bride’s Costs: $1,820 13%
Dress $1,070
Alterations $100
Shoes $200
Jewelry $200
Hair & Makeup $250
Groom’s Tuxedo Rental with Shoes & Tie $420 3%
Cake $560 4%
Flowers: $2,100 15%
Bride’s Bouquet $300
Bridesmaids’ Bouquets (2) $200
Boutonnieres for Wedding Party (5) $100
Corsages for Family (6) $200
Flowers for Ceremony & Reception $1,300
Photos $1,540 11%
Limo Rental $560 4%

How to Save Money on Your Wedding

How can you keep your dream wedding from totaling up to a nightmare cost? Here are a few ways to lower the bottom line:

Ask Friends and Family for Help

Do you know someone who’s great at taking photos? Is your cousin an amazing singer? What about a friend who’s a talented baker and cake decorator? If you can find people you trust to take the place of pricier pros, you may be able to reduce some costs — or avoid them entirely.

Eliminate Some of the Extras

If you can do your own hair and makeup, get yourself to the wedding, and/or design and print your own invitations (or go paperless), you may be able to cut some costs without asking for help.

Downsize the Guest List

This can be a tough one, but trimming your guest list is a sure way to trim costs. Consider asking your friends to leave their kids at home, or gently telling your guests that you’re keeping the plus-ones to a minimum.

Go Off the Beaten Path

Choosing an off-peak wedding date; an unusual (and therefore more affordable), wedding venue; or a wedding dress from a department store or consignment shop can save you big bucks.

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The Takeaway

Wedding costs can get out of hand quickly, so it’s a good idea to start your planning with a realistic budget. Then, as you go through the planning process, you can use your budget tracker to stay on top of your actual costs — and stay in sync with your other financial goals. In our example above, wedding costs totaled $14,000 for an event with 50 guests. That number covered the invitations, ceremony, reception with wine bar and buffet dinner, DJ, flowers, cake, and the bride’s and groom’s formalwear.

With SoFi’s money tracker app, you can set budgets, categorize your spending, monitor your credit score, and keep an eye on any upcoming bills — all for free.

Say “I do” to SoFi for help planning and tracking your wedding budget.

FAQ

What is a realistic budget for a wedding?

A realistic wedding budget will be different for every couple. The average wedding cost is about $29,000, but that amount can vary significantly depending on the size of the wedding, the location, and other factors.

Is $10,000 a reasonable wedding budget?

You may have to be pickier about splurges than a couple with more to spend, but by setting your priorities early and using a budget tracker, you can get a strong start on sticking to your $10,000 wedding goal.

How do I pay for a wedding I can’t afford?

There are a few different ways you can pay for a wedding if you don’t have enough cash in the bank. One popular option is to take out a personal loan to pay for wedding expenses. Another is to apply for a credit card with a 0% introductory interest rate, which will allow you to pay off the balance interest-free for up to 18 months. Or you might consider waiting until you’ve saved enough to pay all your costs without borrowing.


Photo credit: iStock/Arisara_Tongdonnoi

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