There are few things more exciting than finally meeting the love of your life after suffering through blind dates and swiping right on your share of mismatches. Whether you get engaged after dating for seven months or seven years, planning a wedding with your person is exhilarating. But it’s also not cheap. Planning your big day means coming to terms with some bracing cost realities. Before you start, you’ll want to understand how much things typically cost and ways you and your partner can manage to pay for it all.
Obviously, everyone’s wedding is different. You might not need a doughnut bar AND a chocolate fountain, and you can opt to have your uncle run the photo booth, but you might still end up having to pay for things like food and a venue. According to a study by The Knot , which polled nearly 13,000 couples who wed last year, couples spend an average of $33,391 on their weddings. And that doesn’t even include the honeymoon! The good news? That number is actually down a little from a high in 2016, when the average came out to $35,329.
If that amount is making you sweat or wonder what else you could buy with all that cash, don’t worry. You don’t need to have all the wedding bells and whistles. We’ll walk you through a wedding cost breakdown that will help you see where you can save.
What Goes Into the Cost of a Wedding?
So, where does all that money go? There are so many costs that just don’t come to mind right away. This wedding cost breakdown will help you see where almost every penny is spent. (Most of these totals are courtesy of The Knot and have been rounded when necessary.)
First, the biggest chunk of cash goes, unsurprisingly, toward the venue. Including the space and rentals you need to fill the space (tables, chairs, etc.) couples spend an average of nearly $15,200.
For catering costs, most couples pay about $70 per guest. For a 100-person wedding, that’s about $7,000.
The engagement ring can also set you back a cool $5,700 on average. Brides also spent an average of $1,500 on their wedding dresses.
Couples often pay big money for things like the reception band which can cost around $4,000, or if you choose a reception DJ it can come in around $1,200, flowers at about $2,400, and the ceremony site, separately from the reception venue, which might cost around $2,300.
Documenting the wedding can be yet another big expense. Photos can set you back an average of $2,600. And a videographer will be an additional $1,900.
And then there’s all the little things that add up. A wedding planner costs an average of almost $2,000, the rehearsal dinner typically costs about $1,300, and hair and makeup averages another $1,000.
The rest of the costs are that couples were surveyed on were under $1,000, but they add up. You can estimate about $800 for transportation, $540 for your wedding cake, $400 for invitations, $280 for the groom’s suit, and $250 for favors.
One way to lower your costs could be to decrease the number of guests you invite, since the average cost per guest is up to $268 per person. The cost per guest is so high these days because plenty of couples decide to spend money on sparklers, selfie booths, lawn games, and other fun reception additions. So, if you want to keep your costs in check, you might have to skip some of the extras, too.
Who usually ends up paying for the wedding?
These days, figuring out who pays for the wedding (and how) can sometimes be unclear. Back in the day, the bride’s family was expected to pick up the whole tab, but that’s pretty antiquated at this point.
Now it’s much more common for both families to chip in, but often the couple pays for a large part of the costs on their own. In fact, The Knot reports that couples pay for 41% of wedding costs themselves.
If you and your partner are on the hook for 41% of the wedding, then going based on the average costs, that will be about $13,690. That’s not pocket change. Given that many parents might not be able to contribute financially to the wedding, you could be looking at a much larger bill.
Looking into Smart Wedding Financing Options
A bigger question than who pays for the wedding is: How do they pay for the wedding? Often couples use their savings. But not all couples have cash sitting around that they can easily tap into. And even if you do, you don’t necessarily want to deplete your emergency fund or take money away from saving for a down payment on a house.
That’s why taking out a wedding loan or turning to some kind of wedding financing option can make sense. Usually couples end up charging wedding expenses to a credit card, but paying off that balance can be pretty costly. The average interest on a credit card is around 16%. Do you really want to be paying 16% interest on your entire wedding? The fact that all the deposit costs come at the same time makes it even more difficult if you’re charging everything to a credit card.
Related: If you have credit card debt, consult our Credit Card Interest Calculator and find out how much you are paying in interest alone.
You have to deal with credit card maximums, and to keep your favorable credit score, you should only use 20% to 30% of the available credit on your card. If you’re looking to buy a home soon, the ding your credit can take from carrying that wedding debt on a credit card could cost you when it’s time to apply for a mortgage.
Using a Personal Loan to Fund a Wedding
What are wedding loans? They’re exactly what they sound like. Essentially, a lender just offers you an unsecured personal loan to cover your wedding costs.
A personal loan will give you a broader range of options than a credit card when it comes to the term length on your loan, the amount you can borrow, and the interest rates offered. Interest rates on personal loans tend to be pretty reasonable, so they’re likely to be lower than rates on credit cards.
With a personal loan, you can choose how long you want your term length to be. If you need a few years to pay off the loan, your lender will probably be able to accommodate that. You can also choose a fixed interest rate, so that you lock in a manageable rate with the guarantee that it won’t shoot up later.
One of the benefits is that a personal loan can also help you build your credit. That’s not just because you won’t be using too much of your available credit, it’s also because you’ll be diversifying the type of credit you have. This could make it easier to get approved when you apply for a mortgage on your first love nest. While swiping a credit card is an option that’s available immediately, you can get your personal loan disbursement fairly quickly. If you know you want to start making deposits on your wedding soon, you and your partner can apply for a personal loan today, and get the money you’ll need usually within a week.
SoFi Lending Corp. is licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law, license number 6054612.
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