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The Average Cost of a Wedding in 2021

Everyone knows that weddings are expensive, but how much does a wedding cost, really? If you’re newly engaged and starting the planning process, it’s important to set a budget up front. Learning the average cost of a wedding can help give you a frame of reference for your own budget. 

Before you get bogged down in numbers, however, keep in mind that you can throw a beautiful wedding at almost any price point. Just because the average cost for a wedding is out of your price range doesn’t mean that your special day won’t be just as magical and romantic. 

Use this average wedding cost guide to help you figure out a wedding budget that works for you!

How Much Does a Wedding Typically Cost? 

wedding planning on budget

The average wedding cost can be hard to know for sure, as we can’t ask every couple. Wedding experts like The Knot have done large surveys and research, however, giving us a ballpark cost for weddings this year. 

The Knot’s 2020 survey found that the average wedding costs $19,000, a drop from previous years. This is very likely due to the coronavirus pandemic, which led to many couples having smaller, more intimate weddings. 

Other estimates also land around the $20,000 mark as the average cost of a wedding. That being said, you can throw a gorgeous wedding for as little as $5000, or even less depending on your vision! 

 

Average Wedding Cost by State 

Location plays a huge role in pricing, so it’s no surprise that the average cost varies by state. It also varies by city – weddings in urban settings are generally more expensive than those in the suburbs or rural areas. 

This graphic from Value Penguin shows the average cost by state. These costs are based on the average wedding size in 2020, which Value Penguin found to be 66. This number also decreased due to COVID-19. The average cost per guest, then, is around $300. 

average wedding cost by state

 

Wedding Cost Breakdown 

While the overall cost of a wedding is helpful to know, it can be more useful to break down wedding costs based on expenses. Not all wedding budgets will include the same expenses. 

For example, if you get married at home, you cut a huge cost in eliminating the need to rent a venue. You could also cut smaller unnecessary expenses, like wedding favors

Here are some of the biggest expenses and the average cost associated with each: 

  • Venue: The venue can cost up to 40% of your total wedding budget, and the average venue cost is estimated to be between $10,000 and $15,000.  
  • Photography and Videography: Recording your wedding through photos and video is also a big expense, typically taking 10-15% of your budget. The average cost for a professional photographer is estimated at about $2000 to $3000. 
  • Engagement Ring: Since the ring is purchased well before the wedding, not everyone counts their engagement ring as a part of their wedding budget. That being said, a diamond engagement ring costs, on average, around $5000.  
  • Wedding Attire: The wedding dress is typically the most expensive piece of clothing, coming in at an average price range of $1500 to $3000. Don’t forget about the cost of hair, makeup, accessories, and of course the groom’s attire too. In total, this will take up approximately 5-10% of your budget. 
  • Flowers: The most popular wedding decor is flowers, but from centerpieces to bouquets to other arrangements, they can get pricey. Wedding flowers cost, on average, about $1500 to $2000. 

 

These tend to be the biggest expenses for couples, but there’s a lot more to budget for. Check out our complete wedding budget breakdown to make sure you’re accounting for everything!

Again, you should also keep in mind that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on any specific detail. If spending $2000 on flowers sounds outlandish, keep it simple or use alternatives to fresh flowers. 

 

Factors That Influence Pricing

Each wedding is unique, and the same features can be priced differently based on a variety of factors. The following elements may affect your budget and the overall price of your wedding.

 

Location

Location is by far the biggest factor that can affect the cost of your wedding. As seen in the graphic above, costs vary greatly by state, and even within those states certain areas will have drastically different costs.

Cities tend to be more expensive than other areas; it’s more expensive to get married in New York City than it is in rural Arkansas. The cost of living in your area can be a helpful metric to learn how much more or less expensive your wedding will be. In areas with a higher cost of living, vendors will naturally charge more. 

Consider your location when planning your wedding. If you live in the city, you may want to consider getting married in the suburbs to save money. You could also consider a destination wedding if your hometown isn’t your ideal location – many couples are surprised to learn that destination weddings can actually be cheaper!

 

Size

small outdoor wedding

The size of your wedding has a direct impact on the price. Many vendors charge per head, meaning that you’ll pay more for each guest you add to the list. 

It makes logical sense that a larger wedding typically costs more than a smaller wedding. The more guests, the bigger the venue you’ll need, the more mouths to feed, and so on. 

If you want to cut costs for your wedding, one of the easiest ways is to cut down your guest list. This can be difficult, so you may have to choose between compromising on your guest list or compromising on other elements of your wedding vision. 

 

Date and Season

summer wedding colors

The date of your wedding also plays an important role in determining the price. Even individual venues charge different prices on different days. 

The reason for this is simple supply and demand – everyone wants their wedding on a Saturday, while Wednesday weddings are far less in demand. Therefore, venues and other vendors can (and will) charge more for a Saturday than for other days of the week.

The season can seriously affect pricing as well. Summer and fall weddings are the most popular, making prices steeper during those season due to high demand. Winter weddings in months like January and February on the other hand, are much less expensive. Consider getting married in an off-peak season to save money! 

 

Wedding Pricing FAQ

Common questions about wedding costs, answered.

What is a good budget for a wedding?

wedding coin jar

A good wedding budget is whatever budget works best for you. You shouldn’t bankrupt yourself trying to throw a dream wedding. While the average wedding cost hovers around $20,000 as of this year, you can throw a beautiful wedding for under $10,000 or throw an extravagant affair for $100,000. 

 

What is the average cost of a small wedding? 

Some estimates put the average cost of a small wedding as under $10,000. Size matters, so it really depends on what you mean by “small wedding”. 

The average cost per guest mentioned above is around $300, so if you have a wedding for 25 at that price point, your wedding would cost around $7,500. A small wedding of 50 guests at the same cost per head would be $15,000, however. 

As always, the cost will depend on various details like location, your venue, and more. 

 

How do people afford weddings? 

discussing the budget as mother of the bride duties

You may be reading and thinking “How in the world are couples dropping 20K on a wedding?” How couples finance their weddings also varies. 

It’s common for the parents of the happy couple to chip in on wedding costs, and some traditional parents even pay for the whole thing. In the past, it was expected that the bride’s family pays.

In a modern context, this is less common, but plenty of parents still offer some financial support. In other cases, the couple themselves save up to pay for their own wedding day. 

 

What is the cheapest month to get married?

The cheapest month to get married depends on your location, since location will affect season and weather. That being said, January tends to be one of the least popular and therefore least expensive months to get married. Other cheaper months include November, February, March, and December. 

 

Do you pay for a wedding upfront? 

You won’t have to pay all of the costs for your wedding right away. Most vendors require a deposit when you book them, but you’ll have some time until the wedding to pay off the rest of their fees. 

You can also use credit cards or loans to slowly pay off your wedding, although you may incur interest.

 

Can you finance a wedding? 

Yes, you can finance a wedding with a personal loan. It’s not unheard of for couples to take out a small loan to help with wedding expenses, but do so with caution. You wouldn’t want to put yourself in debt over one day. Be smart about what you can reasonably afford to spend on your wedding. 

 

Final Thoughts

The average cost of a wedding is a helpful metric to guide your own budgeting, but don’t let it stress you out! Set realistic expectations for what you can afford, and consider budget wedding planning tips to save costs.

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