Money·3 min read

The Average Wedding Costs Over $20,000 — Here's How to Cut Costs If You're Planning a Trip Down the Aisle

A couple embracing
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
April 1, 2022

With an average price tag of well over $20,000, your wedding can be one of the most expensive celebrations of your life. But tying the knot doesn’t have to mean drowning in debt. Here’s how to save for a wedding that meets all your expectations. And your budget. 

First thing’s first. Who pays for the wedding?

Tradition says the bride’s parents (or just her dad, to throw it way back) should foot the bill for most of the wedding expenses. They’re also responsible for hosting. Experts say that’s changed a lot, with one report finding 68% of couples covering the costs of their own wedding. 

In other words, it’s a good idea to start thinking about your wedding budget right after you get engaged. (PS: here's how to tell if you're financially ready to say, 'yes, forever.') Before you build your wedding budget, brushing up on the traditional rules can give you a sense of what to consider. 

Ok. What are the traditional rules?

Here’s theSkimm on who pays for what, old-school wedding edition:

Bride’s Parents

  • Engagement announcements

  • Engagement party

  • Wedding planner

  • Floral arrangements

Groom’s Parents

  • Rehearsal dinner

  • Corsages and boutonnieres


  • Groom’s gift

  • Groom’s ring

  • Gifts for attendants


  • Bride’s engagement and wedding rings

  • Marriage license

  • Officiant’s fees

  • Honeymoon expenses

Can you be more specific? Give me a wedding budget breakdown. 

The main things that will determine your final wedding bill: 

Wedding Venue

Location, location, location will likely be your biggest expense. So experts say at least 30% of your budget should be allocated to the venue. But shopping around and being open to alternatives can significantly bring these costs down. Example: a local church wedding would be far cheaper than one at Disneyland.

Wedding Date

When you wed can be another big factor for how much you need to save. Getting married in the off-season is typically more affordable than during the traditional wedding season (hint: spring through fall). January wedding, anyone? 

Wedding Menu

Next up is catering — which is often combined with venue costs to total up to 40% of your budget. And it's generally based on the number of attendees. So eliminating just 10-20 guests can save you thousands. Read: Does your kindergarten teacher really need to be there?

And booze can quickly raise the cost of your wedding. You need to figure out if it's included with the food, or if you need a separate budget for the bar. Either way, pros say alcohol can take up anywhere from 7% to 20% of your wedding budget. 

Oh, and don’t forget the wedding cake, which costs an average $500 in the US.

Any other tips to plan a wedding without going broke?

There are a lot of smaller slices in most wedding budgets where you can find ways to trim costs. Like the clothes. Skipping the bridal shop could save big. The alternative? Try the formal wear section of a department store. Or head over to a bridal consignment shop. 

And opt for flowers that are in season. Floral arrangements and decor can cost over $2,000. It might mean adjusting your wedding colors, but local, in-season flowers are more affordable.

Other costs to keep in mind: music, entertainment, wedding rings, and the honeymoon. 

And remember that everything is up for negotiation. Yep, even wedding expenses.


You don’t have to be drowning in debt after saying, “I do.” The more non-traditional routes you take, the more you’ll save. 

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