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The Average Cost of a Wedding Now Equals a New Sedan -- Here's a Breakdown of Costs

If you're planning to get married soon, be aware that this article may make you seriously consider eloping (drive-thru wedding in Las Vegas?) or just doing it the old-fashioned way: at city hall. Why? Having a wedding now costs nearly $28,000, on average, in the United States.

wedding costs

The average U.S. wedding costs nearly $28,000 (and that's without an engagement ring and honeymoon).

Moreover, gone are the days when you could expect the bride's parents to foot the bill. Just 30 percent of brides' parents pay for the entire wedding these days, according to a 2006 study by the Condé Nast Bridal Group. Instead, about 32 percent of couples pay for their own big day (and a fortunate 15 percent get help from both sets of parents).

Perhaps compelled at least in part by huge celebrity weddings broadcast all over the media, wedding spending has increased by 20 percent just since 2002. And brides are spending 100 percent more than they did 15 years ago.

When all is said and done, 36 percent of couples said they ended up spending more than they had planned.

The $28,000 Wedding: Where Does the Money Go?

When you begin to break down the average costs of a typical American wedding, it's easy to see how things add up fast. According to, here is how much average wedding "necessities" cost:

wedding costs

A top-notch wedding cake can cost you up to $15 ... per slice.

  • Wedding Attire: $2,606

  • Wedding Ceremony: $2,525

  • Wedding Favors & Gifts: $1,121

  • Wedding Flowers: $1,969

  • Wedding Jewelry: $2,066

  • Wedding Music: $953

  • Wedding Photography & Video: $3,688

  • Wedding Reception: $14,169

  • Wedding Stationery: $847

  • Wedding Transportation: $410

Breaking it down even further, brides spent an average of $1,056 on a wedding dress in 2006, according to Condé Nast. As for a wedding cake, you can expect to pay up to $15 per slice, or anywhere from $350 to $1,500 for the whole cake.

Should You Get Wedding Insurance?

With weddings costing a literal small fortune, some couples are opting for a relatively new, but growing, failsafe: wedding insurance. It works like this: couples pay premiums that range anywhere from $95 to over $1,000, and can expect to be reimbursed for some of the following "unthinkables" and mishaps:

  • Death or illness: If the bride, groom or close family member becomes ill and the wedding must be cancelled, the insurance will cover non-refundable deposits, etc. (Pre-existing medical conditions that cause an event to be postponed are often NOT covered.)

  • Second thoughts: Some plans will even cover your costs if the bride or groom has a change of heart, and the person who's paying is not at fault (but be aware that many plans exclude this).

  • Damaged formalwear or wedding gifts: Covers lost or damaged wedding gowns, tuxedos, wedding gifts, etc.

  • Bankruptcies: If your caterer or DJ goes out of business after you've made a deposit, the insurance will reimburse you.

  • Photography: If your photos don't turn out, are lost, or are stolen, some policies will cover the cost of reassembling your wedding party to retake the photos (or videos).

  • Liability: Protect yourself if one of your guests is injured at your reception (some wedding halls also include coverage for this with your reservation).

Planning, and paying for, a wedding can seem like an overwhelming feat, but remember that what's truly important is not the size of your cake or the flowers on the tables. Make a budget that you can afford, stick to it by cutting costs where you can, and after the big day has passed you'll be able to look back on it fondly -- without having to worry about how to pay it off!

Recommended Reading

What You Really Need to Know About Your Partner Before You Commit

How To Treat YOURSELF with Compassion in a Difficult or Failing Romantic Relationship


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