It wasn’t that long ago that the parents of young people who eloped would be disappointed they didn’t get to attend the wedding. These days they might still feign disappointment, but they might be secretly relieved about the money they saved. The sobbing you hear in the front row of a wedding these days may well be the father of the bride, thinking about the tab for the flowers.
According to an annual study by TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com, the average cost of a wedding has ballooned to over $28,000, the cost of a decent late model car. Spending on nuptials dropped during the great recession — but, as the economy improved, the amount of money couples were spending on weddings gradually crept back up. It’s no wonder the wedding planner has to keep reminding you that the memories last a lifetime, because the payments can last a decade.
Location, Location, Location
Just like in real estate, location is everything when it comes to wedding costs. Expect weddings in large urban areas to cost more than the suburbs — by a significant margin. For instance, the average cost of a wedding in Manhattan bumps in at a staggering $66,000, while out in the boroughs the price drops to $45,000. The least expensive state to get hitched in is West Virginia, where tying the knot will set you back a relatively modest $14,000.
Venue Costs Soaring
Approximately 43% of the $28,000 average cost is for the venue, with the most popular locations commanding premium rates. Some venues also demand you use their caterer, and cover associated costs for valet parking and other services. As this is the time of year many brides are out searching for venues, there are ways to save money. If you’re a college graduate, be sure to check if your old college or university has a chapel. Many times, alumni can rent the school chapel for free, or sometimes a minimal fee.
The High Cost of Photography
The average cost for a wedding photographer has risen to $2,300 dollars and, with the advent of modern DSLR cameras, it’s tempting to try and skimp on this expense and seek out a friend or relative with photographic skills. Then you’ll look at the pictures, and feel that pang of disappointment because a well-meaning amateur forgot to get a picture of Aunt Betty who, of course, died shortly after the wedding. Savvy brides are sticking with seasoned professional photographers, but are finding other ways to cut photography costs.
Karl Leopold of ImagesForever.net in Coca Beach, Florida, says more brides are selecting bare bones wedding packages. “I’m booking more half-day jobs,” he laments, where the bride and groom may utilize friends and guests to take pictures at the reception, while leaving the wedding shots to a pro. Couples are also opting out of high-margin extras like photo books. “I’m also not selling as many print packages,” Leopold adds. “Brides just want a disk with their photos and away they go.”
The bride and groom aren’t the only ones seeing higher costs these days, with more couples opting for weddings in exotic locations that stick guests with a big tab for travel and lodging. Destination weddings include venues in Hawaii and the Fiji Islands, cruise ships, and, with the world becoming smaller, even international travel if the bride or groom’s family lives overseas.
For the money a couple would drop on the average wedding, they could fly to Vegas, book the penthouse suite, expect to have at least some of their meals and entertainment comped by the hotel, and have a small but non-zero chance of winning some of their money back. Given the choice, it’s no wonder that some couples are getting more creative about where they take the vows, and many are opting out of big production weddings.
With the costs of a wedding surging ever higher, a lot of parents may be secretly hoping their kids will opt for an Elvis impersonator in Vegas over a fairytale wedding at the church.