We all want our big day to be unique – even if it'll cost us as much as a luxury car.

4 minute read

You can buy a 2019 Acura ILX with all the bells and whistles for less money than the average wedding in the U.S. today.

The luxury car costs $25,900, according to U.S. News & World Report. [1] The average wedding? That’s up to $33,931, says The Knot’s 2018 Real Weddings Survey of 14,000 couples. [2]  The price is so high that most Americans are looking for financing options to pay.

What is wedding debt?

Wedding prices seem to steadily increase every year The Knot releases its study. And more parents aren’t keeping up with the tradition of paying for weddings, according to a recent LendEDU survey. [3]

Between that and high rates of young Americans struggling with student loan debt, a quick way to finance a wedding is to go even further in debt. It’s sad but that’s what research is showing us.

One-third of the 1,000 survey respondents said they went into some kind of debt to pay for their wedding. And on average they borrowed $11,737 – whether through credit cards, personal loans, or even home equity debt. Oddly, 37 % say they regret going into debt for their wedding expenses.

A 2018 survey from Student Loan Hero reported 74% of couples planned to go into debt for their weddings. [4] Of those soon-to-be newly-weds, 61% planned to use credit cards.

If you’ve racked up credit card debt from your wedding day, Debt.com can connect you with credit card debt experts.

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What do couples spend the most on at weddings?

Almost half of that wedding price tag – $15,439 of it – goes to paying for the venue.

Here are some of the most common wedding expenses couples are spending on and what they cost, according to The Knot…

  • Reception Venue: $15,439
  • Photographer: $2,679
  • Wedding/Event Planner: $2,002
  • Reception Band: $4,247
  • Reception DJ: $1,292
  • Florist/Décor: $2,411
  • Videographer: $2,021
  • Wedding Dress: $1,631
  • Groom Attire: $283
  • Wedding Cake: $528
  • Ceremony Venue: $2,382
  • Ceremony Musicians: $797
  • Officiant: $286
  • Catering (price per person): $70
  • Transportation: $856
  • Favors: $245
  • Rehearsal Dinner: $1,297
  • Engagement Ring: $5,680
  • Invitations: $386
  • Hairstylist: $123
  • Makeup Artist: $102

Wedding trends adding to the bill 

More weddings are leaving tradition in the past.

What’s on the outs? Anything that reminds a couple of their parents’ wedding. Weddings in churches or other religious institutions. Receptions at hotels, resorts, and country clubs. All are on the decline.

“Couples are rethinking conventional traditions and putting their own creative spins on long-standing wedding moments, like unity ceremonies and first dances,” says Kristen Maxwell Cooper, editor in chief of The Knot. “Some couples are opting to embrace their cultural heritage, while others choose to pay homage to pop culture that plays a part in their shared story.”

Nearly two-thirds of couples say they place a priority on entertaining their guests, says The Knot’s 2017 Real Wedding Study. [5] And that expense can rival the cost of the engagement ring ($5,680 on average).

Hiring a band for the reception will set you back about $4,000. Go for the DJ and you can save $2,955. But today’s couples aren’t satisfied with simply providing a dance floor.

Instead, 40% are shelling out for what’s called “custom guest entertainment.” That’s nearly four times the amount who did in 2009.

What else they’re adding on:

  • Photo booths: 69%
  • Sparklers: 24%
  • Selfie stations or video booths: 22%
  • Games:  19%
  • Candy bars: 13%
  • Bonfires: 12%

Also in the mix: fireworks, dance performers, cigar rolling stations, wine and liquor tastings, and magicians.

The soon-to-be newlyweds also embrace their roots. Cultural touches including a Chinese tea ceremony, Irish bagpipers, Moroccan belly dancers, and traditional Hindu ceremonies are all newer trends, says the 2017 Knot study.

What’s the wedding budget?

Most couples plan their wedding with cost as the top consideration. More than half (54 percent) begin by seeing how much their families are willing to chip in.

Some 40 percent further craft a budget after researching costs, according to The Knot. Only a third set a spending limit. Of those who set a cap, 45 percent manage to exceed it by more than $7,000 on average.

In sickness and in health – and in wedding debt

Costs after the wedding tend to linger as well. Nine percent of the LendEDU study said they divorced, and 14% of those respondents went into debt for their wedding. It’s not clear that debt was the sole reason for the divorce. But as previous Debt.com reporting shows, 36% of couples say that money is the biggest stressor in their marriage.

The average unmarried American has roughly $40,000 in debt, which seems like a lot. At least until one considers that the average married American owes more than $86,000. When those without any debt are factored out, the gap increases further: The average married person in debt owes more than $120,000, compared to the $61,580 that the typical single borrower owes.

Much like the amounts owed, the types of debt that married and unmarried people carry differs as well as priorities shift. While unmarried Americans are more likely to owe on student loans and credit cards, spouses tend to have more car loan and mortgage debt.

Have the day of your dreams while saving for happily ever after

It costs a minimum wage worker more than two-years salary to afford getting hitched. [6] But it isn’t necessary to go through all the glitz and glam to have a special day with the people you love.

Most of the cost of a wedding lies in the details, so by getting to work on some DIY projects, you can cut the costs. For example, instead of renting table cloths from your venue, have a craft night and make some.

Many decorations such as lanterns, centerpieces, canopies and more can be made with a few items from the Dollar Tree or recycled items around the house.

As far as the dress goes, some aspects such as the veil and sash can be made with fabric you can buy at a craft store instead of spending hundreds of dollars on something designer.

You don’t have to be forever in debt to have your happily ever after. For tips to avoid spending more than you have, check out Debt.com’s in-depth guide How to Save Money on a Wedding.

Cameren Boatner contributed to this story.

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About the Author

Joe Pye

Joe Pye

Joe Pye began writing about debt and personal finance more than three years ago while attending Florida Atlantic Univerisity, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the student-run newspaper, the University Press. Before graduating with a bachelor's degree in multimedia journalism, Pye placed as a finalist for the Mark of Excellence award by the Society of Professional Journalists Region 3 for feature writing and in-depth reporting. Since taking a full-time position as associate editor at Debt.com in 2018, Pye has become a certified debt management professional who's applied what he's learned to his personal life by paying down more than $22,000 worth of combined credit card, student loan, auto and tax debt in less than two years. He maintains a frugal and debt-free lifestyle. Pye's goal is to uncover trends in the financial world and share his experiences to help readers stay out of debt.

Published by Debt.com, LLC