It will be 9 years ago this November that I had the honor of walking my wife down the aisle. Our first wedding (Yes, we had two. More on that in a bit…) didn’t cost close to the $28,000 that the post title references.

When I hear stories of these elaborate weddings that cost tens of thousands of dollars, I don’t get it. Why?

So the question remains: How much does a wedding cost? And probably more important, “should” cost.

I’ve tasked Miranda to do some research. Be sure to check out my story in the middle of the post that talks about why I got married to the same woman twice. :)

how much does a wedding cost
Enter Miranda….


Spring is in the air, and wedding season approaches.

Like many life events, from buying a house to having a baby, a wedding can get expensive. According to, the average cost of a wedding in 2012 was $28,427. And that doesn’t include the cost of the honeymoon.

That’s more than I paid when I bought my new card toward the end of 2011.

From reception venues that cost almost $13,000 to engagement rings that cost more than $5,000, weddings are getting expensive — or at least what people are willing to spend on weddings is on the rise after a little pullback following the Great Recession.

Why Do People Spend So Much On Weddings?

Since a wedding is supposed to be an expression of the ultimate commitment to another person, and the start of a life together, many people like the idea of celebrating with friends and family, and making the day huge. After all, this day is supposed to happen only once. Why not make it big, and share it with the people you love?

From hiring a videographer, to making sure the wedding gown is perfect, to catering at $63 a head, many soon-to-be-newlyweds want a day to remember. (For those who go into debt for the wedding, they are almost guaranteed to be reminded of that day every month when the bills come due.) Others are more interested in the status associated with having a fairy-tale wedding.

In truth, there’s nothing really wrong with spending more than $28,000 on a wedding. After all, it’s your money (or your parents’); you can do what you want with it. Even your reasons are your own. But spending so much on a single day has never appealed to me, and it’s why I spent a whole lot less on my own wedding.

Would You Prefer a Frugal Wedding?

The idea of spending a lot on a wedding never appealed to me. While there are a couple things I might have done differently, by and large I was happy with the way my wedding turned out. My mom made my wedding dress, and a talented friend made the wedding cake as a present. At the reception in upstate New York, my husband’s family held a pot luck dinner, which was awesome.

At both sides of the country, the cost of the wedding was severely limited because, rather than choosing to rent out a fancy venue, my husband and I made use of our local church meetinghouses. My high school band teacher and his jazz trio provided music at a discount for the reception in Idaho (we tipped well to make up the difference), and even the airline tickets for flying between locations were inexpensive, since we were married in the aftermath of 9/11.

Choosing a less expensive wedding meant that we had more money to start our life together, rather than worry about paying off wedding bills.

Enter Jeff’s Story

Our first wedding was super cheap.   Why? Because we eloped!

To make the story that much better – it was in Vegas.  Yes. Vegas Baby!

My Army National Guard unit had just been called up and we decided to accelerate our wedding plans sooner.  Much sooner as we had just got engaged that October (Halloween to be exact).

We agreed to get married in Vegas so as long as we would have an official ceremony with all our friends and family after I got back from my deployment.   And that’s how we got married twice.  :)

Even though we were married twice, I’m pretty sure we still didn’t spend 28,000 on both weddings.

If you want to hear more of the back story of our Vegas wedding (like how we almost got married in the same chapel as Britney Spears), check out my wife’s blog post here.

When You Marry Matters

Of course, I married relatively young. My husband and I were both 22. I was in my final year of undergrad, and he was a junior. Neither of us had a job, since we were in school. Part of the reason we didn’t want an expensive wedding was due to the fact that we couldn’t really afford it, and neither of us felt right about forcing our parents to pay a huge sum. Our parents ended up paying most of the bills for the wedding, but they were relatively small, and we did our part to keep costs down.

Contrast our situation with older couples who have careers and jobs. As the marriage age rises, so, too, does the cost of a wedding. Couples who marry later on, after establishing careers, can afford to pay most of their own bills, and maybe even choose to get exactly the wedding that they want. They don’t have to feel bad about costing mom and dad too much, since they are paying for most of their own wedding expenses.

In the end, it’s about what you prefer to do with your money. Decide what kind of wedding you want, and determine what works best for your situation.

Do you remember how much you spent on your wedding?  Would you spend that same amount of  money if you had to do it all over again?


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Comments | 9 Responses

  1. says

    I don’t really understand weddings.

    All of this money and work to entertain and feed people you barely know. Maybe gigantic weddings make sense for people with large families. But my friends who have had big weddings wound up inviting friends of their parents that they met once when they were 5 years old.

    I would like to have a small wedding, with just my close friends and immediate family. Everyone else can stop by my home at their leisure for drinks and congratulations.

  2. says

    We’re having a pretty big wedding and plan on spending around $10,000 to $15,000 with around 200 to 300 people (these are ALL people we are close to, he has a big family). It’s doable because we plan on doing a lot of things ourselves, while also having the ceremony and reception at his family’s estate.

  3. FinanceGreg says

    Weddings are *the* occasion to splurge. Maybe I’m not a typical guy, but I want my wedding to be the spectacular event my friends and family talk about for years to come.

    Majestic castle venue, symphony, exquisite entrees and hor’dourves, romantic ballroom dancing, outdoor events, massive lantern lighting, fireworks show over the waterfront, etc.

    I’ve been dreaming of (and saving for) my wedding since 15 years old. For a life event so personal, everyone will have different values of it’s worth and how much to pay.

  4. says

    My wedding (44 years ago) was paid by my wife’s parents. The cost was modest by today’s numbers! When you pay for it yourself, you should think about the important factors which do not need to expensive to be nice.

  5. says

    Our wedding was way, way, way over the $28,000 mark. We spent about $10,000 on our own and the rest was generously paid for by our parents.

    Had it been entirely up to us, we likely would have been WAY more frugal (we are much more frugal than my wife’s parents). We also probably would have pushed the wedding off a bit so we could save more to afford what we wanted.

    Going into debt for the wedding never would have been a consideration.

  6. says

    I come from a large Catholic family, and we had about 150 people at our wedding 13 years ago. We paid $5,000 and did many things ourselves. Our dinner was a buffet with food we prepared the day before (talk about exhausting!), my cousin was the DJ, and my aunt made the cake. I bought my dress for $150. It was modest, but we didn’t have any debt from the wedding going into our marriage.

  7. says

    My husband and I had a very frugal wedding. My engagement ring was $200.00. I requested it, I’m a simple girl and I don’t see the big deal about expensive jewelry. We picked out the things we were willing to spend money on, and things we could cut costs on. Mother-in- law decorates extravagantly with all her own flowers and decor. We had our wedding and reception at the church we belong to, so that was free. We had family members make food, and it was better than foods I’ve had catered at weddings. Our friend made a gorgeous cake. We found a very reasonable DJ, a friend who did photography. My uncle is a videographer. My aunt made handmade invites and thank yous including labels and postage as our gift. We didn’t spend anymore than $5000.00 with about 200 guests and that is on the high end. We spent $500.00 on our honey moon going away to a cabin for 2 nights. (We had kids from my husbands prior marriage, so being away longer didn’t appeal to us) No one would have noticed all the corners we cut on money because it looked so elegant. No regrets.. Our wedding was one day, marriage is worth so much more.

  8. Sunshine Brite says

    I’m late to the party, but I’m planning a wedding. We are trying most of the cost saving moves, however, the biggest one for us is guests. We want the people who care about us most to be there and we’re having 160. Plus a wedding that big wouldn’t fit in any backyard that anyone we know has so we had to get a venue.

    All venues in my state have rules and I can’t bring in alcohol so I had to chose between getting a caterer and having a dry Saturday evening wedding when most of my family and friends use alcohol regularly. Caterer it is. I swear I have pretty simple tastes, but the costs do add up quickly and not JUST on extravagant events.

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