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How to plan for wedding costs

A couple enjoys their wedding day.
December 03, 2018

By Kathryn Pins

Planning a wedding is exciting, fun, stressful and complicated. There can be many emotions leading up to the big day, including those emotions tied to your budget. The amount you spend on a wedding is a personal decision based on what’s important to you and your current financial situation. However, sometimes knowing the average cost of a wedding can help you prepare for this big expense. Let’s see how much you could expect a wedding to cost in the U.S.

The average cost of a wedding by city

There are many different estimates on how much tying the knot can cost. Business Insider reports that the national average cost of a wedding is $33,391 (excluding your honeymoon). However, the price tag of your big day will vary greatly depending on where you live.

How much of a difference can the location make? Well, The Knot came out with their most expensive cities to get married. Top of the list is New York City (Manhattan) at $86,916. That is more than double the average wedding simply because you’re in New York. The surrounding areas of New York City make up the top five, with the exception of Chicago:

1. New York City (Manhattan) at $86,916

2. Long Island at $57,343

3. North/Central New Jersey at $51,287

4. Chicago at $48,449

5. NYC Outer Boroughs at $48,449

Where does most of your wedding budget go?

Most of the wedding budget goes to the reception. That includes the venue, food, drinks and any rentals or upgrades related to the venue. In fact, you should expect the reception to take up to 50 percent of your total budget. Flowers, entertainment and photography each typically take up 8 to 10 percent of the budget. Your spending allocation depends on what is important to you. For example, I really wanted a band for the reception. In order for that added expense to fit in my total cost, I decreased my budget for flowers and the venue.

It’s helpful to take a look at how people typically allocate their wedding budget and adjust based on what’s important to you. A quick search of “wedding budget worksheets” will give you a ton of useful tools. Here is a typical breakdown of a wedding budget:

Reception: 50 percent (venue, rentals, food, drink)

Attire: 10 percent (dress and accessories, hair, makeup, groom’s suit and accessories)

Flowers and Decorations: 10 percent (arrangements for the ceremony and reception, bouquets, etc.)

Music: 10 percent (DJ, musicians, rentals)

Photographs and Video: 10 percent

Favors and Gifts: 3 percent

Ceremony: 2 percent (officiant fee, etc.)

Stationery: 2 percent (save the dates, invites, programs, postage, thank you cards, place cards, etc.)

Wedding Rings: 2 percent

Transportation: 1 percent

Give yourself some room in your budget

When you make your own money allocation, give yourself some room. It will lessen the stress when something unexpected happens that will impact your budget like reordering invites because of an error. Put your wedding spending money in a high-rate savings account so that it is available when you need it (you could even create a separate supplemental savings account called “wedding”). Plus, in a high-rate account, your money will make more money on the interest rate, creating even more room in your budget. Unexpected expenses will come up. If your money is earning something like 2.00% APY, you will be better prepared for those expenses.

Your wedding day will be worth the stress of planning it. Be sure to cherish this time because it will go by quickly. There are many things to make your big day even better, including knowing the average cost of a wedding and creating a personalized budget. Need some more wedding financial advice? Check out these three money-saving wedding hacks.


Kathryn Pins is a marketing content specialist at Alliant. She’s passionate about finding and communicating meaningful financial information with Money Mentor readers. Kathryn is a saver who gets more excited about certificates and her Roth IRA than shopping. When she does spend her earnings, it’s on furthering her education, travel, unique experiences, and loved ones.