How Much Has the Average Wedding Budget Really Changed?
Photo: Kelly Hornberger Photography
From supermarket aisles to paycheck stubs, the past few years have significantly impacted money matters for the average consumer. Shipping delays, supply chain issues, and inflation have driven up costs worldwide, hitting virtually every global industry — including weddings and special events.
“Inflation has actually affected wedding budgets more than most factors over the past few years,” confirms Wendy Kidd of Each & Every Detail. “Because couples are seeing higher prices everywhere in their daily lives, it's easier for them to understand the same rising costs in the wedding industry, and they are changing their budgets to reflect these increased prices.”
But inflation isn’t the only factor in the rising cost of weddings in 2023. The Renaissance’s Thomas Waters reveals that the industry is also dealing with the long-term ramifications of the pandemic.
“It's no secret that since the pandemic, costs of food and staffing have risen,” Waters explains. “Food costs, especially, have caused couples to pay more for the wedding day. Factoring in supply shortages, labor, and transport, caterers are looking at an unprecedented increase in cost that they have to pass along to their clients.”
Yet, many wedding pros claim higher costs aren’t just due to market fluctuations. They’re also due in part to couples’ evolving preferences for their wedding days.
“In recent years, couples have paid more attention to the ‘experience’ of their special day — opting for unique venues and activities such as farm-to-table menus, pop-up bars, live music performances, etc.,” notes Jacqueline Vizcaino of Tinted Events Design and Planning. “These additions tend to come with a higher price tag than traditional wedding activities.”
Wedding hairstylist Alicia Igess Jones agrees, adding that “couples are requesting more services than they used to. Therefore, they are paying way more. Years ago, glam was just for one look. Now, I get requests to change their hair at least four times.”
Reasons aside, how much more should couples really expect a wedding to cost?
“Depending on the area of the country you are located in, couples can expect anywhere from a $3,000 to an $8,000 increase in total cost,” Waters reveals.
If those numbers are hard to swallow, you’re not alone. From eloping to DIYing day-of elements, many couples are finding creative solutions to save money on their big day. Keep reading for expert advice about planning a wedding on a limited budget.
Do your homework
When you’re ready to buy a house, you don’t jump on the first listing you see. Creating a budget and reviewing available options allows you to make wise decisions to help you find the perfect house without breaking the bank. Planning a wedding is very similar! A bit of pre-work can keep you on track and prevent overspending.
“Research what you can afford,” encourages Chandai Raghunauth of Chandai Events. “Talk to vendors to see what they are charging. Maybe getting married in your state off-season will help.”
Setting a realistic budget requires you to sit down with your partner and envision your ideal wedding day. So make it a date night and start dreaming! Consider what matters most to you for your celebration, whether it’s the music, food, setting, or anything else.
“Think about the wedding vendors, moments, and aesthetics that matter most and structure your budgets to match,” recommends Deliece Knights of Dhalia Events LLC. “If photography and food are more important to a couple than, say, a photo booth or a band, then this should be reflected in how they plan their budgets.”
Mary Angelini of Key Moment Films seconds this notion, adding that you’ll need to “consider where you're willing to splurge and where you can save, such as opting for a more affordable dress or understated decorations to stay within your budget.
So before pulling out your credit card or making any wedding purchases, make sure you have a comfortable spending plan to guide you on your journey!
Edit your guest list
Many aspects of your wedding budget are priced per guest, including catering, rentals, favors, invitations, and other individual expenses. So naturally, inviting fewer people means you’ll save on your overall wedding costs.
“Remember that your guest count has the largest impact when working with a limited budget,” affirms Christina Lovelace of Lovelace Design. “The more guests you host, the more money you spend.”
So if you want to keep your pursestrings tight, trimming down your guest list is one of the easiest ways.
Photo: Jessica K Feiden Photograph
Seek out apprentices
Hiring the top wedding pros in your market can cost a pretty penny, but it’s often not the only option! As Sarah Olson of CityLux Studios explains, some have trained junior associates who can provide services at a reduced rate.
“Check for wedding planners, photographers, and other vendors that have associates or apprentices,” she suggests. “You might be able to work with a trusted wedding vendor whose work you like for a lower price than the owner. That is a great way to get that same level of trust, service, and style and save some money.”
While there is a distinct level of quality that comes with decades of experience, junior team members can provide excellent service while keeping your budget sound. And you can trust that they’ve learned from the best!
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Photo: Amy Sims Photography
Scale back where you can
Saving money doesn’t mean your wedding has to look like you scoured the discount bin! Picking certain elements to splurge a bit will allow them to shine, so it’s worth revisiting your priorities to see where you can invest a bit more for the most impact.
“Combining high-end elements with DIY ideas is a great way to make a wedding look fabulous while on a budget,” assures Lilia Shatnaya of Plume and Stone Invitation Studio.
Cathy O’Connell of COJ Events agrees, encouraging couples to “focus on elements that give you maximum bang for your buck and create an experience that your guests will cherish.”
A prime example: “For a couple on a budget that may not be able to splurge for custom invitations, try mixing digitally printed invitations (which are the most cost-effective printing process) with some additional elements such as a chiffon ribbon and a wax seal,” Shatnaya says.
So while you may not be able to afford to splurge on every little detail of your wedding, it doesn’t mean you have to scrimp on everything either! Instead, pick and choose the best elements that reflect your and your partner’s relationship.
Hire a planner
While hiring a wedding planner does involve spending money, it can ultimately be a cost-cutting move in the long run. Planners are experienced in navigating the industry and can often hook you up with savings through their network or simply from knowing best practices.
“A planner knows all of the resources available to the couple within their budget,” asserts Sarah Chianese of Mangia and Enjoy!. “It saves the couple hundreds of hours, while it may take the planner 10 to 40 hours to accomplish that work because they are experts, know what they are doing, and have all of the know-how and vendor information at their fingertips.”
Saving time and money while wedding planning is invaluable, so it’s wise to approach the process with the support and guidance of someone who has done it before (and many times over!)
It’s true that costs are rising in the wedding industry (and beyond!), but that doesn’t mean you have to sell your car or sacrifice your mortgage to tie the knot! There are countless ways to reduce wedding expenses, so get creative and trust your vendor team to support you and your budget.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.