Photo: Flickr / Mr. Cook
A wedding is one of the biggest milestones in a couple’s relationship, but it can also be the most expensive. In fact, the average American wedding rings in at a whopping $26,951.
To spare you any sticker shock, we tapped wedding planning pros to crunch the numbers and find out exactly what you’ll need for your big day:
1. A Great Venue
The venue sets the tone for the wedding and, if chosen wisely, can actually help you save.
“If you choose a venue that has enough character on its own, one with a cityscape or garden, for example, you won’t have to spend as much for the decor,” says Leila Khalil, wedding publicist and owner of Be Inspired PR.
Consider having a Friday evening or Sunday wedding, says Karen Hyde, wedding planner with Great Beginnings Events. You’ll score a break on the venue, and the entertainment, photographer and caterer.
Live bands are great, but their costs range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.
Some couples choose to go ultra DIY and set up their own music with an iPod, but that can be energy- and time-consuming.
Khalil says to go with a DJ: “A good one can gauge the vibe of the guests and knows how to get the crowd on the floor.”
3. The Dress
“Dresses don’t have to cost thousands of dollars,” Khalil says.
4. An Officiant
An officiant typically costs $238, according to WeddingStats.
That won’t put a huge dent in your budget, but consider having a friend or family get ordained to perform the service.
5. Vittles For Your Guests
Swap formal dinners for action stations if you want to save on food, says Rachel Leuck, owner of Rachel Events.
Niche stations like pasta and salad bars not only offer tons of options, but drive costs down with smaller portions and waitstaff.
Also consider serving beer and wine, rather than hosting an open bar. This costs about half as much per guest, Hyde says.
If alcohol isn’t a must, share a simple toast and serve Prosecco instead of champagne.
6. The Cake
Caterers often charge per slice, Khalil says, which can range from $2.50 to $12 a pop. It’s why multi-tiered cakes are so expensive.
Khalil suggests buying a multi-layered cake in which only the first tier is the pricey professional cake.
Caterers can cut a sheet cake made of basic (i.e. cheaper) ingredients and frosting, and the guests will never know the difference.
7. A Shutterbug
“Photographs are the only thing you’ll have after the wedding day,” Khalil says, so you’d better make sure they look great.
Professional photogs can be found at all budgets, but remember, you’ll get what you pay for.
The average cost of a wedding photographer is $2,307, according to WeddingStats.
Consider hiring on off days (not Saturday) to lower the tab.
8. A Honeymoon
Hyde suggests asking family members and friends to contribute to the honeymoon instead of purchasing gifts.
“A honeymoon is an experience you’re going to long remember, whereas a new toaster or blender will break in a couple of years,” Hyde says.