Modern-day weddings have a notorious reputation for being pricey. On average, Americans spend roughly $33,391 on their weddings, according to The Knot’s 2017 Real Weddings Study.
But that doesn’t mean they can afford it. More than 74 percent of couples will go into debt for wedding costs, reports Student Loan Hero.
But, of course, how much you spend on your wedding depends on several factors, such as where you live, what season you’re getting married in, what type of wedding you have (big or small), and what details are important to you.
So, Business Insider talked to seven former brides who shared their wedding budget details. They shared their original budget, how much their wedding actually cost, and a breakdown of main wedding category expenses, from the dress to food and bar costs to photography. Note that the total wedding cost for each wedding includes other expenses beyond what is listed.
Whether they spent half the national average on a rural farm in Minnesota or roughly four times the average in a dreamy New York City wedding, there was one thing they all had in common: the money was worth the memories.
Ashley and her wife spent $10,000 for a country club wedding in Andover, Massachusetts, with 110 guests.
Original budget: $12,000
Ashley, who married at age 25, told Business Insider she was very lucky to have talented friends and family pitch in for her wedding day, which helped keep her budget below her original estimation.
“The bulk of our budget was focused on the place and the food,” she said. “We loved the garden we used for our ceremony and the terrace attached to our reception space that allowed for an indoor/outdoor experience.”
The venue, Andover Country Club, was the most cost-effective venue she and her wife looked at, she said. The venue provided a coordinator in the package, so they didn’t need to allocate funds to pay for it. They also used a relative for a DJ at a discount.
“Overall, we wanted a classy, fun experience that wouldn’t be impossible to pull off!” she said.
Flowers and decor: $500
Wedding planner/coordinator: $0 (included in venue package)
Invitations and paper goods: $300
Wedding dress: $500
Food and drinks: $1,300 (most of the catering was included in the venue package)
Photography: $0 (sister-in-law is a photographer who offered her services for free)
Beth and Matthew Hebert’s destination wedding at a diner in Chicago, Illinois, with 36 guests cost $12,125.
Lisa Kay Creative Photography
Original budget: $10,000
Beth Hebert and her husband were paying for their wedding on their own, so they settled on a budget of $10,000 for entire wedding weekend festivities. Based in Houston, they decided to have an out-of-town wedding in Chicago — you’d think a destination wedding would be hard to pull off on a small budget, but they managed to come in under budget for personal out-of-pocket expenses.
They also had a bit of help as someone unexpectedly picked up their $2,300 bar bill as a wedding gift — had that not happened, they would have gone slightly over budget. Their venue at the Little Goat Diner was free as long as they met the $1,000 minimum, and it included a wedding coordinator in the venue fee.
“We are such foodies that we knew [that] even with a smaller budget, the food and beverage options had to be amazing — which is why we went with a brunch option,” Beth told Business Insider. “It hadn’t been done in our friend group, and Girl & the Goat is iconic to the Chicago food scene so everyone was excited to have that food.”
She also wanted live music and found an acoustic guitarist, but wasn’t willing to splurge on an expensive dress and getting her makeup done.
Flowers and decor: $450
Wedding planner/coordinator: $0 (included in venue fee)
Venue: $0 (free if they met a $1,000 minimum)
Invitations and paper goods: $350
Wedding dress: $800
Food and drinks: $6,700 (including a welcome dinner and the gifted bar bill)
Anna and her husband’s 195-person wedding in rural Minnesota cost $15,406.
Kylee Jade Photographer
Original budget: $15,000
Anna originally set a $10,000 budget for her ceremony on her parent’s farm in rural Minnesota and reception at a reception hall, but after amended the number to $15,000 after she realized it was unrealistic.
“Photography was a significant part of the budget as that’s the part of the wedding that lasts forever and we wanted to find a photographer that fit us and our wedding,” Anna, who was 25 when she married, told Business Insider. “Food was also important and, while we were constrained by budget there and had a basic meat and potatoes buffet, the cheap caterer we found was actually really good.”
“Being in a rural area helped keep some of the costs down, but there were certainly other little ways we did so,” she added. For example, she purchased her wedding dress at a bridal consignment store and family members helped with day-of coordination, so they didn’t need to hire a wedding planner.
The budget was her biggest concern when planning her wedding, as she and her husband paid for 70% to 80% of it on their own, with her parents covering catering, ceremony seating, and a backup tent, and the groom’s parents covering the rehearsal dinner.
“It’s hard to say a single day is ever really worth $15,000, but I’d absolutely do it again with a similar budget and, while it was a large chunk of change, we save enough and have no debt so it didn’t set us back too much,” she said.
Flowers and decor: $1,312
Wedding planner/coordinator: $0 (did not use)
Invitations and paper goods: $532
Wedding dress: $589
Food and drinks: $2,995
Amber Kozo and her husband’s 130-guest summer wedding in Dumbo, Brooklyn, cost $16,000.
Love Like Ours
Original budget: $15,000
Amber Kozo, 28, and her husband spent $13,000 of their own cash on their wedding, while their parents covered $3,000 for the cost of the bar, dress and tux, rehearsal dinner, and other little items. Kozo told Business Insider this helped them stay within their original budget to spend only $15,000 as a couple.
“It was very important to us to not go broke over this wedding,” she said. “We know the NYC average wedding costs $88,000. We ambitiously tried to do the whole shebang in NYC for 130 guests under $15,000.”
To keep costs down, Kozo did a lot of DIY, such as making half of the desert and doing all the decor herself. She also used fake florals and ordered greenery in bulk from Costco. And instead of a DJ, which they couldn’t find for less than $3,000 in the city, she and her husband made a Spotify playlist that included song requests from guests. They also skipped traditional catering.
“I’m really crafty and have helped a lot of girlfriends plan their wedding,” she said. “I learned all the important questions to ask that drive up costs.”
Kozo said they steered clear of many of these traditional wedding details because they wanted the day to reflect them as a couple.
Flowers and decor: $1,461
Wedding planner/coordinator: $1,430 (they didn’t have a planner but paid for service throughout the night and to help with clean-up)
Invitations and paper goods: $101
Wedding dress: $1,100
Food and drinks: $4,890
Lauren and her husband had a 27-guest ceremony in Covington, Kentucky, and late reception in Cincinnati, Ohio, for 85 guests that cost $18,500 total.
Original budget: $12,500
In an effort to save money, Lauren Corso and her husband had a small wedding with their immediate family and their grandparents, followed by a reception-style party two months later. But combined, the two events cost just under $20,000, which was more than they wanted to spend.
“I think we hoped we could get married and celebrate the occasion for under $10,000…but things just got more expensive quickly,” Corso, 30 at the time, told Business Insider, adding that food and drink were the most important part of their budget. “But they were incredible days and worth it to be with all of our friends and family.”
They hoped to spend only $5,000 on the ceremony and dinner, but ended up spending $7,500. For the reception, they intended to spend $7,500, but ended up around $11,000.
However, they received $10,000 from her husband’s grandmother that covered the bulk of the reception costs. The rest of the costs for both ceremony and wedding were covered by Corso and her husband as well as their parents ($4,000 from his side and $2,000 from her side.)
The numbers below include the total spent for both events.
Flowers and décor: $1,900
Wedding planner/coordinator: $0 (did not use)
Invitations and paper goods: $306
Wedding dress: $600
Food and libations: $10,599
Photography: $1,067 (used for ceremony only)
Music: $250 (used for reception only)
A 31-year-old bride and her husband spent $32,000 for a winter wedding with 180 guests in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Original budget: $40,000
A Wisconsin bride told Business Insider her wedding came in under budget because she and her husband overestimated nearly every cost for their wedding.
“We were really concerned about having some kind of surprise big expense like you often hear of due to timing or lack of planning,” said the bride, who was 31 at the time of the wedding. “We also were happy to be flexible and a little unconventional in some aspects.”
They cut corners on their flowers and décor budget by selecting a ballroom venue with an art deco style that didn’t need a lot of dressing up and kept costs low by adding greenery and candles to space. As a graphic designer, the bride designed her own invitations, and they negotiated a cash discount for the photographer, both of which saved money.
The biggest part of their budget went to food and bar, including a rehearsal dinner at a burger joint, family-style reception dinner, open bar, ice cream desserts, and pizza for a late night snack.
However, the most important part of their budget was the day-of coordinator they hired.
“My husband and I are big planners, and I do believe we thought of every detail down to the minute leading up to the day,” she said. “However, day of, as the bride or groom, we did not want to be bothered with a single thing. Trust in your planner is essential that they can go with the flow and think on their feet. The piece of mind was worth every penny!”
Flowers and décor: $2,730
Wedding planner/coordinator: $1,200
Invitations and paper goods: $820
Wedding dress: $1,300
Food and drinks: $18,370
A 30-year-old bride’s New York City wedding at the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park with around 130 guests cost $126,248.
Danny Weiss Studio
Original budget: $150,000
“I had a very generous budget, but I found it very easy to cut costs where priorities are low,” a 30-year-old New York bride told Business Insider. “The key is truly having a sense of what you want and not trying to just have everything to have it!”
“The best $10,000 I spent on the entire process was for my wedding planner,” she said. “She was absolutely insane and honestly, most brides say something won’t go your way the day of — but everything seemed perfect to me. She and her assistant were worth more than what I paid.”
Her next priority was food, resulting in a menu that would delight any food lover. While the Boathouse succeeded in this category, she also included a bunch of different add-ons, like a Peking duck station, seafood bar, donut frying station for desserts, and Korilla BBQ Korean taco food truck for late night. They also hosted a next-day Dimsum meal.
“I’m Chinese and food is a huge part of our culture,” she said. “There was so much food at cocktail hour that most people thought that was the dinner.”
Her third priority was her dress. “I had planned to spend around $3,000, maybe $5,000 max, but ended up with an obscenely expensive choice, but do not one bit regret it.”
Flowers and decor: $14,500
Wedding planner/coordinator: $10,795
Invitations and paper goods: $1,615
Wedding dress: $11,890
Food and drinks: $10,383