A wedding day is one of the most important events in one’s life. But the big day can come with a big price tag.
According to WeddingWire’s 2019 Newlywed Report, the average cost of a U.S. wedding in 2019 was nearly $39,000. That breaks down to about $5,000 on the engagement ring, $29,200 on the ceremony and reception and $4,500 on the honeymoon. Wedding cost vary greatly by location, but the amount spent on them in the U.S. rose sharply toward the end of the decade.
With feedback from 18,000 newlyweds, the report revealed that on average, couples ended up spending roughly $13,000 more than they had budgeted, partly because they didn't properly research, underestimating costs of products and services.
The report also gave some insight into who is footing the bill for these celebrations. The longstanding tradition of a bride’s parents paying for the wedding has changed somewhat, but when it comes to millennial brides and grooms, parents seem to be contributing at least half.
“There are still parents that are paying for the wedding, but more often, the couples are paying for the wedding themselves, or a good portion of it,” said Cathy Horning, sales manager at Blue Chip Casino Hotel & Spa in Michigan City. “Many times it is a second wedding and maybe parents paid for the first one or parents are divorced and one parent cannot absorb the cost of a wedding.”
Katie Kucharski, general manager of Avalon Manor in Merrillville, has also seen more couples paying for their own weddings, but said “there is almost nothing ‘traditional’ anymore because people do whatever works for their situation.” That can mean that a bride’s parents and groom’s parents split the cost or other family members also contribute. “People just do what works for them and their finances and that’s perfectly fine.”
Regardless of how much parents are contributing financially, they still play a big role in the planning. “I think parents still have quite a bit of input on the event,” said Stephanie Graham, wedding coordinator with Friendship Botanic Gardens in Michigan City. “They are very helpful in seating arrangements and decorations.”
The biggest wedding expenses typically are the venue and catering and adjustments there will yield the biggest savings. “Some venues offer seasonal discounts or day-of-the-week discounts and couples should definitely take advantage of that if it works for them,” said Horning. “Most people want a Saturday, so they are not interested in that kind of discount but others that are on a tighter budget and very interested in cost savings will consider the off-season or day of the week.”
Kucharski said off-season booking can save about 10% on packages as well as allowing more flexibility on dates. She added that after the initial deposit, an installment of 20 percent is due six months before the date and the remainder the week before. Couples can also make payments in between to help manage expenses. Most venues have similar arrangements.
Though the venue and reception make up the bulk of the expense, it’s generally something some couples don’t want to compromise on. However, modifications can be made from minimal to major to save some money. “One couple might want an upscale dinner for 300 guests and create simple centerpieces with basic linens," said Kucharski. “Another couple might spend more on the uplighting, centerpieces and linens and downsize the caliber of dinner and drinks. Others scale their guest list down to a brunch for 30 of their closest friends because they’d rather save for their honeymoon. One of our biggest pieces of advice is to focus on what people will remember and talk about for years to come. Most of the time that means their food, beverage and fun on the dance floor rather than the size of the centerpiece.”
Decorations can be a large expense, but Graham said picking a place such as Friendship Gardens where the natural surroundings are your decor can save couples a lot.
Smaller expenses also can add up. While the dress, flowers, DJ or band and photography are a given, don’t forget about “all that goes with the big day,” said Horning. “Hair, makeup, nails, shoes, photo booth, room decor, honeymoon, attendant gifts, cake, invitations, save-the-date cards, postage, limo service, shuttle service. You can see without a budget you can easily run out of funds.”
And don't forget the rehearsal dinner, which can be done simply, said Horning. Resisting the urge to up the guest count will also keep the price in check.
“Always allow for contingency funds,” said Kucharski. “As time passes throughout your planning, your ideas and vision keeps growing … always plan to be under budget so you are prepared and break even when things happen.”
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