Average Wedding Budget – Figure Out How Much Money You Need

How much are Americans spending on weddings?

Are you wondering what the average wedding budget is? The cost of a wedding can vary from state to state in America, so it is difficult to nail down the exact amount that most couples spend on a wedding. According to recent surveys, the average budget for a wedding ranges from $20,000 to $30,000. If this number seems too low or too high for you, remember, it is an average. Many people have smaller weddings and spend less than $10,000 on the entire day. However, on the flip side, some couples have weddings that cost hundreds of thousands (or more!), which can really raise this average!


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Average Wedding Budget Collage

Average Budget By Percentage

How much a couple spends on a wedding can vary from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. The first thing you will want to know when figuring out the average wedding budget is what the average percentage of a wedding budget is spent on specific areas of the wedding.

Again – this will only be an average, and your percentages may vary slightly. But this will give you an idea of where the money is going.

  • Wedding Ceremony – 4%
  • Wedding Reception – 18%
  • Wedding Food and Drinks – 30%
  • Wedding Clothing, Accessories, Hair, and Makeup – 9%
  • Photography and Videography – 12%
  • Wedding Flowers and Decorations – 8%
  • Wedding Music – 7%
  • Wedding Stationery – 3%
  • Wedding Rings – 2%
  • Wedding Favors and Gifts – 2%
  • Transportation – 2%
  • Wedding Planner – 3%

The Average Wedding Budget – Variables By Couple

When talking about the wedding budget, there will always be variables. Planning a wedding is not a black-and-white affair. Remember, what works for one couple may not work for another. Couples have preferences on where they spend their money which can change the budget.

The following places are the areas that people spend their wedding budget on. Some couples go above or below on this budget. Let's look at the reasons why.

white and cream wedding inspiration board

The Ceremony Site

The ceremony site is where the wedding takes place. You will pay for the site rental, an officiant's time, perhaps pre-marital counseling, and wedding ceremony music.

Average Wedding Budget = 4%

Why Couples Go Under Budget: Different locations will have different prices. A small family church may be cheaper than a larger and more prominent location. People also save money when they opt for a country or backyard wedding at their home or a relative's home.

Why Couples Go Over Budget: You can spend extra money here in many ways. If you have live music for the wedding, that can create an additional expense. Some locations cost more on weekends than weekdays or have variable pricing based on the popularity of the wedding date. You can also spend more on non-traditional sites like destination weddings, country clubs, ski lodges, gardens, or beaches.

The Reception Site

We separated the reception site and food/drinks because, in some instances, the reception location is also in charge of catering, and sometimes this is not the case. Even without food and alcohol, the reception is one of your largest expenses. You will be paying for the location's rental for a specific amount of hours. Payment will also cover staff and some decorative options.

Average Wedding Budget = 18%

Why Couples Go Under Budget: Home and country weddings save couples a lot of money. They have to rent tents and other amenities for the party, but it can still be cheaper.

Why Couples Go Over Budget: A reception at a hall that caters to these events is expensive. You are paying for their experience, location, and convenience of the location. Many couples will compare many different places to compare prices and what the final price will give them because depending on the site and the package you choose, prices can vary drastically.

Pretty Wedding Reception Table with Pink and Yellow Floral Centerpieces

Food and Drinks

Food and drinks will be all food and drinks that your guests have access to at the wedding and the reception, of course. However, part of this budget could also be food and drinks for various parties and events leading up to the big day. At the very least, this will cover a meal for all your guests and champagne. However, most people also have appetizers, an open bar, and a wedding cake.

Average Wedding Budget = 30%

Why Couples Go Under Budget: There are two main ways to go under budget here. One is to shop around for your wedding cake and your caterer. Two is to provide the food yourself or supplement the meal somehow. This can include you, your wedding party, your families contributing to the wedding cake, the dessert table, appetizers, snacks, or dinner.

Why Couples Go Over Budget: Food is the most considerable expense, and it is easy to add a few extras to thoroughly go over budget. Want to spend more money? Have an open bar with only top-shelf choices. Prefer more food? Have extra appetizers such as a fruit tray, a vegetable tray, and a cheese tray. Wedding cake is lovely, but what about a whole dessert bar? Who wouldn't want that? Dinner is at 5 or 6, but the party does not end until 11, so why not serve more food? Want some modern food as a snack? Hire a food truck for a late-night snack, or why not an ice cream sundae bar? See how easy it is to spend more money here?

Wedding Clothes, Accessories, Hair and Makeup

There are many different things to buy under this category. The basics include the tuxedo, the wedding dress, shoes, undergarments, and jewelry. Of course, hair and makeup can raise the cost as well. Some people consider this a budget for the wedding day only. However, many people factor in the cost of the outfits for the engagement party, the bridal shower, the rehearsal dinner, and the honeymoon sendoff.

Average Wedding Budget = 9%

Why Couples Go Under Budget: Some items used or worn could be borrowed or gifts. Not every bride wants expensive jewelry or to spend several wedding budget percentage points on a dress they will wear once. People can save money by not getting their hair or makeup professionally done.

Why Couples Go Over Budget:Wedding dresses cost between a couple hundred to several thousand. If the bride's heart is set on a specific dress, the budget has suddenly disappeared. The same can be applied to hair, makeup, jewelry, and accessories. Some couples even opt to wear one outfit to the wedding and another to the reception.

Pretty Blonde Bride with White Bouquet

Photography and Videography

When you are spending so much money on a perfect day, you want memories that last. This includes photography and videography.

Average Wedding Budget = 12%

Why Couples Go Under Budget: Typically, couples can save money by skipping the videographer, only having one photographer, or using the services of someone they know.

Why Couples Go Over Budget: Media budgets can rise to astounding levels depending on a couple's packages. Most photographers charge one fee for their time and the proofs and another for any photos you want without their watermark.

Wedding Flowers and Decorations

Most couples will use a variety of accessories, flowers, and decorations for the wedding ceremony and reception. This will include bouquets, a bouquet for the bouquet toss, boutonnieres, corsages, arrangements for the ceremony, wedding centerpieces, backdrops, table decorations, and lighting.

Average Wedding Budget = 8%

Why Couples Go Under Budget: With careful planning, a couple could reuse some flowers and decorations from the ceremony at the reception. They can handmake decorations and centerpieces or be creative during the planning process. They may use things like the wedding cake, a dessert table, or wedding favors as their intended use and as a wedding decoration.

Why Couples Go Over Budget: Centerpieces, decorations, and flowers can be expensive. The more you use, the more it costs. Sometimes, you need more because you have many guests or an oversized location. If a bride's heart is set on specific flowers not in season during their wedding, this will raise the cost. The cost can also skyrocket when couples are considering all the details. Some of these include decorating the transportation, the outside and hallways of the reception and ceremony sites, chair covers, hanging lights, lanterns, and so much more.

Bride and Groom With Romantic Bouquet

Wedding Music

Wedding music will include background music at the reception before the wedding, the walk down the aisle music, music played when the couple is receiving their guests, and the reception music, which is usually a band, a DJ, or both.

Average Wedding Budget = 7%

Why Couples Go Under Budget: They may know someone to play at the reception or ceremony or scale back on their options.

Why Couples Go Over Budget: Live music typically costs more than a DJ. Of course, if they want to have a locally famous or popular DJ, that could also raise the cost.

Wedding Stationery

Wedding stationery will, at the very least, be a wedding invitation. However, it can also include invitations to an engagement party, a bachelor party, a bachelorette party, a bridal party, a luncheon, and a rehearsal dinner. You can buy wedding fans, save-the-date cards or magnets, wedding menus, wedding programs, and thank you cards.

Average Wedding Budget = 3%

Why Couples Go Under Budget: There are many ways to save money with stationery. Many brides and grooms opt for a simple wedding invitation, creating a website or social media group to share the rest of the details. You can also not buy every piece of stationery or choose cheaper options.

Why Couples Go Over Budget: Couples can quickly go over budget when they buy most stationery types on the market and choose high-end products or additional services. For instance, some companies will not only design an invitation with the couple, but couples can pay extra for them to hand fill out the envelopes to the guests.

Wedding Rings

Wedding rings are usually only the rings that you exchange during the ceremony. Typically, the engagement ring was before she said yes, so it is not part of the budget.

Average Wedding Budget = 2%

Why Couples Go Under Budget: Some people do not like jewelry and opt to not wear a ring after the ceremony, meaning they have no reason to get an expensive ring. Of course, you can also shop for nice wedding bands that do not cost too much money.

Why Couples Go Over Budget: Some people love jewelry, and there are many different rings on the market to choose from. You can get rings made out of different and more expensive metals, choose diamond-encrusted rings, or have other jewels featured in the design.

Favors and Gifts

Favors and Gifts would include wedding favors for each guest and gifts from the couple to each other, the wedding party, and the parents.

Average Wedding Budget  = 2%

Why Couples Go Under Budget: This depends on the gifts chosen if they shopped around or even opted for homemade and sentimental gifts instead of something a little more expensive.

Why Couples Go Over Budget: 2% of a wedding budget is not really a lot. You can easily spend that on wedding favors alone. Some couples like to give more than one wedding favor per guest. For instance, maybe you make a little bag for each guest at your beach wedding that includes a beach-themed candle, seashell-shaped soap, and a beach-themed wine stopper. This also means they would need favor bags and accessories. Those prices add up quickly! Also, the bigger the wedding party is, the more gifts the couple will need to buy. Most couples give to their parents, but if they have close family relationships, they may purchase gifts for the grandparents and godparents (if any).

inspirational wedding board


Transportation is any special way they will arrive at the ceremony, travel to the reception, and leave the reception. A limo is standard.

Average Wedding Budget  = 2%

Why Couples Go Under Budget: Couples save money with no special transportation or only have one limo which transports the bride and bridal party to the ceremony, then the couple and their party to the reception.

Why Couples Go Over Budget: Some couples get multiple forms of transportation, not just for them. They may get a separate vehicle for the wedding party or the parents. They may also provide transportation to guests coming from the wedding from out of town.

Wedding Planner

A Wedding Planner is someone who assists the couple in planning their wedding. A full-service planner may be involved in the process from shortly after the engagement through the wedding reception. However, some planners only work on the wedding day and the weeks leading up to the wedding, or couples can choose smaller packages to get help where they really need it.

Average Wedding Budget = 3%

Why Couples Go Under Budget: Not everyone uses a wedding planner. If they use one, they might look for a smaller service or only assistance with a few things, like vendor contracts.

Why Couples Go Over Budget: 3% is not enough for most weddings to cover a full-service planner. Full-service planners typically range from $1,500.00 – 2,500.00. To put that in perspective, 3% of a $70,000 wedding is $2,100.00. Most people are not spending $70,000 on a wedding. This average is so low because the average factors in all the couples who do not use any type of wedding planning service.

Making a Budget

Now that you know what the typical percentages are and what some of the variables are, you have a starting point. Let's say you have a budget of $25,000, you can take that dollar figure and percentages and do the math to create a typical starting budget. $25,000 may seem like a lot of money, but once you break it down into categories and services, you will see how easy it is to spend this money and so much more on a wedding. A $25,000 wedding with our pre-determined wedding budget would have the following breakdown:

  • Wedding Ceremony – $1,000.00
  • Wedding Reception – $4,500.00
  • Wedding Food and Drinks – $7,500.00
  • Wedding Clothing, Accessories, Hair, and Makeup – $2,250.00
  • Photography and Videography – $3,000.00
  • Wedding Flowers and Decorations – $2,000.00
  • Wedding Music – $1,750.00
  • Wedding Stationery – $750.00
  • Wedding Rings – $500.00
  • Wedding Favors and Gifts – $500.00
  • Transportation – $500.00
  • Wedding Planner – $750.00

Now, take a look at those numbers. Do they work for you? Can you plan a wedding within those numbers? If you know that you do not need a specific amount of money for certain areas, you will be able to adjust the budget and put the money in a place where you want to spend more money.

Adjusting The Wedding Budget to Fit Your Vision

Some of these numbers may seem more than enough before breaking them down even further. Let's say you have 100 guests, so you think you will not need anywhere near $7500.00 for food and drinks, right?

Many reception halls have different costs based on the food packages and serving style. Usually, you have a buffet, family style, and plated. Let's say the price per person works out like this:

  • Buffet: $49.00
  • Family Style: $54.00
  • Plated: $64.00

So just for the meal, you have already spent between $4900.00 – 6400.00. You have no alcohol, appetizers, soda, bottled water, wedding cake, or other desserts. Do you see how looking at a number alone without considering all the other factors can be deceiving?

Take a hard look at your budget and how it is currently broken down, and decide if you think each category has enough money or if you need to move some money around. Good Luck in planning your perfect wedding and staying under budget!