Beach wedding ceremony set up featuring wedding arch of all white blooms
SPOTLIGHT

What Does the Average Wedding Cost?

All Your Cost Questions, Answered
BY C&C EDITORS / 04 04 22
Photo by Isabella Rodríguez Photography

For the most part, wedding planning is a joy. Even a dream-come-true! But you know what’s not fun? Paying for it. The stakes are high, the bills are higher, and the whole thing can get very stressful very quickly. 

If you’re wondering “How much does a wedding cost?” you’re not alone. Thousands of couples planning their big day often start their planning journey with no frame of reference for what the average wedding cost is—and why should they? It’s a one-of-a-kind event on which you’re likely to spend more money than ever before (or ever again), regardless of how much you personally spend. But that’s why going into the planning process with even a vague understanding of what the average wedding cost is so helpful— and helps you manage your budget more effectively. Your wedding budget should include the most essential elements of your dream wedding, leave a little wiggle room, and never cause serious financial issues for you and your partner in the future.

We’re here to help break down everything you need to know about wedding packages, prices, budgeting, and beyond. After getting engaged, many couples begin to research wedding costs, and questions like the following pop up:

  • What’s the average overall wedding cost? 
  • Who pays for the wedding?
  • How much does a wedding venue cost?
  • How much does a small wedding cost?
  • What should you expect to pay for wedding tuxedo rental services?

If you are looking for the answers to these, or any other frequently asked questions, we can offer you an inside look at real-world wedding budgets to enable you to map out the best options for you. We’ll provide you with detailed information on planning a budget, the factors that affect wedding costs, and the overall wedding planning process. We make it easier for you and your partner to plan the wedding of your dreams based on your financial capability.

Clear top tented pink and white wedding reception featuring crystal chandeliers.
Wedding couple dancing on ballroom dance floor with hanging floral installation
Mountain wedding ceremony set up overlooking a lush green valley

1. What does the average wedding cost? 

Trying to come up with a dollar amount for an average wedding cost is incredibly difficult, not only because costs vary so drastically depending what part of the country you’re in, but also because there’s equally drastic variety in how much people want—or are able—to spend on a wedding.

When you look at surveys that say the average cost of a wedding in 2020 was $20,300, you’ve got to understand that that number is potentially skewed due to self-reporting errors (many couples do not accurately remember how much they spent on their wedding—or may not want to admit it). Additionally, it includes all of the elopements that took place, and may or may not include the most expensive weddings that took place (we just have a hunch that celebrities don’t participate in surveys). Furthermore, most 2020 weddings took place during the Covid-19 pandemic, so many who chose to celebrate likely had smaller events and therefore, lower average wedding costs. 

This is why simply considering the national average wedding cost is not always the best way to plan your wedding budget breakdown. What we find most helpful is to understand what typical budgets look like from the more economical range of the spectrum to the ultra luxury, then factor in other key variables like location and guest count, and understand what percentage of your budget you should plan to spend on each type of vendor. This way you don’t end up reaching out to vendors blindly, but will have a rough guide for how much you should allocate to each of your vendors, depending on where on the wedding budget spectrum you fall. 

Wedding industry consulting company Think Splendid breaks wedding budgets into six segments of the wedding market. These segments define wedding cost range by varying amounts of money, according to the following tiers: 

  • Intimate weddings that cost $1,000 or less
  • Economical weddings that cost less than $10,000
  • Standard weddings with costs up to $30,000
  • Premium weddings that cost as much as $95,000
  • Luxury weddings with costs of up to $500,000
  • Ultra-luxury weddings with overall costs of $500,000 or more

As you can see, this is an immensely large range—from $1,000-$500,000! What you can do to make sense of such an overwhelming spectrum is figure out what the determining factors are, and which tier you will likely fall into. 

The average cost of a wedding can vary significantly depending on the location, the size, and the style chosen for the wedding. Additionally, the more custom your wedding is, the more expensive it will likely be, as compared to weddings that follow a relatively familiar pattern. As a result, the “average wedding budget” may not apply to your ceremony and reception.

These segments also highlight that the size of your wedding is a key factor in determining the overall cost of this event. Intimate weddings with only a handful of guests will, not surprisingly, be more affordable for those planning a wedding on a budget. Keeping things small can also allow room for more luxurious extras in your overall wedding budget.

As we mentioned, the average cost of wedding ceremonies and receptions varies widely state-by-state. In states that have a higher cost of living, weddings can cost nearly half of the couple's annual income. This can have a significant impact on you and your partner, especially if you have not been saving up for a wedding, and are planning to cover the costs yourselves. Considering the average wedding cost in your area will help you determine if a different location may help you reduce your wedding costs, if necessary. In some cases, destination wedding packages in Mexico or another faraway locale could actually be more cost-effective than marrying in the US. Integrating the average cost of local wedding venues and vendors into your wedding budget template or wedding budget calculator is essential to ensure you have the most accurate idea of wedding costs in your area.

Wedding costs are not solely an issue for the happy couple and their families, however. Statistics show guests can spend as much as $1,000 to attend a wedding once travel, attire, and gifts are factored into the equation. And it is important to keep your guests’ costs in mind when planning your wedding as well. Finding ways to help your friends and family keep costs low as wedding guests can help you to create the perfect wedding experience for everyone in attendance. This can ensure many happy memories for you, your partner, and the people you love on your big day.

Vibrant multi-colored outdoor wedding ceremony aisle set up in a garden

2. What affects the average wedding cost?

In order to get an idea of where on the average wedding cost spectrum you will end up falling, it’s helpful to understand the various elements that influence wedding costs—many of which you have control over. So just because you live in the most expensive city in America (which would be New York City), that doesn’t mean your wedding has to be an “ultra luxury” $500,000+ wedding. These are the key factors that will make a considerable difference in the cost of your wedding:

Wedding Location:

As we’ve discussed, where you get married geographically makes a huge difference on the average wedding cost, and what your wedding costs will be. If you live in an area with a higher cost of living, expect to pay more for your big day. Plus, if venue options are sparse in your area, and you need to bring in things like tent and furniture rentals or even a photographer, that will have a big impact on your total cost. 

Wedding Venue:

Since you will end up allocating about 45% of your overall wedding budget to wedding venue costs, the price of the venue you choose will have an enormous impact on your total budget. And while you might assume that a luxury hotel may come with premium pricing, many offer all-inclusive wedding packages that end up saving you money (and time) in the long run. Whereas you might think an outdoor wedding in a backyard would be the most affordable option, when you factor in the cost of rain plan items like a tent, furniture rentals, heat/AC, and all the other infrastructure items you need to bring in, the wedding costs may end up being higher than if you’d chosen a venue where those items are included. 

Wedding Guest Count:

The number of attendees makes a sizable impact on the average wedding cost because it affects everything from the cost of your invitations, to catering, to the number of floral centerpieces you’ll need based on the number of tables, and so much more. Of course, there’s a cost that comes with choosing to limit your guest count, as you might not be able to celebrate with all the people you love. 

Wedding Season:

Based on the increase in demand for venues and vendors alike, spring and summer weddings typically cost more than winter and fall, which in many resort communities is considered the “off-season.” If you’re booking an event during the busiest time of year, be sure to reach out early—venues, planners, photographers, even bands or hair and makeup artists all book up fast during these popular months.

Time of Day:

In a similar fashion, the time of day that you choose for your wedding ceremony and reception plays a part in whether your wedding will come in above or below the average cost of a wedding in your area. Evening weddings are in higher demand than afternoon events, so the wedding cost will most likely be higher. 

Wedding Style:

The average cost of wedding styles really depends on the level of formality. Formal weddings often cost more for wedding decor, catering, flowers, and even the choice of venue. By contrast, a more relaxed wedding style may come in below the average cost of a wedding (or skew the results so that they come in lower than most formal weddings). Understanding how style and formality are a factor can help you and your partner make decisions that will keep the cost of your wedding within your budget. 

Wedding Vendor Choice:

Just like with any other service or product, there are options that are best-in-class, and therefore more costly, and there are those that are satisfactory, and more affordable. Your selection of vendors is the same, and what standard you choose will significantly impact your wedding costs. If you choose all top-tier professionals who charge premium rates, your total will surely come in above the average wedding cost. This is one of the reasons we like focusing on the percent you spend on each vendor category, so that you can divvy up your wedding budget according to your capabilities.

Wedding Packages vs. Individual Vendors:

In some cases, wedding packages can be much more affordable for you and your partner than researching and hiring individual vendors for every aspect of your wedding. However, you might have to forgo some personalization (and the quality may be out of your control, or more of an unknown).

Looking at online wedding cost estimators and mapping out your wedding budget is a great first step. Since venues are often one of the earliest decisions, looking at how your top contenders compare to the average cost of wedding venues will help you start to understand how your area compares to the national average. This can help you to answer the question, "What is the average cost of a wedding in my area?" and to come up with a wedding budget checklist that is both realistic and works for you.

Classic indoor ballroom wedding reception
Modern indoor ballroom wedding reception with hanging floral installation

3. What is the wedding budgeting process?

One of the first steps in determining your wedding budget breakdown is determining the average cost of a wedding in your area. Your wedding planner can provide you with detailed wedding cost information and can assist you in comparing your dream wedding plans with the average wedding budget in your area. Your planner could also help you to set up a wedding budget checklist that will provide at-a-glance information on individual wedding cost items, as well as how your wedding compares to the average cost of a wedding in your area. You may even want to try using a wedding budget calculator to track costs that include:

  • Wedding hair and makeup costs
  • Wedding suit rental fees
  • Wedding DJ costs
  • Transportation costs
  • Wedding officiant cost
  • Wedding cake cost per slice or per cake
  • Your wedding planner cost
  • Overall wedding catering cost per person
  • The average wedding cost breakdown

Using a wedding budget template can help you to create and to work through your wedding budget checklist more efficiently. You may also be able to use your wedding budget planner or spreadsheet to compare the average cost of a wedding venue or wedding catering cost with the price you are considering (or capable of) paying for these services. By comparing your wedding cost with the average cost of a wedding in your area, you may be able to identify areas in which you and your partner can save money when planning your wedding.

Entering your expenses into a wedding budget template or online wedding budget calculator can also allow you to see the results if you lower spending in one area and increase it in another. For instance, if you reduce your wedding catering cost, you may be able to afford an increase in wedding hair and makeup cost to create the perfect look for you and your wedding party. Your wedding cost breakdown can also give you a clear picture of how your wedding compares with the average cost of a wedding in your area and across the country, which can help you to control your wedding price more efficiently—or consider a location that will be the best fit for your budget.

Along with your wedding planner cost, your wedding budget spreadsheet is truly the key to managing your wedding budget and comparing it to the  average cost of a wedding in your area. Whether you choose to stay close to the average cost of weddings in your area, or come in above or below, at least you will know what to expect, and how best to manage your wedding expenses.

Just married wedding couple walking up the alter being showered with flower petals thrown by guests celebrating them
Neutral white wedding cake adorned with cascading flowers

4. How much do wedding vendors cost?

The first step in planning your wedding budget is to consider the various elements of your wedding and how much you can spend on each. By dividing your wedding budget into specific categories, you can manage the cost of wedding planning much more efficiently. 

An important element in understanding the average wedding cost is the breakdown all of the wedding vendors, and the specific expenses associated with each of them and their services. Things like wedding videographer costs, suits or tuxedos, wedding bands, and wedding dress costs should all be incorporated into your wedding budget spreadsheet. This can help you to avoid mistakes in planning your wedding budget that can cost you a significant amount of time and stress as your special day approaches.

Working with a qualified wedding planner can help you determine what the average cost of a wedding is in your area. They can also provide wedding budget templates that can assist you in the planning and budgeting process. From wedding dresses to catering arrangements, understanding the average cost of wedding services is essential to building your own wedding budget the right way. Here are insights for each type of vendors for you to keep in mind as you create your dream day:

Wedding Planner Cost

Your wedding planner is an invaluable resource for you and your partner for every single aspect of your wedding, including creating a wedding cost breakdown and guiding you through a worksheet for planning your wedding expenses. Think of them like the team captain who executes on your vision and helps bring in the best players from every vendor category—and manages them along the way. Your wedding planner will help you come up with a wedding budget checklist, as well as help you understand what the average wedding cost is for events similar to the one you are planning (location, size, style, etc.). An experienced wedding planner can handle everything from wedding budget templates to vendor checklists, to general industry knowledge that can help you create a wedding cost breakdown for your ceremony and reception. Most couples end up spending about 15% of their overall wedding cost on a wedding planner or wedding coordinator. So while it’s not a small amount, the wedding planner cost is one of the best investments you can make in the overall success of your wedding ceremony and reception.

Wedding Venue Cost

Your wedding venue will likely be the largest line item on your wedding budget worksheet. But in order to answer, “how much does a wedding venue cost,” you’ll have to take into account location, demand, and amenities—plus many venues include in-house catering or rentals, which can drive up the price. In general, the average cost of a wedding venue adds up to about 45% percent of your overall wedding cost. That can be a pretty big number! If you are concerned about how to pay for your wedding, know that there are always options. More and more properties are offering flexible payment options, and by scaling your wedding size, or considering alternate locations, you should be able to find something you love that fits in your budget. A local wedding planner can provide insight into how much does a wedding venue cost, and give you a better understanding about the average cost of a wedding venue in your area—as well as help you find the best options for you and your dream day. 

Wedding Photographer Cost

Wedding photographers prices tend to be based on their notoriety/popularity, location, and the how extensive of a photography package you want. Additionally, a more experienced photographer will likely cost more than one who's recently gone out on their own. Whomever you consider should be able to provide a detailed explanation of wedding photographer costs, and explain how their pricing and packages work. Overall, wedding photographer costs typically make up 10% of a wedding budget checklist. Taking time to check references and to look at photographers’ portfolios of past weddings in our vendor directory can often help you to make sure that you choose the right person for you, and that your wedding photographer's cost is money well spent.

Wedding Videographer Cost

Having a wedding videographer enables you to relive your wedding again and again in a way that still photography simply cannot capture. One could argue that that gift is priceless! Depending on the reputation of the videographer and the type of video coverage you request, your wedding videographer's cost can sometimes be a significant contributor to the overall cost of a wedding, and most couples end up allocating approximately 5% of their budget. In general, it is well worth your while to pay a little more in both wedding photographer costs and videographer fees to ensure the most beautiful and memorable photos and videos of this once-in-a-lifetime event. Keep in mind that if you want drone footage, that will usually be supplementary. 

Wedding Invitations Cost

Wedding invitation costs can vary significantly based on quality, number of pieces of paper, and your guest count, which are all important factors to take into account when adding to your wedding budget spreadsheet. The cost quoted for wedding invitations typically doesn't only include your invitation suite either—any save the dates or day-of paper, like programs, menus and signage, are all factors in your total "wedding invitation" cost. While some online invitation companies provide templates that can lower the cost of wedding invitations, you’ll find that the customization that can be provided by a wedding invitation designer goes a long way in making your event that much more special. In general, most couples spend approximately 3% percent of the average wedding cost for stationery and postage.

Wedding Flowers Cost

While many would consider wedding flowers to be absolutely essential to any wedding (we don’t disagree…), there is actually a lot you can do to make your wedding flowers cost work for you. In terms of your wedding cost breakdown, wedding flowers typically account for up to 10% of your total budget. If flowers are your primary source of decoration for your ceremony or reception venue, you may want to invest more of your available funds into finding a top tier wedding florist who can truly transform the space and give you a realistic understanding of what your wedding flowers cost will be. It’s all a matter of what your priorities are, in that the more you dedicate to your wedding flowers cost, the less you may need to put towards the wedding decorations cost, or vice versa. Determining your priorities is one of the most essential tasks of creating a wedding cost breakdown. It will always be up to you whether you come in above or below the average wedding cost, and which vendors are the most important to you and your partner when creating your wedding budget breakdown.

Wedding Catering Cost

Finding a good wedding caterer is essential, which is why they’re well worth the price tag attached. Wedding caterers and meal choices can add up to 30% percent, or even more, of the average wedding cost. In some cases, the wedding venue and catering costs will be combined, and will make up about 45% percent of the average cost of a wedding. Not surprisingly, the wedding catering cost depends entirely on the quality of the menu that you choose, the number of guests you will be serving, and the format of the meal (passed hors d'oeuvres vs. a buffet vs. a multi-course plated meal.)  

Wedding Cake Cost

Yes, you can have your dream wedding cake and eat it too! Finding a talented wedding cake bakery who specializes in creating beautiful cakes that are also delicious is one of the most fun parts of wedding planning. Wedding cake costs typically make up 2% of the total wedding cost breakdown. If you are planning an intimate wedding with relatively few attendees, however, you can often reduce this expense by choosing a smaller cake—or for a large guest count, having a small, decorative cake for your cake-cutting, and then serving a simpler, less decorative sheet cake to guests.

Wedding Apparel Cost

While the majority of your wedding budget breakdown will be dedicated to the production of your event, don’t forget about wedding attire! Wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, and grooms' suits or wedding tuxedo rental should all be considered when planning your wedding budget. Your wedding dress cost may end up being more than you’ve ever spent on a single item of clothing before, but it likely won’t be a large percentage of your total wedding budget—most couples spend an average of 5% on wedding attire, hair, and makeup, combined. The average wedding dress cost from luxury and couture designers starts at $2,000 to $4,000, while more affordable bridal shops offer dresses under $500. So the wedding dress cost is very much up to you, as is whether you and your partner decide to purchase groom attire or go with a wedding suit rental (be sure to take dress alterations into account, as well as asking about any supplementary wedding suit rental fees.)

Wedding Hair and Makeup Cost

The wedding hair and makeup cost will depend on the vendors you choose as well as the amount of work that is required—specifically the number of people in the wedding party who will be having their hair or makeup done. Your wedding hair and makeup costs will increase if you are planning an outdoor wedding and expect to need the stylists to stick around longer for touch-ups. Wedding hair and makeup artists typically either charge per person, or per number of hours they will be needed (so if you go into overtime for an after-party hair change, that will affect your cost.) As mentioned, couples typically dedicate up to 5% of their total wedding cost on wedding attire and the wedding hair and makeup cost.

Wedding bride and her bridesmaids wearing earth-toned silk gowns
White and gold tented wedding reception featuring a long table with white floral runner cascading down on to the floor
Classic indoor ballroom wedding reception

Wedding Decor Cost

What you end up spending on wedding decor, lighting and rentals depends entirely on the venue you choose, and how much you add to or transform the space. Many couples spend up to 10% or more of the average cost of a wedding in this area. While flowers are one of the most popular types of decor (but typically budgeted separately), many couples choose to supplement with additional lighting or elegant seating—or your venue may not have enough tables and chairs for your guest count, so you may have to rent wedding furniture. Wedding rentals also include any rain plan items you may need for an outdoor wedding, like a wedding tent rental and flooring, as well as the less glamorous but equally-essential items, like portable restrooms and pop-up kitchens. Of course your wedding decorations costs will vary depending on the style of your wedding and your specific wedding budget breakdown, but that just means you have the flexibility to make it what you want—and stick to your budget. Your wedding planner can help with the maintaining and updating of a wedding spreadsheet that includes every single rental item in order to effectively track your wedding decorations costs.

Wedding Musicians Cost

Wedding music includes everything from ceremony musicians to live wedding bands to wedding djs, and wedding music costs are just as varied as the options. Couples typically spend 10% of the average wedding budget on wedding DJ costs. A live band or string quartet will typically be more expensive than wedding DJ costs because they are performing live, and there are often more people included than a one-man DJ (and similarly, a 16-piece brass band will cost more than a four-person rock band). But the experience can be unforgettable, and both options (live music or DJ) will know how to get the party started—and keep it going.

Wedding Rings Cost

Wedding rings and bands are as unique and distinctive as the couples who choose them. With the assumption that you’re past the engagement-ring-purchasing stage (learn how much money should you spend on a wedding ring here), we’ll focus on the wedding rings that are exchanged at your ceremony. So, how much does a wedding band cost? Just like with any other fine jewelry, it’s entirely up to your taste, your preferences and your budget. You could spend anywhere from $100 to $10,000 on a wedding band, but what matters is what you and your partner are comfortable with. Most couples spend about 3% of the total wedding cost on purchasing a pair of wedding rings (matching or not), but it’s up to you whether you want to stay within the average wedding cost, or splurge on an extra special piece that you’ll cherish for decades to come.

Wedding Officiant Cost

Wedding officiants are an often-overlooked part of the average wedding cost breakdown—and that’s probably because the cost adds up to a tiny percentage of your total expenses. If you are getting married in a church, the wedding officiant cost will be in the form of a donation made to that church, temple or other religious organization. In some cases, the wedding officiant may charge a flat fee that can range anywhere between $500 and $2,000. 

Some couples arrange for a friend or family member to be ordained online in order to perform your ceremony. This will come with a small fee, but will create a more personal experience for you, your partner, and your guests.

Overall, the average wedding cost breakdown begins with a general budget figure and becomes a roadmap based on the percentages you assign to each element of your wedding. By comparing your expenditures with the average wedding cost in your area for each type of vendor, you can manage the cost of a wedding much more efficiently. 

One thing to note: If you are asking vendors to travel to your wedding location, you should be prepared to cover the cost of any transportation, accommodations, meals, or other expenses related to their travel. Inquiring about these added charges and incorporating them into your cost calculator from the start will prevent any unpleasant surprises when you receive the final bill.

Wedding couple walking hand in hand along the beach
Wedding couple waling hand in hand along a garden path in front of an estate

5. Who pays for the wedding? 

These days there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Historically, all wedding costs were paid by the family of the bride, a custom that goes back to the time when dowry payments were commonplace to help to make daughters more attractive as brides to prospective suitors. But today, this tradition has frequently fallen to the wayside, as women have taken a more active and equal role in relationships, earning money and deciding their own futures.

In many cases, couples choose to finance their own weddings, and enjoy the freedom (from endless opinions) that that gives them. Saving up for your wedding can allow you and your partner to decide on many aspects of your ceremony, reception, and associated events with greater autonomy. Or the couple’s families may split the cost of the wedding. Or some combination of both, where the couple funds the majority of the event with some assistance from their families. dream wedding on a budget

Whether you decide to pay for your wedding alone or ask for help from loved ones, there is no universal answer to the question of who should pay for the cost of wedding arrangements. You and your partner should work together to decide what works for you, and how to manage wedding costs more effectively. Finding a solution that works for your situation can allow you to enjoy greater peace of mind when planning your wedding budget.

White and blue classic ballroom indoor wedding reception setup

6. How do you pay for a wedding? 

Paying for your wedding can seem like an impossible task, but figuring out your budget will help it feel more manageable. If you are wondering how to pay for your big day, there are a few strategies for managing the cost of wedding arrangements more easily.

For some couples, it makes sense to save up for the cost of a wedding over time. Parents can also employ this strategy to prepare for the weddings of their children. By taking a look at the average cost of a wedding in your area and setting aside money in a wedding budget for these expenses in advance, when the time comes, the wedding costs may feel less overwhelming. 

If saving up for your wedding costs is not possible due to your engagement timeline, your current financial situation, or any other reason, you may also be able to take advantage of financing options. For example, we recently introduced a Buy Now, Pay Later option for wedding venues that can make it much easier for you to manage the costs of your wedding venue over time, instead of having to make one big daunting payment up front in order to lock in your wedding date. Buy Now, Pay Later breaks your biggest payments up into manageable monthly amounts, you can often enjoy greater flexibility when managing wedding costs for your upcoming ceremony and reception. (And there’s no interest or credit checks, you just have the option to pay the same amount with more flexibility over time, rather than all at once.)

Of course you should still always be conscious of what you can afford, and don’t want to go beyond your means. If necessary, you may be able to reduce the cost of wedding arrangements by scaling down in size. Micro wedding packages are often much more affordable and can reduce wedding venue costs, catering expenses, flowers, even the wedding cake cost. If you are struggling to figure out how to pay for a wedding, downsizing may be the solution that works best for you and your partner.

If you are in the early planning stages and just trying to figure out how much everything might cost in addition to how to pay for your wedding, the first step is taking a careful look at the average wedding cost in your area to help you to see how your proposed wedding plans stack up against the local average—and whether or not you can afford them. Understanding the average cost of weddings in your area can help you plot out how much you might need to spend, and how that compares to your available finances. Arrangements like Carats & Cake’s flexible payment option can help you to pay for your wedding in a way that puts less stress on your day-to-day budget.

White and blue wedding cake displayed with matching blue candles
Wedding couple standing at the alter in front of guests at their Mountain View wedding ceremony

7. What do wedding packages include? 

When considering the average wedding cost, it is important to factor in the effect of all-inclusive wedding packages, micro wedding packages, and wedding packages abroad. Wedding packages can vary widely and can include travel, catering, photography, and music, and by bundling some of your services from one resource, you can end up saving time researching in addition to saving money. Just know that you may have less flexibility to customize everything you want, so there are pros and cons to all options. The most common types of wedding packages include:

All-inclusive Wedding Packages

An all-inclusive wedding package could potentially lower the average cost of a wedding because many of the services are bundled together into one lump sum. This can be a very efficient option for couples, as these packages usually include catering, venues for your ceremony and reception, flowers, rentals, even photography. Choosing all-inclusive wedding packages can often allow you to streamline the entire wedding planning process and to complete your wedding budget checklist in one fell swoop.

Destination Wedding Packages

A destination wedding package typically provides the same services as other wedding packages, but may have the added bonus of including travel arrangements and/or accommodations for you or your guests. If you are looking at wedding packages abroad, you may find that the packages you find internationally are less expensive than where you live, and could lower your overall wedding costs. Of course, if travel and accommodations are not included in the destination wedding packages you’re considering, depending where you are looking, any cost savings could end up being offset by additional travel expenses for you as well as your guests. But wedding packages abroad can also be a huge time-saver, if you are less familiar with the area, as you can skip the hours of research needed to find each and every vendor, and trust your venue to secure a talented team.

Micro Wedding Packages

If you’re having a smaller event, increasingly popular micro wedding packages are an outstanding choice. Micro weddings skyrocketed in popularity during the pandemic, and often cost significantly less than the average cost of a wedding, since the guest count and scale of all the details is so much smaller. If you’re having a micro wedding, you’ll find that you may be able to secure lower wedding venue costs, in addition to your wedding catering budget which can add up to substantial savings for your wedding budget breakdown.

Vendor Wedding Packages

Not all wedding packages are about bundled vendor services, many vendors price their own services into different tiers, or packages. For example, a wedding videographer may offer a basic package that includes a 4-6 minute highlight video, a higher-priced tier that adds an additional 15-25 minute feature film, and then an à la carte menu of add-ons, such as drone footage. This way, you can adjust your wedding videographer costs to meet your needs and budget. 

If you are in the process of figuring out how to pay for a wedding, creating a wedding budget spreadsheet or working with a wedding budget planner is key. While some packages can reduce the cost of your wedding, you’ll still want to keep track of all those additional add-ons, like your dress or your invitations, that a package will not cover. Researching the average cost of wedding services in your area and listening to suggestions from your wedding planner will help you manage your expectations as well as your expenses. 

Waterfront boho wedding reception overlooking an oceanside cliff

8. Should you tip your wedding vendors? 

The short answer is yes, tipping your vendors is recommended by wedding budget planners as part of the overall expense. Including these costs in your wedding budget template will often allow you to prepare to tip appropriately. A wedding planner can often help you to determine the right amount to tip for each of the vendors and venues involved in your wedding. When tipping your food and beverage vendors, be sure to add between 10-20% of the entire bill. In addition to this, you should allocate funds to tip drivers and chauffeurs, typically 15%. Your photography and videography teams should also receive a tip that ranges from 5-7% of your overall bill. For hair stylists and makeup artists, 15-20% of the bill is customary. Don’t forget about individuals who are working the event, including managers, tent set-up coordinators, portable restroom managers, and even security. These tips will range from $30 to $100 depending on your geographic location. 

Giving gratuity is considered industry best practices, and is essential to showing gratitude for your wedding vendors’ hard work for your big day.

Wedding couple dancing at their tented wedding reception in front of guests featuring a greenery-forward hanging floral installation and crystal chandeliers
Plated wedding hors d'oeuvre, mini chiche and waffle sandwiches

9. What are common unexpected wedding costs to know about? 

Unexpected wedding costs can make creating an accurate wedding budget breakdown extremely frustrating. When considering the average cost of wedding arrangements in your area, be sure to include these hidden wedding costs when planning how to pay for your wedding:

Marriage License Fees 

While the fee for a marriage license makes up a tiny fraction of the average wedding budget, it’s still helpful to know to plan for this small expense that will need to be paid in order for your wedding to take place and for your marriage certificate to be processed.

Rental Costs

Avoiding a site fee in lieu of throwing a wedding in the middle of an open field might seem like an affordable option, but let us be the ones to warn you: it’s not. Once you add up the expense of renting a remote kitchen, tent, dance floor, restrooms, furniture, and transportation, your wedding cost starts to snowball. These expenses, however, are necessary for celebrations in remote or outdoor areas, so keep that in mind when comparing your pipe-dream plans to  the average wedding costs. Transportation is another cost many couples don't think of that falls under "rentals" (particularly if you're getting a vintage car for your grand exit), but includes any buses for guest transportation, as well staffing, like drivers or valets for guest parking. 

Wedding Invitation Postage

The cost of stationery and postage combined should make up about 3% of the average wedding cost. While that may be a small part, forgetting about things like postage—and even the labor involved if you want to have your wedding stationery company stuff and seal your invites for you—can throw you off when trying to figure out the average wedding cost breakdown.

Gratuities, Overtime Fees, & Taxes

Some of the most common hidden costs of wedding venues include gratuity, overtime  and taxes on the services these facilities render. Be sure to factor these costs into your wedding cost breakdown to ensure the closest level of accuracy.

Welcome Bags

Since not all couples give their guests welcome bags on arrival, many wedding budget templates may leave out this popular line item that can actually get quite expensive. Not only will you be sourcing each item in bulk for your wedding guest count, the labor involved in assembling welcome bags is no small feat. You may choose to do it yourself, or they can be put together by your wedding planner, but expect that there will be an additional cost for the additional hours.

Vendor Trials & Cake Tastings

While some vendors may waive the cost of a wedding cake or catering tasting in an effort to sell you on their skills, that’s not always the case. And you will likely pay a small fee for each hair and makeup trial you book with each vendor—which can add up, if it takes a couple hair or makeup tests to build your glam squad (most people do two, if they need more than one).

Vendor Meals

While this will likely be a small cost in the grand scheme of things, but in the spirit of having no unforeseen costs, your catering bill will include a small line item for vendor meals (typically simpler than what you're serving to guests.) The one factor to keep in mind here is, as you're hiring multi-person vendor teams, like a four vs. a sixteen-piece band, the larger each vendor team is, the more vendor meals will need to be provided.

10. Once you determine your budget, what’s next? 

Now that you understand how to assess the average wedding cost breakdown and how to use it to inform what you can expect for your own wedding costs, you’re ready to take your next steps. Our directory can help you get in touch with venues and vendors in your area to find out how they compare to the local market, and whether they fit into your budget. You can also peruse our library of wedding galleries to see how each wedding vendor you’re considering has contributed to other couples' big days. When you’re ready to chat with them to learn more, reach out directly from our site, knowing that you have a confident grasp on what to expect from your vendors and your wedding costs.