How Much Does a Wedding Cost? Long-Term and Short-Term Implications of a Lavish Celebration

It’s no secret that your wedding night can be one of the most expensive nights of your life. From finding satisfactory catering services and the perfect venue down to renting chairs for each person on your extensive guest list, the costs of the average wedding can add up quickly. This might not be a big deal if you are lucky enough to come from a family of significant means — but it’s safe to say most people don’t aspire to plan the most expensive wedding in the world. 

In this article, we will touch on some of the costs associated with weddings, including pricing trends moving into 2023. Additionally, we will list the top reasons why expensive weddings may not be the best idea and in sum, answer the question how much does a wedding cost.

Will Wedding Prices Go Down in 2023?

If you pay your own bills, you are likely acutely aware of the state of the current economy. With U.S. inflation hovering around a painful 7%, this means increased costs for everything from catering to dress shopping. While inflation rates have decreased slightly over the past year from 7.7% to 7.1%, there is no reliable indication that inflation will continue to significantly decrease in 2023.

This means that, unfortunately, 2023 will likely still be a rather expensive time to get married — or for that matter, to do much of anything! However, some remain optimistic that the economy will improve in 2024.

In short, the answer is no, it does not look like wedding prices will drop significantly in 2023, but it might be worth holding out until 2024 or even 2025!

What Does the Average American Wedding Cost?

According to NerdWallet, the average American wedding cost is about $28,000 — though this can typically range from $20,000 to $40,000. For perspective, the average cost of a wedding in the United Kingdom is around $21,000, whereas Canadian weddings are closer to American budgets at an average of $30,000. In some European countries, costs can be as palatable as around $15,000 — but that largely depends on the country. Italian weddings can sometimes cost upwards of 100,000 euros — almost $105,000!

What is the Global Average Wedding Cost?

Obviously, the cost of weddings largely depends upon the culture and country in which they take place — as well as how traditionally the couple is celebrating. For those seeking a destination wedding, costs can be as low as roughly $6,000 — but around the world, most countries spend between $1,000 and $15,000 per wedding.

What Was the Most Expensive Wedding in the World?

In 1981, the union of Prince Charles and Princess Diana cost $110 million, with a guest list of 3,500 and over 700 million witnesses tuning in on their televisions from around the world. 

Today, however, according to Insider, couples in the United Arab Emirates can spend upwards of $180,000 on their big night — making it one of the most expensive countries in the world to get married in. 

Average Wedding Food Cost

While the average catering cost of a wedding depends on the size of your guest list, on average, couples can expect to spend between $72 and $92 per head. That is to say, if you splurge on the nicest catering with a guest list of 150 people, you can end up with a food bill of almost $14,000 — and this doesn’t include the cost of an open bar, which can range from $15-$45 per person. In fact, aside from the venue, providing enjoyable libations tends to be the most expensive part of wedding planning.

And of course, you can’t forget the cake! While the average wedding cake typically costs around $350, some couples can spend $1,000 or more on their wedding cake. The important thing to remember here is what you want to prioritize about your wedding experience. For many, an open bar is a must — while others would rather set up a beer or wine cart and spend more on the actual food. Whatever your wedding catering budget, include extra wiggle room for unanticipated expenses or tips for great service.

Why Expensive Weddings Are a Bad Idea: Top 7 Reasons

Some people dream about their weddings from the earliest reaches of their childhood until the day they find their person. For others, finding a romantic partner is not nearly as thrilling as chasing their dream career, rock climbing in Yellowstone National Park or traveling the world.

However you feel about this celebration of love, the truth is, the extent of the festivities occurs over a very short time — and can cost a lot of money, with unexpected expenses cropping up left and right. Expensive weddings aren’t for everyone — in fact, there are many good reasons why expensive weddings are a bad idea.

1. Encourages Reckless Spending and Reckless Behavior: 

Going “all out” in your festivities can add an element of wild abandon to the evening — which can make for an incredible, memorable evening in more ways than one. Especially for weddings in settings like Las Vegas, mixing indulgences like alcohol, gambling or even uninhibited flirting can lead to fights, drama, lost money and a painful or embarrassing next morning. 

2. All That Cash Gone For Just One Night:

Even if you plan to be incredibly responsible with your wedding, there is no denying that thousands of dollars are gone after one evening. For some, this quick cash drop is worth it. But for others, this can be a frustrating and game-changing factor.

3. Can Be Challenging for Guests with Tighter Budgets: 

If you focus on cultivating the most lavish, extravagant, no-holds-barred wedding possible, that sets a certain precedent for your guests. Often this can require renting or buying expensive formal wear, booking hotels, traveling and other expenses — which may be cost-prohibitive to some of your loved ones. For everyone’s sake, try to create an inclusive atmosphere, including appetizers palatable to all — not just lobster tail and caviar canapés.

4. Less Intimacy: 

While it is exciting to share your big day with as many people as possible and it is a wonderful thing to feel blessed with so many friends, family members and loved ones, the truth about a large guest list is that there is an element of intimacy that is lost. Larger venues, full of echoes and strangers sitting by each other can create an awkward, overcomplicated atmosphere that can swallow the real reason for gathering everyone together for your big night: the celebration of your love.

5. High-Stress: 

The more people you invite, the more logistics will be involved, which requires more diligent planning, more contingency plans, more backups to the contingency plans, more support and more networking. In short, a lot more work. In fact, some people opt for a smaller wedding for the sheer simplicity of the proceedings. Generally speaking, the smaller the wedding and the less pomp and circumstance involved, the simpler and easier the night will be for the lovebirds.

6. You Can’t Please Everyone: 

Especially when it comes to food, décor, temperature and music — you are bound to cause someone to “clutch their pearls” at some point during the evening, for any given reason at all. While you can do your best to accommodate guests who are differently abled or have dietary preferences or restrictions, the larger your guest list, the more personalization and effort you will have to put into catering to everyone else’s needs. And isn’t this day supposed to be about you and your sweetie?

7. No Guarantee The Marriage Will Last: 

We hate to sound cynical here, but spending upwards of $40,000 on your wedding night is in no way a reflection on whether or not your marriage will last your whole lifetime. In fact, there are literally no guarantees in life, love, war and everything in between.

For some, dropping this kind of money can be worth the fun involved. But for others, $40,000 can mean putting a baby through college, buying a high-value car or purchasing a mortgage. Sadly, there is a little more certainty about financial investments than romantic ones — unless you plan ahead with a prenup and a team of lawyers!

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What Wedding Costs Really Mean

You’ll never catch us saying that you don’t deserve to treat yourself. Your wedding night should be fun — a dream come true, even — and what on Earth is more worth celebrating other than love and the union of two souls? 

However, too often, folks conflate the expense of the wedding with the quality of the event itself. A $180,000 wedding in the United Arab Emirates is no more or less likely to succeed than a casual, $5,000 destination wedding — or backyard celebrations that cost even less! 

Also, one thing you can always count on when planning a big event is for mishaps, improvisations and unexpected expenses or problem-solving to crop up. No matter how thoroughly you dot your “I”s and cross your “T”s, chances are at least one unplanned, a chaotic moment will rear its head — and it could pose a painful and unexpected expense.

Of course, the more complicated your wedding planning and the more moving parts you have involved, the more likely these issues are to arise — and the likelier that your bill will end up exceeding the top end of your budget.

Big price tags are often seen as a symbol of abundance and success — but wealth can be measured in many ways. To some happy couples, that means a quiet, barefoot, candlelit ceremony beneath the trees and the moon, the officiant and the witness.

Final Thoughts on How Much Does a Wedding Cost

No matter how much pressure you might feel from family members to book the family church or choose a traditional and expensive dress, extend the guest list or work with vendor after vendor — at the end of the day, this is your night.

The best way to honor your love is to talk with your hunny about what you both want to get out of the ceremony and reception and how you want your guests to feel during and after the event. If you can cultivate a memorable experience that sparks joy, magic and fun — no matter your budget — you will have succeeded.

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