How Americans Pay for Their Wedding

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In this era of high technology and social media, it’s no wonder that weddings have morphed into extravagant fêtes that cost a small fortune. With everyone sharing ideas and comparing notes on sites like Pinterest, Vine, Facebook, and Instagram, the pressure for brides and grooms to have a picture-perfect wedding continues to escalate. Many of today’s young couples shun the simple ceremonies their parents may have favored in exchange for full-blown theatrical productions. Wedding website reported recently that in 2012, an average of $28,427 was spent on weddings, rehearsal dinners and receptions. That figure does not include the cost of the honeymoon.

Since the average age of most newlyweds is somewhere between 27 and 29, many have completed their formal education and embarked on a career. Even though they may have lucrative jobs and a little savings socked away, it takes careful planning to avoid getting into wedding debt. In a recent poll regarding just how couples in the U.S. pay for their weddings, it was revealed that 72 percent dip into their savings accounts. Thirty percent resort to credit cards and set a pay-off goal of 6 months. A small percentage opts for financing the big day with a personal loan. However, going this route could lead a couple to go overboard. Gaining approval for a loan amount that’s over the wedding budget can set a young couple up for years of financial hardship.

See related post, “Yes, You Can Have A Fabulous Wedding on a Budget!”

Since a home purchase is often the next step for newlyweds, it makes much more sense to scale back on the wedding and save for a down payment. The U.S. Census figures for July 2013 published the median price for a new home at $257,2000. For anyone taking out a mortgage, that would mean a 20% down payment of $51,449. When couples overspend on all the wedding bells and whistles, saving up for a down payment can be tough.

The good news is that among engaged couples in 2012, 91 percent set a budget for their weddings. However, 32 percent reportedly went over budget. It turns out that the most expensive ceremonies are “destination weddings” which bring friends and relatives from far and wide to a resort-like setting. According to Anja Winikka, who is the director of, these types of weddings result in higher spending on extras such as shuttles, 3-day weekend events, plus more meals and accommodations for out of town guests.

Avoiding wedding day debt takes a little know-how. Here are a few ways to save:

  • Clear the decks for a new life together by selling unwanted and unused items. Craigslist and eBay are the perfect sites to get cash for almost anything, especially books, collectibles, sporting goods, furniture, electronics, and even clothing. See related post, “Ways to Force Yourself to Save Money.”
  • Set up a separate savings account solely for wedding expenses. Be firm and only use funds from this account for budgeted costs!
  • Instead of registering for the usual china, crystal, and linens booty, create a wedding website that allows well-wishers to make cash donations. This can also be an innovative way to fund the honeymoon!
  • When planning for the big day, the Internet can be a friend or foe. There are loads of helpful apps to guide couples through the process and make budget conscious choices. However, looking at content sharing sites like Pinterest can easily overwhelm a bride or groom. Pick your wedding inspiration sites with caution.

If you are wondering how wedding costs shake down now that we are well into the new millennium, here’s a look at the typical breakdown:

The bride and her family handle all of the paperwork, such as invitations, announcements, and programs – don’t forget those thank you notes! They are also usually responsible for the venue itself, music, the reception, and all of the decorations and flowers. Most brides also cover the expense of the groom’s ring, the photographer and of course, the wedding gown.

The groom and his family seem to have it a little easier. The big expense on their side is the rehearsal dinner. The husband-to-be is also expected to pay for the officiant’s fees, the bride’s bouquet, her rings, his suit, and the honeymoon.

Mind you, the happy couple can choose to divide up the wedding expenses based on what is best for them. The above are merely suggestions. The point is to enter into a new life together, not debt. So evaluate all of the proposed costs, create a budget and stick to it.

Lisa is a cost-cutting, money-saving, life-simplifying guru, ready to share her secrets and the tricks up her sleeve. As a mother to a teenager and a twenty-something, avid surfer, and world traveler, Lisa knows how to live the good life on a budget. She covers topics that help us let go of wasteful and costly habits, and embrace those that do our wallets, our bodies, our families, and our planet some good!

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