Stay up to date with the latest wedding ceremony trends, script writing inspiration, tips and advice for first-time officiants, and news that matters to couples and wedding ministers.

How Much Does the Average Wedding Cost?

Published Monday, Jun. 24th, 2024

Newlyweds smile and pose after their wedding ceremony outdoors with family and friends

Average Wedding Cost: How to Budget for Your Big Day


Maybe you planned to have a nice, quiet wedding with just your closest friends and relatives. Something simple and fun to celebrate the big day, nothing too over the top. You’re saving for a downpayment on a starter home, after all! But then…


But then, your fiance invites a few more friends from Tuesday Night Trivia. Your mom says Cousin Bill will be CRUSHED if he’s not invited, and he’ll need to bring the kids. (Childcare is pretty outrageous these days.) 


Your perfect venue calls back to say the date you want is available, but there’s going to be an extra fee for choosing an outside caterer and something called ‘wedding insurance.’ The alteration costs for that cute new dress and suit roll in, and you still haven’t found the right accessories…


Pretty soon, your guest list and your wedding costs have doubled. Your big day suddenly has a big price tag to go with it. How did that happen so fast? 


Let’s take a look at the average cost of a wedding, the most common hidden costs and fees to watch out for, and where to cut costs first if things start to feel a little tight – so you can have a blast without breaking the bank!




Large banquet table with place settings, flowers, lit candles for a wedding reception

Photo: PPAMPicture / iStock
How much is an average wedding? Nationwide averages in 2023 were around $29,000 to $35,000 – and prices have only increased for 2024. 




How Much Does the Average Wedding Cost? 


Even a simple ‘no frills’ event can get expensive quickly. And if you want a large wedding with gorgeous decor, flowers, and live music, it can cost as much (or more!) than a new car, an entire college degree, or a downpayment on a new house. 


The cost of an average American wedding is between $29,000 and $35,000, with a different range for each state. In Alaska, for example, the average cost is about $12,000; the average wedding cost in New Jersey is over $44,000. If you want to get married in a pricey metro area like DC or NYC, that average looks even higher: up to $70,000 for a 100-person wedding in DC, and $63,000 to over $100,000 in New York City.



Second line wedding parade in New Orleans

Photo: 400tmax / iStock
How much are weddings in small towns vs big cities? Where you get married often impacts how much you can expect to pay. Areas with a higher cost of living will come with a higher price tag; and high-demand venues and vendors will usually cost more than offbeat wedding locations and DIY weddings.



If those numbers make your jaw hit the floor, you’re not alone.


Wedding costs (just like the cost of everything else) have skyrocketed in recent years. That increase might make sense when you consider how many moving parts are involved in putting on a large wedding: Venue, chairs and set up, insurance, photographers, planners, catering, invitations, attire, the officiant to pronounce you married, and even your marriage license. Weddings are a production, and every piece has a price tag attached.


Couples all over the country go into debt each year for a single-day wedding celebration – but it doesn't have to be that way! Creating a budget and sticking to it can give you the wedding day you really want, without the debt.


The key to a successful budget is to start with a realistic understanding of costs, watch for hidden fees, and skip the things that don’t matter as much to you. 


Breaking Down the Average Cost of a Wedding


How much is a wedding, really? This depends on multiple factors: How many guests you invite, whether your wedding is indoors or outdoors, your choice of venue, and even the time of year you marry. In general, the more guests you invite and the more vendors you hire, the higher your costs. That’s why it’s so important to research wedding vendors in your area to compare rates, and be sure to ask what services those fees include. 


Keep in mind that the only things required to get married are a marriage license and a wedding officiant – everything else is icing on the not-so-cheap wedding cake. 

Below, we break down the most common vendor costs to help you plan. 


$12,800: Venue
$9,800: Catering for an average-size 115 person event ($85 per Person)
$2,800: Alcohol / Drinks (sometimes included in catering, but not always)
$4,300: Live wedding band
$1,700: Wedding DJ
$2,000: Wedding photographer
$1,800: Wedding videographer
$1,000: Wedding content creator
$2,500: Bespoke wedding suit
$2,500: Custom wedding dress
$250 - $1,500: Wedding officiant
$2,100: Wedding Planner
$540: Wedding cake
$185: Hair and Makeup artist
$20 - $60 / hour: Bartender
$2,800: Florist
$2,000-10,000: Wedding decorations total (includes flowers)



Bride and groom celebrate their new marriage at an outdoor reception at home with guests

Photo: martinedoucet / iStock

On average, how much does a wedding cost? One factor often impacts this more than any other: the type of wedding venue you choose! The wedding venue (including both the ceremony venue and reception venue costs) is often a couple's largest wedding expense - costing even more than the average caterering package.



Your venue is likely to be your largest expense, but it’s also one of the easiest to personalize. You can get married in a traditional wedding venue or banquet hall, a tropical resort, a friend’s backyard, a courthouse, or a favorite bookstore… The possibilities (and price variations) are endless! 


According to The Knot, the average couple spent $12,800 on their wedding venue, out of a total of $35,000 – that’s almost 40% of the average wedding budget going toward the venue! Nearly 86% of couples host their wedding and reception at the same venue, so this cost includes both parts of the celebration, but it doesn’t include ‘extras’ like decor or special lighting (another $1,900) or event rentals (another $2,000). 


Regional variations also play a big part here: Utah wedding venues cost an average of $4,900, while New Jersey tops the list at $27,200 on average. 


Related: 10 Micro Wedding Ideas to Inspire An Intimate Ceremony


The most affordable venues are often outdoors, at a public park or in a relative’s backyard. Renting out a small bookstore or cafe for an afternoon will probably cost less than a banquet hall; a meeting room at a museum or library will probably be less than at a resort; and so on. 


‘Hidden costs’ to be aware of when choosing a venue: some venues require wedding insurance; some venues will charge extra service and equipment fees for tables, chairs, corkage fees, access to a dance floor, setup and breakdown, and more.



Brides cut their wedding cake together during an outdoor reception at night

Photo: shironosov / iStock

On average, how much does a wedding cost? Many factors go into how much your wedding will cost, including the time of year (peak or off-peak wedding season), whether your ceremony and reception are indoor or outdoors, the venue you choose, how many people you invite, the types of food and drinks you serve, and even the outfits you choose!


Catering and Drink Expenses


Food and drinks set the mood for any wedding reception and give you and your guests the energy to keep the party going! Unfortunately, meals and refreshments can get expensive quickly. The factors that affect catering prices the most are the size of your guest list, the types of alcohol and meals you choose, and the style of service. According to The Knot, the average catering cost per guest in 2024 is around $85, up from $75 in 2023.


A catering package typically includes food, hard and soft drinks (alcoholic and nonalcoholic), and waitstaff (but included staff duties will vary by caterer). Some packages will include the cost of place settings, tables, and chair rentals, but some will consider these items ‘add ons.’ Be sure to ask your caterer exactly what’s included! 


Buffet service is generally less expensive than table-side service. According to Wedding Wire, buffet service costs an average of $27, while seated table-side service costs an average of $40 per person. Whether you choose to include brunch, appetizers, desserts, and gluten-free or vegan options will all impact the overall costs as well. 


Cocktails can also set you back! Some caterers include drinks in their packages, but an open bar after dinner can add additional costs. The type of alcohol you serve also plays a role: beer, wine, liquor, and specialty cocktails all carry a different price tag (and are more expensive in that order). 


Potluck wedding reception: Potlucks might not be everyone’s favorite way to feed hungry wedding guests (and some people don’t like them at all!), but they are certainly one of the most affordable options. If you’re having a casual backyard elopement, you can ask friends and family members to bring their favorite dish or dessert to share the love, and the cost.


Be aware of this ‘hidden cost’: Some venues will charge an extra fee if you decide to hire an ‘outside caterer,’ or a caterer that is not on their preferred venue list.



Close up as bride and groom sign their marriage license during a simple ceremony

Photo: Kobus Louw / iStock

How much do weddings cost on average? Even small backyard weddings can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars. But 'sign and go' marriage license signing ceremonies and 'just elopements' can cost under $100 when you have a friend officiate! 


Entertainment and Music


How much does a wedding cost with live music? And is it cheaper to hire a DJ? Well – this year’s couples will spend an average of $4,300 for a live wedding band, while the average wedding DJ costs around $1,700 (according to The Knot). DJs are able to play a wider variety of music than most live bands, as well, which might be an important consideration.


Music shows up throughout the wedding day – from the moment guests arrive, to the wedding procession, to the recessional song and the reception playlist. Decide which musical moments are most important to you, and the types of music you’d like to have. This will help you determine whether hiring a DJ (or DJs) or live musicians is best for your wedding.


Related: Will You Marry Me? Romantic Marriage Proposal Songs (That Make Great Processional Music, too!)


Photography, Videography, and Wedding Content Creation


Your wedding might last only a day, but your memories of it should last forever! That’s why most couples are willing to pay more for a professional wedding photographer, videographer, or social media wedding content creator. These vendors help document the magical moments of the day so that you can revisit them again and again throughout the years. And like most wedding vendors, these pros will usually offer a variety of services and packages at different price points. 


According to WeddingWire, couples spend an average of $2,000 on wedding photography. Some photography packages include a second photographer (second shooter), engagement photos, save-the-date photos, bridal sessions and groom sessions, in addition to the photos taken on the wedding day. Wedding-day services might be billed by the hour, to include pre-ceremony moments and shots from the reception, or your photographer might charge a flat fee. Physical prints and albums of your photos might also be provided for a fee, while some photographers will only offer digital galleries and files.


Related: Making it Click: 4 Ways An Officiant Can Make the Wedding Photographer’s Life Easier


The average cost of a videographer is a little less, at about $1,800 according to WeddingWire. Videographer packages might include a second videographer (assistant or second shooter), drone footage, several edited wedding videos to choose from, filmed interviews with wedding guests, and physical copies of your wedding footage (DVDs). They’re professionals at shooting live events, so they’ll have all the right sound and lighting equipment, too. Like photographers, these pros might charge by the hour (make a long wedding day more expensive), or charge a flat rate. 


Wedding content creators are a new addition to the must-have vendor list. These professionals are experts at capturing and editing wedding footage for social media. Content creator packages can cost between $1,000 to $1,500 and up, and generally include meetings to discuss the vibe and feel you want for your content, photos and videos of the day (include before and after the ceremony, and your reception), and creative edits to make the event shine online. Some professionals might also include wedding streaming services, so that guests around the world can watch you get married. 



Wedding Attire


You should feel stunning when you walk down the aisle, whether that’s a perfectly-tailored suit, a lace gown, or your favorite sundress or summer slacks. Several factors will impact the cost of clothing: Number of wedding attendants (if you’ll purchase their attire); formal wear or casual clothing; bespoke or off-the-rack, new or upcycled / vintage, accessories, shoes, jewelry, and more! 


A bespoke suit might cost $2,500 or more; a tailored off-the-rack suit might run from $500 to $1,200. A custom wedding dress can cost between $2,500 to $5,500 or more, while the average cost of a wedding dress from a large retailer like David’s Bridal is closer to $500 (via Zola). And you can pick up a full men’s wedding package at Men’s Warehouse for around $500, while vintage and casual options will generally run much (much) less. 


So while some couples won’t hesitate to hire a dressmaker or suit maker to create an impeccably-tailored, one of a kind look, budget-conscious couples might choose a simple dress from a department store, and save their money for another type of splurge. What you wear is entirely up to you! The important thing is that you look and feel your best. 


Related: What to Wear (and Not Wear) as a Wedding Officiant



Man tries on a custom tailored suit in an elegant suit shop while an employee helps him check the fit

Photo: SerhiiBobyk / iStock

The average wedding cost is found by average all types of weddings, from small elopements and large formal events. This means there is a lot of variation, and many areas where you can cut costs for a smaller budget. The most expensive weddings usually include a high-end venue, a large guest list, expensive catering and seated service, live music, expert videography and photography, a custom wedding dress, bespoke suit, and other extravagant touches... plus a team of wedding planners and designers to pull it all together.


Wedding Officiant


Your wedding officiant might be the most important vendor of the wedding day! But how much does an officiant cost? It depends on the type of ceremony you plan! 


Most sources say that the average cost for a wedding officiant is around $250, but this is not a useful estimate because it includes quick ‘signing ceremonies’ and elopements as well as large custom wedding ceremonies. Custom wedding ceremonies that are written and performed by professional officiants generally cost between $500 and $1,500 or more, depending on the services included in your package.


Related: How Much Should You Pay a Friend to Officiate Your Wedding?


Wedding officiant packages generally include signing and completing the marriage license and delivering the ceremony; packages might also include a custom wedding ceremony script, custom wedding vows, a custom unity ceremony, travel fees, holiday fees, rehearsal fees, filing the license with the clerk’s office, and other extras.


Related: 5 Great Reasons to Ask a Friend to Officiate Your Wedding



Two grooms marry in an outdoor wedding with a friend officiating

Photo: ilbusca / iStock

One simple way to reduce the cost of your wedding day is to ask a friend or close relative to officiate -- like a parent, grandparent, or close friend. You can even choose two meaningful people to co-officiate!



Wedding Planner and Other Labor


The average couple spends about $2,100 for a wedding planner or wedding coordinator (according to The Knot). These skilled professionals coordinate every part of the day, often wrangling other vendors, confirming schedules and delivery dates, and helping to guarantee that everything goes smoothly when it’s finally time to gather with friends and take your vows. 


Wedding planners and coordinators usually offer packages with different types of services. These might include designing your wedding, helping you manage and stick to your budget, reviewing contracts with other vendors, vendor referrals, confirming dates and times for services, providing a wedding emergency kit, and more. Ask for specifics about what’s included in each package! 


Related: What Wedding Planners Wish Wedding Officiants Knew…


We won’t cover every vendor in depth, but it’s important to recognize the role of day-of venue coordinators, bakers ($540), hair and make up artists ($185), additional bartenders and waitstaff ($20-$60/hr), valet service ($250-$500), personal transportation / drivers ($40-$65/hr), and many others who make sure that the big event is truly memorable.


Each of these professionals deserves fair pay, so if you want their services be sure to include them in your budget! 




The average cost of wedding decorations will vary dramatically depending on many factors: what’s included in your venue package; wedding location; indoor or outdoor ceremony or reception; wedding size; types of decor; rentals versus purchases. 


The Knot estimates that couples will spend about $2,800 on a florist. Zola estimates the average cost of centerpieces at about $50 a table; lighting can cost between $200-5,000; photo booths and backdrops can cost $100-$1,500; a ceremony arch can cost between $75 and $1,000, depending on what it’s decorated with, and so on. 


As you can see, this list could continue for quite awhile and include anything from candles to tapestries! Zola rounds this out at an average of $2,000-10,000 for all wedding decorations, with indoor weddings costing more than outdoor events.


Unexpected Fees and Extras


As mentioned earlier, many of these categories come with ‘hidden’ or unexpected fees. Venues and caterers might charge cake-cutting fees, corkage fees, services charges, and insurance fees, among others. You might also need to pay for unity ceremony supplies, a wedding survival kit, and other last minute items. 


Make sure you discuss these possibilities with each vendor. Ask whether these fees are optional, and how they can be avoided. 



Grooms newlyweds smile on the wedding day after their ceremony, surrounded by friends and relatives

Photo:  Fly View Productions / iStock

Outdoor weddings are usually less money than indoor weddings, and DIY decorations can help lower costs even more. 

Tips for Managing Wedding Costs


Feeling overwhelmed yet? You don’t have to spend money on everything listed above, and there are many DIY and low-budget options within each service. 


Here are a few of our favorite examples of how to cut costs: 


  • Set your own priorities and don’t worry about the things that don’t matter to you
  • Ask a friend or relative to get ordained to officiate your ceremony
  • Plan a potluck wedding reception
  • Ask a close friend or relative to bake pies or cupcakes in place of a traditional wedding cake
  • Choose vintage or upcycled wedding attire
  • Have an off-peak (off-season) wedding 
  • Hold your wedding on a weekday
  • Choose DIY wedding decor
  • Choose an offbeat wedding venue (public park, friend’s house, local bookstore or cafe, etc., with permission!)
  • Rent supplies instead of purchasing
  • Buy flowers and decorations at Costco instead of a traditional florist
  • Ask friends or relatives to play live music at your reception (choose wisely…)
  • Ask bridesmaids, groomsman, and other attendants to purchase their own wedding attire
  • Leave disposable cameras on tables during the reception to reduce the hours a professional photographer is present
  • Plan a cash bar (or open bar only for the ‘lighter’ stuff)
  • Skip the DJ and create your own playlist
  • Plan early and shop the sales
  • Online save-the-date cards and invitations
  • Consider a ‘sign and go’ ceremony instead of a traditional wedding
  • Elope and have a bigger party later / on your first anniversary


Don’t be afraid to get creative – it’s your wedding, but it’s also your financial future! You don’t have to go into debt to have a great time.


Related: Can’t Afford a Wedding? How to Get Married for (Almost) Free



Become an Officiant with American Marriage Ministries


As you can see, there are A LOT of things that go into a beautiful wedding day, but also a lot of great ways to stay within your budget! How much your wedding will cost depends on which factors mean the most to you – the wedding day items you can’t do without. 


Careful planning and budgeting ensures that you only pay for what’s important to you, and will help you create the day you really want.


For example, if you really want a custom suit or wedding dress, or if you just want to keep the cost of the whole thing under a few grand, consider asking a friend or relative to officiate instead of hiring a professional.


The money you save by asking a friend or relative to serve as your wedding officiant can be used to increase your dress budget – giving you the look you’ve dreamed of! 


Friends and relatives can get ordained online with American Marriage Ministries for free, and it only takes a few seconds.


Head here for more details on how to get ordained and officiate a wedding in your state:




You might also like: 



Three tips for planning a WTF (Wedding that Fits) Wedding Celebration

Don't be pressured into overspending on your wedding. Create a WTF : a Wedding That Fits your individual needs and wants. Put some thought into the look and feel of your wedding so that you and your wedding planner have a shared vision for the cermony! 




Close up of a woman working on her wedding plan



Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

How To Officiate By State

Will You Marry Us? Gift Package

Who Will Officiate Your Wedding?

Choose Your Officiant with our "Will You Marry Us?" Gift Package.

Signature Wedding Officiant Package

Signature Wedding Officiant Package

Our premiere package contains everyting you need to officiate like a pro.

The Book of Wedding Vows and Ceremonies

The Book of Wedding Vows and Ceremonies

It's finally here! Timeless scripts and heartfelt vow inspiration to bring life to your ceremony.

Professional Wedding Officiant Certification Course

Learn from the Pros to Officiate with Confidence!

Wedding Officiant Training

Wedding Officiant Training

Everything you need to know to officiate.

Read our sample wedding ceremony scripts online

Sample Wedding Ceremony Scripts

Need inspiration? Check out our free ceremony scripts!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter!


Become a Wedding Officiant with Our Free Online Ordination!