The average American wedding costs $26,444, according to costofwedding.com. According to theknot.com, the average wedding costs $31,213 in 2014. These figures are commonly quoted in the press, since it sounds sensational. However, according to costofwedding.com, 40% of couples spend less than $10,000 on a wedding and only 16% spend more than $30,000. Slate.com did a critique of theknot.com’s figures. They found that when the average price of a wedding was $27,427 in 2012, the median price was $18,086. They also pointed out that theknot.com figure is drawn from the sites online membership, so it is far from a representative sample. I was unable to find how costofwedding.com gets their estimate.
The average cost also includes the costs the bride’s family would not pay:
engagement ring $5,855 $2,519-$4,199
rehearsal dinner $1,206 $428-$714
groom’s attire and accessories $254 $228-$384
ceremony officiator $155-$259
wedding band for bride $452-$753
bridal bouquet $111-$185
boutonnieres, corsages $54-$90
DJ $1,124 $534-$890
Live Band $3,587 $1,257-$2,095
Bar Service $1,799-$2,998
Total $8,439 $7,537-$12,557
left for bride and family $22,774 $16,397
percent of total 73% 62%
Taking the $10,000 figure that 40% of weddings fall below and applying the 62% of bride and family expenses, that would be $6,200. That is about half of our parent contribution for a year of college. A good rule of thumb might be not to spend more than the equivalent of a semester of college.
My father-in-law spent about $3,000 on our wedding 25 years ago. That would be $5,440 today, adjusting for inflation ((1+(CPI 2015-CPI 1990)/CPI 1990))*3,000. Historical CPIs are in table 24.) The largest cost of wedding is usually the dinner. We didn’t have one. We did an afternoon wedding and an evening reception. We did a barbecue for family and the wedding party in my father-in-law’s back yard. We did have a live band because that was a priority for us.
My wife’s mother had passed away and she had the diamond from her wedding ring. I spent $400 for a setting and wedding ring. That would be $725 today, adjusting for inflation. We also did a barbecue for a rehearsal dinner in my father-in-law’s back yard. For our honeymoon, we stayed at friend’s beach cabin. Based on what theknot.com says about dividing expenses, I should have paid for the wedding officiator, the band, and the bridal bouquet, but I didn’t.
The expenses that were considered did not include the cost of the honeymoon, which averages $4,000 to $5,000. Adding $4,500 to the expenses not paid by the bride and family, based on costofwedding.com’s estimate, that would make the groom and family’s expenses $14,547 of a total of $30,944 for 47% of the wedding expenses. That is pretty close to an even division of costs.
I had always assumed that saving for a wedding was a financial burden for having daughters. I was surprised to find out, under current etiquette guidelines, that it is about equal. Based on that, if and when our daughters get married, I think it would be best to negotiate expenses with our daughters, their fiances, and their fiances parents to keep overall spending reasonable and evenly divided between the families. I think the limit of no more than the cost of a semester in college is good rule of thumb for each family.
If expenses have become about equally divided between the families, that means that parents of sons need to consider wedding costs as well. I think there is an assumption that males pay for the engagement ring and honeymoon, but they may need some help from their family. The average age for a male getting married is now twenty-nine, which should make them more able to pay expenses. On the other hand, crippling college debt and a tough entry-level job market has made it more difficult to pay. With what I know now, if I had sons, I would save as much for their wedding expenses as I would with daughters.