Think about the last time you went to a wedding. Were there extravagant sprays of flowers, glimmering table decorations, bridesmaids with flawless hair and makeup, hundreds of guests fawning over the tiniest of details, and of course… an open bar?
The answer is most likely… “yes.” And as you enjoy a celebration full of love, family, friends, and fun on someone else’s dime, the question that will undoubtedly slip into your mind at some point during the event is… “how much did this all cost?”
Wedding Facts and Figures
In 2017 the Knot surveyed almost 13,000 couples who were married that same year and found they spent an average of $33,391 on their wedding. And that’s not including one major big ticket item, the honeymoon. The cost of weddings have increased significantly over time.
In 2009 the average price per guest was $194 and is roughly $268 per guest now. But interestingly, the average amount of money couples are spending on weddings is decreasing. How is this possible?
Well, couples appear to be moving from the much more expensive formal black tie wedding to more non-traditional weddings which are not as pricey. For example, there is a very big difference in price tag between a posh hotel and a rustic barn.
The following statistics were gleaned from the Knot 2017 report:
- Average Wedding Cost: $33,391 (excluding the honeymoon)
- Most Expensive Place to Get Married: Manhattan, average spent $76,944
- Least Expensive Place to Get Married: New Mexico, average spent $17,584
- Average Spent on a Wedding Dress: $1,509
- Average Marrying Age: Bride, 29.2; Groom, 30.9
- Average Number of Guests: 136
- Average Number of Bridesmaids: 5
- Average Number of Groomsmen: 5
- Most Popular Month to Get Engaged: December (16%)
- Average Length of Engagement: 14.0 months
- Most Popular Months to Get Married: September (16%), June (15%) and October (14%)
- Popular Wedding Colors: Ivory/Champagne (37%), Dark Blue (32%) and Gold (30%)
- Percentage of Destination Weddings: 25%
The top 10 most expensive places to get married were determined to be:
- New York – Manhattan: $76,944
- New Jersey – North/Central: $62,074
- New York – Long Island: $61,113
- New York – Westchester/Hudson Valley: $55,357
- Massachusetts – Cape Cod: $55,083
- Rhode Island: $52,777
- Illinois – Chicago: $52,332
- Connecticut: $47,435
- New York City – Boroughs Outside of Manhattan: $46,808
- Pennsylvania: Philadelphia/Delaware: $46,211
And the top 10 most affordable places to get married were determined to be:
- New Mexico: $17,584
- Utah: $18,516
- Oregon: $20,652
- Montana: $20,814
- Iowa: $21,982
- Idaho: $21,987
- South Dakota: $22,107
- Ohio – Toledo: $22,171
- Oklahoma: $22,373
- Mississippi: $22,645
So, for those who can’t fathom parting with ~$30,000 but also want to have a “real” wedding celebration as opposed to an elopement. What are their options? Let’s talk about microweddings.
What is a microwedding?
Think of a microwedding the same way you would think about different sizes of candy bars. Most candy bars come in a jumbo size which is more expensive than the regular size. And the mini version of that very same bar is pennies to the dollar compared to the regular size.
The same thought process applies to a microwedding. You will still be getting the fulfillment of having a wedding, with the relief of not having to break the bank to do it. In essense, microweddings are just the “fun size” version of a traditional wedding.
Micro weddings are usually quite small, and the number of guests can range from 5-50 people. Because the number of attendees is less, the celebration is often less expensive, more intimate, allows for more creativity and flexibility compared to a traditional wedding, and also tends to be less stressful both emotionally and financially.
How do I know if I want a microwedding?
So… that depends on what you’re looking for. If you are the type of person who likes to stick to a small budget and are comfortable with inviting just your closest friends and family, then it may be a viable option for you. The fewer guests you have, the less expensive your wedding will be. Why? Because fewer attendees means a smaller venue, less food and drink that needs to be supplied, fewer invitations, fewer bridesmaids, fewer table decorations and party favors, and the list goes on.
The other plus side of a microwedding is that a small guest list means that you can do almost anything to celebrate your marriage. If your dream is to get married on a glacier in Alaska imagine how much easier it is to get 5 people up there as opposed to 500.
The microwedding allows you to do unique things you would never be able to do with a huge guest list, and it also gives you the flexibility to be creative with your choices and let your personality shine through.
Plus, if you’re one of those people who wants to celebrate the love and commitment you have for one another, ask yourself how important it is for family members you see a few times in your life and barely remember their names are to your big day. Your wedding day should be special, not stressful.
You should definitely not have a huge wedding because other people want you to. It’s easy to be swayed by the allure of having an extravagant expensive wedding, but remember there is no correlation between how much money you spent on a wedding and how long you will remain married.
It is even more important to remember that finances are one of the biggest reasons people get divorced. So starting your marriage off debt free and enjoying your life together is a much better start than fighting tooth and nail figuring out how you’re going to pay everything off over the next few years.
How to break the news?
So you’ve decided that a microwedding is for you, but are afraid of the pushback you’ll get for bucking tradition. Once you’ve made your decision, stick to it. When people start talking to you about the big day and make helpful suggestions that have dollar signs written all over them, be polite, but stay firm.
Whenever it comes up, make sure that you are confidently vocal about your wedding plans. Every person has different expectations in mind when they hear the word “wedding” so start setting people up for what your expectations are early.
Cost cutting tips
- The Dress: Have fun and get creative with budget friendly finds. If you find something you love that fits, and you feel incredible in it, then that’s it. Don’t let people talk you into getting something that you don’t want. Half the fun is looking at vintage shops, or consignment stores for a dress that looks “bridal” without the wedding price tag.
- The Venue: the nice thing about having a small wedding is that you can spend quality time with everyone instead of doing a quick meet and greet with people who sometimes travel a very far distance to attend. The possibilities are endless. You could rent out a community center, park, small restaurant, Airbnb, library, bar, zoo, and the list goes on. You could literally do anything you wanted to.
- The Food: instead of paying several hundred dollars a head for a professional caterer, think about making a reservation for you and your guests at your favorite restaurant. Or call up your favorite food truck and see if they will come to your venue for a few hours.
- The Flowers: it’s generally a good idea to not say anything “wedding” related when you’re talking to vendors. Even if your wedding is small, just the whiff of the word “wedding” means that whatever you’re purchasing will come with a wedding price tag. Look for flowers that are in season, and save money by creating simple arrangements. You can also get more bang for your buck if you use your flowers in multiple ways. For example if you decorated your wedding arch with flowers, use these same flowers to decorate the tables at your reception.
- The Officiant: the cost of an officiant can sometimes be steep. Think about having someone close to you be ordained so they can officiate your wedding. It adds a nice personal touch when the person marrying you knows you both very well, and they are often more than willing to do it for free.
- The Photos: do your research. Sometimes you can find great photographers that are in photography school, or have recently completed a program and are trying to get into the business, but they don’t have a large enough portfolio to book regular jobs. Take a look at some of the work they have done. Chances are you can get a great deal, and recommend them to others you know to return the favor.
Where do I start?
There is nothing wrong with wanting a big wedding, as long as that is what you and your partner want. It’s often difficult to stand your ground when the people closest to you are telling you how they think you should spend your wedding day.
But remind yourself that your wedding is a once in a lifetime event, and you can take one day out of your life to be selfish. Take the time to think about what the word “wedding” means to you and your partner and go from there.
At the end of the day you will have to find what works for the two of you, and once your family and friends see how much that means to you they should get the message and get on board. And if they don’t then they did you a favor and helped make your guest list a little bit shorter.