A Wedding: What's a reasonable amount to spend?

And how much trouble should you put your friends and family to?

Here’s the background:

Last friday I went to an ex gf’s wedding. It was (IMO) very expensive (she told me how much it was costing a couple of weeks ago - I’ll post the amount if anyone feels the need to know). It was held at a castle and amongst other things there was a champagne reception a piper for various processions and after a banquet (for 50+ people) a fireworks display.

For me it was a round trip of just over 600 bmm*****, many people had to travel further since most of the guests are based in London and the venue was in Scotland. Because it was on a friday I had to take two days off work to allow for travelling.

I’m not complaining: I shared the journey with a mutual friend who I don’t get to see often so travelling and mooching around was fun, the (civil) ceremony was much more involving and personal than any of the church weddings I’ve been too, and we all got fed very well.

Last bit of background. The fanciest wedding I’d been to up 'til now was very modest in comparison. And that couple are now separated after three years.


  1. We’re talking about standard middle-middle class folk here not millionaires, how much would/have you spend/spent on a wedding? Maybe as a proportion of income. How much should cost be a consideration?

  2. At what point do you draw the line that it’s too much trouble/cost to get to a wedding and turn down the invite?

*****British motorway miles.

I’ve heard that the average Australian wedding now costs around $20,000. Our basic, in-the-park, reception at home for less than 30 guests wedding cost $5,000. Considering the price of things in Scotland, it wouldn’t surprise me to see someone spending in excess of 15,000 pounds.

I believe the average amount spent on weddings in the US is $24,000 or somewhere similar (not sure of the exact number, but I’ll find it and get back to you).

Our wedding in a week and a half is somewhere in the ballpark of $25K. And yes, my parents are paying for most of it, his parents are picking up the tab for the rest, excluding honeymoon and rings - before anyone starts calling me a spoiled brat, let me make a few things clear:

  1. We tried to pay for our own wedding - neither set of parents would hear of it. My mother actually became insulted.

  2. We originally wanted to go to Las Vegas, but when the guest list for Vegas became as long as the list would have been at home, we decided to have the wedding in my hometown.

  3. My parents are not going into debt for the wedding - they told me that they have been hoping to do this for me since I was born. I have tried to keep costs down as much as possible, but the majority of the expensive costs are things that they wanted - open bar, etc. We wanted to serve only beer and wine, parents insisted on full, premium, open bar. We wanted a Sunday brunch wedding to keep costs down, parents insisted on a full Saturday night blowout bash. The only things I really wanted were a videographer (worked in television, having it on a professional-quality video is incredibly important to me - my parents are fine with this cost because they saw how much my sister-in-law and brother regretted only having our uncle tape the ceremony on his mediocre camcorder - there’s no sound), and a horse and carriage to leave the reception (I love to ride, this is my dream transportation - but my cousin is giving us part of the horse and carriage as a wedding gift, my fiance and I are paying the rest).

  4. I’ve picked up as much as possible without my parents knowing about it. I’m actually a little worse for the wear, but the costs will stop after next week. Thank God.

This is fairly typical in my family. My brother’s wedding last year was in the ballpark of $30K (which my parents also helped with - considering the bride’s parents had issues, promised to pay for the reception, and then WITHDREW the offer a week before the wedding). My cousin’s wedding was upwards of $45k - although that was a little ornate even for us. If it had been left up to us completely, things would have been much more inexpensive. We would not have gone into debt to get married - our rule is to have all debt paid off within 3 months on our credit cards (excluding the ones I’m trying to pay off from years of living in NYC). We are putting the honeymoon on a credit card, but that will be paid off within about two months, so that’s not a worry. The big wedding seems to be more for the family than for us - we’d have been happy with a JoP in Vegas.

As far as putting our family and friends through the trouble, we weren’t going to ask anyone to do anything - that was the point of Vegas. But when they all started making plans to travel to Vegas with us, we decided we could save a lot of people a lot of money if we just had the wedding in VA. I’d go to hell and back for my friends - and most of them would do the same - we mean that much to each other. As well, my family would walk through fire for one of our own (it’s been a strange wake-up call to watch my fiance’s family - they’re nowhere near as close as mine, and that’s an oddity for me - my cousins are like more brothers and sisters to me). So a wedding is a huge occasion for us, and we want to treat our guests well, which we’re doing. To us, knowing that all of our family is choosing to give up time and money to be with us on the most important day of our lives means more to us than anything else ever could. Most of my mental breakdowns have been worrying about whether or not everyong ELSE is happy, not over something I wanted.


Our wedding cost about $6,000. It was wonderful, a beautiful outdoor ceremony and reception with about 50 guests. However, we were able to keep costs down because our friends and family helped us in so many ways. My sister-in-law made invitations for us as her gift. Some of my oldest friends played music for the ceremony. My brother-in-law filmed the ceremony and DJed the reception. My cousin made the cake. My mother and I made all the bouquets ourselves. That was actually one of my favorite things about the wedding, that so many of my loved ones gave of their talents to make the day special.

As far as our wedding went, cost was definitely a consideration for me. Hell, I would have chosen to elope, but my now-wife wouldn’t hear of that (though, after it was all over, she thought that eloping may have been better than all the madness of putting on a wedding). So we decided to have a relatively big wedding (around 150 guests) but do it as inexpensively as possible while still being nice. It was a tall order, but we did OK. We ended up spending around $15,000 (we had planned to spend $10,000), and that cost doesn’t include the cost of the engagement ring. One thing to consider is that we did this in Washington, D.C., and it wasn’t as cheap to do it here as it would have been elsewhere. The lack of catering halls within the city certainly doesn’t help make weddings affordable.

To save costs we had our reception in our church. The church didn’t cost us any money, which was a plus, but we had to hire a caterer, which wasn’t exactly cheap. The food was around $40 per person. That was more than I had wanted, but it was the best deal we could find and the food was great. People are still mentioning that to us. Having it in the church also cut our costs because we couldn’t have any alcohol. While we would have preferred to have drinks, it worked out well and probably saved us around $1000. The savings were a bit offset, however, since we had to decorate the place to make it look nice. This was accomplished by hiring a decorator and renting chair covers and table cloths. Overall, though, much less than having a reception elsewhere (hotels around here charge, at the minimum, $20,000) to host a reception).

Our photographer was very inexpensive and very good. We lucked out getting him. In fact, he even gave us our negatives for free. That’s very rare. Another source of money saved.

Instead of buying a wedding cake at $5 to $10 a slice we bought it at the local Giant supermarket. The cake itself was only around $175 and the flowers for it were another $150. It looked great and tasted good, too. Big savings there.

Wedding dress was bought at a warehouse store. It looked great and cost less than $500 (alterations, another $400). Compared to what some spend on dresses, a big bargain, too.

There were other expenses (tux rental, DJ, officiant fee, etc.), but they were all fairly common and we didn’t end up getting bargains there.

As I said above, money was a large consideration for me because we were paying for it ourselves (mostly). Her parents kicked in a few thousand and I got a little money from my grandparents for the rehearsal dinner (originally planned to just get food from Baja Fresh and eat it outside at the church – saving lots of money – but it rained that day so we had to go to a restaurant). Since the money coming out of our pockets for the wedding was being taken away from other important items – saving for a home or a honeymoon (which we ended up not taking) – we made every effort not to waste money.

Our rings (my engagement ring is an anniversary band with 14 small stones, plus two gold wedding bands): $700
My dress (a red off-the-shoulder number; I wore shoes, hat, and jewelry that I already had): $70
His clothes: I dunno, maybe $100 including shoes (nice shirt and pants, bolo tie)
Marriage license: $50
Flowers (5 corsages/boutonnieres for us, MOH/best man, and my mother): $20
Cake (ice-cream cake from Baskin-Robbins): $20
Dinner for 23 people after the civil ceremony: about $250 plus tax and tip, a gift from my mother
A night at the Hilton: $75 plus tax
Honeymoon: a weekend in Milwaukee, paid for with our mostly-cash wedding gifts

Fourteen years of wedded bliss: priceless

The marriage license is the only necessary expense. All the rest is frill.

Hubby and I will be celebrating our 16th anniversary in November; let me see if I can dredge up from memory how much the stuff cost. . .I know we spent a total of less than $2,000.00. My parents had overwhelming medical bills, so they paid for the cake ($100.00) and contributed another $100.00 towards whatever we needed. I made the bouquets myself, at a cost of about $15.00 each (I made five; one for each of my three attendants, one for me, and a throwaway). My gown was a white prom gown on clearance sale for $32.50. My MIL, who is a wonderful seamstress, turned it into a wedding gown (she assumed the cost of many, many yards of narrow pink ribbon). The reception hall charged, IIRC, $25.00 per person, but that included an open bar. We had about 50 guests. We didn’t have “real” rings until much later. By the time the wedding rolled around, we were so broke from paying for the wedding (we didn’t incur any debt to pay for it) that we got married with $7.95 gold electroplate rings from Ames. I bought hubby a 5mm gold band about two years after we were married, and about 3 years after we married we were finally able to afford a nice (though modest) gold and diamond set for me.

The one thing I would have done differently would have been to hire a professional photographer. All during the planning (we were only engaged for 10 weeks), my FIL kept saying “I’ll take care of the photographer, so you don’t have to worry about that”, and then a week before the wedding we found out that what he meant was he was having his brother take pictures! :eek: Now, his brother did pretty well, but there are lots of “traditional” type photos that a professional would have gotten, that Uncle Tony didn’t.

Very little trouble was incurred for the guests, especially since the wedding itself was held right in the reception hall.

It was nice, and in retrospect, I’m glad we didn’t spend a whole lot of money. We’re happy together, and I can’t imagine we would have been any happier, or have any better memories of the wedding if it had cost ten times what it did. FWIW, it was hubby’s second marriage. His first wedding was way more expensive, and the marriage lasted less than a year.

We wound up spending more than $30,000 for our wedding. Originally, we were only going to have to spend $15,000, but unfortunately, my new father-in-law decided to ignore the limit we put on the amount of people he could invite. So, instead of having the 70 people we had anticipated (my family, my husband and I wanted to do something really nice and have a smaller wedding), we wound up with nearly 150 and a monumental catering bill. When we learned how long my husband’s dad’s list was getting, we decided, ok, we’re only going to give him x number of extra invitations and no more. We told him he couldn’t invite anyone else. But when we sent them to him, he had another printing company duplicate them and sent out an additional 150-300 invitations (we’re not sure how many because he never told us the exact number and never gave us a list) and we had people neither of us had ever heard of RSVP-ing to us. It was a huge mess, but a lovely wedding nonetheless. Unfortunately, I don’t think my husband will ever forgive his dad.

Thank God my family was able to afford it - we didn’t have to go into debt or anything, but good Lord, was my mom pissed.

Some of these costs amaze me. $30,000! That’s more than I make in a YEAR. That’s more than three times what I make a year. (man, that’s a depressing thought).

That said, I want to get married, but I don’t want to have a wedding. Just a giant party on which I’m willing to spend several thousand dollars.

My wedding, which is coming up in a couple of weeks, will probably run about $10,000 altogether.

The wedding/reception site/food and drink will be about $5,000, for nearly 100 people I think we’re getting the deal of a lifetime for a NYC wedding. Granted, it’s not the Oak Room, it’s a coffee house, but we’ve got the place all to ourselves for 5 hours. Lots of fun food like fondues, sandwiches, quiches, and S’mores, dance area , beer and wine. The cake was $200 from a great bakery in the neighborhood. flowers might be another grand or so, and all the other little nits and gnats add up to the rest. We spent a fortune on stationery, and supplies for all the invitaitons, programs, favors, presents kid stuff, it really added up.

The funniest part of it all has to do with our Champagne Toast. The coffee house doesn’t do champagne, so they had no glasses. Turns out, the cheapest way to get 100 champagne flutes was to buy them outright from Ikea for $65, renting was way more expensive!

We’ve got friends doing the photos (crossing fingers) and we programmed all the music ourselves, which was a HUGE job.

We covered about $4,000 on our own, both her mom and my mom want to pay for the rest, I’m not sure how that all comes out.

Her family has a few unexpected cousins coming out of the woodwork, but luckily, the reception is a flat fee for 100 people, and we had space to fit them in. I don’t know WHAT I would have done in overlyverbose’s situation :eek:

The one thing I would say is a universal rule for how much a wedding should cost is this: It is never reasonable to go into debt for a wedding, which is essentially just a big party. I think going into debt for a wedding is unreasonable no matter if it’s credit card debt, some sort of wedding loan, or anything else.

I mean sure, if some unexpected big expense comes up, that’s different. But I can’t imagine planning to go into debt to hold a big wedding.

I think my wedding cost eighty dollars or thereabouts for the license. I sure wish we’d spent that money differently, but at least we didn’t flush thousands of dollars away.
I have never understood the whole expensive wedding spectacle thing. The last thing I wanted to do was undergo some big ordeal and be looked at by a bunch of people. I guess I’m just odd that way. And FTR, I’m female.

What’s reasonable to spend on a wedding depends a lot on what sort of wedding you’re having. For a Saturday afternoon wedding at the bride’s family church with cake-punch-light hors d’oerve dry reception in the fellowship hall, such as is typical in some regions, $5000 seems to be a pretty average price. For a Saturday-night dinner-dance with open bar, as is typical for other parts of the country, $30K seems to be about average.

Our wedding, with rings, clothes, flowers, license, minister, reception, and 5 days in New Orleans, cost something like $3000. I got my dress and jewelry at JC Penneys, Mom and I did all the flowers and reception decorations, my grandma made the cake, we had family and friends take pictures (we both abhor having our pictures taken, and don’t care for the look of staged shots), and the reception was at a restaurant in the French Quarter.

Since we live a couple states away from our families, our options were to have it here, at home, or to have a destination wedding. Due to various issues, the destination wedding was less trouble for us than going home, and about the same amount of trouble for everyone else as having the wedding here. (And that was in New Orleans; if we’d gone to the Smokies, it would have been considerably easier on both families than coming here.) There was a lot of complaining from several quarters about having to travel so far (most of it from my relatives, who wouldn’t have made a peep about having to go the exact same distance if we’d had it here :rolleyes: ), and quite a few people were unable/unwilling to make the trip because of work schedules, expense, health issues, etc.

Oh, with respect to the OP’s question about what’s reasonable… It really depends on each circumstance. I say, one should not have to go into long term debt to pay for a party. That’s all a wedding is anyway, an elaborate party to celebrate your marriage. Everyone can go down to the county clerk’s office and get married for under $100 total. The rest is just celebration.

You hear about people having to take out second mortgages to pay for their kid’s weddings, that’s crazy talk.

And one other thing I hate about weddings: All the arcane little rules of etiquette, and the near certainty that someone is going to be offended by the way you handled something. And someone has to pay for this glorious-day-which-will-live-on-in-memory-as-the-very-most-wonderful-day-of-our-lives? Oh no thank you. :eek:

jumps down from hobbyhorse

My best friend got married to the tune of over $30,000. It was great party and the food was amazing, but to be honest, there was a bit of “talking behind the hands” about how it was borderline tasteless to spend so much money so flagrantly on yourselves, particularly in SF, during the death throes of the dot-com boom. I personally don’t have a problem with spending whatever you want to spend, but I would never spend that much on a wedding. I’d rather have the cash and travel around the world after a small ceremony at the Justice of the Peace, you know? Then again, if my dad said he’d pay for everything with no limits then I might spend more than I think…but probably not. I’m just not one of those “big wedding” girls.

Honestly, it seems kinda tasteless to me for the guests enjoying your friend’s hospitality to talk badly about how their hosts spend their money. Either way, I wouldn’t have thought that $30,000 would go that far for an expensive-looking wedding in San Francisco. I’m kind of impressed that your friend managed to get tongues wagging on only $30,000. :smiley:

Still, I agree with you. I’ve never been one for a big crowd. I just chalked my own distaster, or wedding, up to a deadly combination of cultural differences and assholishness on the part of my FIL. My husband’s Indian, and as I understand it, it’s considered extremely rude NOT to invite everyone you know to your kid’s wedding. However, his dad knew we didn’t want that, yet invited everybody and his brother anyway, and went so far as to go behind our backs, duplicate the invitation without our knowledge and invite people we’d never heard of. Either way, as I told my husband through our year of engagement, “The end result will always be the same, the end result will always be the same…”

I’ve never really dreamed of a wedding either. I would feel completely guilty and embarassed if my parents paid for a $20,000 wedding.

If I decided to do the deed, I’d try to keep it under $5000, which I would come up with on my own.

Mine are. And like I said, they insisted. We tried to keep it under $10K, but they added on a few items that brought it up (the alcohol bill, for one…we could’ve gotten away with wholesale beer and wine from my brother’s restaurant, they just wanted to deal with the caterer because it was easier). This isn’t really our dream wedding, although we’re trying to make sure it has our touches. We’ve got much simpler tastes. This is for our families.

What’s funny is that I never dreamed of a wedding either. My first thought when we started talking about marriage was “Let’s get ten of our friends and elope to Vegas”. Then we discussed it with my parents, and it started snowballing.

If we could do it again, we’d elope. But since it’s too late to back out now, we’re accepting as our parents are offering - as a gift - and we plan to enjoy ourselves as much as possible. We’re not embarrassed, although I’ve had to fight the guilt aspect over the money. But we didn’t have much money growing up - I think my parents think they have to make that up to us now that they’re better off - not that my brother and I think that, because we never needed anything as kids - sure we wanted stuff, but we never needed anything.

Basically, we just want to be married. And I’m finding in order to do that without causing a meltdown in the family, we have to make a lot of other people happy.


I think what’s acceptable is really up to the two people getting married. I’ve had friends spend tens of thousands of dollars on weddings and I’ve known people who just ran off to Vegas. Both types are equally happy with the results. The bottom line is that it’s your money and if a huge, blow-out wedding is going to make you happy, go for it. People go into similar amounts of debt for other things, why not a wedding?

Personally, I can’t see spending that much on a single day, even a day of that importance. I’ve already informed my mother that, should I marry, I’ll be eloping. She just wants to be able to throw a party when I return. I can agree to that. :cool: