Data Shows American Weddings Are Really, Really Expensive

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This just in: Weddings are expensive. All right, fine, you probably knew that. But the latest data from WeddingWire’s 2015 Newlywed Survey breaks down just how expensive they are, the priciest cities to have your wedding in, and where all that money is going. If you’re thinking about getting hitched, you may not want to read this—unless you’re one of those people who likes to know what they’re in for.

WeddingWire sent surveys to 6000 couples across the United States, asking how, when, and where they spent their wedding budgets. Analysis of the results showed that the average cost of an American wedding in 2015 was about $30,000—a staggering figure, but one that’s not much higher than the 2014 average (between $27,000 and $31,000, depending on who you ask). Couples reported spending about $250 for each guest.

Here's how it all breaks down: The average cost of engagement rings was $4748. The top 10 ceremony and reception expenses, in order of average cost, were:

Venue for ceremony and/or reception: $8798
Catering: $6877
Band: $3848
Photography: $2435
Rehearsal dinner and other non-reception meals: $1935
Wedding rings: $1825
Flowers: $1814
Rentals: $1725
Wedding dress: $1671
Videography: $1658

But these costs varied widely by age, personal history, and region. People in their 30s spent about $10,000 more than younger couples did. Couples who had never been married before spent about $30,700, while people who were on their second trip to the altar averaged $21,000. And there was a difference of more than $12,000 in average wedding costs between the No. 1 and No. 5 most expensive metro areas:

New York City: $47,153
San Francisco/Oakland: $43,119
Chicago: $37,153
Boston: $36,621
Philadelphia: $34,982

Having heart palpitations? Take a breather. These numbers do not necessarily apply to you or your wedding, even if you’re in your 30s and live in New York City. For one thing, the survey was only distributed to WeddingWire users, which excludes a huge number of average Americans. Second, these numbers included items and elements you may not want or need for your wedding. Third, these are averages—that means that lots of people spent less.

Also: If you’re looking for ways to cut back (other than eloping), check out A Practical Wedding.