• 05/29/2023

7 Factors Affecting the Average Cost of a Wedding Per Person

a long table full of wedding guests set up by a bride who knows how to reduce her average cost of the wedding per person

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Now that the world is returning to normal post-pandemic, wedding season is back in full swing. However, the continuing supply limitations and resulting inflation will make throwing your big-day festivities more expensive than in past years. Now more than ever, people are looking to save money by cutting costs where they can, including reducing the average cost of the wedding per person.    

Each year, The Knot releases a comprehensive study breaking down current trends and costs — this year’s edition involved input from 12,000 couples. Last year, the total expenses for a wedding were $30,000 on average. However, that figure can change dramatically based on the number of guests at $14,400 for 50 guests and under, $24,600 for 51-100 and $38,100 for over 100. 

Let’s look at the main reasons why the number of invited people dictates so much of your costs. This guide also offers some simple suggestions for lowering costs in these areas despite your guest list size. 

1. Catering 

The 2022 Wedding Study also found that the average cost of a wedding per person for catering was $75 — much more than your typical meal. You’re paying for the cost of ingredients, travel and staff. Sometimes this price includes dishware and cutlery, but not always. 

Shop Around

If you live in the city, your wedding costs, in general, will be much higher. However, if you extend your search beyond your zip code, you could save significantly. Caterers in rural areas typically charge less because they have less demand for their services. Look for someone with great prices willing to travel so that you can lower your budget.

Put Out a Buffet

Buffets are typically a much cheaper option per person than a served meal. You’ll need less wait staff since no one has to deliver plates of food. The fare at a buffet is frequently simpler as well, driving down your cost of ingredients. If you really want to cut costs, you can even ask your family to pitch in and make the food, skipping the caterer altogether.  

Serve Brunch 

Brunch foods like eggs, ham and potatoes are much less expensive than traditional entrees served at a dinner reception. You can plan to have your wedding earlier in the day to accommodate this choice or embrace the breakfast-for-dinner theme. 

Rent Out Your Favorite Restaurant

Another way to skip the caterer is to have your reception at your favorite restaurant. Make sure it can hold all your guests with room for dancing. Many restaurants will charge typical meal prices for their offerings, which could save you loads of money over professional catering prices. 

2. Tables and Chairs

According to Wedding Wire, $8 is the average cost of a traditional round table. Basic folding chairs start around $2 a piece, with prices increasing for more decorative or comfortable seating. Table linens and chair covers are an even further upcharge.   

Repurpose Your Chairs

Two dollars may not seem like much until you add up one seat for each guest for each venue. Cut your costs by only renting one chair per person in total. Ask some loved ones to transport them from your ceremony to the reception while you get pictures taken and your guests enjoy cocktail hour. 

Choose Cheaper Linens 

Table linens and seat covers come in a vast range of colors and materials. You can pay up for silk tablecloths and decorative coverings, but it will cost a significant chunk of your budget. To save some money, opt for no chair covers and basic polyester tablecloths. Honestly, no one will notice or care, except maybe great aunt Marge — but who cares about her opinion anyway. 

Use Large Tables 

Increasing the size of your table at the reception costs only a fraction more but seat plenty more people. Your total budget will decrease if you use long rectangular tables instead of small round ones. Plus, you’ll bring more people together to get to know each other and save valuable venue space for dancing. 

3. Centerpieces

Flowers are more expensive than most brides-to-be realize, and centerpieces comprise a critical chunk of the budget. You can expect to spend between $100-$600, not including flowers for the head table, sweetheart table or any other setup like by the guest book or seating chart. 

Think Outside the Floral

Since flowers are so expensive, you can cut costs by leaving them out altogether. Opt instead for arrangements with greenery only or pretty candles. Alternatively, you could make the wedding favors your table decor. 

Pick One or Two In-Season Blooms 

If you really must have flowers, you’ll save a lot of money by sticking to one or two in-season varieties rather than elaborate bouquets with a range of blossoms. Ordering fewer kinds allows your florist to buy in bulk, drastically reducing your necessary budget. In addition, in-season flowers will always be cheaper because they’re easier for florists to get.  

Repurpose Ceremony Decor 

Another great option is to reuse flowers from your ceremony in your centerpieces. Bridesmaid bouquets and aisle decorations will work beautifully at your reception. You can have your helpers move the flower to the next venue while they’re moving the chairs for you. 

4. Wedding Favors

According to The Knot’s survey, the average couple spends $440 on wedding favors. This may seem insignificant compared to other categories, but it all adds up. Plus, there’s no need to spend that much. 

Give One Per Couple or Family 

Instead of handing out one favor per guest, you can save by giving one to every couple or family. Doing so will drastically reduce the total amount you need to order. 

Let Them Serve Double Duty

You can also double your wedding favors as reception decor. Gifts like bowls of peaches or potted succulents look cute on the table and will be a fun present for your guests to take home with them. They’re also less likely to get thrown in the trash than your typical monogrammed knick-knack. 

Skip It Altogether 

An option that’s growing in popularity is to skip wedding favors entirely. No matter how well-meaning your gifts are, most end up in the trash before a week goes by. If you throw a great party, no one will care if they get to take home a small trinket.  

5. Cake

The Knot’s study also found that the average couple spends $510 on their wedding cake. Often the cake is large enough to share between the newlyweds and all their guests. However, traditions are changing, leaving you room to save a ton of money on dessert. 

Shrink the Cake 

Do you have your heart set on a gorgeous design but can’t see yourself splurging? Make the decorative cake just large enough for your loved ones to see and for you and your new spouse to share. Serve your guests with a large sheet cake. Trust us — no one will care. 

Pick Something Unique 

You could also do something out-of-the-box for your wedding dessert. Have a small cutting cake for your special moment and a different option for everyone to eat. Donut walls are having a moment, but you have any number of tasty treats, all costing less per guest than a designer cake. 

Switch to Buttercream 

If you absolutely must have the large-and-in-charge cake of your dreams, consider swapping to buttercream frosting instead of fondant. Buttercream is a much cheaper finish and will taste loads better too. You could even ask your baker to use real flowers or decorations instead of molded fondant to cut down on labor costs. 

6. Venue

Your wedding venue is the most expensive factor in the average cost of a wedding per person. The total expense for couples is around $11,200, according to the survey from The Knot. Since most locations calculate their estimate based on the number of guests, your list of loved ones will determine your final costs.  

Try a Different Day

No rulebook says you have to get married on a Saturday. In fact, more and more couples are taking advantage of the price savings by getting married on a different day of the week. Sunday weddings work well if you’re not planning on using a church. Otherwise, any weekday can be just as fun. You might even save on liquor if your festivities land on a work night. 

Keep Everything in One Place

Rather than paying for two venues — one for the ceremony and one for the reception — look for a location where you can hold both parts. You’ll save considerably in fees with this simple switch. 

Pick an All-Inclusive

When searching for the perfect venue, an all-inclusive option could save you a ton of money. Instead of hiring a rental company, DJ, caterer, baker and countless other professionals, you can get everything from your venue. Do some research to ensure their prices are competitive, but this route will usually cost less than finding everyone on your own. 

7. Wedding Stationery

The Knot study also found couples spend an average of $510 on invitations for their wedding. That number excludes other wedding stationery like save the dates, programs and seating tags, so the average cost of your wedding per person will shift dramatically as you edit your guest list.

Go Digital

A popular option within the last several years is to forego physical copies of any mailings. Instead, couples pay one price to find their favorite invitations and other stationery. They then send it out via email or text to their guests. You can also create and share a wedding website to keep all your loved ones in the loop. 

Print Your Own 

You could also print your papers using cardstock and a printer or work with a print shop. You can find thousands of incredible designs on Etsy or even hire a graphic designer to make your dream stationery, all while saving money. 

Skip Programs

In addition to the measures above, you could even let go of printed programs. Trust that your guests will be able to follow the ceremony without one. You can hang a beautiful sign with the series of events for your loved ones to view as they enter the venue to make up for it. 

The Average Cost of Your Wedding Per Person

The national average cost of a wedding per person varies dramatically, with a $30,000 national average for the whole event. Luckily, you can dictate how many people you invite to the big event. Plus, you have many opportunities to cut costs reducing how much you spend on each guest. With some extra effort and careful planning, you can have the wedding of your dreams, celebrating with all your loved ones. 

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