• 03/30/2022

How to Beat the Average Cost of a Small Wedding

Fancy and Elegant Outdoor Wedding Reception

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You want your wedding day to be special and beautiful, but you’re working with a small budget. Add to that the pressures and expectations that often accompany wedding planning, and you might feel a little overwhelmed. How can you achieve your dreams without over-drawing your bank account?

It’s easier than you might think! Follow this simple guide to create a cost-effective budget that empowers you to experience the wedding day of your dreams.

The Wedding Ballpark

Over the last few years, the price of weddings in the United States has changed a lot. Take a look at these wedding averages for the last three years:

  • 2019 – $28,000
  • 2020 – $19,000
  • 2021 – $22,000

Costs dropped in 2020 because of the pandemic. Many couples canceled or postponed their weddings, and others reduced their guest lists to the bare minimum. In 2021, there’s been a rise in wedding expenditures, likely due to more extensive guest lists and an increase in wedding ceremonies. However, it’s interesting to see that the average cost of a wedding in 2021 is still $6,000 lower than previously.

What does all this mean for you and your wedding? First of all, these numbers are averages for weddings of all sizes. Small weddings typically average closer to $8,000–$9,000. However, you can spend less than that if you’re strategic and purposeful with your wedding day.

The term “small” means different things depending on who you ask. Usually, weddings with a guest list of 50 or under are considered small. A medium-sized wedding will have a guest list of 50-175, and a large wedding will include more than 175 guests.

Wedding Bill Breakdown

Many different factors go into paying for a wedding, and some of them are more of an investment than others. According to The Knot, the most costly wedding expenses typically include the following:

  • The venue – at $10,500 in 2019
  • The rings – at $5,900 in 2019
  • The photographer – at $2,400 in 2019

Other high expenses include flowers, videographers, the reception band, and the wedding dress. Catering can also add up, depending on how many guests you invite.

A full breakdown of wedding costs also includes items like the wedding cake, dress alterations, price of hair and makeup, favors, wedding party expenses and gifts, invitations and thank you cards, a marriage license fee, and funding for the honeymoon. You should also always include extra in the budget for unforeseen expenses – with a wedding, those can add up quickly!

How to Win at Weddings

There are numerous ways to have a very special wedding on a much smaller budget than $8,000! A cost-effective wedding simply requires more planning and thought. Also, the earlier you start, the more likely you are to stay within your budget. Last-minute purchases the week of the wedding can add up quickly.

Here are a few tips to help you win the wedding game and have a fabulous ceremony within your target budget:

1. Draft Your Dream Wedding

Now is the stage where anything is possible. Take some time to write down or draw images of your ideal wedding. As you daydream, answer these questions:

  • What does the dress look like? 
  • What season/color scheme is the wedding? 
  • What kind of flowers do you envision?
  • What kind of pictures are you hoping for? 
  • Where would the ceremony be? 
  • Who would be there? 
  • What would the reception be like? 
  • And finally, how much would you spend on the whole shebang?

2. Prioritize Purposefully

Now that you’ve written everything down, mark each item with its level of importance. Answer the following questions to get a feel for your wedding priorities:

  • What is it about the most important things that made you put them first?
  • How about your least important items?
  • What wedding traditions don’t hold meaning for you?
  • What traditions are meaningful for your significant other? How can you compromise?
  • What elements of the wedding best reflect your and your significant other’s personality and love story?

3. Price the Plan

Your next step is to start pricing each item on your list. Knowledge is power. This list is going to take you places!

  • Start with the total amount you want to spend on the wedding.
  • Allocate your funds to the things you care about most first. Remember that it’s worthwhile to pay more for the things that are important to you.
  • Work your way through your whole list, and check the final result with your target total.
  • Consider the results. Are you close to your goal? Way over? What expense most surprised you?

4. Get Innovative

In this final step, you’ll create a battle plan to get married for exactly as much money as you’re willing to spend. Consider these budget-friendly options:

  • What could you do/make yourself?
  • What services would your friends be willing to help you with?
  • Is there a large expense you can sidestep with a creative solution?
  • Are there more affordable options that you would enjoy just as much as the expensive ones?
  • Finally, what expenses can you avoid altogether by ditching that part of the wedding?

Celebrate the Process

If there’s only one piece of advice we hope you’ll take from this article, it’s to enjoy the planning process! Wedding planning doesn’t have to be stressful or exhausting. Play around with your wedding expenses list, and see how far you can cut costs without sacrificing the quality of your wedding day. See this as a game where you always end as the winner. After all, you’re getting married!


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