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Average Wedding Cost Breakdown

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If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve recently gotten engaged. Congratulations! You’re about to begin one of the most memorable, unique, and emotionally fulfilling times of your life. Wedding planning is also one of the most complicated and detail-oriented endeavors that you will ever embark on— and it’s crucial to stay organized.

What’s the biggest key to planning a wedding without any mishaps, last-minute panic, or forgotten elements? In our opinion, it’s the creation of an airtight budget, one that you will stick to no matter what. 

To create a realistic budget, it’s helpful to have a ballpark idea of what each element of your wedding is going to cost. If that sounds daunting, don’t worry— our team is here to help. At Generation Tux, we have years of wedding experience under our belts, and we’ve truly seen it all. We know that planning and organizing your wedding budget requires a solid understanding of what an average wedding cost breakdown should look like.  

One important detail: your average wedding cost will change depending on where you’ll be getting married. A three-tiered wedding cake in New York City is probably going to cost three times as much as one of the same quality in Lincoln, Nebraska. Sadly, we can’t do anything about this. However, no matter where your wedding may be, it’s helpful to look at what percentage of a typical budget goes to which elements. 

Here’s an average wedding cost breakdown, starting from the highest budget items and working our way down to the lowest:

More Budget Tips

Reception Venue

Your reception venue is most likely going to be the largest cost in your wedding budget, and for good reason: your venue is where the magic happens! 

According to a study conducted by The Knot, one of the most popular wedding planning websites, most couples spend up to 45% of their wedding budget on their reception venue. In many cases, venues include other elements, like in-house catering, into your total cost. If your venue does not include catering, you should plan to spend approximately $70 per guest.

Engagement Ring

Most engagements come with a beautiful ring. Traditionally, it’s been said that an engagement ring should cost approximately three months of your salary; however, this rule is quickly becoming outdated.  That being said, plenty of people do invest a fair amount of their hard-earned cash in order to propose to their partner with a beautiful ring. According to The Knot, engagement rings are often the second-highest wedding expense— taking up roughly 16% of a total wedding budget.

Wedding Band (Reception)

Thinking about having a live band for your reception? This is a fantastic choice— not only will it add a special element to your party, but you can work with the band to play your favorite songs or to pull off a special surprise for your fiancé. Yes, bands tend to be more expensive than a DJ, but they will create a truly unforgettable experience. If you’re thinking of going with a band for your big day, you’re not alone. Many couples choose this option, and according to the Knot, most couples are willing to spend up to 12% of their budget on a good wedding band.

Wedding Photographer

We cannot stress enough how important it is to hire a good, experienced wedding photographer with a strong portfolio and good references. You only have one chance to get the perfect wedding shots— and since your big day will be a blur of emotions and activity, it’s important to have physical reminders of all the work and love that you put into this event. Photos are so important that couples are willing to dedicate more than 7% of their total wedding budget to photography. 

View Our Wedding Gallery

Flowers and Decorations

We often speak about the importance of dressing the humans at a wedding, but dressing the venue is just as important. Without flowers and decorations, your venue will end up looking like an empty room, not a wedding site. Flowers play a number of significant roles in a wedding, from bouquets and boutonnieres to providing the essential finishing touches that tie your event aesthetic together. 

According to the 2018 Knot study, most couples budget around 7% of their wedding funds for floral arrangements and other decorations. 

Ceremony Venue

Whether you choose to say “I do” at the beach, on the bimah of your childhood synagogue, or in the middle of the college quad where you and your partner first met, there are likely a few fees involved, from reservation and booking fees to furniture rentals and ceremony flowers. While these costs don’t usually add up to very much— you should still plan to allocate approximately 7% of your wedding budget to your ceremony and ceremony site.  

Wedding Venue Guide

Videographer

Lots of couples choose to hire a videographer along with their photographer to capture the sights, sounds, and feelings of their special day. Wedding videos are a wonderful keepsake that will be treasured for generations— and this makes hiring a videographer worth far more than 5% of your wedding budget, which is what the average couple allocates to this expense.

Wedding Planner

A wedding planner isn’t a must-have, but for those couples that do choose to use a wedding planner, they tend to be lifesavers. Wedding planners are there to handle all of your pre-wedding preparations and remain on-hand to tackle anything that goes wrong day-of, from a broken bridesmaid dress strap to a guest’s previously unmentioned shellfish allergy. A good wedding planner will ensure that any potential issues are taken care of before you even know something is wrong. On average, this incredible service tends to cost around 5% of your total wedding budget. 

Wedding Dress

Here comes the bride…all dressed in whatever she chooses! Whether a bride goes with lace or satin, white or bright, long or short, flowy or tailored, one thing’s for sure: this is an investment worth taking a fair amount of time and money. In general, most brides allow for about 4% of their total wedding budget to go towards their gown.

Rehearsal Dinner

The rehearsal dinner is a special night for just the two of you, your families, and your A-team: close friends, your wedding parties, and beloved out-of-towners. Unlike your wedding day, which will have a much larger guest list, your rehearsal dinner is a chance to have one-on-one time with your closest guests. Rehearsal dinners are often a great chance to bring your loved ones to your favorite restaurant or local dive. On average, most couples allocate around 3% of their total wedding budget to this special meal.

Reception DJ

A good DJ will get everybody on the dance floor and will help you celebrate your big day in style. Music is a big part of what makes a great wedding great, and most couples are willing to put around 3% of their total wedding budget into hiring a DJ that they love.

Transportation

Unless everybody in your party is staying at the wedding venue, you will probably have to organize some form of transportation. Transportation options range from limousine to party bus; the choice in vehicle is completely up to you. On average, most couples allocate around 2% of their total wedding budget to transportation for the big day.

Ceremony Musicians

The music which you walk down the aisle to will forever remind you of the first steps you took into your marriage. Due to this fact, many couples skip the sound system and hire a musician to play live music for their procession and ceremony. If you choose to have live music at your ceremony, be prepared to allocate approximately  2% of your total wedding budget to this expense.

Cake

For some, the mere mention of the word “wedding” conjures up images of beautiful, multi-tiered cakes. Your wedding cake will always hold a special place in your heart (and stomach). Some couples even freeze a slice to eat on their first anniversary! Unless you’re going for a cake dipped in gold, wedding cakes normally comprise around 1% of your total wedding budget.

Discover Cake Alternatives

Invitations

Wedding invitations are an elegant and personal way to invite your guests to your special day. Many people even hold onto their invite as a keepsake to remember your special day. Invitations will, of course, have their price, but in the scheme of things, they aren’t a high budget item. According to the 2018 study, under 1% of most wedding budgets tend to go towards invitations. Not bad!

Officiant

If you are using a friend or family member to officiate your wedding, chances are this service will come free-of-charge. However, for those couples opting for a religious leader or other ordained professional, be prepared to allocated roughly 1% of your total wedding budget to this service.

Groom Attire

Shockingly enough, the groom’s attire is one of the least expensive parts of your entire wedding— and with modern online rental options, it’s also one of the easiest. Groomswear often comprises under 1% of your total wedding budget— yet it’s a key part of your big day. Looking for a way to skip out on the stress and hassle of finding the perfect groomswear for your Big Day? At Generation Tux, grooms can build their wedding looks online and everything will be shipped directly to their door fourteen days before the Big Day. There’s even a free Home Try-On period months before the actual wedding so that grooms can make sure they selected the right look and request any needed changes far in advance of their walk down the aisle. 

Pick Your Look Now

Happy planning!

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