It’s no secret that your wedding day is often the most expensive day of your life. People shell out tens of thousands in order to have the perfect dress, venue, food, and entertainment so their guests find the event to be as memorable as possible. In fact, the average American wedding costs $35,329, honeymoon excluded. But which of us in the United States are shelling out more dollars than others?
The truth is that the price of a wedding can vary significantly depending on its location, so if you are looking to keep your big day as cheap as possible, it could be smart to consider holding the event somewhere other than where you live, especially if you live in the Northeast or California.
First of all, why are weddings so darn expensive?
When you start planning your wedding and shopping around for prices on vendors and other aspects of the big day, you probably notice that everything is, well, expensive. That’s because of a phenomenon known as "asymmetric information." When you don’t have as much familiarity with buying a particular item, you are more likely to be okay with spending more for it.
Think about it: If you’re a woman, you’ve probably bought hundreds of dresses in your life, but you have probably never bought a wedding dress before. That’s a whole new beast, and therefore you are less likely to know if you’re paying too much for something. Therefore, people selling wedding dresses will jack up the prices in the hopes that you will shell out more money.
The same goes for things like caterers who charge considerably more for weddings than they do for, say, a family reunion, even if it is the exact same food. Your lack of familiarity with catering a wedding gives them the opportunity to charge you more.
It’s not you: Weddings are getting more pricey
If you’re thinking that weddings seem a lot more expensive now than they used to, you’re not alone. In the past decade or so, the cost of a couple’s nuptials has increased significantly. Statistics show that weddings aren’t getting bigger, however; they are simply becoming more elaborate and more personalized.
According to The Knot, "[T]he average number of wedding guests has decreased to 141, down from 149 in 2009, while the average cost per guest has increased to $245, up from $194 in 2009." Couples are more interested now in achieving an over-the-top, unforgettable experience than having as many people as possible attend their big day. From the vendors they choose to the little details they meticulously plan based on Pinterest ideas, couples are spending more. And added to all those costs, there’s wedding insurance.
The most affordable places to get married in the U.S.
In general, the cost of a wedding is proportional to the average income of those in the region. The Midwest is the most affordable region of the country for weddings, with Arkansas costing around $19,000 on average for the big day—far below the $35,000+ national rate. Utah comes in second, with the average wedding costing a little over $20,000. After that is Montana with weddings costing a little less than $21,000. Time to consider a ranch wedding!
The most expensive places to get married in the U.S.
As you can probably guess, the Northeastern states in the U.S. and the country’s major cities are the most expensive spots to get married, but there are certainly a lot of variation and exceptions to that rule.
The most expensive place to get married is Manhattan, New York, where the average wedding costs $78,464, over double the national average. And if you think that escaping the city proper will lead to affordable prices, here’s some bad news: Long Island is the second most expensive location for weddings, with the average costing $67,831.
The runners-up for most-expensive go to North/Central New Jersey with weddings setting couples back an average of $62,606, and Chicago with a $60,035 price tag. Below that come NYC’s outer boroughs; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; and Hudson Valley, New York.
However if your heart is set on a Northeast wedding you may want to consider Vermont, where ceremonies average $33,987—slightly below the national average.
Remember that the items you buy for your wedding are no different than those you buy for any other day (other than the dress, perhaps). Don’t let vendors or stores overcharge you just because something is wedding-related.
Oh, and if you’re considering a wedding in the Midwest, by all means, do it! Don’t be afraid to consider locations outside of the usual. Who knows, you might find the location of your dreams...and save a lot of money in the process.