The Knot’s Wedding Survey Shows How Much People Are Spending to Say “I Do”

Raising glasses with champagne at the wedding table
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We hate to be those people who take something as ~magical~ as love and break it down by the numbers (especially in this, the month of love), but it’s sort of our thing.

So why stop now?

On Valentine’s Day, The Knot released its annual wedding spending survey, and we’ve got the lowdown on how much couples in the U.S. spent on their nuptials in 2017. (The good, the bad and the downright budget-busting.)

And while overall, 2017’s wedding spending was slightly less than 2016’s, it was still enough to make even the most romantic among us a little queasy.

The Average Cost of a Wedding in 2017

Last year, the average cost of a day full of fluffy tulle, five-tiered cakes and sickly sweet smelling roses was $33,391.

On the high end of the spectrum, meaning for the grouping of special days that cost more than $60,000, the average was a whopping $105,130. And while some of us can’t imagine dropping that kind of cash on a single celebration, there are some people out there who throw off the grading curve with pretty, uh, lavish affairs.

But we’ll stick to focusing on the average Joes.

The biggest line items for the average wedding in 2017?

The venue, coming in at an average of $15,163; the engagement ring, with an average price tag of $5,764 and the reception band, clocking it at an average of $4,019. (Pro tip: Moissanite engagement rings are a thing, and they come at a fraction of the cost.)

Food is another hefty expense at most weddings, and in 2017, that figure was no different. Couples spent an average of $70 per head on catering at the reception to keep their guests fueled up to dance the night away. And while the average number of wedding guests dropped to 136 last year, a $9,520 price tag is still nothing to scoff at.

The least expensive elements couples shelled out for included favors ($252), an officiant ($284) and the groom’s attire ($286).

Meanwhile, the average wedding dress worn by brides in 2017 cost just $1,509. (And I feel pretty comfortable using the word “just” there after accompanying my sister on her own dress-shopping trip and stumbling across a few too many $15,000 gowns. Ooph.)

But your total budget isn’t entirely up to your savvy planning and budgeting skills (even if you’re really good): It looks like location matters when it comes to your wedding bill.

In New York (Manhattan to be exact), you can expect to spend an average of $76,944 on your big day. If you’re looking to celebrate your love for less, however, a move to New Mexico might be in your best interest. There, the average wedding spend was just $17,584.

Follow the Trends

Thankfully, the study also shows that couples are starting to embrace trends that should ultimately continue to bring the average wedding spend down no matter where they are.

Formal weddings are on the decline, and the demand for more casual, nontraditional reception venues is on the rise. In 2009, 20% of all weddings were black-tie, compared to 16% in 2017. It makes sense, then, that the use of country clubs, banquet halls and hotels as reception venues were all down, too.

The number of outdoor ceremonies and receptions, however, jumped from just 39% in 2009 to 52% last year — and considering how much an outdoor wedding and reception can save you, that’s a trend we can get on board with.

But while couples are ditching the ballrooms for less formal celebrations, they’re upping their focus on overall guest experience — and that’s actually driving prices up. While the average number of wedding guests did come down this year, the average spend per guest has gone up $74 since 2009.

This is largely due to reception activities like photo booths, candy stations and special musical performances, (although according to the survey, some folks are even having cigar rolling stations and firework displays, to which we politely say “to each their own”).

Overall, though, the wedding scene seems to be making a shift toward becoming less about outdoing the Joneses and more about creating a tailored experience that celebrates the couple and their love for each other — and that’s naturally leading to a less forced (and less expensive) set of traditions and to-dos.

Ultimately, it’s a day to celebrate, and nothing dampens a celebration faster than a busted budget and a massive pile of debt.

If you’re planning your wedding this year, focus on creating an event that gives you, your partner and your loved ones space to celebrate — without spending every second stressed about how much it’s costing.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.