As you know, weddings can be incredibly expensive to throw — and the costs are rising every year. The average price of a U.S. wedding held in 2015 was $32,641, according to a survey of nearly 18,000 brides conducted by the Knot. This is an increase of more than $5,500, or 20 percent, in the past five years.
Of course that’s only an average — plenty of people spend more or less. And the cost varies greatly by location. The average cost in Manhattan, for example, tops the Knot’s list at $82,299. Chicago comes in second at $61,265. And the Washington, D.C. area, which includes Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland, comes in 21st on the Knot’s lists of most expensive places to get hitched, at $37,034. The most affordable wedding spots, according to the Knot, are Alaska, South Dakota and West Texas.
Here on Solo-ish, we’ve never had the pain or pleasure of planning and paying for a wedding; nor are we financial advisers or experts telling you how to spend your money. Whether you decide to throw yourselves a wedding or not, here are five ideas for how to spend $32,000 that don’t involve a fancy dress, swanky venue or $2,000 worth of flowers.
1. A boat: $32,340
Instead of tying the knot, you could get nautical on this 2000 cruiser for sale on BoatTrader.com. Take whatever your wedding hashtag would’ve been and emblazon it on this baby. It boasts a full-service galley and is advertised as “perfect for on-the-water entertaining.” Which means that you’re going to have to promise the in-laws lots of boat days to make up for foregoing your Big Day. But the bonus here is: You can’t fit an entire extended family on the boat at once.
2. Trek around the world: Under $32,000
You could skip the wedding and go all out on the honeymoon. According to AirTreks.com, the typical round-the-world trip costs about $25,000 per person. However, this couple together spent about that amount in 2009 on a nine-month trip to 11 countries; they cut costs by opting for land transportation instead of flying. Among other adventures, they photographed blue-footed boobies in Ecuador, hiked the Inca trail in Machu Picchu and visited Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Just think: Instead of stuffing goodie bags for guests or planning things for out-of-towners to do while traveling for your special day, you could focus on your own itineraries.
3. Two years of graduate school tuition: $32,000+
Instead of studying seating charts and all the names and details of your fiance’s extended family, you could put that time and dough into continuing your education. While program costs vary, the U.S. Education Department put the average cost of one year of graduate school tuition and fees at $16,435 for 2012 to 2013.
4. One year of college, including room and board, for 10 women in Africa: $30,000
Already been to grad school? (Probably, as the average marrying ages in the Knot’s survey were 29 years old for brides and 31 for grooms.) According to Aid for Africa, $3,000 will cover a year in college, including room and board, for one young woman in East Africa. For the full price of a wedding, you could cover a year of college for 10 women.
5. 82,000 meals for people in the Washington area: $32,000
The Knot’s survey put the average catering price at $68 per guest for a wedding in 2015 (and the average number of guests at 139). The average rehearsal dinner cost $1,296 and the wedding cake added another $575. According to the Capital Area Food Bank, for example, $32,000 would cover more than 82,000 meals for needy families, children and seniors in the Washington area.