“For richer or for poorer,” the traditional wedding vow goes. But when it comes to hosting the wedding itself, having a bigger bank account at your disposal certainly helps.
A new survey of 16,000 brides by XO Group, which owns wedding website TheKnot.com, found that the average cost of a wedding excluding a honeymoon was $31,213 in 2014, a five-year high. When adjusted for inflation, that spending is not quite equal to pre-recession highs, but it is getting close.
Since the financial crisis, poor job prospects and rising debt burdens have discouraged many Millennials from getting married. By 2012, the share of never-married adults in the U.S. had reached historic highs, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.
Now, higher spending on weddings is likely a sign that the American economy and consumer confidence are strengthening. XO Group’s survey found that spending on almost all wedding categories increased in 2014, including the venue, photographer, band or DJ, wedding dress, and catering. Couples are particularly spending more on elements like catering, musicians, cake and cocktail hours, and less on the ceremony itself.
Almost half of couples (45 percent) went over budget on their wedding in 2014. About a quarter (26 percent) stayed within their budget, and 23 percent didn’t have a budget.
The survey also shows substantial regional variation in wedding costs. Manhattan is by far the most expensive place to get married, with an average cost of $76,328 in 2014, followed by Long Island at $55,327 and north/central New Jersey at $53,986. At the other end of the spectrum were Arkansas and Utah, with an average cost of only $18,031 and $15,257, respectively.
The bride's age also varied regionally: Nevada and New York City had the oldest brides, with an average age of 32, whereas in West Virginia and Kentucky the average bride was 26. Nationwide, the average bride was 29; the average groom, 31.
Who is footing this extravagant bill? According to the survey, the bride’s parents paid for 43 percent of the total cost on average, the bride and groom contributed 43 percent, and the groom’s parents contributed 12 percent. About 12 percent of couples paid for the entire wedding themselves.
Having a lavish wedding may be fun, but it is certainly not a requirement for a happy marriage. A 2014 survey of more than 3,000 married couples found a positive correlation between the amount of money spent on a wedding and the likelihood a couple would get divorced.
Those who spent $20,000 or more on a wedding – peanuts compared to some of the weddings mentioned in the XO survey – were 3.5 times more likely to end up divorced than counterparts who spent less than half that amount.
If you have the means, say yes to the $1,357 dress. Just remember that an expensive wedding is not the key to a happy marriage.