If you have been through this drill once before, then these numbers won’t surprise you, but if you are getting married for the first time, prepare yourself for a little sticker shock.  The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is about $25,000.  You may wonder, how can this be?  Well, let’s think about what costs are involved here:

1. Church/Synagogue– The fees for using a church or synagogue vary, depending also on whether you are a member or not, but for budgeting purposes let’s just assume $850 including the officiant’s fee.

2. Flowers– Depending on what you want this can get very expensive, but again for sake of simplicity let’s use $600 as a place-holder.

3. Dress– Stupidly, I spent $1,000 on my first dress, which was a beautiful silk gown that was never worn again.  I’m not doing that this time around, but even so good luck finding a nice man’s suit for the groom and a nice dress and shoes for the bride for under $1000, so let’s go with that.

4. Grooming– Every bride I know wants her hair done a special way for the big day, plus makeup and of course you need a mani/pedi the day before, with tips this will run at least $150.

5. Rings– In addition to an engagement ring, you will need wedding bands.  I realize sky is the limit for some, but I’ll just use $10,000 for the sake of this argument.

6. Music– Whether you get a DJ or band, I doubt you can get away with less than $400 unless your friend is giving you some steep discount.

7. Pictures–  Unless all you want is a selfie to show at the end of the day, you need to hire someone to capture the special day, but do you really need the whole day?  And how many people do you want on staff?  What is the final product you want– a complete album or just digitals? Do you want one of the best photographers in the industry or are you willing to give someone relatively new to the scene a shot?  I’ve heard of people paying as much as $4,500, which I personally think is insane.  I’m going with $800 as a more realistic average number.

8. Rehearsal Dinner– Even if you do a low key BBQ in your backyard, with food and beverages you can easily spend $500 celebrating with family and out of town guests the night before.

9. Reception– Obviously the more people you are feeding, the more expensive the reception is going to be, so think long and hard about how many guests you really want at your wedding.  For budgeting purposes, even a small group of 50 people at $50 per person is going to cost you $2500– not including any site fees you may have to pay depending on the venue.

10.  Stationary– You need invites and thank you notes, plus postage.  Let’s go with $250 on the modest side, obviously realizing this will go up as the number of guests goes up.

11. Honeymoon– Hopefully you realize I have saved the best for last, and if you have followed the math thus far you are already $17,000 in the hole without taking into account the special trip that is all about you as a newly wed couple.  It is a trip you will always remember, and it is the one thing (other than the rings) that you will really remember when it is all said and done.

It is no wonder that so many couples are thinking twice about taking on all these expenses.  It is a huge upfront cost, but then again nothing worthwhile ever comes cheap or easy– and just wait until the kids come!  Planning and paying for a wedding is intense, but it is an important right of passage. Working through the emotions and the finances of this event is just the first of many challenges a couple will face together.  Consider this a huge lesson in what matters most to each person and his/her ability to communicate and compromise.

There may well be times during the wedding prep where one or the other will be on the verge of a heart attack as these difficult discussions about budgets and family dynamics come up, but perhaps going in with a realistic budget as set forth above will help keep things calm.  And when in doubt, ask friends and family for a reality check, and with a little help from the village your big day should turn out just fine.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.