Every engaged couple hopes to have a perfect wedding day. But once the day is past and the honeymoon is over, the reality of the wedding costs can sink in — along with regrets.
Over a quarter of people who got married in the last 10 years say they wish they’d spent less on their wedding day, and the likelihood of regret rises significantly as overall costs increase. This proves that when it comes to planning a wedding, managing costs and debt are a top priority.
Tying the knot in style isn’t cheap, however. Our survey reveals the most and least regretted wedding costs, which can inform engaged couples’ decisions about where to splurge or save. Here’s what married people who have been there and pulled off the big day say is worth the cost — or not.
- Among people married within the last decade, spending more on the wedding day led to more regrets about the costs. 42.4% who spent more than $30,000 say they regret spending so much. And more than half (50.4%) who spent more than $50,000 regret the high cost of their weddings.
- Over half of the respondents, 57.2%, say they trimmed their everyday budget to save for their wedding day. Most commonly, couples chose to skip eating out (31.7%) and taking vacations (25.5%) to help pay for the big day.
- Married (and divorced) people rated some wedding expenses as more worth the cost than others. They consider the dress, photographer, and cake to be worth it the most. Just over half of the people who purchased these for their weddings say what they spent was worth what they got.
- A wedding planner, videographer, and favors, however, are wedding purchases that might be worth passing up. Nearly half (48.5%) of people who had a wedding planner say it wasn’t worth it or cost too much. Similarly, 36% of people who had either wedding favors or a videographer say these weren’t worth the costs.
- Lastly, our survey reveals that over two-thirds of respondents wish they had done at least one thing to reduce the cost of their wedding. When asked what they’d do to save money if they got married again, a fifth (20.9%) say they’d have a smaller guest list, while 18.3% say they’d elope and 14.7% would choose a smaller wedding party.
As wedding costs rise, so do spending regrets
When it comes to paying for a wedding, our survey reveals that a decent portion of couples feel they overspent for their big day.
Not surprisingly, the cost of the overall wedding had a significant impact on these regrets. While only 20.9% of those that paid less than $10,000 on their wedding regretted the cost, half of those that spent over $50,000 on their wedding (50.4%) regretted spending so much.
Additionally, divorced people are (unsurprisingly) more likely to regret the cost of having a wedding, at 31.4%. For those that spent over $10,000 on their weddings, 39.1% of divorced people regretted spending so much.
But the group even more likely than to regret overspending on their weddings is men. Among those who spent more than $10,000 on their wedding, 47.1% of men wished they’d paid less for the wedding compared to 31.1% of women.
With such a large portion wishing they’d spent less, couples still in the wedding-planning stage can take that as a warning to be careful with their wedding budget.
It’s worth it to spend more on the dress, photographer and cake
Even when you know how much you can afford to pay for your wedding and where those funds are coming from, setting and sticking to a wedding budget requires a lot of planning and willpower. Just ask the 41.8% of respondents who say managing the wedding costs and budget was the most stressful aspect of getting married.
Even trickier is balancing the budgetary limits with throwing the kind of wedding you’ve always dreamed of. It can be helpful to review all aspects of a wedding and to talk with your fiance about which expenses are worth the cost to you — and which aren’t.
Fortunately, our survey reveals the top wedding purchases that married people agree were worth the cost.
- The dress: 56.6% of people who bought a wedding dress say it was worth the cost.
- The photographer: 53.1% who hired a photographer felt this expense was worth what they paid.
- The cake: among those who opted to get a wedding cake for their big day, 52.4% say it was worth the cost.
Wedding expenses to skip: planner, favors, and videographer
Our survey also uncovered some specific wedding purchases that might be safer to spend less on — or even skip completely.
Here’s a look at the wedding purchases that were passed on most often.
The most optional aspects of having a wedding could be booking a wedding planner, a videographer, or paying for a champagne toast. These three items were the most-skipped out of the wedding expenses we asked about.
In addition to wedding favors, these three types of wedding expenses were also rated as the biggest wastes of money by survey respondents who bought them.
Here’s an overview of the expenses people say they spent too much on — or were a waste of money altogether.
Interestingly, men are more likely than women to say a given wedding expense was a waste of money. For example, just 8% of women consider their wedding photography a waste of money, compared to 15% of men. The one exception is for a wedding planner, where each was equally likely to feel it was a waste of money.
Other wedding expenses that men are more likely than women to rate as too costly or a waste of money include the dress, cake, flowers, and champagne toast.
If given a wedding do-over, here’s how couples would save
In addition to reviewing the individual costs of your wedding, our survey shows it’s also a smart move to reconsider the size of your wedding as well. 68.9% of respondents say they would have done at least one thing differently to save money on their wedding, and this number jumps to 77.9% when looking at those who spent at least $10,000 on their wedding.
We also asked these people who spent more than $10,000 on a wedding what they would do to lower wedding costs, if they could do their wedding over again. Three in 10 (30.1%) say they’d choose a smaller guest list, by far the most popular option.
After limiting the guest list, those who had a wedding costing more than $10,000 say they would have picked a cheaper venue (20.6%), picked a smaller wedding party (19.2%), or even eloped rather than having a conventional wedding (19.2%).
This survey shows that paying attention to wedding costs and keeping them within budget can limit wedding stress and regrets.
For couples still planning their wedding, keeping it small and concentrating on worthwhile purchases will help you get value out of your big day, while minimizing any regrets down the road.
Couples can cut back on living expenses to save for the wedding
Engaged couples can still achieve their ideal wedding, or close to it, without regrets about overspending. Accomplishing this, however, requires careful budget management in the weeks and months leading up to the big day.
Our survey reveals this breakdown of who typically pays for the wedding and how an average couple covers wedding costs, which can serve as a helpful baseline:
- 30% came out of their own cash
- 28% paid for by family members
- 19% covered with debt, such as credit cards or personal loans
- 15% drawn from savings
- 7% paid through other means
Couples should review their own financial resources to get an understanding of how much they can afford to put toward a wedding, and where this money could come from. Check savings to see if you can tap those funds for the big event. Talk to your families to get an understanding of whether and how much they’re willing to contribute to wedding costs.
Since cash makes up 30% of wedding funds, it might be smart to try to free up extra cash to pay for the wedding. Trimming everyday spending is a popular strategy to save more for a wedding, as 57.2% of respondents say they took this step.
Couples skipped eating out and taking vacations to help pay for the wedding more often than they scaled back on financial goals, such as saving a house down payment or an emergency fund. Here’s a look at all of the commonly-cut expenses we asked about in our survey.
This survey was conducted through AYTM Market Research and on June 19-21, 2019. The survey collected 1,000 responses from people ages 18 to 54 who indicated they got married in the past decade, as screened by the question: “Have you gotten married in the past 10 years?”