Home In-Depth Feature The American Wedding: A Multi-Billion Dollar Industry

The American Wedding: A Multi-Billion Dollar Industry


By Carol Richardson | March 28th, 2017

In the United States — and many places around the world — weddings have become big business. In the past century or so, weddings have transformed from the almost business-like transaction of merging two families together to a multi-billion dollar industry.

In the U.S. the wedding industry generates as much as $50 billion dollars every year! To put that into perspective $50 billion is more than some entire countries are worth — not just their wedding industries — but the entire GDP of multiple countries. That means couples are shelling out serious cash for the big day celebrations.

Many little girls — and little boys — dream about their wedding days their whole lives. It’s the one day they get to make all the decisions and throw the party to remember. Since the advent of the Internet, it’s easy to fall down into a rabbit hole of Pinterest that makes couples feel they have to measure up to the Instagram-perfect wedding images they consistently see. Shows like Say Yes to the Dress paint a picture of $34,000 wedding dresses that can shadow more economical choices. Celebrity weddings — and their prevalence on the Internet and social media — have set a standard for weddings that is hard for the average couple to compare. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t trying.

The average total spent for weddings in 2016 hit over $35,000 dollars according to the popular wedding planning site’s study, The Knot 2016 Real Weddings Study. According to The Knot, the guest list is shrinking year-over-year, but the average cost-per-guest is growing. Betrothed couples want a wedding event with an unforgettable guest experience and totally, completely uniquely customized to them.

According to a study from Yale, those that spent more on wedding rings and the wedding itself were more likely to divorce. Couples that spent $2,000 to $4,000 on engagement rings were 1.3 times more likely to divorce than those that spent $500 to $2,000. Couples that spent over $20,000 on the wedding ceremony and reception were 3.5 times more likely to divorce than those couples that spent less. The study raises questions as to whether it’s a good idea for a marriage long-term to spend so much on the wedding itself.

While the average cost of weddings continues to rise, that average number could be a bit misleading. In 2014, according to The Wedding Report, nearly 40% of couples spent less than $10,000 on their wedding. The average cost often reported are inflated by the few extra-extravagant affairs. Marriages are — as a majority — safe from the curse of the expensive wedding.

No matter the consequences, the booming wedding industry likely won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. And if it’s what the couple wants, who is to judge? Whether it’s an extravagant affair or a budget-friendly day, it’s good to know where the biggest expenses will come from while planning a wedding. To help couples planning the big day, here are the top expenses involved with planning a wedding.

1. The Dress. For the bride, this may be the most important element to the wedding, but it’s also one of the most expensive. The average bride spends approximately $1,500 on just the dress. That doesn’t count alterations which can be upwards of $200 or $300 and accessories. Counting shoes, jewelry, veil, and undergarments, brides spend around $600 on average for accessories. Add in costs of hair and makeup — on average over $100 for each — and the bride’s look is an expensive item.

2. The Venue. Where and when you have the wedding will affect the budget the most of any other factor in the big day. The average costs of venue, rentals(chairs, tables, linens, etc), and catering is near $12,000 in the U.S according to stats site The Cost of a Wedding. The Knot reports an average cost of the venue alone to be around $16,000.

The venue is also the item that can vary the most in cost. Some couples opt to have a free venue (a friend’s farm, parents backyard, etc), but then all other items have to be purchased or rented — like tents, port-a-potties, tables, chairs, etc. Those items add up quickly and sometimes eclipse the cost of all-inclusive venues that have one flat rate that includes venue, rentals, and catering.

3. Drinks. A wedding is a party and a party isn’t a party — for many people — without alcohol. The average costs for providing a basic spread of wine, beer, and champagne for guests is around $3,000. Couples that decide to have an open bar could easily exponentially grow the costs from there.

4. The Rings. The engagement ring and wedding bands aren’t always factored in when it comes to the cost of a wedding, but it should be a consideration. With the popularity of platinum as a metal, wedding ring costs have grown in recent years. The Knot reported an average of over $6,000 for just the engagement ring alone in 2016. That cost is something that happens before the date is even set.

5. Photography. After spending so much time and money on the wedding day, it makes sense that the couple would want quality documentation of the day. It will cost them. The average price of a photographer was $2,700, reported by The Knot. To add video, a videographer can add an average of approximately $2,000 to the bill.

6. Food. Like drinks, a party isn’t a party without food. Similar to the venue, the choice of food can vary dramatically depending on certain choices like buffet style vs. restaurant style and the number of guests. In 2016, the average costs per plate (per person) was $71. Costs for food can soar when you add in rehearsal dinner — an average cost of over $1,300 — cocktail hour appetizers and party favors.

7. Music. After drinking and eating, wedding guests will expect to dance. Music can carry a hefty price tag. On average, a live wedding band will cost upwards of $4,000. Live music for just the ceremony averages around $2,100. Hiring a DJ is a less expensive option, but will still, on average, cost around $1,200 for the reception.

8. Personalized Touches. Every couple wants a wedding that’s unique to them. Those personalized touches are what will make the day memorable for both the couple and guests. It is also these little personalized touches that can sneak up and slowly add to the wedding budget. Party favors, personalized name cards, centerpieces, decorations, photo booths, kids activities, games, rituals, and other items can quickly add up to big bucks when multiplied by a couple hundred guests.

Factor in all the costs associated with the big day and it’s easy to see why the wedding industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Even on the low end with 40% of couples spending less than $10,000, that still adds up quickly to a booming industry when over 2 million couples tie the knot in the US each year. As part of the American Dream, it is not an industry expected to slow down anytime in the near future.

Questions, Comments, or Suggestions? Email me at carol.richardson@thenewsreflection.com

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