10 Brides Reveal The Overall Cost Of Their Wedding & It's Eye-Opening

When my best friend got engaged a year and a half ago, she joked, “I’m already drowning in debt from my education — what’s another few thousand, right?” We laughed, cried, and shared a moment of silence to let the reality of that statement sink in. Since then, I’ve learned that the amount of money spent on a wedding is not proportionate to how enjoyable, beautiful, or memorable it is. But what's the overall cost of a wedding? As it turns out, it varies, like, a lot.

According to The Knot’s 2018 Real Weddings Study, the average cost of a wedding in 2018 was $33,931 and it's worth noting that doesn't include the honeymoon. Before you start panicking, however, consider this: The Knot reports that the average cost varies vastly depending on the location, unsurprisingly, it’s far more expensive to tie the knot in a big city like New York or Chicago than it is in a smaller, rural locale. The most expensive factors, according to The Knot’s study, were the reception venue ($15,439), ceremony venue ($2,382), engagement ring ($5,680), and photographer ($2,679). And clearly, there are ways to cut back in all of those categories, for example, by having a friend take the photos, or having the reception in your parents’ backyard. Not to mention, the average couple hosts 136 guests, spending $258 per guest, and the cost of a wedding will obviously be lower if you keep the invite list tight.

Need proof that you can plan a baller wedding on literally any budget? Read on to find out what a handful of brides spent on theirs, as well as some deets on how they pulled it off.

Vladimir Tsarkov/Stocksy
We got married in a garden with about 90 friends and family in attendance, then had the reception in a venue at the university my husband worked at.


That paid for the license, Justice of the Peace, and a rent-a-witness who also took pics with our camera. I'd do it again in a heartbeat!


One of the first places my husband took me on a date was a really amazing and beautiful Lebanese restaurant. They have a private courtyard and back room with mood lighting and AV setup. It included service, tables, chairs, linens, flatware, etc. No rental fee, just a food/beverage minimum. Because of that, we were able to have it open bar. We came in and set up the centerpieces, which I made. A friend designed our programs. My boss made our cake. Another friend is a professional photographer and he was able to do our photos for less than $200.
For a while, I was worried everything wouldn't come together, but it did. The food was amazing, the staff was amazing, the drinks were stiff, and everyone had a great time.


Eloped in Gatlinburg, TN… My dress was $80. After the wedding, we got drunk on moonshine and ate funnel cake. We stayed in a motel with one of those heart-shaped jacuzzis lol. It was very sweet and memorable and wouldn't change a thing.


Leah Flores/Stocksy
Mine was about $50K for 400 people in California.
The venue itself was $10K. My dress, alterations, and accessories were around $2K. Catering ran us $5K. Photographer was $2K. Favors were $1K (a photo booth with sleeves for the pictures). The band was $2K. Florist was $5K. Bar was $5K. Invitations and save-the-dates and thank you cards (and stamps) were probably around $1K. Tux was $200. Hair and makeup for the day $500. Rehearsal, shower, engagement pictures, and sangeet outfits probably cost around $1K altogether. Rings were $1K. Thank you gifts for all our attendants and parents cost around $1K. Honeymoon was around $5K.
There was a lot of miscellaneous things, too, like cake toppers and ring boxes and ribbons for flower girls to twirl that all added up like crazy.


Our wedding cost right around $20K for about 130 people.
That budget didn’t include rings or honeymoon. I feel we had a gorgeous wedding for what was paid, but we certainly could have cut back in many areas if we had a stricter budget.


We got the rings for $100 each at a jewelry store that was going out of business and had a clearance sale. $100 for the license and $100 to hire a marriage commissioner to come to the house (something you can do in Alaska). Then we spent about $80 approximately on a cake from the store and food and booze. The only guests we had were a couple of friends since we needed two witnesses to sign the paperwork. I wouldn't do it any other way since big weddings seem so stressful to me, I wouldn't want to have to go through all that.


Leah Flores/Stocksy
We got married in my mom's backyard and had to rent tables and chairs. My husband was still a student, so we were able to rent a sound system and projector for free from his college. My dad downloaded all of our music for us. We basically had friends and family bring food, and it was BYOB. I really wish we had splurged and gotten a couple of kegs. That's my only regret. I don't think there's anything I would have done without.


We paid for it, except that my parents bought my dress for me ($300).
I wanted to elope, but my husband wanted a wedding. He wanted it to be a casual potluck-style reception, but my sister did that and it was a lot of work for the immediate family. I told him I would either do a cake-and-punch-only reception, or we would find a reception venue that would do a whole package deal… He decided we needed a full-on wedding and reception, so that's what we did.
The rehearsal dinner was at a local BBQ place, buffet-style. That was cash-bar rather than an open bar. We paid around $500 for that dinner, including a generous tip for the staff.
Our church didn't charge us for use of the building. We gave the pastor and his wife a gift as a "thank you" for their involvement in the ceremony. That was around $200.
A coworker of mine at the time had been a wedding photographer before getting into IT. He did our photographs and gave us the images on a DVD. It was a gift to us, and he did a great job. No complaints there.
The cake was from a local bakery and was delicious. It was probably around $500 and completely worth it.
All-in-all, I would have been happy with eloping. But also I wouldn't change the wedding we had either.


My mother and mother-in-law paid for it. We wanted to get married in a courthouse because we couldn't afford a nice wedding... I'm my moms only daughter and she said "you're having a wedding and I'm paying for it" and his mother got on board. I couldn’t say no. It was the best day of my life and I will be forever grateful that they gave me the wedding of my dreams.


Truly, I’ve seen it all when it comes to wedding budgets. I’ve been to a glamorous black-tie reception with custom cocktails, luxe decor, and extravagant floral displays, but I’ve also been to one with family-style meal whipped up by the groom himself, and vintage table linens found at thrift stores by the bride. And let me tell you, I had a blast at both.

Clearly, the cost of one's wedding is a super personal matter, and what works for one bride may not cut it for another. Remember: It's not about how much or how little you spend. It's about planning a celebration that you and your life partner will never forget. And that, folks, is priceless.