How Much Does the Average Wedding Cost in the United States?

Wedding planners across the country explain why the national average has become sky-high.

Bride and groom walking hand-in-hand through arches covered in greenery during a destination wedding.

Photo by Tracy Burch

Here at Brides, we know that the price of a wedding is just as distinct as the wedding itself; a number determined by highly-personalized choices like hiring a planner, the guest count, venue, food and drink, décor, and much more, the cost of weddings vary significantly. For that reason, defining the exact average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is no easy task.

According to a report by CNN from June of 2023, the national average for wedding costs in 2023 is $29,000, with the number reaching $35,000 and over in some major cities. And while inflation is certainly a big factor in this hefty price tag, planners around the country note that this rising cost is also about the choices couples are making as they plan.

"Everything has increased at least 15 to 20 percent from where it was even last year," explains Heather Lowenthal of Posh Parties, a wedding planning company based in Palm Beach. "People are throwing weddings and they are going all out," she says.

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So, what goes into this price tag? Here, wedding planners across the U.S. break down what, exactly, is contributing to the rising cost of weddings.

Inflation and Increased Demand

"There are a few factors for the increasing cost of weddings," says Gretchen Culver of Rocket Science Events, a Minneapolis-based wedding planning company. "First, things just cost more. The pandemic upended our industry and, coupled with inflation, we are seeing costs of items, such as florals, increase four times or six times what we were spending in 2019 and 2020." Culver goes on to explain that a notable labor shortage continues to drive costs for rentals, food and beverage services, and transportation. "Every segment of the industry is dealing with something (or things) that are impacting the bottom line," she says.

Choosing Quality Over Quantity

Darryl Moore, the founder of Houston-based D’Concierge Weddings, notes that while wedding budgets are highly variable, many of his clients have become very discerning about which wedding elements they spend their money on. "I've noticed a definite trend towards prioritizing certain aspects of the wedding, particularly photography, and food and beverages," he says. "I find it heartening to see my clients focusing on the elements of their wedding that truly matter to them. Whether it's hiring a top-notch photographer to capture their special day, or investing in an exceptional culinary experience for their guests, it's clear that quality is being prioritized over quantity." With the trending quality-over-quantity philosophy, it's only natural that the average cost is increasing.

The "Wow" Factor

Many planners attribute the steep cost of weddings to couples wanting a "wow factor" for their guests. Both Erica Estrada of Erica Estrada Design, based in San Francisco, and Akeshi Akinseye of Chicago-based Kesh Events note that couples are keen to personalize their event to the max. "More couples want their wedding to be a reflection of their unique style, story, and personalities," explains Akinseye. "This is a beautiful touch to any wedding celebration but often means custom solutions, which can add to the cost." She also notes that many couples want to create an unforgettable experience for their guests. "This may include elaborate entertainment for multi-day celebrations [and] high-end catering, décor, and details."

Culver is also observing that couples simply want more as they plan. "They are seeing these incredible weddings on social media and Pinterest, and they want the same level of design, experience, and so forth," she explains.

Guest Counts

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and the year following, guest counts were, naturally, much lower due to safety precautions and venue restrictions. However, with the wedding boom and event planning back in full swing, planners across the U.S. agree that an increase in the guest count is certainly a major factor in the rising average cost of a wedding. Weddings may not be as enormous as they were 10 years ago (over 300, for example, is less common now) but with venue restrictions lifted, couples are excited to celebrate with all their loved ones.

"I do think [many] couples are being more intentional about who they are inviting to their events, but there are still many that invite everyone they know," says Reena Maheshwari of Kahani Events & Design, based in Minnesota. Pre-pandemic, Maheshwari's events hovered around 300-plus; now they're typically sub-200, but with the rising costs for industry goods and services, the overall cost is still on an upwards trajectory.

Moore says that in Houston, Texas, where he is based, the typical weddings he plans range from about 125 to 300 guests, "given that our southern communities tend to have extensive networks of family and friends," he explains.

For Culver, guest counts for her events are definitely on the rise. "I am now seeing guest lists coming in over 200 whereas in the last few years, the guest lists were a lot smaller—150 or less," she says. "This makes sense coming out of the pandemic, but makes it hard to compare costs if you are looking at budget numbers of smaller weddings."

Increased Venue Rates

While choosing to get married at home or at a free venue (like a public park) will cut back costs significantly, many couples are still opting for a traditional venue—and venue fees are higher than ever. "Venue costs have gone up, and it seems like for most of the newer, better, modern, and popular venues, these days you should expect to pay $10k [when you] walk in the door with the venue as is," explains Dana Allison of Keyed Up Events based in Minneapolis. She notes that the base price is simply higher than it once was—and that's before add-ons like an on-site coordinator or beverage service.

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