Why Are Weddings So Expensive?

A look into the cost of a wedding today.

bride and groom at wedding ceremony

Vladimir Tsarkov / Stocksy

There's no denying that weddings are expensive. Hosting this major life milestone often requires a major investment to bring together all the details, from the venue to the fashion to the vendor teams helping orchestrate the day. "It’s not uncommon for couples (and often their parents or another loved one who is contributing financially to the celebrations) to have a bit of ‘sticker shock’ with costs when they begin wedding planning," shares Tracy Taylor Ward, the president and principal designer of Tracy Taylor Ward Design. "So if you find yourself in that boat, don’t worry. You’re not alone. What many don’t realize is just how much production and attention to detail goes into a wedding day (and even more for a full wedding weekend!) as compared to other types of events."

So, why exactly is that price tag larger? "First and foremost, a wedding is one of, if not THE, most anticipated and important milestones in one’s life, and therefore many want to ensure that it’s an unforgettable experience for their friends and family, which often results in more resources (time and money) dedicated to bringing such an important celebration to life," says Ward. "Many couples want to incorporate unique and detailed elements throughout their celebrations, such as elaborate floral arrangements, custom lighting installations, headlining entertainment, bridal stylists, dance instructors, and beautiful custom paper goods. An event of this caliber truly requires an army of supportive and talented vendor teams, all of whom put so much love and passion into bringing each wedding to life."

Wedding planner Chanda Daniels adds, "It’s important to understand that each couple needs to spend on their wedding what feels comfortable to them. It’s very important to be mindful of not judging or shaming others for what they decide to invest in their wedding. The amount you invest in your wedding has nothing to do with your marriage, do what feels good and enjoy!"

Ahead, we have wedding pros break down the details that add up to give weddings that large price tag.

Meet the Expert

  • Tracy Taylor Ward is an award-winning wedding and event planner, and the owner and creative director of Tracy Taylor Ward Design.
  • Chanda Daniels is a wedding planner and the founder of Chanda Daniels Planning + Design.
  • Kristen Griffith VanderYacht is founder of Wild Bloom Floral, the head judge of “The Big Flower Fight” on Netflix, and author of the upcoming Floral Design Book-Flower Love (Clarkson/Potter 2023) available now for preorder.

The Amount of Events

While most regular events have a few working parts like a cocktail hour and sometimes dancing, a wedding can have days full of different components. "Weddings traditionally incorporate multiple different ‘events’ within the wedding day or weekend," explains Ward. "At the bare minimum, this includes a ceremony followed by a reception, making it longer and more complex than most other milestone events. Plus, the type of event format that a wedding typically entails can lend itself to increased costs in comparison to other event styles. For example, weddings commonly include a fully seated meal, which is much more expensive than a cocktail-style event with passed hors d’oeuvres, often the go-to format of other social events."

"Photography is a great example of increased cost for a wedding versus other event," she shares. "Wedding photography often includes an engagement shoot and over 10 hours of coverage with multiple photographers in order to capture the full duration of events, resulting in thousands of images that need to be edited in post production, whereas other milestone events are normally three to four hours long, and therefore only require coverage lasting that length which results in only a couple hundred images needing to be edited in post production."

It's also important to note that a wedding can have multiple events throughout. "Style of wedding is the core of cost, meaning the celebration is a one-day celebration, destination wedding, or a multi-day wedding weekend," says Daniels. "Each of those wedding styles comes with additional costs related to its format. For example, on a wedding weekend you have the cost of three events hosting potentially all the guests you invited to your wedding."

Venue Cost

The expense that may lead to the most sticker shock is the venue. With a larger number of guests, you need to have a space that can not only fit the design you want, but also have enough capacity for your guests. "Your guest count will lead to what venue you can select," explains Daniels. "So the larger your guest count, it will require you to select a venue to accommodate your guests. Your final guest count will determine the cost of your caterer, rentals, and florals for centerpieces."

The overall cost of renting the space for the evening can be hefty, but also can come with quite a few extra fees. "Your venue depending on what you select may require additional creatives for you to host your wedding," shares Daniels. "For example, a private property may require you to bring in power, lighting, restrooms, building a kitchen for your caterer, or transportation for your guests. That’s why it's important to review the total of what it costs at each venue before falling in love with it." Even hosting a wedding at a venue you don't have to rent, like a family home, requires bringing in plenty of rentals to make the space ready to host a major event.

Vendor Labor

The biggest factor that contributes to the high cost of wedding is the number of hours vendor teams put into planning and producing the event. "In most cases, weddings require the management and incorporation of exponentially more vendors and elements than other events," explains Ward. "Vendors pour in hundreds if not thousands of hours of work between the preparation of the wedding, the large amounts of labor and staffing required to produce the wedding, and the post production work required of many vendors as well. So while the wedding itself might only span a day or weekend, it is the labor of love that goes into producing it that requires more resources (aka time and expense) than any other celebratory event."

"Since a wedding ultimately is the celebration of two individuals and their families coming together in most cases, that means many more (for lack of a better word) ‘stakeholders’ are involved in the planning of a wedding in comparison to other events," she continues. "Navigating each individuals’ priorities, expectations, and financial contributions alone requires much more time and energy, resulting in longer vendor meetings, more attention to details, an increase in calls and e-mails, and more emotional support. Plus, most couples, and their families consider a wedding to be the prime opportunity to celebrate and thank their loved ones who supported them throughout their journey through life thus far."

Floral Pricing

One thing many couples quickly realize is the high cost to decorate their event with florals. Not only does creating floral arrangements for your event require skilled labor, but the actual cost of flowers today has been rising due to inflation. "Grooms and flower consumers everywhere—the price of flowers has gone up nearly 20 percent since the pandemic," shares floral designer Kristen Griffith VanderYacht. "What was once considered luxury pricing is becoming more and more commonplace in the floral industry. I don't say this to discourage you. I say this to empower you to make thoughtful choices when it comes to your flowers."

VanderYacht encourages couples to put thought into this investment. "Like clothing, makeup, or entertainment, consider flowers like you would any other product," he shares. "From bargain finds to luxury brands, you get what you pay for. The one defining factor that separates florists is that each piece is a unique creation made by hand. Nothing is made in bulk. Everything is bespoke."

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