True Cost of a Wedding: Where to Save, Where to Splurge

Studies
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Everyone knows weddings are expensive, but they don’t have to be. There’s a lot you can save on the details — such as the venue, flowers and even Save the Date cards — leaving more room in your budget to spend elsewhere.

We created an interactive tool to compare a range of factors and costs for locations across the U.S. To use our tool, enter a county or ZIP code in the spaces below for a side-by-side cost comparison. Adjust the sliders to see how spending more or less on any of the different categories changes your costs. Napa or Sonoma? Destination wedding or down the street? You decide.

Don’t stop there. Scroll down to find even more data (and click here for a description of how we derived these numbers). We’ve analyzed wedding costs and income across the country to find how much of your paycheck will go to the Big Day. Hint: It’s a lot.

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With nearly 2.2 million unions last year, the wedding industry in the U.S. has a market value of $54.3 billion, making the event momentous and expensive.

September is one of the most popular months for weddings, so in honor of those nuptials, we crunched data from our friends at The Wedding Report and found the average wedding in the U.S. can cost well over $25,000.

However, the average wedding cost skyrockets when a couple shells out for everything that a wedding could need — a planner, photography and video, etc. Therefore, we looked at the sum of the average costs in each category. When looking at all-inclusive wedding costs, the average for all the counties is $37,983.

There are some interesting takeaways when looking strictly at the raw numbers:

  • Southern states: All of the 10 least expensive counties for weddings are in Missouri, Kentucky or Mississippi.
  • Costly coasts: At the other end, the 10 most expensive counties to get married are in New Jersey, New York or California.
  • Double down: The most expensive places to get married (Hunterdon or Somerset counties in New Jersey) are almost double the cost of the average wedding in Hickory County, Missouri, the cheapest county in our study.

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So how much should you spend?

But a dollar might not be a dollar when it comes to looking at wedding costs against yearly income. Will you overspend or enter married life feeling thrifty?

To find the true cost of a wedding across the U.S., we calculated total wedding costs as a percentage of median household income in 2,870 of the nation’s counties, which resulted in some interesting findings:

  • Most affordable: Five of the 10 most affordable counties for weddings belong to Virginia, where relatively high median household incomes mean wedding bills are a smaller percentage of a couple’s paychecks.
  • Least affordable: Five of the 10 least affordable counties are in Kentucky because low average incomes in the state mean higher true costs.
  • Holy matri-money: There are 500 counties in the U.S. where couples will spend more on their weddings on average than they will make in an entire year.
  • Going big in Texas: Couples spend as much as 161% of their combined income on their wedding in Brooks County, Texas (the least affordable county for weddings), which is four times less affordable than the true cost of a wedding in Loudoun County, Virginia (the most affordable).

Check out the counties with the lowest and highest true costs of a wedding in the tables below.

20 Most affordable counties for a wedding

Rank County Median household income Total cost of a wedding Total wedding cost as a percentage of income
1 Loudoun, VA $122,068 $51,281 42.01%
2 Los, Alamos, NM $106,426 $48,443 45.52%
3 Fairfax, VA $109,383 $49,806 45.53%
4 Arlington, VA $102,459 $48,230 47.07%
5 Douglas, CO $101,108 $47,943 47.42%
6 Howard, MD $107,821 $51,480 47.75%
7 Stafford, VA $96,355 $46,948 48.72%
8 Prince William, VA $96,160 $47,441 49.34%
9 Williamson, TN $91,146 $45,833 50.29%
10 Scott, MN $84,571 $43,475 51.41%
11 Summit, UT $86,515 $44,593 51.54%
12 Fauquier, VA $88,687 $45,767 51.61%
13 Charles, MD $93,063 $48,029 51.61%
14 Montgomery, MD $96,985 $50,297 51.86%
15 Delaware, OH $90,499 $47,205 52.16%
16 Carver, MN $83,275 $43,475 52.21%
17 Hunterdon, NJ $105,880 $55,374 52.30%
18 Forsyth, GA $87,585 $45,864 52.37%
19 Calvert, MD $92,395 $48,426 52.41%
20 Washington, MN $80,747 $42,983 53.23%

20 Least affordable counties for a wedding

Rank County Median household income Total cost of a wedding Total wedding cost as a percentage of income
1 Brooks, TX $21,445 $34,580 161.25%
2 Jefferson, MS $20,281 $32,329 159.41%
3 Wolfe, KY $21,168 $31,935 150.86%
4 McCreary, KY $21,758 $32,230 148.13%
5 Clay, KY $22,296 $32,627 146.34%
6 Sumter, AL $22,655 $33,119 146.19%
7 Hancock, TN $22,205 $32,427 146.03%
8 Jackson, KY $22,213 $32,427 145.98%
9 McDowell, WV $22,972 $33,444 145.59%
10 Lee, KY $22,789 $32,925 144.48%
11 Hancock, GA $22,716 $32,751 144.18%
12 Noxubee, MS $22,652 $32,627 144.04%
13 Holmes, MS $22,335 $32,132 143.86%
14 Madison, LA $24,700 $35,370 143.20%
15 Quitman, MS $23,115 $32,528 140.72%
16 Starr, TX $24,653 $34,580 140.27%
17 Breathitt, KY $23,049 $32,329 140.26%
18 Greene, AL $23,777 $33,222 139.72%
19 East, Carroll, LA $25,413 $35,370 139.18%
20 Leflore, MS $23,659 $32,824 138.74%

If you’re seeking the most affordable county in your state for a wedding, look no further:

Most affordable county for a wedding in each state 

State County Median household income Total cost of a wedding Total wedding cost as a percentage of income Nationwide rank for affordability
AL Shelby $69,379 $42,386 61.09% 105
AK Juneau $78,947 $49,725 62.99% 141
AZ Greenlee $49,692 $37,107 74.67% 633
AR Saline $53,817 $39,411 73.23% 549
CA Santa Clara $90,747 $52,588 57.95% 65
CO Douglas $101,108 $47,943 47.42% 5
CT Tolland $80,887 $48,860 60.41% 94
DE New Castle $64,670 $42,804 66.19% 232
FL St. Johns $64,346 $42,711 66.38% 239
GA Forsyth $87,585 $45,864 52.37% 18
HI Honolulu $72,292 $52,190 72.19% 482
ID Blaine $60,160 $39,765 66.10% 227
IL Kendall $83,835 $45,139 53.84% 23
IN Hamilton $84,821 $45,925 54.14% 27
IA Dallas $71,878 $41,017 57.06% 59
KS Johnson $75,139 $41,902 55.77% 42
KY Oldham $83,164 $44,352 53.33% 21
LA Ascension $67,688 $41,975 62.01% 121
ME York $56,656 $42,455 74.93% 655
MD Howard $107,821 $51,480 47.75% 6
MA Norfolk $84,087 $49,451 58.81% 75
MI Livingston $72,396 $43,362 59.90% 86
MN Scott $84,571 $43,475 51.41% 10
MS DeSoto $58,851 $39,332 66.83% 249
MO St. Charles $71,416 $40,324 56.46% 53
MT Jefferson $60,459 $39,368 65.12% 191
NE Sarpy $69,269 $39,436 56.93% 56
NV Lander $70,341 $40,649 57.79% 64
NH Rockingham $77,939 $47,776 61.30% 111
NJ Hunterdon $105,880 $55,374 52.30% 17
NM Los Alamos $106,426 $48,443 45.52% 2
NY Putnam $95,259 $52,509 55.12% 38
NC Wake $65,826 $42,509 64.58% 174
ND Williams $69,617 $38,257 54.95% 37
OH Delaware $90,499 $47,205 52.16% 15
OK Canadian $63,884 $41,182 64.46% 172
OR Washington $64,375 $45,981 71.43% 441
PA Chester $86,184 $49,753 57.73% 63
RI Washington $72,391 $47,182 65.18% 193
SC Beaufort $56,581 $40,343 71.30% 436
SD Lincoln $73,340 $41,017 55.93% 43
TN Williamson $91,146 $45,833 50.29% 9
TX Rockwall $82,725 $44,924 54.31% 28
UT Summit $86,515 $44,593 51.54% 11
VT Chittenden $63,900 $45,017 70.45% 392
VA Loudoun $122,068 $51,281 42.01% 1
WA King $71,175 $46,865 65.84% 214
WV Jefferson $64,314 $42,414 65.95% 219
WI Ozaukee $75,854 $44,639 58.85% 76
WY Sublette $79,776 $42,617 53.42% 22

Methodology

The total cost of a wedding is the sum of average costs in the following categories (obtained from The Wedding Report): attire and accessories, beauty and spa, entertainment, flowers and decorations, gifts and favors, invitations, jewelry, photography and video, planner/consultant and venue catering and rentals. The average total cost assumes a couple spends the average amount on all of these categories. However, couples don’t always spend on all categories.

Median household income, used to calculate the true cost of a wedding (total wedding cost as a percentage of income), was obtained from the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey.

Wedding image via Shutterstock.

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