The Cost to be in Love

From anniversary gifts and getting engaged to going to the ultimate honeymoon destination, being in a relationship doesn’t always come cheap. But can you really put a price on love?

John Ellmore Last updated on 05 November 2020.
The Cost to be in Love

For a new study, NerdWallet surveyed over 1,000 recently married Brits to reveal how much it ‘costs to be in love’, how long it takes the UK to reach certain milestones in a relationship, as well as the dream locations for a proposal, wedding, and honeymoon. We also examined Google Search trends to further analyse British people’s search habits around love over the last 12 months.

There’s no doubt these last few months have been difficult. Many couples have had to spend more time together than ever before, with 13% of Brits saying COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their relationship and 5% even revealing that they’re unhappy in their relationship. Despite this, the survey revealed the majority of respondents (83%) are happy in their relationship.

How long did it take to…?

The beginning of a relationship is always exciting, with many big ‘firsts’. But how long does it take us on average to reach these significant milestones?

  1. Saying ‘I love you’ for the first time – 9 months
  2. Moving in together – 2 years
  3. Getting engaged – 3 years and 2 months
  4. Getting married – 5 years
  5. Having a child (if applicable) – 5 years and 1 month

Saying ‘I love you’ for the first time in a relationship is always a special moment and survey results revealed women tell their partner they love them two and a half months earlier than men (who take 10 months on average).

Nottingham is filled with people in love, with couples confessing their love after just four months, in contrast to respondents from Southampton who take their time with 14 months to reach this milestone.

The next big and exciting step is moving in together, which UK couples are ready to do on average after two years of dating. However, 25% of Brits between the ages of 25 and 34 have moved in together after less than three months of dating, whereas 18% of those aged 45-54 wait between a year to a year and a half of dating.

Most people dream of the perfect proposal and respondents from Plymouth don’t have to wait long for this to happen, with couples from this city getting engaged after an average of one year and 10 months of dating. They are followed by Bristol (two and a half years), Cardiff (two and a half years), Nottingham (two and a half years), and Brighton (two years and six months). People from Belfast take the longest to get engaged with an average waiting time of four years and two months.

On average, people get married after five years of being together and men and women both reach this milestone at almost the same time. And, when examining how long it took respondents to have children (of those who chose to), the average time was five years and two months. Respondents from Belfast wait the longest, at six years and 11 months on average, compared to three years and five months in Plymouth.

How much did it cost to…?

Getting engaged is one of the biggest milestones in a relationship. From buying the perfect ring to finding the perfect spot to get down on one knee, there are many elements that need to be considered. But who splurges the most?

Our survey results show that a three-month salary ring is a thing of the past, with 58% of respondents admitting their ring cost less than that.

On average, Brits spend £1,394.19 on an engagement ring. Here are the five cities that spend the most and the least amount of money:

City £ Amount spent (most) City £ Amount spent (least)
Edinburgh £2,587.95 Sheffield £794.43
London £1,906.91 Norwich £833.92
Liverpool £1,718.55 Leeds £845.71
Glasgow £1,693.82 Nottingham £893.78
Cardiff £1,669.77 Southampton £942.38

No matter how much you decide to spend, 74% of respondents don’t regret spending the amount they did on their engagement ring. Despite this, 6% of respondents revealed buying an engagement ring put them in debt.

On top of finding the right ring, picking the perfect proposal location is another challenge, and many Brits dig deep into their pockets to make the day extra special, spending an average of £786.96 on the event.

Londoners like to splash the cash the most, with 8% spending between £1,001 to £2,500 and 2% as much as £7,501-£10,000 on the proposal itself.

The top 5 dream proposal locations, both in the UK and worldwide, as chosen by our survey respondents include:

Rank Destination - UK Destination - Worldwide
1 The Lake District New York, USA
2 Cornwall Florence, Italy
3 The Scottish Highlands Paris, France
4 Edinburgh Santorini, Greece
5 The Cotswolds Bali, Indonesia

A wedding costs...?

A wedding is one of the biggest days of our lives and on average Brits spend £7,460.55 on their big day. Here is an overview of how much people from different cities spent on their wedding:

Rank City £ Amount spent Rank City £ Amount spent
1 London £9,680.42 10 Bristol £6,198.24
2 Birmingham £8,200.25 11 Sheffield £6,036.02
3 Belfast £8,184.72 12 Edinburgh £5,949.82
4 Leeds £7,970.12 13 Norwich £5,899.76
5 Newcastle £7,935.06 14 Southampton £5,617.95
6 Glasgow £7,780.20 15 Brighton £4,902.48
7 Liverpool £7,122.69 16 Cardiff £4,687.28
8 Nottingham £6,915.66 17 Plymouth £4,183.76
9 Manchester £6,513.63

Will you regret spending so much money on your wedding? 70% of Brits say they don’t regret how much they spent, with respondents saying they wouldn’t have preferred to spend the money on travelling the world with their spouse (46%) or investing it in their child’s future (53%).

Where should you go for…?

Unfortunately, many couple’s wedding plans were impacted by COVID-19 this year. But if you’re looking for a romantic place for a small wedding, these locations were voted the best in the UK by our survey respondents:

Rank Destination
1 St Ives, Cornwall
2 Isle of Skye, Scotland
3 Edinburgh, Scotland
4 The Cotswolds
5 London

And although celebrating a wedding abroad might not be possible yet, respondents revealed their dream wedding locations outside the UK, which include the Amalfi Coast in Italy; Maui, Hawaii; Bali Indonesia, as well as Florida and New York in the United States.

The world is filled with so many beautiful locations that make perfect honeymoon destinations, it’s difficult to choose between them. These are the top five destinations in the world for a honeymoon according to the survey respondents:

Rank Destination
1 Maldives
2 Maui, Hawaii
3 Santorini, Greece
4 Puglia, Italy
5 Kyoto, Japan

However, you don‘t have to travel abroad to enjoy a romantic dreamy honeymoon, as the UK is home to many spectacular destinations. Among the top locations survey respondents would choose to go on their honeymoon are The Scottish Highlands, The Lake District, and Cornwall.

With the average Brit spending £3,155.98 on their honeymoon, honeymooning in the UK might be an affordable and picturesque alternative.

The most loved-up cities according to Google….

In addition to our survey, we wanted to find out the most loved-up cities across the UK by looking at monthly searches over the last 12 months for terms such as engagement ring, and proposal ideas.

Manchester is the most successful city for love this 2020, with searches for proposal ideas and engagement rings reaching 903 searches per 100,000 people each month. Following in second is Leeds, with searches sitting at 771 per 100,000 people.

With endless options to choose from for your dream day, what will your perfect day look like, where would you want to go and how much would it cost you?


The market research was carried out between 18th and 23rd September 2020 among 1,013 UK adults via an online survey by independent market research agency Censuswide. The data sample of 1,013 adults is fully nationally representative and all respondents were married after the year 2000. Locations were chosen from a range of sources and chosen at random.

Google Keyword Planner was used to collect search volume data, which was gathered between 16th and 18th September 2020. The top 15 most populated UK cities were selected for this. Each category had five keyword phrases included in the research. These five phrases were chosen based on the highest search volume, ignoring any brand-related terms.


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Disclaimer: Information in this article was correct at the time of publication. Whilst intended to be informative it does not constitute as advice. Readers should always fully check the T&C's of any financial agreement based on individual financial circumstances.

About the author:

John Ellmore is a director of NerdWallet UK and is a company spokesperson for consumer finance issues. John is committed to providing clear, accurate and transparent financial information. Read more

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