It's a well-known fact that weddings tend to be quite expensive -- more expensive than many of us can even afford. Indeed, fully 74% of couples said they plan to take on debt in order to pay for theirs.

Why so costly? Well, the budget includes the bride's wedding dress, of course, as well as caterers, a venue, cake, invitations, a guest book, photography, favors, and more. To start your marriage off right, here are some tips on saving money for a wedding -- and honeymoon.

Start by taking a close look at the potential costs of various wedding expenses so you can get an idea of what your desired wedding will cost. The total is likely to be greater than you expect, so we'll also review a bunch of ways to cut those costs without sacrificing the fun or elegance of the occasion.

newly married couple holding hands and walking out of a church

Image source: Getty Images.

What a wedding costs -- from dress to caterers to the venue

Though estimates vary, the cost of an average wedding is well into the five figures. The website pegs the national average at $25,764, while The Knot reports an average of $33,391. The Knot also says the typical wedding includes 100 to 150 guests.

What your wedding will cost can vary widely, largely due to factors under your control. The folks at The Knot regularly survey couples getting married and tally up their costs. Here are their national average costs for 2017:





Engagement ring


Reception band






Ceremony site


Wedding/event planner




Wedding dress


Rehearsal dinner


Reception DJ


Hair and makeup




Ceremony musicians


Wedding cake




Groom's attire






Source: The Knot. *Includes the average catering cost of $70 per person.

You can use various online tools to get an idea of what your desired wedding will cost. One option is the handy online cost estimator from Below are the kinds of costs it estimates for a couple based in Springfield, Illinois, who are having a wedding and reception at a hotel with 100 guests. The numbers are based on surveys of others who had weddings in the area:


Typical Cost



Hair, makeup, manicure, pedicure




Flowers and decorations


Gifts and favors






Photography and video services


Venue, catering, and rentals


Total of above and other expenses



Here's a little more detail: The wedding dress estimate is $818, while a D.J. can run you $1,110 and musicians $931. An engagement ring is estimated at $2,102, while his and hers wedding bands are estimated at $483 and $281, respectively. An officiator may cost around $448, while a wedding cake will be about $331. (The difference between some of these numbers and those in The Knot's survey may be due to different kinds of couples responding to each estimator's surveys.)

two gold rings sitting on some hundred dollar bills

Image source: Getty Images.

Location, location, location

Where you live or get married will have a significant effect on the cost of your wedding. Using the same estimator as above, here's what a couple living in Manhattan might pay for a similar wedding:


Typical Cost



Hair, makeup, manicure, pedicure




Flowers and decorations


Gifts and favors






Photography and video services


Venue, catering, and rentals


Total of above and other expenses



The survey from the folks at The Knot also offered totals for different parts of the country. Here are some different locations for example:


Average Cost











National Average




San Francisco


South Florida


Los Angeles






Source: The Knot. 

Clearly, if you're opting for a wedding instead of eloping, you face the possibility of huge costs. The lists above can help you spot some categories where you may be able to spend less, though. For example, if you don't plan on any fancy hair and makeup services, you may save several hundred dollars. You could also get married in your grandmother's dress (or a secondhand dress) or have a qualified friend or relative photograph the event as a gift to you.

If you're willing to reconsider your wedding's location, you can save a lot, too. For example, if your family lives in the San Francisco area, while your fiancé's family lives in Utah, you may want to have the wedding in Utah, where it will likely cost you much less.

Consider unexpected costs when saving for your wedding

Keep in mind that no matter how well you plan and budget for your wedding, there will likely be some unexpected expenses you didn't think of. Here are some costs that sometimes sneak up on the bride and groom to be:

  • Marriage license
  • Save-the-date cards
  • Postage
  • Wedding gown alterations
  • A dance floor for your rented tent
  • Meals for the people working your wedding
  • Gifts and favors for guests and participants
  • Tips for service providers such as caterers
  • Overtime costs (e.g., if you have your band or photographer work longer than planned)

A marriage license can cost anywhere from a few dollars to $100-plus. Postage may seem minor, but if you're sending out 200 save-the-date cards and 200 invitations that include stamped RSVP cards, you're looking at $300 in postage costs. (Of course, you can shrink that if you send out save-the-date announcements by email and use postcards for your RSVPs.) Adding a dance floor to a rented tent can cost $400 or more. If you're planning to give out bags of wedding favors (say, candies or candles) to 100 guests at a cost of $5 each, that's suddenly a $500 cost!

As you plan your wedding, walk yourself through every minute and every detail of your wedding day. This will help you avoid any unpleasant surprises later.

a blackboard on which is written wedding budget in the middle, with expenses such as invitations reception honeymoon all around it

Image source: Getty Images.

Less expensive wedding food and venues

Let's take a closer look at what is typically the biggest expense in a wedding: the venue and catering. These can be two separate items or they can be combined, depending on where you get married and hold your reception. Note that if you have to rent tables and chairs and perhaps even a tent, that will be another big-ticket item. Your caterer might take care of that for you, or it may work with a rental company that bills you separately.

Here are some venue ideas that can cost less than the fancy downtown hotel you may be thinking of:

Your backyard -- or someone else's: This option can be posh, rustic, or somewhere in between. A rental company can deliver as many chairs as you need, along with tables, table settings, and even a tent with a dance floor. Depending on the setting, you may not even need a tent, and you might even forgo having a sit-down meal, opting for a buffet or hors d'oeuvres stations instead. String some white paper lights among some trees, and you can create a magical setting inexpensively.

An Airbnb rental: Not everyone realizes it, but Airbnb offers plenty of posh accommodations around the world. Having a destination wedding at or near an exotic or luxurious Airbnb site can still be much cheaper than more traditional options. Here are some possibilities spotted recently:

  • Entire villas in Tuscany, Italy, with eight to 10 bedrooms, for $100 to $500 per night.
  • A villa near Mumbi, India, with a pool and accommodations for more than 16 people for $380 per night.
  • An eight-bedroom country house in Argentina for $778 per night.
  • An entire hostel in Yerevan, Armenia, with eight bedrooms, for only $42 per night.
  • A lakeside cabin with nine bedrooms near national parks in Idaho for $400 per night.
  • A nine-bedroom beachfront house in California for $1,200 per night.

A national park: If you love the great outdoors, getting married a national park can be the perfect venue, though you might need to plan and reserve well in advance. Yosemite National Park, for example, has multiple spots where you might hold your shindig, and a special event permit recently cost just $150. (Attendees will still need to fork over park admission fees.) Some parks, like Yosemite, also have lodges and other accommodations, although they're sometimes expensive.

The folks at offer some other suggestions, such as Rocky Mountain National Park, where "A one-and-a-half mile hike (with both a dirt trail and paved path available) lead you to a gorgeous spot with uninterrupted views of the Continental Divide. The open meadow will make you feel like you're the only ones in the world -- except for the herds of elk nearby!"

City hall, a public library, or a park: There are lots of public buildings and spaces that host weddings. Museums, aquariums, beaches, and even restaurants are other options. Look into some public spaces near you and see how much you like them and how much they will cost. Note that a restaurant will be able to feed everyone, too, and the total price may be well below what you'd pay at an upscale hotel or similar venue -- especially if it's a fun, downscale restaurant such as a barbecue place or taqueria. Being unconventional can save you a lot of money.

Honeymoons: how to spend less than average

Here are some eye-opening facts and figures from the folks at

  • The average cost of a honeymoon for U.S. couples is $4,466.
  • The average length of a honeymoon is around eight days.
  • About three-quarters of American honeymooners travel within the U.S. or Canada.
  • The top U.S. honeymoon destinations are Hawaii, Florida, California, and Nevada.
  • The top international honeymoon destinations include Mexico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Italy, St. Lucia, France, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Many cruises will cost between about $3,000 and $7,000 per person, depending on where you go, how long you're at sea, and how fancy the vessel is.

If you're already planning, say, a $20,000 wedding, the thought of paying another $4,000-plus on top of that for a honeymoon can be a little alarming. Fortunately, you don't have to spend that much on your honeymoon. Here are some ways to spend less.

Travel during your honeymoon destination's off season: Hotels will be charging less, and the crowds will be smaller, too. Note that even if you get married in June, you can always delay your honeymoon for a few months if it means avoiding peak tourist season. Also bear in mind that traveling during the off season does not mean resigning yourself to bad weather. Some areas, particularly near the equator, have nice weather year-round but are simply more crowded at certain times -- like winter.

Consult a travel agent: It may sound old-fashioned, but travel agents know a lot more about honeymoon destinations than you do, and they can save you a lot of time and trouble researching where to go, when to go, and what to do. A good travel agent can make all the arrangements and bookings for you and can be a valuable resource if you run into trouble or questions while traveling. They may even save you more than the amount of their fee by helping you plan an economical honeymoon.

Choose a less expensive destination: Some honeymoon locales simply cost a lot more than others. Fortunately, there are plenty of charming and romantic spots that won't cost you much. Some great possibilities include: Charleston, South Carolina; Quebec City, Quebec; New Orleans, Louisiana; the Florida Keys; the Rocky Mountains of Colorado; Tulum, Mexico; and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Consider a road trip, too, heading to any place you've always wanted to go and stopping at charming spots along the way, or even a big camping trip if you're the outdoorsy type. If you want to set your sights further abroad, consider Ireland, Portugal, Costa Rica, Vietnam, or Cambodia, which generally cost much less than the traditional honeymoon destinations while offering plenty to see and do.

Make it brief: Sure, a long honeymoon can feel luxurious, but you may actually find yourself a little bored after a week at a beach. Consider making your honeymoon a four- or five-day weekend in a place where you'll treasure every day.

Crowdsource it: If you don't need to register for household items, you might invite well-wishers to contribute to a honeymoon registry to help pay for your big trip. There are many sites for such an initiative, such as,, and, among others.

Remember the big picture

It's smart to remember, as you plan your wedding, that it shouldn't derail the rest of your financial life. Don't go into debt in order to pay for a $30,000 wedding when you can probably have a wonderful ceremony for $20,000 or $15,000 or even less. Your honeymoon can be another major financial undertaking, so consider some ways to cut costs there -- or include its cost in your wedding savings.

If you're hoping to buy a home in a few years, you'll need a down payment for that, so plan accordingly. As kids enter the picture, you'll start countdowns toward college expenses. And no matter how old you are, you should be saving money for your retirement, too. Don't be overwhelmed, though. A little planning and discipline can get you a wonderful wedding, a fun honeymoon, a comfy home, happy and college-educated kids, and a secure retirement -- maybe even an early retirement. It won't all happen by chance, though, so be smart about your money throughout your life.