Research Shows Cutting the Guest List Might Not Reduce Your Wedding Costs

If you’re planning a wedding, you know that there are plenty of details to consider, ranging from flowers to wedding reception linens and more. However, if you can’t seem to reduce your projected expenses no matter what you change or choose, you likely aren’t the only one: a new study claims that the cost of weddings has reached a five-year high, even as the average guest list shrinks.

According to the wedding website The Knot, the average wedding now costs $31,213 — even without the price of the honeymoon. Additionally, The Knot also found that the size of these weddings are shrinking: while ceremonies averaged a total of 149 people in 2009, guest lists in 2014 were down to an average of 136.

To make matters worse, this price can be even higher in certain areas. Studies show that the most expensive weddings are, perhaps not surprisingly, found in Manhattan, where the average wedding costs as much as $75,328. Nearby locations were often just as expensive, with Long Island clocking in at $55,327, New Jersey reaching $53,986, and the Westchester/Hudson Valley area of New York State costing $52,954. Moving further inland, Chicago weddings had an average price of $50,934. However, couples in the South and West fared much better: Arkansas and Utah recorded the lowest wedding expenses in 2014, with the average event costing $18,031 and $15,257 respectively.

While these statistics might initially suggest that wedding costs are increasing exponentially, the truth isn’t quite so dire: the website reports that reduced expenses from a smaller catering bill and fewer favors are being used to pay for other aspects of the wedding. In fact, wedding spending in 2014 increased in almost every category, with couples dedicating most of their budget to catering, musicians and cake. According to The Knot’s research, catering usually averages $68 per person, reception bands typically reach $3,587, DJs cost around $1,124, and a wedding cake now costs an average of $555.

The only two categories where spending decreased were favors and invitations. But while an average cost of $275 for favors and $439 for invitations are lower than previous years, they are often not enough to prevent couples from going over budget in other areas. According to The Knot, as many as 45% of 16,000 couples they surveyed went over budget. In contrast, only one in four couples stayed within their financial parameters.

“Simple solid linens with a splash of color always keep your wedding within budget while still looking elegant,” said Francine Renshaw, sales assistant at Connie Duglin Linen.

Other tips include renting bridesmaid dresses, or even buying a cheaper, still beautiful wedding dress. However, cutting the guest list might not help, unless it means avoiding an unsavory acquaintance or relative. Then again, some things are more important than money.

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