Your wedding is meant to be one of the happiest days of your life. It will also probably be the most expensive. In 2017 tying the knot cost the average American couple $26,000, according to the Wedding Report, a market-research firm. The country’s newlyweds spent a total of $56.2bn last year on getting hitched at 2.2m ceremonies, more than the annual GDP of half the countries of the world.
The industry has actually shrunk in the last decade, following a lengthy post-recession slump: a typical couple spends 6% less on nuptials than they did in 2008, after accounting for inflation. Young people are also less enamoured of marriage than their parents – many more wed later or not at all. For those who do, the biggest outlay is food, which typically costs $4,700, a number that has risen over the past decade even as the price of other aspects of the day have fallen (that explains why a sixth of all couples forgo the wedding breakfast). The price tag for location hire ($3,600) and an engagement ring ($3,400) are high too.
No wonder organising a wedding is so stressful. Despite the proliferation of films and novels about wedding planners, less than a fifth of couples fork out for the luxury. Nevertheless, photography ($2,800), drinks ($2,400), flowers ($1,600), clothes ($1,600), invitations ($800) and gifts for guests ($700) all take a toll.
Those who plan a pricey spectacle tend to fret more than couples who hold a low-key event. In a global survey by Splendid Insights, another research firm, couples who spent more than $30,000 on their nuptials were more likely to worry about impressing their guests and looking their best than those with budgets of under $10,000. In 2014 an academic study of American marriages found that among newlyweds of similar income, education and race, those with flashier weddings were more likely to get divorced. Apparently money can’t buy you love.