Weddings are expensive, point blank and period. In the United States, couples spend $25,764 on average for their big days, according to 2017 research.
When you consider the costs of all the moving parts, the number makes sense. The average cost of wedding dresses alone across the United States is $1,509 (including alterations), according to The Knot 2017 Real Weddings Study. The research suggests that brides also spend an average of $279 on accessories like the veil, shoes and lingerie. Meanwhile, couples spend anywhere between $12,343 and $14,006 on average for their wedding venue, including any general location fees, food, drinks and incidentals like tables, chairs and linens, according to a survey of brides. Then, factor in the costs of invitations, photography and videography, spa services, favors and more, and the prices can quickly add up.
Budgeting for a wedding isn't any easy feat — which is why we spoke with five women who've been there and done that. These women share what they wish they'd have spent less money on and where they would have splurged more on their own wedding days.
1. More on the aesthetic and photography, less on videography.
"I wish I had spent more attention and budget on florals and decor for our reception," says Miranda Schultz. "The only part of my wedding that I truly didn't like was my reception table centerpieces. The colors were wrong and the arrangements looked pretty sparse and cheap. Part of the issue was that I was trying to save some money, but I also didn't require enough from the florist in terms of producing examples, showing me pictures of what I would be getting, etc."
She also wishes she had spent more on photography.
"I hired a great photographer, but didn't splurge for a second shooter to support him on the day," she says. "I loved the photos I got, but I wish there were more pictures of both my husband and I, along with our wedding party."
Schultz wishes she'd spent less money on videography, however. She admits that, aside from watching the five-minute trailer from her wedding day, neither she nor her husband have even watched the wedding video — and they got married almost three years ago.
2. Less on photography, more on the honeymoon.
"I wish I had saved on: photography. We hired a professional photographer to cover the ceremony and reception — and we got a pretty good deal on him, too. But I've been to plenty of weddings where guests were asked to use one to two hashtags and share their photos online," says Emily Johnson. "Having seen how others used photos taken by attendees, I wish we had gone this route because you can get some really great candid shots."
If she had it to do over, she says she would probably hire a photographer to capture just the ceremony and maybe a few special shots at the beginning of the reception. She'd then just use a group photo-sharing site with hashtags for the reception.
"In my opinion, it's the ceremony shots that you'll likely display in your home and/or gift to family members, and the reception shots that are more fun to look at," she says. "With this in mind, I recommend hiring a photographer for the ceremony only, and using wedding guests as photographers for the rest of your event."
She does wish she spent more on her honeymoon, however.
"We did not factor a honeymoon into our wedding budget at all," she admits. "We were gifted a nice chunk of money from my parents, which we used to cover the majority of the event — venue, food/drink, decor, DJ, photographer, most of the basics. Looking back, I think I would have tried to do a slightly less fancy wedding and set aside at least $1,500 to take a really great honeymoon."
She and her husband have been married for two years and still haven't taken a "real honeymoon," she says.
3. Less on the dress and flowers.
"I just got married in Santa Barbara. Looking back, I wish we spent less on the dress, because now my dress is hanging in a closet hoping to one day be made into a new dress," says Wade Brill. "I totally got caught in the 'perfect dress' craze. I also feel like I could have ditched my bouquet and made something super simple from flowers at Whole Foods for myself and my one bridesmaid to hold."
4. Less on the little details and more on the memories.
"I wish I had spent less overall on my wedding," says Sue Toscano, noting flowers that were ultimately thrown out after her four-hour reception.
That said, she does say that her wedding photography was and still is so important to her.
"What is priceless to me is the photography that I did splurge on — we hired one of the best photographers in our area," she says. "My mother, who has now passed, hated to have her picture taken. That day, she was thrilled with her dress, hair and make up, and she gladly posed for the most stunning pictures on my wedding day. Now that I only have her memory and these beautiful pictures, I know that these moments captured are priceless to me."
Toscano also says that her stunning princess dress, tiara and makeup made her feel the most beautiful, and that was worth it; as was her honeymoon.
"We splurged on our two-week honeymoon in Hawaii and, for that, I am grateful," she says. "Those memories are so crisp to me, even now. it was the trip of a lifetime, and we share our stories with our children."
5. More on photography.
"I wish I had spent more on a wedding photographer," says Ashley LaMar. "We hired someone based on a referral from a coworker. She was far more affordable than others we'd looked at, which raised some red flags. But, since she was recommended, we went with her and applauded ourselves for coming in below budget."
Ultimately, she missed a lot of shots, claimed she had data corruption on the SD card in her camera (and computer problems) and, after months of demanding her photos and only being sent some from the ceremony, she disappeared completely.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.