Personal Finance

What that perfect wedding will cost you

Getting married costs how much?

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Dreaming of the perfect wedding? Chances are, it's going to cost you.

Earlier this week, The Knot revealed the results of its eighth annual Real Weddings Study, and found the average cost of a wedding last year reached an all-time high of $31,213, excluding the honeymoon. It's the fourth consecutive year of gains, costing couples on average 4.5 percent more than the previous year.

"It's really all about personalization," said Kate Donovan, senior wedding style editor at Brides

But personalization comes with a cadence of credit card bills. From finding the right venue to landing the perfect dress, click ahead for a list of where all that money is going.

—By CNBC's Krystina Gustafson
Posted 15 March 2015

Dollar figures at the top of each slide are from The Knot's Real Weddings Study.


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2014 national average: $14,006
Change from 2013: Up $621

Although more couples are foregoing traditional options such as banquet halls and country clubs, the cost of a venue nonetheless increased by nearly 5 percent. 

The region where a wedding is held also plays a large role, with four of the top five most expensive places to get hitched in the U.S located in the New York Tri-State area.

Engagement ring

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2014 national average: $5,855 
Change from 2013: Up $257

Several trends related to the proposal and engagement period held steady from 2013. Among them: December was once again the most popular month to pop the question, and the average length of an engagement was a year and two months. The cost of the ring itself, however, rose 4.5 percent.

According to online jewelry shop Blue Nile, three of the most popular engagement ring styles are: Rose gold bands that draw attention to the diamond; pieces that are inspired by fashion designers' apparel collections; and "halo" styles that surround a center diamond with smaller stones.


Kevin Walker | Getty Images

2014 national average: $2,556
Change from 2013: Up $116

The cost of a photographer was another expense that rose nearly 5 percent. It was also pricier to hire a videographer, increasing roughly $100 to $1,794.

Donovan of Brides said said women still view professional photographers as an essential part of their wedding day, despite the rise of guests sharing their own photos across social media. But they're taking a different approach with their images. It's become increasingly popular for couples to request photos that look less staged, and have more of a behind-the-scenes feel, she said.

Reception band/DJ

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2014 national average for a reception band: $3,587
2014 national average for a DJ: $1,124
Change from 2013: Up $118 (band); up $86 (DJ)

The Knot's study found the bride and groom are spending more on the reception than they did a few years ago. As a result, they shelled out more cash for the entertainment, though it remained significantly cheaper to hire a DJ than a band.

Donovan said one way couples are cutting costs is by booking a DJ for part of the reception, and a band for the other. An added bonus? DJs can make the event more personal by selecting songs that are meaningful to the couple, she said.


Nerida McMurray Photography | Getty Images

2014 national average: $2,141
Change from 2013: Up $72

Flowers are one of those expenses that carry over from the ceremony into the reception, meaning the costs can add up quickly. 

According to Brides, one way to trim your budget is to throw away the notion that bigger is better, and opt for posies. Brides notes that these flowers are not only less expensive, but they're also less likely to get in the way of guests seeing the main event—the wedding dress.

Wedding dress

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2014 national average: $1,357
Change from 2013: Up $76

Although black-tie weddings are less common than they were six years ago—falling from 20 percent of weddings to 16 percent over that time frame—that doesn't mean the cost of a wedding dress fell. According to The Knot, brides in Manhattan and Long Island spent the most on their dresses, while those in Idaho and Alaska spent the least.

A small portion of brides are opting to go the less traditional route when it comes to their gown. According to Brides' American Wedding Study, 11 percent chose either a cocktail-length dress, separates, jumpsuit or a color other than white.

Groom's attire and accessories

Nick Tzolov | Getty Images

2014 national average: $254
Change from 2013: Up $6

Any savings on wedding apparel appear to be coming at the groom's expense. The cost of his attire and accessories barely ticked higher, and came in at more than a $1,000 discount to the average cost of a wedding dress.

According to Brides' study, renting is still the most popular option, with about two in three grooms choosing a rental. Tuxedos remain the most popular choice, with only 33 percent opting for a suit.

Wedding cake

Ned Frisk | Getty Images

2014 national average: $555
Change from 2013: Up $9

Let them eat cake! Despite spending more on the reception, the cost of these intricate desserts held relatively flat year over year. 

Donovan said today's bride is looking for a cake that displays "simplistic elegance." That means cleaner lines and less ornate decorations, and adding simple garnishes such as fresh flowers or a monogram.

"It doesn't mean that you're skimping on the quality at all," she said.


Hill Street Studios | Blend Images | Getty Images

2014 national average (per person): $68
Change from 2013: Up $2

Catering costs can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the reception. 

One positive? The average number of guests has been slowly ticking lower the past few years, coming in at 136 in 2014, according to The Knot.


Ivan Ivanov | Getty Images

2014 national average for invitations: $439
2014 national average for favors: $275
Change from 2013: Down $4 (invitations); down $6 (favors)

Blame this one on the Internet. One of only two categories on The Knot's list to experience deflation was lower invitation costs as more affordable evites have caught on. That's according to Dhanusha Sivajee, executive vice president of marketing for The Knot's parent XO Group.

As for favors (the other deflationary category), Brides' survey found that 9 percent of couples choose to instead donate to charity.