Budget breakdown: The cost of tying the knot

The price tag for wedded bliss

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It's hard to put a price tag on eternal bliss. But if you had to, the wedding experts at The Knot would place it somewhere in the ballpark of $33,000.

The one-stop advice shop for all things wedding released its ninth-annual Real Weddings Study on Tuesday, which found that the average cost of a wedding (excluding the honeymoon) rose for the fifth-straight year in 2015, to $32,641. That's up more than $1,400, or 4.5 percent, from the prior year.

Nearly every category notched an increase. In terms of overall dollars, the reception venue, reception band and ceremony site saw the biggest year-over-year gains. As for percentage growth, the ceremony musicians, ceremony site and wedding dress experienced the most severe inflation.

Only one category tracked by The Knot cost brides less in 2015: Party favors.

"Every wedding is this bespoke, personal expression," said Mike Steib, CEO of The Knot's parent XO Group. "Overall the day has become much more expensive."

Keija Minor, editor-in-chief of Brides magazine, attributed this shift toward personalization to two key factors: Millennial couples' craving for unique experiences, and the prevalence of images from other peoples' weddings on social media.

"No one wants to have a wedding that their college roommate had and that everybody saw on Instagram already," she said.

To see brides' biggest budget busters, click ahead.

—By CNBC's Krystina Gustafson
Posted 5 April 2016

Dollar figures at the top of each slide are from The Knot's Real Weddings Study, which surveyed nearly 18,000 U.S. brides and grooms who were married in 2015.


tadasp | Getty Images

2015 national average: $14,788
Change from 2014: $782

Choosing a venue is one of the biggest choices a bride has to make. And though fewer brides are choosing true destination weddings, many are deciding to get married far from the city in which they live.

According to The Knot, 49 percent of couples were married at least 200 miles from where they lived at the time of the wedding, up from 21 percent in 2014. However, only 21 percent of couples had true destination weddings in the Caribbean or other exotic locales, down from 24 percent.

Engagement ring

Jamie Grill | Tetra Images | Getty Images

2015 national average: $5,871
Change from 2014: $16

Brides magazine's Minor said rose gold is becoming more popular for a bride's engagement ring and wedding band, as well as the groom's band. However, if the two have different styles, many couples no longer feel as if the bands need to be "matchy matchy."

"We're seeing a lot of couples move away from that," Minor said.

Reception band/DJ

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2015 national average for a band: $3,833
Change from 2014: $246

2015 national average for a DJ: $1,171
Change from 2014: $47

It's traditionally more expensive to hire a band versus a DJ; but that price differential was even more pronounced in 2015. The Knot's Steib recommends that couples budget enough funds to get the music right, because if they do, "it will be a good party."

"Nobody can remember what we served at our wedding, but everybody danced their a--es off," he said.\

Minor said she's noticed more couples are choosing to hire a DJ; however, when they do decide to hire a band, they're doing a lot of work to find them — and often shelling out big bucks.

"That all goes back to the experience," she said. "They want people to have a really good time."


Jamie Grill | Getty Images

2015 national average for photographer: $2,618
Change from 2014: $62

2015 national average for videographer: $1,824
Change from 2014: $30

Though the cost of a videographer remains well below that of a photographer, their services are much less in demand. According to The Knot, 1 in 3 couples hire professional videographers to film their ceremony and reception, whereas nearly 9 in 10 hire photographers.

Minor said some brides in L.A. and New York City are also hiring photographers for preceremony events, including the rehearsal dinner. Even when they're not, she said, many are treating these occasions as red-carpet events, sometimes getting their hair and makeup professionally done.


Natt Hawon | Getty Images

2015 national average: $2,300
Change from 2014: $159

Using flowers in an unexpected way is a trend at weddings, Minor said. That includes hanging them from the ceiling, or having them run off the table.

Wedding dress

Peter Cade | Getty Images

2015 national average: $1,469
Change from 2014: $112

It's the most important dress you'll ever wear — so why not get two? Minor said it's becoming more common for women to change into a second dress at the reception or after-party. When the magazine conducted its most recent bridal survey in 2014, it found that 9 percent of respondents wore two dresses.

"I think that when our new numbers come out, we're going to see that has skyrocketed," she said.

Groom's attire and accessories

ruslanshramko | Getty Images

2015 national average: $269
Change from 2014: $15

For most grooms, choosing their wedding attire takes a back seat to the specialty cocktail or appetizer selections. Yet the cost of his attire ticked slightly higher in 2015.

Following the recent bridal trend of not having all her attendants in the exact same dress, Minor said groomsmen are now more frequently wearing similar, but not identical, suits or tuxedos.

Wedding cake

Amie Fedora Photography | Getty Images

2015 national average: $575
Change from 2014: $20

Although the average couple has fewer guests at their wedding than they did a few years back, they're spending more per guest. That includes shelling out more on the cake.

According to Minor, more couples are opting for "interesting flavors" on their cakes, as yet another way of making their wedding stand out.

"People want to do something at least for a layer that feels a little unexpected," she said.


David Freund | Getty Images

2015 national average for invitations: $445
Change from 2014: $6

2015 national average for favors: $267
Change from 2014: -$8

The cost of wedding favors notched another decline in 2015, making it the only category tracked by The Knot to experience deflation. Steib said this is likely tied to the fact that couples have fewer guests at the event.

The price of invitations rebounded slightly, rising $6, after dropping $4 in 2014.


Maxim Kabb | Getty Images

2015 national average (per person): $68
Change from 2014: flat

Lucky for brides, there's one other aspect of planning that didn't cost more in 2015: Catering. The price to feed ceremony guests held steady at $68 a plate in 2014; however, the average rehearsal dinner cost increased 7.5 percent, to $1,296.