Personal Finance

4 tricks to keep wedding costs low

Key Points
  • Couples invited an average of 141 guests.
  • The priciest place to get married: Manhattan, where the average tab is $78,464.
Todd Pearson | Digital Vision | Getty Images

Marriage should last forever. The cost of your wedding shouldn't.

Wedding spending hit a new high in 2016, The Knot said in a recent report. The wedding marketplace specialists say average weddings now cost $35,329, up eight percent since 2015. Meanwhile, The Wedding Report says the average cost of a wedding rose less than 1 percent, to $26,720 in 2016.

Something everyone seems to agree on: the cost is too high.

"I think the wedding industry has monopolized into a business," said Priscilla Figueroa, a 25-year-old Florida resident who got married earlier this year. "I feel that the wedding industry has turned into a business in a way that wasn't 20 years ago when my parents got married."

Part of this is because of "conspicuous consumption," said Robert Shiller, Nobel laureate and Yale professor of economics.

"You want to do it perfectly, so there's maybe a little bit of mysticism about it," he said. "You want to have a wedding that, after you're rich and famous someday, they'll have photographs of your wedding in the history books."

Here's how to keep your costs in check:

Budget with your partner

Jose Luis Pelaez | Blend Images | Getty Images

The first step is to have a budget chat with the person you're marrying, said consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, a professor emeritus at Golden Gate University. Talk about what's a reasonable amount to spend for the wedding, which expenses you're going to prioritize, and how you're going to come up with those funds.

Shift your outlook to your marriage rather than the wedding. Decisions about a wedding that have you starting off married life in debt could compromise your long-term goals like buying a home, traveling or starting a family.

"People feel like the more they've invested in the wedding, the more they're invested in the marriage," she said.

Pick the right location

A wedding in San Francisco.
Judy Bellah | Getty Images

There's a reason 1 in 5 weddings is a "destination wedding" somewhere other than the couple's home, per The Knot data. Wedding prices can vary widely by locale, with big cities generating phenomenal tabs in some cases. (But what's cheap for you may be pricier for your guests.)

Jose Luis Pelaez | Blend Images | Getty Images

Manhattan is the most expensive place to get married, with a whopping $78,464 per wedding average, according to The Knot. By contrast, the cost was $19,522 on average in Arkansas, making it the cheapest state to marry in.

Invite fewer people

Fuse | Getty Images

Inviting fewer guests can in turn reduce the costs of food and the venue, as well as per-person expenses like invitations and favors, said Shane McMurray of The Wedding Report.

But you'll still need to watch your budget. In 2016, the average wedding had 141 guests, down from 149 in 2009, according to The Knot — but couples' spending per guest increased from an average $194 to $245 over the same period.

Keep shopping around

Hill Street Studios | Blend Images | Getty Images

Vendors may charge more for weddings than other parties, even for the same services, said Alan Fields, co-author of wedding advice book "Bridal Bargains." Cast a wide net to price compare, including options that aren't wedding specific.

"You want to have competition for your wedding dollar," said Fields.

"There's no law that says you have to serve an elaborate five-course meal with both dessert and a wedding cake," he said.