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3 Reasons Why Weddings Are So Expensive

According to Condé Nast, people spend 100 percent more on weddings these days than they did in 1992. Why have weddings become so expensive? Why do we pay so much more than our parents and grandparents did and why do venues and vendors charge more when they hear the word “wedding”?

I did some research and found these three main reasons why weddings cost so much:

(1) The services offered at weddings have much higher expectations and are therefore more difficult and time-consuming;

(2) The expectations for, and the cost of wedding FOOD is much higher these days than ever before; and

(3) Couples are basically competing with each other and willing to pay more to have unprecedented “social media” ready, personalized weddings.

In addition to the three main reasons to be described here, it’s important to just point out that while, yes, weddings are extremely expensive these days, everything is more expensive than it used to be. Like, way more expensive. Houses, college, cars… and weddings too. This is an unfortunate truth of economics and something we all sadly have to deal with. On that note, let’s look at the 3 main reasons why wedding prices have ballooned (and a few ways we can try and get around it).

1. The services offered at weddings have higher expectations and are therefore more difficult and time-consuming

People, including myself, have gotten angry about venues and vendors adding more zeros to the end of a price when they hear that they’ll be working a wedding as opposed to say, a corporate event.

Having worked in corporate event planning, I was baffled by the gall of people charging so much more for what I perceived as the same product/service just because it was a wedding.

However, I have come to understand that there are some differences between these types of events that may justify the higher prices (how much higher, I’m still not sure). I’m so surprised at myself but here I am about to defend wedding venues and vendors for their high prices (within reason!).

For example, a DJ who plays a private party might charge half of what a wedding DJ costs. This is because at a private party or other similar events, a DJ can pretty much just hit play on a song list that they already have. But for a wedding, there is more work involved.

The DJ has to meet with the couple one or two times, plan out a personalized playlist, the timing (for each planned dance, etc.), announcements of the wedding party, and it turns out to be quite a bit of work compared to other DJ gigs.

Another example is wedding photography. When we would hire someone to shoot a corporate event, there wasn’t a lot riding on the photos being exactly perfect. In comparison, a wedding photographer is under a lot of pressure to shoot certain exact moments and seconds even that might easily slip away (or have someone standing in the way).

There’s so much emotional pressure riding on the photographer doing his or her job correctly and the price tag reflects that stress.

And consider even something like flowers at a wedding. When we ordered flowers for a corporate event, nobody noticed if they weren’t exactly what we ordered. We just needed some colorful flowers in the space.

But wedding flowers, the specific arrangement, may have been dreamed of and pinned on Pinterest for months. That florist is getting multiple phone calls and doing a heck of a lot more work for a wedding order.

I guess what I’m saying is that I understand that the emotional toll and “tender love and care” tax is what we’re paying for when vendors have an up-charge for weddings.

The same is true for venues, who have to deal with tiny important “once in a lifetime” details and difficult relatives, unlike at any other type of event.

TIPS FOR GETTING THE BEST PRICES: Ask for prices over the phone before meeting with vendors. They often won’t post them online, but you should get a price before you hear a sales pitch. Know what price you’re willing to pay before you call, but let them offer a price first. Don’t be a jerk. The nicer you are, and the more laid back, the more willing vendors will be to offer you a good price because they want to work with less demanding customers.

2. The expectations for, and the cost of FOOD at weddings is much higher these days

The cost of food is either the first or second most expensive part of most weddings. There has been an explosion in recent years of interest in high-end and interesting food and drink, and this has bled into the wedding industry.

Whereas our parents or grandparents were happy enough to serve whatever food was easy and cheap, modern couples have a “foodie” mindset and many obsess for months over menu choice at their weddings.

Some examples of more specialized menu choices at weddings include paleo diet weddings, food truck weddings, and craft beer brewery stations.

Some couples are even hiring chefs to prepare food in front of the guests or setting up “make your own food” stations, such as taco stations.

The more creative and elaborate a couple wants to get in terms of dinner, snacks, and drinks, the higher the price tag will be. This trend is proving to be a pricey one, and many couples don’t want to disappoint by going with cheaper, “less impressive” options of weddings-past (such as a cheap neighborhood caterer).

TIPS FOR SAVING MONEY ON FOOD AND DRINKS: If your venue allows it or if you’re doing an outdoor wedding, consider BYOB! Or have just one or two set special drinks for the evening. Think about having your wedding later in the day so you only have to serve a light dinner/heavy appetizers… Be flexible with your menu and order what’s local and fresh – this will usually be cheaper and taste better too!

3. Couples are willing to pay more to have “social media” ready, personalized weddings like never before.

There is a lot of evidence that social media is impacting the prices that couples are willing to spend on their weddings.

First of all, guests are going to post from weddings and they are seeking out beautiful and unique places to capture the perfect photo. To meet these expectations, couples are paying more to provide, essentially, “Instagrammable” backdrops for their guests.

It’s hard to avoid this expectation as couples are bombarded with beautiful photos on their own Instagrams and on Pinterest.

These backdrop and social-media ready experiences are becoming more and more extravagant. One only has to think back to celebrity weddings popularized on social media, such as Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s flower wall. That thing was $136,000! For a flower wall. How are people supposed to keep up?!

Other “must-do” add-ons (or it feels that way due to social media) for modern couples include photo booths, a wedding wheel with prizes for guests, chandeliers hanging from trees, and the list goes on and on.

TIPS FOR SAVING MONEY: The obvious answer is to just not care about social media or impressing your guests with extra gimmicks. BUT if you really want to set up something creative for your guests, consider a cheaper option such as creating your own photo booth made from thrift shop items.

So what should we do? How do we pay for these expensive weddings?

This is what we’re dealing with. At this point, I’m not on board with paying for all of these expensive wedding things just because they’re expected or trendy.

As to the first point, I understand that vendors and venues have a high service cost for highly emotional jobs like weddings, but I don’t see myself or my family as highly emotionally-invested wedding people. So I will try and find my way around that hurdle.

For food, I see the best way around this as not giving into foodie trends. I like the idea of either making the food myself or hiring a really local and simple restaurant to caterer. No frills.

As for having a social media-worthy wedding, honestly I just couldn’t care less about this one! BOTTOM LINE: Stay casual and flexible and remember that it’s supposed to be fun (it is a celebration of love after all), not perfect. At least, that’s what I think 🙂

You may also be interested in taking a look at my other articles on related topics, linked here: Is a Big Wedding Worth it? and Is an Expensive Wedding Dress Worth it? Although you may already be able to guess my conclusions to these questions, based on the research! 🙂


Brittany is a writer and teacher in Vancouver, Canada. She started the website Wayfaring Weddings as a way to share her research on affordable, eco-friendly, and less stressful approaches to wedding planning.