Wedding Costs: Fantasy vs Reality

Avoid Wedding Debt | Planning a Careful Budget


According to a recent study by BMO Canadian couples expect to spend about $15,000 on their wedding, and invite an average of 100 guests.

When I read that figure I laughed out loud. I mean spitting-out-my-tea-all-over-my-computer-screen laughed.

It appears there is a huge discrepancy between what couples EXPECT to spend on their wedding and what they WILL spend on their wedding. In other words, there can be a big disconnect between fantasy and reality.

A $15,000 budget for 100 guests works out to $150 per guest. Let’s break that down:

Average cost of a meal: $  80.00

Average 5 drinks per guest at $7 per: $  35.00

Gratuities (15%) $  17.25

Subtotal: $132.25

HST $  17.19

Total $149.44

So, yes, you can provide a decent meal and lots of drink to your 100 guests for $15,000, but what hasn’t been factored into that $15,000 budget estimate are little details such as:


Venue Rental ($2,500)

Wedding dress & suit/tuxedo (& alterations) ($4000+)

Stationery & stamps ($850)

Hair & make-up ($250)

Photography ($3000)

Videography ($4000)

Flowers & decor ($2500)

Wedding cake ($1000)

Guest favours ($400)

DJ/music ($1200)

Officiant cost ($500)

Gratuities ($1000)

Gifts for bridal party ($800)

Honeymoon ($6000)

These “extras” add up to $28,000. Add that to the expected cost of $15,000 and your grand total is now a whopping $43,000!!! (You’ll notice I didn’t include the cost of a wedding planner which, depending on the service required, could run anywhere from $500 to $5000+.)

The estimates I used are typical, but not extravagant. I think you get the idea: wedding expenses can add up. Substantially. And quickly.

Here’s a scary fact from the BMO study:  only 28% of couples are actively saving for their wedding. People, if you are old enough to get married you are old enough to create a budget, a savings timeline and follow both. The biggest cause of marital turmoil is money. You do not want to start off your married life with money woes.

Reality TV and non-stop coverage of celebrity weddings (Kimye, I’m looking at you) have amped up the expectations of couples. If you live on Planet Real Life you might want to stop looking at unattainable, over-the-top weddings for inspiration. Focus on what is important to you as a couple. Have open, calm discussions about your priorities. Ask your parents if they are able to help out at all with any of your expenses. Most important:  create a detailed budget and stick to it.

A lovely wedding celebration is the cherry on the cake. Your life as a married couple is the cake. Don’t go too crazy on the cherry.

You can read the BMO report here, along with some tips on smart financial wedding planning.


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