Earlier this month, we asked Agenda daily newsletter subscribers how much they spent on their weddings, and what was worth the cash and what wasn’t. About 700 Charlotteans answered. Here’s what we learned.
(1) Charlotte couples spend an average of $24,847 on a wedding.
That’s about $5,000 less than the national average. Some respondents spent as little as $50 for the marriage license and court house fees, while others spent up to $250,000 on a full-out affair. Nearly half of the survey participants spent between $10,000 and $30,000 on their wedding.
(2) Many people had no idea what the grand total for their wedding was.
At least 30 respondents said something to the tune of: “I’m not sure, I was lucky enough that my parents paid for everything,” or “Not sure — let me ask my father-in-law.”
(3) Five percent of respondents spent $1,000 or less on their wedding.
Of those, most had courthouse weddings, followed by an intimate reception (under 50 people) or the bride chose to use most of the $1,000 budget to buy a wedding dress to wear for their court house nuptials.
One respondent had a reception in New York’s Central Park and bought everyone hot dogs and incense, costing $100 total.
(4) Less than 2 percent of respondents spent $100,000 or more.
The high-rollers note expenses such as wedding favors, pricy dresses, transportation, big bands, wedding planners, and “fancy port-a-potties.”
(5) Destination weddings can be cheaper than you think.
Many of the respondents who spent less than $10,000 had destination weddings. It’s intriguing to me that they were able to have a vacation and wedding wrapped into one, and spend way less than the average wedding.
One person who reported spending $5,000 said, “We got married in Mexico, so the resort covers mostly everything. We only paid for our stay, which cost more than the actual wedding.”
Another couple spent $10,000 for an elopement in Hawaii — opting to celebrate with a romantic two-week vacation alone rather than a party with friends and family.
(6) 1 in 4 respondents said the photographer/videographer was the best wedding purchase.
Some even say they wish they had spent more on a better photographer or on a videographer.
“Our photographer — we should have spent more money on this since it’s the only piece we have to remember our wedding by,” one person said.
Another said, “Horrible photographer. Hate we didn’t spend more.”
(7) No matter their budget, Charlotteans seemed to prioritize the same things: photography, the venue, an open bar, and good music to keep the party going.
“The bar bill in 1993 was more than my parents first house, but the choir director at the church — to this DAY — swears it was the best wedding he has ever been to,” one person said.
Another said, “DJ — a great DJ can literally make or break the party.”
(8) When it came to things people wish they spent less on, paper products (from invitations to programs), decor, and party favors ranked supreme. So if you’re looking to save, cut back on flowers and nix the party favors/welcome bags.
“$2,000 on flowers … The flowers were gorgeous, but I think I could have dialed it back,” one person said.
“Decorations — no one cares! Wish we spent more on music/band,” another noted.
(9) Tons of people also said they have no regrets, even if they wish that weddings in general were cheaper.
Those people gave advice to heavily vet your vendors, prioritize spending based on what’s actually important to you, and cut out the extras.
“We didn’t get these because we heard from everyone that favors are a waste of money — nobody wants them and you end up with tons left over,” said a respondent.
Raw responses: People shared their best and worst wedding-related purchases.
Note: Responses are listed with total money spent on their wedding.
Best wedding purchase:
“Dress. Custom designed Italian lace. Beautiful.” — $2,500 wedding
“The entire event, it was two nights in Miami, a cruise, and two nights in Key West. We were the only two present. We got married at the ‘courthouse’ in Key West.” — $4,000 wedding
“Bridesmaid’s dress for his daughter. She picked it out which isn’t always easy for her to do and absolutely loved it. Of course, she was gorgeous!” — $4,000 wedding
“A custom wedding flute set with cake topper and knife from the Fellowship Foundry at the Renaissance Festival. Still have it. Still love it. No regrets.” — $4,000 wedding
“We splurged on a really nice rental house in Asheville where we eloped with a close group of family and friends (20 people).” — $6,000 wedding
“Our venue — everything was included: food, tables, chairs, dressing rooms, and a rain backup plan.” — $12,000 wedding
“Doing our wedding at a destination resort. We got to spend a lot of time with each of our 100 guests. One of my best uses of funds was having my bridesmaids bouquets placed in centerpieces for half of the tables at the reception.” — $20,000 wedding
“The DJ — my extended family is very into dancing at weddings.” — $25,000 wedding
“Clemson Tiger mascot!!” — $50,000 wedding
“Venue, band, top shelf booze.” — $60,000 wedding
“Coordinator — the extent that we did not have to plan and take care of things ourselves, particularly the day of, literally added years to our lifespans. I would have paid triple what I paid for the peace of mind. So many little things that you just get tired of deciding on/dealing with.” — $75,000 wedding
“The 20-piece Big Band.” — $20,000 wedding
“Wedding planner, our photographer, and our custom made invitations which I LOVED. They were close to $3,000 but so beautiful.” — $70,000 wedding
Worst wedding purchase:
“Cheese straws.” — $1,000 wedding
“The $1,000 headband I thought was necessary.” — $35,000
“Got a ‘cheap’ videographer but it was still so terrible it wasn’t worth the $1,000+.” — $35,000
“All I needed was him. Rest was a waste of money.” — $1,500 wedding
“The groom at the time — not that I purchased him — he just turned out to be the worst ever!” — $5,000 wedding
“Wife’s wedding dress. She looked great, but it was too damn expensive.” — $3,500 wedding
“The $500 to preserve my bouquet. Didn’t work.” — $4,000 wedding
“Limos. We got funeral limos to save money (it was a thing back then) but would have preferred the van but I was going super cheap.” — $7,000 wedding
“Flower arrangements. They were dead or trashed later that night.” — $25,000 wedding
“Nice wedding programs no one even looked at.” — $15,000 wedding
“These $300 plant circles that hung from the ceiling — very unnecessary.” — $25,000 wedding
“None. Sucks we spent that much but we both loved every single thing about our wedding.” — $30,000 wedding
“Cool sculpting.” — $30,000 wedding
“All the little things — hangers with my bridesmaid name on them, like WTF. A waste of money.” — $30,000 wedding
“I loved our centerpieces, but looking back we legit could have put a lantern from IKEA on the table, and it would have been fine.” — $45,000 wedding
“Fancy port a potties.” — $250,000 wedding