Weddings are a universal human experience. Ceremonies to “tie the knot” are celebrated in virtually every culture, each with its own unique traditions.
In modern China, brides pick not one wedding dress, but three: one traditional red dress, a white American-style gown, and a cocktail dress for the reception. For a traditional Zulu wedding, the groom’s family slaughters a cow to welcome the bride’s family. In Pakistan, the bride’s female relatives steal the groom’s shoes and demand money for their safe return. In a Jewish wedding, the groom breaks a glass; in an African-American wedding, the happy couple jumps the broom.
While the particulars vary, almost all weddings have two things in common: They’re joyous occasions for family and friends to celebrate the newlyweds. And they cost money.
Weddings are significant cost center especially for many young adults. For Americans, the average cost of a wedding (not including the honeymoon) is now at $33,391, according to The Knot’s 2017 Real Weddings Study. Weddings that combine traditions from more than one culture can run even higher; one wedding planner estimates that the average cost of an Indian wedding in the U.S. is $65,000, almost double the national average.
Plus, if you’re at the age where you’re planning to get married in the next few years, chances are that many of your friends and family members are too. The cost of attending the weddings of friends and family members adds up fast. Members of bridal parties spent $728 on average, including gifts, travel, attire and associated events like bachelor parties, according to a 2018 Bankrate.com survey. Guests got by with a little less -- $628 on average.
So how do you keep wedding-related expenses from spiraling out of control?
If you’re planning a wedding, keep an eye on overall cost, which can sneak up on you. Start planning early and open a dedicated savings account to start your own wedding fund. Also, think carefully about where you hold the event. The Knot’s study showed that costs vary widely from one geographic area to another; weddings in Manhattan average nearly $77,000, while in New Mexico, the least expensive area, the average spend is just over $17,500.
Finally, you may need to become selective about which weddings you attend, especially destination weddings that involve airfares and costly accommodations. Financial experts advise against going into debt to attend a friend’s wedding. If you really can’t afford it, think twice before you RSVP.