Average Cost of Weddings Jumps to New All Time High

PHOTO: U.S. couples on average spent $31,213 on their weddings in 2014, according to new research released by The Knot.PlayManuel Orero Galan/Getty Images
WATCH Women Get the Opportunity to Become a Bridesmaid on a Budget

Smaller, personalized weddings may be on trend, but bridal budgets have ballooned, according to new data.

The Knot 2014 Real Weddings Study surveyed nearly 16,000 U.S. brides and grooms over the last year and findings revealed that while most couples trimmed their guest list in comparison to years past, the total price tag of the event is as plump as ever.

On average, couples spent $31,213 on their big day in 2014 -- an all-time record high.

"Couples are focusing on putting their money towards the celebratory part of the day for a couple of reasons," said Kristen Maxwell Cooper, Deputy Editor of The Knot. "For one, more and more couples have friends and family coming from out of town and they want to show them a great time and make it worth their travels."

Costs to achieve this feat fluctuate from region to region. Five of the six most expensive areas to get married were located in the New York/Tri-State area, with Manhattan topping the list at $76,328. Chicago, Illinois, ranked fifth at $50,934.

Meanwhile, the least expensive places to get married, by a significant gap, were Arkansas ($18,031) and Utah ($15,257) in 2014.

To make ends meet, typically the bride’s parents contribute 43% toward the total wedding bill, "the bride and groom contribute 43%, and the groom’s parents contribute 12% of the total wedding budget (others account for the remaining 2%)," noted the survey. A scant 12% of couples in 2014 paid for the entire affair themselves.

But despite the effluence of matrimonial monies, the size of weddings are actually getting smaller, revealed the data.

“While wedding budgets continue to rise, guest lists are shrinking,” said Rebecca Dolgin, Editor in Chief of The Knot. "The average wedding now has 136 guests, down from 149 in 2009."

So where do the funds go? Survey results indicated that couples are skimping on ceremony costs and funneling as much cash as possible into the reception party.

“Couples are focusing on creating an amazing guest experience and reception details, including finding unique venues to reflect their personality," said Dolgin.

Popular alternate venues in 2014 include historic buildings/homes (14%) and farms (6%). While banquet halls (22%), country clubs (11%) and hotels (11%) are still common options for couples, "about 40% are looking for unusual venues that better reflect their personality," noted the survey.

Cooper confirmed that couples were looking to make a statement with their celebration.

"The reception is a place for couples to show their personality and interests--so they may spend more on food and entertainment that reflect those, like an oyster bar if they love seafood or a pricey 80s cover band if they're music enthusiasts," said Cooper. "Cocktail hours are on the rise, up to 76% in 2014 from 69% 2010."

The national average spend in 2014 on wedding venues was $14,006, with the engagement ring at $5,855, reception band at $3,587, photographer at $2,556, florist at $2,141, wedding planner at $1,973, ceremony site at $1,901 and the big white dress at $1,357.

If those figures seem like they'd break the bank even before you sent out invitations, your prediction is correct--at least, when it comes to almost half of all newlyweds. The Knot's survey revealed that in 2014, roughly 45% of couples went over budget.

"It's usually what we call "hidden fees" or fees and extra costs that couples don't think of that put them over budget," said Cooper. "These are things like tips, tax, service fees and overtime fees. Also little things like postage, hair and makeup trials and decorative items like ribbon for favors. We recommend couples to set aside 5% of their overall budget for unexpected costs that come up."

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