The average cost of a wedding with 150 guests hit $30,000 last year, and that's a national average.
Get hitched in Manhattan, and you could spend $87,000, according to the wedding web site theKnot.com. And these numbers don't even include the cost of a rehearsal dinner, honeymoon, and shower.
Given the cost of a wedding these days, it's perfectly understandable some couples are opting to elope. But at the same time, many brides and grooms can't imagine their big day without lots of pomp and circumstance. There are certainly benefits and drawbacks for both options, and ultimately it comes down to the couple's personalities and priorities. With that in mind, let's explore the pros and cons of a wedding versus eloping — and the dollar signs associated with each.
The Wedding: Pros
- A fairy-tale day. Many brides — and some grooms, too — have dreamed of this day their entire lives. A beautiful, fantasy wedding is the fulfillment of this dream.
- Celebrating with family and friends. Sharing this important milestone with family and friends is enormously important and moving to many couples.
- The gifts. Not to be crass, but the wedding gift market topped $10 billion in 2011, according to The Knot Market Intelligence Bridal Registry Study. The study also showed the average registry is worth approximately $5,100, with 42% of registries being worth more than $5,000. That's a lot of good stuff. And having a wedding is how you get it.
The Wedding: The Cons
- Time spent planning. According to a survey by Forbes, brides-to-be spend an average of 9.8 hours a week planning their wedding, with 7% of respondents spending more than 20 hours a week planning. The average engagement, also according to The Knot, is 14 months long. Do the math. That's a lot of time, effort, and stress for planning one day.
- So hire a wedding planner, right? A wedding planner could be the solution, but they don't come cheap. A full-service wedding planning package can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000, depending on the size of the wedding and the geographic location (everything costs more in large, urban areas). The national average cost for a wedding planner is $3,262, according to the Wedding Planner Book.
- You'll probably blow your budget. USA Today reports that nearly one-third of weddings go over budget, with the primary culprit being emotional spending. Sure, the original plan was to spend $1,500 on the dress, but that $4,000 one was absolutely perfect. You only get married once, right? Bye-bye budget. Which brings us to the last item.
- Spending too much could impact your marriage. Curious about the impact of finances on marriages, two economic professors from Emory University surveyed thousands of newly-married and divorced Americans about the cost of their wedding and the length of their marriage. After analyzing the data, they determined couples that spent more than $20,000 on a wedding were 3.5 times more likely to get divorced than those who spent less. In fact, they found the more the wedding and engagement ring cost, the greater the chance of divorce. To be sure, this study doesn't prove a big wedding will lead to divorce, but it does at least raise questions about the value of a big bash.
Eloping: The Pros
- Easy on your bank account. In 2014, Yahoo Travel created a list of 10 places to elope, and many were relatively affordable. Eloping at a Costa Rico resort was $4,500, and that included seating for 10 guests, scattered flower petals along the aisle, a stay in the honeymoon suite, and an on-site wedding coordinator.
- In most cases, it's easier. Planning an intimate ceremony with 10 guests is infinitely less hassle and pressure than planning a party for 150.
- You can still have a party and get gifts. According to The Plunge Project, a wedding blog, it's perfectly acceptable for a couple to have a reception and even register for gifts after they elope.
- Debt can doom a marriage. It also doesn't make much sense for a young couple who has debt — or will have it once they combine finances — to spend a lavishly on a wedding. Their marriage has a much greater chance of succeeding if they start out on sound financial footing, as money problems are consistently cited as one of the primary causes of divorce.
Eloping: The Cons
Few — if any — but family and friends can't share the day. It's cheaper, it's easier, you can still register for gifts, have a party, and you're still married at the end of the day. So, what's the downside of eloping? The main one is you will probably not be surrounded by family and friends around to help you celebrate. And, for some people, not sharing this special day with others just is an unacceptable prospect.
Deciding whether to elope or have a big bash is an emotional and financial decision. If you weigh all of the factors, you'll find the right fit and create a special day.
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