A wedding dress surrounded by flowers and price tags for an article about why weddings are expensive.
Plenty of people look forward to getting married, but why does celebrating love at weddings cost so much? (Illustration by Molly Posten, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

Why Do Weddings Always Seem to End Up Being Extraordinarily Expensive?

These special days often cost a fortune, so how can couples avoid breaking the bank while still having a magical time?

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A wedding dress surrounded by flowers and price tags for an article about why weddings are expensive.

These special days often cost a fortune, so how can couples avoid breaking the bank while still having a magical time?

Weddings are joyous occasions: An event so often celebrated in movies and on television, many people spend years dreaming about what their perfect, special day will be like. Not only is it memorable for the bride and groom, but also very fun for their guests. From breathtaking venues to beautiful decor, weddings have a special quality that most other occasions just don’t have; people often even say that weddings reaffirm their belief in love.

But this lovely day comes at a lavish cost: Weddings are notorious for their sky-high prices. According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in 2020 was $19,000 — and this was a drop, due to the pandemic; in 2019, the average was $28,000. Why is everything surrounding a wedding so expensive? Let’s take a look at a few reasons why this happy day comes at such a high-end price. 

The Wedding Markup

Have you ever seen a simple cake, dress or bouquet of flowers priced outrageously high just because it was intended for a wedding? And in some cases, does the item look exactly like a non-wedding product? It may, in fact, be the same exact product; this is called a wedding markup. A study found that 28% of vendors raise their prices on goods and services specifically for weddings.

The reason they can get away with this is because of asymmetric information. People typically know the average cost of things, and especially whether or not something is too expensive. This common knowledge helps determine a fair cost for buyers and creates a middle ground for sellers, but this is not the case for weddings. People usually only get married once, or at most, a few times. Because of this, most people don’t have a good sense of whether things are being fairly priced or not in the wedding industry.

When you don’t know how much something costs, it’s hard to determine if you’re being ripped off. Although it can be difficult to avoid the wedding markup, as it’s rampant throughout the industry, it’s good to be aware of it. Some people have even successfully called vendors out on their outrageous prices and negotiated lower costs. 

Pricing Is Not Transparent

It is not uncommon for wedding vendors to never disclose prices on their websites. After being reeled in with gorgeous photos and videographic ads, many merchants will not reveal how much their services cost, but instead, encourage customers to inquire further for a price. The subsequent consultation is where they hope to seal the deal. This can put a strain on couples trying to maintain a budget, as making decisions when prices are not so easily accessible can be problematic.

One of the reasons behind hidden costs could be because they can be so open-ended. The fact that services can be customized could contribute to a variety in pricing and therefore not allow for concrete costs. But many vendors will admit that not providing prices forces couples to book a consultation where they can strike a sale and also possibly upsell the customer.

Wedding vendors are notorious for being secretive about their pricing, but the status quo seems to be changing. People are more likely to spend on sellers with clear costs rather than ones that aren’t stated. Being transparent with pricing may even be beneficial to vendors because less time is wasted on consultations, where people may end up deciding to go a cheaper route anyway. 

The Once-In-A-Lifetime Mentality

Another aspect couples should be aware of is the “once-in-a-lifetime mentality.” This is when a buyer will justify spending a lot of money just because it’s for a special occasion. This mindset can take hold during many other holidays, too; your mentality can dramatically alter your spending boundaries and even make you feel comfortable enough to throw your budget completely out the window.

The once-in-a-lifetime mentality can even affect the people on the guest list: A study found that nearly half of guests are willing to purchase expensive gifts for the featured couple simply because it’s for a wedding. On the other hand, some couples are happy to spend heavily on their special day, as they’ve saved up just for the occasion. Determining when to splurge and when to hold back will be the biggest challenge for couples who are willing the spend more, but there are many first-hand accounts on what’s worth the extra expense and what’s not. 

Custom Goods and Services

Despite what’s been mentioned above, and while some goods and services may be overpriced due to the wedding markup, it should be mentioned that some items are accurately priced. Due to the extra time and resources needed to accommodate the custom requests often ordered for weddings, some vendors may be appropriately reflecting this in their prices. Although some do simply slap a wedding label with an expensive price tag on ordinary items, others really put so much more time and energy into the details, knowing it will be for someone’s special day.

In addition, because of the pressure that can come with weddings, there is a demand for an exceptional level of service that isn’t usually present at other events, which contributes to the higher cost. Weddings are not typically an average-sized party, either. The fact that it’s an important event on a much larger scale may also account for the larger price. 

Markups, non-transparent pricing, splurging and custom goods and services can all contribute to making a wedding an incredibly expensive event. With some vendors, it’s for good reason; for others, it’s just another way to take advantage of heart-eyed couples.

Setting a wedding budget ahead of time, being mindful about going overboard and carefully tracking expenses are just some of the ways couples can avoid emptying their bank accounts for their special day. After all, it’s not the food, flowers or outfits that make the event magical — it’s the people that attend who help make the best memories. 

Writer Profile

Tiffany Singh

University of Central Florida
English

Tiffany is a rising junior who loves to read and write. She spends her free time watching movies and playing with her dog.

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