The True Cost of Weddings in the UK
In the first extensive study of the UK wedding industry, involving over 18,000 couples getting married throughout 2017 and 2018, we discovered that although some couples are spending a very significant amount on getting married, the typical cost of a wedding in the UK is closer to £12,000 for most couples.
How much is a typical wedding budget?
Figures from more regionally-focussed surveys have suggested the average cost of a wedding is over £32,000, but the Guides for Brides study has identified that this is not the case. Some couples are getting married in the UK with budgets well over £100,000 but they are in the minority and these weddings cannot be considered to be typical.
In fact, over 59% of brides studied were spending between £5,000 and £15,000. Very few brides spent between £35,000 and £100,000, but the uptick in figures over £100,000 shows that couples are choosing to either opt for moderate budgets or splash the cash. Breakdown showing the % of couples within each budget range
By excluding these exceptionally high budgets and ensuring that our study covered all of the UK, rather than being focussed on brides in the London area, we were able to reveal a far more accurate representation of the true cost of getting married across the UK.
Nationally we saw an average spend of just £16,500 and by excluding the unusually high budgets, the typical spend came down to £11,875.
The study also demonstrated that wedding businesses should not reduce their prices; couples are choosing where to prioritise their budget, happy to splash out for some items and spending less on others, with their expectations almost exactly matching the amounts that suppliers and venues are currently charging.
Why does this matter?
There has been concern voiced in the wedding industry that the number of couples getting married is decreasing. In an online poll of over 400 people this month, 83% felt that the cost of weddings puts people off getting married.
Exposing the true cost of getting married could lead to an increase in the number of weddings in the UK, with couples realising that marriage need not be out of their reach even if they don’t have a budget of £32,000. We also feel that parents may be more inclined to contribute towards these more reasonable costs of a wedding.
What was included in the typical spend?
Many surveys include the engagement ring and honeymoon in the overall cost of a wedding. These elements can vary drastically in cost and skew an accurate representation of the cost of the actual wedding day. We have not included the engagement ring in the study as this cost in generally incurred before the wedding planning starts. We have looked at the cost breakdown for couples using just the key suppliers as well as the breakdown for weddings where couples have included the honeymoon and a lot of additional services in their budgets.
Budgets of well over £100,000 are not uncommon, with many of these couples planning their own wedding rather than relying on their parents or professional wedding planners. We have noticed that their budget breakdown tends to be very different, with a much higher proportion of the budget being spent on flowers, decor, production and entertainment – as much as £100,000 can be spent on these elements alone. These higher budgets have not been included in the results of this study as they distort the overall figures, giving a misleadingly high average.
So how is the typical budget spent?
We wanted to establish the basic costs for the most necessary elements for a couple to get married. Based on a typical wedding of around 80 guests, we know that around 50% of the budget is allocated to the venue, with couples spending on average £6000 on venue hire, food and wine. The choice of venue will have the biggest influence on overall budget with prices varying from a few hundred pounds to tens of thousands. Those fortunate enough to have a garden suitable for a marquee won’t save money as a result, with the cost of marquee hire and caterers coming in at around £6,800, over 10% more than using a wedding venue.
Generally the budget for wedding attire sees £1,200 invested in bridalwear, with £400 spent on menswear. The study found that £380 is spent on wedding rings and that couples tend to set aside a total of £500 for flowers, bouquets and decorations.
It is well-known that brides will try to control costs where possible. The most popular ‘do it yourself’ elements are stationery and cakes, which brings the average spend down on both, with cake budgets averaging £325, despite most professional cake companies charging from £320 to £950, and stationery just £200, with professionals charging £275-£770 for a typical package.
Only a small percentage of couples in the study included transport in their budget, in line with the small number needing to travel between the church and reception venue. However, those that did may have had a nice surprise, with car hire packages averaging at £140 less than the £460 that couples were typically budgeting.
While certain elements – the venue, catering, bridal gown, suits, rings, flowers, cake and photography are considered key elements for every wedding, others wedding professionals such as videographers, toastmasters and planners, have to work harder to get a slice of the wedding budget.
‘Optional extras’ can include bouncy castles to entertain younger guests (£80), photobooths (£300), magicians (£250), chocolate fountains (£450) and props and decorations (£300) such as light-up letters and post boxes. Many of these additional elements tend to be booked in the final weeks, as this is generally when couples know how much budget they have spent, but it is easy to get carried away. Over half of those getting married admit to going over their budget, with only 10% being more frugal and spending less than they initially expected.
These extra touches are seen as essential elements by many and are often what really “make” a wedding. Suppliers have ensured that they cater to all budgets, with prices for adding exactly the same portfolio of “extras” ranging from £7,800 to £34,000.
By adding in the extra elements, the proportion spent on the key elements inevitably reduces. This effect is further compounded with many couples cutting their spend on key elements in order to budget more for the extra touches.
Wedding entertainment is a key component of the day, but keeping guests entertained can add a significant amount to the budget. This is an area where suppliers recognise that some couples are looking to really impress with extras like fireworks, the cost of which can range from £600 to £10,000 for a bespoke and fully-orchestrated display.
The choice of music has a big impact on the budget. Including a live band typically adds £800, but many bands charge between £2,000 and £10,000. This is on top of the cost of a disco between the live sets, for which the average was £510. £130 was the average paid for individual musicians playing during the day.
The choice of ceremony has virtually no impact on the cost of the wedding, unless you are in the small minority opting for the most basic £50 Register Office wedding. Two thirds of couples opt for a civil ceremony in a Licensed Venue (£540 average) or a Register Office (£520 average) rather than Church (approx £500). The cost of a Register Office wedding vary considerably, in some cases more than doubling for evening or Sunday weddings. The popularity of celebrant led weddings will continue to rise until the regulations restricting outdoor weddings are reviewed. These bespoke, humanist ceremonies cost around £500 plus an additional £50 charge for a basic Register Office ceremony in order to cover the legalities.
After weeks focussed on the special day, the honeymoon is an opportunity for the bride and groom to relax and recoup. Typical honeymoon budgets have increased very slightly in the past year to £3,100. Few couples are spending over £5,000, which suggests a temporary shift away from long haul destinations. Many tour operators have attributed this to concerns about Zika virus and other travel concerns but we feel that the increasing number of couples paying for their own wedding, and almost all cohabiting while they are engaged, are prioritising their wedding budget over their honeymoon and planning a honeymoon later.
Popular months and days
We have seen a shift in the most popular months over the last couple of years. August was the most popular month for weddings in 2018, followed by July and June. This was a significant change after a strong shift towards Autumn weddings in 2017.
Almost half of our couples married on a Saturday, with Friday now more popular than Sunday, possibly in part due to the higher ceremony costs on Sundays. While many brides and grooms are emulating Indian weddings, with celebrations continuing for the entire weekend, couples on a tight budget are more likely to choose a mid-week wedding. These can benefit from around 10% lower prices on average, as well as naturally reducing the number of guests choosing to attend the wedding, thus reducing costs further.
Length of Engagement
Couples with weddings in 2018 were typically engaged for between 6 and 18 months. 26.5% have planned their wedding in under 6 months, but 28.2% have opted for an engagement of more than 2.5 years. When surveyed, most confirmed that a long engagement was primarily to allow additional time to save for their wedding.
Weddings are still big business, with nearly a quarter of million weddings each year in the UK and more than half a billion pounds being spent by couples on this website alone. The most revealing element of this extensive study is the misconception that most couples spend more than £32,000 on getting married, when the actual figure is nearer to £12,000. We look forward to increased confidence in wedding planning as a result of this revelation.
For those involved in the industry, longer engagements and more choice in optional extras may mean that earlier involvement from suppliers is critical to ensure a piece of the couples’ wedding budget.
For those aiming for luxury weddings, events in 2018 will have raised the profile of British weddings, with two high profile royal weddings and luxury wedding conferences held for the first time in Ireland (Engage!18) and London (Bridelux Symposium) attracting an international audience of international wedding planners.
Verifying our results
This study was based entirely on data gathered from over 18,000 brides, grooms or wedding planners with wedding dates in 2017 or 2018 and is based on what they actually spent or planned to spend, both on individual elements and in total. The data was moderated to ensure any anomalies were verified. Any extremes were excluded from the final report.
We verified the results of our study by comparing what couples told us they were spending with price ranges and typical wedding package costs from over 3,000 wedding venues and suppliers from across the country. This confirmed that their typical prices were consistent with much lower wedding budgets than have previously been reported.
It is only by including all of the associated costs not directly relating to the wedding, such as the engagement ring, guest accommodation and gifts that the total price comes closer to the reported £32,273.
Furthermore, we believe that figures from other surveys may have been impacted by including some very high budget weddings, distorting the average cost.
They have also primarily been based on couples in London and the Home Counties where wedding costs, and budgets, are generally higher than other areas, and more in line with the cost of living. Our study reflects the pattern of weddings across the UK to give a more realistic and more accurate representation of typical budgets.
How does 2018 compare with 2017?
Sophisticated data tracking software has enabled us to look at far more detailed breakdowns of spending habits in 2018, compared to the previous year. For both years, the typical price varies from £11,500 to £12,400 depending on which elements are included, and increases to £16,500 if the larger, less typical budgets are included in the average.
While the total cost over the past 2 years has remained almost completely static, the price paid for different elements has changed. More is being spent on wedding cakes as more couples move from home-made cupcakes or “naked” cakes to professional cake companies. The bridalwear industry has felt the affects of the average spend on bridalwear going down considerably due to the sudden popularity of companies such as Wed2Be. The amount spent on the venue and catering is up nearly 25%, partly due to the number of extended weekend weddings that took place in 2018; a trend set to continue into 2019.