Inflation Is Making Weddings $2,316 More Expensive Than 2019

A couple enjoys their wedding.
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Kelvin Murray / Getty Images

Wedding season is upon us, and it’s going to be an expensive one for the estimated 2.6 million couples tying the knot this year.

Prices have increased for almost every major wedding spending category, including food, wedding dresses, and flowers, according to The Balance’s analysis of the latest inflation data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Consumer Price Index (CPI) and The Knot’s 2021 Real Weddings Study. What’s causing the price jump? Inflation; it’s been hovering close to 40-year highs.

Eleven out of the 13 common wedding items analyzed by The Balance were more expensive than they were in 2019, with food, wedding dresses, flowers, and hotels seeing the biggest price increases. All the wedding items analyzed by The Balance increased a total of $2,316 over the past three years, making it an expensive wedding season for couples getting married and those attending.

Key Takeaways

  • Prices for 11 out of 13 common wedding items (such as food, flowers, and wedding dresses) have increased due to inflation.
  • Wedding dresses and food costs increased the most out of any category, with prices rising about 20% and 14%, respectively, since 2019.
  • The only items to decrease in price are attire for the groom and bridesmaids.

Wedding Dresses Are the Most Expensive Item—But Attire for the Groom and Bridesmaids Are Cheaper

If you’re going to be wearing a dress down the aisle, be prepared to pay more. The Balance’s analysis found that wedding dresses were the most expensive item on the list. The average cost of a wedding dress in 2021 was $1,800, according to data from The Knot. Adjusting for inflation, that cost is now $1,920.49, up 20% from its 2019 price tag of $1,600. Shopping sample sales and trunk shows, choosing a simpler dress, and renting are all ways to save money on a wedding dress.

The good news is that clothes for the groom, groomsmen, and bridesmaids are actually less expensive or nearly the same compared to 2019. The average cost for a groom’s attire is $288.07, 4.0% less than it was in 2019. Bridesmaid dresses cost an average of $138.70, while attire for groomsmen costs an average of $181.38.

Wedding Food Costs Are Higher, Too

Food had the second-largest price increase at 14.4% since 2019—which is higher than the 13.1% overall inflation increase from April 2019 to April 2022. According to our data, the cost of catering for the typical wedding size of 105 guests is $8,291.77, on average, which comes out to around $79 per guest.

Concerned about your food bill? Consider keeping your guest list smaller—most venues will charge per guest for food and drinks, so having more guests will significantly add to your wedding costs.

It’s not just the food that costs more this year, either. Alcohol prices also increased by nearly 10% since 2019. Expect to pay an average of $2,398.31 if you’re planning on serving alcohol at your wedding. To save money, consider offering a limited selection of wines and beer instead of an open bar.

Wedding Travel Costs Are Sky-High

For those traveling for weddings, airfare and hotel costs are up 10.6% and 11.4%, respectively. The average domestic airline ticket costs about $419.32, while the average hotel stay costs $135.92 per night. If you have been invited to several weddings, consider budgeting and booking in advance to get the best deals on airfare and hotel stays. Look for the wedding party’s room block, share a room, or rent an Airbnb with a group of people to reduce travel costs and stay on budget this wedding season.

Expect To Pay More for Decor and Entertainment

Elaborate bouquets and wedding decorations with fresh flowers will put a bigger dent in your wedding budget this season. The price of flowers increased 11.5% from 2019, and cost an average of $2,378.64, so make sure you factor decorations into the bottom line and find areas where you can save if you’re looking to stay within your budget.

Entertainment is often a big part of a wedding, but you might want to opt for a DJ ($1,494, on average) instead of a live band, which costs an average of $4,405.72.

With rising wedding costs, you might be tempted to take out a wedding loan to finance your big day. However, interest rates are rising and making borrowing money more expensive. You may find that after using a loan calculator to predict your expenses, the money you get from the loan may not be worth the interest you pay over time.

Methodology 

All non-clothing percent change in prices were derived from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index seasonally unadjusted series for changes from April 2019 to April 2022, the most recent CPI data at the time of writing. Wedding attire percent changes represent inflation-adjusted price changes from 2019 to 2021 and are from The Knot Worldwide’s 2021 Real Weddings Study. Pricing for average nightly hotel rates was sourced from Statista’s 2020 data. The pricing data for airfare was sourced from the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ airfare data. All other item and service price data are from The Knot Worldwide via the 2021 Real Weddings Study. Catering costs are based on the average wedding size of 105 people, per The Knot. All non-clothing price data is inflation-adjusted to April 2022 dollars via the corresponding CPI category. The clothing price data is inflation-adjusted to April 2022 dollars via the all-items U.S.-city-average seasonally adjusted CPI.

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Correction - May 26, 2022: This article has been updated to clarify the data used for the cost of a wedding dress in 2019, 2021, and 2022. This article was originally published on May 25, 2022.

Article Sources

  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “CPI for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U).” Select “1957” in “From” field.

  2. The Knot. “The Knot 2021 Real Weddings Study.”