You will remember your wedding day for the rest of your life, but that doesn’t mean you want to remember how much it cost. In 2023, the average wedding cost around $29,000 nationwide, with weddings in large cities costing $35,000 on average. The venue, the catering, and countless other costs and vendors can push couples over budget unless they are careful.

Fortunately, with the right planning, you and your partner can reduce your wedding budget by learning which expenses are commonly inflated. Here are a few of the priciest elements of weddings today so you can look out for affordable alternatives.

A wedding table set with plates and glasses for many guests. Wedding food and catering are examples of wedding costs that can be inflated.

The Venue
Renting the wedding venue is one of the biggest expenses that couples face when planning their nuptials. There needs to be enough room for the guests, catering, and dance floor without feeling crowded. Some couples also want separate areas for their ceremony and reception, which can also increase their costs. In 2022, the average cost to rent a wedding venue was $11,200 — a third of the total budget.

Renting a space becomes even more expensive when venues realize you want to use it for a wedding. This is known as the “wedding tax.” The venue puts more care into the event because it means so much to the couple.

There are options if you don’t want the wedding tax to push you over budget. You could opt for a smaller wedding, which means you choose a smaller venue. You could also save money on your wedding by hosting the party in your backyard.

The Rings
Engagement rings can be pricey, with an average cost of $5,500 for a ring, but couples also need to budget for the wedding bands. Diamond engagement rings became popular around the Great Depression in response to a marketing campaign by De Beers, one of the biggest diamond retailers of the time.

Diamond sales were falling across the country because of the struggling economy, so De Beers started promoting the idea that diamond rings are the ultimate symbol of love. The campaign recommended spending one month’s salary on a ring. Over time, this rule jumped to spending three months’ salary on an engagement ring.

You do not have to spend a lot of money on rings to prove to your partner that you love them. There are plenty of affordable ring options that are just as beautiful and reflect the personality of your partner. Look for rings made with unique metals and stones that also fit within your budget.

The Caterer
Catering costs around $75 per person on average. If you have 100 guests at your wedding, you can expect to spend around $7,500 to feed them. This may or may not include your beverage costs if you also want an open bar or high-end cocktails for your guests.

Catering costs continue to increase as couples prioritize the food at their weddings. They want memorable snacks and dining options, like donut walls or mashed potato bars. However, outside sources also increase costs. Rising food costs and staffing difficulties have caused many catering companies to raise their prices.

There are multiple ways to reduce your food costs while making your wedding stand out. Limit the alcohol to wine and beer, choose catering from your favorite food truck, or schedule a brunch wedding instead of an evening one, as dinner catering is often more expensive.

The Entertainment
Entertainment costs can vary depending on the type of ambiance you want. A wedding DJ costs around $1,500 while a live band costs $3,900 on average. Some couples hire extra entertainers, including circus performers, drag queens, and even fire eaters to amuse guests.

Decide how important entertainment is to you and whether you can save money with alternative options. For example, you could create a wedding playlist and ask a friend to control the music. You can also shop around to find a local DJ you like instead of choosing a live band.

The Attire
The bride’s dress is one of the most iconic parts of any wedding, but it can also be one of the most expensive. The average wedding dress cost around $1,900 in 2022 while the average tuxedo rental for the groom was between $100 and $200.

The show “Say Yes to the Dress” normalized the idea that a bride would pay thousands of dollars for her dream dress, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can find plenty of affordable dresses or shop online for gently used wedding dresses from other brides.

Consider the costs of dressing your wedding party as well. Some couples cover these costs, while others expect each member of the bridal party to pay their share. Expensive dresses and suits can put financial stress on your bridal party, so try not to drive up their costs as well.

Everyone can feel comfortable in affordable attire on your big day while still looking glamorous and luxurious.

The Flowers
The average couple spends $2,400 on flowers to decorate their wedding. These flowers are used as centerpieces, within the bouquet, and in the boutonnieres. However, climate change is affecting the flower market. It is becoming increasingly hard to find the right flowers for couples and enough flowers to support an entire wedding. This increases the costs of floral arrangements.

Consider saving money on floral options that are more affordable. Instead of a flower bouquet, you could create a vintage option with buttons, clips, and pins. You can also opt for silk flowers or local arrangements that utilize the nature in your area. These arrangements might match your theme better than standard flower choices.

The Photography
Couples spend an average of $2,600 on photography on their big day. These costs increase based on the amount of time you want your photographer to be there. It’s becoming common to hire photographers to cover the preparation process — like the bride’s hair and makeup, which can increase the number of hours on-site and the total number of photos that need to be edited. Some couples also want videographers as well.

You can reduce your photography costs by hiring your photographer just for the ceremony and reception, along with photos of the couple during the cocktail hour. You can also give your guests disposable cameras or set up a photo booth to capture more images on a budget.

Despite the cost, many people feel that paying for a good photographer is worth it. Years after your wedding, those photos can bring the memories flooding back.

You don’t have to choose every affordable option for your wedding. Talk with your partner and decide where you want to save and where you want to splurge. This can help you control your costs so you stay on budget.