Weddings are notoriously expensive. Combine that bill with the costs of other aspects of adulthood — student loans, a mortgage, child rearing — it’s no surprise that the average age of first marriage is on the rise for both men and women (27.8 years for women and 29.8 for men in 2018), as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. While many factors affect the cost of a wedding, where you live is a major one. Due to differences in costs of living and local incomes, the average wedding price tag is significantly higher in some states than it is in others.
Below, we analyze wedding cost data, marriage length data, household income data and divorce rates to find the states spending the most on their weddings. Read on to find out how your state fares when it comes to celebrating nuptials.
The Northeast clearly leads in this category, with a few states on the west coast also ranking high. In general, the southern states tend to spend the least amount on weddings proportionately to their incomes.
When it comes to wedding spending, it’s New Yorkers who spend the most in proportion to their income. The average cost of a wedding in NY is $34,315, while the average median household income is $64,894 — meaning an average of 52.9% of a couple’s annual income is spent on their wedding.
While the cost of weddings themselves is most expensive in Hawaii — an average of $37,827 per wedding is spent — the Aloha State comes in at No. 4 when it comes to the proportion of their income they spend (48.6%). Vermont, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island round out the top five in wedding spending relative to income.
It’s not only where a couple lives that tends to affect the price of their wedding but also the age at which they get married that shows a strong correlation. The following graphic shows how much on average people spend on first-marriage weddings by age. As you can see, in general, the older people are, the more they tend to spend on weddings.
For example, in a state like Idaho where the median age of marriage is 26.7, the average wedding cost is $19,925, whereas in Massachusetts, with a median marriage age of 31.2, the average wedding cost rings in at $35,966.
Another interesting factor to consider when putting a type of cost “value” on marriage is to look at how long marriages last and how one’s age affects that.
The following chart shows how the median age of each state’s residents compares to the average length of their marriage. For example, in Washington, D.C., the median age of residents is relatively young (34) and the average length of marriage is estimated to be 10.6 years, whereas in Maine the median age is 44.6, with the average length of marriage coming in at 22.6 years.
It’s important to note, however, that the Census Bureau collects this data by asking people how long their current marriage has lasted. This means the data only tracks currently successful marriages and doesn’t entirely factor in divorces, and people who were married, divorced and then remarried would then lower the average length of the marriage.
Much like a down payment on a home, weddings often come with expensive upfront costs, but those costs serve as an investment in something that can potentially carry long-term value — your marriage. While determining that value on emotional level will be unique to every couple, it’s fascinating to look at just how that upfront investment fares in financial sense over the years.
The following map shows which states get the biggest bang for their buck, so to speak, when it comes to money spent on their weddings. For each state, it shows how much on average a couple would pay annually if they spread out the cost of their wedding over the life of their marriage. Those states with the lightest shades pony up the least amount, and those with darker shades pay more.
The best “value” is in Michigan, where the cost of a wedding is an average of 1.8% of a couple’s income over the course of their marriage.
On the other end of the spectrum is Washington, D.C. (not shown on map), which has the most expensive marriages. The average current marriage in D.C. is chugging along at roughly 11 years strong, meaning the average price of a wedding there — $36,082 — spread out over the life of the marriage costs about $3,400 per year or roughly 4.1% of a couple’s annual income.
Ideally, you should avoid taking out debt for your wedding. There are countless ways to save when it comes to weddings, such as skipping a wedding planner for a do-it-yourself event and making economical food and beverage choices.
Unfortunately, many couples find themselves cash-strapped and unable to fully fund their wedding. In these cases, a personal loan may be helpful for minimizing the cost of borrowing, assuming you have strong credit.
While the terms of a personal loan will depend largely on your financial situation, they may offer a lower-interest way to pay for your big day than, say, a credit card. Borrowers with less-than-perfect credit, though, may find they don’t qualify for good rates, if at all. In these cases, you may consider borrowing from friends or considering a secured loan, which requires collateral but may offer lower rates.
If you decide to finance part of the wedding, make sure you know exactly how much the loan will cost over the life of the loan and have a plan to pay it off in a timely manner to avoid racking up interest charges. As much as you want your marriage to last for many years to come, the opposite should be the case with interest charges.
In order to rank the states that spend the most on weddings, we looked at data on three factors for all 50 states plus Washington D.C. Specifically, we looked at the following three metrics:
To create the final rankings, we divided wedding costs by median household income. This gave us wedding costs as a percent of household income. We also amortized the cost of a wedding over the marriage length and then divided by household income to create another ranking.