How Much Does a Mormon Wedding Cost?

September 25, 2010 | 55 comments
By

For a decade we lived in Boca Raton, Florida — a city with a synagogue on every corner where you were much more likely to be invited to a bris or bar/bat mitzvah than any other religious ceremony. Boca had a single ward that varied between fairly thriving (when IBM had a campus there) to barely surviving (when they moved out) and spots in between. But few in the area seemed well-versed in Mormon culture or doctrine.

One day I hosted a meeting for the room mothers for oldest daughter’s kindergarten class. When the women walked into the living room, one saw a picture of a temple on the wall.

“What is that?”

“That’s the Salt Lake Temple. It’s where Sam and I got married.”

That’s when the fussing started. They were all amazed and impressed at the grandeur of it all. It took me a minute to realize that it was the imagined cost of renting such a “castle” that had them all fawning over me. Darn.

“Oh, actually, it didn’t cost anything to rent. It was free.”

Sam’s response, “Yea. It only costs 10% of our income…for life.”

Now, 18 years later, my daughter is engaged to be married. She is amazing. Her fiancé is a wonderful guy. They have chosen the Salt Lake Temple as the venue. And they have kindly given us until April to plan the blessed event. We couldn’t be happier.

Except that we are utter neophytes in the LDS wedding planning arena.

I’m a big fan of Emily Post, but a great deal of her wedding etiquette guidelines doesn’t fit with a temple wedding. So, immediately I began asking friends with experience as parents-of-the-bride for an LDS wedding for advice. They’ve been very helpful so far, but I have a big learning curve ahead of me.

The best advice as from my dear friend, Jan Stanfill: “Give the couple a budget and let them decide how to prioritize things.”

I think that’s a fabulous idea, with perhaps a few caveats. The only problem  is that I have no idea what a reasonable budget would be. And I can’t very well start asking people how much they spent on their kids’ weddings. At least not in real life. But maybe I can get away with it on the internet where responses can be anonymous. So, here’s what I’m asking: What’s a reasonable budget for a typical, LDS temple wedding?

OK. Before you go on telling me that the cost varies widely, or that it costs whatever you want to spend, or that it’s different all over the country/world. Let me just say that I know. Really, I do. But being given any starting point at all will help. So if you are willing to offer a ballpark estimate, some guidelines, resources, or any other wedding advice, I’d be very grateful.

Please comment below and tell me everything you know about how to have a wonderful LDS wedding.

55 Responses to How Much Does a Mormon Wedding Cost?

  1. Kate on September 25, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    $3000-$4000 in 2005 for an open house at Mom’s house the night before, and a wedding lunch with cake and such at Carrabba’s Restaurant for 50 people right after the wedding. The dress and photographer were about $500 each, and flowers were DIY from whatever was in stock at the grocery store.

  2. Jenne on September 25, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I know that my wedding reception cost about $5000 five years ago. We had a large and very nice reception at a cultural hall (also free) though we did skimp on fancy food and did a luncheon buffet, I sewed my dress, my cousin made my cake and a friend was the photographer. The flowers were the most expensive part of my wedding and the florist did the table set-ups and place settings.

  3. Starfoxy on September 25, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    We spent about $1000 total. Yeah, really. We were poor college kids at the time, and both of us tend to be miserly anyways so practically everything seemed like a huge waste of money. My mom made my dress. A lady in my ward made the cake for us as a wedding gift (which was incredibly generous of her). I made the invitations and decorations. It also helped that my husband plays in professional orchestras and happened to already own a tux. I don’t think we impressed anybody with our fantastically great party, and I’d bet that most people wouldn’t be happy with it if that was their wedding, but we were satisfied with it.

    The only thing we skipped that I wish we hadn’t was a photographer- even if we had just paid some kid to take a few of the whole group together that would have been nice. As it was we still have some nice pictures, but all of them are missing one person or another.

  4. Adam on September 25, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    $10K seems to be the high end for most Mormon weddings, in my experience.

  5. ben orchard on September 25, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    I think, including hotels (we lived in KY, went to St Louis MO temple) and all for *just us*, we probably spent around $1000. Didn’t have much money, so we didn’t SPEND much money. I was in college, she was working, but there wasn’t much point in spending more than we had to.

    A lot of what you spend on a wedding depends on what you want out of it. I think the main rule should be the simple one: no one goes into debt. I seriously have a hard time believing that spending more money than one has to start their marriage is a poor plan.

    So what to budget? Whatever you can spend comfortably. If that’s $1000, then fine, but if you have $7,000, why not spend $3000-$4000 on the wedding and give a large chunk (say $2500 or so) to the newlyweds as a gift? Unless they are already in well-paying good jobs, in the long run they’ll appreciate the cash more (at least, I would have). You could alternately spend that chunk on sending them on a very nice honeymoon.

    FWIW, my wife sewed her own dress, which is very nice, and designed in such a fashion that she can still use it for a temple dress (detachable train). We had a friend make the cake (delish), and we had a lot of help from family.

    That said, my family has a trend of inexpensive weddings. One sister was married in a greenhouse that specialized in wedding flowers. Another in a park that had a lot of groomed flowers. Another was married out on a beach and a lot of the family pitched in to help.

    My point? You can do a lot if family is willing and capable of doing the work for a lot less money for the equivalent setup. Find out who is able and willing to help, and any money you do spend will go a LOT further.

  6. T-NC on September 25, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Totally agree w/ Starfoxy. Price photographers w/ great referrals from friends/local members – it is the 1 thing that will really matter to the couple in 1, 5 or 50 years. NO ONE I know is still happy w/ their dress or refreshment choices as the years pass, but everyone groans about the lack of pictures they couldn’t afford to take or buy, or the relatives the cheap photographer ignored, (which was my case). Also, the more classic your choices, (dresses, cake) the more likely you’ll be happy w/ how everything looked. My sister made cd’s w/ personal music for wedding favors & the invitations were done by us for only the cost of paper by help of a comp. program. My hasband was then a non-mbr & we got married in a local expensive venue, but everything was under $3K. Receptions held @ non-lunch or non-dinner times are also cheaper re: venues & caterers. We also used theknot.com to help plan. Good luck !

  7. Andrew on September 25, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    $10k is right around the mark if you don’t want to do it on a basketball court (which my wife and I didn’t). That price includes honeymoon, reception, food, photographer, videographer, luncheon, dress, tuxes, cake, flowers, DJ, and transportation; I think that is all but I could be leaving out a few little items.

  8. Zealot on September 25, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    I definately say $0 plus the cost of getting to the temple!

  9. queuno on September 25, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Might I recommend a reduced guest list at the temple? Really, you don’t need to invite every distant relative that you might have seen still alive in FamilySearch. If the relative hasn’t had meaningful contact with the BRIDE OR GROOM (not their parents) in the last 5 years, they don’t get an invite.

    And skip the receiving line at the reception. Make sure there’s dancing at the reception. And skip the whole creepy garter thing…

  10. Benjamin on September 25, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    #7, what’s wrong with basketball courts?

    We spent about $4,000 for a modest but charming wedding day. And yes, that did include a reception at a meetinghouse, on — gasp! — a basketball court. Feel free to make whatever character judgments you will :)

  11. Alison Moore Smith on September 25, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Just checked in (while streaming the General RS meeting). Just want to say a big thank you to all those giving input so far. I cannot tell you how much this is helping! Please continue to give input and don’t hesitate to add any other wedding advice you think of!

    To clarify, we are not paying for the honeymoon. That’s up to the couple. And don’t bridesmaids, groomsmen still pay for their own clothing, etc? Granted, many of those will be my other kids, but I didn’t plan on including those in the number.

  12. Nicole on September 25, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Also didn’t want to celebrate under basketball hoops – 10K was the price. It was beautiful at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building overlooking the temple we just promised each other to forever. Thankfully, parents did not go into debt to front the cost.

  13. Bride's dad on September 25, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    We spent several thousand, but I don’t know exactly how much because I wasn’t in charge of the finances.

    Our daughter got married at an SLC-area temple, and our second-biggest single expense was the photographer. I don’t remember what he charged (it was reasonable), but it was well worth whatever it was. Make sure you know what you’re getting ahead of time; he promised us up to two hours outside the temple and two hours at the reception, and that was plenty. If you want lots of pictures to share with people, I suggest having the photographer put them on CD and sell you the copyright, and then you won’t be stuck paying big bucks every time you want a print.

    The wedding gown could have been the biggest expense, but she wore her mother’s wedding gown, so the only cost was for cleaning and alterations. Otherwise, the cost easily would have been well into the four digits (ouch!).

    We had two receptions, both in church gymnasiums. We created false “ceilings” using white Christmas tree lights (lots and lots of work stringing them up), and we dressed things up more using chair covers and tablecloths we purchased via eBay (since we were using them for two receptions, it cost less than renting, and we sold them afterward). We used centerpieces that included flickering battery-operated “candles” sitting on top of mirrors. The end result is that the gym (each time) no longer looked like one, and the cost of doing all that was probably around $600. It really was beautiful.

    At the receptions, we didn’t serve a lot of food — finger foods like cheese, fruit, bread, candies, nothing that couldn’t be purchased at a supermarket. Professionally made wedding cakes aren’t cheap, though (our was made by a friend of a friend).

    For us, partly because we had two receptions and because we didn’t live in the same city as our daughter, the biggest single expense was transportation.

    We could have spent less had we chosen to, and we more easily could have spent a lot more. The important things are that we didn’t spend more than we could afford and didn’t have to borrow. Just plan a budget that you think is reasonable, then figure that no matter what the real cost will be about 50 percent more.

  14. Jim Donaldson on September 25, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    <>

    Why are there bridesmaids and groomsmen at Mormon weddings? What do they do? I just don’t get it.

    I think a reception/party is fine (we had two). One was a more formal reception where the bride wore the dress she made and I wore a suit (we had daisies on the table and a white sheet cake); the other was a picnic in my parents’ back yard, with grilled hamburgers and watermelon; we did spring for a real photographer and I’m glad we did. But that really could easily be the only expense. You might try an institute building or something like that if you want a free church-related reception venue without basketball hoops.

    It’s a wedding not a coronation.

  15. Kim on September 25, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    $17,000-$20,000 for us. I don’t really remember the exact number.

    We had a lunch immediately after the temple on church grounds with just close friends, family and people from the church which was about $600. (about 50 people)
    http://picasaweb.google.com/madpimpphoto/WeddingCeremonyNewportTemple
    For ideas of what a $600 luncheon for 50 looks like

    We also held a small outdoor traditional Philipino wedding ceremony (almost none of our relatives are LDS) which was $2000
    http://picasaweb.google.com/madpimpphoto/WeddingCeremonyPhotos

    It was about $10,000 for our night reception (10 course meal) for about 200 people.
    http://picasaweb.google.com/madpimpphoto/WeddingReceptionPhotos
    For an idea of what a $10,000 dollar reception for 200 looks like

    We saved about $1000-5000 using only origami flowers and birds for our decor for both receptions & the cermony site.

    I ended up having 4 dresses which cost about $1500 in the end. The rest of the costs were things like the cupcakes, hair & makeup, tuxedos for the men, and other various wedding costs.

    If we had only done temple wedding + luncheon it would have been $600 total for our wedding. :)

    Hope that helps you! We had two really different receptions with a huge spread in price & I think it really shows. I think it all depends on how fancy you want the wedding to be.

  16. Alison Moore Smith on September 25, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Again, thanks for the great info and details.

    Jim, I’ve only been a bridesmaid twice – once for my sister and once for my best friend in college. But I think bridesmaids and groomsmen do pretty much the same thing in an LDS wedding that they do in any other wedding. They love, help, and support the couple — and they stand around and greet well-wishers — after buying a dress they’ll never wear again or renting a tux. :) The only thing they don’t do is walk down the aisle.

    BTW, I’d love to hear input on who typically pays for what, if you have it.

  17. Shelah on September 25, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    My parents paid around 7K, I think, at my wedding in the Salt Lake Temple more than a decade ago. The reception was at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, with really nice flowers, and our fancy wedding photographer was a friend of the family who did photos as a gift. My mom made my dress, but I don’t think she really saved any money in the process. After the reception costs, other major expenses included flowers, hotel rooms, and the cake. My in-laws paid a little more than half that for a luncheon (also at the JSMB), the honeymoon and their portion of the flowers.

    My sister got married a couple of years ago in Nauvoo, and I think my parents paid more than what they did at my wedding. Friends catered (payback for my mom catering all of their weddings for years), my SIL and I did a lot of the flowers, but renting tents and table linens added up quickly. My parents also footed the bill for both the wedding luncheon and the reception. For that wedding, I think that transportation costs were what really made it expensive. It cost a lot to get everyone to Nauvoo and house them there, then get them back to the reception location (Chicagoland) and house them there too. In both cases, with lots of out-of-town family coming for the wedding, there were additional family meals that my parents paid for that added up quickly (dinner the night before, breakfast the morning after– not fancy, but they still added up). We’re also the only members of the church in our family, so most of our extended family has a certain conception of what a wedding reception will be like, and since we throw them completely off with the wedding, my parents felt like they should put on a decent show at the reception.

    The main difference between the two weddings, other than the location, was that when I got married, we turned it over to the folks at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building to do everything. We went in one morning, picked table linens and a menu, went with a musical group and a florist and a cake baker they recommended, and it was done. With my sister’s wedding, my mom did almost everything: she and friends made the food, she did the cake, she sewed the runners that went over the rented linens, she designed the buffet, she helped set up the tents again when the wind blew them down. They were both nice weddings, and truth be told, my sister’s was more personal and probably a little bit nicer, but my mom spent almost a whole year of her life planning and agonizing over it. I’m the kind of person who would probably rather pay someone else to do it, even if it’s not quite as nice.

  18. Mark B. on September 25, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    We did something like what Bride’s Dad described for our youngest daughter’s reception in Brooklyn, NY. Bought a case of white Christmas light strings, and a bunch of Chinese paper lanterns hung from the ceiling with fishing line, and lit with LCDs. And fed about 150 people a great catered Indian meal, had a DJ with dancing, and no no no receiving line–what a horrid idea that is!! and why on earth do so many Mormon wedding receptions have them??. And we had a lot of fun! That’s the point–it’s a celebration. My guess is that the whole thing was under $3K–but I’d have to check with my wife, who probably knows better.

    Oh, and I’d recommend going to a temple other than SLC. It’s so crowded there–it’s like an assembly line in a factory, where you’re given your 25 minutes and then you’re pushed out. Get married somewhere else, and then if you want the pictures of the SLC temple, go there for the photography! (Hey, my son who served his mission in San Diego said that all sorts of people–not members of the church–would go up to the temple there to take wedding pictures.)

  19. anita on September 25, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    My sister’s a couple years back was a nice sit-down meal for 150 at the Joseph Smith Building before the Salt Lake ceremony instead of a reception, but she had the cake, dress, photographer, etc, and the budget was $10K. My parents said they could keep whatever they didn’t spend, but I never heard how that finally ended up. That allowed her to prioritize if she wanted to spend more on certain things and skimp on others. For example, there’s a place in SLC called the Fairy Godmother that has beautiful consignment/used wedding dresses, where she got hers for $300-ish and then resold it afterwards. (On the other hand, I paid over a thousand for my dress, but chose not to have a cake.)

    As I understand LDS wedding protocol, the bride’s family pays for her dress, photography, wedding day reception. Bride buys groom’s ring; groom buys her rings and groom’s family pays for wedding breakfast/luncheon. Bride’s family does rehearsal dinner the night before (but ours have been everything from backyard barbecues to pizza in a rented out bowling alley, depending on the couple’s taste). If you end up doing two receptions in different locations, each family pays for “their” reception. In all of our siblings’ weddings (9 so far), the bride’s families have purchased the bridesmaid and flower girl dresses, or ties if the guys are matching with that. We’ve only done tuxes for a couple of them and it seems like once the groom paid and once we did our own. Often parents give a nice gift to help start the couple out, such as honeymoon, or a car, or something (since our weddings are so cheap comparatively…)

    Good luck!

  20. Kevin Barney on September 25, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    My wedding and two open houses in 1980 probably cost about $200. We went the totally poor student route, so I realize that isn’t helpful.

    If and when my daughter gets married, it won’t be a Mormon wedding, which makes things more complicated. I would plan on giving her a sum of money and letting her figure it out, with the proviso that she can keep the balance if she spends less. I would make it clear she could be as frugal or liberal as she wants, but beyond the budget she’s on her own. The amount would sort of depend on our financial situation at the time.

  21. Naismith on September 25, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    The men in our families all balked at wearing a tux, which was fine. Why should they be uncomfortable?

    Our last wedding was held in a cultural hall by the wish of the bride and groom, in order to share something of their faith with the many non-members in attendance. The appearance of the room was helped by the several thousand dollars worth of young trees (including palms) that were lent to us by a friend with a plant nursery. The smaller ones were up on white pedestals (rented) and it was a very nice effect.

    We bought lots of flowers, but ordered them bulk rather than arranged, and let people help with the arranging.

    Our kids all had friends who enjoyed pulling together music and had a good sound system, so we never paid for a DJ.

    One daughter, who always had birthday pies, wanted a wedding pie instead, so we bought pans of various sizes, starting with large pizza pan and baked them ourselves (picked blueberries the weekend before, and had apple and other flavors…). One of our younger daughters has birthday cookies, so I am guessing we may end up with a wedding cookie at some point:)

    Our last wedding was in 2004, and we never spent more than $2000. Having the temple hours away makes it hard to manage without professional catering, unless you have good friends who will help out, which I hear a lot of moms do get together to do.

    Good luck–I was so grateful that our eldest was a son so that I could watch and learn. We did pay for a luncheon right after the temple sealing, but that was just signing a check, no real work involved.

  22. J-Mom on September 25, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    My daughter got married last year. Her father and I set a budget for $12,000. We did not have the reception at the church (I’ve been told that they discourage that…but not sure where I heard that). With that budget, the reception could be held at a nice art museum’s courtyard and I could use my own caterer. In all we paid for the following: wedding dress (700), rent for the reception center (2200), food (had a friend do it for very little), decorations, d.j., photographer, flight for a relative, hair, Mother-of-the-bride dress,and other little things that add up to be more than you would think. When you set your budget, add 10% for unseen purchases/needs-going over happens to just about everyone. We gave my daughter and her fiancee an incentive: Here is you budget, whatever you don’t spend, you can keep. Suddenly she was very careful about her choices. The grooms parents paid for the honeymoon, the wedding dinner (the night before), bridal bouquet and other family flowers, and tuxes. The one thing that many people won’t tell you is that a reception/celebration is really for the parents. It’s a time for them to celebrate with their friends. My daughter and her husband loved the gifts, of course, but really just wanted to take off after they were married. Besides getting sealed in the temple, the second most important thing is to make sure you have amazing photographs. That’s where I would spend my money. Good luck and best wishes for a beautiful day! One other thing…after the sealing, all the other stuff paled in comparison!

  23. jes on September 25, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    My parents gave us a budget of $3000 and told us that whatever we didn’t spend on the wedding was ours to keep. They hated all the fuss and bother of formal events, so they would have been delighted if we’d eloped and just taken the money, but we chose to spend half and keep half. I think it’s a good system b/c if your child really wants a big to-do, then they can have it (within the limits of the budget), but there’s a pretty big incentive to keep things simple, especially if you’re poor college students when you get married.

    We married in 1996 – $1500 paid for the wedding dress, announcements, formal pictures of just my husband and I with a real photographer (snapshots of everyone else), simple decorations, ingredients for wedding cake that someone in the branch made, small reception in my branch bldg, lunch for family and a few close friends btwn wedding and reception, 2 day honeymoon, and phone bills while we were apart for 3 months during engagement. BUT, I regret skimping on the pictures and the honeymoon. Is it a life-changing regret? No, but I wish we’d known that we wouldn’t desperately need the other half of the wedding money post-marriage. And I wish that my wedding hadn’t been the first wedding I’d ever attended so I would have had more ideas on how to do things.

  24. James Olsen on September 25, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Ditch the greeting line. It’s the most abominable, misery-inducing cultural practice we’ve ever adopted. I’m infinitely grateful my wife put her foot down on that one. (sorry, on advice on the cost – good luck; and congratulations!)

  25. Dane Laverty on September 25, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Our wedding was in the $1,000 range, I think. In retrospect I wish we had spent significantly more on it. Holding our reception in the church cultural hall, having a ward member make the cake, and getting my brother’s friend as a photographer all saved money, but it was an expensive savings.

  26. Left Field on September 25, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    My wife and I got married 13 years ago, when we were both in our mid-30s or so. I don’t think we ever added up the cost, but I’d be surprised if it reached very close to $1000. We got married out of state, but the parents covered the plane fare as a wedding gift, and donated a week of their timeshare condo for the honeymoon. At that age, I think we regarded anything contributed by our parents as a gift and not part of our wedding expenses.

    We got our rings for a couple hundred dollars at Murry’s Discount Auto, along with a case of motor oil and some tube socks (http://www.insiderpages.com/b/3598817340/murray-s-discount-auto-store-redford). Light refreshments at three (count ‘em–three) receptions in three different states probably came to another couple of hundred dollars. I served as our own photographer, though friends took pictures as well. My father (an amateur artist) made a drawing for the invitations, and my father in law (in the printing business) printed them. We must have paid for postage (probably <$100). Regular temple clothes for the wedding. I guess we had a rental car. I can't think of much else that we spent money on.

    I guess it all comes down to what you think is essential. I suppose the only required expense is the fee for the marriage license.

  27. Bob on September 25, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    My son had a big wedding. For about $1,000, they had a old photo booth , when eveyone when in, had their four silly photos taken that were developed on the spot, put in a fun hardback book, and signed by everone like it was a year book.

  28. kristine N on September 25, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    We spent between $6,000 and $7,000–I’ve never bothered to figure out more precisely. Our largest expense was the photographer (~$2500), which was worth every penny. We were married in July and decided to have our reception in a picnic area up Big Cottonwood Canyon, which was something like $150 at the time. The setting was so beautiful on its own we didn’t bother with flowers other than bouquets and corsages.

    We did get a lot of help that saved us a ton of money–we self-catered (mostly because there are a lot of allergies in my family, so we pretty much have to know every ingredient–I’m totally jealous of the couple who had an Indian buffet. Sadly, that probably would have made several family members very ill, so that wasn’t an option for us), my grandma made the cake and sewed all the bridesmaids dresses (so they only had to pay for shoes–something I hope they were able to re-use!), and my brother was our DJ. My husband wore a suit rather than a tux and I wore a white bridesmaid dress with a veil my mom made for me, so we probably spent less than $550 for both our outfits. Having family and friends who have skills like cake decorating, flower arranging, and sewing, among others, was definitely what allowed us to have a wedding we were very happy with and at the same time not spend more than we wanted to.

  29. Alison Moore Smith on September 26, 2010 at 3:12 am

    Friends, you are amazing. I will comment more tomorrow (er…later today), but just wanted to chime in again to tell you how much I appreciate you all taking the time to share experiences and details. It is so, so helpful! Thank you, thank you!

    And keep it coming!

  30. queuno on September 26, 2010 at 4:49 am

    I guess I never understood paying for other people’s transportation or hotels. Unless it’s a destination wedding, guests are on their own, I say.

    I will say, I’m lucky in the sense that if a family wedding is anywhere within a 90-minute radius of SLC or Provo, I have family I can stay with. But I’ve put my siblings and parents on notice *not* to expect my children to get married in SLC. If you’re not from there, it’s kind of silly.

    And no matter what anyone ways, do *not* get married in Provo during education week. (I just know someone who did…)

  31. Rebecca on September 26, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Mine, 3 years ago, was 9K. That took care of a country club dinner reception for 130 people with live band and killer food, excellent photographer, cheap dress, beautiful flowers, cheap dessert, nice invites, plus plane tickets for me and lover boy. I thought I could do it for 5K, but everything kept creeping up. With a long-distance wedding it was hard to rely on DIY options which could’ve kept cost down. Still, I adored our wedding day and wouldn’t change a thing.

    (Best decision I made: get married in late afternoon, have dinner reception right after. It was so festive and non-painful for guests.)

  32. Left Field on September 26, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    I have a comment that must be stuck in moderation, probably because I included an unnecessary link. But really, the only necessary expense is the fee for the marriage license. After that, it’s just a matter of deciding what you can do without.

  33. Naismith on September 26, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    “But really, the only necessary expense is the fee for the marriage license. After that, it’s just a matter of deciding what you can do without.”

    Or another way to look at it: adding on what you want.

    We never seriously considered the tuxes, so there wasn’t a sense of “doing without.”

  34. Left Field on September 26, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    When we got married, mostly I was just interested in getting married and offering friends and relatives an opportunity to come celebrate with us. You can do that pretty cheaply.

    While planning the wedding, we encountered somewhere a list of things that should be done to plan an LDS wedding. One of the first things on the list for 6-8 months out was to decide on the colors. Colors? Really? Weddings have colors? Who knew? I don’t know how much colors cost, but our wedding didn’t have colors. Maybe we’re not really married.

  35. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 26, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    My wedding and two open houses in 1980 probably cost about $200. We went the totally poor student route, so I realize that isn’t helpful.

    That is the sort of thing that I was more aware of than the other.

    So, the “wedding” expenses are actually the “reception” expenses. I should be budgeting about 12k to 14k I gather.

    Glad to know.

  36. Rebecca on September 27, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Our parents gave us $20,000 and told us we could spend it on the wedding or keep what we didn’t spend. We were “poor college students” too but we still decided to spend most of that of money on our wedding day and we have no regrets.We spent $17,000 in 2002 and we still had the reception in the gym at the church.We wanted to spend the money on other things instead of rental fees. We wanted to have a catered, full-course, meal at the reception to serve 350 people which was $22.00 per person, so that was a lot of our budget right there. My wedding dress was $3,000, we spent $5,000 on photographs and videos, $1,300 on a really cook cake which was my favorite decoration at the wedding reception at the church. My parents bought all the clothes for our family and freinds who were in our line. We liked having a line for at least a little while because then it made it easy for everyone to find us and have a turn to talk to us and for us to say thank you to personally to everyone who came. Some of my friends who didn’t have a line said that they weren’t able to talk to everyone who came because they spent too much time talking to people they were close to or most comfortable with and then it was over. By the way I have never heard that the church discourages wedding receptions at the church gym until I read this post. I doubt that is true. Sometimes there are even weddings in the church gym for people who don’t want to or aren’t ready to get married in the temple who ask the bishop of their ward to marry them.

  37. HP on September 27, 2010 at 11:56 am

    I got married last year and I think about $10,000 was spent, though I’m not sure of the actual cost as my mom made all of the arrangements. I think the breakdown was something like the following: $3200 on the reception location (an interactive science museum with a garden in back), $4000ish on food, and the remaining $3000ish on musicians (a Balinese gamelan troupe), decorations (Indian saris cut into tablecloths), photographer (my cousin was the wedding photographer and didn’t charge, but we paid for her $500 plane ticket to and from the wedding), and wedding planner fees (my mom did all of the actual planning, but hired a wedding planner to oversee the setup and takedown of the actual day, as well as to provide tables, plates, and cutlery). Food was thus by far the biggest expense, but totally worth it–we got married in the morning and had a lunchtime reception (11-3) and served a giant buffet of restaurant food from places where the groom and I had lived: Indonesia, India, Vietnam, the Middle East, Korea, and America. Instead of a cake we had a table of delicious pies and cookies, brought in from nearby bakeries, and, in a few cases, baked by my aunts.

    In terms of other wedding costs, we saved money by buying our rings at a pawn shop, opting out of a tux for my husband, and re-using my mother’s wedding dress.

    As for who was responsible for the costs, my parents paid for everything related to the reception (ie the above 10k) and my husband and I paid for our clothes, our honeymoon, our rings, etc. My husband’s parents didn’t pay for anything (except their trip to the wedding), but my husband’s sister hosted a family dinner at her home the night before the wedding.

    I’m a notorious cheapskate, so had I paid for or planned the wedding myself, it would have cost much less, but my parents are both wealthy and generous and so didn’t worry too much about expenses. I was very happy with the way our wedding party went, but an equally nice wedding could be done for much, much cheaper, particularly in Utah. (I got married in the Bay Area, which of course means paying more for everything.)

  38. living in zion on September 27, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    $2,000 this past Feb. for our daughter’s wedding. Married in Nauvoo, reception the next day in home ward building. 175 guests for a sit down dinner in the church gym. We strung 6 inch wide white tule across the ceiling to hide the basketball hoops. Much cheaper/ easier than stringing lights.

    I made the three layer cake. We got the wedding dress for $200. from preownedweddingdress.com. It was gorgeous, temple ok (meaning it had sleeves) and it was a secure site to buy from.

    The invites were handmade, we did all the flowers in silk so I didn’t have to deal with fresh flowers.

    If you are going to DIY route, be sure to get 2x the help you think you will need. And yes , yes, yes – If you blow the budget on anything, do it on the pictures.

  39. Rameumptom on September 27, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I suggest you skip the headaches. Just give them a check for $5000 as a down payment on a future house/college, etc. Then tell them everyone will just meet them at the temple.

    Reception is via Facebook.

  40. Ben S on September 27, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    We did our wedding for under $2000 in 2001 and avoided the chapel “cultural hall” completely.

    That said, I have a relative in CA who’s lawyer/CEO father re-mortgaged their house for her wedding, so ymmv.

  41. Sean on September 27, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    I echo the idea to either skip the reception line, or only have it for a set period of time. The invitation might say: reception line from 6:30-7:30 PM. At my wedding we had a nearly 3-hour reception line (!) and it nearly killed me :).

    On the otehr hand, with dancing/mingling/other activities (besides a line), the newlyweds can leave when they’re ready and the party can go on. The reception is more for the parents.

    Also, the budget idea is good. Offer them a set budget, and they can keep what they don’t spend. You might give them minimum requirements if some things are important to you – say, a good photgrapher. The budget gets the couple in the budget mindset, which is a gift that will last longer than the wedding day.

  42. Wm Morris on September 27, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    One of the best decisions we made was to not spend $400 or more on a wedding cake (this was Berkeley in 1998) and instead drop $100 at Nation’s for a ton of coconut cream and banana cream pies. Displayed with some flowers on different pedestals, they looked as nice as a cake, were more tasty, and we were able to send excess pies home with the people who helped us out.

    Another great decision is to send your kids to Cal so they can hold their wedding reception at the lovely Julia Morgan-designed house on the north side of campus that serves as the Berkeley Institute and home of the Berkeley Singles Ward.

  43. Alison Moore Smith on September 27, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Oh, more good stuff! I am learning so much from all your experiences, pictures, ideas. I’m getting a LITTLE less freaked out about the whole thing. :D Bless you all.

    I really LIKE the receiving line because otherwise it’s almost impossible to really give your best wishes to the bride/groom and parents. But I did just attend a reception, like the one Sean mentioned, that had a set time for the line — for those who want to go through that. (We did.)

    OTOH, I would really advise against the bride and groom leaving before the reception ending time. I have gone to a handful of receptions — 30-45 minutes before it was supposed to end — and the bride and groom were gone. It was a big disappointment to me and, frankly, I thought it was rude. You don’t invite people to come to an event (and bring you a gift) and then leave.

    I also like the idea of minimum requirements. For the sake of courtesy there are things that IMO you shouldn’t do away with. For example, if we invite people to come, we should provide refreshments — even if the bride and groom would rather keep the money. ;) That won’t be a problem with my daughter, but I like the precedence that will be set with my other kids.

  44. Sean on September 27, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Alison, I see what you’re saying about guests being disappoonted if the bride/groom leave before the end of the reception. The 3-hour receiving line experience at my own reception scarred me a bit :).

  45. bbell on September 27, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Maybe my family and all of our friends/ward members are hopelessly poor/have better priorities but I am not sure I have ever attended a LDS wedding reception that cost over 5-10K. Most were much cheaper. My life exp is that the more expensive the wedding the more likely it will end in divorce but thats just anecdotal.

    I think our culture pretty much either frowns on expensive weddings or the pressures of having large families and paying tithing prevents us from affording expensive weddings. Probably some of both.

    I could be wrong and there could be some stakes were 50K weddings are common. I could see this occuring in affluent stakes.

  46. bbell on September 27, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    I have had some family members marry outside the church in a non-LDS setting. We are talking 25-50K. Non-LDS coworker weddings usually cost serious dollars like this as well.

  47. E.D. on September 27, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Our wedding was in 1999 and we spent about $10,000. This included

    -invitations, low end from a print shop (~$500 without postage)
    -”rehearsal dinner” the night before the temple ceremony (Washington DC) (~$300)
    -one photographer at the temple and another at the main reception (central NY) (~$900, we got a good deal because the reception photographer was a family friend)
    -wedding dress, all bridesmaids’ dresses and groomsmen’s tuxes (not standard, but I thought it was important) (~$1500, found my dress for $200 on EBay)
    -reception at a nice facility with a plated dinner and hors d’oeuvres (converted carriage house on a lake) (~$5000)
    -DJ, cake, wedding favors, and most of the cost of the flowers (reception only) were gifts from family friends
    -four-day honeymoon in California (~$1500)

    Without the discounts and gifts, it probably would have been closer to $13,000. If we had planned the main reception near the in-laws in a similar location it would have been much, much more expensive.

    DH’s parents had a separate reception at their house at the end of the honeymoon. It was a BBQ for about 50 people.

  48. N. on September 28, 2010 at 12:56 am

    This all depends on local economics, of course. I.E. A pro photographer in LA will cost you more than one in Panguitch, UT.

    For me (15 years ago):
    * $300-$400 invitations
    * $0 photog (a side benefit of having my parent *be* the pro photog) easily $500-$2000 otherwise (I also got a wedding album at cost, so figure another $300-$500 or so.
    * $0 event hall decoration (a side benefit of having my OTHER parent be a wedding decorator) if my parent had charged a client, I would have been on the hook for another $3000 about.
    * $dunno food – my spouse’s parents picked this up. I know that a catered dinner was going for about $100 a plate. If you weren’t providing a meal, but just hors d’œuvres or cheese trays or something, you could probably get away with $20/person-plate. We did hors d’œuvres, and a family luncheon that was a minimum of $300 of materials.
    * $dunno cake. I was out of the loop on that one as well.
    * $400 honeymoon.
    * $0 music. didn’t have a DJ or dancing. I sorely wish I *had*.
    * $500 clothing for everyone (no attendants in the bridal party; we used a family heirloom wedding dress, etc) so this was mainly for tuxes for a few of the men.

    In short we did it cheap because we were dirt poor. :)

    If I didn’t have photographers, decorators, etc, and I had to pay full price for everything (this even assumes a “free event space” like a cultural hall, I’d wager it would have cost $10000, sans DJ, no meal.

    There’s also the inevitable law of capitalism: You Get What You Pay For.
    If you spend $15,000 on a wedding for 100 people, it will be a beautiful, fairly classy evening out for all the guests. If you decide to feed 300 ward members skittles, pillow mints, and sheet cake under a basketball hoop while “Put a Ring on It” plays over a boom box while your cousin Larry follows people around with an insta-matic camera, you will spend a lot less, and it will suck for everyone except the bride and groom, and it might just suck for them too. -just my opinion.

    Having my family heavily invested in the wedding business, I’ve seen (and worked) more of the latter kind of wedding (only in LDS circles it seems), with the parents bellowing at each other and the help about how expensive $1000 was for the entire wedding. A more miserable reception is hard to find.

  49. JtG on September 28, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    You’ve already admitted it all depends on location, desires, and priorities.

    My then-fiancé and I were both working professionals living far away from our family. As such, we paid for our own wedding; I’d been living away from my family for a decade and felt that I was too independent to request them to pay for my wedding. We also completely planned our own wedding; that was a valuable experience in learning to budget and communicate together. In the end, my parents did twist my arm to allow them to help contribute.

    All in all we spent about $8,000 not including the honeymoon.

    Our biggest expense was $2,000 for a sit-down dinner at a local, high-end restaurant for 30 people. This item was extremely important to me as all of our family and several of our friends had to drive two days or fly and in most cases rent a hotel over Thanksgiving to attend our wedding.

    Our secondary expense was $1,500 for a professional photographer: 2 hours of engagement shots (2 locations) and 3 hours of wedding photographs (2 locations: out-of-town-dinner, and at the temple 2 hours south) and a DVD of 200 of the photos in high-res with rights to distribute them in any way I wanted (except for by sale). At the end of the wedding all I would really have to remember the wedding by would be the photographs. For my region of the country this cost was a “cheap” photographer. This would be a very expensive photographer in Utah.

    I always said I’d just rent a dress and be done with it, but that wasn’t the case. I realized that I wanted to look really good in my precious photographs. I spent $800 on the dress and veil including alterations; a beautiful, long-train, lace dress. The cost is a bit of an embarrassing extravagance given the dress has a miserable resale value, but it was gorgeous. I put an additional $150 into overhauling my make-up collection entirely, and $40 went towards a hair stylist on the day of the wedding. My jewelry and hair pins were gifts from my Dad.

    We spent $1,100 on 300 invitations, engagement photo prints, and postage. We had custom letter-press invitations made by a local artist. Quality invitations were extremely important to us as it was the only interaction with our wedding the majority of our friends and family would experience. (Due to travel expenses and the fact our temple could only seat 30 in the sealing room.) Notably, most couples can reduce the cost of same number of invitations down to $200 by designing them themselves and printing them off as photographs at Walmart.

    We spent about $1,000 on our gym reception. We originally weren’t even going to bother with a gym reception, but a lot of local friends and co-workers expressed a desire to attend such a thing. We spent $500 on food which was generously turned into delicious food and cake by a friend who worked in the catering business. We spent another $500 on vases, vase filler, flowers, table cloths, lanterns, candles, plates, flatware, and serving ware, and other items for gym decorations. (I worked really hard to get a lot of great deal off Craigslist.) We had an additional 40 people attend that reception. I think I wish I could have just done a buffet at a Chinese restaurant for them and called it good without the hassle of making the food and planning the decorations. (We had hoped for an attendance of closer to 80 people. 150 people were invited locally.)

    Other expense included $500 for a new suit and alterations for the groom (he hadn’t a new suit since, like, his mission many years before), $500 for travel assistance for a dear friend with limited means who was trying to move mountains to come, and $150 for thank you cards and postage.

    We did not have bridal flowers, bridesmaids, or groomsmen. We did not have mother dresses or flower girls. The only required outfits was “men, please wear a black suit” and “women, please look nice.”

  50. bbell on September 28, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    This is actually a pretty good thread on this topic. I noticed that there were only a couple of weddings over 10K. One was barely over at 12K and the other at 15-20K was not entirely a LDS wedding with lots of non-LDS components/features.

    One thing to note is that unless you are paying all the bills yourself the bride and groom do not really see how much the weddings cost. I suspect mine cost maybe 5-8K.

  51. Michelle Glauser on September 30, 2010 at 8:15 am

    I just have to add that German Mormon weddings (the ones I’ve seen anyway) seem to be at the very low end of the spectrum. They all have their receptions at the church, with decorations that have been floating around for generations (and cheesy, I might add). No one has a professional photographer, the reception’s “program” is made up of members playing musical instruments, singing, telling stories and reciting poetry, playing games, etc. etc. No one has matching dresses. Only the groom has a tux.

    Seems like a good way to go, except I would just leave the chapel without decorations at all and maybe even hope to meet outside under the lovely trees.

  52. Alison Moore Smith on October 1, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you all so very much for your kind input. It has been a great help to me and I hope that others in the same situation will find it useful as well. The ideas are very useful.

    Michelle, to be very honest, that kind of program sounds wonderful to me. I might forgo the church gym and cheesy decorations :), but a warm family gathering sounds lovely.

    Sam and I had our reception (25 years ago last August) in the BYU alumni house gardens. It wasn’t nearly as fancy as the new building, but it was a beautiful venue.

  53. Ariel on October 2, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    I got married in May in the SLC temple. We had a reception at the ward basketball court despite the fact that I’d sworn my whole life that I would never, ever do that. Other locations I considered ran $2000/night to rent, minimum. Costs were as follows:

    Dress: borrowed. Cost of shipping a large, heavily insured package across the country twice, and cleaning twice (once before, once after): $300.

    High heels for pictures, white platform flip flops for everything else, longline bra, sparkly but fake jewelry etc etc: about $150

    Flowers: $50 (I bought roses for myself and one each for the bridesmaids and flower girls, and tied mine together with some white ribbon)

    Hair/makeup: free, my bridesmaid did it. I kind of regret this.

    Cake: cheesecake from Sams Club, about $750 I think, very tasty and the leftovers keep well in the freezer. I’m still enjoying the occasional slice.

    Music: Free, I played some from hubby’s laptop and some family friends played some Andean music live as their gift, which everyone loved.

    Catering: I didn’t want this, but mother in law insisted. I told her that if she wanted to pay and plan it herself I’d allow it. I expect it ran about $2000.

    Pictures: $2000. I don’t recommend spending less than this. We got photographers (one for the reception, one of the out of state open house) on the cheap end of professional, and our pictures are beautiful. Less than this will get you fancy snapshots.

    Chair and table rental for backyard open house: about $200

    Invitations and thank you notes: $500

    Marriage license: $50

    Tux rentals: $250

    Tablecloths (cheaper to buy online than to rent): $350

    That’s all the expenses I remember off the top of my head, but I’m sure I forgot something. The above totals about $6,500, so we probably spent between that and 7k.

    We spent about $500 on the honeymoon (Lava Hot Springs in Idaho) and on a hotel for after the open house (I didn’t want to sleep at my parents’ house).

  54. Keren on October 2, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    My sister got married three weeks ago in Oregon and the cost for my parents ran to $6000. My mom was out-of-state for the majority of the planning, so I took over that position and can outline her costs.

    $1050 for the dress, her dress was around 750 and then another 300 for alterations to make it temple ready.
    $200–site rental, she had her reception at a beautiful park
    $1200–catered mexican food
    $500–flowers, that was cost. A friend with a wholesale license bought them and arranged them as a gift.
    $200–flower girl dresses
    My sister got the material for the dress and the bridesmaids were responsible for getting it made. Two sewed it themselves, and I paid a lady in my ward because I didn’t have time with all the other wedding stuff I was in charge of. The groomsmen paid for their own rentals.
    $275–250 invitations, I designed them on the computer and a friend printed them at 50% of cost as a gift
    $500–photographer, a family member offered it for free, but my mother insisted paying her some money. It was not her regular asking price.
    $1600–other items for reception, decor, rentals, centerpieces, etc.
    And the balance of that was things like postage, jewelry, her tiara thing, etc.
    Her in-laws paid for the dinner the night before because they decided not to do a luncheon. I think that cost about $500.

    I did her makeup for free, and her other bridesmaid did her hair. Her cake was free as a gift from a friend. My sister started with a budget of $7000, and came under but her wedding was subsidized from people who had talents and wanted to share with them as a gift.

    I was married in 2002 and my cost was about $3800. That included everything except the luncheon which my in-laws paid for about $300. My in-laws also gave us $2000 to put toward a down payment on a car (we were both starting out junior year in college and did not have transportation) or for our honeymoon. We used it for a honeymoon and paid for the car ourselves.

    There are so many different ways to split up wedding costs and it takes communication. When my oldest brother got married in California, our family lived in Alaska. It took everything my parents had to scrounge up enough money to get them and all the siblings to the wedding. The other parents graciously stepped in and covered costs that were traditionally the family of the groom’s responsibility. This time with my sister, circumstances were different, and my parents paid for the bridal party flowers.

  55. Bride's mom on October 3, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    The first thing you do is reserve a time at the temple, keeping in mind the schedules of your immediate family and most important people connected to the couple. This is actually the hardest part! Then decide about the reception–where and when. The family meal fits around that schedule. To us everything else is auxiliary.

    We had a wonderful wedding day for my daughter this past summer. We had the wedding at Mt. Timpanogos Temple at 1 pm, photos afterward with a professional photographer (took about 1.5 hours), had a dinner for 50 people from both families at 5 pm at our hired reception hall, and had a reception at the same reception hall from 7 to 9, then sent off the happy couple on their honeymoon.

    The key to the happiness of the day was the hired caterer and hall. It cost $4000 to rent the hall and pay for the dinner and reception food, and was worth every penny to not have to try to do any of the food or set up ourselves. We were able instead to spend time visiting with friends and family. I am usually in favor of doing food ourselves, but there is just no time on a wedding day.

    Family who came from out of town paid their own travel and hotel bills. The event naturally turns into a family reunion, so for the two days preceding and one day after the wedding, we hosted family dinners at our house (just for our side of the family, not the groom’s) with simple meals–purchased lasagna and salad one night, homemade tacos another. And we suggested activities for the active families during the day–hiking, swimming–some of which we attended. The older folks spent the days at our house visiting and helping us with last-minute preparations.

    The bride asked her two sisters and three close friends to be bridesmaids. We paid for their dresses at $30 each. (It seemed only natural to me that if we were picking the dresses we should pay for them.) Their duty was to host one bridal shower, help set up the party favors and our decorations at the reception, and to be in photos. The groom asked his two brothers and two friends to be groomsmen. They chose not to wear tuxes; if they had, I would have expected the groom’s family to pay for them. They looked great in dark suits and color coordinated (but not matching) ties. Their duty was to have one party for the groom and, apparently, to decorate the groom’s car.

    We paid a friend, an aspiring baker, to make a cake for $100. The photographer cost $700 to cover the day and make touch-ups to the photos, not including prints afterward. Our photographer was talented in getting the group to cooperate in a fun way. Choose a happy person!
    The groom and/or his family paid for flowers ($70–we bought loose flowers from a florist and put them together ourselves the evening before), bride’s ring, honeymoon, and contributed to the invitations and stamps.

    We were lucky that both bride and groom were from Utah and so we needed only one reception. Also lucky that the bride loves to sew and made her own lovely dress for $120. We had a local print company make invitations at $200 for design and printing. Stamps extra.

    Our rule of thumb on paying for things: The person in charge of making decisions paid for it. For a Mormon wedding, anything can be done by nonprofessionals for a small cost, so the person deciding to hire professionals at a higher cost should pay for it.

    In Salt Lake City there are many very nice reception halls and caterers to choose from, all on the internet, but they get reserved far in advance. Have fun with your plans!