Americans are spending how much on weddings?! Here’s how we had a blast on a budget on our big day

Planning on getting hitched soon? Start saving.

Mitch Strohm and Mandy Boyd on their wedding day

The average cost of a wedding is now a hefty $31,213 (honeymoon not included), according to the 2014 Real Wedding Study from

That’s up from $29,858 in 2013.

As a guy — and finance writer — who just got married last year, I find that number pretty outrageous. That’s a down payment on a home.

Thanks to our frugality, and the incredibly hard work of our friends and family, we didn’t even spend a fourth of that on our big day and an entire weekend getaway for our guest list (more on that later).

The study from The Knot surveyed nearly 16,000 brides and grooms married in 2014 to figure out the financial spending habits and trends of couples in America. It includes both national and regional stats on the average costs of tying the knot.

The venue was the priciest part of couples’ budget last year, hitting an average of $14,006. Next was the engagement ring at an average of $5,855 and then the wedding band for music at $3,587.

Couples are also spending more on each guest – an average of $68 last year, up from $66 in 2013, according to the study.

Here’s the wedding budget breakdown from The Knot:
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 Your Take 

Your Take: Would You Consider Wedding Insurance?

Down the Aisle!I’ve heard of a lot of wacky types of insurance but here’s one that surprised me – wedding insurance. It’s the subject of Cameron Huddleston’s latest Kip Tips column, which, (not) coincidentally, was published after to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. Wedding insurance is “special event insurance that provides reimbursement for nonrefundable deposits if the wedding needs to be canceled or postponed due to a natural disaster, death, illness, serious injury or other catastrophe listed in the policy.”

When we were married, the thought of wedding insurance never crossed our mind. Our event was held indoors but it was also held in February, which risked Mother Nature’s snowy wrath in Maryland. While everything went off without a hitch, I’m not entirely sure insurance would’ve been something we seriously considered had we even known about it. The biggest worry is that a service provider (caterer, photographer, florist, DJ, etc.) doesn’t show up, but in those cases you have legal means to get your deposit back, and in those cases it pays to do your homework on the vendor.

As we ramp up wedding season, does wedding insurance seem like a good idea? I’m inclined to say no.

(Photo: pinreader)

 Your Take 

Your Take: Taking Two Down The Aisle

Anime Wedding Cake TopA guest post on Techcrunch back in March talked about an idea I’ve never heard of – “taking two down the aisle.” In the guest post, Larry Chiang, founder of Duck9 and regular blogger for Business Week, is talking about organization events as a way to gain exposure and network. The article as a whole is great but the idea I wanted to discuss today was the idea that when you book venues.

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 Your Take 

Your Take: Synthetic Diamond Engagement Rings

Diamond Engagement RingIs there still a stigma against “synthetic,” or man-made, diamonds?

Nearly a year ago I wrote about an ethically-sensitive fiance-to-be’s dilemma: should he buy a larger synthethic diamond engagement ring or go with a smaller but “real” diamond engagement ring? The experts naturally advised him to be honest but the question remains whether there still is a stigma over having a man-made diamond versus a Mother Earth-made diamond.

I think the movie Blood Diamond awakened many to the atrocities surrounding the mining of diamonds but I don’t think it has or can overcome the years of powerful marketing and “tradition.” (Many still drive SUVs, fail to recycle, and do other Earth-unfriendly things in the wake of An Inconvenient Truth) I bought a Mother Earth-made diamond (I was aware of the atrocities surrounding the mining of diamonds in certain areas of the world; for me, I wasn’t aware of man-made diamonds and so I never made a choice) for my man-made lovely wife to be, but given a choice I’m not sure what I’d do.

However ultimately (and sadly), it’s all about comparisons. When people with engagement rings get together, both men and women, the question of size, color, clarity, and cut always comes up. People say they aren’t comparing, but they are. Ladies want to know who has the biggest, sparkliest, etc. and men want to know who bought it. So which is better, a larger synthetic or a smaller natural? The ones with the larger synthetic can sleep knowing they have the larger one, the ones with the smaller natural can sleep knowing they have a real stone. (of course the real bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter, you can’t eat, live in, or drive a diamond)

What’s your take on diamond engagement rings, be it naturally occurring or man-made? Natural is best? Synthetic is best? Everyone is crazy about these sparkly stones and we should be focusing on other things? And when you get a chance, check out this Smithsonian article about how synthetic diamonds are now as good as real ones.

(And what’s up with diamonds anyway? If I was a woman, I’d prefer another gemstone with a little more color, life, vibrancy, character, I don’t know… but then again my opportunity to be different, my wedding ring, is a solid gold band so what do I know)

(Photo by fensterbme)

 Monthly Review 

Return of Monthly Reviews!

It’s been over a year since my last Monthly Review and I believe it’s time to bring them back. While other bloggers have continued their monthly income statements and balance sheets, I stopped a year ago because I felt it had become counter-productive. The reality is that the numbers themselves are irrelevant because they don’t apply to anyone else and they don’t help people make better decisions or learn from my mistakes. In fact, I felt that the numbers may be a distraction from the ultimate purpose of my monthly reviews, which was the explain both the good choices I’ve made as well as the bad choices.

So, in this return of monthly reviews, I’m going to simply outline the good, the bad, and the ugly of the decisions thus far. From here we’ll see how the month to months go.

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 Personal Finance 

Changing Your Maiden Name After Marriage

One of the tricky things about being “recently married” is that the missus was in name limbo. “Technically,” she’s my wife with my last name (that’s right!). “Legally,” she still retains her maiden name until she goes to the Social Security Administration to change her SS card name and the DMV or MVA to change her license name. So what happens when we get a check written out to her new name? Trickiness! Headaches! But not to fret, I’ll try to capture everything we’ve done so that it can be as painless as possible for all you newlyweds out there.

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How We Got A $1608.43 Cash Back Rebate Check

Citi CashReturns(SM) MasterCard® That’s right, we recently received a $1,075.98 check from Citi to go with our $532.45 check last month, all part of the greatest cashback plan in the world. Okay okay, I’m only kidding, it’s probably not the greatest cashback plan in the world but the Citi CashReturns card but it certainly softened the blow of paying for a wedding and honeymoon. Citi recently cut the promotion on this card so it fell off my list of the best cash back credit cards but it was hot while it lasted!

For those of you keeping score at home, and motivated enough to divide 1608.43 by .05, the cash back rebate included not only our wedding and honeymoon but almost all the spending of the last three months as well… but weddings are pricey.

So, how do you leverage a 3 month 5% cashback program as best as possible? Don’t apply for it unless you know you have a large capital expenditure in the next three months! This is perfect for big family vacations, weddings, home improvement projects, or anything else that’s expensive. I think that if you’re thinking about spending $10,000 or more ($500 cashback), then applying for this card is a smart move. If you don’t have anything on that scale, don’t apply! You want to save it for when you will have a big expenditure.

One other great thing about this card is that they automatically send you the rebate check, you don’t have to request it. I think it’s ridiculous that all cards don’t do this.

 Personal Finance 

Marriage and Money Advice for Newlyweds

Since Jim is newly married and off on his honeymoon, I thought I’d take the time to focus on marriage and money. I’ve been married almost 13 years, and though my husband and I don’t argue about money much these days, there are a few things I wish I would have realized at the beginning of my marriage. It would have made the first few years a lot easier.

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