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Destination Wedding or Fully Funded Retirement?

Interesting Retirement Planning

My daughter enjoys watching a couple of wedding related TV shows. Each “Say Yes to the Dress” episode follows two brides through their search for their perfect wedding gown. “Four Weddings” is a show where brides attend each other’s weddings; each ranks each other’s venue, food, dress etc., with the winning couple receiving a luxury honeymoon.

This was cute when my daughter was 10, but as she gets older, these shows have a different impact on me.

I thought I would put together some things for today’s couples to think about as they are about to tie the knot.

Top 2016 Wedding Statistics

A survey of nearly 13,000 US couples married in 2016 uncovered the costs and trends of weddings today and discovered:

  • In 2016, the average cost of a wedding reached an all-time high at $35,329, while the number of guests dropped.
  • Custom guest entertainment has more than tripled, from 11% to 41%, since 2009, with photo booths (78%), games (18%), musical performances (12%), and fireworks (8%) at the top of the list.
  • Most Expensive Place to Get Married: New York City (Manhattan specifically), with an average cost of $78,464.
  • Least Expensive Place to Get Married is Arkansas, with an average cost of $19,522 average spend.
  • Average Spend on a Wedding Dress: $1,564
  • Average Number of Guests: 141
  • Average Number of Bridesmaids: 5
  • Average Number of Groomsmen: 5
  • Most Popular Month to Get Engaged:
    December (15%)
  • Average Length of Engagement: 15 months
  • Percentage of Destination Weddings: 20

Parents are Absorbing Much of the Cost

Parents are still paying for most of today’s weddings. On average, the bride's parents contribute 44% of the overall wedding budget, the bride and groom contribute 42%, and the groom's parents contribute about 13%.

Fully Funded Retirement?

At the risk of sounding unromantic, I considered how this wedding money might be used for other things. Instead of spending the average of $35,329 for a wedding, what if couples were married at their local courthouse, instead? Let’s say they spend an average of $100 on a marriage license and then another $229 on a nice lunch. For the remaining $35,000, they could:

  • Pay off most of their student loans – the average Class of 2016 graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt.
  • Make a healthy down payment on a house – although the median home price in California is $500,000, there are plenty of starter homes (or homes outside of California) where $35,000 covers a good chunk of the down payment.
  • Start a solid retirement savings account – setting aside these funds in an S&P 500 index fund for 40 years (assuming 9% growth rate) would provide $1.1 million in retirement savings.


I’m not sure what my kids are expecting as far as weddings go. I’m not even sure what my wife is expecting. But, I am sure my kids are expecting to have the “wouldn’t you rather?” discussion with their father when the time comes.

Have a question about balancing short-term spending and long-term savings?  Give me a call at (949) 441-4410 at any time. 

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