The ‘Average’ Chicago Wedding Is Supposedly $60,000. That’S Insane.

May 14th, 2017

I got married earlier in 2017, and put a lot of time and energy into trying to have a truly glam wedding without spending millions of dollars. I like to think I did a fairly decent job, but the amount of money I spent still gives me chest pains. That’s why I literally spit out my tea when I saw this survey that says that the average cost of a wedding in Chicago in 2016 was $60,000.

I know it’s your dream day, but come on. For a little perspective, $60,000 is the amount one might spend on two (or even three) cars, or the down payment (assuming 20 percent) on a $300,000 condo. Or about 16,000 Starbucks chai lattes.

Is it possible that the data is wrong? Well, it’s from, which means that the only respondents were the type of wedded folks who would use a large chunk of people, but one that I’d guess skews upward in terms of economic status. It also assumes that the average couple is buying a $6,000 engagement ring, and factors that into the cost of the wedding. In other words, before you feel bad about not keeping up with the (very expensive) Joneses, know that this data might be a bit flawed.

Even so, looking at the data set internally, this puts Chicago fourth on the list of most expensive places to wed, right below Manhattan, Long Island and New Jersey. Other fun tidbits from the survey?

– 8 percent of weddings had fireworks displays.

– In case you think you’re unique, 78 percent of weddings had photo booths.

– September and October are the most popular months for weddings.

– Grooms are pathetically cheaping out, spending an average of just $280 in clothing. If you’re spending thousands of dollars on the big day, you can buy a nicer suit, guys.

All this being said, what happens if, say, you don’t happen to have $60,000 sitting around with nothing better to do? Are you doomed to perpetual engagement? Here are a few ad hoc tips, from my recent experience, for Chicagoans who might not want to spend their entire life savings on a wedding. I’m not a wedding planner (or even a person who reads wedding magazines!) but somehow, I managed to spend less than the price of a Toyota on my wedding. Here were my tricks:

Get Out of Town

This was my number one money saver, though it does make things slightly more complicated. I got married at Journeyman Distillery in Michigan, which is a gorgeous and reasonably-priced venue. The average venue (not in Chicago, but nationally) will run you about $16,000. I paid less than 1/5 of that price.

Get Married Out of Season

January weddings save a fortune. Now, you also risk blizzards and people refusing to travel so soon after Christmas, but if your guests can’t brave a little snow, do you really want them there? If you’re not quite that brave, still consider an out of season affair to save a little money.

Be Creative With Your Catering

Don’t assume that you have to use an established wedding caterer for your meal, especially if your venue will let you pick your own. The national average catering price per person is about $71. By using Pleasant House, I kept it below $30 a head. Plus, I got to brag that my wedding caterer was featured in Bon Appétit. Try a food truck wedding. Order from a fast casual restaurant and spend extra to have it plated up nicely. There are a ton of ways to do it and trust me, your guests will like it more than warmed-over $70 a plate chicken.

Be Gay

Seriously. No wedding dress (average price $1500), probably fewer flowers (average price $2534) and a little bit easier time convincing your friends and family that non-traditional wedding traditions involving less spending are OK. I’m kidding, but point is, don’t do anything, especially if it costs money, if you’re not into it. Want to skip the cake or the garter or the favors or the huge wedding party? Just skip it.

Get Married At Some Kind of Food Producer

Pick your poison: winery, distillery, farm, brewery. Whichever you pick, getting married someplace that makes something you’ll consume during the wedding is likely to be way cheaper, more interesting and more fun. If you pick a drink maker, they’re also less likely to have restricted catering and it’s extra-easy to create fun giveaways for your guests.

If you want to, and can afford to, spend $60,000, go right ahead (though I think it’s kind of nuts). But don’t let the wedding industry convince you that you have to spend anywhere near that kind of money to be happy and feel extra-special.

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