10 Most Expensive Places to Get Married

May 28, 2015 by Mike Sauter

Bride and groom figurine on table by champagne flutes
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Bride and groom figurine on table by champagne flutes

 You can’t put a price on love, but you can put a price on marriage, or at least the wedding with which it begins. The average U.S. wedding cost $31,213 in 2014. That’s a lot of money, especially as median household income averaged $52,250 the previous year. Obviously, Americans are willing to spend big bucks for their big day, but what they spend varies enormously from state to state.

Wedding publication The Knot, which also bills itself as top authority on all things wedding, published its annual report, breaking down the average cost of a wedding in various cities, regions, and states in the United States. Not surprisingly, the general location can mean a difference of more than $60,000. The average wedding in Utah cost $15,257, while a ceremony in Manhattan had a final average price tag of $76,328. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the most expensive places to host a wedding.

Click to see the places where weddings are the most expensive

The Knot’s report broke down price differences not just by region, but also by individual items. Such items include the costs of decorations, transportation, the cake, and the hiring of various staff such as photographers, the entertainment, and the ceremony officiant. These individual costs also vary by region, depending on what is available, but by far the biggest cost was the reception venue. On average, booking a venue amounts to nearly 45% of the entire wedding bill. The next largest expense is the reception band, at 11.5%.

The most expensive places to host weddings, therefore, tend to have extremely high venue costs, on average. The average cost of a reception venue across the United States was $14,006. In much of the tri-state area, the cost was at least $10,000 more than that, on average. In Manhattan, a reception venue averaged $30,401.

In the most expensive places to host a wedding, while the venue represented a disproportionate percentage of the total cost, most of the other costs were also among the highest in the country. There were some exceptions, though. The San Francisco Bay Area apparently has very cheap bands available to play at receptions, and wedding planners are among the least costly in the country in Rhode Island. For the most part, however, if couples live in an expensive place and choose to host a wedding there, everything is going to cost more. The reason for this is likely higher regional costs of living in these places. For the locations with available data, all had higher than average costs of living.

The Knot 2014 Real Weddings Study surveyed the participants of thousands of weddings around the country. The cost estimates for each region are based on the average prices for each expense. In the New York metropolitan area, 24/7 Wall St. only listed the most expensive wedding location in the region — Manhattan — despite the fact that parts of the surrounding areas in New York and New Jersey are also in the top 10. 24/7 Wall St. also reviewed 2012 regional price parity (cost of living) from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and 2013 median household income from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey.

These are the most expensive places to get married.

10. South Florida
> Average wedding cost: $38,155
> Cost of reception venue:  $16,968
> Reception venue as pct. of total cost: 44.5%
> Median household income: N/A

Very few of the most expensive wedding destinations in the country are in the South. One exception is South Florida, which includes Miami, where nuptials cost on average $38,155. Not every wedding expense is high in South Florida, but some items are costly. Floral arrangements cost nearly $2,900, which exceeds the national average by more than $700. By contrast, transportation for the wedding party costs $626 on average, which is cheaper than the $767 average for the country as a whole. Some of the most expensive venues in the area include the Tideline Resort in Palm Beach and Casa Marina in Key West.

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9. Boston, Massachusetts
> Average wedding cost: $38,665
> Cost of reception venue: $18,947
> Reception venue as pct. of total cost: 49%
> Median household income: $72,907

New England is home to several of the most expensive regions in the country to host a wedding — and Boston is the most expensive major city in the area. The largest share of the price tag in the city comes from renting the venue, with the bill for that averaging just under $19,000. The average U.S. wedding venue accounts for 44.9% of the total wedding cost, while in Boston, it accounts for 49% of the total cost. Some of the more expensive venues in Boston include the Peabody Essex Museum, the Mansion on Turner Hill, and the Boston Harbor Hotel.

8. Connecticut
> Average wedding cost: $38,925
> Cost of reception venue:  $18,812
> Reception venue as pct. of total cost: 48.3%
> Median household income: $67,098

As a relatively affluent state in New England, it is not surprising that Connecticut is an expensive place to hold a wedding. The average cost per guest is just under $100, compared to $68 nationally. Hiring photographers and entertainers is notably expensive in Connecticut, too. For example, a photographer costs on average of $3,161 compared to a national figure of $2,556, while a DJ costs $1,528 compared to $1,124 nationally. Connecticut wedding venues can range from elegant waterfront mansions, such as the Branford House, to rustic farm-to-table experiences, such as the Barns at Wesleyan Hills.

7. Washington, D.C. Metro Area
> Average wedding cost: $39,025
> Cost of Reception Venue: $17,207
> Reception venue as pct. of total cost: 44.1%
> Median household income: $90,149

Households in the nation’s capital are among the most well off in the country. The median household income in the Washington metro area was $90,149, dramatically higher than the national figure of $52,250. That’s just as well, as some wedding items are particularly expensive, especially when it comes to feeding guests. The average D.C. rehearsal dinner costs $1,746, fourth highest in the country and more than $500 above the national average. A wedding cake costs $659, more than $100 above the national figure.

6. Santa Barbara/Ventura, California
> Average wedding cost: $39,187
> Cost of reception venue:  $15,697
> Reception venue as pct. of total cost: 40.1%
> Median household income: $62,421

The Santa Barbara/Ventura area has the obvious attractions of good weather and proximity to the Pacific Ocean and beaches. The average reception venue is expensive, at more than $15,000. That accounts for just over 40% of the total bill, compared to just under 45% for the average wedding nationally. The reception band is often a bargain, at just $1,900, compared to $3,587 nationwide. However, the average cost of floral decor is $2,715, significantly more than the nationwide figure of $2,141. A simple sunset ceremony can be had at Shoreline Park, on the Santa Barbara bluffs overlooking the ocean and mountains. Couples can also exchange vows on horseback at the Whispering Rose Ranch in nearby Santa Ynez wine country.

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5. San Francisco/Greater Bay Area, California
> Average wedding cost: $39,690
> Cost of reception venue:  $18,381
> Reception venue as pct. of total cost: 46.3%
> Median household income: $79,624
With its thriving technology sector, the annual median income in the Bay Area was a high $79,624, compared to $52,250 nationwide – but it comes with a high cost of living. The average ceremony site costs more than $2,500 compared to $1,901 nationally, while an officiant costs $353 compared to $266 nationally, the seventh most expensive site and officiant costs in the nation. As with other areas in southern California, the band may not be particularly expensive, but the average ceremony musicians costs $818, 8th most expensive in the country.

4. Rhode Island
> Average wedding cost: $41,914
> Cost of reception venue:  $22,371
> Reception venue as pct. of total cost: 53.4%
> Median household income: $55,902

Rhode Island may be the smallest state, but it has some of the biggest wedding expenses. Newport has traditionally been a playground for the rich and famous, and ordinary Americans can now have their weddings in mansions that date back to the Gilded Age. These include such historic venues as the Aldrich Mansion, where John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was married, and the Eisenhower House, which served as the summer White House of the 34th president. The average Rhode Island reception venue costs $22,371, sixth highest in the nation and sharply more than the national average cost of $14,006. Rhode Island venues represent 53.4% of the total wedding cost, the third-highest share in the country. However, other costs are lower. Event planners in Rhode Island cost an average of just $906, which is nearly the lowest of any place considered and more than $1,000 below the national average.

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3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
> Average wedding cost: $44,090
> Cost of reception venue:  $20,351
> Reception venue as pct. of total cost: 46.2%
> Median household income: $60,482

The average cost per head for a Philly wedding is $109, compared to $68 for the country as a whole. A number of expenses rank in the top 10 in Philadelphia, including reception venue, floral and decor, reception band, transportation, and officiant. The morning-after brunch averages $791, fourth-highest in the country, while the photographer costs $3,306, $750 more than the national average. Among the local venues where couples can tie the knot are the Pyramid Club, the riverfront Glen Foerd Mansion; and the Morris Arboretum.

2. Chicago, Illinois
> Average wedding cost: $50,934
> Cost of reception venue: $21,803
> Reception venue as pct. of total cost: 42.8%
> Median household income: $60,564

Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago has the second most expensive wedding cots in the country. The average wedding venue costs $21,803 in Chicago, and other items are pricey too. Chicago ranks in the top five nationally for expenditures such as floral and decor and ceremony musician. There are many hotels and country clubs that host weddings, but couples can also choose off-beat venues such as the Adler Planetarium and the Museum of Science and Industry.

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1. Manhattan, New York
> Average wedding cost: $76,328
> Cost of reception venue: $30,401
> Reception venue as pct. of total cost: 39.8%
> Median household income: $65,786

Getting married in the biggest city in the country also means spending the biggest bucks. In fact, the total cost of an average Manhattan wedding is just under 50% higher than Chicago, the next most expensive city. The average cost per head for a Manhattan wedding is $181, more than twice the national average of $68, and everything from venues to videographers is expensive. The average venue costs $30,401, again more than twice the national figure. A Manhattan melody will also set couples back considerably — a reception band averages more than $8,000, nearly $1,000 more than the next most expensive location. These prices, however, come with some of the most exclusive wedding spots, including the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center and the Boathouse in Central Park. Couples can even get married at the Statue of Liberty.