How much does the average wedding cost?

The cost of weddings has always been a topic at the front of many couples minds. But what are some of the costs and what does this mean to your wedding budget?

No two weddings are identical. No two couples are the same and this is often reflected in the total cost of your wedding.   

For this post I’m going to combine my 19 years as a wedding photographer with a couple of  wedding surveys to give a pragmatic perspective on the expenses encountered for your special day.  

I know as a wedding photographer you might be wondering what I know about budgeting for your wedding, but the fact is that I attend over 50 weddings a year. Many Brides and Grooms become my close friends after their wedding and I happen to have married my soul mate just over 7 years ago.  

One thing that I’ve seen can have a negative impact on your wedding day is capitulation to other people’s needs. Yes, you’re bringing together family and friends. Of course there are obligations throughout your family and social circles, but ultimately you are the couple getting married – and inviting your aunt’s cousin’s dog-walker might appease your aunt but it might not help your budget!  

It’s your day and no one else’s.  

The National Wedding Survey by www.hitched.com revealed the average cost of a wedding in the UK in 2021, which I’ll use as a basis for this post.   

The survey provides a breakdown of how many couples turned to the bank of mum and dad, and how much of the total cost parents contributed to – something that some couples are lucky enough to avail of. 

Please note that wedding vendors across Northern Ireland don’t tend to publish or conduct surveys of wedding couples, so most of the data out there comes from the mainland UK. Costs of vendors in Northern Ireland might be higher or lower than some of the examples I’m giving, but just use them as a rough guide and you’ll be on the right lines.  

The average wedding in the UK in 2021 cost £17,300 

This is 90% up on the average cost of a wedding in 2020, which was £9,100 – but covid threw a spanner in the works for couples and we thank goodness that we’re putting this behind us.  

I’m noticing in 2022 that people are keen to get their families and friends together in larger groups, thanks again to covid restrictions lifting.

Finally, most air travel is allowed and so those relatives from distant lands can hop on a flight to Northern Ireland and not face restrictions when they arrive, which is great news for couples and the wedding industry as a whole. 

The average wedding cost breakdown  

According to www.nimblefins.co.uk, here are the main costs associated with a wedding:  

Wedding Costs  Lower Range  Middle  Upper Range 
Wedding & Reception Venue  £500  £7,600  £10,000 
Catering (food)  £1,500  £2,275  £8,000 
Catering (drink)  £400  £1,050  £5,000 
Dress  £350  £1,300  £3,000 
Photography and video  £500  £2,000  £4,000 
Entertainment  £200  £1,000  £2,000 
Flowers  £250  £500  £2,000 
Engagement and Wedding rings  £250  £3,000  £10,000 
Cake  £200  £500  £2,000 
Transportation  £0  £500  £1,500 
Stationary  £-  £500  £350 
Attendant’s outfits  £-  £350  £800 
Groom’s suit  £50  £500  £800 
Mother-of-the-bride outfit  £-  £200  £400 
Hair and makeup  £80  £150  £1,000 
Headdress and/or veil  £30  £70  £250 
Shoes  £50  £100  £400 
Other wedding jewellery  £40  £100  £500 
Gifts  £-  £250  £1,000 
Ceremony fees  £57  £200  £300 
Decoration  £175  £350  £2,500 
Honeymoon  £1,250  £4,500  £10,000 
Hen party  £200  £470  £800 
Stag party  £200  £550  £1,000 
Total Wedding Costs  £4,632  £22,495  £55,800 
Honeymoon  £1,250  £4,500  £10,000 
Hen party  £200  £470  £800 
Stag party  £200  £550  £1,000 
Total Costs, incl. wedding, honeymoon, stag/hen dos  £6,282  £28,015  £67,600 

There isn’t an actual limit and you can spend literally hundreds of thousands of pounds if you want to go for a top luxury destination wedding! 

 Your Wedding Venue

Couples who married in 2021 paid on average £7,600 to hire their dream wedding venue. 

Many couples suspended their plans from 2020 and have been saving money by not going on holiday – this has meant that many couples have been better positioned to financially achieve their desired venue. This is the bulk of your costs, especially when combined with paying for guest’s food. 

Your Wedding Photographer

I’m obviously a huge advocate of couples hiring a wedding photographer!  

The hitched survey put the average photographer cost at £1200. This may take into account budget photographers that I’ve written about here. 

I keep my eye on what wedding photographers are charging, but set my rates independently.   

I’d say that the average wedding photographer in Northern Ireland charges between £1500 and £1800, depending on their offering.

Hiring a wedding photographer captures those moments for you to look back on forever, so it makes sense that this is going to be a portion of your expenses. Thankfully, many wedding photographers offer different packages – so you can make the most of your desired budget.  

Your Wedding Videographer

Wedding videography is becoming more popular with each year that I’m in the industry.

It also seems to be the ‘nice-to-have’ and ‘first-to-get-dropped’ of the many services that wedding couples choose.

I’m 100% biased in my opinion that you need both a photographer and videographer at your wedding. I’d say that the average wedding videographer in Northern Ireland charges between £1250 and £1600, again this depends on their packages.

With the rise of social media, sharing your wedding video and photographs is simple, and a great way to show off your day to those who couldn’t make it.

In my opinion a wedding video can capture emotions, songs, and speeches in a unique way that you’ll be able to treasure forever. At the same time I understand that with your budget you need to draw the line somewhere.

Catering for Wedding Guests

Catering forms another huge part of your wedding day, and often these costs are fixed by your venue. This can often make certain venues unattainable to certain couples who might be feeling the pinch at the minute. I’ve noticed a lot of wedding couples choose a venue purely based on the cost – placing their budget as the most important factor in this decision.  

The average catering cost was £3.887 in 2021. This is an average cost of £65 per head on food. The average number of guests was 72, and I expect that 2022 will show a rise in this number once the statistics are in. 

Types of Ceremony

What kind of ceremony you choose can also have a big impact on costs.  

Registry costs are anywhere between £50 and £300 per time.  

A Humanist ceremony can cost around £600. I’m a big fan of humanist ceremonies and see them growing in popularity year on year. Many couples want their story to be part of the day, and humanist ceremonies give them just this.  

Wedding Ceremony Cost 

Technically, you can get married for as little as £57 (£46 for the ceremony and £11 for the marriage certificate). Of course this doesn’t allow for guests, flowers, food or anything – but it can be done and I’ve seen couples spend a little on a registry ceremony, and spend more on their wedding photography and videography as their biggest expense. 

Of course, you can choose other settings but they will cost more. 


Ceremony Costs   
Registry Office  £57 
Church Ceremony (home parish)  £512 
Church of Ireland (home parish)  £560 
Other Venues (low end)  £200 
Other Venues (high end)  £1,500 


Wedding Planners 

I can honestly say that in all of my years of photographing weddings, I’ve never met a bad wedding planner. Every one of them has been fantastic to work with on the day and I’ve never heard any complaints from wedding couples. Their prices, and involvement, can vary so much that it’s hard to get an average cost of one. Sometimes brides and grooms find that planning their own wedding can be stressful – especially at first. It’s a number of big decisions at first, with most of the interactions happening online and culminating in paying big invoices. It might not be until you’re meeting face-to-face with vendors and making those small choices (such as colours and gifts) that you start to really enjoy the process as a couple. Stick with it!  

Say Yes To The Wedding Dress 

My top tips for the wedding dress are: 

Only try on dresses that are within your budget. It’s easy to get wowed by that extra special sparkly number that is all you’ve ever wanted. Once you put it on and mum’s tears flow it will be harder to say no and this might eat into a portion of your budget that you hadn’t planned for – leading to having to scale down in other areas.  

Take your time when choosing the right wedding dress.

I spoke to Leah Alexander of LA Bridal, Carrickfergus (www.labridalhouse.co.uk), Northern Ireland. Her top tip is:

“Some bridal stores often have sample sales, where dresses are reduced in price. Rather than trying to buy online and risking not getting the right style, or even risking fakes, you can ensure that the bridal shops are selling you the genuine designer dresses.”  

 Wedding Rings 

I know a number of men who are practical, work with their hands and don’t want to break the bank when it comes to buying their ring. It’s not that we don’t love our wedding rings – we really do, it’s just that we don’t want to scratch something that is expensive!

I handle cameras all day and love a bit of gardening – if my wedding ring was a top-notch diamond wedding ring then I’d be more likely to take it off during certain days – and this would increase the risk of me loosing my wedding ring!  

Obviously, the brides rings are often more expensive. I see a lot of grooms putting in some extra overtime shifts to get their brides the ring that they want  – and this is often separate to the main wedding fund. 

Average Wedding Ring Costs 

Wedding Ring Type  Low  Mid  High (with diamonds) 
9ct White, Yellow or Rose Gold  £150  £400  £2,250 
18ct White, Yellow or Rose Gold  £300  £600  £2,500 
Platinum  £450  £1,250  £2,950 

Bank Of Mum And Dad 

The survey also showed that the majority of couples were given money by family or friends to help them pay for their wedding. It reported that parents pay an average 61% of the wedding cost (time to get mum and dad over for Sunday lunch more than usual!). 

One thing that I sometimes remind couples is that friends and family could also give you cash on the day in place of a present – and this can go towards those little extras after the wedding such as a print photo album, or an extended wedding video edit. It can take a little bit of the burden away and help couples can get exactly what they want. 

Almost half of the couples surveyed said that they had over-spent their budget. 

This is totally understandable. The small things can soon add up. Want a band? Need a harpist? Fancy an Irish dance show to get everyone up on their feet on their way to your photo booth? When taken separately these can look like small costs, but when combined and added with a reception drink for each guest, you’re suddenly costing yourself a few thousand pounds more.  

Tips for Saving 

Based on my own personal experience, I’d say that the number one tip I have for saving for your wedding day is to put your wedding savings separate – rather than keeping your funds together. This improves your budget awareness, and spurs you on to keep up the good work when you see the numbers rise.

This also gives you a little more of a barrier from dipping into your wedding savings fund for that much needed car repair! 

 A summary of a Nimblefins.com survey showed: 

  • The proportion of couples wanting to spend no more than £10,000 on their wedding has increased from 28% in 2020, to 31% in 2021.  
  • Those spending between £10,000 and £20,000 has decreased from 35% in 2020, to 32% in 2021 and 28% in 2022. 

 This to me seems like simple economics – people are feeling the squeeze. Whilst the cost of living crisis is affecting us all, there are still those couples out there who may be fortunate enough to financially protect their wedding budget – whilst there are plenty of couples who are being money conscious right now out of necessity.  

Paying for your Wedding 

However you plan on paying for your wedding, and however much you are wanting to spend – just give it some thought in good time. By the time your budget starts to spiral out of control, it’s too late, and a little planning can go a long way.  

There are plenty of budget calculators online like this one – some are free if you take a look around. Give them a go and drop me a comment about which one you think works best for your needs. 

I hope this has given you a valuable insight into just what some of the spending goes towards for your day.


Thanks for reading!

For more insights, venues and tips for your perfect wedding day check out my blog. 

Want to know about my style as a wedding photographer? Here’s a link to my portfolio.  

I cover Ireland, Northern Ireland and destination wedding photography for couples who want to remember their special day in a special way. For more information just get in touch, I look forward to hearing from you.  


Mark Barnes 

Award winning wedding photographer, Northern Ireland. 

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