Today, how much you have to spend on your wedding depends on how much you have to spend. This amount is a combination of three sources of money: individual savings (bride’s and groom’s); the amount which can be set aside from current income; and contributions from parents or other loved ones. According to Cost of Wedding, “The average wedding cost in the United States is $25,764. Couples, on average, spend between $19,323 and $32,205 but, most couples spend less than $10,000.” How does this compare to wedding budgets of the past? You guessed it, its much higher, but here’s why.
Receptions Were Simpler and Optional
Today, a wedding reception costs around $12,000 - $14,006 on average. This includes the facility, food, drinks and incidentals like tables, chairs and linens. In the past, wedding receptions were optional. If it didn’t fit the budget, it didn’t happen. In fact, the 1961 copy of Check List for a Perfect Wedding, described how the receiving line should be arranged "if there was to be no reception." When receptions were held they were typically much simpler and limited to serving cake and punch or a breakfast reception with family members serving guests.
Home Weddings Were Common
In the past, home weddings were commonplace. This practice was depicted in the 60s TV show, “The Farmer’s Daughter.” Usually, nuptials were exchanged with a few family members and witnesses present. According to the 1879 Wedding etiquette and Usages of Polite Society, talked about home wedding practice stating the couple were to enter the room and face the wedding official. Refreshments were usually served following the ceremony.
|Inger Stevens and William Windom from The Farmer's Daughter|
Parents Role in Paying for the Wedding
Most etiquette books of times past said the bride's parents were responsible for most of the expenses, but this wasn’t the practice across the board. Cultural communities often had other traditions. For instance, in the 1920s, Italian-American grooms were expected to pay for the reception.
One of the biggest differences in wedding budgets in the past was the focus. Today, couples spend significant money on their rings and receptions. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s a standard wedding ring was a band of gold. Couples of the past put their money toward their honeymoons and the place they planned to live following their marriage. So financially, the focus was life following the wedding, not the wedding itself.