The price of weddings has gone up. Again. Now, a survey by a national bridal magazine shows, people will spend upwards of $54,000 on their nuptials.

money marriage image

When economics journalist Jessica Irvine wrote about her wedding while still at Fairfax Media last year, the average cost was about $35,000.

That was Only. Last. Year. The current rate of inflation is 2.2 per cent. A $19,000 increase is well in excess of that at 54.2%. And annual GDP growth sits at about 2.6 per cent – so it’s not like we’re all suddenly much better endowed and able to spend big on dowries.

So how did the average price of a wedding rise so much, so soon? Are the rich spending more and so lifting the total for everyone? Are we spending more in general? Or did the sneaky merchants of matrimony somehow figure out how to jack their prices up by half?


Whatever the reason, it seems like a ridiculous price to pay for one big day. Especially when you consider what else you can buy for $54,000.

Like a house.

RP Data says the median price for houses in the capital cities of Australia is $490,000. Various banks suggest 5 to 20 per cent of the house price is good enough for a deposit. Is the price of a wedding really worth your own home?

And $54,000 is also about 64 per cent of the average Australian wage. Of course, if we’re talking couples, that means a larger income pool to draw on (do the bride’s parents still foot the bill?).

But even if a couple is sharing the cost, and presuming they’re each earning the average wage, a wedding could equate to 35 per cent of their combined annual income. That means one third of all the work they do in one year is devoted to a ceremony and reception that runs roughly as long as one working day. In other words, each party would need a job that paid about $3300 an hour to make the whole exercise worth a day’s work.

Chances of that? Pretty slim.

So what’s the point? Why spend so much on a wedding? And keep in mind that an average is only calculated on a sum of parts. Some people spend far more on their bridal bash than the paltry $54,000.

Yet, as someone planning a wedding, I know how easy it is to part with the cash. Even for a small, intimate gathering such as ours – although our costs may have something to do with a guestlist comprising journalists and political types and two families who know how to enjoy good champagne.

And why shouldn’t your wedding be a big celebration? Why shouldn’t you afford yourselves and your guests the pleasure of nice food and drink and fragrant, tastefully arranged centrepieces? You’re only going to do it once, right? May as well do it in a dress that fits and looks fantastic, in a place as memorable as your vows, with cake they can eat, with pleasure, till the small hours of a momentous occasion. Hang the cost and enjoy the celebration!

You won’t live to regret it. Right?

Well, I know a couple who did. They had sunk tens of thousands of dollars they didn’t really have into a wedding they didn’t really want. The debt they carried almost destroyed their relationship, not to mention the relationships they shared with the family and friends who set the standard so high. They are still paying for one day years later, in more ways than one. They’ll make it through because they love each other deeply. And they didn’t need a big wedding to prove it.

And that’s the point. A wedding isn’t a marriage. A wedding is a ceremony that officiates the union between two people. Specifically, a man and a woman in Australia’s current, narrow view. A wedding is also a great excuse for a party. But a party that costs as much as a very nice new car? Or luxury round-the-world trip? Is it wise to pour so much money into just one day?

Ultimately how much money is spent on a wedding is a decision every couple should make for itself. It’s a decision that should be balanced against their future together, not the immediate expectations of everyone around them. It’s about living within one’s means, not how one wishes one could.

We do need to put a stop to this culture that demands overspending. Far better to cultivate a community that values the bigger, deeper meaning of now and forever than the flashy, splashy blingy things that have become hitched to the sentiment.

Yet the cost keeps going up.

Have we lost the battle?


HS Signature Green on white

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *