Let's Talk About Averages and Wedding Budgets

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (23/05/2020)
Categories: | Wedding Budget |
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Apricot Ribbon reading
                      Average Wedding Budget over a background of white
                      covered chairs decorated with multicoloured
                      flowers with a river in the backgroundWhat is the "average" wedding budget? Most of us are curious about that. And, I'm willing to bet I'm not the only person who has gone OMG when reading stories about the "average" wedding budget, and how much "on average" couples go over budget. One recent report had it that 4 out of 5 couples (82%) go over budget and that they spend an extra dollar for every 5 dollars originally budgeted (20%).

Time for a little maths talk. But hang in there, I promise, it is so worth it to understand how knowing how the maths works can save you from feeling pressurised to spend a certain amount of money, or guilty if you go over it, or, worse, like a cheapskate if you plan to come in way under!

So, words of advice: Your budget is nobody's business except your own. There are no budget police checking to see if your spend the "average" amount.

Why does the media talk about wedding spends the way it does?

What is interesting is when the press is reporting on the housing market, it doesn't talk about average price of houses. It talks about the median price. While both average and median are what the statisticians call measures of central tendency, that is, both average and median represent the middle of a set of numbers, there is a difference, and that difference is important. For one simple reason. Averages normalise, and that matters.

When we are told that something is the average, it tends to become a benchmark, to feel normal. Which gives it some emotional clout.  The press and the industry concerned will likely use average when it wants to influence behaviour (or express outrage), and median when it just wants to convey information that, over time, could be useful in plotting trends. It is easy to find out what the median house price in any suburb is. Wedding budget information tends to be for much larger geographical areas. So, for example, most of the stories you will read about the average wedding budget will specify Australia, but may not actually be explicit about where in Australia. Capital city or small country town, for example. It makes a huge difference!

What is "average" and how do you work it out?

To find the average wedding budget you add up what each individual couple's total budget was and then divide the total by the number of couples.  Sounds simple. And it is also the explanation as to why the "average" wedding budget can differ markedly from report to report because it all depends on who is collecting the information and where they found the couples in their sample. (No-one can afford to collect the data from everyone, so they collect from a sample drawn from the larger group). In Australia there are some 120,000 weddings a year. The samples used to calculate the average wedding budget is much much smaller that that. A few thousand couples at most.

These three (hypothetical) examples show how just one figure can alter the average:
Sample A: 5 couples: 10,000 + 14,000 + 15,000, + 20,000 + 28,000 = Average spend of $17,400
Sample B: 5 couples: 10,000 + 14,000 + 15,000, + 20,000 + 60,000 = Average spend of $23,800
Sample C: 5 couples: 2,000 + 14,000 + 15,000, + 20,000 + 28,000 = Average spend of $15,800
Notionally, let's do the maths again, but this time with two hypothetical examples from different parts of the wedding market, budget, and high-end.
Sample D: 5 couples: 2,000 + 3,000 + 5,000, + 6,000 + 7,000 = Average spend of $4,600
Sample E: 5 couples: 20,000 + 30,000 + 50,000, + 60,000 + 70,000 = Average spend of $46,000

What is median and how do you work it out?

The median is the value (when talking about budgets this will be the dollar amount), of whatever it is that you're measuring that lies smack back in the middle. It is not affected by either very small or very large numbers. In all three of the Samples A, B, and C, the median budget is $15,000,
Sample A: 5 couples: 10,000 + 14,000 + 15,000 + 20,000 + 28,000 = Average $17,400 Median $15,000
Sample B: 5 couples: 10,000 + 14,000 + 15,000 + 20,000 + 60,000 = Average $23,800 Median $15,000
Sample C: 5 couples: 2,000 + 14,000 + 15,000 + 20,000 + 28,000 = Average $15,800 Median $15,000

Where the sample is drawn from is important, as is when the data was collected

When it comes to average spend, where the sample is drawn from, and how big it is can make a huge difference to the final figure. The latest annual ASIC survey of 3,300 marrying couples around Australia, reported on the Australian government Moneysmart website, came up with a figure of $36,000. whereas the Bride to Be magazine survey came up with an average cost of $65,452. One can only assume that a high-end bridal magazine would be sampling its readers, which would very likely not include those many couples who have a simple backyard wedding with a handful of friends and loved ones. Not only that, if you live in outback Queensland and the couples surveyed all got married in Sydney or Melbourne, the results are not relevant to your situation. When the survey took place is also relevant..

What's the take-home message?

Ask lots of questions to determine the source of the data on which the reported averages are based
  • Who collected the data?
  • Where was the data collected?
  • How big was the sample?
  • What was the spread? (that is lowest and highest spend)
When you get married, whether or not you have a wedding, and what sort of wedding you have is optional. The past few months of COVID-19 restrictions have ably demonstrated that. Whether you spend more than the "average", less than the "average", or bang on the "average", you'll be no less married.

More information about how to rein in your wedding budget

Thanks for reading!

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