What 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
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
that is, both average and median give represent the
middle of a set of data, 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.
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
Sample B: 5 couples: 10,000 + 14,000 + 15,000
+ 20,000 + 60,000 = Average $23,800
Sample C: 5 couples: 2,000 + 14,000 + 15,000
+ 20,000 + 28,000 = Average $15,800
Where the sample is
drawn from is important, as is when the data was
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
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
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
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