While 75% of Americans who planned a wedding in the past five years had a budget in mind, a full 60% of couples underestimated the cost of their wedding.

That’s according to Marcus by Goldman Sachs’ June 2019 Summer Wedding Survey, which aimed to discover “the true cost of walking down the aisle.”

And weddings can be pricey even before going over budget: On average, they cost $33,391 in the U.S., according to a 2018 survey from the Knot.

To get an idea of what it actually looks like to plan and finance a wedding, CNBC Make It spoke to three brides who shared how they budgeted for their big days.

Bride No. 1: Katy

  • Age: 26
  • Location: Aurora, Illinois

How much did your wedding cost?

“I wanted to stay under $30,000 but we ended up spending around $50,000. This was partially due to the location, the number of guests and our taste since we didn’t go ‘cheap’ on things.”

How did you pay for your wedding?

“My budget was loose since my parents paid for our wedding. I initially wanted to save money, but my parents kept adding things to the list and since they were financing our big day, I let them go for it. They paid by way of cash and check entirely, and didn’t use credit at all.”

Did you find the budgeting process stressful?

“Surprisingly, yes, it was stressful. Given that my parents paid, you’d think that would alleviate the stress. However, I was still upset at how much they ended up spending. I wanted to make it easier on them and I was frustrated that I couldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I was relieved and grateful to not have to pay for it myself, but seeing my parents take on the cost was a source of tension.”

“Additionally, the process of having our families come together and have to decide on personal things, like money and who pays for what, was another source of stress that was realized during the process.”

“I wanted to stay under $30,000 but we ended up spending around $50,000. This was partially due to the location, the number of guests, and our taste since we didn’t go ‘cheap’ on things.”

Katy

Bride from Aurora, Illinois

Bride No. 2: Anna

  • Age: 26
  • Location: Watson, Illinois

How much did your wedding cost?

“Our wedding cost around $9,000, and $11,000 was our absolute max. We lost an additional $1,000 security deposit on a venue because we booked too soon and changed our mind, as it didn’t have enough room for the guest list.”

How did you pay for your wedding?

“We paid for it in part with a monetary gift and by taking a part-time job. We tried to pay for everything we could in cash. About $1,000 was put on a credit card.”

Did you find the budgeting process stressful?
“Yes! It was hard to fathom that we paid so much for one day’s party.”

It was hard to fathom that we paid so much for one day’s party.

Anna

Bride from Watson, Illinois

Bride No. 3: Jenna

  • Age: 28
  • Location: Chicago, Illinois

How much did your wedding cost?

“I feel like wedding costs is not the best way to measure the actual costs. I think ‘cost per person’ would be a more helpful way to give brides an idea of what the average amount spent on a wedding actually is. For me, I knew we would have a rather large guest list, which meant I had to cut costs in a lot of other ways.”

“I ended up spending about $25,000 for 175 guests ($143 per person). This included everything from my dress to the alcohol. It does not include the honeymoon.”

How did you pay for your wedding?

“My parents helped with most of it, my in-laws also helped. [My husband] and I paid for the rest. We used mostly our own money, and put some on a credit card.”

Did you find the budgeting process stressful?

“At times, yes. My mother-in-law helped put things in perspective when she said that if you take the costs of the wedding and divide it by your lifetime, it’s actually not that much. I also figured that if I fed 175 people Chipotle and wine from Aldi, it would still be expensive. So I just surrendered to the fact that I would be spending money in a way I haven’t before.”

Editor’s note: Only first names were used to protect the privacy of the subjects in this story.

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Groom and bride embracing.

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