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best cities for an affordable wedding
If you’re planning on having a wedding to celebrate your union, expenses can add up fast. And, depending on where you live, nuptials can be extremely stressful to plan, since they involve finding vendors for a seemingly endless number of needs. There are some cities, though, where it is better and cheaper to plan a wedding than others. SmartAsset collected and analyzed data to find the best cities in the U.S. to hold your affordable matrimonial festivities.

To find the best place to plan an affordable wedding, we considered nine specific factors: average cost of a wedding, number of religious organizations, amount of parkland, number of catering companies, number of grooming and clothing professionals (hairdressers, tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers), number of wedding service providers (floral designers, photographers and musicians), number of dining and entertainment establishments, property crime rate and violent crime rate. For details on how we gathered and analyzed our data, see the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s third study on the best cities for an affordable wedding. Read the last edition from 2017 here.

Key Findings

  • Ohio is for lovers. There are two cities in the Buckeye State in the top 10 – the only state to have more than one city in the top 10 – so if you are from the Midwest, you may want to look there for a great place to get married on a budget.
  • Party on. Two cities near the top of the list are Nashville and New Orleans, both towns known for their vibrant nightlife scenes. If you’re looking for your wedding to be one big party, these might be good places to have it.

1. Nashville, TN

Nashville, Tennessee takes the top spot in this study. Music City ranks at the top of our study for its number of floral designers, photographers and musicians, with nearly 124 per 100,000 residents. Given the country music scene Nashville is known for, this isn’t surprising. The city also ranks first in terms of religious organizations per 100,000 residents, with more than 81.

The average cost of a wedding in Nashville is $21,254, the 14th-most affordable amount in this study. Nashville also provides you and your betrothed a nice financial incentive for cohabitating: it’s one of the top 20 cities in the nation where having a roommate will save you the most money.

2. St. Louis, MO

St. Louis, Missouri’s biggest selling point is its price. At just $14,562, the Gateway City has the lowest average wedding cost in our study. St. Louis also leads this study in terms of catering companies per 100,000 residents with nearly 13 and comes in second overall for its number of religious organizations, at more than 80 per 100,000 residents. St. Louis is also one of the most undervalued cities in the U.S., a further indication that you’re getting lots of bang for your buck here.

3. New Orleans, LA

New Orleans, Louisiana is next on our list. The Big Easy is a food city, and that manifests in these rankings. It ranks fifth overall for the metric of dining and entertainment establishments, with more than 350 per 100,000 residents and fourth in catering companies with nearly eight per 100,000 residents. If you’re interested in an outdoor wedding, New Orleans ranks sixth in terms of public parkland, with more than 70 acres per 1,000 residents.

The average wedding cost is $20,599, the ninth-most affordable amount of all 85 cities in our study.

4. Cincinnati, OH

The first Ohio city in our top 10 is Cincinnati. The Queen City doesn’t place in the top 10 for any individual metric but does fairly well in all of them. The average cost of a wedding is $23,493. There are 60.95 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents and more than 156 wedding professionals such as hairdressers, tailors and dressmakers per 100,000 residents.

5. Omaha, NE

Omaha, Nebraska is next. This Cornhusker State city is fairly expensive – its $25,611 in average wedding costs ranks toward the middle of this list at 38th overall. Omaha’s number of hairdressers, tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers is a top-10 rate, with more than 178 of these kinds of professionals available per 100,000 residents.

There are approximately 52 religious organizations per 100,000 residents and nearly five caterers per 100,000 residents in Omaha.

6. Denver, CO

The first and only Mountain West city on this list is Denver, Colorado. With more than 337 dining and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents, Denver ranks eighth overall for this metric. The city also has a decent number of hairdressers, tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers, a total of more than 177 per 100,000 residents – the 11th-highest rate for this metric in our entire study. A wedding in Denver costs, on average, $23,489.

7. Cleveland, OH

Cleveland is the second city in Ohio to place in our top 10. The average cost of a wedding in this town is $20,869, the 12th-most affordable in our study. Cleveland also has the second-highest number of hairdressers, tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers in this study, more than 225 per 100,000 residents. It isn’t a great choice for outdoor weddings, though, with only about eight acres of public parkland per 1,000 residents.

8. Louisville, KY

Louisville, Kentucky places eighth in our study and ranks 24th overall for its number of caterers per 100,000 residents, giving you plenty of vendors to choose from when planning your ideal wedding dining options. Louisville ranks 40th overall in terms of violent crime – there are around 647 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 residents. The average cost of a wedding in Louisville is $21,372, which is a top-15 rate. There are around 59 religious institutions per 100,000 residents in the city, which is a top-20 rate.

9. St. Paul, MN

Another Midwestern locale is next – St. Paul, Minnesota. This Twin City has an average wedding cost of $24,513, which still ranks within the top 50% of the entire study. It also has more than 206 hairdressers, tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers per 100,000 residents, the fourth-highest rate for this metric. There is more than 16 acres of public parkland per 1,000 residents, making St. Paul a viable contender for consideration if you’re planning an outdoor wedding (perhaps provided that it’s not too cold). What’s more, St. Paul is also one of the top cities in the U.S. for women in tech jobs, so smart brides can earn plenty of money here to afford their wedding expenses.

10. Philadelphia, PA

The final city in our roundup is also the only major East Coast city to crack the top 10 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The City of Brotherly Love has an average wedding cost of $20,557, the eighth-lowest amount in the study. It also has the third-highest number of hairdressers, tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers per 100,000 residents – around 213.

Data and Methodology

To find the best cities to plan an affordable wedding, we looked at the largest 85 cities in the country. Specifically, we looked at the following metrics:

  • Average cost of a wedding. This metric includes the cost of everything from the food and decorations to the entertainment and the wedding venue. Data is from www.theweddingreport.com and is for 2018.
  • Religious establishments per 100,000 residents. This factor includes the number of local synagogues, mosques and churches. Data comes from the 2016 Business Patterns Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Acres of public parkland per 1,000 residents. Data comes from the Trust for Public Land’s 2019 City Park Facts report.
  • Catering companies per 100,000 residents. Data come from the 2016 Business Patterns Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Hairdressers, tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2018 Occupational Employment Survey.
  • Floral designers, photographers and musicians per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2018 Occupational Employment Survey.
  • Dining and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the 2016 Business Patterns Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Property crime rate. This considers the number of property crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI and is for 2017.
  • Violent crime rate. This measures the number of violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI and is for 2017.

First, we ranked each city in each metric. From there, we averaged the rankings, giving a half-weight to the two crime-related factors, double weight to the wedding cost factor and a full weight to the remaining factors. We then created an index and gave each city a score between 0 and 100. The city with the highest ranking received a score of 100 while the lowest ranking received a score of 0.

Tips on Managing Your Money

  • Wedding planner meets financial planner. If you’re responsible for planning a big event like a wedding, consider getting some help. You’ve found your soulmate, but you also need another need another kind of match. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard, though. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Commit to a budget. You can also consider setting up a budget where you set aside money for your wedding. Get help from SmartAsset’s free budget calculator.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/cokada

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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