10 Best Cities for an Affordable Wedding

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on SmartAsset.com.

When planning a wedding, the costs can add up pretty quickly. There’s the venue, the music, the photographer, the catering, and the outfits and adornments, among other common expenses. While the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. fell to $19,000 in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Knot says that American couples spent an average $28,000 on weddings just one year earlier. Keeping this in mind, SmartAsset examined data to identify and rank the best U.S. cities to host a wedding.

For our 2021 study, we considered data for 97 of the largest U.S. cities across nine different metrics: average wedding cost, number of religious organizations, parkland acreage, number of catering businesses, number of hairdressers/clothing professionals (tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers), number of wedding service providers (floral designers, photographers and musicians), number of dining and entertainment venues, property crime rate and violent crime rate. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section at the end.

This is SmartAsset’s fifth study on the best cities for an affordable wedding. Read the 2020 version here.

1. Nashville, TN

Nashville, Tennessee
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Nashville, Tennessee, once again ranks at the top of our list in part because it has nearly 82 religious organizations for every 100,000 residents, the most out of any city in our study. Nashville also has the second-highest number of floral designers, photographers and musicians, with more than 79 for every 100,000 residents. Music City ranks in the top 10 for dining and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents (79.12) and parkland acreage per 1,000 residents (50.22 acres). Meanwhile, an average Nashville wedding cost $20,054 in 2020, the 23rd-lowest out of the 97 cities in our study.

2. New Orleans, LA

New Orleans, Louisiana at night
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New Orleans, Louisiana, has the fourth-lowest average wedding cost ($16,503) and fourth-highest number of catering businesses (10.25 for every 100,000 residents) on our list. The Big Easy also ranks sixth-best for dining and entertainment establishments, with more than 395 for every 100,000 residents, as well as seventh-best for parkland acreage, with 71.19 acres per 1,000 residents. However, New Orleans sits near the bottom of the list for its relatively high property crime rate (90th) and violent crime rate (85th).

3. St. Louis, MO

St. Louis, Missouri
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Weddings in St. Louis, Missouri, cost an average of $24,152, which ranks the city 52nd out of the total 97 cities in the study. But this city also has nearly 14 catering businesses for every 100,000 residents, the best overall for that metric. St. Louis has the fourth-highest number of religious organizations and ninth-highest number of hairdressers, tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers per 100,000 residents. However, the city ranks second-to-last for relatively high property crime and violent crime rates.

4. Omaha, NE

Omaha Nebraska
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On average, getting married in Omaha, Nebraska, will cost you $22,865, which is more affordable than in 50 other cities on our list. This city also has the third-highest number of clothing providers for every 100,000 residents (more than 166) and the 21st-highest number of dining and entertainment establishments for every 100,000 residents (more than 275).

5. Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
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Weddings in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, cost an average of $19,625 in 2020, the 19th-lowest average in the study. The city also ranks in the top 20 for the number of religious organizations for every 100,000 residents (about 63) and acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents (about 28).

6. Henderson, NV

Henderson, Nevada aerial photo
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While Las Vegas is nicknamed the marriage capital of the world, Henderson – located approximately 20 minutes southeast by car – is the most affordable city to get married in Nevada. The average wedding there costs $17,545, the fifth-lowest out of all 97 cities in our study. While Henderson ranks in the bottom three of the study for the number of religious organizations, it has the 16th-highest number of acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents (about 29), as well as the 20th-highest number of floral designers, photographers and musicians (almost 48 for every 100,000 residents).

7. Lincoln, NE

Lincoln, Nebraska
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Lincoln, Nebraska, has the third-highest number of floral designers, photographers and musicians for every 100,000 residents (71.31). A wedding in this city costs $21,808 on average, which is 34th out of 97 cities for that metric. Lincoln also ranks in the top 30 for both its relatively low violent crime rate as well as its relatively high number of religious organizations, with 56.41 for every 100,000 residents.

8. Kansas City, MO

Kansas City, Missouri
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Kansas City is the second Missouri city in the top 10 of our study. An average wedding there costs $19,926, the 21st-lowest price tag for this metric. Kansas City has the 10th-highest number of religious organizations overall, with almost 69 for every 100,000 residents. It also has the 14th-highest number of parkland acres for every 1,000 residents (35.88).

9. Cleveland, OH

Cleveland, Ohio
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Cleveland, Ohio, is one of five Midwestern cities in our top 10. An average wedding there cost $19,835 in 2020, which is less than 77 other cities on our list. Cleveland also has more hairdressers, tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers for every 100,000 residents (193.32) than any other city.

10. Denver, CO

Denver Colorado
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Denver, Colorado, rounds out the top 10 with just over 156 hairdressers, tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers for every 100,000 residents, which is the fourth-best for that metric. With an average wedding costing $22,177, the Mile High City also ranks in the top half of cities for that metric, and is 10th-best in the number of catering businesses for every 100,000 residents.

Data and Methodology

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To find the best cities to plan an affordable wedding, we looked at data for 97 of the largest U.S. cities across the following nine 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 2020.
  • Religious establishments per 100,000 residents. This factor includes the number of local synagogues, mosques and churches. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 Business Patterns Survey.
  • Acres of public parkland per 1,000 residents. Data comes from the Trust for Public Land’s 2020 Acreage and Park System Highlights.
  • Catering companies per 100,000 residents. Data come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 Business Patterns Survey.
  • Hairdressers, tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2020 Occupational Employment Survey.
  • Floral designers, photographers and musicians per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2020 Occupational Employment Survey.
  • Dining and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 Business Patterns Survey.
  • Property crime rate. This considers the number of property crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI and is for 2019.
  • Violent crime rate. This measures the number of violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI and is for 2019.

First, we ranked each city in each metric. From there, we averaged the rankings, giving a half weight to the two crime-related factors, a double weight to the wedding cost factor and 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.

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