From DoorDash to egg donations: Couples putting in extra work to pay off 2022 wedding costs

  • Couples spent, on average, $34,000 on their 2021 wedding, according to The Knot.
  • Average costs are expected to grow in 2022, according to The Wedding Report.
  • Some couples are having to put in extra work to cover the expenses and avoid going into debt.

Kristen Kluin plans to have her wedding on a Friday to help lower costs. Despite the discounted weekday booking, she still expects to shell out at least $57,000 for the event.

The 32-year-old plans to get married this October in New Jersey, one of the most expensive wedding markets in the country. Glancing over a spreadsheet breaking down her estimated costs, she called the prices "disgusting and overwhelming." 

"When I was first looking for venues, I was silly. I was trying to find somewhere that would be about $100 per plate," Kluin told USA TODAY. "I would go and reach out to that venue, and what was $100 (a year ago) was now easily $180 for that same service, for that same day of the week, for that same tier. It's just really defeating."  

With the national average price tag of a wedding roughly $34,000 as of 2021, couples like Kluin and her fiancé are having to put in extra work to cover costs. 

Kristen Kluin and fiance Robert Samuel during their engagement photoshoot.

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Kluin, a clinical social worker, said she's working an additional 10 hours each week with private clients. Much of the free time she has left is spent on her "third job:" DIYing wedding projects and researching wedding vendors to find the best match at an affordable rate.

"We are looking for a house, so with the spike in the market price for houses, that has severely impacted us," she said, noting that she has about $80,000 remaining in student loans and refuses to go into more debt.

"A lot of times we'll have the thought: Is this wedding worth it?"

Wedding costs in 2022

A report from online wedding marketplace The Knot surveyed more than 15,000 U.S. couples and found they spent, on average, $34,000 on their 2021 wedding, in line with 2019 spend. Those with more than 100 guests paid an extra $4,000 on average.  

Costs varied by region, with the South averaging $26,000 while weddings in the Northeast cost upwards of $36,000 for day-of costs alone. 

Prices are forecast to balloon even more in 2022.

Experts noted that both inflation (the consumer price index rose 7.9% annually in February, the fastest pace since January 1982) and high demand – driven by COVID-19 disruptions – are causing wedding prices to surge this year. 

According to The Knot, nearly half of 2020 weddings were postponed to a later date. That has led to a concentration of bookings this year; research company The Wedding Report says 2022 is set to be the busiest wedding year since 1984.

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Wedding planner Jove Meyer of Jove Meyer Events, a wedding event planning and design business that partners primarily with small businesses owned by women, people of color and queer people, called the 2022 wedding demand "bananas."

Jove Meyer, owner of Jove Meyer Events.

"It went from total famine in the last couple of years to total feast overnight. It's amazing, it's wonderful, but it's not without its challenges," Meyer said. "Labor is so short, and prices are still on the rise."

Barbara Hearne, owner of Barbara's Brides, a wedding planning company in Texas, said she's had to plan more midweek weddings this year because weekends are booked solid. She doesn't expect business to slow any time soon; her 2023 calendar is already booked solid, and 2024 inquiries are already starting to roll in. 

Barbara Hearne, owner of Barbara's Brides in Austin, Texas.

How much more expensive are weddings in 2022?

Data from The Wedding Report shows couples can expect to spend nearly 13% more on their 2022 wedding compared to 2019.   

But some wedding insiders are seeing even higher price jumps. 

Meyer estimates costs for his clients have gone up 20% to 30% since 2019. Hearne estimates wedding costs have gone up at least 30% in that time frame. 

Hearne pointed to gas prices, inflation, supply chain issues and labor shortages as some of the main drivers. 

Alyssa Pettinato, owner of New York-based wedding planning company Alinato Events, said she had to raise her rates after seeing demand spike. She works 15 weddings a year on average. In 2022, she booked nearly 30.

"I'm honestly thinking we're going to need to raise them again for 2023 to help with the workload," she said.

Alyssa Pettinato, owner of wedding planning company Alinato Events.

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How couples are paying for 2022 weddings

Rachel, 26, said she plans to use money from egg donations to help pay for her fall 2023 wedding. 

Rachel, whose last name is being kept private over concerns that sharing her egg donation history could harm her career, said she and her partner expect to pay about $65,000, honeymoon included.  

Rachel has donated eggs four times already, using the money to travel and help put a downpayment on a house. She earned about $12,000 her first time and expects to be compensated roughly $40,000 during her next cycle.

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She said her wedding plans don't hinge on the donation money, but the money will certainly be put to use.

"I have pretty strong feelings that I don't think people should go into debt for a wedding. I certainly don't want to myself," Rachel said. "My current plan is to use my egg donation money since I have this wedding that I want so bad. So that's my plan. If my donations go through this year, then I will have all that money that I need."

A survey of more than 3,000 couples from wedding planning website Zola found 6% have taken on second or third jobs to help cover the cost of their 2022 wedding. About 2% have taken out loans and 8% are optimizing credit cards for their purchases. 

Sarah Hedge, a 2022 bride based in California, started driving for DoorDash to help raise funds for the wedding. 

Sarah Hedge and fiance Michael Boicechovski.

"It's just little things that add up so much that you don't realize," Hedge told USA TODAY. "I saw people were spending like two grand on centerpieces alone and I was like, I can't bring myself to do that."

Hedge originally budgeted for $10,000 but expects the final total will come closer to $12,000 or $13,000. Her weekly DoorDash shifts earn her up to $30 an hour. 

Her earnings have taken a dip in recent weeks as gas prices have skyrocketed, but she said her Hyundai gets good enough mileage for the side gig to still make money. 

"It's super easy, it's been pretty mellow," she said. "I jam music and drive around."

You can follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter @bailey_schulz and follow our free travel newsletter here