7 Reasons Couples Spend So Much on Weddings (And How You Can Save on Yours)

Discover why weddings in Dubai can be so costly and gain expert insights on starting your savings today.

Wedding days are supposed to mark the beginning of a blissful future, so why do people spend so much on weddings, breaking the bank to make their big day perfect, even if it means going into debt?

The amount of money spent on modern weddings can quickly put a damper on the celebration. In the UAE, the average cost of a wedding is over AED 200,000. Indian weddings average AED 400,000, and many exceed AED 1 million. 

Where does all this money go? 

Damien Arthur, Australian Associate Professor of Marketing in Abu Dhabi, says, “The cultural, social, and family pressure to create a memorable event is fierce and has resulted in increasingly elaborate and luxurious weddings.”

Briefly speaking, social pressure, expectations for a perfect day, competition with other couples, personal preferences, and the wedding industry itself all contribute to the high cost of weddings.

With thoughtful wedding planning and some curated money-saving tips for Dubai, couples can have a beautiful and meaningful celebration without going into debt. Here are the main reasons weddings cost so much, along with tips to spend smart in the UAE. 

  1. The guest list drives up big wedding costs
  2. Lavish venues are a major splurge
  3. Feeding a big wedding gets pricey
  4. The wedding dress and attire add up
  5. The wedding planning process drives "wedding creep"
  6. Dream locations can mean destination wedding costs
  7. Lavish extras are nice but not essential

Plus, we’ll discuss the following

  1. How do you afford your dream ring?
  2. Make weddings about marriage, not just a single day
  3. Frequently asked questions

[While planning your wedding day, make saving a regular habit and visually track the growth of your savings through MALY, the money-saving mobile application made for the UAE market.]

1. The guest list drives up big wedding costs

The number of guests is one of the biggest factors in wedding expenses. Catering, venue, decor, and entertainment all scale up with a lot of people. For instance, it's common for Arab weddings to have an extensive guest list of over 500 people. 

It's easy to end up with hundreds of guests when factoring in extended family members,  in-laws, parents' friends, co-workers, childhood pals, and more. However, keeping the invitees list modest is key to an affordable wedding.

UAE Money saving tips

Focus the guest list on the closest family and friends. As a general rule of thumb, aim for 100 guests or fewer if you want a small wedding. Be honest with parents and family about any plans for an intimate wedding from the start so they understand why some extended family may not make the cut.

2. Lavish venues are a major splurge

Classic Arab wedding venues, such as five-star hotels and lavish event halls, quickly drive up costs, with rental fees alone easily running AED 6,000 to 15,000 per hour. Even more modest event halls or country clubs have an average cost of AED 2,000 to 5,000 per hour.

It's easy to fall in love with a fairytale ballroom or elite venue during wedding planning. However, letting the venue budget get out of control sets the tone for an overly expensive wedding.

UAE Money saving tips

Consider more affordable venues, such as parks, banquet halls, restaurants, or community centers. Hosting the wedding at your parents' house can eliminate venue fees.

If you have your heart set on a specific luxury hotel, ask if they can offer discounts for off-peak days or opt for a smaller ballroom.

3. Feeding a big wedding gets pricey

Catering costs typically account for 40-50% of a wedding budget in the UAE, averaging AED 300 or more per plate. With a guest list of 200 people, couples can expect to spend AED 60,000 or more on food alone.

It's easy to get carried away by adding luxury extras like seafood stations, midnight buffets, top-shelf liquor, and multiple entree options. However, all these catering add-ons drive up the bill exponentially.

UAE Money saving tips

Pick 2 to 3 main dishes to avoid excessive catering costs. Opt for budget-friendly cuisine like biryani or local dishes over lobster and filet mignon. Classic favorites like biryani, ouzi, and harees can also offer delicious local cuisine at a fraction of the cost.

For beverages, offer high-end Arabic coffee, teas, and juice blends as a classy yet cost-effective alternative to a wide buffet selection. Brunch weddings also naturally limit food costs to lighter, cheaper breakfast and lunch dishes.

4. The wedding dress and attire add up

Why do people spend so much on wedding gowns? Finding the perfect dress can feel priceless, but brides should consider the cost before starting their search. Wedding gowns and wedding attire for both families typically account for 10-15% of total wedding costs.

Indian weddings are known for their lavish attire, with the bride's ornate lehenga or sari alone costing AED 50,000-100,000. High-end Western gowns run AED 10,000 or more, even for simple styles. The groom needs to budget AED 2,000-5,000 for his elegant sherwani or suit.

Then, add attire for parents, attendants, siblings, and extended family members – it all contributes to a hefty clothing bill.

UAE Money saving tips

The bride has lots of options to save on her wedding dress. She can wear a mother's or sister's gown, find used dresses at local shops, or even rent a dress just for the big wedding day.

For the groom, renting a formal sherwani or bandhgala jacket saves substantially over purchasing one. Borrowing accessories like special shoes, turbans, and jewelry from family and friends is another great way to cut clothing costs.

For wedding parties, encourage simple, affordable outfits that can be worn again, like salwar kameez or sarees for bridesmaids. Offer to cover just part of the cost as a compromise if needed.

5. The wedding planning process drives "wedding creep"

Shaden Abdulrahman, Communications and Media Specialist in Dubai describes her wedding plan process by saying, “Driving around the city with my fiancé looking for a suitable wedding venue, driving more to find a florist, asking friends for advice on the best makeup artists in town, best wedding dresses shops, visiting exhibitions, comparing prices, opening one hundred Websites on my laptop looking here and there. It was exhausting, to say the least, not to mention time-consuming.”

During the wedding planning process, expenses have a way of creeping up. Minor upgrades here, special additions there – they all add up fast.

Wedding planners caution couples before the big day that extra costs inevitably come up for elements that may not have been initially budgeted for. Wedding favors, signage, lighting, and stationery quickly increase expenses.

UAE Money saving tips

Add in a 10-15% buffer in the initial wedding planning budget for these "hidden" expenses that sneak up. Avoid going over that buffer to control wedding creep.

Prioritize necessities first, then spend on extras only if there's room in the budget. DIY elements like signage and favors to save substantially. It can also help to stay motivated with inspirational quotes about saving money.

6. Dream locations can mean destination wedding costs

There's no question that destination weddings in exotic locales like Greece, Italy, or Thailand sound incredibly romantic. However, far-flung wedding locations drastically increase travel costs for both the couple and potentially their guests.

Destination weddings require paying for flights, hotels, resort fees, visas, etc. They also limit any ability to bring food, drinks, and decor to pay premium prices at the resort or venue.

UAE Money saving tips

Realize that you are already in a top destination! Dora Hrkac, an Official Member of Forbes Communications Council in the UAE, says, “destination weddings are in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to make Dubai the world’s most visited destination.”

If a destination wedding is a must, look for destinations with cheap direct flights, like Southeast Asia. Limit guests to absolute VIPs, like immediate family only, to control headcount. 

Deepthi Nair, a Business Journalist at The National UAE, suggests, “As the UAE dirham is pegged to the US dollar, residents can use favorable exchange rates to travel to countries where the purchasing power of the dirham is higher.”

She continues, “With several currencies depreciating against the UAE dirham – such as the Indian rupee, Egyptian pound, Turkish lira, Georgian lari, Sri Lankan rupee, Malaysian ringgit and Kenyan shilling – people in the Emirates are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing affordable countries to visit.”

You could also consider a mini-moon right after the wedding instead of a full destination wedding. Couples will get the benefits of a beach honeymoon without the higher costs and logistics of bringing all guests.

7. Lavish extras are nice but not essential

Many of the costs in modern wedding ceremonies come from lavish extras added to make the day feel over-the-top luxurious, such as photo booths, ice sculptures, musical performances, multiple cake tiers, and large fireworks displays. 

While fun treats, these expensive add-ons are a top reason why people spend so much on weddings. However, they are not essential to a joyful, meaningful wedding. Ultimately, the guests will remember the overall celebration, not every extravagant detail.

UAE Money saving tips

Focus the budget on the crucial elements – food, music, and photography. Then, spend on extras only if there's room in the budget. 

Even small splurges like a s’mores station or popcorn cart feel special without breaking the bank. This special day will still feel amazing without every costly bell and whistle.

How do you afford your dream ring?

For many couples, lavish engagement rings are a huge wedding expense. Diamond rings with large, high-quality stones can easily cost AED 22,000-40,000.

However, there are many ways to get the ring of your dreams on a budget. Savvy couples may spend just AED 5,000-15,000 on a stunning ring by knowing where to save.

UAE Money saving tips

Opt for lab-grown or moissanite stones over pricier natural diamonds. Go smaller on the main stone size, like 0.9 carats instead of 1 - that small difference to just below 1 carat can make for a much lower price. Choose simple bands over intricate settings that add to the cost. Shop antique and vintage rings for big savings. An art deco ring has the wow factor for less. Look online or in new jewelry markets like China for discounted quality rings.

Simon Snelder, Investment and Wealth Manager in Dubai says, “The top 3 ways in which UAE residents are saving are through savings accounts, investments in property, and fixed deposits. A savings account is your cash in the bank and is ultimately the safest option to avoid a significant loss on an investment.”

There are smart new digital tools that can help easily save up for a dream ring on a budget. One innovative financial wellness platform, MALY, seamlessly links savings directly to an existing bank account.

By setting automated micro-deposits from each paycheck, funds can be steadily built up over months or years. The platform also provides guidance on smarter financial goals and investing. This makes saving for big wedding purchases feel manageable without breaking the bank.

Make weddings about marriage, not just a single day

At the end of the day, weddings are about celebrating marriage with loved ones, not putting on a perfect one-day event for a ton of money. Reflecting on why people spend so much on weddings in general. Stay true to what matters most to you as a couple. The most meaningful weddings focus on bringing people together over great food, music, and joy.

An expensive wedding doesn’t guarantee happiness. Research shows spending over $20,000 on a wedding doesn't increase satisfaction compared to more modest events.

Keep things simple and affordable to start your lives together stress-free without any waste of money just for appearances. Prioritize marriage and future over an extravagant one-time party. Helpful resources like the best financial literacy books for beginners can also guide money management.

The bottom line? A dream wedding doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Use these tips to have a beautiful celebration that’s budget-friendly and still totally you. Focus on what matters – not the price tag!

Frequently asked questions

Are expensive weddings worth it?

For some couples, no expense is too great for their dream wedding. However, there are also many downsides to splurging on an elaborate, costly wedding. Starting a marriage off with deep debt is stressful. Prioritize marriage over the one-day event.

What culture spends the most money on weddings?

South Asian weddings are among the most expensive in the world. In India, high-end weddings cost over $100,000. Pakistani weddings average $70,000. And in the UAE, Indian or Pakistani weddings often exceed $80,000. Lavish venues, extensive guest lists, multi-day events, and luxury decor contribute to the high costs.

Why do people think weddings are so important?

Weddings are seen as a social milestone and status symbol in many cultures. Families want to show their wealth and social standing through an extravagant wedding. Young couples feel pressure to have an over-the-top wedding that impresses their family and friends. However, focusing on marriage, not the event, helps keep weddings meaningful yet affordable.

Is it okay to spend a lot of money on a wedding?

It's a personal choice how much to spend on a wedding. Couples should thoughtfully budget based on their priorities and means. If you can afford an expensive wedding without going into debt, and that's important to you, that's perfectly okay. However, inflated weddings can strain relationships and finances. Set a budget that works for you as a couple rather than compared to others.

[Looking to set up a weekly or monthly savings plan to throw a nice wedding? Simply connect MALY to any UAE-based bank and start tracking your savings as they grow.] 


  • Prioritize essential elements like guest lists, venue choices, and catering to reduce unnecessary expenses.
  • Be selective with splurges, explore alternatives for attire and rings, and maintain a realistic budget with a buffer for unforeseen costs.
  • The focus should be on the marriage rather than a one-time, expensive event.
  • Overspending on a one-day event may not necessarily lead to greater satisfaction.
  • Online money-saving platforms provide a considerable solution to saving and tracking savings in the UAE.
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