NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Weddings are a $74 billion industry in the U.S., but there are a lot of upsells out there just waiting for willing, lovestruck suckers to inflate that take.
Couples are already laying more than $24,000 on the table for the average wedding, according to market research firm The Wedding Report, but there's every indication they're willing to spend a lot more. Afraid of looking cheap or, worse, offending their beloved, 42% of engaged couples told TheKnot.com that they went over budget on their weddings last year, with 16% ditching budgets altogether and going for broke. When facing an industry where the consumer's almost always making this purchase for the first time but the vendors have been honing their craft for years, the chances of it ending poorly are roughly that of someone dancing awkwardly to a Black Eyed Peas song during a reception this year.
"It's a really smart bride and groom who really want to learn everything about weddings and want to learn essentially what are 10 different college majors," says Sharon Naylor, a wedding expert who's written roughly 35 books on the topic, including Your Wedding, Your Way. "They learn about photography, marketing and budgeting in a short amount of time when emotions are already tweaked."
All that confusion comes even before a couple first lays eyes on VH1's My Big Friggin' Wedding and, for some reason, decides that if certain wedding elements are good enough for a gentleman named "Meatballs," they're good enough for them too. Throw in a couple showings of TLC's A Wedding Story and Say Yes To The Dress or WE TV's Bridezillas and Rich Bride Poor Bride -- complete with sponsor promotions and giant function halls full of garishness -- and it all amounts to sensory overload for frazzled couples worried about frittering away their honeymoon and house money.
"Never before have brides and grooms been so inundated with images of the kinds of upsells we're talking about," Naylor says. "Twenty years ago there were just wedding magazines, then the websites came in and gave some images and now it's all about reality shows, competitions and things you're seeing all over the place with these splashy elements that couples aren't paying for and are just part of the show."
While a good wedding coordinator can usually steer couples clear of the most egregious wedding industry money grabs, couples who think shelling out for a wedding planner is just contributing to the problem can cut costs on their own by putting a cap on vendors' more ludicrous items. After a long chat with Naylor, TheStreet came up with five upsells couples can save a bundle on by cutting from the budget: