NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It must be hard for the romantics who get married not to compare their own nuptials with what Prince William and Kate Middleton get -- but there's no comparison.
The royal couple are likely spending $34 million, most of it in security to keep excited Britons from becoming wedding crashers (they're basically getting married at home, although in this case that means Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace). There's an engagement ring worth $1 million and wedding band that cost about $11,000; a wedding dress that cost Kate's parents $434,000; and a reception for 600 running about $600,000, with an $80,000 cake and additional $800,000 in flowers.
Back in America and reality, couples already lay out more than $24,000 for the average wedding, according to market research firm The Wedding Report, and can spend a lot more; 42% of engaged couples told TheKnot.com (KNOT) that they went over budget on their weddings last year, with 16% ditching budgets altogether.
Weddings are a $74 billion industry in the U.S, and one in which the consumer's almost always vulnerable. Not only is the vision of William and Kate spinning before them, but they're usually first-timers up against vendors who've honed their craft for years."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." But even if couples recognize a Buckingham Palace wedding is out of their league, they still contend with VH1's (VIA.A) My Big Friggin' Wedding, in which even guys named "Meatballs" get glitz. Throw in a couple showings of TLC's (DISCA - Get Report) 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." A good wedding coordinator can usually steer couples clear of the most egregious wedding industry money grabs. Couples with their wits about them can also cut costs on their own by forgetting William, Kate and even Meatballs and 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: