NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Engaged couples can expect to hear more than the "bling bling" bouncing off the bride-to-be's ring -- they'll also hear the ka-ching of the cash register as the average cost of a wedding soars to $26,327, according to a new survey.
A total of $125 billion -- about the size of Ireland's GDP -- will be spent on 2.1 million weddings in 2005, according to the "American Weddings" study conducted by The Fairchild Bridal Group. Fairchild surveyed more than 1,000 brides.
Tying the knot used to involve a trip to the altar and a simple reception, but low-cost affairs are increasingly a thing of the past as brides and grooms flex their consumer power and buck tradition. The average price tag that is fast approaching $30,000 represents a 73 percent increase during the past 15 years, according the study.
"The bridal industry is now a life stage that encompasses fashion, travel, home furnishings and more," Daniel Lagani, vice president and publisher of the Fairchild Bridal Group, said.
Furthermore, brides and grooms -- who on average range between the ages of 27 and 29 -- are older than their counterparts were 15 years ago. As more experienced, sophisticated consumers, they know what they want and are willing to stretch their budget to get it.
Nearly half of all couples will end up spending more than they originally budgeted. But customizing a wedding to meet individual tastes doesn't always mean breaking the bank, the survey found.
For example, about 9 percent of couples will hold a "destination wedding," which involves the entire party traveling to a special location for the celebration. These couples spend on average 41 percent less on their receptions than those who have an average wedding, according to the survey.
When the party's over, someone has to pay the bill -- and with age, comes greater responsibility. This year only a quarter of brides will count on mom and dad to pick up the tab. Instead, nearly one-third of brides and grooms will forgo tradition and foot the entire bill themselves.
Marriage and money -- How do you talk to your partner about finances? Click here to read more.
Click here to read about one couple's dream wedding.