Can You Take a Tax Deduction for Wedding Receptions?

by Fraser Sherman
If you'll never wear the dress again, a charity may be able to use it.

The average cost of a wedding, as of 2012, is $28,427. In upscale communities, that's cheap: Manhattan weddings, for example, average $76,687. Romantic the wedding may be, but deductible it's usually not. There are tax tricks for claiming some deductions, but you'll have to plan carefully to take advantage of them.

Venue

If you hold the reception or the ceremony somewhere that qualifies for charitable donations, you may be able to write off some of the costs. A church, a state park or a museum could all qualify. The catch is that you're getting something in return, so you can only claim a write-off if you spend more than the fair market value of holding the reception there. Unless you pay more than fair market value for the venue, you're out of luck.

Giveaways

Anything you can give away after the reception may qualify for a charity write-off. There are charities that accept wedding dresses and resell them or give them free to brides in need. Other groups alter bridesmaid dresses into prom gowns for poor students. If there's a local charity that feeds the poor or the homeless, it may be willing to take what's left of the reception dinner. If the food is fresh and the clothes are still elegant, you can deduct the value of your donation on your taxes.

Business

Some brides or grooms have successfully turned a reception into a business event. One businessman made his wedding tax-deductible by combining it with a marketing seminar. As a result, his guests paid to attend and the event costs were a business expense. This is a risky card to play, as it doesn't always work. Another taxpayer claimed that because he'd invited lots of business colleagues to the wedding, it qualified as a business expense, but the IRS shot him down.

Claiming Deductions

Making charitable donations only gets you a write-off if you itemize deductions on Schedule A. If you take the standard deduction instead, it's no-go. For any non-cash donations, such as a wedding dress, you need careful records and receipts. The IRS wants to know which charity, when you gave them the dress -- or centerpieces, or food -- and how much it was worth. If you're claiming more than $500 for your dress, the IRS may want a written appraisal too.

About the Author

A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.

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