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March 04, 2009


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Perhaps I was gifted with a very simplistic outlook on life and happiness (and you seem to have been gifted with this also FMF), but I just do not understand paying $30,000 for a wedding. For one day.

I am lucky to have found a g/f who thinks likewise... but I feel sorry for everyone who goes into debt to show their love.

I read an interesting book in college called White Weddings: Romancing Heterosexuality in Popular Culture( by Ingraham. Despite the title... it is not just a bash of heterosexuality and what not... it is a pretty interesting look at the wedding industrial complex.

"With intelligence and perception, she describes the makeup of the "wedding-industrial complex," which relentlessly markets nuptials (especially white weddings) and relies on the pervasive media images of marriage ceremonies to keep itself "recession-proof." Although her tone is academic, Ingraham's writing is lively and persuasive. One of the few studies of weddings, this important addition to cultural studies could make a few potential brides and grooms rethink that long walk to the altar."

FMF, you may enjoy the book... it is definitely a very interesting read into how weddings have become what they are.

My wife and I ended up eloping to Italy rather than spend a bunch on a wedding. We talked 4 of our best friends into meeting us over there, hired an English-speaking wedding coordinator (there are a bunch of great services over there for just this purpose), and had a beautiful civil ceremony in Florence complete with a photographer and dinner for 6. The whole thing ended up only costing a few thousand dollars and was better than any home-based wedding we could have imagined. The parents eventually forgave us. :)

Our engagement was 4 months but we procrastinated a bit in the planning. I would say we probably planned the whole thing in maybe 8 weeks. We didn't do it specifically to save money, we just didn't care much about the details. We ordered invitations from a print shop, got a dress off the rack, had no problem getting a site since it was winter, and a family member did the flowers. Oh, and we didn't remember the programs till the last minute so I (the bride) actually got them printed up the morning of the wedding - no joke!.

Depending on where you live and decide to get married the price does change. I am a bride (wedding Oct 2009) and our budget is $15,000. It all adds up, but for the area, what we want (good dinner for 200 [most are family!!] and great photography) this is reasonable. I don't feel like we are getting much for frills, are planning to make/do much of the work ourselves or friends, and work very hard to keep to budget or go under budget. We found a reasonable (one of the cheapest) reception site, finding a DJ within our budget, friend is doing flowers, no limo, my dress is in the low to mid-range, making my own veil, borrowing most of the decorations, etc. The photography is probably the one thing that I feel we are splurging on, and even that we didn't go overboard on.

The important part is that we figured out what everyone (us and parents) could contribute, did research, and created a budget where we will not go into debt. Unlike most of my friends and family.

I have to admit it is hard sometimes to look at the budget and know that it is for one day...but it is important to both my fiance and I to have this one day to celebrate our love, faith, family and friends.

It's all about choices.

I'm getting married this saturday! a few ways we saved money was to have the wedding on the beach and we hired a photographer that had a chapel (package deal)in case of rain all for $600. We also found a restaurant that had a semi private dining room that did not have a room rental charge (saved $200). My new in-laws own a candy store so they gave us all the candy / gifts for our gift bags and we made our own labels for the water bottles (on-line these go for $1.50/each). Bought my wedding suit with a gift card that i recieved as a christmas gift. One thing we did splurge on was to have our own pastor perform the ceremony so we will pay for his hotel for two nights plus a cash bonus for traveling 5 hours.
Since this is my second wedding i think the smaller weddings are more practical.

We did ours in 3 months and it worked perfectly. Just enough time to plan, not enough time to get stuck in details.

The number one thing you can do to reduce costs? Friends. They want to help you and lots of them have talents you may not know about. One friend was going through culinary school (his wedding gift was free catering). Another was a photographer (free photography). Another plays guitar (free music). Another likes decorating cakes (free cake). Another enjoys bossing people around (free coordinator). Another... You get the idea. Use your friends because they want to help you. If they don't want to help you, they aren't really their friend. If you don't have friends friends with talents, then I would recommend branching out your friend group or just trusting your friends' best efforts and be willing to accept results shy of perfection.

120 people. Total cost $7500.

Krazy Eyes, I went to a wedding in Italy last year that wasn't an elopement, but was (apparently) significantly, significantly cheaper than an equivalent wedding at home (we are from Ireland, YMMV). And I must say it was probably the most beautiful and enjoyable wedding I've ever been to.

But yeah, we did the two-witnesses-and-city-hall thing.

I don't think that $15k is outlandish or overly extravagant. But its a very nice wedding. $15k should get you a nice wedding for a lot of people though. I would think $15k would be closer to high end than median though. If half the people are spending $15k then they are probably overspending.

We spent around $10k on our wedding last year and had 30 people. Adding more people would have been $20 per head. Our wedding had everything we wanted.

Nobody "needs" an nice, expensive wedding. We could all just go down to the courthouse and pay the fee there, whats that run $100 probably? But most everyone "wants" more than that. How much you "should" spend really depends on how high of a priority it is for you and what your budget will allow. Going $13k into debt to get a $15k wedding isn't a good idea. But if you can afford to pay for your wedding in cash then you should be able to spend on what you really want for a wedding.

Another thing to keep in mind is who pays for the wedding? I'm sure that quite often the family is helping to pay and the bride/groom aren't paying $15k on average. Its one thing if the newly wed couple goes $15k into debt, and its another thing if their parents foot the whole bill.


We got married at the county courthouse, and had a reception a couple months later. For obscure reasons, it turned out that we saved about $8K in taxes by getting married before the end of the year, so we just went ahead and did it. The taxes saved more than covered the cost of the reception, so our timing meant our wedding expenses were covered by Uncle Sam.

And I wonder how many big weddings end up cratering the marriage? Taking on a ton of debt early in life is never a good idea...

We definitely spent over $45k on our wedding. My parents were the main force behind this. We had around 185 people come. They gave us a small truck full of gifts plus about 7k in cash. I thought our guests were amazingly generous. Still my husband and I walked away with debt. For the first year after, I was upset that we had spent that much money. Then the following year my dad had a heart attack and died a few months later. More than half the people who came to the wedding also came to his funeral (just two years later). And I realized I didn't remotely care about the money we spent. In fact, I wished we had spent more. The videographer left before the night was finished and he missed taping an extraordinary tango between my mom and dad. They're exceptional dancers.

All the wedding costs were paid for a long time ago and now I look back and I have no regrets. It was more a party for my parents and I was bitter about it initially. But now that my dad is dead and I'll never get another chance to make a memory with him, whatever I felt about debt and money at the time are totally meaningless now. Currently my husband and I have no credit card debt and own both our cars outright.

The best advice I can give anyone is to remember the wedding isn't a party just for the bride and groom. It's a celebration for your ENTIRE family, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, etc.... And maybe it means something different to me because out of 25 marriages there have only been 2 divorces. So for us, getting married really is a lifetime commitment.

I could write a whole other post on this topic.... there have been several divorces on my husband's side of the family and during the planning they were upset that my family wanted to spend so much money. My parents on the other hand, especially my dad, saw this as a once in a lifetime experience and we needed to celebrate it as such.

We did our for less than $7500, and it was very nice. I wanted to elope and save money, but he wanted a real wedding. Now I think he was right.

We shopped around and picked what was important and what wasn't and spent accordingly. First big thing is that we cut the guest list to 100. Immediate family and close friends only. We sent announcements to everyone else. But since we did that we were able to afford better food.

We also choose an off peak day to have the wedding. The location we had the wedding at had a preferred vendor list, just people they had worked with in the past. We checked everyone out and ended up getting massive discounts. I also did a lot of shopping around for my dress. If I was going to do this I wanted the perfect dress. But by shopping around I found the perfect dress for about 50% off.

So in the end we had a lovely small wedding and used the money saved for a down on a house.

Our wedding cost about $18000 when all was said and done. For my area (very high COL) I thought it turned out beautifully and I felt like I got a great value for the money. I shopped around, chose what my priorities were, and stuck to my budget.
I do have to say, weddings are personal things, events that people look forward to and think about for their entire lives. So while I absolutely agree that people can go overboard, and definitely think NO ONE should go into debt for a wedding, if people want to spend and can afford to spend 15k, 20k, or even 30k to celebrate their commitment as a couple and thank friends and family for their support - it's their choice. Maybe it's not how you would spend your money, but it doesn't make them silly, or superficial, or irresponsible.
Everyone is different and has different priorities in life.

"And I wonder how many big weddings end up cratering the marriage? Taking on a ton of debt early in life is never a good idea..."

I think that is a very interesting question. It would be nice to see some research done on it.

What's with all these posts about who needs a $X wedding anyway?

Big events are expensive. Dinners, conferences, anything. Clearly, you haven't thrown one lately (or ever).

We decided to get married and were going to take 12 months to plan it. Then we both decided we couldn't wait, and did it in 5 weeks. It would have been sooner but the legal limitation required that post bans for a month.
30 guests, ceremony, dinner and free-flow alcohol, dresses and suits - AU$2,600. 50% family (only immediate) and 50% friends.
I think cutting down the planning time forced us to make quick decisions. My husband and I are very comfortable with that. We have noticed that some people struggle with fast decision making, and prefer to take their time and consider all options, so maybe it's not for everyone. We are a 'make the best decision you can with the time and information you have available - no regrets' kinda couple.

Dog --

That's just the point -- they don't HAVE to be expensive. Think outside the box a bit. A happy, fun, memorable, meaningful wedding doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars. So why should it? In many cases, that's just "what people do" -- they don't consider alternatives.

Hey Krazy Eyes I am currently trying to plan exactly what you did in Tuscany . Can you please recommend any companies that organized your wedding ?

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