Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Saving Money for a Wedding


As our economy flounders, we'll have to talk more and more about the cost of weddings and what is a reasonable amount to spend on a one-day celebration. I love this excerpt from One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead:

"What does all this wedding-industry hype mean for the woman who turns to bridal magazines for guidance and inspiration? One of the things it means is that an expectation that getting married is going to be a very costly endeavor has been drummed into her head well in advance of the start of her wedding planning...If a bride has been told, repeatedly, that it costs nearly $28,000 to have a wedding, then she starts to think that spending nearly $28,000 on a wedding is just one of those things that a person has to do, like writing a rent check every month or paying health insurance premiums. (Or she prides herself on being a budget bride and spending a mere $15,000 on the event.)."

The author continues:

"She is less likely to reflect upon the fact that $28,000 would cover an awful lot of rent checks or health insurance payments; that, in fact, $28,000 would have more than covered a 10 percent down payment on the median purchase price of a house in 2005 and would cover the average cost to a family of a health insurance policy, at 2005 rates, for a decade. The bride who has been persuaded that $28,000 is a reasonable amount of money to spend on her wedding day is less likely to measure that total against the nation's median household income--$42,389 in 2004--and reflect upon whether it is, in fact, reasonable for her or for anyone to spend the equivalent of seven and a half months of the average American's salary on one day's celebration" (27).

Sobering thoughts, indeed.

It saddens me that we think we have to spend so much money in order to create meaningful and memorable weddings. I am even more saddened when people think they can't get married unless they have enough money for an expensive wedding. One reader wrote: "I have been engaged for a little over a year and we were planning on waiting until 2010 to marry because of money."

Don't get me wrong, I do think people should save up for their weddings before they get married. Credit is a dangerous, dangerous thing, and we should--for the most part--have the money for something before we buy it (exceptions being things like houses and college).

But people shouldn't have to wait years as they save an insane amount for one day. A marriage is not the destination. It's the beginning of the journey. We should save our money for life after the wedding!

The folks at A Backyard Wedding somehow managed to save $30,000 for their wedding but decided to use only $10,000. They used the rest of the money to go towards school, a house, and a vacation. You can find their specific budget breakdown on their site.


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9 comments:

Lee said...

I think I was guilty of comparing what we are spending to the average (insane!) amount that people spend on weddings. I had to remind myself that the comparison is not what matters; it only matters that we're spending what we can afford and that we're only spending that amount on the things that are important to us and are consistent with our values.
I also got a lot out of reading One Perfect Day. I'm glad you are featuring it here. Every bride should read it!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Lee, one more interesting dimension to the discussion:

There's a lot of talk out there about the fact that $28,000 can't possibly be the average spent because that number is collected by by surveying people who are already embroiled in the Wedding Industrial Complex (the conclusion being that there are lots of people who have less expensive weddings who aren't being included in the data). I read an article saying the average was likely to be more like $10,000-$15,000 (I'm trying to find the link right now...)

kristin said...

Sara- I'm glad my comment gave you some inspiration :) I completely agree with your viewpoint that a wedding is not the final destination of the relationship, but a very important stop on the journey. I've requested One Perfect Day from the library and can't wait to pick it up!

EliandMe said...

I thought the $28,000 average sounded suspicious!

I have found it very useful to compare the wedding to other things we would spend our money on. For me, I am happy to spend the same amount on a wedding as I would on a big holiday (no Disneyland for me next year!) and so that's how much we have budgeted. Once you start talking about the same amount of money as a new car, or a deposit on a house, it would start to freak me out.

Roxanne said...

Thank you!! It's ridiculous, and very hard when so many people are willing to pay so much for a wedding, vendors expect everyone to do that.

Courtney said...

I'm an Atlanta bride, and I've found that getting married in a major city carries an insane premium. Vendors, venues, caterers... everything is more expensive. In fact, I read recently in an Atlanta publication that the average wedding here costs $35,000 dollars. My fiancee and I are trying to have an elegant, meaningful affair for 100 people for under $10,000. It's an interesting struggle, to be sure.

The thing I have to keep reminding myself (especially when I find the most amazing photographer ever, but he's $6000 minimum) is that it's just one day, and the next day, I'll be glad I didn't go overboard. It just kills me that everything becomes more expensive when the word wedding is attached. I think I'm going to plan a family reunion before which I just happen to get married, instead.

Mandy said...

sara--
this book (i loved it!) and your blog have made my world a better place! thank you for sharing your insights. as my boyfriend and i are looking to the future and preparing for marriage, your blog helps me to stay grounded and remember what is important.
--mandy

backyardwedding said...

It's kind of reassuring to hear my budget being shown as an example of responsible spending...I still feel like we spent an insanely large amount on one day. I loved our wedding, but looking back I see where we could have made more cuts and still had an amazing time. Live & learn, I suppose!

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ backyard wedding: The coolest thing about your experience is that you had a lot of money but you chose not to spend it all on your wedding. I loved that you prioritized the longer-lasting things like education and a home (and boy do I wish I lived near you so you could be my midwife when that time comes...).

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