Were You Wealthy After Your Wedding?

by Kristina Tahnyak on October 6, 2010 · 17 comments

wedding cakeAs you know, I am not married to my long term boyfriend Nick.

I am trying to emphasize the good reasons for getting married, but it seems that Nick always has a rebuttal. One of the major reasons why Nick is not pro marriage is because he feels the price of a wedding is an unnecessary cost.

I am almost 30 (October 9) and I am at the age where my friends are getting married left and right.  This past year I have been a guest at to two weddings; and next year both my Dad and my (younger) cousin are getting married.

I decided to do some research on the actual cost of wedding and determine if the party is really worth the price. I guess that a wedding is viewed differently by everyone. Some people travel for a destination wedding, some people have the ceremony and party at their home, and some other people rent a hall, and opt for a more traditional church wedding.

My wedding (if it happens) is going to be champagne themed with red roses.  My bridesmaids will be my friends Tricia and Yolanda. My younger sister Tara will be the maid of honour, and our wedding song will be “We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey.  Now all I need is the groom.

My friend Cynthia had a traditional Italian church wedding with an extravagant reception. The alcohol never stopped flowing and the plates were never empty.  She spent approximately $40,000 on her wedding. I asked if she was in debt after her wedding and she responded “Debt? I’m Italian! I could write a whole blog about that if you want.”

Cynthia’s most expensive cost was the $25,000 for the reception, which included international appetizers, open bar, and unlimited deserts, along with a midnight buffet.  It was a night of great music and a lot of fun.  Cynthia’s second biggest expense was her three week honeymoon in Europe.  She says it was definitely worth the cost.

Anita is another one of my friends who recently got married to the man of her dreams.  Anita had an engagement party at a hall in February, and she got married in June. I am sure both parties were a major expense. Our weddings are one of the major expenses during our lifetime, second to our homes.  Our weddings could cost more than our car.  Our wedding is a very important financial decision because it is the first major expense as a couple.

Anita’s biggest expense was also the hall. Her wedding pictures and video were the next biggest expense, followed quickly by the cost of the limos. “I haggled a lot (with the merchants). You know you have to do that.” Anita confirms that the wedding was worth every penny. The trick is to use your head and not your heart. Anita advises brides to be not to get carried away. “Simple is the best.”

My cousin is getting married next year and his bride to be is currently planning their wedding. Shannon (the bride) has a $10,000 budget and she hopes she can stick to it. Originally Shannon had planned for a simple $2000 wedding, but when she found her dream dress for almost half of that cost, she had to quickly rework her budget.  Shannon is not willing to be in debt over a wedding. So, when her mother offered to contribute a portion of money towards the budget she picked a date and booked a venue.  Shannon is convinced that the cost will be worth the wedding and if it’s not she won’t be disappointed. She “want(s) the big day.”

Was your wedding worth the cost?

(Photo By Merfam)

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Valerie October 6, 2010 at 8:54 am

For my wedding last fall, we had the ceremony in a small hall with immediate family and some close friends, under 30 people total. We went to our favorite restaurant for dinner. The following day we had a brunch to celebrate with extended family and friends, about 150 people total. Our total cost for both was around $6,500, and we received about that much in gifts of money alone, and countless other gifts from our registry. We did try to keep things simple and had a maximum budget of $10,000 (financed by my parents.) We also had a friend who was a looking to get into the photography business do our pictures (she had done a few weddings before) and she charged a very low rate. We knew the band, so we got a discount on that. So, if you are mindful of a budget and willing to do a lot of shopping around you can have a wedding for a reasonable price and not go into debt. I wanted to elope, and my husband really wanted to have a more traditional wedding. Looking back it was the right choice!

2 Ramona October 6, 2010 at 9:50 am

There’s a horrid custom in Romania too to have a big wedding and then hope people will pay enough for it. Here your guests bring money. It’s 50-100 Euro / family (or person, don’t know) and, with some luck, you’ll spend 10000 Euro and get 15 or 20 thousand.

We’re not yet married, but we won’t make a big fuss. I hate big weddings and having a huge one won’t make us happier. We’ll just go “sign” the papers and maybe get few of our closest friends for a drink. And that’s it. A huge party won’t make up for being happy and getting along. And I’d surely find better ways to spend my money than organizing a huge bad taste reception :D

3 Red October 6, 2010 at 2:45 pm

We spent $6,200 on our wedding with 80 guests. It was most certainly worth the cost. We cut out anything that was “expected” but wasn’t what we wanted. So we had no live music. We used an iPod. We didn’t invite everyone we’d ever met but only those people we wanted there for our big day. We didn’t have the fanciest food. We have barbecue foods (BBQ, hamburgers and hot dogs) catered. You choose what things are important to you (in our case, a photographer), and you can stick to a budget if you really want to.

4 Michele October 6, 2010 at 3:48 pm

The cost of a wedding is really a pretty ridiculous argument against getting married, because technically, it shouldn’t cost any couple more than $100 to become man and wife – and in many states, far less than that. Truly, the ONLY thing you need in order to get married is a partner in crime and a marriage certificate. Everything else is – quite literally – gravy.

That said, a lot of people spend a good deal of their lives dreaming about the gravy – clearly you have, seeing as you already have a theme, flowers, bridesmaids and your first dance song picked out. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s natural to want to celebrate making this enormous commitment in a meaningful way – most likely with friends and family galore.

But even then, weddings do not have to be expensive, even in the biggest, most cosmopolitan of cities, if you’re willing to be flexible, think outside the box, chuck traditions that do not speak to you, and make the decision to share the day only with those people who know you best and love you most, rather than every fun friend and extended family member that expects to be invited.

My husband and I got married in June of 2009, and spent about $3500 total on our backyard wedding with 50 guests, and that includes absolutely everything, including often big-ticket items that are sometimes left out of budgets, such as rings and attire.

Speaking from experience, I will give you a couple of tips for getting married on a relatively small budget: First, abandon yourself of the notion that the average wedding in America costs $28,000 (or whatever number they’re throwing around these days). That number is bunk. It is NOT the cost of the average wedding in America or anywhere else. It’s the average cost of ALL weddings in America, including cheapy-cheap city hall elopements and $1,000,000 Platinum Weddings. You’re a money person, so you probably already know that averages are terrible indicators of anything, because of their susceptibility to outliers. The MEDIAN cost of a wedding in America – a much better indicator of what normal people normally spend on their normal weddings – is about $15k. So don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re going to have to spend $28,000 to get married, chalking it up to ‘that’s what weddings cost,’ because they don’t.

Second, abandon yourself of the notion that your wedding day is, will be, or should be the biggest, best, or most important day of your life. It is that mentality specifically that compels so many couples to throw caution to the wind, break the budget, and throw a party that is wildly out of line with their values, their income and their net-worth. When you see a wedding for what it truly is – the joining together of two people in love who want to say out loud to themselves, each other and their nearest and dearest that they’ve chosen to make a lifelong commitment – and strip it of all the extraneous nonsense that the Wedding Industrial Complex and Hollywood Media Machine spend billions of dollars trying to convince us all that we just have to have, weddings suddenly become much less daunting and much more affordable.

Third: Set a budget, and then never, ever stray from it. It doesn’t really matter what that budget is, as long as you and your spouse-to-be are happy and comfortable with it, but it DOES matter that you treat it as if it is absolutely non-negotiable under any circumstances. People typically get into trouble with wedding expenses when they give themselves permission go “splurge” on something, despite the fact that there is not technically room for it in the budget. This might be a beautiful hall, a dream dress, or exotic flowers that one decides they just can’t live without. Whatever the case may be – once you bust the budget for one thing, it’s exponentially easier to bust it for other things. It’s the same concept behind carrying a prescribed quantity of cash each week and spending ONLY from that cash. When you run out of cash, you can’t buy anything else. Same thing applies here: If the dress you’ve suddenly fallen in love with does not fit into your budget – you can’t buy it. Period. You might wish and want and waver, but the budget is king and can’t be broken.

This approach isn’t for everyone, but for couples who are truly committed to making smart, sound financial decisions and living within their means, it’s an excellent way to ensure that you do even when it comes to major, “once-in-a-lifetime” expenses like a wedding.

5 Sandy L October 7, 2010 at 5:32 am

I didn’t spend a lot on my wedding, but I did spend a ton on my honeymoon. It was manageable. Plus, you usually plan a wedding about a year in advance due to venue availability, etc, so you have time to pay as you go. (But we didn’t spend near the average.) I have a post about it on my site if you’re interested, so I won’t go into the nitty gritty details.

I’ve thrown some pretty rockin parties and this was no exception. The best part was that our party was at our house, so it turned into a weekend long affair. People were sleeping all over the place, helping decorate, playing touch football in our cul de sac. It was great fun.

You really can have a fantastic memorable wedding without spending an arm and a leg.

6 Carrie October 7, 2010 at 7:59 am

I’ve been married 16 years now and my wedding cost aprox. $5000, which my hubby and I mostly paid for (we were 22 and 21). We had a traditional church wedding with 80 guests and the reception was held at the church hall. We had simple decorations which we did ourselves (silk flowers, ribbon, candles), flowers were done by the local grocery store (and were beautiful), catering by a local deli (sandwiches, cold salads with rented dinnerware), no alcohol (too many issues with relatives) and the cake by a well known bakery which we splurged on, $150. The cake was more than my dress, found at a bargin basment for $100 which fit good enough and I had shorted by a tailor for $50. I wore my sister’s veil which she wore 13 years earlier. A good friend whose an amature photographer took our pictures. Hubby and I debated about the guest list, but when it came down to it, we didn’t want to be thousands of dollars in debt for ONE DAY!!! Our honeymoon was spent in state at a resort, off season. Looking back, we still believe we had a lovely wedding and unlike our friends, aren’t still paying it off 10 years later. While they’re spending their vacations in state at a resort off season, hubby and I are cruising twice a year.
Yes, your wedding is a HUGE deal but your marriage doesn’t end there. It’s only the begining and you have so many more years ahead. My advice, honor your future selves by having a wedding you can afford now. Plan a hellava 5 and 10 year anniversary!

7 Kristina October 7, 2010 at 11:38 am

If Nick and I do decide to get married I think we should spend more on the reception/party than the actual ceremony. However, the biggest expense should be our honeymoon. It will be a once in a lifetime tirp to start our married life together. Although the wedding itself may not be the biggest day of my life, it is still my day. I agree with the comments that the ceremony isn’t as important as the party. We can have a small intimate ceremony with a great party to celebrate. Good food and good music. Also I would like to have really nice flowers, although it is such a waste of money since they die within a few days anyways. Hopefully by the time Nick and I get married I will be over the flower extraviganza. My parents are not able to contribute to our wedding costs, and they don’t have savings for my or my sisters weddding plans. Ideally, I would like to set a wedding budget that we can afford and stick to it. If we regain our costs in gifts that’s great, and if we don’t we still won’t be in debt.

8 Che October 7, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Michele’s comment is brilliant and right on. I can’t improve on what she said, but will add my own experience.

My wife and I got *married* but decided not to have a *wedding*. It’s useful to at least realize that the two are separate things. We simply went, on a Monday during the day, to a city hall, said to the desk worker, “We’d like to get married,” and soon some guy named Russ was pronouncing us man and wife. There was no ring or special clothing involved. The fee was $50, but Russ couldn’t make change for three twenties, so he said to just give him $40. I went back to work and then later that night my new “bride” and I went to a nice Italian restaurant and enjoyed dinner. We look back on it and laugh. When I told our friends at grad school that we’d gotten married that day, my one friend said, “Thank you for not making us do anything.”

We’re still married, seven and a half years later, which can’t be said for all who have a lavish wedding for many thousands.

By the way, your friend Cynthia who said she is “Italian” is not Italian is she? She’s American. (A pet peeve, those non-Italians who think of themselves as Italian, like my mother and sisters).

9 Michele October 7, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Me again. I have to say, Kristina, I disagree with much of your comment. Undoubtedly, the reception WILL cost more than the ceremony, just for the simple fact that the reception will likely involve food, alcohol, tons of decor, maybe some entertainment, etc. There’s just more involved, so there are more expenses.

But the idea that the reception is more important than the ceremony is frankly a little crazy to me. The ceremony is the heart of the matter, the raison d’etre. It can (and IMO should) be one of the most moving, meaningful experiences of your life. It should not be an afterthought, or a convenient excuse to throw a party. I don’t mean to say that the reception is not also important, because it is. It IS important to celebrate something so joyful as marriage, but it is not nearly as important as the ceremony.

Also, your honeymoon is not a once in a lifetime trip, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot either. You will likely have many opportunities to travel in your life, and if travel is a priority for you, you will likely seize those opportunities.

There’s been a nasty trend over the past few years of people taking “mini-moons” immediately following their wedding – maybe a few days just a few hours away, with plans for a “real” honeymoon at some later date. But a honeymoon is not defined by where you go, or what you do or how long you’re there or how much you spend. A honeymoon is – by definition – the first trip that a married couple takes after their nuptials. It could be a 2 night stay in a hotel an hour from home, or a 2 month tour of Africa. It doesn’t matter – both are honeymoons.

10 Frugalista October 8, 2010 at 3:21 pm

I had a my dream wedding, with 125 guests and it cost $10,000, but that’s because I’m a frugalista! My hubby and I paid for the wedding largley on our own, all while he was still in school. We had a lovely ceremony at a beautiful church and an amazing reception at a lovely hotel. The celebration went from 2pm-2am and everyone had a great time. None of it would have been possible without a lot of hard work through. I was the ultimate DIY bride. Without my sweat, tears and hours or work, we either wouldn’t have had the same wedding, or would be in debt with a price tag over $30,000.
I found my dress on craigslist, brand new (the woman was selling dresses as her mother closed her bridal shop) for a tenth of what it would cost new as well as my veil and shoes! You would be shocked to find out how many brides spend a fortune on accessories just to change their mind before the big day, their loss was my gain.
My photographer actually found me! At a bridal show he approached me (I know it sounds strange). He was checking out the show because they were trying to convince him to get a booth the next year. He was just getting into wedding photography, though he had been doing photography for years, and was willing to give me a steal since he was just building that part of his business. Cut my photography fees in half, and by the time my wedding had come around he had done several others. It was perfect.
I made my own invitations, again saving a small fortune. It turns out I have expensive taste, but since I don’t mind hours of cutting, gluing and printing, invites that would have cost over $800 cost around $300 (we sent invites to all of our family, even those who were not able to make it).
I negotiated on costs of the reception hall and stuck to kegs of beer and bottles of wine as opposed to an open bar to cut costs. Pieced together my own candy buffet which was a huge hit! And called in a few favors with family friends for DJ services and decor.
The cost of the ceremony, reception including beer, wine and an AMAZING buffet, cake, 2 photographers on the wedding day, engagement photo session, CD of all of wedding photos, leather bound wedding album, 2 parents albums, the rights to our photos, my dress, shoes, veil, hair and make up for myself and my bridemaids, attendents gifts, wedding favors, candy buffet, invitations and anything else I may be forgetting was around $10,000. Factor in that we received nearly $3000 in cash gifts, not counting the other lovely gifts, that allowed us to put a down payment on a house, we got back over $11,000 on our first tax return as a married couple! It was 2009 and we qualified for the first time home buys credit. That alone more than covered the costs. I have since sold all of my “left overs” on craigslist (my wedding centerpieces, candy buffet jars and more) for a few hundred dollars more which I have used as our “fun money.”
If you are willing to work, and be frugal, you can have a dream wedding and end up weathly. At least I did! After 16 months of marraige we have paid off all credit card debt, built up a long term nest egg and a short term emergency fund. The frugal habits we learned planning the wedding put habits in place that have made all of that possible.

11 Frugalista October 8, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I forgot to mention that we also raised money to help pay for the wedding by selling items on craigslist. My husb was graduating in April, we were moving in May and getting married in June. Known that we were getting ready to move made it easy to clean house and get some extra cash from the wedding. We both had our own apartments and as a result two of everything. Sell a dining table from one apartment, the sofa set from the other and it adds up. I think we brought in nearly $2000 just from selling things on craigslist!
As for the wealth after the wedding, a “dollar dance” brought in some good spending money for our honeymoon and paying for everything on my credit card (and immediately paying off to avoid interest) resulted in an extra $100 in cash back rewards.
If you apply frugal practices when planning a wedding you can come out ahead. I used every trick in the book and pinched those pennies so hard they bled. It was worth it though.

12 Sallie's Niece October 8, 2010 at 4:15 pm

We saved up about $10k for wedding and honeymoon expenses when we got married this July. Our parents graciously hosted our rehearsal dinner and reception but we paid for attire, invitations, music, transportation, photography and other details. We received cash gifts totalling just under what we had saved up so we were doing okay at the end of the day. We did overspend a bit on the honeymoon so no we were not rich two weeks after the wedding. I don’t have too many regrets though, we loved our wedding.

13 Tim October 11, 2010 at 12:28 am

we had 1200 guests, and we didn’t end up in debt. we didn’t make any money off it either (which would have been normal), because we didn’t not accept traditional red envelopes (nor did we accept gifts). we did have some “sponsors”, essentially business acquaintances who donated a ton of flowers and other items for the banquet.

14 Broke by Choice October 11, 2010 at 5:38 pm

The value of the wedding is different for everyone. I do not encourage people to go into debt to pay for it, but I think you can spend what ever you want on what ever you want if you buy in cash. Regarless of how much or little is spent on a wedding someone will be there to criticize the decision that have been made. What is really important is to make sure your day is what you want most and not what other want.

Is your BF using the cost of the wedding to avoid getting married? Would he be willing to get married if you went to the justice of the peace? This may not be your style but a question worth asking

I have a friend who had a reception on the first saturday of the year, because it was important to her and her fiance to be together at the beginning of the year. Then they married at the JP in February.

15 Kristina October 12, 2010 at 1:06 am

I love all of your comments, and it just makes me want to get married more. It’s interesting to see how people decide to celebrate their special day. I don’t think Nick is using the cost of a wedding as a reason not to get married. I have known for a long time that he doesn’t really want to be married. I guess I am just hoping he will change his mind. I agree with Broke By Choice that the value of a wedding is different for everyone. It is our special day and we can spend it (pun intended) as we choose.

16 Nicole October 12, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Well worth it! $2000 that my parents paid for a big outdoor June wedding. (That’s 2K.) Catering was barbeque. People still mention it from time to time as one of their favorite weddings, and a couple of our friends have gone similar routes. We got married young and were the first friend wedding for a lot of folks, and now they’ve been to those interminable fussy extravagent weddings… and they remember ours fondly as not being that.

17 Kris October 19, 2010 at 6:24 pm

My older brother got married for $55 and that included the price of the pizza after City Hall. He’s been married for 26 years. I spent a little under $2,500, got married in the park (the permit was free) and then had a catered lunch in a friend’s backyard. They had a pool, so it turned into a pool party at some point during the day. I’ve been married for 6 years. My little brother spend $34,000 on his wedding. Big church wedding, tons of out of town guests, rented a hotel ballroom, had the huge cake, the expensive dress and the fabulous ring. He stayed married for a year and a half. So, money spent doesn’t always equal sucess in this equation.

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