Sunday, March 24, 2013

I Don't Get It: Weddings

This is a new series idea I'm trying out where I discuss something that people spend a lot of money on that confuses me terribly.  After reading statistics that say the average cost of a wedding in the United States is $27,000, the average cost of a wedding in New York is almost $66,000(!), and "The state of West Virginia, where nuptials cost an average of $14,203, was the least expensive wedding location." I feel like I just don't understand people's priorities.

Then, I look into things like wedding venues, catering, etc., and it seems like maybe the problem isn't so much that people want to overspend on a fairy tale wedding, but that the wedding industry is set up to extract as much money as possible from people and even if you go into the planning with a budget, you might find that that amount means you get married at city hall and have the reception in mom's living room (which is fine too).

I am not a wedding gal.  I have never gone to a wedding and analyzed what I want and what I would do differently.  I never wore a pillow case on my head and pretended to be a bride.  Honestly, I don't really ever want a wedding, but I understand that some people do.  I always knew weddings were expensive, but I never understood exactly why they were so expensive.  A good friend of mine got married a few years ago, and she vented to me how much money they had to spend on all these little things.  That was the first time I had ever really heard a dollar amount attached to wedding stuff, but after attending the wedding (and I'm not trying to sound like a bitch), I was shocked at how much she had spent on what looked pretty low-key and a little bit tacky.

The a couple years later another friend got married, and I did some online sleuthing to see about how much she probably paid for things.  This was where I learned that the venue frequently has all of these built-in conditions that cost you extra money.  You may try to be frugal, but it's almost like they won't let you.

For instance: A friend of mine got married at a very nice location--a working farm with a lovely bungalow.  The ceremony was outside and everything seemed simple, low-key and easy.  Then I took a look at what she actually paid for.

$2500 to rent the facility for eight hours
$250/hour additional time, if needed
Cost of $1,000,000 insurance policy
Cost of a professional bartender for a minimum of 4.5 hours + cost of booze
Table and chair rental--$3 per chair, $6 per table
Cost of catering
Wedding Dress

Obviously, a lot of those expenses are negotiable like photographer and caterer, but we're still looking at a one-day event that costs at least what I make in six months.  I'd rather have a down payment on a house.

So this is why I'm scared of/not interested in weddings.  Even if you go into it thinking you don't want to go overboard and spend too much, if you actually want a nice, non cheap-looking wedding, the price tag is exorbitant.

If any readers managed to have a nice wedding that was not insanely expensive, I would love to hear about it.  Leave a comment or send me an email at
Average wedding costs:


  1. My wedding was $5000. I made my invitations, reception decorations, and did my own flowers. We also put our own music on a disc and paid a family friend to DJ since he does it on the side. It was a great day and everyone had a great time. The most expensive part was feeding everyone, but we were happy to do that since they were there to celebrate our wedding! :)

  2. I'm with you… I have no idea why anyone would spend $15K+ on a single day! No one even remembers (or cares) a week later what the table center pieces looked like or what they had for dinner. We are definitely getting married on a beach without all the hoopla! :)

  3. We got married at the courthouse and then had a reception in my parents backyard it was actually really nice and my parents likely pay for everything I think it was about $3000. However my mom says that since I'm the only girl that I really should have a wedding but I can't imagine having to pay for it ourselves. Especially when were trying to save up for a house and we're hoping to have kids in a few years. When we first got married I still dreamed about having the big wedding but I'm not so sure anymore

  4. We got married at a venue owned by the parks dpt- it was cute and rustic and INEXPENSIVE! But the fact that it was in the middle of the woods by a lake made it beautiful. Plus, they already had the chairs and tables! My dress was $60 (wedding dress from Target- what? I was only going to wear it for a couple of hours!). The food was provided by my parents, who had restaurant experience, and them buying it was their gift to us. A friend was DJ (his gift to us). We strung plain white Christmas lights, got the flowers for bouquets from Sam's Club, and made the classy centerpieces out of thrifted plain glass vases, cranberries and sticks (prettier than it may sound!). I asked my three bridesmaids to wear a plain black dress of their choosing, and my groom wore a suit (which he has since worn for several other occasions). We had a lot of fun for very little money! Oh, our most expensive item was the photographer, because we really valued having wonderful artistic memories (and my now-husband is a photographer, so we feel its important not to negotiate down the cost of something like this). Still, we maybe spend $3,000 total. If I had to do it again, I would have invited fewer guests- only because we invited a whole lot of distant relatives and family friends just because we felt like we should, and it would have been more fun for us if we could have spent more time dancing and less time saying hi to great-aunt Mildred who hadn't seen me since I was two.

    1. Oh, forgot to mention that our actual ceremony was at the courthouse, but we asked my grandfather to officiate a mock ceremony at our venue, so the guests could feel a part of our special day. But my grandfather's services were free, of course, and a lot more meaningful than hiring someone random who we didn't have any connection to.

  5. Well, we got married in city hall in New York City with 30 guests total. We followed the ceremony with a brunch at our favorite restaurant.Brunch was a much more reasonable option to serve not only because of the cost but as a bonus it is our favorite meal. We didn't do a DJ or alcohol because it was the morning and we have both suffered through enough dances at weddings which seem endless. We had a really good friend do the photography so he gave a good discount. We also made our favors. So we spend under $3500 which also included my dress and alterations. That was a budget we could live with and am proud of. We wanted to have a celebration but not spend the average cost of $28,000 in New York City which makes me sick to think that's what people spend on ONE day. But to each his own.

  6. Another crucial issue here is that most of us don't plan our weddings 5 years ahead, when generally we have to plan for any of life’s ridiculously expensive landmarks.

    1. That's an excellent point! Unless you want to be engaged forever, you pretty much have to take what you can get at the time. You could buy your dress years in advance, but who knows if you'll still like it when the day comes, and that also still seems a bit crazy.

  7. I actually originally wanted a smaller wedding and planned on paying for it ourselves. My mom was the one who wanted me to have the big wedding and reception and told me that her and dad would pay for it. My parents are divorced so I always wondered how he felt about that but he never complained just paid my mom for half.

    I ended up having a great time and absolutely loved my wedding. I think it was around $9000. We had about 120 guests. But I had it on a Sunday to save money. The location was beautiful so I didn't bother with a florist and I made my own bouquet and a lot of the table decorations. But other than that we had a dj, photographer, open bar... This was 9 years ago. But looking at the prices your talking about I don't know how it got so expensive.