When I got engaged, I think I secretly thought that somehow the amazing-party-planner inside me would just emerge. That I would know whether my invitations look better printed on white or ecru, how to pick a good florist, plan a party with perfect flow, and learn all the secrets of Photoshop. I quickly learned, however, that my little ring was not full of magical powers. And that the only thing you really learn when you get engaged is that weddings are insanely expensive.
I think I also assumed that if I went into the wedding planning process not demanding the most expensive things and not buying into the idea that I had to buy all the things (customized hangars! garters! sparklers! mustache props!) that my wedding wouldn't cost that much. But the problem is, no matter how much you don't want the most expensive things or think it shouldn't cost too much, the people in the wedding industry think that it should cost an absolute ton. Around $27,000 to be exact.
According to USA Today, the Knot.com, and the Wedding Channel, the average couple spends around $27,000 on their wedding. $27,000! That is the average. And that is a ton of money! Here is where they say that money goes:
Brett and I knew from the beginning that we didn't want to spend a ton of money on our wedding. And that we absolutely would not accrue any credit card debt to pay for the wedding. One of the first things we did after getting engaged - before I looked at a single dress or venue - was think about what we wanted our wedding budget to look like. For us, that meant not just thinking about what we could afford, but also what we thought was an ethical amount to spend on what is essentially one night and one party (albeit a very meaningful and special party). For us, $27,000 just seemed to high. And to be honest, for Brett, almost any amount was too high. We had a few difficult conversations about what seemed ethical and right for both of us and struggled with the fact that what seemed "reasonable" to us was still probably considered a waste of money to people all over the world. We both felt guilty that we were spending money on a party when other people lack food, shelter, and clothing.
But ultimately, we want a wedding. We want to be able to invite our closest family and friends, feed them yummy food, give them a space and some music to dance their little hearts out, and dress up a little. And that costs money. So we came up with a number much lower than $27,000 that we felt comfortable with and that, luckily, our parents felt comfortable contributing. Because let's be honest, Brett and I have no money and quite a bit of student loans. If our parents weren't contributing to our wedding, this wedding blog series would go something like: "I bought a little white dress. Brett put on a blazer. I picked up a bouquet of flowers. We went to the courthouse and got married. We celebrated by drinking margaritas and eating lots of cake." And while that actually sounds quite awesome, it wouldn't involve all the people, yummy food, and dancing that we'd like to have.
So, thanks to our parents, we can still have the wedding we want without going into debt. I'm happy that we're resisting the idea that we have to spend $30,000 on a wedding and hope that our wedding can be an example to others that you can have a wedding for less than that (if everybody refuses to spend a ton, i have a small flicker of hope that the wedding industry might change). I enjoy the process of thinking creatively about how to spend less, prioritizing what is important to us, and have been overwhelmed by the amazingly crafty and generous things friends and family have offered to do and make for the wedding. I'm ridiculously excited about getting married, about crafting a meaningful ceremony, and about throwing a fun and pretty party. Whenever I get sad that I can't afford something (which does happen from time to time) or think that it wouldn't be that big of a deal if I go way over budget on something, I remind myself that this does not have to be the wedding to end all weddings, that this is not the only time in our lives we'll host a party, that we are not planning a photo shoot but a wedding (they're not the same!), and that this doesn't have to be the most magical, wonderful, happiest, and most perfect day of our lives. Because if, at the end of the day, we end up married, I know we'll have a magical, wonderful, and happy life together. And that's what really matters.
P.S. If you were hoping that this post would actually include some helpful tips about budgeting, I recommend downloading the budget template from Google's wedding spreadsheets. I've found it really useful (although I totally ignored all the recommended percentages/amounts). I also highly recommend an idea that I picked up in the book A Practical Wedding: make a list of things you care about and things you don't care about before you do any wedding planning. When you start thinking that you have to have letterpress stationery or get bummed that you can't afford to have flowers absolutely everywhere, it is nice to look back at that list and remind yourself that a few months ago you didn't care that much about paper or flowers.