As a newly engaged lady (OK, now I'm married--I started writing this before the wedding), I've been thinking a lot about what everything for weddings cost. The venue, which vendors you use, the catering costs, the decorations... Do you hire a wedding planner, or do you do it yourself? Do you hire a videographer and a band? Can you do all of it without causing major stress on you and your future spouse? The photos your friends will like on Facebook need to be envy-worthy, right? So you need to spend all of your time, energy, and money on this one day. The wedding is the most important thing, isn't it?? I mean, how are people supposed to value your decision to marry the one you love if they don't either attend or see THE MOST fabulous party pictures on social media?? It's way too easy to get sucked into wanting a picture perfect wedding and letting that desire overtake your happiness. It's your marriage that really matters. Yes, your wedding is the first day of your marriage, so it's very important, but don't let the cost (literal or figurative) take over what matters most.
The truth is, things WILL go wrong, whether you spend $100,000 on your wedding, or $1,000, so spending more doesn't mean perfect. Right after we got engaged, I was in an airport in Ohio and wanted to treat myself to a bridal magazine while I waited for my flight. I opened the pages and practically drooled over the perfect floral arrangements and the gorgeous table settings for formal and funky receptions alike. I started getting knots in my stomach because I knew I wanted my wedding to be the most beautiful and special and memorable, and from what the magazines tell you, you'd better be willing to sell a kidney to pay for it. For instance, this particular issue had an article titled "Spending Wise - Budget Friendly Weddings". The wedding they highlighted was a $50,000 party!!! That, dear friends, is a nearly $3,000 more than the average household income in Georgia for our current year. Perhaps for some, $50,000 on a wedding IS budget conscious, and in that case, good for them! But for the overwhelming majority of people, that either is not possible or feels wasteful. The average cost of a wedding in Atlanta is a little more than half that $50,000 price tag at $28,659. And $28,659 is nothing to sneeze at! That's quite the investment!
Keep it Low Key
There are a lot of options for keeping your wedding low-key and high style while not spending more than more families make in a year. And there's good reason for doing that. Here are a few things to remember to keep your budget and sanity in check while you plan a wedding.
- A wedding is a celebration, not a competition. I know this is insanely obvious, but you can do low-key without feeling the need to outdo the couple that got married before you. The less stress, financial and otherwise that you put on yourselves, the better off you will be to start your marriage as a happy, well-adjusted couple.
- It is worth an investment. So yes, it's crazy to spend your life savings and then some, but it is the most important day in your lives together, so it's worth making a fuss and setting aside some time and money if you are able, within reason of course.
- Keeping it small means more time with your guests. A bridal party of 30 people is going to be more expensive. A guest list of 600, even more so. The smaller the party, the more special details you can add without breaking the bank, and the more you'll be able to talk to everyone.
- Keep it casual. A backyard barbeque can be every bit as special as a fancy affair. Keeping it casual may mean you can afford more guests, and who doesn't love a good backyard party?!
- Stop feeling obligated. You cannot invite every single person you've ever met nor should you feel obligated to make everyone happy. I'm a big believer in general etiquette. If you don't know an etiquette rule, you can almost always figure it out by thinking "Am I being greedy?" "Am I striving to make people comfortable?" "Am I providing for the basic needs for this event?". BUT there some exceptions. You can't feel so tied down by what is expected that you get yourself into a bind. Whether that be that you feel like you HAVE to have personalized wedding favors for each guest or maybe that means your MIL expects filet when your budget is more like Chick-fil-A. Do what is true to you!
- DIY is more fun. It's more work, but you can make your decorations, invitations, etc, and not only save money, but it gives you more control over the look of your party--you just may need more friends to pitch in to help :) For our reception, we're having various friends and family to help us set up and we could not be more thankful! Some of those same selfless loved ones, all of whom are EXCELLENT bakers (I've taste tested their baked goods, so I know!) are making desserts for our cake table. Homemade is best anyway.
Pick Your Venue Carefully
- Select a venue that doesn't pin you in. The wedding industry is hot. Anything titled bridal or wedding is about 5 times as much as that same item without "wedding" in the title. Ex. Wedding cake: $3,000. Birthday cake: $600. Many venues require that you use one of their selected caterers, you can't bring any food of your own in and they require you hire a bartender. Some even have rules about the photographer you can use! Be sure to check out all of the requirements and the vendors they recommend before signing on the dotted line. If you have a healthy budget and want to be hands off, this type of place is less stressful to use, so it may be a good option for you.
- Have a party size in mind before booking. This part is really tricky. How do you know who can come that far in advance? You can't. But what you can do is have a maximum number in mind and stick to it. It will be hard, but everybody has to do it--even weddings with a party of 350 feel like they've left someone out. You will be much happier with a venue the appropriate size than feeling cramped or one that feels vacant.
- Select a venue that gives to charity. Maybe not applicable to everyone, but to me and Victor, this was important. We feel very fortunate to have the opportunities we do and want to give back as much as we can. An added benefit when you rent from a charitable organization is that part of your rental fee is tax deductible. Win win!
If the thought of making everyone happy with the type of dress, ceremony, music, etc. stresses you out, do what's best for you both. Elope! My husband and I chose to do this, not because anyone was pressuring us to do anything we didn't want to do, or because we don't love our family and friends, but because for us, the best thing was a private, intimate ceremony between the two of us. We could focus on our love for each other, and apart from all other distractions, commit our lives to one another forever. We chose to get married in Iceland, where we also wanted to honeymoon. A two for one! Now, when we celebrate with family and friends at our reception this month, we will be able to enjoy our party in casual style and we'll be able to even set up some decorations ourselves since we'll have a little more free time that day. Elopement isn't for everyone, but it's an option that you can consider for a meaningful, intimate wedding ceremony between you and the one you love most.
The real cost a wedding varies greatly from couple to couple. For some, $50,000 is reasonable, for others, a simple courthouse wedding. My point is to please, do what makes you happy and what feels right for you as a couple. Your wedding day is the first day of your marriage, it should be all about your love, your relationship, and who you are as a couple. Don't let trends or Pinterest or other people's expectations change the way you marry your spouse. Everyone will be supportive if you're true to yourselves.
Next week, we'll post some of the "how tos" for how to elope, specifically to Iceland. It's easier than you think, but having a little guidance helps even more!