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What I Learned About Money While Planning My Wedding


I wrote this post for Dana to run on Broke-Ass Bride a few months back. Then I sort of modified it for the new Offbeat Bride book. But I’ve never run it on APW, and I think it deserves to be here. It’s one of the most packed-with-useful-to-me stuff posts I wrote after our wedding. Because learning about my and our relationship to money, ohhhhh boy. That’s applicable to marraige. So, long overdue, what learned about money when planning our wedding.

First of all, I have to say that one of the reasons that I started my blog is because I felt like the only bride in the world with a sensible approach to money when I read wedding media. It sucked. While my partner and I are no longer broke (though, *boy* have we been) we still are fairly cautious with our money. Add to that the fact that we’re a one bread-winner household at the moment (my husband is in law school) and, well, we don’t have a money tree in the backyard. So we figured we’d throw together a nice wedding on a oh-dear-god-it-feels-expensive-to-us-but-I-guess-we-can-do-this kind of budget. Ha. Well, about two seconds into wedding planning I started to feel like the poorest and saddest bride on the planet.

I finally hit the wall when I read about a ‘budget’ wedding on one of those big-shiny-wedding-blogs. It read something like this: “Well, since we were doing a wedding on a budget, we obviously had to be very selective in our choices, and limit what we spent money on. That’s why we decided to really limit things when it came to our music choices. In the end, we decided to only hire a string quartet, a gospel choir, and a rock band, to keep things simple and affordable.”

After I finished slamming my head against the table, I think I sent my then-fiance a link to this wedding with an email along these lines, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS? If this couple HADN’T been on a budget were they planning on also hiring a 100 PERSON OPERA CHORUS? WHAT THE MOTHER F*CKING F*CK? I. Hate. Wedding. Planning.”

Right. So I started my blog. Turns out I wasn’t so alone after all.

What I mean to say is this: when you do not have unlimited resources and you are planning a wedding, sometimes every moment feels like a painful negotiation. You can’t afford the things that it seems like everyone else has, shopping for a wedding dress can feel like h*ll, and finding a venue can become you’re worst nightmare. If you’re at all like me, planning a wedding can feel like you are thinking about money all the time, and learning to hate it.

So here are my very best wedding graduate tips about money and weddings. Here is what I learned, and what I wished I known at the beginning:

  • Weddings are not about money. They feel like they are about money when you’re planning, for effing sure, but in the end, money is not going to matter. At all. Weddings are are about love, plain and simple. On your wedding day you could be getting married in your backyard with not a single pretty detail to be found, and you wouldn’t care. The hugeness of getting married, and making this huge commitment in front of family and friends will surpass every single thing around it, and what you spent will disappear.
  • As one of my wedding graduates said, “You don’t have to spend money in ways that does not feel right to you, or that makes you feel financially uncomfortable.” There were many times that I started feeling backed into a corner “But that is just what getting my hair done is going to cost, no matter how crazy it seems!” And I thought back to this advice and just said, “Nope. Not going to do it.” Every time, that ended up being one of the best decisions we made.
  • Forget DIY. The wedding blog world can make you feel like you have to be a crafty, crafty goddess if you want to save money, and that’s enough to drive anyone over the edge. Start thinking about DIT – doing-it-together. Each time we asked a loved one to contribute to our day – from the girlfriend that did my hair to the girlfriend that managed the weekend – it added a depth of joy to our celebration that no money could have bought. On top of that, it gave each friend a way to show their love and feel like they really contributed to this monumentally important moment of our lives, and that turned out to be a gift in and of itself.
  • Once you make a financial decision that feels right to you – stick to your guns. Wedding planning can be a constant pattern of second guessing – “Well, so and so self-catered, maybe we should do that?” This. Will. Drive. You. Mad. If your choice was right for you, that’s it. You’re done, and you’re fine.
  • Your budget is your business. Make sure you’re spending an amount of money that feels good to you. Then ignore what other people think. Big-wedding-media can consume you with guilt about not spending enough. Indie-web-media can consume you with guilt that you are spending too much. You know what? If you feel good about it, what you are spending is just right.
  • Spend your money on things you care about. We didn’t have lots of ‘must haves.’ We didn’t have a DJ, a florist, favors, or matching bridesmaids dresses. And we didn’t miss them. But you know what we did have? Amazing gourmet food, that we splurged on. We’re foodies, we cared about food. The food at our wedding was staggeringly good, and to us, it was worth every penny.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no. If you don’t care? Don’t buy it. If someone is making you sign a contract that doesn’t feel right? Don’t sign it. If it doesn’t feel right? Put away your wallet. If you do this, things will somehow fall into place. I could not find a single wedding dress that felt right, even if I was willing to spend $1,000. In the end, I said no to all the options that felt awful, and I found the worlds best dress for me, buried in the corner of a vintage shop, for $250, just a few months before the wedding.
  • Sometimes it is worth it to pay full price. As a bride on a limited budget, people will tell you to bargain, to barter, to do anything to pay less. Sometimes this is the right thing to do, and it will all work out. But there are other times when you don’t want to think about something anymore, and you’re willing to throw money at the problem to make it go away. Do it. Sometimes bartering will make your relationship with a vendor so complicated that you’re uncomfortable. Pay full price. It may be worth it.
  • Try not to become obsessed with your target budget. Pay what feels right to you, and what you feel like you can afford. If you end up a little under or a little over budget? Its fine. Because guess what? You don’t have to report your budget to anyone. So be kind to yourself, and remember that you did your best.
  • And finally: Remember, one day the spending will all be behind you. The best part about spending money on your wedding? It happens once, and then you NEVER HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN. The last months before our wedding, I felt like I was taking out my checkbook every two seconds, and I hated it. But on the morning after the wedding I realized it was done, it was over, and I never had to spend that money every again. And that, my friends, felt like freedom.

From one practical bride to another – I wish you thoughtful careful spending, and the nerve to say no. But more than anything, my wish for you is that you learn as much about your relationship to money as I did plann
ing my wedding. Because that was priceless.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05570017046431391730 JOC

    It's so funny you posted this today.
    The last couple of days, I've been stressing about flowers – as in, how am I going to do my "bouquet"? All I wanted was a bunch of flowers to hold – by the stems – and same for my bridesmaids. That's it. Just some yellow roses.

    But even a dozen yellow roses is $60 at most of the area florists. Sure, I could just ask for them in a bunch, without the window dressing or the vase, and save a bit there, but what if the florist gave me a dirty look and gave me brown, ugly flowers? Or, even if they were nice, who wants to shell out that kind of money for something I'm going to hold for 20 minutes?

    As I was relaying this to FH, he said, "So, just don't hold a bouquet. You don't really want one, anyway." I replied, "But, what am I going to do with my hands?"

    "I don't know. Carry a bottle of wine [from the vineyard we're getting married at]."

    Oh. My. God.

    So, now – I'm going to carry a bottle of wine, and my bridesmaids are each going to carry a wine glass … and, as part of the ceremony, we're going to uncork the bottle and drink wine from the two glasses!

    I'm so excited about this idea I could dance a jig.

    So, now officially, my flower budget is at $0. No one is going to care that they missed out on the bouquet toss (if they're like me, they'll be relieved). But everyone is going to remember our unity wine! :)

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      What a brilliant idea! Please send pictures so we can all see!

    • Meredith

      Just a thought (not necessarily eco-conscious or local, etc, but economical) – Sam’s Club sells wholesale roses for approximately $80 for 120 stems of the 4-5 cm size in a variety of colors. They also sell mini callas, lilies, etc. You can usually find vases at a craft store for $1-3 each.

      I bought 125 mini callas, 250 white roses, and 50 hydrangeas for $300 and 30 vases for $30. It will involve getting a few friends to help trim stems a couple days for the wedding but we will have tons of flowers for very little money comparatively.

      If you just want to hold some roses, you could get 1 order for $80, buy some ribbon, have bouquets for everyone and a few left to put into vases for decoration for less than $100. I’m sure family members have vases lying around you could use if you wanted.

  • irene

    Holy crap JOC that is a fan-fucking-tastic idea.

    And go Meg! This topic is exactly how I found your blog – googling "practical" and "wedding" because I was pretty sure that those words did not occur in the same sentence, ever.

  • http://www.kbfos.blog.com Nicole

    We were married in October – you are totally right about the taking your checkbook out every 2 second thing. Argh! It was painful. I can honestly say that I haven't purchased anything over $10 since then. The whole thing kind of put me off spending for a looooong while.
    That being said, the money spent wasn't what made our wedding wonderful – marrying each other is what really did the trick. Funny, huh?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02425750469635997448 Michelle {Things I Love}

    Thanks for sharing Meg, I adore this post. I especially love that it's not just about pinching pennies wherever you can. Because weddings should be a splurge in some ways, and it should all be about bargaining. Posts like this completely spoil me when I bring up non-traditional things to my mother, who truly has zero concept of the practical wedding. I'll bring her around to your side eventually though. Maybe after my wedding, but I'll aim for before my sister's.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02425750469635997448 Michelle {Things I Love}

    ha, meant to say *shouldn't* be all about bargaining.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07075148009608610305 Angie

    @JOC I LOVE the wine bottle idea. Way to be creative. If I were at a wedding and the bride decided to pop a bottle during her ceremony, I would most definitely owe her a high-five for awesomeness.

    A lot of people suggested to my fiance and I to wait another year and save more money. It bothered me because we didn't want to spend MORE money. We didn't (and still don't) equate more money with a "better" wedding. I'm so happy that I can read this post and really identify with the things you're writing about. A few months ago, that wouldn't have been the case.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10194642268693774873 MinnaBrynn

    @JOC, that is a brilliant idea.

    Our wedding registry (bleh) tells me we have 72 days to go. And I cannot wait to wake up the morning of the 73rd day and realize I never have to stress over or pay for or try to fix or do whatever to change this wedding again. I am living for that first day of freedom from wedding. Utterly romantic, no?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05673639810156452983 Gblogger

    I would add that if you went over on your budget somewhere, get over it already. I've been stressing about how much getting a bustle put into my dress was ($250 really?) for days. Your post has calmed me down some. It is what it is (probably a $250 lesson on how not to be intimidated by cute little Italian women)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12146785833753763163 SMK

    Thank you for yet another wonderful post. I can't tell you the number of times I've just had myself a little pity party about being the "saddest, poorest bride ever". But then we talk together, and remember that even with unlimited resources, we wouldn't be doing things much different (maybe with a bit less stress which of course would be nice!).

    Having an east coast center city wedding filled with food and booze costs what it costs – but it's what we want and so we'll make it happen and forget about the rest of it.

    And JOC – that's amazing. What a fabulous idea!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03251136207706318192 Stacy Marie

    AMEN SISTER! Thank you, thank you for this. We found a lovely venue in downtown St Louis that allowed us to bring in our own alcohol and caterer, saving us thousands, and when some people mentioned that they thought the location was too far downtown…too bad. If you want wine and beer at the wedding, then you're going downtown. It felt right to us and we stuck with it, so I love that!

    • Lauren

      I’m from the STL-area….where is this magical place you speak of? :)

  • Annie

    The DIT thing is essential if you're trying to save money. We're having a wedding of 120 guests, on a Saturday in October (uh, had no idea October was "the new June!") and the only reason it's affordable for us is all of our friends whose talents they are graciously bestowing upon us.

    Also… DIY isn't always less expensive. In fact, sometimes it's MORE expensive in addition to MORE time. We're DIYing somethings, but also buying other, pre-made things. Do I feel like our wedding is less "us" because we're buying stuff that isn't made JUST for us? Heck no. It's "us" no matter what… We're the ones getting married!

  • Jennifer

    I bought my dress a few nights ago at a charity sale — hugely discounted, and technically within my budget (before cleaning and alterations, anyway), but it was still more than I was hoping to spend and not the sort of dress I'd been envisioning at all. But the wedding is in five months, I have a lot of other life things to deal with the summer, so I just went ahead and bought it. I fully admit that the posts here about your dress search, Meg, were actually on my mind during one of the post-purchase, dress-related freakouts I had ("Meg from APW found her dress in a vintage shop for half what I'm paying and it looked fantastic! Why did I buy this dress instead of continuing to hunt for the vintage-y or bargain dress of my dreams? Why didn't I just go with the plan to work with the local dressmaker?") in the last couple of days.

    But really? I never have time to stop in vintage shops to begin with, if I went to the dressmaker I would still have a million choices to deal with and be indecisive about, and the great thing about my dress? It is now my dress. One less thing to have to think about, and I can now devote my head space to important things like who will help his mother get to the wedding from the assisted living place and back again. Instead of spending $900 on a dress, I figure I spent $500 on a dress, gave $200 as a charitable donation, and paid $200 for the privilege of being able to stop looking for a wedding dress.

  • http://tinkerbellebride.blogspot.com/ Tink

    As my neighbour always says, common sense is not that common. Well what you've said in today's post is pure unadulturated honest-to-God common sense. Yet is so easy for us to get caught up in the whole whirlwind of "you must have this…" "you can't get married without that…". When we first started planning our wedding we made a list of what mattered to us and prioritised them. I've found this list really helpful for keeping me grounded whenever there is a danger I'm going to be swept away by big budget magazine spreads or glossy wedding websites.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01390627453974953641 Frugalista

    Hear hear!! It's nice to know I am not alone. I set a budget out for myself and I am sticking to it because I don't want to look back at the wedding with regrets. If I spent way more then I was comfortable with I knew that I would and I didn't want that to be associated with my special day. I say no to a lot but I will still have a great wedding and in the end I am going to feel OK about the cost and that is what matters.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06395803606683052002 Giovanna

    i really need to hear this today. thanks for posting. the last year of my engagement has been relatively stress free, and that's pretty much because i booked the big stuff and drove myself crazy the first month and then left everything else until the last minute. now i'm two months out, and i feel like the house is caving in on me with expenses and deadlines. hearing that a) don't do it if it doesn't feel right, and b) it will all be done soon and i won't have to think about it, just made my day. thanks, meg!

  • Caitlin

    Some times I wish I could crawl through the computer and give you a high five, or if we felt like we knew each other more, maybe a hug, because you just have a way of saving the day. My fiance and I agreed that since we're a one income household right now (he's in grad school to become a teacher) that we couldn't afford a honeymoon. But then everyone started talking about their two week trips to islands and Europe and Hawaii and suddenly we found ourselves on expedia looking at trips and trying to decide how much we'd feel comfortable putting on our credit card for the vacation. Until we snapped out of it and realized that we had already come up with the small amount of debt number that we felt comfortable with and 2K on a vacation wasn't part of it!

    It's an amazing thing this wedding money relationship. So thanks Meg. For about the fourth time in the last month, you have brought me back from the brink!

  • http://www.msawesome.com ms. awesome

    As always, I love your ability to find balance in all the wedding planning madness! Sometimes I find myself ready to spend, spend, spend or alternately I find it impossible to get out my check book. I think these are both panicked reactions to not having thought out where my money is going and if I'm 100% comfortable with it. I do find that as we spend money (even on splurgy things like our photography, sigh) I actually find myself feeling GREAT about our spending b/c I am 100% comfortable and happy to support the artists who are going to contribute to our day! So again, kudos to finding balance and putting your money into the things and people that matter most to you! :) thanks!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16937115144838820243 Kristy D

    What a perfectly timed post for my mental state. Thanks Meg! Sending this to my boyfriend now.

    After your re-post of the WIC post, (absolutely in love with the line "funny like a New Yorker cartoon" by the way) I was thinking about how I feel caught.

    I feel caught between the idea that we're spending THAT MUCH on one day…but also am planning a modest, basic wedding that certainly doesn't live up to expectations in some ways (which I'm obviously fine with). How can simplicity cost so damn much??

    Fortunately we don't care about the stuff we're leaving out, or going "basic" on. No flowers – don't care! Super cheeap photography from a new person whose portfolio isn't that great? Fine! We just want to catch the memories on film, have a few good pics for a lil photo album – not a million pieces of art, Done.

    The ONE thing we wish we could spend more on is food, but off the bat we knew that we wouldn't be able to afford that. I mean…even feeding people a basic sit-down meal in Chicago is apparently bank breaking. (bf is insisting on sit down instead of stations, one of his few things he feels passionately about)

    Thank you Meg for not making me feel alone in the caught in between feeling… like I could be putting a down payment on a house in the burbs for what the "wedding machine" is telling me is a pathetic wedding. ugh.

    • Chelsey

      Hey Kristy – I’m starting to look at throwing a great Chicago wedding, but also not an INSANE one. I’d love to hear from you if you have a list of great locations, vendors, or other tips for managing spending on an event in this big city! …thanks so much!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06409088542824757294 Chelsea

    The thing that I’ve done a lot in my wedding planning – which has made me really happy with money we’ve spent – is to always, always think about what I’m *getting* for the money. It’s amazing how much, before I started doing this, I either assumed I didn’t want to pay that much for something, or assumed that I had to.

    For example, paying for catering was driving me NUTS because it just seemed SO expensive. Then I realized that I was buying dinner for 130 people, and even if I took them to McDonalds it would be expensive. If I wanted to buy good food for 130 people, it would be a lot of money. So I looked around until I found a person I liked at a price I could manage, and wrote a big check. Meanwhile, I didn’t really have a problem with paying for a limo to take us to the church – we couldn’t all fit in one car, we needed a bigger one, right? But then I started thinking about how my house is only a few minutes from the church, and the ceremony and reception are at the same place so I don’t need transportation between, etc. All I’d be getting for that $300 (thank you, 3 hour minimum…) was a 5 minute ride. When I thought about it that way, taking 2 cars was a lot more reasonable, and lots of money was saved.

    Of course, there are still problems I want to throw money at, and things I cringe at the expense of, but all in all this has been pretty foolproof. And I think it was inspired by a Meg post ages ago — maybe the one about her catering? — so thanks!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08406422256952106236 JM and MJ

    Thank you for this. I read both of the previous versions of this, but it didn't hit home until right now.

    Something about our wedding spedning has been bothering me of late, and it's not the dollar figure (though that is definitely in the uncomfortable but doable if there are no catastrophies in our lives range). I think I've been trying to compensate for people making me feel bad about our wedding's queerness (either too much or not enough) by spending money on unimportant things.

    And not that I realize that, I am so done with it. Seriously.

    Thanks, again.

    xoxo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02189637917666578405 Allison

    What about money guilt? My parents are paying for food, flowers and rentals and I think the total is coming out to about $4600. My mom is more than thrilled and doesn't care that the flowers are costing us $600 when I tell her I can do them myself for under $100. I feel like they shouldn't have to spend that much even though I know I have cut our budget down A TON by going through a local deli for gourmet pizzas and trading services for photography.
    It's just every time she gleefuly opens up that checkbook I feel a little guilty.
    We can't afford to do this wedding ourselves and I am so happy for their help but sometimes I want to say "Mom, eff the flowers and fancy champagne and get yourself a massage"!

    Please tell me I'm not the only one with "money guilty" when getting help from their parents!

  • Corrine

    You know what I've found? Being practical makes you SET YOUR PRIORITIES and focus on WHAT IS ACTUALLY IMPORTANT. These are in caps because I think the WIC pushes products at you. If you have a budget of what you are willing to spend then you are forced to make decisions.

    Also, having a limited budget made me have a change in perspective about my wedding and it actually led to us FINALLY finding a venue which is truly perfect for us.

    Hurray for Team Practical

    Corrine

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    @MinnaBrynn
    But that day is TOTALLY romantic. I loved that day.

    @Jennifer
    Um. But that dress was not my plan, remember? I was not looking in vintage shops for dresses… I had bought everything for my sister to MAKE a dress that didn't fit. Is pent twice, and that dress was a accident.

    @Frugalista
    Be kind to yourself if you go a little over budget. It happens at the end to most of us. And, ehhh. In the long term that money will just be water under the bridge.

    @Caitlin
    YOU NEED A HONEYMOON. That's the #1 bit of info I have to pass on about any wedding ever. Do a staycation if you need to. Get a motel one town over, I don't give a sh*t. But weddings… are nice. Honeymoons are part of the point. Don't serve booze if that is what it takes to be able to afford a hole in the wall motel or a week off work. And TRUST me, it's not about the vacation, so don't get caught up in the "oh they are going to Europe" thing. It's about the fact that you are in an altered state and you are NOT READY to go back to the world. Seriously. If you listen to nothing else I've ever said, listen to this.

    @Allison
    STOP. You know why your mom is gleeful? She *wants to help pay for your wedding.* I tried to cut back what my parents were paying and they finally said, "Look. It would feel awful to not pay for at least 1/4 of our child's wedding. So please stop, because you'll make us feel horrible." So we did. And there were things where David's parents were like, "Nuh-huh. No self catering. We'll help pay." And you know what? They worked their whole lives to be able to say things like that, so who are we to take it away from them? So stop with the guilt.

    • Caitlin

      I needed to stop back in on this post to report that we booked a few day honeymoon on a beach in Mexico thanks to a little extra tax refund and an expedia deal that took about 50% off the cost of the trip. You and everyone else in our lives were right, we need a few days to soak in the goodness after the wedding before entering the real world. We’ve decided there’s nothing else to cut right now in the budget, but that a few days after the wedding is important enough for a mini-splurge. I know we won’t regret it. (and funny enough, it’s actually cheaper to get on a plane to Mexico in August then rent a car and do something close by in the northeast!) Thanks for the advice.

      • meg

        Oh, I’m so so glad. I was hoping I didn’t offend you. I’m not very “you must” about anything weddings, other than the honeymoon. It’s not the splurge part, it’s the fact that you’re in this altered state. I heard from women right around the point of my wedding who *didn’t* have a honeymoon at all – they said they cried for three days, because they were so changed and the world kept moving and they were not ready to be at work yet. So, phew. I’m so glad for you guys.

        It will be worth every penny. Pinky swear.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00174894872050076618 Marie-Ève

    APW at its finest. (And not really because I *think* that quote is mine).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05376976056254892860 WeddingChannel_Marlisse

    This is awesome advice! And good move on spending most of the money on the food. I can only imagine how delicious it was! Great post, thanks!

  • Jennifer

    @Meg: Well, yes, once I extracted myself from the freakout, I was able to remind myself that your fabulous dress was not your planned dress. At 4 a.m., however, all the mental scraps from various blogs of dresses that were more interesting or less costly or both were just poking me in the brain with jagged edges. :)

    I guess my main, poorly stated point was that with the dress, like so many other things, I'm realizing that my attitude is that once I've found affordable options that I like, it's not worth driving myself crazy hunting for The Ultimate Dress or The Ultimate Deal.

    Another lesson I've learned is that I need to be more specific in how I communicate with my partner on finding good deals – whenever I've expressed delight that I was able to get something for much cheaper than I thought, my take was "I never thought we could get so much/such quality with our budget" where he was hearing "great deal" and thinking "under budget" and getting grand ideas about what we'd be able to do with the money leftover from the wedding budget. So we've had to do some circling back about why certain budget line items are what they are and whether anything needed adjusting. (Is that line item $500 because we love it and want to splurge even though we could have something serviceable for much less? Is it because we can't find anything under $500 but we aren't willing to cut it out entirely?)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04795863661094922831 Jo

    Along the lines of what Corrine is saying, the freeing thing about not wanting/being able to spend a ton of money on our wedding was that it provided us an opportunity to express our passion for simple, meaningful, and not materialistic symbols of life and love. I think many of us who are drawn to APW are people who do not think that success is measured by how much stuff you have, and we are trying to find ways to stay true to that in planning our weddings.

    During our wedding planning, I realized that I could sit around feeling sad and poor (which I did, briefly), or I could embrace the fact that in our lives, our marriage, our families, good music played by our friends, and good times were what mattered… and we could find (really cool) ways to celebrate all of those things without needing pre-packaged wedding consumables (like favors). So I guess I'm saying that spending less MONEY on your wedding frees you up to spend more thoughtful, meaningful energy on the elements of your wedding that are important to you, and which can't be bought.

  • Julianna

    @Jennifer
    I get exactly what you're saying about not making yourself nuts searching for The Ultimate Best Ever ____ once you've found one that works and you like. I had a very similar dress buying experience, realized I wasn't going to get any extra information by trying on the 2 top contenders a zillion more times and that it was time to just pick one and be done with it.

    So far I've mostly learned that my relationship with money (& family, & money from family) currently involves a whole lot of guilt. Trying hard to balance not wanting to feel like I'm taking advantage of parents who've offered to pay, while respecting their desire to have the wedding look & feel a certain way (because they're paying), emphasizing our main priorities (food, booze, and photography) and still have it be something sane & something we love. It's a work in progress, but I agree with Meg's original point that this is one of the areas of wedding planning that is teaching me so much about myself and the relationships I have with those around me.

    and @Sarah – you are not alone, living in the middle of wedding budget land ;) and you are absolutely right that it's easy to feel guilty for spending too much and guilty for not spending enough all at the same time.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10972465903387097782 Jen

    I swear that I will eventually get these things through my thick bridal brain, I swear!!! I KNOW them…I just have to remember and FEEL them. Then act them. Maybe it will be after our wedding…but better late than never, right?

  • Anonymous

    As far as guilt and parent's helping with costs, I have two things to say.

    1) Not so long ago the entire bill was footed by the parents.

    2) Know your parents finances.

    My parents were divorced. My father had no desire to help and my mother could NOT afford to.

    My mother already paid dearly by even remaining in the marriage as long as she did so we'd have a roof over our heads. The divorce was very welcome, but meant she'd forfeit a lot of financial security. I have never held it against her than she flat out didn't have money to help.

    However, if your parents are in healthy financial circumstances, then most of them feel great joy in helping.

  • Ellie

    The thing I've found is that when I love a vendor and I trust a vendor and their business is one that I want to support, I'm willing to pay more. And that's okay. It's okay to go outside your budget to get a wedding that you feel /good/ about. You shouldn't feel financially comfortable, but you shouldn't feel uncomfortable in other ways just to get financially comfortable. We're getting our invites from printable press, and they are one of the ones designed in response to the giveaway, and we are getting them because they make my heart SING, even though it's $40 more than I wanted to spend on the design. I want to support the artist, and I want to have invites I love.

  • Sarah

    the truth is… there's always someone out there to make you feel bad about your decisions (what's with that, anyway?!). part of this post resonated a lot with me, because sometimes i feel kind of on the edge of this blog, because i'm not having a "budget" wedding, but at the same time, while i am getting to have a lot of the things i did want, and we're not really sparing many expenses, there are a lot of things that i'm not getting out of sanity and sanctity for not going completely over the top, and there are also a lot of people out there who are spending a heck of a lot more than us! so no matter where you are on the budget spectrum, there's always going to be someone who's spending more or less than you are. it's about being comfortable with your own choices!

  • http://www.agreataffair.com gift registry

    Hahah I like your post, definitely agree on the "budget" wedding, when the budget was not for an average American! I did a lot of DIY stuff, it ended out working pretty well and gave the wedding a good personality.

  • Hannah

    I feel like what I've learned about myself and money is that I hate it, and that I cry a lot when I have to think about it as much as I do now. Getting married while in the still. so. broke phase is hard. Really hard, especially when we can't go over budget the budget is everything we've got without going into debt. I'm glad it'll be over in July

  • Sarah

    @ Julianna – yay! it's nice to know that i'm not alone over here! and yes… sometimes i do feel a little guilty. but most of the time, i just feel really happy!

    @ Anonymous – I wouldn't expect my parents to help if they didn't have the money, of course! both of my parents can afford to pay for a wedding (my fiance and I cannot!). My parents are also divorced, and have been for many many years. My mom was ecstatic that she finally is well-off enough to be able to help w/o it posing a burden to her lifestyle. I'm not as close w/ my dad by any means, and he's always had a sort of disapproving air towards my fiance, so convincing him to get on board took a little more doing. but also he certainly has enough money to help out, so i don't think it's a moral dilemma.

  • http://ambers-wedding.blogspot.com/ Amberdawn

    That's awesome advice. I feel the same way: I don't want to spend gobs of money, but I'm not going to be serving ham sandwiches at the reception either just to do this as cheaply as possible. I have a vision of my wedding, so I just need to stick with that and not get caught up in all the superfluous stuff.

  • http://ambers-wedding.blogspot.com/ Amberdawn

    Such good advice! I agree that though I don't plan to be extravagant on just one day, I DO think I deserve to splurge within my means.

  • http://www.wvbridesblog.com Jaime Leigh

    I feel the same way. Reading the front of bridal magazines and seeing “How to have a $10,000 Budget Wedding” when my own budget is less than a third of that is pretty disheartening. My fiance and I are managing well so far though. We won’t go into debt over it, but my fiance is just now understanding that he’ll have to put off his plasma TV purchase until well after the wedding and honeymoon are paid for. ;-)

  • http://catherinejao.deviantart.com Cathie

    This article is absolutely one of the best articles I’ve read so far! Or maybe because it’s just very timely, and very in sync with what I’m feeling now :) Nice to know that I’m not alone, and that people have overcome it. And JOC, if you’re still reading this, awesome idea! My fiance and I are doing something along the same vein; still doing flowers, but we’ll be having our entourage hold one each, and sometime during the ceremony, my groom and I will be collecting them from those who have the flowers (our nearest and dearest) and putting them together into my bouquet, as a symbol of all they’ve put in our lives, and hopefully in our marriage as well :) I hope it works out!

  • http://www.studio222photography.com/blog Becka @Studio222 Photography

    This could have come out of my own mouth. And I’m a wedding photographer. I love that you wrote it. I may send my brides that are in freak out mode the link :)

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  • Haylie

    Hey there,
    I was just curious, what are you thoughts about hiring professional photographers. I have been going back an forth about it. I know it is a lot of money but I dont know that I trust my friends and/or family to capture those special moments of our big day. Did you have a profession photographer at you Wedding? Do you think it made your Wedding that much more memorable? I know you said that you believe there are very few “must have” aspects of a wedding, is professional photography one of those “must haves” or did it not make the cut.

    Great Blog BTW. It has some really great ideas…. absolutely love the wine bottle instead of a bouquet idea!

    • meg

      I don’t think anything is a must have, other than your partner and some vows. But, we had wonderful photographers, for which I’m really grateful. If we hadn’t been able to afford that, our friends Polaroids would have meant the world.

  • Anna Pearl

    I have been engaged for a month and being a type-A girl I am jumping into the planning, budgeting, DIY-ing and researching already. The first 2 weeks showed me that our society is ridiculous when it comes to planning a wedding. I was already giving up on the bull-sh** that is “big-wedding media” and the willingness to shell out thousands to have something that is totally NOT who we are as a couple or as individuals. I want something simple, spunky and traditional that I share with him and the community of friends and family that have been with us up the past few years we’ve been together. I found this blog and the dizziness subsided, the stomach pains vanished and the simple realization that my wedding will be so….well, me b/c that’s what I will make it. I literally cried tears of joy when I read the posts from all the girls like me and not like me (I can learn from them too). Thank you, Meg. Thank you.

  • EMR

    LIFESAVERS. Like Anna Pearl, I have been engaged for a month was already sweating the small stuff (and the big stuff). I’m starting medical school in a month and so obviously I’m planning a practical wedding (date unknown yet). Thank you all for the reality check that it doesn’t have to be a huge, million dollar wedding, it just has to be “us.” The little tips and tricks are invaluable and I feel like I should be taking notes!!

  • Julia

    I just found this wonderful, beautiful blog and I’m ga-ga in love. Thank you – for your heartfelt words, sharing of thoughts, depth of honesty, intelligent discussions on issues that should be discussed but rarely are. I’m pouring over the archives and feel so lucky to be reading your words.

    Many, many thanks, I’ll be sure to be commenting all over the place!

  • Emma

    Fabulous Blog. I have been engaged for only four months have eagerly bought bridal magazines, only to be dissapointed that my ‘budget’ wedding is going to be a budget affair. This is the sort of blog I need to read

  • KB

    Meg,

    Just wanted to let you know that I will be printing this entry out and living by it for the next year until my wedding.

    Thanks so much! You rock!

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  • Lauren

    I really, really needed to read this. I’ve been engaged for just over a month (yay!) and am absolutely terrified of the cost. I mean, we have a lot of time to plan in, but really. It’s overwhelming still.

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  • Cass

    This sums up my view of money perfectly, I work with a colleague who is having a $50,000 wedding, and my fiancé and I have set a strict budget of $10,000. I constantly have to remind myself to not get wrapped up in her planning and her budget, because at the end of the day that is not what we can afford, nor is her wedding what we want.
    I constantly find myself bummed out over having to sacrifice certain things, but I believe everything happens for a reason. I was shopping around for months for a wedding band on a cheap budget, and it turned out the perfect wedding ring to compliment my delicate engagement ring was a thin simple gold band, hand made in Iran by another one of my colleague’s sister-in-law’s and only set us back $150.00!!!!
    It’s all about what you can afford, and if you can justify spending that to yourself, not the rest of the world.

  • Aimee

    I just got engaged a month ago and I am so happy and cannot wait to marry him! We have set the date for a year and a half away so I will have graduated college by then. But, now…I hate it. I hate the planning. My fiancee and I are both students and we both work as servers to pay our bills. We have no one helping us with our bills, so saving money will also take some time and be limited as well. My mother is the only one that I have a definite yes that she will be able to help. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to start planning with out knowing. Anyways, I am so lost and and getting irritated that my father and soon to be mother in law probably won’t be able to help. Bringing our already low budget down at least $2500. I was in tears from talking with my mother right before I read this. She keeps knocking my father for not having any money and being a complete B**CH about it and it’s not even her wedding!!! She is driving me nuts!! Luckily I came across this essay and my tears and worries subsided. I still do not know what to do, but I am ready to pitch a damn tent in my back yard and call it a day!

    • Amy

      Don’t feel bad Aimee! My fiance and I are having to pay for our wedding aswell. My family said they would help–that is before they found out it would be 6 months later. I was bummed (still am a bit) but I know God has his own special plans! Our wedding will be a little over 2,000 (not including dress and honeymoon) but I’m still keeping positive. Try getting a side job or something. You can do it :D

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