As anyone planning a wedding knows, there is one conversation you hear from friends and loved ones that that simply will not die. I call it “Back in my day, when we planned weddings, we did so much more with less.” I’ve had that conversation as recently as this month. (And in case anyone is paying attention, I’m not even planning a wedding.) But instead of rolling my eyes heavenward and trying to explain that literally everything about weddings is different now than it was in the ’60s, or ’70s, or ’80s, I said, “Actually I just did some long-form research on that subject.” And then outlined for them why millennials are not to blame at all.
And if you head over to BuzzFeed right now, you can read that article. It talks about the pace of wedding inflation versus regular inflation and what happened when I tried to plan my parents’ exact wedding in 2017. (And, if after reading the article, you’re dying to see my parents wedding pictures, you can check them out right here.)
Here is a taste of what I wrote. Though sadly, I cannot offer tastes of their enormous cake.
I got engaged in San Francisco, exactly 35 years after my parents’ 1974 wedding. Their San Francisco wedding cost about $2,000, which in today’s money is roughly $10K. So naturally, when we started planning, my mom thought that if I made the same good practical, frugal choices that she and my father had made, I should be able to pull off something similar for $10K. I just needed to be smart about it.
In fact, when most people get engaged, I think we generally assume it should be possible to get married for $10k BECAUSE THAT IS A FUCK TON OF MONEY. And yeah, if you cut some corners, in many parts of the country you actually can pull off a pretty nice wedding for $10K. (Hell, I’ve built a whole business around helping people do just that.)
But by today’s standards, my parents’ wedding was BEYOND. They got married in San Francisco’s reigning massive church, Grace Cathedral, three days after Christmas. They had a whopping 300 people in attendance, and a cocktail reception at the swanky Marine’s Memorial Club. Their cake alone was so big that when we tried to re-create their wedding, we couldn’t even find a baker that still made cakes that large.
And yet their budget was only $10,000 in 2017 dollars.
So, with the help of my cooperative parents, my staff and I set out to re-create their wedding in today’s economy, to show exactly what wedding inflation looks like. Luckily, my dad is a mathematician who remembers every number ever, so we were able to re-create their line-item wedding budget with astonishing accuracy. He gave us a line item on costs that added up to $2,195, or just under $10,000 in today’s currency. Then we made a bunch of undercover phone calls to see what the same things would cost in real life 2017 Wedding Dollars.
This is what we came up with.
So who’s going to send that to their Mama? And who needs a good vent about wedding inflation and parents’ unreasonable expectations?