Classic APW: Wedding Industry Rage. Rage, I Tell You.

Ah. Here we go. Meg, the Wedding Undergraduate… and a young wedding undergraduate at that. We’d been engaged for two and a half months when I wrote this. What can I say to give you perspective? We were engaged for 18 months, and at the very beginning I was enamored with all the pretty things, and after a short flirtation with the pretty, I got really angry (at that point there were about two sane wedding resources on the web). I think this was about when I read about the “budget bride” who only had a “gospel choir and a string quartet” to stay thrifty (sadly, a true story) and totally snapped. Then, things were calm, until the economy totally fell apart, which was hugely stressful on it’s own, but didn’t help the strain of paying for a wedding. And then in the months before the wedding things got hard again. There was alcohol to buy and friends to organize and RSVP’s to deal with. And then, then there was wedding zen and it was bliss, and the wedding, which was better than bliss. But before all that there was rage.

Vintage Meg:

I’ve been feeling some rage recently with the Wedding Industry. Actual rage. Like, step away from the computer, step away from the wedding magazines, this isn’t healthy, rage. You know why? I think we are all being set up. I think the whole game is rigged. If you play by the wedding industry rules, it is a no win situation.

Here is the thing. How many times do you see pictures or read a article about a really beautiful wedding, and get sucked in? “Gosh,” you say to yourself, “This really is a beautiful wedding. I want a wedding like this! How did they do it?” And then you start breaking down the details: The venue $20K, food $50K, bar tab $20K, dress $10K, second dress $8K, photographer $12K, invites $3K, flowers $6K, cake $3K, event planner – best in the business. And then you say to yourself. “Well, cr*p, no wonder they had a nice effing wedding.” And you slam the wedding magazine or your computer shut.

Now, none of this is totally fair. Everyone deserves to have a nice wedding, and people that have more money to spend on their event deserve a nice wedding as much as anyone. Plus, money doesn’t mean taste. You can spend half a million on a wedding and have it be a tasteless train wreck. So, we should totally applaud the tasteful high end wedding, and draw inspiration from it. Right?

Right. To a extent. The problem comes in the fact that no one ever tells brides what these weddings they are admiring cost. You look at the beautiful dress a bride is wearing, and you think to yourself, “Oh goodness, why isn’t my dress that nice? Maybe I should get a nicer dress.” And in that way, we are all set up for failure, or mountains of debt. And either way, we lose.

You know who we should be admiring? Classy budget brides. Couples who eloped, had a lovely and meaningful wedding, and didn’t spend a penny. We can all keep admiring those high end weddings, but every time we should mentally put a price tag on it. Nice wedding. $150K. Is one day worth that to me?

What do you think? Ever have days like this? GARRRR!

Photo by Kamp Photography, via Trash The Dress (Thanks Peonies!)

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  • Um, yeah. I have days like this though I'm not to the point of rage yet. It doesn't bother me (much) that the wedding media don't inform people of the price of most of the weddings they feature or create details for. But it's when you're trying to go budget, willing go out of the mainstream, and things still seem to cost a ridiculous amount. $200 for paper plates, napkins, and cutlery? For 75 people?? And then to use some paper/plastic tablecloths & tableskirts to hide the ugly tables coming in with another $200 (which isn't as bad as the $25/table to rent a tablecloth…no skirt). But $400 to serve my wedding meal on paper and plastic? What the freaking heck???

    • Sarah

      This a fantastic discussion. Not just because of decrying the movie-set weddings that clearly cost more than anything I could afford. But talking about the in-between range – ie, how much a “simple” wedding can cost, and then feeling bad when you see gorgeous $1K weddings, and wondering what you’re doing wrong that it’s costing so much.
      Meg, thank you for the “stop feeling guilty” reply. I come from a huge family that’s terrible with money, and I pride myself on being thrifty. My FH has a giant savings account because he comes from a family that does things like invest in real estate. I thought, “Great! Now we can afford a beautiful space and delicious dinner for $10K!” Only now I’m praying to keep it under 20K, and torn between feeling like that money could be spent in better ways and wanting everything to be magical. But I have hope! : )

  • I spent the first 5 months of our engagement thinking our wedding was going to cost upwards of $15,000. And while, by wedding standards, that's cheap as hell, it was still way beyond a realistic budget. Of all obstacles in the wedding planning process, I'm thankful that we conquered the wedding industry early. And by conquered, I really mean that we're aware of it now because I don't think anyone can ever really conquer it. I'm still occasionally influenced by wedding industry porn but at least I can recognize and reject it rather than going through the whole planning process blindly thinking that our wedding has to be made to fit within the boundaries of wedding industry standards. Lovin' the Classic APW's by the way.

  • I hired a planner to help me because I was overwhelmed with work and my fiance got a job in another state and we're trying to sell the house and move all at the same time. I thought it would relieve some stress.
    Now, with 3 weeks to go, I am finding she is more of a stress-inducer than anyone else! She has been trying to talk me into these sparkly tableclothes, which are pretty, but I am OK with plain white. "Oh but plain white isn't you" (b/c, she KNOWS me, right?) But they are pretty, so I think, OK, lets go with those overlays. Then I get the rental estimate which is 2 X what I expected. She wouldn't come out and tell me why at first. She's like, but it's not that bad! I said, Oh, I'll have to drop the (simple) string lights then. She's like "but it's just $300 more, that's nothing in the wedding world!" WTF?!! That's not the point! $25 each to rent a 72" square of fabric for 4 hours doesn't make sense to me in ANY world!
    Today I will calmly be emailing her to tell her, once again, that no one who loves us gives a hoot what color the tablecloths are and we will be going with the plain poly ones!

  • Oh this was a good one. I remember reading your posts, like this one early on before I got engaged. Definitely helped me start wedding planning in a much more rational way than I would have if I hadn't read your blog.

    I'm really glad I read your blog first, so that I could learn from your experiences. They have totally shaped my expectations of wedding planning, weddings, and marriage. And for that I can only say thank you.

    • Thank you, Ms. Bunny, for summing up my feelings about A Practical Wedding. Not quite engaged yet (We’re planning for this to happen in June. But maybe still a surprise. Is that weird and unrealistic?) I’m still wandering through the wedding world. Luckily, I found A Practical Wedding early on, and it’s still my favorite wedding/life blog hands down. Thanks to Meg, and every other contributor, for giving us advice based on actual experiences. And thank you as well for giving me somewhere other than Knot to go and look for inspiration (not just for THINGS but also for Actions, Dealing with Emotions, and Love). I need people with a rational mindset!

  • I definitely have some days like this, where I just want to yell at all the people who created this massive wedding industry. When you're shopping around for things for your wedding, as soon as you say the W word, the price just skyrockets! It's just unbelievable!

  • @A-L: I too was dismayed by the cost of renting tablecloths, so I ended up buying black sheets from Ikea and using some black tablecloths I already owned. In our darkened venue, NO ONE knew. My bridesmaid couldn't even tell they were sheets with the lights on, while she was putting them on the tables. Plus, now I have extra sheets for our bed. :) Plus, I thought black was a nice alternative to white tablecloths, at least in our dark theatre-like venue space. And we also thought about disposable, compostable cutlery and plates, but were shocked at how much it would be, so we ended up renting (only about a hundred more).

  • I remember this original post and feeling empowered because my budget is $5,000 and I am doing really well at not going over but not without SO MANY HEADACHES!

    With 4 months to go, I have gone through almost every "engraging" experience and have dumped a TON of things that I thought I wanted because I'm being overcharged for being a "bride".
    $8,000 to feed our guests NOT including service fees when I could go with a local deli who will make us amazing gourmet pizzas for 1/10th of that price? CHECK!
    My expensive photographer has stopped responding to my e-mails? I dumped him to find someone to trade services with saving me $2000!
    $25 each for 7 orchid corsages when I don't even like orchids? I took a trip to the craft store and made 7 lovely silk rose corsages for less than $20!

    It seems that there is always this "enthusiasm" when you tell a possible vendor that you're the bride (or when they just assume it)that they seem to think you're wearing rose-colored glasses and just want to throw money at every situation. Sometimes the sentiment is genuine but if I have to hear "Oh, are you the briiideee? Ohh, congrattuullaatiioonnssss!" in that fake, high pitched happiness I am going to freak out…

  • Liz

    for serious. or better yet, when these weddings are labeled "diy" or "budget." effing KILLS me.

    @too many commentors to list: buy them for the price you'd spend renting, and then let other brides use em.

  • I just wrote a similar post a couple of weeks ago on my blog. If a wedding that's being featured on one of the the blogs and cost $50K that's fine, but at least give me a ballpark figure so I'm not setting myself up for failure. I can sympathize with you, Wedding Undergraduate Meg!

  • Oh, and we went with compostable cups and napkins and veneerware plates and cutlery only because there will be a lot of kids and I don't want to stress about breaking something. (Also because at the last wedding we attended, my man got a little excited and broke a champagne glass)
    It's costing about the same, maybe a little more but in the grand scheme of things it's a small price to pay for my sanity…

  • I totally agree. I had a recent example that nearly set me off the deep end:

    We went to a florist to inquire about flowers just for our reception (i.e., just for the table). She showed us pretty pictures, asked us what flowers we liked, and so on. I nervously inquired about the cost, knowing that we weren't going to spend more than $300 (and even that was pushing it) for our "floral budget." "Oh, we'll talk about it later," she flippantly responded. A few days later she emailed us her "vision" and the prices: Option A was $700 and Option B was $800! What were these flowers made of, gold?!

    After that, we decided to go DIY-Martha Stewart style, all for the low price of $100. (And we get to keep the candles and water goblets afterwards.)

  • I feel you, I have a strict budget so I'm looking for the little inspirational and DIY touches to make our wedding personal. You're keeping it real for us and that is a great thing!

  • my issue is how STYLED the great majority of images we're looking at are. i feel that a lot of the 'real' weddings photos out there are digitally retouched photos of weddings that have been styled by a wedding planner.

  • @Allison- I had 20 kids at my wedding, and they didn't break a single thing. The adults, however, broke at least 10 glasses, all on the dance floor (and two of those were me- I blame it on overexcited hugging). Since we got married in a bar, they were totally unfazed (but said the number of classes broken was a LITTLE more than their regular Sunday nights!)

  • Right there with all you girls. I see these images and I immediately know it's out of my budget. I assume it so I don't really have any expectations that are being dashed. My way to plan is shop around online, go for the basics, and find the best price. I say no to a lot of things that would be "pretty cool." I already feel a bit indulgent just having a wedding to begin with. I don't want to regret my wedding-so I already know that means staying in budget. If a place seems to high end I won't even go in. I am all about budget friendly places that are not high end because I don't have high end money.

  • TOTALLY have days like this! To make matters worse, I live in NYC, where it feels like everything is beyond expensive. This post reminds me of the online forum I saw where one woman was talking about how she managed to have a super cheap wedding here. She broke down the expenses one by one — rings: $15, flowers: $10, dress: $30 — it was all going great until it got to reception: $17,500! AAAAGHHH! I get that the city's expensive, I get that that's budget by wedding industry standards, but it sure isn't budget by *my* standards! You are not alone in your rage, my dear!

  • Oh yes… this is me today. My thing right now is stupid centerpieces. Which I don't even really care about. But the wedding industry makes me think I should care about them, and makes me think I need to spend hundreds of dollars on each one. And then I think back to weddings I've been to… and I can't remember anyone's centerpiece. So… yeah. Not happy with the wedding industry right now.

  • Willow

    Well, when you consider that the majority of people don't have any retirement savings, that puts the expense in perspective for me!

    I don't understand why wealthy and upper-middle-class standards are presented as the norm. The percentage of people in those classes is teeny-tiny.

    At some point those of us who are not in that group need to face the reality that wedding expenses can create financial hardship and make our plans accordingly.

    Wedding standards in America have been rising since the late 1800's when professionals first began to get involved. Most weddings used to be held at home among family and a few close friends.

    Only the wealthy had large weddings and dancing.

    What was common for the wealthy eventually became commonplace among the middle class, except the middle class feels the pinch more.

    Something to think about.

  • Reading these comments is giving me tablecloth rage! Our caterer is handling the rentals for us, and charging $12 each for our 60×120 tablecloths. Judging by what I am seeing here, a lot of you ladies may be getting taken advantage of by rental companies or caterers. Awful.

  • Jo

    @Kelly – Your wedding planner just tried to convince you that "wedding world" is a different world than where we live every other day of our lives. I think that's the best example of where budgets get lost – when we forget that there IS NO wedding world. There's just the one world, where people don't notice the tablecloths and debt is real. Listen up brides to be: Don't drink the "wedding world" juice!!

  • Meg

    You ladies are making me super thrilled that I didn't deal with rentals. We had tables and chairs provided (part of why we picked the venue), and our rentals were part of our catering bill.

    With graduate hindsight I can tell you this – there are times to just save your sanity. I *never looked* at the price of our table cloth rentals, I just let our caterer put it into the bill, and just looked at the big bill. I didn't need to know ;) My best tip is 1) Find vendors you actually trust, not all fake-wedding-trust, and who's work you like… and then just trust them. And remind yourself you're paying someone who's work you admire and respect. Do big picture numbers. Because yes, the small stuff will make you engraged.

    But I emerged from the wedding planning process learning that for me, sanity was more important than smallish amounts of cash. Funny that I would learn that, of all things….

    @Katie Especially if you use long tables, I think you can totally skip the centerpieces. We put a lot of work into ours, and while I don't' regret it (I enjoyed doing it, and enjoyed the centerpieces), I don't think anyone would have missed them. The tables were, after all, piled with food.

  • Meg, even when full of rage, you are so polite and eloquent. So much nicer than I *ever* am.

  • The best wedding I attended last year was in a backyard. Burgers and Mac & Cheese were served for dinner, the bride wore a beautiful dress she'd found on sale for $200, the decor was DIY… and it was a beautiful wedding. Everyone had FUN — laughed, mingled and danced all night.

    I think people forget that weddings are about heart. Marrying the one we love, surrounded by our loved ones. The glitz & glam are great… but if it doesn't have heart, it's not a wedding I would want.

  • L.

    I had my first bout of wedding industry rage this weekend at a bridal show. I went at the insistence of my mother and a childhood friend who is also getting married. There was a pushy salesman-type of guy there trying to get brides to sign up for his store's registry, selling super high-end and ridiculously expensive cookware. I told him about 3 times that I wasn't interested, since I'd prefer to sign up for a registry with my partner, since he'd also be using said cookware. He then asked me where I was planning on registering, and I replied, "Target," which is a more affordable place that sells perfectly good housewares. He very rudely told me that that place was "cheap quality," and that I'd be showing my guests my "lower" standard of living. …Really? By not asking the friends and family I love to pay $500 for a saucepan, I'm somehow showing them I'm trashy? I didn't realize that forcing people to pay a ton of money shows how "sophisticated" I am.

    Perhaps this was just an isolated event, but I have been noticing that the more blatantly wedding oriented places tend to echo sentiments of the creep I mentioned above, while the more locally based, mom and pop type places I encounter seem to be a lot more down to earth.

  • C

    @ Frances, oh I feel you!

    Some of these weddings are BEYOND super styled. What kills me is all the rented furniture (beyond the obvious tables and chairs). Or the suggestion you should rent alternative furniture for a venue because theirs isn't pretty enough.

    Since when is wedding code for "magazine photo shoot" and bride a synonym of model?

    I am NOT a model!


  • Love this post!!!!!


    Thank you for so eloquently stating what I've been thinking all along!!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this post! We've been engaged for almost 5 months now, and our wedding is 6 months away. The only thing I have is my dress and the shoes, which cost more than I initially anticipated.

    First I wanted a destination wedding in San Francisco, then I wanted a small wedding here in Chicago, then I wanted a destination wedding in Hawaii, and then we were set on deciding between 2 venues in Chicago. Now, I am entertaining the idea of a really small wedding in Chicago.

    My poor fiance. I was so naive to think we could have reception for 75 people at under $8,000.

    I love wedding photography, but the ones we are considering are $3,800 or $5,000. Does it make sense to spend that much on a smaller wedding?

    • Danielle

      You can totally do it!
      a tip on wedding photographers… if you find a photographer you like but they’re that expensive, ask them to refer a photographer that is in your price range. If you like they’re style, it’s likely they can refer you to someone similar.
      I really liked this photographer, and he was way out of my range, and not available on my date. BUT he referred me to another photographer that has worked as his assistant who was honestly of equal quality.
      Don’t get confused with, this photographer is better because of their price. It’s your preference in style, and it comes in every price.
      good luck!

  • I'm a little more than a year into our 20 month engagement, and I cycle through this sequence pretty much continuously: this is fun!, um no it's not, RAGE!, F everything I am taking a break from all this nonsense, oh I forgot how fun this is! Thanks for bringing back the vintage Meg posts ;)

  • Marisa-Andrea

    Oh, um, YES. TOTALLY. I spent a great deal of our wedding planning process feeling like a complete loser because we had practically no money to spend. We didn't even take a honeymoon because I had to work. Because we needed money. Looking at magazines, etc only made me feel like crap and there were several times when I didn't even WANT a wedding anymore.

    Thank goodness I came to my senses and have friends who are sassy and fabulous and were there to help me understand that it's not the amount of money you spend that makes a wedding wonderful. And ours was AMAZING.

    Take that, Wedding Industry!

  • AMEN!!!!

    engaged 2 months ago at 43. never thought i would get married. having fun planning a wedding at DISNEYWORLD. yes, disneyworld. and everywhere it is the same deal. and especially the TV shows – that david tutera – that disney wedding guy???? that show "remakes" admitedly sketchy weddings for what must be 7x the original budget at least!!! but no disclosure.


    thank you for this blog!!!

    • Pamela

      Oooh that David Tutera guy makes me mad. Now, I admit I’ve only seen a couple episodes because that show bothers me, but from what I’ve seen he takes a bride with a low budget who is really trying, tells her all her ideas, dreams, and effort is crap, and then says here, the glitz and glam is where it’s at…
      Now, I know she consented to be on the show, and some of her ideas might not be great. But, for example, I saw a bride who had clear glass vases with either stones or marbles in the bottom, with inexpensive fake flowers in a bouquet, with a ribbon wound around the stems in her wedding colors stuck into the marbles. It looked fine as a centerpiece, generic but fine. And you should have heard the catty and mean things David was saying. And while I realize he took her and topped it and it was lovely (I don’t know for sure because I got disgusted and turned it off), I’m thinking there is some bride out there watching this who has almost the exact centerpieces, they’re the best she can afford and she was pleased with them– but now she’s hearing David say such horrid things and crying because she has no money to do any better. THAT is what I think not only David Tutera, but the entire wedding industry does to people.
      I have two close friends who had weddings for around $1K. Unfortunately, both of them regret it. Well, not their marriage– both are still married. But one of them gets either sullen or enraged with regret whenever weddings are brought up saying, ‘I should have done this’ or ‘I should have insisted on that’. And the other says, convincing herself, ‘It was a good wedding, wasn’t it?’ as if she wasn’t sure…
      And its not that either wedding was that awful. It was that they see other people’s weddings and get filled with remorse. Because you only get married once (hopefully) and then that’s it.
      Though, actually, both of my friends say that on some future anniversary when they have more money they’d like to have a vow renewal. And I don’t tell them, because they don’t need to know, that there are mean and catty brides all over the internet who would love to lash out at them for even contemplating that. Blessedly, neither of them frequented the knot or many of the other weddings places where rarely a nice word is spoken… I can take what people say there with a grain of salt, so it doesn’t bug me too much, but I’ve seen way to many brides with a 20K or more budget telling another bride on a 3K budget all her ideas are tacky not to get filled with rage.
      Personally, I hope to pull my wedding off for about $5K.. I am thankful to the Lord that I am a crafty person or I know I wouldn’t think it was possible.

  • Nina

    oh yes, wedding rage, I stopped looking at all magazines and most of the web wedding porn a while ago because it does just set you up to think your wedding won't be good enough.
    I felt like we were doing really well with our budget, until I realized I had not added in some very important costs – like tips to vendors and gifts to family and friends who have helped out – and this is stuff where I don't want to skimp. Oh yes, and who knew renting tablecloths could be that expensive?? Let alone chairs… so the final number keeps going up.

  • @Allison and Lauren: Though I did decide to rent "real" dishes (the week of the wedding), after doing so I spent the next few days and the day of the wedding worrying that we would break a lot of dishes and have to pay TONS. I was SO wishing I had gone with the compostable instead. To my amazement, I think we only broke two glasses (and it was an adult who accidentally did this while clearing a table). All that stress for nothing. Thankfully. Too bad I stressed so much and let it take some of my joy!

    @Anonymous: I was considering a wedding in Chicago, and found the least expensive place to be the Swedish American Museum in Andersonville. I think the reasonable price even includes the tables, chairs, and linens. (Speaking of!) I have a friend who attended a wedding there and said it is nice, and another friend who has organized events there and likes it. Plus they have a kitchen you can use. Good luck! (After searching lots in town and the suburbs, we gave up and got married in Canada.) :)

  • Meg

    I'm kind of pissed that people are making y'all pay for broken dishes. I mean, unless you start throwing them at each other, a few broken is really part of the deal. And I'm going to add my green vote here: regular *is* better than compostable, if not always possible.

    We definitely did NOT have to pay. So maybe push back on that. And I think we didn't break anything but the glass under the huppah….

  • JOC


    I think I've mentioned on here that my cousin is having a WIC-fest in July. My uncle likes to talk about how much money he spends (and so does my cousin, for that matter), and he's told everyone – ad nauseum – that the wedding is costing upwards of sixty thousand dollars. Before you say that this would cover, in addition to your wedding, a downpayment on a house and a kickass honeymoon, have no fear – he gave them those, too.

    My wedding will be far less, though we are going with some WIC stuff (FH wanted me in a "real" wedding dress; I wanted a DJ because I didn't want to worry about it), we're trying to find ways to save. We picked a nontraditional venue (vineyard) that reflects our interests and the food and beverage costs shake out to less than those of most of the catering companies and banquet halls we considered. I'm not doing a traditional bouquet, and my flowers will be minimal. The centerpieces will be DIY. Our photographer is a scrappy, talented BFA student at a local college that's charging us next to nothing. Etc. etc.

    Even with our concessions, I'm still quite positive our budget is going to shake out around $15,000. Ugh. Damn you, WIC! *shakes fist*

  • JOC

    By the way, this is "The Social Commentator," signed onto my other account (didn't realize til it posted) … just thought I'd clarify! :)

  • Meg

    AND a down payment? Sigh. You don't live in San Francisco my dear. That's not EVEN a down payment here.

    $15K is nothing to be ashamed of. Let yourself off the hook, you're doing the best you can, what's right for you, and a damn good job.

  • Anonymous

    I totally agree. And thank goodness that APW is all about being classy and sane regardless of your budget. And about having YOUR wedding, regardless of what anyone else says.

    So often out in internet land, I want to ask what about us brides that are having just a plain ole' medium sized wedding? Our budget is about 25K, but we are doing a 'boring' church/reception type of thing. It's hard to be stuck in between the two worlds. The crazy WIC blogs/magazine and freaking My Fair wedding who say we need to be spending more money and how we are 'budget' (which drives me crazy-I feel like we're dropping serious cash) make me feel horrible about not spending more. Then there are those blogs out there that say I should be spending $1000 bucks, going to a farm/lake/camp/backyard etc etc, and that my ideas are boring, stereotypical, and blah. And that everything should be DIY, and that we are horrible heartless people for spending as much money as we are. We aren't doing crazy glitz and glam, but it's ours. It's what my fiance and I want, and what we have been able to budget with our joint incomes. Being caught in the middle is tough.

  • So… sometime in the days leading up to reading this post I had a melt down that resulted me me throwing out all the wedding magazine/books taht people had given me – every last one. I think it came sometime after reading one more rediculous statement about flowers – something about the standard being that you should spend $10 per guest on your flowers — Really???? Who comes up with this stuff!! 4 months left – sigh – it's good to know there are others out there that don't think my rage at the wedding industry is unfounded.

  • BostonGirl

    I wonder if the wedding industry just hasn't evolved yet to the point where we automatically recognize the differentiations in affordability. For comparison, it's like watching Sex and the City, or Housewives in New York, or heck, any House Hunters show on HGTV, and realizing that people have a much bigger budget than you do, and the cost of living is just higher in some places. I feel like eventually we don't hate on them, but appreciate them for the art they provide (er, maybe I'm thinking of just SATC with this metaphor). But for some reasons, with weddings it all seems still so…possible. We just haven't quite realized that we can lovingly laugh at some brides and their dresses like we do with Carrie and her $20,000 closet of Manolo Blahniks. Do any of us really want a closet full of Manolo Blahniks? No! But so pretty to look at on tv :) We're just kids learning to stay within the lines on our own sheet of paper.

    Just a thought.

  • Meg

    I. Hear. You. You're rocking it. You're good.

    $10 a guest on FLOWERS? What fresh hell is this?

    At least when I wrote this (I'd say the wedding blog-o-sphere has more sane resources now, which would have helped me. Hell, APW as it is now would have made me fall down and cry with happiness) But anyway, I think, at least at the time, I had a feeling that wedding costs are hidden more than other sorts of costs. The number of things pitched as "DIY weddings" or "budget weddings," that really cost $50K or more? Well, it happens. Quite a bit. In fact, recently, I saw a lovely indie DIY wedding… and I personally knew that the couple was wealthy as hell. So I thought, hum, there are people out there who think this is do-able now…. not realizing more than $100K was spent.

    So yeah. I think about this. And I'm not quite sure what makes it trickier. Maybe because we all understand shoes, but don't understand throwing large events?

  • kt

    Absolutely. I have been struggling with this since I started planning all the details of the wedding. I am constantly torn between these materialistic things that I see online and in magazines, and REALITY. I feel like this wedding planning process has actually brought out the materialistic side in me, and it pisses me off!

  • Kit

    Before I actually got engaged, I had the wedding crazies. I'd put together a wedding inspiration board (a slide in powerpoint) every night, just for fun. Then I got engaged and suddenly, just about everything wedding related made me want to crawl in a hole and die. As stupid as it sounds, I'm glad I was wedding obsessed beforehand or I never would have had the energy to find sane places (the ones I still check and don't make me want to die). Now, with a healthy dose of APW and OBB on a daily basis, I can avoid throwing things when the tv channel is set to whatever bride show WETV is hawking. Except My Fair Wedding, I still don't have that much control.

  • Meg

    I can totally relate to what you're saying. Some of the best weddings i've been to have been the ones where the bride and groom did it their own way – forget the wedding industry hype.

  • I think I can do my wedding for under $5,000 and it will be classy, tasteful and beautiful. :) I'm sure it helps that I'm making my own dress as well as doing a lot of other DIY stuff…

  • Yeah, I think a lot of us don't realize how much it costs to do a larger event. Though I've done dinner parties for 10, it's not like you just multiply the costs for that event to get to the amount being spend for a wedding. Even going through relatively sane channels (and not telling caterers it's a "wedding") stills brings forth prices that are like, "really?"

    I also find it difficult to spend these large quantities of money and know that it's only going to two events (rehearsal dinner & wedding). When I first got engaged I thought if we did a nice, informal affair that we could cap the budget at $5000. But as I've gotten into more serious planning that number keeps inching up though I'm confident my total will still be well under $10k. I just feel a little badly that spending so much money qualifies me as being cheap and having this be a cheap wedding. Yet I think that spending $2500-5000/event (when dividing the costs equally between the two events) is not inexpensive. aGrr!

  • My #1 moment of Wedding Industry Rage occurred when I opened an article on a website whose name will not be mentioned ;) entitled "Do's and Don'ts for your wedding day." Silly me, I thought there might be useful tips like "make sure to eat a good breakfast", or "relax and don't sweat the small stuff", or "spend a moment alone with your partner". Heavens no! The #1 thing the article told me was that I must, must, MUST define my eyebrows with an eyebrow pencil (such as This One, which costs just $40). Otherwise everything will clearly be Ruined. … …
    = me screaming and throwing things.
    I have now recovered and am secure in my decision not to Pencil my Eyebrows. :)

  • I think others have said this, (this is what I get for not stalking APW all day long and having to read all the comments at once…) but I hit a point where we just had to go, "What am I willing to pay more for that will keep me from being crazy-face?"

    We wanted to DIY our food but in the end the Boy decided that we needed to spend more on having something catered rather than have me go nuts on our wedding day trying to get the food together and set up. (I think his words were, "If you're like this now, just TALKING about doing the food ourselves, I'm not sure I want to see you actually dealing with it…" Mean, but accurate.)

    I DIY-ed a bunch of stuff, but that's a different issue altogether. I guess my point is make sure the money you're saving is in balance with the amount of stress you're putting on yourself by DIY or constantly searching for something cheaper. Maybe you can cut something else and pony up the extra cash, just to save yourself the hassle, frustration and stress.

  • Julianna

    I am so grateful that I found APW very very early in the wedding planning process and saved myself a lot of WIC rage, because I quickly followed Meg's advice to stop reading any blog or site or magazine that made me feel bad.
    Even with a quite generous budget (which still makes me feel guilty when I read most other comments here), I started mentally adding up the costs of wedding spreads in magazines and while I liked one feature here, one feature there, etc. I realized that to have ALL of them would get awfully expensive awfully fast.

    Re: wedding prices vs. closets of shoes… I think part of it is that so many things in weddings are tied up with a service being provided, and that almost never has a price tag. With shoes, you can walk in a store and see how much Manolo Blahnik's cost… but you can't walk up to a floral arrangement at someone's wedding and lift it up and find a price tag underneath. Plus with shoes you're buying a product, and with flowers you're often also paying for a florist's labor & talent to design & arrange & deliver them… That combined with how "un-PC" it can be to talk about expenses when you're throwing an event and there are guests involved I think leads to a "hush hush" factor about wedding costs. How many people pre-wedding planning have ANY idea how much it can all add up to? I know I was clueless!

  • Meg

    Stop feeling guilty this instant, and that's an order. Guilt over your wedding budget is emotion that is wasted. Sometimes what's best for your family is $50K. And you know what? So be it. While we did not spend anywhere near $50K, we spent PLENTY. And oddly, I don't regret it. We thought it all through, but the most interesting thing I learned was that looking back I think, "Yeah. That's just what it cost. Also? It was great and we did the best we could. Ok, what's going on with the finances *now.*"


  • Julianna

    @Meg thanks for the no-guilt reminder. I am glad to hear you still felt comfortable with the budget after the fact. We have reached the point where we've booked the biggest-ticket items (in order of priority, as you recommended!) and I'm trying to remember that what's done is done and will be lovely, I think it's that whole "not WIC but not DIY" betwixt/between feeling that gets to me every time I read too much of one or the other. Thanks again for the sanity check ;)

  • Nat

    I've been reading you from way back Meg and I remember this post fondly. One thing I've noticed since then is that 'budget' weddings (that really cost $40K+) have been replaced by weddings which are labeled 'DIY' but yet have a list of suppliers as long as my arm… Apparently on alot of 'those' blogs 'DIY' is now and look rather than a reference to something being homemade.

  • Meg

    Indeed. As one of my smart ass friends said, "Oh, is doing your own shopping DIY now?"

  • JOC

    @Meg –
    I forget that not everyone lives in an area where houses are actually affordable. Sometimes I wish that wasn't the case, because we are subjected to stuff like
    constantly. I have valid reasons for not wanting to purchase property yet, and I find it insulting that – even in the midst of the turmoil of the housing crisis, people think it's OK to pressure you into buying a house.

    Anyway, to your point that I shouldn't be ashamed of my price tag. I'm not. At all. It's just when there is a hiring/raise freeze at my job, FH is out of work entirely, and we can't afford to do the traveling we would love to do (and, at some times, feel like we never will be able to), it sort of makes me cringe that we're spending this cash. BUT, it's NYS, with antiquated and puritanical liquor laws, and in love with their bureaucratic red tape (I should know, I'm part of the bureaucracy!), and in order to have an event our size and have any alcohol at it (and we want alcohol – hence the vineyard setting!), we have to have it somewhere with a license. (Or, get a license ourselves, which is no easy feat, and NOT CHEAP!) So, we're doing the best we can with that.

    I suppose, though, one can say "You can do so much more with that money!" on anything that happens, and I need to keep that in perspective. I hit a nasty pothole a couple years ago, and had to have two rims and two tires replaced, costing me nearly $1000. I could do a lot with that money, too, but, well, I needed to replace those rims. It's easy to get yourself into that spiral.

  • Ha, I just stumbled across your blog (new to this whole wedding idea) & just a few days ago I posted this as my facebook status:

    "I'm super tempted to pick a "rustic blog wedding" and call the vendors and get an estimate on what it cost. Since I've seen plenty of invitations alone that run 10K+, I imagine these "charming" blog weddings are 100K+. People need a reality check."

    I'm at rage, for sure. But then I've ALWAYS been in a rage for the completely bizarre lack of acknowledgment online of intense class differences.

  • Meg

    I'm not new to the whole wedding thing. They do. The nice ones? $100K. Fact.

  • I don't know, for me, even if you HAVE that money, it's kind of vulgar to spend it on something like a wedding? But that's just me. I work for a non-profit, I'm a secret hippie communist. Heh.

  • Jessica

    I had a breakdown about 3 weeks after getting engaged. I had just gotten off the phone with the 3rd photographer who told me that unless I had a 3 hour photo shoot I would never have quality pictures. I could not find one photographer under $2,000 and when your entire wedding budget is $10,000, 20% on photos seems extravagant. Then I went dress shopping which also just added to my stress, because of the high pressure sales going on in the bridal salon that made me feel like I was buying a used car. My fiance and I went on a 4 day camping trip where we hiked and spent a lot of time NOT talking, especially about the wedding. I don’t feel 100% ready to resume planning, but I’m really glad I found this site to help me through during those dark times!

  • kelly

    Found your blog a couple days ago and have been combing through the archives. This post really struck a chord.

    The problem with some of the blogs is their definition of “budget”. Sometimes I think that they classify weddings as budget if they just had one (whether it was 5 to 150K). And the phrase “they did it for under [insert 5-6 digit number]” makes me cringe. Especially, when our goal is 5,000. Now, my parents and I realize that for what we want and the number of people on the list, we’re just being stupid. BUT, you live to your means. By setting the goal cost low, we are staying very cost conscious.

    The key when both the groom and I have champagne taste and a beer budget (by choice and necessity), is to really start perfecting the art of compromise and prioritizing. When we sat down and talked the groom’s priority was (still is) food. Mine, comfortable atmosphere and flowers (boy, do I love flowers). Photography is a must, but unfortunately we don’t need a videographer to capture the whole thing in dreamy super8. While paper products are beautiful (and I do love letterpress), I don’t see the need to spend so much money on something that will adorn someone’s fridge and then grace the garbage can. We ordered invitations from a catalog. Learned that 100#text is not the equivalent of 100#cardstock – after they arrived, and will be printing our own table numbers and such.

    I knew we couldn’t afford a country club wedding like some of my friends, didn’t want a generic hotel wedding/reception, couldn’t challenge mother nature in an outdoor affair, plus my parents yard isn’t big enough. So what was left? A university – beautiful grounds, newly renovated conference room with gorgeous lobby for cocktails and a chapel on campus. They have their own catering team, lead by a chef that cooked for Obama and McCain during one of the debates… (we just went for our tasting, WOW). (choosing a venue is also easier when two of three people we were supposed to meet with were no-call/no-shows for our scheduled appointments)

    I absolutely adore flowers. They make me smile. I couldn’t imagine my wedding without them. While, my mom and I have taken on some pretty big DIY items, the flowers are my biggest yet. They’ll arrive via overnight shipping through a wholesale website. I may want calla lilies and orchids, but definitely do not need them, roses and carnations are beautiful too.

    We’ve spent hours searching and researching all the thrift stores we could find for vases and candlestick holders that have been painted to match. We want to create a feeling of us, while still using items that can be re-purposed, resold or donated, in hopes of perpetuating the cycle and allowing others to do the same.

    Spending 8x more and taking out a second mortgage wouldn’t make our day any more special. On the contrary, I think it might actually distract from the purpose of the event, which is a celebration of togetherness – bride and groom and all our family and friends.

    I hadn’t intended to write so much. What I hope you get from all this, is that if you can keep your priorities in check and balance what you want with what you actually need, you don’t need to second guess your decisions, because they will be perfectly right for you.

  • Lucy

    Just found this blog via Get Rich Slowly and am taking a peek around. Very excited. I’m engaged but not yet planning my wedding; my fiance and I both have two years left in college and have decided it would be best financially if we waited till we graduated to get married. However, I’ve been under pressure to have a low-low-budget wedding since 06, before I even started dating my fiance, when my sister got married. She bought a second-hand dress for $100. She had artificial flowers, second-hand decorations, our aunt did the photography. She was working at Receptions at the time, and she had the wedding and reception there, probably with a discount. I don’t remember specific numbers, but I think the wedding ended up around $5000. And my mom still complained to me that she wished it had been cheaper.

    Now, I’m not too picky. I can go for cheap. I appreciate and embrace being thrifty. But I hope for my wedding to be special and classy. Good for my sister in the way she did her wedding, but it didn’t feel very special to me. It felt cheap. Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice enough wedding, but I don’t want a “nice enough” wedding. I want something simple but elegant, that I’ll love. I’m just afraid that if I spend a penny more on anything than my sister did, I’ll be plagued with “But your sister did it for this much” comments the whole way, and forever afterwards. I hope this site will give me enough ideas to stick with a low budget but not feel like I’m settling for the cheapest things I can find.

  • Joanna

    This is the best blog I have found. I am a 34 year old woman, for petes sake, who never thought I would get married, and now I have a ring on my finger, and everyone’s voice gets a little highpitched around me now.. OH MY GOOOOD, YOU’RE GETTING MAAARRRIED. I find this quite startling and I usually want to just gulp wine. We went to a wedding last weekend, and everyone was giving advice.. and my man’s favorite moment was when one friend said: oh yeah, I know what you guys are going through, trying to save money.. but we did ours for 25. And I sputtered and said “thousand?” Our budget is about a 1/5 h of that. And, as I search for “DIY” online, and see that everyone has secret stamps and make their own paper and stuff tlike that and apparently everyone has spent a year “scouring thrift stores” for mason jars with their mother – and then they end up with these crazy Williams Sonoma weddings. All we are looking for is a tree to get married under, which is kind of hard to find in Southern California (where we are doing it) for less than a million dollars for renting out a private ranch. Any other non-crafty SoCal brides out there who can help? I am looking for some compatriots.

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