Why I Will Never Regret My Giant, Expensive Wedding

I would do it again in a second

My name is Katharine, and I had a big wedding. I feel as though I should write those words with a sense of embarrassment, that they should be a precursor to “How to Have a Wedding for Only $500,” or “Why You Should Never Waste Money on a Wedding Dress.” Those are great essays, and I’m sure a lot of people would find them helpful. But I’m not embarrassed, and I’m not going to tell you to do the opposite of what I did. I don’t think you should.

There’s nothing wrong with having a big wedding.

I don’t think everyone should have a one, of course. I’ve been to charming weddings that were held in backyards and ugly-cried my way through beautiful weddings with only six guests. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with eloping. Trust me, anyone who has planned a big wedding completely understands the appeal of running away and doing it on your own. But somehow, having a big wedding has become something to be embarrassed about.

It’s a shameful secret that we try to hide or blame on our parents. “We wanted to keep things small, but you know how my mom is,” brides or grooms say as they try not to make eye contact. Clickbait articles assure us that the bigger the wedding, the more likely the marriage is to fail. Personal finance websites chide us for spending so much on “just one day” when we could be saving for retirement instead.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with saving for retirement. And if you’d rather put a down payment on a house than have a big wedding, that’s an awesome choice. But there’s also nothing wrong with throwing the wedding you want, and can afford, to have. So here’s my dirty confession: I had a big wedding, and it was expensive, and I don’t regret it at all.

No, that’s too mild: My husband and I are so glad we had a big wedding, and I would do it all over again.

our wedding was about more than us

Our wedding was big because it was not about us—it was about all the people who had shaped our lives and our relationship. In three out of our four family branches, we were the first of our generation to get married. Our families wanted to share that exciting moment with us, and we wanted to share it with them. We had dated through most of college, and our mutual friends from those years had been waiting for us to get married since we were twenty years old. Their love and support was one of the reasons we were still together, and we wanted to acknowledge that by having them present when we said “I do.” Our parents’ friends had known us since we were children playing in their front yards and had slowly become our friends as we grew into adults. How could we not want to share such an important event with the people who had been such a huge part of our lives?

So there were a lot of people there. We still could have kept things small, of course, limiting our reception to finger food and a few hours in the church hall. No one who attended would have judged us or been unsatisfied. But we would have been unsatisfied.

Our guests had been generous and loving with us our whole lives. Many of them traveled long distances to be at our wedding. We wanted to show our gratitude and love in return, and for us, the way to do that was to show them as much hospitality as we could afford. That meant a full dinner at the reception. It meant dancing and toasts to keep them entertained. It meant buying dresses and suits as gifts for our wedding party and reserving a block of hotel rooms so everyone could find a place to stay.

smaller might be easier, but…

Smaller would have been easier, but it wouldn’t have felt right. Because, sure, a wedding is “just one day.” But the memories created that day last longer than that—not just for us, but for everyone who was there. Those memories were a gift we wanted to give.

Six years later, friends still comment on how beautiful our ceremony was and how much fun they had at the reception. Gift.

My father-in-law and his siblings got a big family photo at our wedding—the last one with everyone in it before their mother died. Gift.

My grandmother suffers from severe dementia, but she still occasionally remembers moments from my wedding day, and sharing those reminisces is something that she, my father, and I are all grateful for. Gift.

Gift, gift gift. All because of a big wedding.

big can mean different things

Big is a relative term, of course, and “expensive” even more so. I’m not trying to imply that you should have a wedding you can’t afford. My husband and I were certainly careful to spend within our available means. If our wedding had drained our bank accounts or landed us in debt, I might be writing a very different essay right now. And having money to spend on a wedding at all is a privilege that my middle-class self is very aware of.

But I think it’s worth remembering that budgeting, saving, and self-denial are not the only admirable things out there. Hospitality, creating beautiful memories, acknowledging the people who are important in your life… all these are good things too. They are worth celebrating.

And sometimes, they are just as worth spending money on as houses and retirement plans.

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  • I was reading something a while back that was shocked – shocked, i say! – to discover that millenials don’t see early retirement as a financial goal worth planning for. They’d rather have experiences now and build memories than hoard everything towards a nebulous future happiness. We had a pensions meeting at work, and it was funny how shocked my older colleagues were that state pension age would be 70 minimum for those of us under 30, while the younger colleagues were extremely skeptical state pension would even exist in forty years time. Alongside emphasising authenticity and you-ness of weddings, I think we will see the more expensive wedding come back as millennials continue marrying, albeit looking different to the expensive weddings of a couple of decades ago (or a couple of decades later – people are going to look back at those out of season flowers and marvel at our lavishness!). When we’re all weathering the droughts, floods, fires and nanobot apocalypses, it’ll be nice to look back to our weddings and hold on tight to those happy memories.

    (election day is making me a touch more pessimistic than usual…)

    • Eenie

      One of my just out of college coworkers “doesn’t believe in 401k’s”. But – I don’t like these broad generalizations cause I’m a millennial and have made many a plans for retirement! Do I think social security and pensions will be around when I retire? Nope. I’m still planning for retirement without them.

      Personally, I think there’s a balance to be had – you need to save and plan for retirement but still enjoy living your life. I think that balance is different for everyone (based on actual income/reality of your personal situation, how much peace of mind financial security provides, etc.) Retirement isn’t guaranteed, but it’s still money for the future – whether it’s one of us, both of us, or for our kids/family. We save in 401K’s, roth IRA’s, emergency funds, and life insurance.

      • We don’t have 401Ks in the UK, but we have company and state pensions. I’m probably coming across most pessimistically than i actually live my life, here: I’m paying into my company pension and plan to up my contribution once the wedding is out of the way, but I’ve made my peace with the fact my tax contributions to the state pension supports people who are retired now in a way it almost certainly won’t support me. My company pensions I see either as “long term unemployment support” once I hit an age where I’m unlikely to find another job if I lose the one I’ve got*, or “slightly nicer care home money” if I manage to stay in employment until I’m unable to work for physical or mental reasons. My plans for retirement are essentially making sure I have means I can live within – if I want to go on fancy holidays or eat fancy food, that’s something I’m going to do while I’m still earning!

        *because, honestly, with increasing mechanisation the pool of jobs available is only going to get smaller, and once you’re out of work it’s going to get harder and harder to get back in. It’s already true for a lot of retired people now, who would have stayed working if they could, and it’s only going to get worse.

    • Amy March

      I dunno, this sounds a lot like millennials can’t buy houses because they eat too much avocado toast to me. I see millenials busting their butts to pay off student loans, save for retirement because they aren’t counting on government help, and rejecting conventions that demand a certain level of spending to keep up with the Joneses.

      • K. is skittish about disqus

        Yeah, agreed in my experience. We’re the classic millennial age (29/30) and we absolutely prioritize saving for retirement over everything, with the slight exception of paying off my husband’s business school loans. Not because we expect the same life script as our parents (though, sure, we’d like a house), but because we believe in putting your own oxygen mask on first and all that.

        Millennials from ages 27-35 were acutely aware of and personally suffered from the ’08 recession and so much of our financial decisions stem from that. And for most of the people I know, it takes the form of self-preservation above all else.

        • I agree, but I think that’s where the article I was reading was drawing a blank – the idea of retirement as a terrifyingly uncertain future to be staved off for as long as possible, as opposed to a happy reward for working hard, seemed to throw the article writer. Millennials aren’t saving for early retirement, they’re saving for being forced into unaffordable retirement. As a result, if an opportunity to build happy memories presents itself, like a wedding, we’re more likely to take it now than hope that it’ll still be available to us in forty years time.

          • K. is skittish about disqus

            Ah, that makes more sense! Yes, we definitely save for retirement because we’re terrified of NOT saving and what that would look like. And our fears around what my 65+ y.o. in-laws’ retirement is actually going look like post-recession and job losses also keeps us up at night. The myth of the frivolous millennial is exactly that, I think.

            But we also have a strict budget for international travel that slightly baffles our parents, especially with a baby on the way. Extremely important to us though!

      • Whoops, that’s not what I meant to say! What I was trying to convey was that saving for early retirement isn’t a priority, compared with experiencing life now, because of heightened awareness of uncertainty. Having a big wedding isn’t about keeping up with the Joneses for millennials but about making a good memories that are worth more than the financial value involved. Us millennials are saving for retirement, where we can, but the motivation is different: we’re not expecting retirement to be a period of comfortable leisure and a chance to do all the things we didn’t have time to do while working, but a period in which if we don’t save for it will be starving and homeless, and with that in mind when the opportunity to make a positive memory arises, we don’t put it off in the hope it will come back around in forty years time.

        • Amy March

          I still think it’s overreaching to speak for millenials in such a sweeping way though.

          • NotMotherTheresa

            Yeah, in general, I’m bothered by any sweeping generational statement. Sure, there are some vague similarities shared by *many* (not all) members of a given cohort, but there are also a huge number of varying factors that shape a person far more than the two-decade period during which they were born.
            I feel like 90% of the things I hear about “Millennials” are actually referring to some particular subset of white urban 25 year olds raised by upper middle class helicopter parents. Which, yeah, that’s a thing, but it obviously doesn’t describe all of us, or even most of us.
            Some us spend huge chunks of our income on things like brunch and avocado toast. Some of us put that money towards houses in the suburbs and Volvos in the driveway. Some of us are vigilant about saving for retirement, because we’re always anticipating the next disaster. Some of us don’t have $10 in savings. Sometimes these differences are a matter of personality. Sometimes these differences are a matter of upbringing. Sometimes these differences are a matter of socioeconomics. And you know, sometimes these differences are just a matter of age, since *gasp* 20 year olds naturally tend to have different spending habits than 35 year olds.

          • ART

            I want to screenshot this comment and pass it around (I won’t. But, yes!)

    • emilyg25

      I don’t see *early* retirement as a goal to save for because I love my work and I work in an industry where it’s common for folks to work into their 70s because they feel they still have things to contribute. I’m also a millennial who haaaaaaates trend pieces about millennials (and actually trend pieces in general).

      • Eenie

        Yes. And honestly, early retirement is so hard because of health care costs in the US. Until there’s a better way to afford healthcare that is employer sponsored, one of us will continue working a job with benefits until we are unable to do so. My husband already wants to “retire rehire” where he goes down to work part time as a contractor at his same company and still keeps healthcare benefits. This is probably 25-30 year down the road for us lol.

        • zana

          I think the secret is to work for the federal government some [threshhold] number of years. You get government health insurance then even after you retire ;)

          Or, of course, for the US to have reasonable health insurance coverage for everyone.

          • Eenie

            I think the secret is to pass a single payer health care system!!

            But this is honestly the only reason why I’m not worried about my in laws. My FIL retired from the Army and has health insurance and a pension through that. They’ve been able to live off that income while unemployed for stretches at a time. If they didn’t have that, we’d up our emergency fund to include additional funds to care for his parents. They are not great with money.

          • Mer

            One of the big reasons my dad accepted a new position at a new company when he was 54 was that if he worked for 10 years for them, he’d get retiree medical coverage. It’s a huge consideration.

  • The note about your grandmother’s memories of your wedding is particularly beautiful and meaningful. I’m getting married next week and my dear 96-year-old grandmother’s health began to really deteriorate about a month ago, after decades of relative health. I’m overjoyed that she is going to make it to our wedding, not knowing how much longer we have with her. That will be an amazing moment to share.

    • Abby

      Absolutely. My photographer made sure to get a photo of me and my husband with my grandparents, and I am so grateful because it wound up being the last time I saw my grandfather. So worth it to have gotten everyone in one place.

    • zana

      My (rather distant) grandmother died 4 months after our wedding and I was so glad I got over myself and got her a corsage for the wedding. You never know what event will be the last for who.

    • My grandmother got really sick about 3 months post wedding and passed away about 6 months later. My MIL asked me if we regretted spending so much on her wedding and I was very confidently able to tell her it was worth every single penny to have a wedding with my grandma there.

    • Mer

      Yup yup yup. I originally wanted a very small wedding and then when my cousin, who was 42 with 4 children under 6 passed away, I changed my tune. I felt like you just never know and I would not regret for one second having EVERYONE I care about in the same place to celebrate something happy.

    • quiet000001

      No one has passed away to my knowledge, but my mom made sure there was a photo at my bother’s wedding of my brother and all of his step-sisters (from his mom and my dad) and he loves it, and that was like 25 years ago and literally the last time we were all together at the same place/time. If it hadn’t happened then, he wouldn’t have that photo and it means a lot to him.

    • Katharine Schellman

      Rachel, congrats on your upcoming wedding, and I am so happy that you get to share it with your grandmother. Not knowing how much time you have left with someone is both beautiful and heartbreaking, but I am sure that those memories will be something for you to treasure!

  • Caitlin

    I love you for writing this. I was listening to myself the other day when I was responding to the “how many guests are you having?” question we get asked so frequently and thinking how guilty I sounded responding with 150 and how I immediately caveated it with “but we decided that we wanted everyone there so we are cutting a lot of other things to make that happen”. It was like I was saying, yes we’re having a lot of people at my wedding but I swear we’re not being extravagant and wasting money!
    We genuinely do want everyone we love to be there and we know that we are in the very fortunate position to make that happen (with great thanks to our parents who have insisted that it is their honour to pay for the wedding – another thing I feel like I should feel guilty for?) and we will never forget how privileged we have been, and will love every moment of our wedding because of it.

  • GotMarried!

    I had a tiny, relatively inexpensive wedding due to life happens … that said this quite is my mantra for the rest of my life:
    “budgeting, saving, and self-denial are not the only admirable things out there. Hospitality, creating beautiful memories, acknowledging the people who are important in your life… all these are good things too. They are worth celebrating.”

    My husband and I tends towards the frugal side of the financial spectrum, but goodness do I think a formal dining room table and china are worth it when viewed in context of the hosting our people possibilities.

    • savannnah

      This passage also really speaks to me. We are having a big wedding- I just sent invitations to 230 people- but they are all people who are important to us and who we love and that’s just the the choice we have made. I do feel the twinge of ‘Not a Cool Girl’ stamp on my wedding esp. because its big and heternormative in some very traditional ways but its intentional and authentic to our lives and that’s really it.
      Another piece to it is so about how people view value and money. My middle class parents see us saving and spending 30K as an accomplishment because they are like look you can do this and you can do it again later, which assumes there will always be more money. My partners working class family is fairly horrified at the previously lower amount we very early on quoted them because in their lives, there might not be more money and what a mistake it is when we have other (good) debt.

      • GotMarried!

        My husband and I still dance along the two world views you describe here – I’ve always seen money as something that you can earn more of. With multiple degrees in different, but equally lucrative fields, a career pivot is just waiting to happen if needed. While husband is now educated and out-earns me, he still holds on to some of his family of origins attitudes on money (and even more so, stuff). I’m pro “if in doubt, get rid of it”. If I really need whatever it is again in a few year’s i’ll buy it then. Chances are i will not. He wants to keep everything “in-case”. It’s a struggle.

      • Katharine Schellman

        I appreciate this point a lot, Savannah — and it’s important to remember that “expensive” is such a relative concept! My husband and I tend toward frugal in many decisions, but we try to remember that the point of saving money is not to *have* all the money, it’s so when something worth spending on comes along, we can afford to do it.

        That said, things like retirement are *of course* important, and now that we have a kid saving is often the name of the game! I don’t think you should prioritize a big event over a secure future. But when it comes to spending, I try to make decisions from a place of generosity and not fear. (Success rates, vary, of course, but the trying is important!)

    • Bethany

      “budgeting, saving, and self-denial are not the only admirable things
      out there. Hospitality, creating beautiful memories, acknowledging the
      people who are important in your life… all these are good things too.
      They are worth celebrating.” <— OH yes to this. What good is saving/having that money if you don't spend it on the things that bring you and others joy and fulfillment.

  • ReadyforHoneymoon

    Nice article, I will say that you can have all of your gifts of memories with both a small, large, or medium wedding. In my mind my wedding is medium, but every vendor tells me “oh you’re having a small wedding” and I’m like “what, since when is hosting a party for over 50 people small?” It is all a matter of scale, to me small is 0-20 and big is over 150, but that’s a subjective number. The author could have had her big wedding and it was 100 people or 500 and I’m glad she didn’t tell us…

    • Megan

      Yeah I read “big” as “included all the people in the writer’s community of family and friends” and expensive as “didn’t scrimp on other areas of the wedding to accommodate the full guest list”

  • One thing that drives me nuts about conversations about weddings on the Internets, is that it always dissolves into a “I was the cheapest!” pissing match. There’s this idea that folks get more points or something for having the smallest, cheapest wedding possible. I don’t get the shame around having a large wedding – if you enjoyed it and your guests did too, go for it! No matter the size or budget, people should feel proud about their wedding, not shamed for their choices.

    • Violet

      It’s such a pointless pissing match too; like obviously the cheapest option is no wedding at all. So what is the contest really about? What’s the prize? Confused.

      • Kayla

        I had my 8,000 person wedding for a quarter I found on the sidewalk on the way to the venue, and I still had 20 cents left over for the honeymoon!

    • Spot

      Closely related: the “I cared the /least!/” pissing match that often smells strongly of “I’m not like other girls…”

      • Abby

        Yes. Though I certainly fell victim to the “I’m not like most girls” aspiration when I was younger, I’m so glad today’s tweens and teens (and we!) have Hailee Steinfeld instead: https://youtu.be/qBB_QOZNEdc?t=9s

  • Vanessa

    At this particular moment in our planning, I really appreciate this. The wedding we’re planning feels very “big” right now, and it’s so good to hear from someone who feels like their experience was completely worth it.

    Right now we’re dealing with a lot of competing opinions on the amount of money we’re spending (entirely within our means), whether our wedding is extravagant, whether our accommodations are upscale enough, or too fancy, etc. There is a frequent feeling of needing to apologize for what we’re doing, like the author mentioned. There have been days when the concern over other peoples’ opinions has clouded our original enthusiasm. We realized that the only thing we can do is take every opportunity to be good hosts; if we know we are fulfilling that responsibility, then we can safely let go of other peoples’ opinions.

  • Abby

    Thank you for this. I went into reading this article pretty pessimistic. (Sure hospitality is great but think about the waste of money!) and I’ve now read it twice and am starting at my work computer in awe.

    Sure, I hate the idea of spending so much on our city saturday night wedding. It makes me cringe every time another expense comes up. But I’ve been completely forgetting about all the reasons we decided to spend substantially more and get married in our home city. The convenience for our friends, the beauty of the city, our opportunity to support local vendors that we love, and the chance to give our families a weekend away from it all just to celebrate and be together.

    I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been a little difficult for my fiance who honestly would have spent double our budget to just include everything our hearts (and our mothers hearts) desire.

    Thank you for the perspective. I’m going to save this and read it every few weeks before my september wedding just so I remember what’s really important.

    • Eenie

      As a fellow city wedding haver (Midtown Atlanta!), everything was more expensive, but it was really fun hearing about all the fun things our friends and family did over the weekend. The extra cost for us was really worth it for what it did for our guests. The biggest thing was we could afford that extra cost. It helped that our guests really appreciated the work and money we put into planning the wedding too. Made it worth it (kind of) in the end.

      My only difference from the author is I don’t regret it, but I wouldn’t do it again. That comes from the work/effort side not the money side though. Money was well spent.

      • Angela’s Back

        Midtown Atlanta sounds awesome for a wedding, go you!

  • Rose

    Our wedding wasn’t “big” by general standards, but it felt big and expensive to me at times. But the gifts listed in this rang so true. Our wedding was the last time all of my grandmother’s children were with her before her last couple of days in the hospital, and may also have been the last photo with all of them. She had a lovely time, and remembering being so happy together was actually one of the things that really helped me when she was dying. A year and a half later, our families keep mentioning how wonderful it was (aside from one of my cousins who had a very small wedding, we’re both the first and so far still the only ones in our generation to be married on both sides of the family, so it was a big deal for everyone). Those kinds of memories are lovely in good times, and are a particularly important source of light when things get dark.

    One of the things that really drove our wedding to be more expensive than it might have been was the fact that we really wanted dancing–which meant a full meal beforehand, a dance floor, a live band, etc–and it was so worth it. My parents got to dance together, which they adore but don’t do very often. So did my inlaws. My very favorite memory will always be the last song, which was You Are My Sunshine (chosen by the band, but a very lucky choice; Grandma used to sing it to us as a lullabye), when everyone who was still there ended up dancing in a big ring holding hands. For us, nothing else could have been so special. That was a gift we’ll always get to keep.

    If I were doing it over again, there are a few things I would do differently. But none of them would be spending less money.

  • emilyg25

    Your wedding is your one chance to get all the people you love most in one room together, other than your funeral and that’s not as much fun. We invited all our aunts and uncles and cousins so it was like a big family reunion. We invited kids because they’r part of our family too. We invited my parents’ friends because they’re like aunts and uncles to me and I very rarely get to see them anymore. Hell, we even invited some friends just because they’re fun people and would make it a good party.

  • another lady

    I agree! I would not have said it while planning, but after the fact, I definitely do not regret the wedding we had! There are some things that I would change if I could go back and do it again, but the venue, size and cost of the wedding are not those things. I originally wanted to elope and have a small reception for family and close friends, but I’m actually really glad that we had a ‘traditional’ bigger wedding (130 people, $12-15K). I know that my in-laws never once regretted the money they spent on the wedding, either!

  • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

    Ours was going to be a big wedding no matter what, because my family is 85+ people, and it was important to me to be surrounded with the people we love. So, we ended up with over 200, but lucked out enough with a cheap summer camp and some friendors that we could do it as inexpensively as possible. The Olive Garden rule was my mantra, and I kept myself down to earth by constantly reminding myself that ANYTHING x200 was going to be more expensive.
    I would absolutely have spent more if I could, but I was also perfectly OK with the fact that our budget basically doubled once we got into planning. In the end, it was exactly what we wanted.

    • another lady

      what’s the olive garden rule?? I’m intrigued!

      • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

        It’s referenced in the APW planner and in this post: https://apracticalwedding.com/common-wedding-mistakes/
        Basically, keep in mind that salad, dinner, and a couple drinks per person at Olive Garden is going to cost closer to $50 per person than $10 pp, so remember that for the sticker shock of how much wedding stuff costs. It was the perfect concrete example I needed for perspective!!

  • Jess

    Like the author, I had a “big” wedding (120 people, lots of $) I don’t regret anything. I wanted a small little wedding because I like small little events and didn’t want to spend the money.

    It was SO worth it to see family members happy, to hear about our friends having a great time, to have the memories of an entire group of people running back onto the dance floor for a certain song.

  • Huge Wedding

    Agreed! We had a huge, expensive wedding with over 350 people – and we loved every minute of it. We personalized it, we held it off-season to avoid certain expenses and to make flights/hotels cheaper for our guests, and we focused on each other and the mass to keep us sane in planning it. My parents and my in-laws love to reminisce about the day – and I tear up every time my dad says our wedding was the best day of his life. For us, our wedding was worth doing big, was worth doing well, and was worth doing once.

  • sage

    This article makes me feel better about my wedding plans.

    Fiance and I knew from the start we would have a big wedding – he has tons of friends and I have a huge, close-knit family. We can definitely afford to go all out and invite everyone we want to be there (I recognize we are very privileged to be in this position). But once the real numbers started pouring in I did feel a little ashamed about the money we are spending since we are in a big city working with a full-service venue and the wedding is probably going to be extravagant by many peoples’ standards.

    But this year my 27 year old cousin died after a short battle with cancer. My FMIL is not in good health, and she is SO excited for the wedding (she picked out her dress for it before we got engaged). My grandparents on one side are still around but their health is declining. At this point I just want everyone together, and to make those memories the author talks about. Because life is hard sometimes and the chance to go all out and celebrate with your loved ones and to give your people a chance to live on that celebratory high for months (or years) to come is everything.

  • Jan

    Every time someone asks me how many guests we’re inviting, I catch myself being like, “Oh, we’re inviting 220 butweonlyexpect150it’sliketotallyabigfamilything.” I mean, sheesh. Yes, I have a big family, but you know what? I also just love a lot of people. I want to hug a lot of people, and feed a lot of people, and dance with a lot of people on our wedding day, and that’s going to cost us money. I’ve officially reached the point of not caring anymore. I’m just so exhausted from silently comparing our budget with what I guess were the budgets for my “cool” and “laidback” friends. No more of that. No one has ever accused me of being laid back, so who am I even kidding?

    • Katharine Parker

      “No one has ever accused me of being laid back, so who am I even kidding?” So true–I am many things, but laid back is not one of them.

  • Katharine Parker

    I am having what seems to me to be a big wedding (140 people), but seems pretty middle of the road for my community. At this point, I haven’t felt any judgment on the size of my wedding or the cost (or what people guess it costs, since I haven’t told people the budget). If anything, our wedding is a bit smaller than most of our friends’ weddings.

    I have sometimes felt a little judgment for how much I care about aesthetic aspects of my wedding though–not always, but there is definitely a certain strain of wedding thought that your priorities need to be food, the party, and maybe the ceremony, that the only reasonable aesthetic concern is the photographer and definitely not invitations or centerpieces or the photo booth backdrop (things I am excited about). I want to have good food and a fun party and a nice ceremony and I love our photographer, but I also really care about how everything looks. I have a friend who is planning her wedding right now, too, and I really can’t discuss weddings with her because she is so clearly judging my excitement over our menu design or the flower girls’ hair wreaths.

    • K. is skittish about disqus

      Oh man, my MIL gave us a borderline obscene amount of money to spend specifically on flowers (which are her passion, so she saved for over two years to give us that gift) and I was INSANELY psyched. Our wedding looked like a florist shop vomited rainbows and exotic orchids, and it’s still one of my favorite parts of our wedding. I was actually just sighing about the beauty of the peonies (eta: or are they ranunculuses?) in the header image here.

      All this to say, rock on with your aesthetics!

      • Katharine Parker

        “Our wedding looked like a florist shop vomited rainbows and exotic orchids”–this sounds incredible!

      • Lexipedia

        We’ve worked out a budget with my parents who are paying for most of the wedding. After talking to an awesome florist I called my mom and said that I want to throw a bit of Christmas/birthday gift money (grandparents – pretty reliable) to flowers. That of the things I’d regret spending less money on, I adore flowers and want all the pretty. It still won’t be massively over budget, and it’s not like I’d do this to upgrade linens, but if a few hundred dollars makes a difference then I’m darn well going to spend it.

    • Rose

      The conclusion I’ve come to is that choosing what matters, especially among the details, depends a lot of what makes the wedding feel special to you. And that’s going to vary so much between people! Like, I really wanted lots of flowers and pretty lighting, so we spent time/money on that. Fancy table settings didn’t do much for us, though, so we used paper compostables. But I can totally see that a really gorgeous table is what makes it feel like a special event for some people! Or whatever else is important to them.

      I’m sorry your friend is judging you, that isn’t a good feeling. Whenever I find myself starting to do that at all, I try to remember that while the details that people care about differ, I think a lot of it is driven by the same underlying desire to make it feel special. Which is totally valid!

    • idkmybffjill

      I think it’s so interesting how this varies from circle to circle. We had a LOT of judgement for going with a less known photographer. So so so many comments of “people will forget the food but pictures are forever.”

      Let people have their priorities!

      As a person who hand painted our invitations – I feel you girl, that stuff mattered to me!

  • Rosie

    Thank you for this article! Our wedding of 180 people is next Saturday, and when people ask how many people are coming, I definitely find myself blaming my parents/the size of our families/etc. But in reality…. I am SO excited to have a big wedding, and so is my fiance, and this is really the wedding of our dreams and I can’t believe it is really happening. I guess I just feel embarrassed/guilty because I know that we wouldn’t be able to do this without the enormous generosity of our parents, and not everyone has that privilege. With 8 days to go (!!!) I am just trying to channel my GRATITUDE ATTITUDE, soak it all in, and enjoy it!!!

  • GotMarried!

    We could be couple-twins – Attorney and Engineer here too! We still have disposable chopsticks (unused at least) from our honeymoon flight to Japan … because we might use them someday?

  • Kate

    I mean you can also think of it as community investment. You made more income for that local florist or caterer or photographer or officiant who probably really appreciated the money and the work. Spending money isn’t always feeding the WIC monster, sometimes it’s making someone else’s living.

  • Jessica

    I love this: “Those memories were a gift we wanted to give.” We felt the same way.

  • Laura

    THANK YOU – i remember telling my mum that i felt like this wedding was a gift to give everyone who’d helped and loved us along the way. i still feel like that. i was engaged at the same time as a friend who posted TONS of awful passive aggressive crap on facebook about people stupid enough to spend $$$ on a wedding and how they were shallow losers who didn’t care about their marriages, just having ‘pinnable’ crap. by the time we were deciding on a guest list they weren’t on it.

    i loved our wedding, and i wouldn’t change a thing.

  • ART

    I’ve noticed it too, and had the same reaction. It seems unnecessary in this context.

  • archaeopteryx

    I definitely felt some of that pressure to apologize/excuse how ‘big’ our wedding was. Especially since I wore a designer dress- I found myself reiterating that I got it secondhand, that it was a third of the price, etc., in the subconscious fear that my indie-wedding friends would judge me. But you know what? It was the *exact* dress I was dreaming of, and even if it had been super expensive, I would have gladly paid! It’s just one day, sure, but it’s a life-changing one.

  • jem

    Exactly what I need to read right now thanks!

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  • Peggy

    I don’t exaggerate when I say I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for this article. Thank you for posting it. (If I ever were to submit something to APW, I suspected it may be something very much like this!)

    I am so glad that our society has finally trended away from the “bigger = better” notion that many of our parents held. I love that we are encouraging responsible spending, and that the marriage is being prioritized when we talk about weddings, rather than the weddings. I have friends from a wide spectrum of financial positions and I think all of their weddings were equally beautiful.

    That said, my partner and I have started to feel some level of judgment from the opposite side of things, and it’s carrying over into our discussions about weddings. We have been very, very fortunate, and we’ve worked really hard. We both have great jobs and are very financially conservative (I think there’s this idea that people who spend lots of money on Big Things must be more risky, and I’d like to dispel that). We have always saved more than we’ve spent, researched large purchases, kept lists of “priorities we want to spend on” and “things we can save on,” and have made retirement saving a priority. As a result, and as a result of two careers that have gone really well, we have a house, a couple of cars, a healthy savings, and are both on track to be fully funded for retirement by 50.

    We have the money for a big wedding. More than that, we want a big wedding. I am the only daughter in a very large, conservative Southern family. We are “older” than many of our friends who are married (by the standards of the Southern town we live in, at least). Having all of our loved ones in a room together is an idea that brings us a ton of joy. I think the memories are important and they’re worth it.

    With this, and so many other things, there has been a ton of backlash from people in our social circles. A lot of our friends work for nonprofits, and will make side comments like “yeah I wish *I* could afford a new car, but you know, I work in nonprofit.” Another poster said it earlier – having an inexpensive wedding/car/house/lifestyle has become a competition, a badge of honor. And as someone who has responsibly saved and tried to make intelligent decisions about money, I’m seen as the bad guy. I hope posts like this can bring the narrative back to where it was originally meant to be – a wedding should be reflective of the two people getting married, whatever that means for them. No matter what.

    tl;dr you go girl!

  • littleinfinity

    But… some women DON’T dream of their wedding days as little girls! It doesn’t make someone inauthentic to say that. I agree it shouldn’t be used in a shaming context, but honestly this is just how some people are, due to personality, upbringing, or whatever. For example, if you’re more into sports and books than makeup and dresses, or you were raised in a family without a ton of money, or in a place where big weddings aren’t really a thing, or whatever… why would your wedding day be the thing you would dream of? Why not dream of your college graduation, or having your first baby, or being able to travel overseas, or starting a business, or literally anything else instead? I think it’s so damaging to suggest that girls with different dreams are somehow either bitchy or lying, and that “of course all young girls should dream of their wedding day!”.

  • Alexandra

    It just depends on one’s values. Our biggest value is community, and we wanted our wedding to reflect that. We invited everybody we knew, plus several people we didn’t really know but thought we might like to. Personally, I’d love to treat hundreds of people to a $300 dinner, but that wasn’t the budget we were working with. We had $10,000 from my mom and that was it, so we used every penny of it and most of it went for the catering bill for an unfancy (but plenty of food!) hamburger cookout meal with beer and wine for around 150 people. We invited a lot more than that but it was in Hawaii (where we live) and a lot of folks couldn’t come.

    My mom told us we could use the check for anything we wanted–could have paid some debt off and eloped if we wanted. Nope. We’re very frugal people but we wanted the biggest wedding we could have. Not to show off, but to have everybody there. I don’t regret anything about it.

    I love weddings. Love them so hard. I love them when they’re small, medium, big, cheap, expensive, just love weddings with a thousand loves. I can see the rationale behind almost every possible wedding iteration. I don’t think anybody should regret or feel judged or shamed for their choices in this department.

    So good work, OP. If you choose to have children, this will be a great warmup for that giant bowl of judgment opportunities. Don’t let them get to you!

  • Meg Walsh

    Aww, I’ve said this several times during my planning. I don’t mean it in a shaming way at all! It makes me sad that I may have come across that way to someone.

    The reason I’ve brought it up is to help explain (and sometimes apologize for) why I was so clueless and without strong opinions or ideas when I started planning. I couldn’t tell you what kind of dress or flowers or if I wanted a veil or any of that that I was interested in because I hadn’t ever really thought about or pictured my wedding before getting engaged. I hoped that I would be married someday but just didn’t have any specific dreams for a wedding. I don’t think that makes me better (or worse!) than anyone else :(

    I’ve definitely wished that I had some dream wedding that I’d been cooking up and had been evolving since childhood sometimes. I feel like the whole thing might be less overwhelming if I had that as a starting point.