Q: When I got married almost two years ago, my husband and I were right out of grad school with limited budgets and a relaxed, bohemian sensibility. Rustic/DIY/kickback weddings were really in at the time, and that’s what we had.
Because we were in a group of friends that were all getting engaged, we were one of the first weddings that we went to. Fast forward to now, and the “rustic” wedding seems to have gone out of style. All of the weddings we have been to after ours have been super glamorous, very obviously expensive affairs. If we spent $10,000, we are seeing weddings that easily have $20,000 to $100,000 budgets. I would be lying if I said that I feel a little shabby when I look back at what we did. I’ve been really surprised that some of my friends spent SO much, because I never expected it. To each their own, but I’m also a little puzzled.
I also recently ended a relationship with a couple who’s easily $100,000 wedding we attended, over politics. When I questioned the bride for voting for Trump, she said, “How dare you! I invited you to MY WEDDING.” We actually invited them to our wedding first, but they did not attend because they had more important plans. But the implication seems to be that she did me a huge favor by giving me a seat at her $400 per person event, even though she did not attend our taco truck reception. What gives? Is a wedding an event to be happy for the couple, or is it to show off wealth?
I didn’t tell her but my car got locked into the church wedding parking lot overnight so me and my husband had to walk to get a smoky hotel room at 1 am, so although I was happy for them, I didn’t feel like I was receiving some amazing experience. It was a wedding like any other for me, with inconveniences appurtenant to being there and being happy for the happy couple. Does she want some kind of acknowledgement that her wedding was the best wedding of all time, because there was bottle service at the tables and a fog machine for the first dance? Can I never have a political disagreement with her because she invited me to her wedding? What are her expectations because we peasants attended her lavish affair?
I know comparison is the thief of joy, but has anyone else been struggling with the group expectations to spend, spend, spend? Any other frugal brides out there who feel a little out of step with the group?
A: Dear Anon,
You’re asking the right girl, because man, was our wedding a cheap wedding. I sometimes see the amazing things folks are doing now and feel a small womp-womp about our Costco desserts and fake flowers. Sticking to a budget in a world full of fancy is hard! But listen a minute, because I’m going to be straight with you. I think you’re reading your own feelings into her words a bit.
When she says, “But I invited you to my wedding!” I don’t hear, “How DARE YOU when your plate of food was so expensive for me!” but instead, “I considered you a close enough friend to be invited to our wedding.” She’s not questioning your worthiness of her magnanimous invitation, or suggesting you owe a debt for being included. It sounds more like, “I thought we were closer than this!” or even “I thought you knew me better than that!”
We like to think every wedding decision is significant in reflecting who we are, our priorities, our values. And a lot of times, okay, sure! But it’s not always the case. Some folks have a cheap wedding because that’s in line with their priorities, whereas some do because they’re broke! Some folks spend a lot on a wedding because it’s important to them, others because of logistical factors, others because of family money and family pressure, and still others because they have fancy taste and want to live it up, dammit. And that’s before we even get into, “What is ‘a lot’?” (be honest, $20,000 to $100,000 is quite a range you gave there). Choosing to spend less doesn’t necessarily mean that your values are way out of whack with your friends’. It’s the same as expecting that picking between a fancy, exclusive dinner spot and going to TGIFridays would convey values. I mean sure maybe it does! Maybe the folks at the chain restaurant are being extra smart and frugal. But there’s also the chance that that they’re just craving something deep-fried and a cocktail in a bucket. Don’t read too much into how people spend their money.
Like you said, your choices were also influenced by what was trendy at the time. They were affected by the fact that you’d just finished grad school, and presumably by things you didn’t even mention, like guest list size and family pressure and whatever else. People make different financial choices for a whole host of reasons. You probably don’t really know how much they’re spending (unless they tell you outright), and even if you do, you don’t know why or how. Money is weird and opaque and personal. There’s a lot that’s unseen, even in the most conspicuous consumerism.
So, yeah. Maybe your friends side-eyed your choices, or maybe they just enjoyed the wedding for what it was (plus tacos!) and didn’t think about the price tag at all. Find a bit of solace in remembering that there were some good reasons for your choices. But also remember that there are reasons your friends are making theirs, too (and you don’t always know them).
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTION, PLEASE DON’T BE SHY! IF YOU WOULD PREFER NOT TO BE NAMED, ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS ARE ALSO ACCEPTED. (THOUGH IT REALLY MAKES OUR DAY WHEN YOU COME UP WITH A CLEVER SIGN-OFF!)