My Fiancé Has Totally Bought into the Wedding Industrial Complex

AAPW: I told him he could call the shots, but it turns out he's got champagne taste

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW


Q: I have been “pre-engaged” in my mind for many years. I proposed to him on our ninth anniversary, last August, and the other day he finally and romantically said “yes.”

So we started non-traditionally, by having the bride propose. But that’s not all! Because I know that the marriage was my idea, I think it would be polite to have the wedding include mostly his ideas. So I am letting him make most of the big planning decisions—big or small, formal or low-key, sit-down dinner or buffet.

Trouble is—he is a trad bride. He wants it all. And he wants to spend all the money. All the sensible APW advice about “Want a big wedding? Hire a pizza truck in the park! Want a small wedding? Hooray, you can have silver-service three-course dinners!”? Water off a duck’s back. He wants a big wedding (150) with proper sit-down service, everyone at the ceremony and the reception, open bar, the works.

It’s not as though I can object to paying for it, because he is the one who makes all the money, and he thinks he can afford it. I am objecting in principle, as a poor-person-by-habit. Is there a way to rein him in whilst still giving him the traditional, formal, fancy wedding he deserves for our ten years together?

Yours perplexedly,
Girl Running Out Of Moxie

A: Dear GROOM,

Like so many nice things in life, big fancy weddings aren’t something someone gets because they “deserve” it. It’s entirely a matter of 1. What can we afford? and 2. What suits our ideals and priorities? There are a whole hell of a lot of things that I deserve and my bank account just flat disagrees.

You’ll notice I said wedding choices come down to two questions, and neither of them was, “Who’s making the money?” Moving forward in life together, you guys are going to have a lot of different financial choices to make. It may seem to make sense to let the breadwinner call the shots, but that’s not how an egalitarian relationship works (especially if you have joint finances). Instead, it comes down to discussing financial priorities, and deciding together the best ways to use your cash.

So, let’s talk about this wedding. What can you afford? What suits your ideals and priorities? You cite some examples of APW weddings up there, but you know what? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a giant fancy dinner for everyone you’ve ever met, depending on how you answer those two questions I gave you. Lots of people need to work hard to make room in a small budget for what they want—and that often means swapping fancy food for a longer guest list, or the reverse. But it’s not a necessary trade for everyone. Is it for you?

To get that conversation rolling, pop over to the handy engaged section of this here site and see if you can nail down the basics. Start with the number of guests and try to ballpark a reasonable budget. Then, start sketching out other decisions, and see how they fit with those two numbers.

But, listen. You can only have that conversation honestly when you step outside of this imagined list of “shoulds” and instead think about what makes sense to you as a couple of individuals. Who should propose, who should be the one pushing for a big wedding, and how much the Internet says you should spend and how you should spend it. Ignore all of that. There are enough factors to worry about when planning a wedding, without adding in some imaginary ones. No one is giving out prizes for the most fiscally responsible wedding. I know the Internet makes it seem like they are, but the trophies are all on backorder.


Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • Anna

    I had this struggle when planning my wedding, especially as another poor person by habit. In the end, we ended up having a wedding much more expensive than I wanted, but our compromise was that we used a lot of local, awesome vendors. Some how spending the money felt better when I knew it was going to talented, local people trying to make their dreams come true.

  • TeaforTwo

    This happened to me, OH how this happened to me. It turned out to come from verrrry skewed ideas of how much weddings cost, and once he realized how much they actually cost, we both did some compromising and wound up somewhere in the middle.

    When we first got engaged, I told my husband I did not want to spend more than $5K on a wedding. That could mean a cake and punch reception for 175 in the church basement, or a sit down dinner for 25 at our favourite restaurant, but that was what I figured we could afford.

    He agreed that $5K was reasonable, but somehow thought that it would pay for a 3 course meal with an open bar and top-shelf liquor for 150 at an historic inn in our very expensive city. He swore up and down that his sister’s similar wedding had cost that much just a few years beforehand, and couldn’t understand why I was throwing such ridiculous numbers at him.

    Anyway, we started asking around, and it turns out that’s what HER DRESS cost. The wedding was substantially more. That’s when we finally got to have some real conversations about what was worth it to us.

    • Eenie

      HAHAHA. If they got all the alcohol for $5k that’s a steal!

    • Danielle

      It’s funny how people don’t really know how much weddings cost, until they start paying for one. (Myself included.)

      • Caitlin

        Or they used to watch Rich Bride Poor Bride! (I wish that was still on)

      • TeaforTwo

        Yep, it all adds up fast. The thing is, if we invited 6 friends to a restaurant, and we shared some apps AND everyone ate three courses after that, where one course was steak, AND we all got drunk, he would know it would cost around $100 per person. That is what multi-course restaurant meals + massive quantities of restaurant booze costs. But for some reason he just couldn’t scale that appropriately for 150.

        • Danielle

          Yes. This is a great point.

          Most of us have never hosted a large formal-ish party before, at least I hadn’t! So I never had to hire a professional photographer, caterer, officiant of some sort, or rent a venue and decorate it in some way. These were elements of my wedding that I simply had no context or prior knowledge of, so had no idea what prices to expect or what was considered a normal range.

          • Sarah

            I agree my fiancee was very suprised about how much thing’s like photographer cost. then he sat himself down and thought about how much work it takes before and after for the photographer. Once he broke the numbers down he was much more realistic. P.S am also laughing about the dress cost comment, shows how much he paid to his sister’s wedding prep!

        • tr

          I STILL can’t get my fiance to understand that venues do not give you a bulk discount compared to what you would spend at a restaurant! When our local country club quoted him $30 a person for a full buffet, beer, and wine, he practically stormed out, because “The Sunday buffet is $15 a person, and since we’re paying for a bunch of people, this should be WAY cheaper than that!”
          I’ve tried explaining at least five times that the Sunday buffet is “bulk priced”, but he still doesn’t seem to be getting it!

    • Lisa

      So much this, down to the sister’s wedding and everything! I’d planned events for universities before working on the wedding, and I had a much more accurate idea of what we could afford on our budget than my husband did. It took a bit of research before he got on-board with some of my ideas to save money. (He, too, wanted the big WIC-y wedding and didn’t really understand how much a fancy downtown hotel banquet hall sit-down dinner could cost until we started looking at options he thought would be cheaper and realized that those were much more expensive than he thought.)

    • Kayjayoh

      “Anyway, we started asking around, and it turns out that’s what HER DRESS cost.”

      [dies laughing]

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    • anoy-nony

      LOL. My now-husband definitely had a hard time reconciling real cost vs. his dream wedding. I remember seeing the absolute shock on his face when discovering the price of catering/open bar/rentals etc. Our original 200+ guest list dropped down to about 100 pretty quickly.

    • KH_Tas

      Yeah, my husband estimated a wedding with a 4 course meal (actually 12K), full guest transport (3K, not sure if that included the two additional meals served on it), lace dress, live music, pro photographers, open bar, pro florals, heavily laden bathroom baskets, 4 tier cake, 1.2K worth of favours etc to be 15-20K

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  • Eenie

    Spot on advice Liz. I will add some advice if he does get involved with a lot of the planning. My fiance is doing a lot of the planning since he lives closer to the city we’re getting married in. He had LOTS of opinions (luckily they mostly matched up with mine). Then once we started looking at stuff, he realized how much stuff costs, how much actual time you have to put into searching for vendors, the fact that vendors wouldn’t call him back (maybe because he was a man), and he eventually asked if it was too late to elope (it was). So, wishes and dreams and practical plans for our wedding look very different 3 months into the planning process.

  • CateB

    Liz’s advice is spot-on, I think. It seems to me like the LW is saying to her fiance what is often said to brides: “it’s your wedding.” If both parties are comfortable with that, great, but it’s still worth having a conversation about what is most important to each of you for the day now, at the start of the process, to make sure you both find yourselves reflected in the style and events of the day.

    • LW

      Thank you – I have definitely taken hold of the bits of the day which are important to me, and we have talked about what *we* want from it. I’m having the tea-length swirly homemade dress and the flowers floristed by my Granny that are really important to me :) but having a venue big enough for so many people to sit down at tables for eating (his non-negotiable) is just making my eyes water.

  • Amy March

    You don’t need to atone for the sin of proposing by letting him make all the wedding decisions! And I think by taking the attitude that the marriage was your idea so now you’re politely letting him make the decisions, you are doing your relationship a real disservice. I’d be devastated to learn my fiancé was just yes-ing all of my ideas even if he disagreed out of some twisted sense of obligation.

    I think you need to really sit with why you think you need to make up for proposing, and why you think marriage after he has accepted your proposal and you’ve been together for 9 years is still something that’s your idea. Sure, maybe to start but it sounds like he’s totally on board now.

    And then speak up! Talk about what you’re picturing, listen to what he wants, get down and dirty with your finances, figure out how you’re going to handle him making more money going forward. Not having those conversations is the problem, not who proposed.

    • Lauren from NH

      Yeah I personally hate to jump on the LWs, but this one was one major problem after another!

      LW, the MARRIAGE was your idea?
      You are “letting” him make most of the wedding decisions?
      He makes most of the money so he calls the shots?

      Based on my egalitarian view of what makes a marriage, that shit concerns me WAY more than your fiance having no idea how much weddings cost (we all have that problem and it’s nothing a little research can’t solve).

      • anotherladyface

        You said you have been ‘pre-engaged’ for ‘many years’, but it sounds like it took him a YEAR to accept your actual proposal… WHAT? REALLY? Why didn’t he accept right away? (maybe it’s just the delay in the time frame of when she wrote the question to when the answer was actually posted online…) Are you sure this guy actually wants to be married?
        It also sounds like there is a power dynamic in this relationship that needs to be addressed, aside from the wedding planning. I have been in the situation where one person gets to call all the shots because they make more money (this is MY house, I pay the electric bill, I get to decide XYZ because I’M paying for it!) It’s not a good position to be in!
        My now-husband originally thought our wedding would cost 1/2 of what it actually cost ($7K vs. $12K+), so he might just not realize what his imagined wedding will actually cost!

        • Liz

          Well, hold the phone there. Just because one person is ready for marriage a bit before someone else, that doesn’t mean someone doesn’t actually want to be married.

        • raccooncity

          I’m in a relationship where I make 0% of the family income, and I can tell you that when I am using my rational brain I know that my fiance doesn’t hold it against me at all. He treats all money as ‘ours’ and is a general sweetheart about the fact I don’t make any right now. Literally has never once mentioned it unless I bring it up.

          However, that power dynamic still exists. I do need to, just logistically, ask him for money sometimes. It has been addressed as much as it possibly can be, but it still exists. I identified with the way LW feels about spending her partner’s money. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s abusive about how he manages it, it just means that it is a crappy feeling to not contribute money to the household.

          • Eenie

            I just said the same thing up above! And especially before marriage it’s not really “our” money yet. It’s potentially “our future money”. As I’m contemplating a move that could lead me to a 0% income I asked to start doing a household budget together. He said he didn’t want to, and I said it was a requirement. I need to feel like I have some financial control even if I’m not adding anything to the pot. Finances are hard man.

      • Liz

        Totally see where you’re coming from with these points, but also think we should leave a little room for verbiage and this just being an email. “The marriage was my idea,” sounds like it’s just a way of saying, “I proposed,” etc etc etc. Could be wrong, and maybe this is stuff to parse out, but maybe just semantics.

        • Lauren from NH

          Very possible. It was just all of them sitting in row like that were kind of shouting at me.

          • Eenie

            Yeah, but as someone who makes less money than her partner, I really see where LW’s coming from on the money side. He really does have more say in the how much do we spend discussion, but that was my doing. I wanted him to be comfortable spending the money, since most of it is coming out of his bank account. I know it’ll be our money down the line, but when he wanted to blow our budget for the specific venue I trusted him that it was the right thing to do. This’ll hopefully change come marriage, but somehow that’s different from the wedding.

          • Alexa

            I also make significantly less than my partner (he’s a programmer and I work at a public elementary school), and I agree that the financial disparity makes some difference. Certainly for us when we combined finances I “we” could afford far more than “I” ever could in the past. It took me a long while to adjust, and he’ll probably always me more likely than I am to choose a pricier option for things, because his coworkers all have salaries similar to his, so it’s more of a norm for him. (Thankfully big-picture-wise we’re both pretty frugal and on the same page as far as living within our means, but our different expectations about what to spend money on and how much to spend definitely played into wedding planning.)

          • LW GROOM

            Wow! Thank you for saying this – my FH is also a programmer and I also work at an elementary school!
            Thanks Liz too – when I am stressed I tend to get very flippant, which isn’t usually a good idea but it’s how I try to make stressful things seem ‘fun’. ‘The marriage was my idea’ means ‘I was the one to bring up turning our implied long-term commitment into a public one,’ so by ‘giving’ him more of the wedding decisions I wanted to give him a chance to own how that would happen.

          • Ashley Meredith

            “when I am stressed I tend to get very flippant”

            Amen to that! Why is it so often so hard for people to take that in the spirit in which it’s intended? (Yes, there is an ongoing effort at better expression/communication/understanding on my part so people understand I’m just trying to bring some humor to the situation, but some frustration that people insist on thinking I take myself seriously is inevitable.)

      • JDrives

        You are not alone in this, Lauren! These sentences initially made my shoulders go up around my ears: “Because I know that the marriage was my idea, I think it would be polite to have the wedding include mostly his ideas.” And, “Is there a way to rein him in whilst still giving him the traditional, formal, fancy wedding he deserves for our ten years together?”

        It could be semantics as Liz suggests, but “marriage” and “proposal” carry very different connotations in this instance. Luckily, Amy March’s advice covers both brilliantly.

        Also, dear LW, there’s no cash value equivalent for years spent in a relationship. Both you AND fiancé deserve a wedding that reflects your values, whether you’ve been in the relationship for 10 months or for 10 years.

      • LW

        Thanks for your feedback -I agree it sounds bad but I read APW a lot and it has such a jolly tone, it makes my usual flippancy when I’m stressed worse when I’m trying to fit in and make something people will want to read :S

        By the marriage was my idea, I mean that making our commitment public and legal in that way wasn’t something which he was rushing to do – I know that he loves me deeply but also that after nearly a decade he sort of took it as read that we were basically married, without seeing the need for formalising necessarily. So, after a lot of equal proper discussion after a stressful year we both thought about it again and he agreed/proposed.

        I wanted to let him be the first to say what a wedding looked like to him, so that he could own the planning and the process and get his ideas out without me pressuring him, because it was something I had imagined for a long time and he hadn’t. When he brings things up which I don’t like I do ask why and make suggestions!

        I’m by no means saying ‘he makes the money he calls the shots’ – that would also bother me – but I can’t say ‘I don’t like that we’re spending all this money, we can’t afford it’ because what I really mean is ‘I don’t feel like I can afford that,’ but *WE* can thanks to his income. So I can’t drive the budget down even though it makes me uncomfortable, because we can technically pay for what he wants it to be. And also I do love a lot of what he has planned!

        I don’t want to dig myself a bigger hole by trying to explain our dynamic in text… please believe me when I say we are super egalitarian in real life!

        • Eenie

          I would still challenge, just because you can afford it you should spend it. Spending it needs to not make you feel physically ill or financially unstable (my fiance and I have two different views on what makes us feel “safe” financially).

          If the money side of stuff is getting you down why doesn’t he own the budget? Have some big picture talks about upper limits and then just make him the person who starts to reign in the $$ when you hit that limit? Then not everything is a discussion about money per se, you just have that convo once and then maybe revisit it every couple months.

    • Liz

      So well put, Amy March.


      My main concern with the lack of communication that *appears* (again, this is a snap shot so we don’t really know what the full deal is) to be going on, is that LW will begin to resent Partner if she doesn’t speak up.

      LW, I get where you are coming from but there isn’t any way to do what you are looking to do without having the hard conversations.

    • LW

      ‘atone for the sin of proposing’ – oh dear! that’s not the impression I meant to give at all. I was just worried in the immediate aftermath (now months ago) that I had pressured him, and I wanted to make sure that he was fully on board by giving him the opportunity to own the day and not get sidelined as so many grooms are. Paranoid, paranoid, idiot…

      I’m now totally sure that he must have had something in mind before now, and that he is truly happy to be getting married, just because of the way he talks about it. ‘maybe to start but it sounds like he’s totally on board now.’ Thank you for saying this – you’re so right and I was blind and panicked not to see it before.

      I agree that we are going to have to have the hard money conversations at some point. The reason it took us so long to get engaged however is that I am an impatient person in life-planning and he is very laid-back, deal-with-as-it comes sort of guy… so unless we’re thinking about merging finances *next month*, he’s going to be very reluctant to talk about it because ‘we’ll deal with that later, it’ll be fine.’ He’s always right, though. It is always fine.

      God I sound naiive. I sound like I have no idea what I’m doing. Thank you for your kind words so far, I will try and be a bit more …co-operative? forthcoming? I’m still not sure!

      • Sosuli

        From one lady who proposed to another – i so relate to the dynamic you describe here. Sometimes we just have to remimd ourselves that super laidback does not mean unenthusiastic.

  • LisaG

    I would start by asking him WHY he wants those things. Is it just because that’s the image he has in his head of “what a wedding should be,” or is there a more personal reason like “my family/culture is all about hospitality and that means sit down dinner and free-flowing booze.” As a couple you need to figure out what your priorities are for your wedding (and, more importantly, your marriage) and go from there. Reading the APW book together would be a great place to start.

    • Sarah

      Very good point, he’s probably got some reasons beyond just a wild desire to spend.

  • Emily

    Girl, I wish you the best in this! My husband was SHOCKED by what weddings cost and couldn’t reconcile his dream wedding with our budget. So we started making lists (all of the lists) and after a jillion compromises, some high-level negotiation and one or two tears we got it together. Start with the lists now, or maybe an inspiration board…

  • Greta

    Yes, it sounds like the LW is not opposed to the actual “traditional” wedding, but more how much everything costs. It sounds like you two need to have a serious conversation about finances, not just for your wedding, but also for your life together. Will you have joint finances? Are you saving for any other large-ticket items, such as a house or a car? Do you want to take a big honeymoon? Do you have student loans? What about retirement? Even if you’re doing separate finances now, if you plan on joining finances once you’re married, then you definitely get a say in how that money is spent (or not spent) before the marriage happens.

    Both sets of our parents paid for our wedding, which was a glorious, wonderful, EXPENSIVE affair. I am still, a year later, having trouble reconciling how much I loved our wedding and how disgusted I am at how much we spent on it. I feel incredibly guilty that we spent that much of our parents money, even though they happily offered, and could afford it. Even if it’s not “YOUR” money, it’s still money that’s being spent, and it’s important that you are able to come to piece with the total budget.

  • NatalieN

    Chiming in to say that you can have a sit down dinner, with everyone at the ceremony and reception, for 150 people on a tight budget. In our case, we did that at a golf course that does a TON of weddings, so their package prices were really very reasonable and then we DIYed everything else. It may not be what you had it mind, but it’s doable.

  • A.

    So beyond all the proposal and money-maker aspects that others have addressed in the comments, the way we figured out the champagne taste vs. reality of our pockets was to make a quick list (3 items, no more) of what makes a wedding a wedding to us, focused on the details/stuff (i.e., not the “meaningful” stuff like our ceremony verbiage and family involvement, etc). It was a more superficial take on Meg’s advice, I think, in her original book.

    Anyway, mine was something like, 1. Fancy attire, 2. Free flowing champagne, and 3. Rockin’ dance party. My husband’s was 1. String quartet at the ceremony, 2. Good food, and 3. Lots of toasts. It helped us have a starting ground for what our wedding would/could look like and where we overlapped on specific details/preferences.

    We ended up having a local college’s student string quartet at our ceremony location, a long dinner service catered by our favorite Mexican restaurant (so plenty of time for toasts), a beer and wine open bar with extra bottles of champagne, and we splurged on a kickass DJ. Oh, and I got to wear the pretty dress of my dreams. We saved money on our photographer, florals, linens, rentals, cake, and other aspects that I’m sure I’m not thinking of because they weren’t as important to us. And both of us were happy because we saw our visions combine in an awesome way and didn’t feel like we had to “compromise” too much. It was still a very traditional wedding like I wanted, but it incorporated my husband’s low-key and intimate tastes and preferences as well.

    (Of course, if your fiance’s list comes out to something like: 1. Five course dinner from Michelin starred restaurant, 2. $10,000 photographer, and 3. David Tutera on retainer, then, yeah, you need to have a more serious chat about overall values and costs. But generally, I think there are ways to figure out what’s the priorities are for the details without having to have ALL THE THINGS)

  • laddibugg

    Do you not want to spend the money, or do you not want to have a large, sit down wedding? Which bothers you more?

    • LW

      I would rather not spend the money, but after more planning (since I originally emailed) and seeing how excited he is by the prospect of entertaining all our friends and loved ones, I am on board with the large sit-down wedding aspect and know I will absolutely love the day. But still… £5000 on a marquee….

      • laddibugg

        OK, I looked up what marquee means in ‘British’..are you talking about a tent?! Holy cow.

  • LTurtle

    I just want to add something that no one else has mentioned. Does your fiancé WANT to be the sole decision maker about the wedding plans? Because it sounds like that was your idea LW.
    When my now husband checked out of wedding planning and dumped all the decisions (read: work) in my lap I got decision fatigue really fast. I nearly called off the wedding because I was so overwhelmed and I felt like he didn’t care about it at all because he wasn’t involved. We eventually figured it out, after I explained to him that I needed him to participate in the planning work and also invest emotionally in the choices about the ceremony. OUR wedding was supposed to be about US, not just ME.
    In the end the ceremony was awesome, the rest of it only so-so. A wedding for 60 guests still costs plenty of money even when you get lots of stuff for free, and $1,000 just wasn’t enough.

    For the sake of creating good habits, if nothing else, I think it’s important to have a frank discussion with your fiancé about how you will each be involved in planning, which aspects are important to you individually, and how much you both want to spend.

    • Yup. Thank goodness for my Partner having ALL THE OPINIONS because I can make spreadsheets and research options for days, but when it actually comes down to making that final call, I get really tired and stressed, really fast.

      It can be a lot of pressure making all the decisions on your own and isn’t always the gift it first appears like it is.

      • Eenie

        We argue over who has to decide where to eat for dinner (as in neither of us wants to decide). For the wedding we just eliminated as many decisions as possible (all in one venue).

  • taue

    Three things:

    1) However expensive you guys think it will be for what you’re planning, add 50%. Despite all the best budgeting tools (like APW’s), some things blew me away by their baseline cost. This was particularly true of photographers, videographers, DJs, and even invites/paper stuff! (Unless you print/cut at home.)

    2) Because of #1, a key part of the wedding planning experience is for you both to negotiate to get what’s important to you within your (finite) budget. You want a day that both of you are happy with, so you both have to share your priorities for the day and then work from there. For me and my now-husband, even though we had been together for 7 years, lived together for 3, and partially combined our finances, and so had done tons of negotiating with each other already, this was another great way of “practicing” the kind of negotiation we’ll inevitably do in our marriage.

    3) Cost pro-tip: Go with a consumption bar, unless the nearly all of your guests are very heavy drinkers. For consumption bar, the venue charges you based on how much alcohol people actually drink. Someone who works in hotel catering told me that consumption is pretty much always cheaper than open bar. It will feel like an open bar to your guests (thus satisfying the “champagne taste” of your fiance), since they can drink as much as they want without paying for it themselves, but you’ll probably save money in the end. We saved over $2,000 for a 150-person wedding this way, and we had plenty of people who drank PLENTY of booze, and our bar was open all night.

    • emmers

      If you do a consumption bar, you can also ask for a cap. Or, you can choose a limited bar. We did beer & wine only, for a pre-set number of hours for the reception, and we let folks know in advance how long the open bar portion would be. This is also a know your crowd kind of thing– we have some heavy drinkers. Our folks drank through an entire keg of cider within the first 15 minutes of our cocktail hour, so a consumption bar wouldn’t have been a good idea for us!

    • Eenie

      Not all places let you do consumption. Or if you have a minimum $$ you need to meet with your venue this can be an issue. I was consumption all the way and we’re actually paying per head once we signed the contract. Is it less expensive? No. But it was easier.

    • Megan

      A few other things to keep in mind with consumption bar:
      – At weddings, people tend to get a drink, take two sips and then abandon it to go dance. Then they order another drink 10 minutes later. So, you can wind up paying for a lot of drinks, even if your guests aren’t drinking a lot of drinks.
      – People tend to order fancy drinks they don’t otherwise order for themselves. A friend’s sister was horrified when she got her consumption bar bill for her wedding because one person ordered a White Russian and then EVERYONE ordered White Russians….not a cheap drink.
      – You need to absolutely trust your venue – you’re just going based on pure trust that they’re only ringing in the drinks your guests are actually ordering. My fiance’s dad works for a large event planning business and HATES consumption bars because he’s just seen venues try to be sneaky too many times
      – Know your people and know your location. Fiance’s sister had open bar all night with top shelf liquor for $20/person in suburban Wisconsin. Even though there were some people that didn’t drink, the moderate/heavy drinkers more than made up for it.

      • emmers

        Ha! This makes me feel bad for all the times I’ve ordered white Russians at wedding bars. And cosmos. I’m totally one of those people who gets super excited about the open bar.

    • TeaforTwo

      Yep. I was really surprised by how little our guests drank. Part of that had to do with the huge snowstorm, I think, but also I was planning alcohol based on how much my friends and I drink at wedding. There were also pregnant and nursing moms, small children, senior citizens and designated drivers at our wedding, none of whom were drinking at the rate we’d budgeted for.

      (We provided our own alcohol, so we got to keep the leftovers that hadn’t been opened, which was like, 7 cases of wine or something. It was great! But if it had been venue-provided…consumption bar all the way.)

    • Sarah N.

      We did open wine and beer, all they could drink… and then a cash liquor bar for folks who Must Have cocktails. …Except apparently the bartenders didn’t get that message and they were giving out the liquor, too? Whatever, I just know I paid a pre-set amount and my friends and family were able to drink the night away.

  • JenC

    I get where the LW is coming from. I was definitely pre-engaged for ages and was at the point where I was ready to start planning and get married. My OH might not have quite been ready but would say he wanted to do the big romantic proposal, have our finances sorted, whatever. He proposed out of the blue and for a while I thought it was me “pressuring” him, which is how it sort of feels with the LW. Talk about it. Ask why now? My OH responded with he couldn’t think of a reason not to (even though we bought my engagement ring on a credit card and still had other debt to clear).

    In planning, I feel into a similar trap that was mostly of my own making, insisting that we both played a role in this and that it was “our” wedding not “mine”. I was pushing a lot decisions his way but the problem was that my OH had been to very few weddings and didn’t think we could do “different” things. He’s also quite traditional in a lot of his thoughts. So we started to talk about it, how much things really cost and what could we compromise on. He wanted real flowers and a bouquet toss. I wanted to make paper flowers and a brooch bouquet with no bouquet toss. We are having real flowers and no bouquet toss.

    Your wedding might cost more than you ever imagined (I know mine is) and when I start to freak out about it, my OH pulls up the spreadsheet and bank statements, shows me how well we’re doing with saving, shows me our projected savings and assures me we’re still on track. He tells me that this is our day and whilst it might not be fully in the form he imagined or I imagined. It’s what we’ve created together and what works for us and our situation. Have a talk (or more likely several) with your other half, work out why you’re both wanting to get married, check your on the same page and what you want most from that day and your life together.

  • jubeee

    Honestly, I think the LW should sit down with her fiancee and just talk about what is important to both of them. Something about her groom’s tastes don’t feel right to her so she should examine what that is and figure out what she wants the day to feel like for her. Then have the discussion. As far as money is concerned, I don’t believe that the person with all the money should call all the shots but I also think that if someone wants to spend money on something and its really just sticker shock, you should trust them. My fiancee is mostly paying for our wedding because he comes from an affluent background and has the money. Our wedding is by no means very expensive but things that seem like huge expenses to me, even if I want them, are just part of the budget he intended to spend, so I need to trust his decisions a little too.

  • BDubs

    Hello, LW, :)
    I found for my own wedding that it’s important to decide what really matters to YOU and HIM. Once you decide, for example, you will NOT wear a poofy white gown and he doesn’t care a fig for boutonniers but it’s totally a yes to wedding socks and chicken or fish for dinner, then you can have better conversations about what you want for your wedding. Start the discussion, and ditch any and all guilt about having a “role reversal” engagement. Hugs!

  • Jess

    So, after I read the title, I was super excited because I thought to myself, “Perfect, this will answer all my questions” but then I found out it was an economic based question rather than general-wedding-feel.

    Anybody have any suggestions for when the immediate family + a few close friends have dinner at a favorite restaurant after a self-solemnized wedding that I want turns into a 150 person ballroom wedding with family I’ve barely met?

    • emmeline

      my fiancé could have written in with this question, with both the guest list and the “feel” getting out of hand.
      I wanted to invite all of my cousins, and my mum’s cousins, when he is not even inviting all his first cousins. My “family” list more than doubles his. But he realised that it is important to me so he went with it. Conversely, since we have only been together a year, there are close relatives of his that I haven’t even met. I get that you might not want people you barely know at your wedding, but a wedding is the start of a marriage, and if these family members are important to your partner, you will have more to do with them in your future shared life together.

      Is the ballroom wedding non-negotiable? Or is it just a matter of, as others have said here, thinking “that’s just how it’s done”?
      My fiancé wanted a BBQ in the backyard. He’s only just stopped complaining about the fact that we can’t have that because we don’t have access to a backyard that’s big enough! Our compromise is having a casual reception at a really cool non-weddingly cafe. Booking out your favourite restaurant might be an option. Especially if you have the reception at a time when the restaurant isn’t open, because then they don’t have to compensate for what their takings otherwise would be.

    • TeaforTwo

      Can you have the rehearsal dinner of your dreams?

      I had hoped to have a pretty small, low-key, intimate (cheap, sensible) wedding. I was really rooting for basically what you have described: delicious dinner at our favourite restaurant for our 25-ish immediate family members. No stress, lots of champagne. Like the classiest Christmas dinner we’ve ever had, with someone else to clean up.

      My now-husband balked. He is not a boat-rocker, and thought that we would offend our extended families by excluding them. So we had a much bigger wedding, but had our rehearsal dinner at our favourite restaurant just for immediate fam.

      I got to have the intimate celebratory dinner where I actually got to talk to people, and we got the big celebration, too. And while I didn’t get to have any meaningful conversations with guests at our wedding reception (and felt guilty about that for a long time!) I have really enjoyed hearing from people (like my husband’s family members I had barely met) about their experience of our wedding, and receiving their well-wishes.

      It will depend on your motivations, of course. But for us it was great to feel like we had both.

  • Sarah N.

    There are a few different things going on at once here, and APW handily picked out the most important thing: you need to plan this thing TOGETHER because you are TEAM, not because one of you proposed so the other plans, or because one of you is the breadwinner. It’s a together thing.

    That being said, my husband had much more traditional ideas when we began wedding planning, and I was all about the personality and quirk. So, we did what all good couples do: compromise. There were some things that were Major Veto Items for either of us, and there were other points where we just shrugged and went along for the ride. He cared a LOT about what he and his groomsmen wore, so he took the lead during our Men’s Wearhouse consultation and I only offered advice when asked. I had the girls wear whatever black dress they wanted, and he just shrugged and ignored it even though it wasn’t the way HE would do it (and they looked AMAZING, thankyouverymuch). I wore Converse All Stars during the reception… but fancy high heels for the ceremony. We had a minister marry us… but on a barn porch overlooking a field. We compromised.

    The biggest thing is to talk it through and make the decisions as a team.

  • Nell

    There is so much room between pizza from a food truck and a formal sit-down affair.

    I noticed that during my planning process, my partner and I often had different ideas about what various aspects of the wedding would look like – but it never helped to use words like “big wedding” or “intimate ceremony” or whatever – because those words mean different things to everybody. Those theoretical, imaginary weddings don’t necessarily line up with reality.

    It’s all well and good to say you want to have 150 people at your wedding – but who are those people? Maybe he’s thinking that you’d want to invite your 3rd cousin who sometimes shows up at X-Mas, but you feel no obligation. Maybe he wants an open bar, but is fine with it being beer and wine only.

    Be specific! Negotiate! It’s all good!

    • Rebecca

      Totally agree. I’d say it’s all about why you like what you like, and what motivates your choices, rather than the specifics of what those choices are.

      We’re having 110 people, a formal sit down dinner (well buffet, but a chic, fabulous buffet), lots of champagne, lots of glamour… and I still feel like we are having a non-traditional, f*ck the wedding industrial complex, double f*ck the patriarchy, fun and chill wedding.

      (On another note, you don’t have to think of an open bar as being more extravagant than beer and wine. For us it’s cheaper to have some liquor as well as beer and wine, because a $22 handle of bourbon pours a ton of drinks.)

      Like the book says, collaborate about how you want it to feel and why, and just take it from there. There are no rules. In terms of what you “deserve,” you both deserve to have whatever makes your heart skip a beat.

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  • Katie

    I have no advice, because I’m in a similar situation myself. Well, we’re not having a wedding yet (getting married in a courthouse and postponing a big celebration for 2-3 years) but my fiance is already worked up about inviting all his family, most of whom (there’re plenty of people) I haven’t even met. What hurts me the most is that even HE hasn’t seen them in over a year and never mentioned to me that maybe I can meet them?- and also that from “my side” there will hardly be 10 people. I really wanted a small glamorous backyard affair (I know cool places), and he’s turning it into a “traditional” wedding which I resent. I feel shitty for not wanting his extended family to be there because it would ruin the intimate vibe, but at the same time I can’t imagine myself and my 1,5 relatives and friends (most of whom don’t speak English) surrounded by the people I don’t even know.

    • Lw

      Postponing for two to three years sounds like a good time to get to know the rest of his family. If you’ve never met them by then, them yeah I’d say it’d be weird to have them. But also there’s bound to be some people on your side you haven’t thought of yet- old friends, friends of your parents who saw you grow up.

      • Katie

        Yes, I hope I’ll get to meet them, but I still wasn’t counting on more than 50 people. And I’m from Russia (the fiance is in the US), so there won’t be any old friends or my parents’ friends (even my dad isn’t coming) – hardly 10 people, if my close friends will be able to make it…

  • Natanya

    If the money is there and he fully understands the final cost, then let it go. Some men dream about these things but society does not allow them to say it. Or maybe his mother has always wanted this. Or maybe he thinks that this is what YOU want. Talk about it and if you confirm that this is really his dream, then just sit back and enjoy!