Unapologetic AF Is a Great Way to Feel about Your Wedding Budget

It's kind of all bullshit

 

bride looking at the camera

I spent eighteen months planning my wedding live online (hey APW). I also spent eighteen months feeling eaten up inside with pure irrational guilt over my wedding budget. There was no way to talk sense into me (I know, because David tried). It didn’t matter how much people told me that feeding 120 people just cost good money. I still felt badly. Why? Because I could have done it for less. One hundred percent guaranteed, if I had been calling all the shots at that damn party, I would have spent less cash.

But the thing was I wasn’t planning alone. I had two sets of families with different opinions and requirements. I had a partner who also had some strong feelings. And then on top of it all, I had a couple of things I actually wanted myself.

When you’re in the middle of wedding planning, the Internet can seem like it’s divided into two camps. One camp is folks that (at least from the outside) look like money is simply not an issue. They have the prettiest designer dresses, stunning custom wedding invitations, a thousand roses hanging from the ceiling on diamond ropes. Or, at least that is how my stressed out mind always saw it. And in the other camp you have people bragging about how little they spent on their wedding, with the idea that the less you spend, the more moral you are. Or, again, that’s how my frazzled brain translated the message.

All these years later, I can tell you this: every second I wasted feeling badly about how much we were spending on our wedding was a second wasted. It was energy I really needed for the actual problems of wedding planning, thrown down the hole of imagining what other people thought about me… or worse, judging myself.

(My Own) Real Life

Like every other human who’s thrown a wedding ever, I was working with a particular set of advantages and limitations. I had a particular number of people that we wanted to host. I had style requirements from family members (seated dinner please, no taco trucks—I still feel annoyed over this). I had a budget available to me that I couldn’t go over, because we just flat out didn’t have any more money than that to spend. So we did what every other human who’s thrown a wedding ever has done: we made it work.

And all these years later, I can tell you that don’t regret what we spent. Hell, I almost never even think about the amount of money we spent. Because we did what worked at the time, we had a lovely wedding, and…. honestly? That’s all that really matters.

But I also know that it can be nearly impossible to not feel consumed by guilt over your wedding budget when you’re in the thick of planning. Are you spending too much? Are you spending too little? Are you asking too much of your friends and family?

the guilt doesn’t stop here

We all know that one of the ways that society eats away at women is by telling them all of their choices are wrong. We’re consumed with guilt over what we eat, what we wear, how we parent, and on and on and on. But sometimes we don’t notice that society is giving us the same messages about weddings. We’re cheap or tacky if we spend too little. We’re immoral and lavish if we spend too much. We’re bridezillas if the enormous massive stress put on us while planning a wedding… stresses us out.

So I thought I’d take a moment today to point out that it’s all bullshit. And whatever you’re spending on your wedding is probably just the right amount for you. Hell, it might even give you a chance to invest in (often women-owned) small businesses in a meaningful way. In fact, ignore all of the message you get that say you’re doing it wrong. Because you’re doing it just right.

Or at the very least, you’re doing it the best you know how. And what else can you ask of yourself?

Okay, spill. Who’s feeling guilty about their wedding budget? Who’s worried about being judged? Who’s frustrated because the very same people who are going to tuck in to that chicken dinner are telling you that you shouldn’t be a spendthrift? It’s a safe space in the comments today, so feel free to let it all out.

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  • NolaJael

    Great perspective, Meg. I’d also add that worrying about how much OTHERS voluntarily spend on your wedding is also wasted time (huge exception: wedding party expenses–because you asked them to do this for you–so please please please be considerate). I should have spent less time worrying about how other adults spent their own money. If my mother wants a real “wedding” cake or my father wants more flowers or fancier champagne, let ’em make that happen. I shouldn’t have picked fights because I had a vision of a frugal wedding and thought that people’s awesome gifts somehow threw off the vibe (spoiler: they did not).

    • sofar

      Yep. A lot of the nice things at our wedding, the fact that we had TWO receptions (and the huge guest list) was due to our parents paying for what THEY wanted. I too learned that trying to control how our parents spent THEIR money was a dumb battle to fight.

      • Laura C

        Within limits, right? Keeping my MIL from hiring a florist just because I didn’t care about flowers would have been a dumb battle to fight. Going along when she tried to get us to do an all-inclusive venue that would have cost three minimum-wage annual incomes more than I was willing to spend and, oh, what a coincidence, would have had space for 60% more people than I was willing to have at my wedding was absolutely the right battle to fight. There’s stuff that’s about giving other people things that make them happy and there’s stuff that’s about giving other people things that make you unhappy.

        • NolaJael

          Absolutely.

        • Totch

          Absolutely right!

          I’m a bit in the middle of this but from a different angle. My parents gave us a lump sum, no strings attached, and have been wonderful about it. But there have been a few recent things that my mom has offered to pay for separately because she thinks they’re worth it. The ‘fight’ were having is “you’ve already given us money, if paying for the bridal shower is worth it to you, it can come out of the budget you already gave us.”

          Everyone’s just trying to express their love: we want to spend their money well, they see that lump sum as our money now and don’t want to dictate how we spend it. It’s not one I’m backing down on, though.

          • Amy March

            But you can’t host your own bridal shower. So if they gave you money as a gift, for the wedding or student loans or whatever, I’m totally Team Mom on this. You give someone a bridal shower by hosting it, including paying for it, for them. If you don’t want a shower don’t have one, but it makes no sense to me at all to insist on this particular battle, and I think your mom isn’t being unreasonable.

          • Lisa

            I’m with @amymarch:disqus on this. If you feel uncomfortable with her spending that money on a bridal shower for you, then I wouldn’t have one. It would be different if your parents had said they were planning to give you a certain amount of money at the wedding and ended up deducting some of the shower expenses from that, but they’ve already given it to you as a gift.

            My parents had a couple of things they wanted for sure that they felt might get cut (i.e. videography) so they paid for that separately from the amount they were giving us. Unless it’s going against some dearly held beliefs, I wouldn’t fight the battle on this one.

          • Totch

            Sorry, accidentally deleted the comment above!

            It was a weird situation. Someone offered to host a bridal shower for me, made the plans, and then told me that they didn’t plan to pay for it and instead asked guests to split the cost.

            My mom and I both weren’t happy about that, and told the host we’d cover those costs. Now it’s just a discussion between the two of us about whether my mom is paying for it directly, or (my preference) by agreeing that I can use the money she gave us to pay. It’s a situation that neither of us are at fault for, and when she’s already contributed money I don’t want this to be an added burden.

          • Amy March

            Whatttttt. Why are people so incredibly weird. Still, she doesn’t see it as a burden, and in a way it may be more of a burden to her to have to keep fighting you on this?

          • Totch

            The whole shower situation is wiiiild!

            You might be right, but we’ve both agreed to table it until the shower. When my folks offered us money, it wasn’t a burden. With some other family stuff going on now, additional spending is. There are no deposits required or anything, so we’re just leaving it to whoever pulls out their credit card faster the day of.

            Maybe you’re right that I should just be a little slow to the draw.

        • sofar

          Oh, yes, obviously! We put our foot down when it came to 1) Venue 2) Vows. 3) My attire.

          We even allowed for a couple small things that made us a little unhappy. But those three things were not open to negotiation.

    • Totch

      Agree with all of this! We’re not having a wedding party, but our nieces and nephews are ushers and ring bearers and are kind of taking on that aesthetic role.

      We have really strong feelings about wedding party costs, so we decided just to pay for anything specific we’re asking the kids to wear. Slacks and a shirt in a reasonable color scheme? On you. The exact right tie? On us.

      I know a couple people in the family feel like it’s overkill (dresses for the girls are $70, which isn’t bank-breaking for anyone), but we didn’t want to put additional costs on our siblings with kids.

  • sage

    Thank you for this. Even though I had been reading APW forever before starting wedding planning, there came a time when we were reviewing venue pricing and realized that we would have to spend much more than we had anticipated if we wanted to invite our entire 250 (mostly local) guest list. We had decided early on our priorities were to invite as many people as we could and to make it as easy on our guests as possible… when we saw the real numbers of what it cost to feed all those people, though, we freaked out a little and came really close to cutting the guest list.

    We knew the issue wasn’t that we couldn’t afford it, we just felt ashamed to be THOSE people having the “lavish” and expensive wedding. Eventually, we adjusted our expectations and expanded our budget significantly, and we’re now feeling good about sticking to our original priorities of inviting all the people.

  • Ugh

    For the longest time I felt guilty about my wedding budget even though we’re spending just under the norm for my area for twice as many people. Part of it was when I realized how much more we’re spending than my friends–but also twice as many people–but it’s also fancier (circle of thought). Fiance helped me get out of it but then my mother made it come back since she non stop complains about how expensive everything is. I hear her talking to everyone who will listen how she’s spending so much on this wedding (while seemingly neglecting that his parents are contributing an equal amount) I needed to keep reminding myself: I made a spreadsheet with line item budgets. If anything was over our line item budget, we didn’t do it. I even included tax, tips and feeding all the vendors. She was already giving a designated amount of money, and if we went over I was covering it, which I can afford to do because I’m responsible with my money and respect budgets so I would never grossly overspend.

    • NolaJael

      The spreadsheet budget was critical to helping me keep things in perspective. Yes, the grand total was a lot of money but the individual items were important and affordable.

  • sofar

    Thanks for acknowledging that it’s totally legit to incorporate both families’ wishes into wedding planning. There a large contingent of folks who basically think couples should tell their parents/families to go fuck themselves — and that by incorporating things the families want and having anything more than a secret courthouse wedding, you’re not being a “real adult.” As if telling your families and their cultures to fuck off is automatically MORE mature.

    If your families are being unreasonable, sure, tell them to fuck off (and we nicely did that to our families for some aspects of the wedding). But, in some families, marriage means something culturally. And incorporating their wishes, should you choose to do so, doesn’t mean you’re just wasting money or afraid to say “no” to your parents.

    Anyway, since getting married, my shame has disappeared and I give no fucks. Anytime anyone has said something to me like, “I mean, I don’t get why people need to waste money on a giant wedding. We just want to keep things intimate and meaningful,” I respond with, “My Big Fat Indian wedding had 400 people in attendance. Come at me.”

    • Totch

      A big thumbs up to incorporating families’ wishes. Two of our big reasons for having a wedding were 1) make our folks happy, and 2) scam everyone into visiting us.

      If family is a big reason why the wedding is happening at all, of course I’m going to plan around them (within reason)

    • toomanybooks

      Hah, people who want to keep things “intimate” clearly aren’t in a a couple where at least one person has a gigantic family that will never let you hear the end of it if you didn’t invite them to your wedding.

      • HarrietVane

        Yup. Also, at least in the case of my wedding, you can’t only have the people you really want. And family is family. I might actually like hanging out with my friends more than my aunts and uncles, but this is not my birthday party… community (on this occasion) is more of a priority than me having the bestest time with my bestest friends. I mean, an intimate wedding sounds awesome! But it’s not what fits with my circumstances. And being a gay wedding means that doing it in public with a lot of people seems to matter a lot more!

        • toomanybooks

          Yeeesssss, I definitely feel extra pressure on myself to have a super cool wedding that also meets traditional wedding criteria but not the ones I don’t like but it doesn’t look cheap or less nice than other weddings… since I’m marrying another woman. Because my wedding is going to be a lot of people’s first gay wedding.

          • HarrietVane

            On the flip side, my fiancée worries if we do anything TOO traditional because she feels, hey, how are people going to know it’s a gay wedding. Basically, she wants to put in rainbows at all opportunities and I feel that they are unnecessary. Not that rainbows are bad! But I don’t think they will actually make the wedding gayer… (hint: the lesbian brides will give the whole game away!)

          • toomanybooks

            I brought up walking out to David Bowie’s “Modern Love” and my fiancée was like, “No, people will think we chose it because we’re gay” and, to be honest, I was a little worried about that too. And my fiancée vetoed tacos because they’d be too on the nose.

          • idkmybffjill

            I just died at tacos being too on the nose for a lesbian wedding. Made my day. For the record, one of my top 5 favorite weddings was two ladies with a taco bar. It ruled.

          • Totch

            This is hilarious! My fiance is Chinese and I’m white, and he went through a phase of vetoing the color red because it made the wedding look too Chinese. Opposite of you, he had to accept that since he actually wanted a Chinese wedding, removing all the red didn’t make it less Asian.

            At one point he said we couldn’t use a red teapot for our tea ceremony, and I just had to say “honey, when we’re kneeling in front of our elders, serving them tea and accepting traditional gifts… that teapot isn’t gonna be the thing that gives it away.”

            It was wonderful and hilarious and we found a balance.

          • BettyGemma

            Chiming in to say I just love your name!!

        • In a lot of respects, a wedding is like the birthday parties you have when you’re a kid. You have to invite everyone in the class and all your cousins even though you couldn’t care less, and half of them with RSVP yes but fail to turn up on the day, and someone who RSVPed no will turn up, and everyone is trying to insulate you from all the drama that occurs and and there’s a massive build up to the bit with the cake.

          • HarrietVane

            Yes! And if the whole class isn’t invited for some reason there is always that person who wasn’t invited who is trying to wangle an invitation OR throwing a tantrum at being left out… (both applicable to both my childhood birthday parties and my wedding)

          • Kira

            Spot on analogy, 10 out of 10, will reuse liberally when trying to explain to friends why we’re grappling with a guest list that’s mostly relatives.

      • sofar

        I’m always like, “My family’s Christmas parties have 70 people and 15 buckets of fried chicken. WTF is this concept of ‘intimate’?”

      • large fam

        Or have a gigantic family that they are genuinely super close to! My wedding was just the people I see at the regular family gatherings (Christmas, birthdays, etc) and a few close friends and we invited over 100 people easily.!

      • RageFace

        100% – I don’t think my family will EVER let me live it down if we did the courthouse thing :/

    • Leah

      EXACTLY! For a lot of people (myself included) weddings are about community and that community often includes family and a lot of it.

      Would an intimate wedding somewhere in the forest or something be beautiful? Yes! But Fiance’s elderly relatives won’t be able to trek through the woods to get there.

    • idkmybffjill

      Late to the party, but even in a relatively small (100 people) wedding… getting much smaller meant that the balance of people I’d have would have been my VERY BEST FRIENDS and family who I didn’t particularly care whether or not they made it. It’s great to have a 20 person wedding if those 20 people are the only people you want to celebrate your wedding day with! Our 20 person list seemed…..not that fun?

  • OMG are wedding budgets a pissing match especially on social media. Whenever weddings come up on Twitter/FB it becomes a race to show who had the cheapest wedding. And then there’s a chorus of “I don’t even want a wedding, we can use that as a down payment on a house!” I always have to point out to folks that yes you can have a nice wedding that cost more than $500 AND have a down payment for a house.

    I have zero guilt about our wedding budget. We spent what we felt was a reasonable amount and got 100% of the stuff we wanted. And I’ll always cherish all those memories from our wedding day.

    • Lisa

      I had this happen to me on Facebook recently. A friend pointed out that, hey, you DON’T have to spend $$$$ to make a wedding happen, which immediately turned into a pissing contest among her other friends about how little they’d spent on their weddings/how disgusting it is to spend more than a couple thousand no matter where you are. I offered up my opinion about why we spent what we did (without disclosing exact numbers), which led to my friend clarifying her own stance. (She was feeling shamed by the people in the first category of Meg’s post.)

      We need to be aware that not everyone’s priorities are our own, and we don’t know all of the reasons why people make the decisions they do. It’s not our place to judge.

    • The down payment on a house thing always cracks me up. Even though I wouldn’t remotely consider our wedding a “budget” wedding (pretty average according to the knot and whatnot), the cost of our wedding was definitely not even close to 20% down on a house where we live.

      • sofar

        It cracks me up too. Somehow “downpayment on a house” has become the knee-jerk shame tactic for big weddings.

        I could EASILY shame that person for buying “such a big house” and “imagine the carbon foot print it will have! You could put that money toward a tiny house, or an energy-efficient condo!”

        Or “why are you buying a HOUSE, when you could donate that money to charity? Or spend it on travel! Or rescue 5,000 homeless cats!”

        • emmers

          +1 to rescuing 5000 homeless cats. That is a golden comment.

        • AmandaBee

          New budget wedding idea: uninvite all your annoying relatives. Replace each with 10 homeless cats. Friskies all around!

      • Totch

        Same as you: we didn’t skimp out on the wedding, but it’s nowhere near a down payment. That’s why it feels particularly shitty in places with pricey real estate. We don’t ever plan to own a house, but that’s because we’ll never afford one in our city of choice. It’s 2017. Home ownership isn’t always a priority.

    • cpostrophe

      when my wife and I were planning our wedding and talking budgets we were both coming into it with nest eggs that we had earmarked for down payments on property, and we were both also having regular deposits into these accounts with a target of having, like, $xxx,000 in our combined savings by May 2017 (when our lease was up) and that whatever we set for a wedding budget couldn’t derail that plan.

      And, generally, we stuck to it. We weren’t perfect. There were emergencies (car trouble, both of our cats died right after the honeymoon) and a couple of splurges on the wedding that we told each other that we’d make up for afterwards by tightening our belts this winter.

      Then, two months after the wedding, we found a condo that we liked at an affordable price and we just went for it. We were still eight months behind our savings plan, but we made it work with a small 401k loan at my job that I can pay off by the end of the year. So, married, honeymoon, pet loss, then new condo all in the space of three months. It was crazy. But we were absolutely able to do it by just being clear about our goals, our options, and our tradeoffs.

      Could we afforded a bigger/nicer house or a smaller mortgage if we didn’t have the wedding? Absolutely. But the wedding was a great way for our families to mesh with each other and for our communities to meet each other and there’s no way that would’ve happened if we ‘just’ bought a house.

      • Yvette

        Thank you for sharing!
        I have been feeling all sorts of guilty for even having a wedding. period. We could be using the $$ for an even bigger down payment on a home and our lives together- on the actual union. But the wedding means a lot to me, and not in some fufu princess way, but a true combining of families, cultures and lives.
        Thanks for making me realize that! I feel soo much better!

    • JenC

      Or the “I’d rather get a house first then if we have money left we can put it towards a small wedding”. Like there’s a specific order in which you need to empty your bank accounts of your hard saved money. We’ve received a few comments that pointed towards the more sensible thing would be buying a house first rather than paying for a wedding but we had a savings plan and stuck to it. We had a nice wedding and now have a house.

      We also figured that a house is an endless money pit (so far the house is proving us right) and we’d never be able to afford the type of wedding people expected us to have once maintenance of a home came into play.

      • Greta

        +1 to houses being endless money pits! Once you’re in, the expenses just keep coming. There’s the little stuff you want to do, and then the big stuff that comes unexpectedly – like needing to buy a new furnace and hot water heater… yikes – that’s a whole wedding right there!

      • rg223

        This is also goofy to me, because, no offense to anyone who’s done this, but is it really the best idea for couples to buy a house together before getting married? A lot of times it’s better financially to be married before buying a house.

    • Lmba

      Yep, the false equivalence between wedding budget/downpayment… I mean, that’s a totally legit calculation to be making for one’s OWN wedding, but so so so presumptuous for someone else’s.

      We had a cheap wedding, but at the time it was actually WAY more than we could “afford” (which was basically nothing), as we were severely broke students with non-wealthy parents. We were in a lot of debt, actually. I did see quite a bit of chatter on wedding sites about not having a wedding until you were out of debt, or not going into debt to have a wedding (which, when you are relying on student loans to pay rent, is the same thing) which is FINE, but for us it was unclear whether that was EVER going to happen. So, screw that, we got married exactly when we wanted to, and it cost more than was sensible for people as broke as we were to spend, and we had a blast and the money got sorted out eventually. No regrets.

    • rg223

      It also feels like millenial-shaming to me – like, people of an older generation complain about young couples spending too much money and “My wedding cost $400 and we had it in a basement!”, but then when it’s THEIR kids getting married, they want it to be at a certain level and match their friends…

    • nutbrownrose

      FH pulled that one on me, and I just…our families aren’t going to give us all this money for a house. It’s not even like I’m spending OUR money on a wedding, it’s their money, and it was earmarked “wedding” before we were even born.

    • RageFace

      We bought our house BEFORE getting married, so no downpayment stress haha!

  • Katharine Parker

    I think there is value in considering the ways that weddings highlight wealth inequality and examining what we could be doing to dismantle the systems that support that, so in that sense guilt could be productive if it inspires useful reflection. But throwing a wedding isn’t the cause of wealth inequality and not throwing a wedding isn’t going to fix anything, in my opinion. Supporting businesses that align with our values is one good thing to do, along with the other things one does to promote positive change.

    In general, I don’t feel guilty about wedding spending in particular (we’re having the wedding we and our families want, with a budget that we’re comfortable with) but I do have feelings about being a privileged white woman in America and getting married is churning some of those up.

    • Totch

      I think that’s a really worthwhile distinction.

    • Nell

      Ooh good point. Weddings are so much about displays of privilege. That privilege can be financial – or it can just be copious amounts of free time to do DIY projects, or hunt for customized everything on the internet.

    • AmandaBee

      Yes, this would be a great post. As someone from a working class family throwing a wedding that was “budget” to some and “extravagant” to others, weddings do have a way of highlighting wealth inequality. It’s even trickier when you’re bringing together a socioeconomically mixed family. It caused a fair amount of guilt on my end, and its own types of cultural issues.

    • Kira

      Yes, this, so much!

      My attempts to write anything more eloquent than that have turned into jumbles of exclamation points, so I’ll just say that I’ve been wrestling with this too, and I think it’s a really important distinction to create, because guilt about spending is not the same thing as considering the systems that create inequity and privilege. Without that distinction, I think conversations about wedding spending run the danger of falling into “I choose my choice feminism” (I’m a feminist, therefore all my choices are feminist, because I am a feminist making choices), which, just, no.

  • Vanessa

    I was looking at our projected budget spreadsheet last week and feeling generally pretty good – if a couple things came in a little over budget, we’d still be at the low end of our hoped for range ($15-25k). And then I realized that the section of the screen I was looking at didn’t include Food & Beverage. FOOD. THE MOST EXPENSIVE PART. Had a nice little cry after that.

    • Totch

      Fiance keeps trying to keep the budget down by omission!

      Me: How much is your shirt going to cost?
      Him: Don’t worry, I’ll pay for it myself.
      Me: Yeah, you’re paying for the suit yourself too. That’s how this works. It’s still for our wedding, therefore goes on the wedding budget.

      • sage

        Ha, I do this myself… my wedding shoes will probably not be a line item in the “wedding budget”. They will go in my personal clothing budget since I’ll wear them again (and it makes me feel better about the wedding spending). Same with fiance’s suit. In our instance I think it’s OK because I keep a pretty detailed budget for my personal spending and the funds for the wedding are coming from separate savings.

      • NolaJael

        I had a hard time being honest about the expense of things that didn’t work out. Etsy jewelry that wasn’t right but wasn’t returned…things like that. It didn’t seem fair to have to include things that weren’t used. :(

        • jammers

          Right???? What do you do with those things? I’ve used being engaged as an excuse to buy every pretty white dress I see… also bought a belt on bhldn that I knew probably wouldn’t go with my dress but it’s just soooooo pretty I had to have it (plan to wear to fancy parties)… don’t know where/if these go on the spreadsheet. I can’t wait to be married so I can refocus my must-have-pretty-thing compulsion in a more practical/reusable direction

          ETA this makes me think maybe I should just be less hard on myself about the contours of the budget, overall. I’ve been getting very tied up in “you must document every penny” and I don’t think this is super great for my head. If overall we can afford what we’re spending, it’s probably not essential that every line in the spreadsheet be perfectly complete/accurate

        • emmers

          I kinda viewed this stuff as overage. I mean, when factories create umbrellas, for example, there are always a few umbrellas that come through the line that got somehow messed up and aren’t usable. It’s like that– if a factory can have unusable stuff, I think it’s fine for my wedding to too.

        • AP

          It’s funny- I don’t regret the $1800 catering bill. I do regret the $60 I spent on personalized coasters that we forgot to use!

      • theteenygirl

        The suit we are flip flopping about whether it will go in the wedding budget or not. We are budgeting a large chunk of change ($800-$1000) for a bespoke suit for him. He will get good use out of it for years to come for his job. If it wasn’t something he would wear again he’d just wear a suit from his closet, but we’re using the wedding as an excuse for him to get a gorgeous suit made just for him.

        • NolaJael

          Maybe count half the price as towards the wedding? I’m generally in the camp of including rather than excluding expenses, just so you aren’t surprised at the end.

        • Shirley Schmidt

          This is my fiancé’s point – we’re lawyers so he will get so much more wear out of his wedding attire! We are putting part of it in the wedding budget and fiancé is paying for part of it, which seems like the most reasonable solution we could find.

          • Totch

            We’re on the other side of this. The wedding is a great excuse to get a new, nice suit. But fiance doesn’t normally wear suits, and one wouldn’t be in the cards for his normal clothes budget. We were happy to put it in the budget because of that. I think it’s just easy to look at the line item and be like ‘well if we don’t write in the cost.of the shirt I’ll feel like I spent less.’

          • Shirley Schmidt

            Oh definitely! I think it’s really easy to do that with ancillary outfit stuff and accessories. And your way makes more sense for your fiancé’s suit usage!

          • Totch

            As does yours!

        • Greta

          Same with my husband’s suit – but also the dress shoes! He spent a pretty penny on the dress shoes for the wedding, but they are comfortable (which is a challenge for him – hobbit feet) and look good and he wears them all the time now! I’m pretty sure he has worn them to every wedding we’ve attended since we got married 2.5 years ago, and to work at least once a week. And they still look great!

      • Vanessa

        Oh yeah, I’m definitely having some expenses that are wedding-related but not The Wedding that are bleeding over into my other budget categories. Yes, the money has to come from somewhere. On the other hand, as long as my other budget categories can handle it, I’m not including some stuff in the wedding budget. It’s kind of a case-by-case basis for me though – wedding jewelry will come from the wedding budget, whereas the facials I’m getting monthly in between now and wedding will come from my budget.

        • lamarsh

          I am definitely spending much more money than normal on getting my skin to a good place before the wedding, so glad to hear I’m not the only one. It is so worth it, but I’ve tried to take it out of my normal budget since you have to draw the line somewhere. I’ve taken the same stance on the exercise classes I’ve been attending, that I usually would consider to be too expensive to attend unless I got them on sale.

          • Vanessa

            It is SO worth it to me. My skin is my biggest insecurity, and since stress makes it worse, it felt to me like a shitty feedback loop of doom when I was trying to do it on my own. Plus, I’ve tried everything else in the last few years (supplements! product changes! retinol! dermatologist! this new system and that new system and this miracle thing and that one too!) and they’ve all been totally mediocre. I’m so much more excited about every wedding-related event (and frankly just all the other stuff in my life) with my skin getting in better shape, so I’m happy to take money from some other discretionary spending and throw it towards this instead. It feels more like having the wedding gave me permission to do something I’ve wanted for a long time anyway.

          • lamarsh

            “It feels more like having the wedding gave me permission to do something I’ve wanted for a long time anyway.”

            This. A thousand times this. I need to remember to tap into this mindset post-wedding as well.

        • Totch

          The biggest of these for us is wine!! We’ve been buying a lot to decide which to serve at the reception, but also we just really wanted to learn more about wine. That’s coming out of the regular alcohol budget.

          Also, I am happily letting the search for the perfect matte red lipstick decimate my regular makeup/clothes/etc budget.

          • Vanessa

            Hahahahaha SAME with the wine. I’ve been using it a little too much probably, i.e. telling my FMIL we’re testing wines for the wedding and that’s why I always bring a bottle or 2 over to their house (and not because they drink terrible wine that tastes like garbage).

      • Eenie

        Yup. If it wasn’t something that we would have bought anyways, it came out of the wedding budget. Otherwise I could see our household budget bursting at the seams and buying a bunch of wedding stuff last minute because there was still room in the wedding budget.

      • Diverkat

        Keeping the budget down by omission IS NOT BUDGETING!!! I’ve been trying to explain this to FMIL for like MONTHS now. Thank you for naming it for me!

  • Her Lindsayship

    My mom when talking about anything I deem unnecessary (portapotties at our ceremony site that has restrooms, aisle runner, day-of-coordinator, etc.): “It can’t cost that much, and it’s so important to have [thing]!”

    My mom when she found out how much our venue is costing: “I had no idea it was so expensive!”

    I love her, we actually have a great relationship, and I know she just wants to help. The problem is that with weddings, she feels she knows the lay of the land because she helped my sister plan hers. But, as APW knows, every wedding is going to look different when it comes to budget priorities. The decisions we’ve made and will make about our wedding are informed by some extremely narrowly-focused research that has taken months and months to do. Anyone who hasn’t done months of research about modern wedding services/venues/costs in my area doesn’t really need to offer me unsolicited advice. Of course, she’s Mom, so she gets some leeway in that department. ;)

    • Lisa

      My husband proclaimed that weddings should never cost more than $10k because that’s what he’s pretty sure his sister spent on her Bay Area wedding. Then when we started to plan OUR wedding he quickly realized that our priorities just did not add up to spending less than that amount.

      • NolaJael

        That cracked me up. What a ridiculous statement.

        • Lisa

          It was! He didn’t realize until he’d done some of his own venue research that, to have the type of wedding we wanted in the city we preferred, we were going to easily spend that much on the venue/catering alone.

          • emmers

            10K is nice because it’s a round number. My dad (who helped pay for the wedding) had a similar awakening. Event stuff is expensive!

      • toomanybooks

        I remember hearing about a couple where the guy didn’t want to spend more than $5k because he was sure that was what his sister’s wedding had cost, then he looked into it (after the woman was like “there’s no way that wedding was $5k”) and realized that’s what just her dress cost.

        • Lisa

          Yeah, this is how I feel about my SIL’s wedding. It’s possible they might have spent only $10k, but they also had a smaller, hotel banquet room wedding with a limited bar. That wasn’t the wedding my husband or I wanted so it doesn’t make sense to base the budget on someone else’s priorities!

          • Katharine Parker

            It’s also very clear from the different weddings posted here that cost $10k (or any sum) that people have different ways of figuring the wedding budget. Does that include the flowers that were a gift from a friend who is a florist? Does it include the actual price of the catering from a family member, when the family member charged them at cost? People have very different weddings with the same budget.

    • NolaJael

      I had a similar problem, where I would quickly dismiss a pricey suggestion (because I’d done research) but it seemed like I was dismissing the person and their idea. It’s tough to balance when you are immersed in the process and someone else is just having an idea for the first time.

      • Totch

        This is so perfectly phrased. Thanks. Because last week all I could tell my MIL was “We have been planning this for a year. I have been over this menu a thousand times.”

  • I also think there’s wedding guilt associated with where money is coming from. I think there’s pride associated with paying for a wedding yourself and that if you don’t, you’re a bad financial manager or you’re mooching off your family, etc. When my fiancé and I got engaged, we were prepared to pay for everything ourselves, and then our parents generously stepped in and offered to pay for most it. I feel like some people would judge me if they knew that…and so I feel a little guilty about it, but also immensely thankful to our parents for their help.

    • clarkesara

      Yup. Same here. I always wanted to pay for my own wedding, partially out of independence and not wanting to be a mooch, but also to buck tradition. (Especially coming from a culture where The Bride’s Father Pays is a huge deal, and where that is connected to other distinctly patriarchal social mores and rituals.) Then my dad volunteered to cover the food and bar, and… actually that was a huge help and enabled us to do more than we otherwise would have been able to afford. Also, since my dad and I have a love of food and wine in common, it didn’t feel like the old school patriarchal thing as much, but more like a gift. But do I feel guilt about it? Yes, of course I do!

    • Totch

      Totally. It also feels like it’s related to the fact that the money is from the people who raised you? Like, your parents raise you to be a responsible, independent adult. And usually (nowadays) before you get married, you leave the house and figure out how to apply everything they’ve taught you. Whether it’s for a wedding or any other part of life, there’s a dissonance there and you’ve got to figure out how accepting money aligns with the way you were brought up.

    • Eenie

      Yes, and to add:
      We paid for the entire wedding ourselves. Both parents gave us rather generous gifts, but it wasn’t money that factored into our budget and was less than 8% of the total cost. I feel bad about being proud of paying for the wedding ourselves, because I know both of our parents wanted to contribute more but weren’t in the financial spot to do that.

    • JenC

      We pid for the majority of the wedding ourselves but parents did contribute. There was an element of feeling like you were adulting right and able to pay for your own wedding. At the same time, my relationship with my parents and money was complicated. For a while I’ve seen money from my dad as a compensation for him not being around much. I’ve considered it guilt money in the past. I didn’t really want his guilt money for our wedding so I needed to work through some of those feelings. Then with my mum she’s always taught to me be indepenent with money and she earns less than all the other parents. She offered us so much and I felt awful taking it from her because it was a lot of money to her and she helped in other ways too. But refusing her offer was hurtful to her, she saw herself as finally being in a place where she could help her only child with a big expenditure. It was a source of pride for her to be able to buy me wedding dress for me. It was a hard thing to come to terms with, especially when you should feel guilt about your parents helping you.

    • AmandaBee

      Yes to this. We originally planned to pay and based on budget on what we could afford. Our families generously stepped in and provided us with much of the cost in cash without being asked and no strings attached (in other news: our families are amazing). So we ended up paying for a fairly small portion of the wedding, and I felt weirdly guilty about that. But, you know, there’s a big difference between feeling entitled to the money and being gifted it, and our families seemed happy to pitch in.

      • Totally. Our parents are all much better off financially than we are (we’re young, we’ve got student loans, car payments, entry level jobs, etc.) so I don’t feel bad about accepting a generous gift from them for their children’s weddings. This is the one time in our lives when this will happen and I am deeply grateful for their help.

    • Diverkat

      I also think there’s wedding guilt associated with where money is coming from.

      OMG yes, and the strings that come with the money gift as well.

    • Leah

      Same situation here where my parents are stepping in for the wedding and his are gifting us our honeymoon. Trying to assuage the guilt with the knowledge that all of these people are adults and this is what they want to do with their money!

  • Totch

    Thanks for this. We definitely fall in the category of folks worrying we’re spending too much. Nothing big, but we’ve gotten little comments about how we don’t need to be buying the ring bearer outfits or whatever. We’re spending based on our values and we’re good with that.

    One area where I worry I’m not totally comfortable: my parents gave us money early in the engagement, no strings attached. They said it could be used on the wedding or our student loans or whatever. Thing is: we’ve saved enough of our own money to pay for 90% of our wedding, and the money from my parents really just means that we’re able to take a honeymoon right after the wedding and have it be a big trip.

    My parents stayed true to their word that it was no strings attached, so I’m not hearing from anyone that I shouldn’t be spending this money on a honeymoon… but I still feel a bit guilty. To some extent, I think we’re making sure to spend money well on the wedding so that we don’t feel like we skimped on our guests in order to spend on ourselves/the honeymoon.

    • Another Meg

      Honeymoons are awesome and definitely can count as a wedding expenditure. You will feel you’ve earned a break by the time you take your trip.

      It sounds like you’re doing what’s important to you, and that you have really cool parents. Go team Totch.

    • Amy March

      They literally told you that you did not have to spend the money on the wedding.

      • Totch

        This is a post about dealing with emotions around wedding spending so I’m expressing what I’m feeling right now. Clearly, since the honeymoon is happening, we’re still using the money as they intended.

        We’re having our wedding mainly for our families, so it’s easy not to feel guilty about spending money on it. The honeymoon is entirely for us, and being OK with spending that money on ourselves is a process.

    • Lisa

      My parents did something similar (told us how much money they’d budgeted, asked us to let them know when things needed paying, said we’d get a check for the difference between amounts spent and promised afterwards). I completely understand the guilt of receiving a gift that big from your family. I definitely downplay the fact that my parents paid for 95% of the wedding when I talk about it with people in my own life. However, your parents were clear that they wanted to help in some way; I’d treat it as a wedding present and thank them accordingly.

    • Katharine Parker

      Your parents are giving you a gift, and you can accept it as such. No one needs to know what came out of the money you saved vs the money your parents gave you. In general, no one needs to know the cost of the wedding or the honeymoon or the amount of your parents’ gift.

    • NolaJael

      Eh, as economists will tell you money is fungible. You can tell yourself that you saved for the wedding and your mom’s money is for the honeymoon, or you can tell yourself that you mom helped you pay for your wedding and you saved for your honeymoon. The money spends the same. If the narrative is what’s bothering you, then change it up.

      • Totch

        It’s funny you say this, because it’s part of me trying to get comfortable!

        Literally speaking, the funds that we’ve used to pay for everything so far have come out of our savings and the money from my parents is untouched. At first I was trying to mentally (or actually in our bank accounts) shift things around to make it feel like their money went to the wedding.

        But then I realized that if I cared that much, there was more going on than I was admitting (and that maybe we shouldn’t be taking a honeymoon that would leave me with guilt). So I stopped shifting things around, and got OK with thinking about it as a parent funded honeymoon and talking about it that way with my mom. It’s definitely helped.

      • ART

        This characteristic of money is the exact reason I’m struggling with spending right now – we have been married for a while and recently put an offer in on a house. His parents helped us with about 1/4 the up-front amount that we had to cobble together to make the offer, then the offer wasn’t accepted and we haven’t made another yet. I had already been talking about us taking a trip to Paris this year using my annual bonus (like, I’ve never left the country and we should do this before we have children thing), but now that we have that gift money sitting in the bank (even though it’s in the separate down payment fund account), I feel like spending my own bonus on travel is going to look, to them, like I’m spending house money, or money that should go toward making a better offer on the next house. I haven’t really reckoned with that yet, and need my husband’s help navigating that with his parents.

    • Ashlah

      I can definitely relate to this. My mom gifted us enough money to cover our honeymoon, nearly the cost of the wedding itself, which was incredibly generous of her, and something she had only recently gotten into the financial position to be able to do. I felt so guilty about it, and didn’t want to tell anyone. It was so out of the norm for my life to be gifted a large sum of cash. We also tried really hard to keep our wedding budget low, so I felt the guilt about whether that money should go towards improving the wedding for our guests.

      In the end, our wedding was wonderful. I do at times look back and realize we could have happily spent more on some things, but I never feel like we should have done so at the expense of our honeymoon. My mom is so glad that she was able to give us that gift, and it’s made me really want to someday (far in the future) return the favor and take her on a trip. I completely understand your guilt, but I promise that your parents will be happy knowing that they provided you an amazing honeymoon.

  • AP

    I don’t feel guilty about spending the money on our wedding because I feel like it was a reasonable amount for us. We saved on some things and splurged on others, and did the best we could. My MIL had a lot to say about how much our wedding cost, but she’s the type to ask someone point-blank how much they paid for something and then judge them if the answer is anything more than, “I found it for free on the side of the road and painted it!” We paid for everything ourselves and I asked my husband not to talk to his family about what we were spending. (They are super open about finances, which generally I am ok with, but I don’t always love it when he tells them exactly how much I made last year, for example.) But she still made comments like, “you must have spent a lot on these flowers” even though she had no idea, and no interest in helping us DIY to save money. In the moment I was hurt and felt self-conscious, but I got over it pretty quickly. Thinking about our spending, I’m most happy that we were able to hire and build relationships with local businesses, and now we refer friends and family to them all the time.

  • savannnah

    I’ve commented at length on previous HH and other posts about this topic as I’m currently living this nightmare in real time (cultural divides, vastly different expectations, religious differences, chronic Male communication snafus etc which culminated in my future MIL sending me the aforementioned 6 page handwritten letter discussing our ‘immoral’ wedding budget) and all I’m going to add is that I feel great about our wedding budget. We are funding over 90% ourselves and $3,000 of that is gong to some amazing flowers and they are gonna be fucking gorgeous.

    • Lisa

      Oooo, I love flowers and regret a bit that I didn’t try to have more say about mine. My husband’s godmother paid for them as our wedding present, and while they were nice, they weren’t exactly what I’d pictured. I salute you and your beautiful flowers!

      • Laur

        I love flowers too! We’re being DIY about a couple of things but I wanted to do a florist. It seems to be a thing these days to do your own flowers to save money (some circles)…but I know I couldn’t do as good of a job, nor do I want to spend hours doing that when I will have so much else on my mind!

        • savannnah

          One of the reasons I’m putting down some serious cash for flowers is that I’ve been that bridesmaid putting flowers together at 2am multiple times (!) day of the wedding and I would be a legit crazy person if that were me day of.

          • Colleen

            I was the DIY bride who decided that the day of the wedding was the right time to put centerpieces, bouquets, boutonnières, and corsages together. Needless to say, I made my MOH (my only sibling and my only attendant) cry, because the process turned me into a legit crazy person. If you’ve got it and it’s important to you, spend that money on your flowers, folks! Because, take it from me, making your baby sister cry on your wedding day feels super lousy.

          • Diverkat

            My BFF DIY’d almost everything in her wedding, and the day before her wedding I was driving around the countryside, looking for meadows because she wanted wildflowers. I love her to bits, but that week, I could have killed her.

    • Totch

      I ? your immoral wedding.

    • suchbrightlights

      I love admiring people’s flowers in inverse proportion to the importance I put on them. I hope you’ll show us pictures! The artistry that goes into floral design and the sheer beauty of what nature provides combine to make something really special.

    • Flowers were our extravagance and therefore I will take any slight encourgement to show them off.
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2e8d1c6c47d763eaa0584c31f24233ce3c17cfc69dc531af8352df35a120b747.jpg

      • Sydney

        Totally unrelated but I need to know where that dress is from!! So pretty!

    • Sarah

      Flowers were non-negotiable for me. I had to have beautiful flowers. I don’t care that they wilt or die. I don’t care that we could spend that money on something else, or that people won’t notice. Flowers make me happy. Flowers are beautiful. They are extravagant and there are sustainability issues and labor issues and whatnot which normally matter a lot, but basically there are two times when it’s socially acceptable to fill a room with flowers for yourself: your wedding and your funeral. I don’t plan on dying any time soon, and I love flowers too much to miss out on a time to be surrounded by flowers. So dammit, yes, I will spend $2,000 on flowers and never look back.

  • clarkesara

    As someone having a micro-budget wedding, while I’m happy with what we’re doing, there is also a part of me that wishes we’d plunked down the big chunk of change on a traditional venue with a coordinator. Just because I’m real bored with tasks like calling the party rental company to get a delivery window, figuring out how to hold parking for the food truck, etc.

  • kaskanator

    Thank you so much for this! Wedding planning went from hellish to fun once I just stopped judging myself for not having that small intimate affair I’d always imagined. I even used to start *every* wedding conversation with “if I were the only one making this decision, it would be much smaller.” Um…that’s the POINT. I’m NOT the only one making the decision, because I am committing to this man and his family for the rest of our lives! We set out with a specific budget based on what we could afford, and luckily once we started researching what we really wanted was right around when our parents generously offered to help with the costs. Now I am *so excited* by what we have planned, and trying really hard to step away from the guilt and judgement about what we are doing. We figured out–month by month–how we were going to come out debt free and now we are both trying really hard to stop fretting about the end total. It’s hard, but it makes life 100% happier. Thanks for this article. I will come back to it if we get freaked out again.

  • HarrietVane

    Unlike most of APW (or the world) we are spending a HECK OF A LOT on our wedding (think hundreds, not tens, of thousands). My parents are paying for it 100%. They can afford it.

    The idea that spending money on a wedding is somehow ‘selfish’ or that it would be more moral to give money to have a small wedding is something that definitely sneaks into my head sometimes. But, honestly, it makes ZERO sense. In fact, it is probably better for the world to SPEND the money than to keep it: what we’re doing is employing lots of creatives in different fields (as well as waitstaff, etc.) and paying fairly for their labor, time and materials. And a lot of the decision making has to do with trying to make sure the guests have the best time possible. All of the vendors we are using are local small business owners, because those are the people who have wedding/event related businesses. In a world in which ‘frugality is the most moral choice’ these types of businesses + their talented, well-trained staff don’t have a role.

    I know I’m insanely privileged to be able to have access to these sorts of resources. I try not to take that lightly.

    • NolaJael

      Yes! Own it.

  • theteenygirl

    This is such an interesting point. My best friend and I are both planning weddings right now (this was not planned.. just a happy coincidence!) and while we are very similar, our weddings could not be more far apart. She has a budget of $25-30k, her parents are paying for 90% of it, very traditional catholic ceremony with banquet hall reception, 150 guests. We have a budget of $10-12k, we’re paying for all of it, very non traditional (we’ll actually already be married legally by the wedding), cottage weekend wedding with 30 guests.

    She has felt guilty about spending so much, even though her parents have put aside this much money since she was like, born, and I have felt guilty about not having a larger budget. I get worried that since it’s a weekend, we should be paying for all the accommodations and food and everything for the entire weekend, which would add tremendously to our budget. Right now we’re planning on charging each guest $100 to stay for the weekend, and providing dinner Fri and Sat and light breakfasts Sat and Sun and a light lunch Saturday… I’m so worried about coming off cheap and tacky and like a bad host.

    • Lisa

      Is there a way the guests’ payments could be routed directly to the hosting vendor instead of to you? That might make it feel less tacky and like they are paying to attend your wedding.

      • Amy March

        I think it feels different too if I have to pay $100 to attend. What if I want to stay somewhere else or not come for a full weekend? Making it an option instead of a requirement might go better.

        • theteenygirl

          We’re definitely going to make it an option, and I expect that a few people will choose to just come for the Saturday ceremony/reception and stay at a nearby hotel. We’re going to post accommodation options on the website. Thanks :)

          • HarrietVane

            Yeah, I think the difference between a choice and a requirement is key here! I wouldn’t feel awkward at all as a guest if it’s “paying $100 for the weekend is the easiest and best option” (emphasis on option) vs. “pay $100 or you can’t come to my wedding.” And the suggestion of having someone who is not you in charge of collecting the money definitely makes it even smoother & you’ll be less stressed about it.

          • NolaJael

            For a small wedding (30 people) I think most people will want to be where the action/group is and will be glad that someone arranged accommodations. It’s not like flying into your third cousin’s wedding where you are really there to make grandma happy then going to duck out to meet old friends. My guess is that most (if not all) will definitely choose the group option.

          • AP

            I think this is totally reasonable. I’ve opted several times not to book one of the “wedding block” of hotel rooms because they were out of my budget, and instead chose to stay somewhere cheaper or with an in-town relative or friend. As a guest, I wouldn’t bat an eye at paying the couple for lodging at an all-inclusive wedding, as long as I have the option to make a different choice if I need to.

          • K.

            Oh, it’s not a requirement? You’re totally good then. I think this sounds not only reasonable, but like a good deal! I wouldn’t bat an eye as a guest.

        • theteenygirl

          Thanks all :)

      • NolaJael

        I wouldn’t worry too much about it, but even having a third party (like a parent or bridesmaid) collect the money for rooms might help. But honestly, if I was going to a wedding and only spending $50 a night on a room with the group, I wouldn’t care who I paid, that’s a good deal.

        • theteenygirl

          Having the vendor collect sadly won’t be an option.. but thank you I didn’t even think about having a third party collect the money.. that definitely saves some awkwardness. I just remember a girl at work telling me about a wedding weekend she went to where the bride walked around to everyone at the wedding to get their money in cash and how horribly uncomfortable she was when the bride told her she “was welcome to pay more to cover the cost of food too..” I do NOT want to come off as that!

          Our idea is that for most couples $200 is going to be the cheapest and easiest option around if they’re coming for the whole weekend so hopefully people won’t mind, and it makes it easier for those who are coming solo.

          • Katharine Parker

            I would definitely work out a way that people aren’t paying you at the wedding itself. Maybe setting up a paypal under a lodging-specific email address and directing people there or to send checks to a specific person. If there is someone you can trust to deal with all of this stuff, I would try to delegate so you aren’t spending your wedding weekend worrying about getting money from anyone.

    • Vanessa

      Ohhh we are in the same boat. What we’re doing is this: divide cost of lodging (ie venue bc we rented out an entire vrbo/hotel) by number of guests. That is the cost of lodging for our guests, and we are calling it such. Because our venue is far away from any food options, and as a way of showing our appreciation for everyone who is willing & able to spend the weekend with us, we are providing meals for everyone who stays at the venue the entire time they are there. Anyone who chooses not to stay at the venue can join for the daily festivities pre-wedding, and is welcome to stay for shared meals as well. We’re very careful in the language that we use (and I’ve had to correct my mom a couple of times) but ultimately the cost of lodging is the cost of lodging, and would be the same amount even if we were not paying for food.

      • theteenygirl

        Okay we are doing a similar thing! We’re renting a VRBO/Inn (it’s basically a huge cottage) and we took the price of it for two nights, subtracted how much we were comfortable budgeting for the venue, and then divided the rest by the number of guests to work out the price per guest. If everyone decides to stay with us, it actually covers the whole price of the Inn and we can move that budget to providing more substantial meals (ie: bacon and eggs and french toast instead of costco sized pancake mix and cereals for breakfast), but if only say, 20 guests choose to stay, we won’t be stuck paying more than we can afford for the venue.

        • Vanessa

          I hope your people want to stay there!! Lodging is a pretty normal cost when attending a wedding; recognizing that made us feel a lot more comfortable. It’s a little unusual to be paying the couple instead of the venue directly (although we are going that route too, to avoid organizational snafus and credit card fees) but if your friends or family have ever rented a vrbo/airbnb/shared hotel rooms etc, then I think people realize that they are still paying for their room even if they are paying you.

        • NolaJael

          I think it’s a great plan.

        • Totch

          You’ve done a great job figuring this out.

          • theteenygirl

            Thank you! I hope it works out!

        • Katharine Parker

          I think this sounds fine as a plan, but I would suggest that you make clear on your website how accommodations will work. Will I get my own room? My own bathroom? Or will I share a room? Will I get my own bed, or will I be on a couch/air mattress/cot? These details would affect my decision on where to stay and would make sure that I’m ready for the weekend when I arrive.

          • theteenygirl

            That’s a really good point! We’re planning on putting all the single guests in kind of bunk rooms (4 bunk beds) so all the bridesmaids in one room, groomsmen in another… we’ll definitely make this clear. Phew. So much to consider…

          • Amy March

            I don’t mean to be making trouble, but as a single guest I’m not sure I like the idea that I’m paying just as much as a coupled guest but being expected to sleep in a bunk bed like I’m a kid at camp. Totally possible all your people are completely on board, just for me personally I’m at a stage in life where I don’t do bunk beds and 4 people to a room.

    • Rebecca

      We had a wedding weekend this last weekend (yay!) and didn’t pay for anything for our guests except the wedding itself. So they had to front up travel, accommodation, food (including for a brunch, a lunch and drinks we organised). It didn’t seem awkward at all, possibly because we put on our wedding website a) all the surrounding events were optional, b) links to Facebook groups where people could organise shared accommodation and c) we knew that coming to the wedding was a substantial commitment in time and money, so no gifts – we’d just love people to be able to come. We also gave people lots of notice of the wedding (like.. 5 months) so that they could organise themselves.

    • ManderGimlet

      You are in NO WAY responsible for paying for your guests’ accommodations if you are hosting a weekend. I mean, you may want to pay for some folks like your parents or bridal party, but that is in no way expected (at least as someone who has been invited to multiple weekend-long wedding events). People understand that if there are multiple events planned that they will need to book a room if they want to attend all of it. If you are booking out a place that has accommodations already (like a campground or something), just make it clear like “If you would like to stay at La Dee Daa Park, the cost is $50/night payable to the hosts or here are a list of area hotels.” DONE!
      We booked out a vintage camper resort but are letting the vendor handle all the room booking so our guests’ payments for their accommodations will come out of our end venue cost. I’m supplying 4 meals and a weekend of memories, they can pay their own rooms!

  • Brynna

    Our only budget issue is a little different: my family very generously gifted us a big chunk of money which will basically cover the entire (pretty modest, but lots of guests) wedding weekend.

    However my fiance fights me on any little thing that goes OVER the amount gifted by my family. “Do we really NEED favors? Are you sure we NEED that many centerpieces?” Of course the answer is no, we don’t NEED any of that stuff but, dude, we can spend some of our own money on our wedding! It also doesn’t help that his family contributed nothing, so I feel a little taken-advantage-of.

    • Alynae

      have that conversation! Totally get it and was there myself. And if you don’t have that conversation the resentment will only grow.

      • Brynna

        It’s.. an ongoing conversation. :)

  • Abs

    APW, you are giving me everything I need today. I’ve been feeling ridiculous for a week because somehow, despite not caring about invitations and getting them from a place that we thought would be inexpensive, they are going to end up costing almost $700, and I don’t even know how that happened, or how I can be spending so much on something I don’t even care about. My first impulse when we realized how much it would cost was to tell my partner that we couldn’t ever admit to anyone how much we were spending, at which point he gave me a funny look and said, “why? our friends and family are not going to judge us.” Which is (or should be) true. But I’m so caught in this bullshit trying to balance not seeming like I care too much (being “laid back”) with caring enough to do things “properly”, while at the same time I DON’T actually care enough to, like, make my own invitations, and I do care about this party feeling like a wedding and that apparently means invitations in my circle.

    Bright side? The stupid invitations are actually the only thing so far that I feel this way about. While I have serious sticker shock from everything else too, otherwise everything we’re spending money on feels either important to us or necessary to making the whole thing happen. So maybe this one thing feeling so bad is a sign everything else is going well?

    • Katharine Parker

      $700 invites are exactly the kind of thing that some people will say, “that’s outlandish! I made my own paper and hand delivered mine to save on postage! Invites are easy to save on!” And someone else will think, “that’s $700 per invite right? My calligrapher doesn’t get out of bed for less than 10k a day.”

      Do you like them? Can you afford it? Do you want to do any more work for this? $700 for invites is fine if that makes sense for you and your wedding. If you wanted to spend less, you probably could (even without DIY), but it would take more work and that may not be worth it.

      • Laur

        Yes! Ugh. At the time we had to send out our invites, I was spending like 60+ hours/week at work, job searching, and my fiance was in another state. There wouldn’t have been time in the day to hand make my invites, even if I wanted to. I mean I am glad for people who want to hand make stuff if that’s what they want but it’s easier if you have a flexible schedule.

    • Sarah

      So I used a combination of Groupon and DIY for my invites and they are $4.50 each including postage. I was hanging out with friends, and one guy was like “so how much were these? I mean you didn’t spend something outrageous like $1.00 an invite did you?” I burst out laughing and told him, no that stack of paper in your hand cost $4.50 + 15 minutes of my time to create, so he better treasure it for ALWAYS.

      • zana

        It’s pretty hard to get under $1 per invite. Maybe as a postcard, but then you throw in postage and you’re sunk.

        • Sarah

          My initial thought was that he must not mail letters very often.

        • Lisa

          We managed it with our Christmas cards this year, but I customized one of the corporate cards on Vistaprint (cheaper rates than things in the holiday section), had a promo code, and we were then able to use postcard stamps instead of full-price ones. There is no way you could do invitations for less than a dollar each!

          • zana

            We printed our postcard Save The Dates at home, pretty sure they ended up being less than $1 each…We did postcard invites, too, on Vistaprint and got 100 cards for $40, but then only mailed ~60 of them. That was probably about $1/each with postcard stamps.

            Postcards are pretty much the only thing you can do for about $1/each.

      • Marcela

        I actually did manage to get invites right around $1 each, but that was through an obscene luck and lowering of expectations. I bought an invitation kit from Jo Ann’s at 50% plus a 10% off student discount, printed at home and it needed only one stamp. Printed at home. We didn’t need to buy any new cartridge for the ink, but even if we had it would have ended up at $1.12 each invite.
        Do I sometimes sigh with envy and semi mourn the invites that never were when I get my friends’s lovely rifle paper co invitation suites with calligraphy and floral designs and cunning little drawings of the couple and their dog? Yes, but then I remember how much we spent on dessert and lights for the dance floor.
        Different priorities.

  • Shirley Schmidt

    Meg, this article could not have come at a better time! I am just getting comfortable with spending what I see as a huge chunk of money – which isn’t even that huge (about £16-17k plus honeymoon) – on one day. It’s hard to own sometimes, and the finances and logistics are bringing up ALL my mum issues, but I’m even more determined to do it now!
    Strangely, I am completely owning having two weddings a year apart and have no regrets about that…
    (Also, thank you to those who gave advice on how to get myself and fiancé excited again. We’re doing better! And I’m definitely leaning on my excited friends more)

  • toomanybooks

    I’m an artist and I was so sure I’d be able to create a beautiful wedding without spending too much money. But the really expensive things are the venue and the food, and it’s reeeeally hard to conjure those things for less. I thought I’d be able to have my wedding in a park in the woods or something, but I just wasn’t finding anything that would work. And once I settled on my Real Venue (city-owned historic mansion, not a $50 park rental or something but not expensive) that meant I had rules about catering – I could use any caterer I wanted, but it had to be a Real Caterer, which turned out to be more expensive than I imagined.

    At the end of the day, though, I know I did my best to keep costs down. And I will know we didn’t spend more than we could afford .

  • mrouza

    I feel so guilty! Mostly because I am so frugal on a day-to-day basis that I am embarrassed that I am spending so much on a wedding that could have cost less. I did manage to buy almost everything on some sort of discount and negotiated down the minimum and room rental fee for the wedding, but having a seated dinner at a nice hotel is coming out to $200/person (not including the church rental, decorations, etc). I foolishly didn’t consider that the flat fee doesn’t count the extra hour of bar service, champagne for cocktail hour, and ALL the service fees, bartender rental, and taxes (another 35% no one talks about)

    It also makes us guilty that we aren’t paying for a dime of the wedding. Our parents are arguing over who gets to pay- both sides want to have an elegant, grand event and sorta judge my penny pinching. So I’m spending a lot and feeling guilty that we aren’t paying!

    Does anyone else feel the need to tell people how expensive it is? I almost blew out on someone who RSVPd an unwelcome plus+1 that we were not hosting the most expensive third date of his life.

    • ManderGimlet

      I have been on the fence about telling people how much stuff costs UNLESS they too are looking to start event/wedding plan and I want to be very frank with them. I am very Southern in my obsessive need to be a gracious host and make people feel comfortable, so keeping the costs to myself feels like a way for people to just enjoy themselves and not worry about how much the meal costs or whatever. I also have some judge-y friends who have no problem attending weddings and eating and drinking their faces off but then talk later about how weddings are a big waste of money. So, whatever, I’d rather be smugly satisfied as I watch them enjoy the bloody mary bar with abandon at my wedding that I’m sure they would consider too expensive lol!

  • God dammit yes this is so good. We are working on keeping our wedding as glamorous/special as possible but refuse to have any debt associated. I plan to spend less than $500 on my dress (I’m thinking of a Davids Bridal or Modcloth one) and i’m looking into other ways to keep the cost down. However I fell in love with a certain bouquet made with amazing fake flowers that is just divine but costs $430 AUD. I was so conflicted for a while and even asked friends if it’s ok to spend that much on some flowers, but heck, if i’m paying for it myself and I really love them, then why the hell not! I know it’s easier to spend the money when it’s our actual savings (mostly from selling my car and an insurance claim when our motorbike was stolen but still) but I still freak when I think about spending 8-12K on getting married when my partner and I already live like we’re married etc.

    • oh and also, the bouquet is also made by a local female small business owner too so I want to support that.

      • suchbrightlights

        If they’re fake you can keep them forever.

    • Just be careful with the $500 dress because alterations add up SO FAST.

    • Essssss

      I was married in modcloth for $120 plus about $70 in alterations- highly recommend!

    • Sarah

      If you’re in Australia, I got a brand new, unworn, current season Karen Willis Holmes dress for $250 from her sample sale. If you like her stuff follow the Instagram/Facebook so you can find out when they do another one! I splurged and got the matching veil too for $50.

      • Thank you ill have a look! I certainly am, but ill be in new york over black friday so i have a bit of flexibility

        • If you cross borders with an expensive item purchased while travelling, remember the potential customs/taxes that might come along with that…. I have no idea what Australia’s policy is, though.

      • Oh man im gonna have to look into that!

  • pineapple

    I literally have no idea how much money got spent on my wedding. I can sort of estimate it, but my parents (mostly) planned and paid for the whole thing themselves. It did cause some fights with my now husband, especially pre-engagement, since he was really concerned about having enough money to pay for a wedding before we got engaged and I was fairly positive that it would not be an issue. I do sometimes feel bad that my parents paid for the whole thing though–like a non-independent adult, but mostly I don’t care, because it was fun and they didn’t pay for anything they didn’t want to pay for, presumably.

  • Leah

    “We all know that one of the ways that society eats away at women is by telling them all of their choices are wrong.” This is one of the ways APW helped me the most, was realizing this. Because wedding planning is a big minefield of thinking you’re doing Everything wrong, because it involves a ton of money decisions, social decisions, and appearance/decorating decisions. And each and every one of them is Likely Wrong according to society.

    I feel so much shame about my youthful “you could put a downpayment on a house for that” comments. UGH. In atonement I do my best these days to assure other women that they’re making the Best Choice for THEM, and that’s the only way to be.

  • Sarah

    I’m getting married on Saturday (!!!) and my wedding is costing $30,000 AUD for 120. Which is simultaneously a huge amount of money to spend, and a really good price for a Saturday evening sit-down dinner and dancing type wedding that we only managed by cutting every possible corner. I think it will be a 50:50 split between people who can’t believe we spent so much on one day and people who can’t believe I wore a $250 dress and didn’t have any decorations for the ceremony and cheaped out on the invitations and had such a small cake… Fortunately I’m a long-time APW reader so I’ve been pretty low on fucks to give about that. I’m a grown woman and I do what I want! I’m going to have a great day. If you think it’s wasteful or insufficiently fancy you can save us some more money by staying home.

    • Em

      Where are you getting married Sarah? (Am also an Australian!)

      • Sarah

        Hi! The Royal Automobile Club of Australia, in Sydney. It’s Mardi Gras the same day so naturally it will be miserable weather. So glad we’re indoors!

        • Em

          Ah! Yes. I know it, although haven’t been to a wedding there. I’m a Sydneysider as well but temporarily based in the UK. Have been tentatively dabbling in wedding planning from a distance and have come close to pulling the trigger on a couple of venues but haven’t committed (for a whole bunch of reasons). But I completely hear you re Sydney weather + rain etc. One of the reasons we didn’t commit to a venue was because it was partly outside and we would have been having a winter wedding – just could not have handled the unpredictability in terms of both rain + cold! Inside = good bet! Keeping fingers crossed for you for either sun or at least some beautiful light for photos though!

          • Sarah

            I was always insistent on having the whole thing inside – I can’t stand the cold, I’m too pasty to go in the sun and it would be in my nature to plan a whole second indoor wedding as Plan B anyway so why not just make that Plan A? It’s so hard in Australia though because EVERYONE has their wedding outside so indoor options that aren’t a big generic function room were pretty limited, I was really glad to find the gorgeous rooms at RACA. We wanted to take photos at the Botanic Gardens though so please do keep those fingers crossed!

        • Leah

          Omg that’s where we’re getting married in September! It’s such a beautiful venue!

          • Sarah

            I just saw this – congratulations!! We were really happy with our choice on the day, everything went well and lots of people commented on how lovely the venue was and how impressed they were with the food, wine, staff and DJ. A few tips:
            -We were freezing cold in our room the night before and when we called the front desk all they could do was tell us where to find a spare blanket. They sent up a space heater the next morning – so if you’re cold just insist on the heater straight away!
            -If you’re planning on being known as anything other than Mr and Mrs Hisname, make sure to let them know. They never asked us but all the signs at the event were for Mr and Mrs Hisname. It was really gross and a huge disappointment because we went to a lot of effort to avoid sexist bullshit at our wedding (celebrant said “you may now kiss the groom”, I threw the bouquet to the single men, we made a Mr&Ms sign because in 2017 you still can’t fucking buy one). And also because, you know, Sarah Hisname just isn’t a person, whereas I actually am one so it would be nice to have my name on the signs for my own wedding…
            -If you have a bouquet toss watch out for the chandelier!!!!!
            -The supplier who does the centrepieces is lovely but didn’t really deliver what we asked for. Just pick something she’s done before from the photos on the website or give her an extremely simple request. Also try not to care too much about centrepieces, because I know someone who literally asked her for “anything but lilies” and got lilies.

          • Leah

            Congratulations!

            So happy to hear all of the good things. Thank you for the tips!
            – Noted about the heating. We’re giving my aunt and uncle the room so I’ll pass that on!
            – Argh that’s so frustrating about the name thing. We’re both changing our names and going Mr and Mrs Myname Hisname so I’ll make sure they’re hyper aware of this.
            – Omg I totally would have thrown it into the chandelier thank you for the tip.
            – That’s annoying that she didn’t deliver what you wanted. After the first couple of emails with her, we ended up going with our own florist because she a) couldn’t get any of the flowers I wanted that are definitely in season and b) kept showing me photos of orchids when I specifically said no orchids ever please. Flowers are one of the things I care a lot about so this makes me feel super vindicated in splashing the money and bringing in our own florist for them when previously I was half thinking “ahhhh this is silly.”

            Thank you so much for your response and congratulations again!

    • Hi, Congrats on your soon to occur wedding! As an Aussie who is planning her wedding, I’m curious as to where you did spend your funds if you don’t mind me asking. I’m guessing venue/food/drinks etc. I’m hoping to spend between 10-15K and i’m kind of nervous about it all adding up quickly! I’d love to hear a little bit of a breakdown. Congrats again!

      • Sarah

        Oh thank you and sure, I’m very happy to share! These are just off the top of my head but:

        -Venue = about $20k for ceremony and reception rooms, pre-dinner drinks and canapes, 2 course meal, 4.5 hours beverage service, DJ, centrepieces, overnight accommodation, 2 parking spaces. It’s a lot but at $154pp (plus room rental) the package was better value than other places we looked at and it’s a beautiful venue.
        -Celebrant = $700
        -My outfit = $700 for dress, alterations, veil, shoes, clutch, underwear and jewellery.
        -Groom’s outfit = $650 for half-price suit, Uniqlo shirt, tie, pocket square and shoes.
        -We bought 3 bridesmaids’ dresses, on clearance at Bridesmaids Only for about $135 each, and we bought ties, pocket squares and white shirts for our 3 groomsmen.
        -Makeup = $90 for me and $80 for BMs (this is amazing value, I was lucky to find her)
        -Photography = $2688 for a full day plus engagement shoot – we shopped around a LOT to find this deal and haggled a bit. DIY video.
        -Cake = $550 including delivery, enough to serve 120 pax as dessert
        -DIY bouquets and buttonholes = $500
        -Invitations and placecards via Vistaprint = $500
        -DIY photobooth = $50 for props
        -Decorations = $200 (sequin runners for the gift table and cake table, cheapest table numbers I could find on Etsy, a few things from Kmart and Typo)

        We kept a close eye on our budget and left the little extras until the end when we knew what we could and couldn’t accommodate, so we haven’t exceeded our budget at all.

        Our engagement party was about $2000 to rent a nice function room and balcony at the pub, hang ALL the Kmart decorations, have drinks flowing all night for 80 people and put out the good party platters from Woollies and a lolly bar. And that was a fantastic party. If we’d added a celebrant, a new dress for me and shirt for my fiance, and a uni student with a good camera to get some snaps it would still have been so much less than your budget. There are so many options!

        • Sounds like it’ll be a great party and thank you so much! I hope you post some snaps in happy hour! I really appreciate your break down, thanks so much!

    • clarkesara

      Nothing to add here, but I’M GETTING MARRIED SATURDAY, TOO!

    • Leah

      Congratulations of your impending wedding!
      As another aussie who is planning a similar Saturday evening dinner and dancing affair I salute your abilities in getting it down to $30k. Stuff anyone who says anything negative!

    • LadyJanee

      I’m an Australian and got married in December with a similar budget – and that was also cutting corners and saving money wherever possible! Granted, we were out of a major city so things were more expensive by default but it still surprised me how quickly it added up! I have absolutely no regrets though. Hope your day is amazing!

  • anonymousreader

    I am in the camp of sometimes feeling guilty for spending too little money. There’s inherited money with one of my parent’s sides of the family, and I am used to the other side making jabs here and there…so I’m already anticipating that might happen again day of. But also – there’s a part of me that does (independently) feel like, ugh, am I being too cheap for giving our guests a choice of three regular beers and not six craft beers? When I could 1000% afford craft beer? Etc. I guess it’s just a little weird when I think about how our wedding will not be quite as “fancy” as many we’ve attended…when I know for some of those, budgeting for that stuff was a really big deal. And for us we could spend more money on flowers or drinks or whatever pretty easily…we’re just not.

    • Brynna

      We are in a similar situation and I feel the same way – we’re both employed and we were gifted some money to cover the wedding, so we really COULD afford more than we’re choosing to spend. But I feel the same way, like I’m asking people to fly several hundred miles to attend this, shouldn’t I make it more special for them/provide more?

      • anonymousreader

        Yep. But then you spend too much and people think you’re frivolous or “could have spent that on a down payment!”…Can’t. Win. I just have to keep telling myself that people are adults. They do not need to come. The vast majority of people coming, know us extremely well and will not be surprised by the fanciness level of our wedding, which is extremely in line with our lifestyle/values. Everyone else…IDK. I think they will be okay. But yeah. Money is weird.

    • NotMotherTheresa

      Ugh, I literally felt guilty both for spending too much AND for spending too little!
      One part of me felt absolutely sick watching my previously healthy bank account dwindle to nothing, and I had plenty of “helpful” people around me reminding me of that ::looking at you, otherwise fabulous mother-in-law::.
      On the other hand, another part of me felt like crap that my friends (some of whom make less than I do) were all driving 5+ hours for crappy domestic beer and cheap wine, when I live in a nice house and drive a nice car.
      At the end of the day? It all was what it was. My bank account is slowly returning to health, and I don’t think anyone disowned me as a friend based on having to make due with Michelob.

      • Alli

        Ugh, I’ve been having this feeling too. I feel like if I’m going to spend 20k on one day it should at least be in a super gorgeous room and fancy food or something. On the flip side I also wish it were under 10k and super casual but here we are, stuck in the middle with a nice enough country club serving pizza, tacos, and sliders (okay I’m really excited about the food actually)

        • Amy March

          Pizza sounds amazing to me. Better than cold over done steak!

  • JenC

    I felt guilty or a while and I still feel the odd twinge. It was a lot of money for us and that figure is also different for everyone. I felt guilty when I saw the niceish bank balance disappear. I felt guilty when my husband would say “what’s another couple of hundred at this point?” I felt even more guilty when I agreed with him. I felt guilty when people made me feel like I’d been foolish for picking a wedding before a house. I felt guilty when the reception said the was going to cost thousands and I didn’t flinch, just handed the card over like it hadn’t taken me the better part of six months to save that money.

    I feel a twinge of guilt every time my friend says “I could never have a big wedding, I just want something small and I’m not even bothered about flowers or a designer dress”. It feels directed at me, even though my dress wasn’t expensive. It feels like she assumes I spent too much on our wedding and I should have been more frugal. It feels like she thinks we were frivolous.

    Mostly a year after the wedding the twinges have faded and if they appear, they fade pretty quick. I wanted to elope before the wedding and I’m one of those annoying people now that would regret not having a wedding. Including all of it, the wedding, the honeymoon, the rings it was all worth it. We splurged on a honeymoon and it was beyond amazing. My wedding wasn’t perfect but it was worth it. I’ve lost people in my family in the year since our wedding, it was worth the money to spend some time with them, have photos of them, see them enjoying themselves. It was worth the money to have all our favourite people in one place. It was worth the money for our parents to finally meet and our mums to become friends. It was worth it to be surrounded by this overwhelming feeling of being loved by everyone and everyone just wishing us well. That day, as imperfect as it was, is priceless in the memories we made and the experiences we created. I can’t feel guilty for long for that.

  • Jessica

    I wanted to minimize our wedding spend. I’m kinda thrifty. We were about 20% above my target budget. And I have ZERO regret about it. We picked great vendors who were small businesses, invested in them, cut a bunch of stuff out we didn’t care about, paid for a lot of it ourselves… it was perfect. Zero guilt. In fact I wish I’d spent $30 more, so my dad didn’t have to take our microphones back.

  • Juanita

    I know for me there was guilt after having an inexpensive wedding. It ended up being about 3k when all was said and done and after going to other friends weddings. I wish we could have had a nice sit down dinner for the wedding. I wish I didn’t have to have friends pick up our food and cake. I wish we could have saved all the labor our frienda and family put in. Like I have no idea how things could have come together if people hadn’t stepped up.

  • Frida

    Ok so yes I agree guilt is useless. Not necessary and you get to spend money and not feel guilty about it.

    AND I feel like I (a bride who couldn’t afford a wedding and chose to mini-elope and who feels GREAT about that decision) hear this perspective alllllll the time. I constantly hear people who either have the means themselves or through family to afford a wedding that cost either what I make in two years or more talk about how they don’t deserve to feel guilty for having a 50,000 wedding. And no you totally don’t! Fuck guilt. It’s useless. Spend that money!

    But it WOULD be nice to hear the perspective of people who feel the shame and shittiness of NOT having that money. Of seeing a wedding industry that takes about an “affordable” wedding photographer that costs triple what we paid for the whole thing. That would NEVER be “affordable” to us. That shoves wealth and privilege down our throats every day and very rarely shows poor people getting married or a realistic viewpoint of what that looks like. What it feels like to hear people talk shit about the wedding you can afford. Like saying if you can’t afford to have an open bar, you shouldn’t get married. If you have a cake and punch wedding, you’re cheap and tacky. Maybe it would be more productive to channel the guilt into representing something OTHER than weddings that cost over 5k (or weddings who don’t but the bride had everything donated and it came out amazing! Sometimes people have no money and no artistic/diy community!)

    Idk all I guess what I mean is yeah must suck to have 20k or more to spend on a wedding and be made to feel guilty for that. But maybe you could realize it ALSO sucks to not be able to afford that and so rarely have media representation of anything that looks like what you can afford. And for your lack of affording it be mocked and looked down upon by society.

    • Emily

      I feel you on this. I went to HS / college with a crowd where $50k parent funded weddings were the norm and now live in Texas, land of the 300 person wedding and 20 person bridal party. I was not going to be able to have that and also meet my other financial goals so I eloped. When people find out I got married in city hall there are certain crowds where you would think I said I liked to beat puppies in my spare time.

      • Frida

        Yes! There is a flip side to this where financially privileged people make poor people feel like crap about their wedding choices too.

    • NotMotherTheresa

      Yessss!!!!!
      In general, I wish more people would acknowledge the amount of privilege that goes into having a big wedding! Should anyone feel guilty over it? Heck no! If you’ve got $70k to spend on a wedding, go for it! I’m stoked for you! If you *only* have $6k, but also lots of spare time and artistic ability, and a bunch of equally talented friends and family members dying to help you out, have your awesome DIY wedding! I’m stoked for you, too!
      But you know what? Both of those things involve a TON of privilege! For a huge chunk of the population, weddings are NOT going to look like something from Pinterest, because the money/time/resources just aren’t there! I would have loved to have had an open bar, and gorgeous favors, and the best food any of my guests had ever tasted, but you know what? I had bills to pay, and as “thoughtful” as a shuttle might have been, paying my car insurance and my electric bills kinda’ took precedence.

      • Frida

        Exactly!! I totally agree.

      • rg223

        Very much agreeing that the DIY wedding is another kind of privilege that isn’t often acknowledged.

        • NotMotherTheresa

          I have no idea why that privilege isn’t acknowledged more! My wedding was very DIY, and honestly, there was a ton of privilege that went into it, both in terms of time and money!
          First of all, *only* having a $6k wedding like mine is still a TON of money for a lot of people! I consider myself pretty solidly middle class, and even with a bit of help from my parents, *I* had a hard time paying for it! DIY may save you money, but it’s not free, and if you don’t have at least a little disposable income, it’s pretty much impossible to pull off a DIY wedding!
          Secondly, I probably spent hundreds of hours on said DIY wedding. I am privileged to have had that kind of time. If I were working two jobs, or even one demanding job, or if I had any caregiving responsibilities, or really any responsibilities at all outside of my one mediocre job, there is no way I could have devoted the time I did to my wedding! Having the kind of time to individually watercolor place cards is a luxury that probably 75% of people don’t really have.

      • april

        Your point about privilege gets at a broader issue that, I think, underlies the whole budget-guilt thing. A lot of people attach a sort of moral judgment to the idea of privilege. It’s why a lot of people chafe at the very idea of being labeled as privileged (and why there are a lot of really illogical essays floating around the internet with the basic premise that “I work hard and am a good person, therefore I’m not privileged” – as though those things were mutually exclusive).

    • anonymousreader

      It is crazy to me how much the standards for “normal wedding” have changed with marketing. I commented above that I come from a financially privileged background…it is bizarre to me that the wedding my wealthy grandparents had in the 50s is what tons of people now would think of as “simple”. But they were doing what the marketing and culture of the time was telling them to do. They weren’t being sold wedding videographers that cost 4x rent.

      • Frida

        Yes!! Exactly. The fact is weddings are an industry now and that doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Class, wealth, privilege, etc all exist within that and it’s ok to acknowledge that consumerism and marketing play a big role in weddings! And not have guilt if you choose the expensive wedding!

    • HarrietVane

      I think the emotional parts of weddings and how public they are really make income inequality more apparent than it often could be. I also feel like those who act like they were particularly virtuous ny spending relatively little on a wedding are NOT the people who absolutely had to spend the amount they did, because they had no other options. ‘Affordable’ is such a stupid, meaningless word, I hate when it’s used for any of this stuff– everyone has their own circumstances.

    • wannabee

      I feel this hard. Something that has greatly helped me make my peace with planning my (budget-tastic by necessity) wedding is being one of the last of my family/crew to get married. I’ve seen a looot of weddings and let me tell you, I had a lot more fun at, and remember more about, some of my friends’ “scrappy” weddings than some of the bigger ones where there were photobooths, fancy favors, opulent food, etc. Seeing a vast array of celebrations really hit home that money can’t buy love or fun. I lost the favors long ago, but I’ll never forget helping my friend’s mother sew her into her gorgeous, homemade wedding dress, or gathering in a park at dawn for a breakfast picnic celebration.

      • Frida

        Mmmm. Love that perspective. I agree: a wedding is much more about an experience than money spent. That can get lost very easily.

  • Emily

    I think people should do whatever they want as long as they are aware of their priorities and the attendant tradeoffs. I eloped in city hall and I happily attend / discuss other people’s elaborate weddings. I hope they get what is important to them and as long as we respect each other’s choices all is well.

    Where I have seen people get tripped up is in not fully realizing / being ok with say the tradeoff to live in a smaller house / in order to pay for a wedding. You can do whatever you want but then don’t whine at me that I don’t understand what its like to not own a home when you chose to allocate your funds differently.

  • Anya

    I feel so guilty for what I spent on a wedding dress. My original plan was craigslist or “not wedding dress white dress”. My mom – this was her only ask – wanted to go to a bridal boutique in NYC (eep) and find a dress there with “no budget.” I put a budget of 2.5K after a big fight with my mom who wanted it more. I got one for $2K. It was an elegant, traditional strapless dress. I liked it (except for the price). But dear lord, why did it have to cost so much? Still feel guilty about it.

    Only thing that saves me from it? Knowing that my mom beamed and loved talking about me in my dress that she bought for me for years. But it keeps eating me up about how I should have stood my ground.

    • jammers

      Ohhhhh I feel you so much. I got bullied out of my “non-wedding dress” and into a dress that I LOVE but that’s just about as much as my mortgage payment. I love love love the dress I ended up with, but do I love it 10 times more than my original dress? Maybe I don’t, but my mom and MIL definitely do.

  • suchbrightlights

    I’m feeling 100% guilty because it’s not my money. None of it is. It was important to my mother that we have A Wedding and she offered to pay for the whole shindig provided that we didn’t elope or go to the courthouse, which is what we would have done if left to our own devices. We made a conscious decision to invest in our ongoing future, not in a set of moments, and we put our combined savings towards a house last year knowing that that would mean we wouldn’t be able to afford A Wedding. I was shocked when my mother told me she wanted to put money towards it and bowled over when she told me how much.

    I live with it by reminding myself that it’s her money to spend on whatever she wants and this is what she’s chosen to spend it on, but that also makes it feel like a bit of a show where my fiance and I are the main attraction. I’m grateful that she loves my fiance and me so much and that she wants to support us in this way, but because it’s not a choice we’d have made ourselves, sometimes it still sits uncomfortably.

  • NotMotherTheresa

    You are so right about there being a gendered element to all of this! Men’s financial decisions are never questioned the way that women’s are–when men buy fancy home theatre equipment, or gaming systems, or stupid overpriced sports cars, society doesn’t really wring their hands over it. My MIL has never once commented to my husband that maybe he shouldn’t be spending so much of our money on stereo equipment, nor has my grandmother ever expressed concern over the cost of his birthday trip with the guys.

    However, when women spend money, it instantly becomes A Thing. Our clothes, our haircare, our weddings–all of those things are discussed to no end, because they are Woman Things, and they cost money. Are some weddings absolutely ridiculous in terms of cost? Yes. Do some couples legitimately spend beyond their means to try to fulfill some unrealistic fantasy of what a wedding should be? Yes. Do some people perhaps scrimp a little more than objectively necessary, relative to their finances? Sure. But we don’t handwring nearly as much over other areas where all of that also occurs–nobody expresses nearly as much concern when a couple that’s struggling with money buys a new Camry, or when a wealthier person buys a new Mercedes, or when another wealthy person insists on driving around in a beat up ’92 Taurus. One or two people might privately comment if the purchase is overly outrageous, but for the most part, we accept that not everyone agrees on how much *should* be spent on a car or house or vacation, and that different people have different priorities. For some reason, though, ALL weddings invite this commentary, and I think a lot of that reason comes down to gender…after all, there are few things more traditionally feminine than big white ballgowns and giant rose filled centerpieces.

    • AmandaBee

      YES to the gendered element. I used to be really into budget blogs, but I got so tired of watching (let’s be real, mostly white) dudes justify any little thing that they enjoyed as “rational expenses” while more-traditionally-female expenses got dismissed as fluff.

      Reason 384 that we need good feminist female budget bloggers.

      • AP

        YES x 1,000,000

      • CMT

        Paging Lisa!!! <3

  • Pingback: Unapologetic AF Is a Great Way to Feel about Your Wedding Budget | Wedding Adviser()

  • I am feeling this right now because two of my guests (including a bridesmaid) have got engaged after me and are getting married before, and they’re both having registry office + self catered reception dos. And I know they’re going to be gorgeous, intimate, personal events that reflect their values as well as their budgets. I know I don’t 100% want that (I couldn’t be that much the centre of attention for the whole day, nor that much on the hook for every detail if something went wrong) but I feel like I should because otherwise I’m just buying into the WIC. There are a lot of conflicting expectations coming from friends and family that (a) we’ll do all the traditional stuff because that’s what you do at weddings and (b) we’ll do something cool and unique and off the wall because apparently we have that reputation as a result of eating weird food for fun occasionally. People are going to be disappointed either way, and probably both at once.

    We’ve definitely ended up with something bigger and more traditional than I was expecting. I feel like I’m really limited in who I can talk to about budget stuff now, because I don’t want them to feel like I’m judging their weddings or vice versa, my sister thinks her wedding cost much less than it did (mum’s contributing the same to both of us, which gives me a hint), and my mum has entirely different budget priorities to us. I’m mostly venting to people who aren’t married, because hey, they don’t know what’s reasonable yet, and to J, who definitely feels less guilt over spending money on this.

    Our main priorities were good food and a cool venue. I figured we could go with our fantasy venue if you picked a cheap caterer, and J figured we could go with our fantasy caterer if we- well, they don’t work at any cheap venues, to be fair, but we could have gone with the one they own outright. But we’ve gone with fantasy caterer at fantasy venue, and that’s so much more expensive than I expected. All the corners I thought we’d cut because they don’t matter to me (mostly decor) have reappeared because actually J does care about whether we cover the ugly chairs and decorate the tables and all of these things require paying the caterer extra to do it because we can only get into the venue 15 minutes before the wedding starts (it’s open to the public during the day).

    On a rational level, I know there is no perfect wedding. I know that no wedding exists in isolation and will always be judged again expectations you can’t control. I know that what I want isn’t the same as what my sister wanted or my bridesmaid wants, so I’m comparing my wedding against events I would not like to have. I know that you can’t buy a perfect wedding, and you can’t make savings so significant you don’t care it’s not perfect either. But oh, how I feel

  • Fugo

    An expensive wedding doesn’t make you more married, but a budget wedding doesn’t make you better people. I’m getting married in 3 months and have to keep telling myself that so I don’t go completely insane during this planning phase. His family lives in multimillion dollar homes, my parents almost lost their house 4 years ago (I stepped in to help them). How do you strike a balance so everyone feels comfortable?

  • Lexipedia

    Ugh. Pre-engaged and already having tensions with SO about money and guilt. We picked a venue and a photographer, and my mother whipped out her checkbook to pay for them no questions asked. We make pretty decent money, and could save for a wedding ourselves, but my parents said that they would like to “gift” this wedding to us and I have zero problems with that. I didn’t expect it, but we have pretty good boundaries in my family and I don’t see potential for much conflict over the planning process.

    However SO was engaged once before, right out of college which quickly fell apart, and he assumed that the reason that his/ex-FI’s parents were paying for the wedding was because the 22yo kids couldn’t afford it. The fact that, ten years later when we are financially self-sufficient, my parents still want to pay for the wedding is confusing to him. Once I have the ring (it will be ready and mine sometime in the next 18 days!) we will sit down with my parents and try and get them to set out a budget, but I foresee them saying that they will just pay “whatever is reasonable” and hand over money as we go. I know it will all be fine, but this is definitely an illustration of how our families think differently about money. Baby steps!

  • cml

    Meg! Thank you for posting this! I think I’ve said this elsewhere… I LOVE reading about other weddings and how they pulled it all off, but as I’ve gotten further into planning my own wedding, I basically had to stop reading those posts (or, on good days, I can read it but not look too hard at the budget lol).
    I was putting myself into this weird guilt spiral of, “omg how did they have this amazing wedding for $50 and I’m over here spending more than I want to? I’m the worst! I’m the worst!

    The open thread you all had a few weeks ago where people shared their budgets REALLY helped me, too, so thanks for that!
    I’ve reached a much more zen attitude about my budget now, though, and am seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Whew. ;)

  • Diverkat

    Feeling guilty AF and I know I’m a Frugal Frannie when it comes to spending, so my unrealistic hopes and dreams are that we spend $0 on everything yet still manage to feed and entertain 75 people. Which is also bullshit and impossible.

    2 1/2 weeks til the day, and the money thing is less of a stressor than it was in the beginning of the whole thing. Most of my stress regarding the budget was my FMIL’s inability to understand or keep to a budget whatsoever. But that problem has been mostly solved (she just deposited their portion of the budget into my account and told me to take care of everything), so now I’m feeling much more relaxed about it.

    I think I might have control issues :)

  • ManderGimlet

    Before I got engaged, a wedding was a party where 2 people got married and people celebrated that and I was very ambivalent about having a wedding. Then I got engaged and two weeks later my brother died completely unexpectedly. Now, our wedding is so much more and is INCREDIBLY important to my fiancee and I. To compound the guilt factor, it is being funded wholly by a life insurance policy my brother left me which was a complete surprise. It was agonizing to decide how to use this money, how to best honor his memory, and whether a wedding was a “worthy” use for it. And then I booked my venue, made a huge donation to Black Lives Matter, and gave away the last fucks I had to give lest I go insane.

    I think it helps to reframe the “meaning” of the wedding when someone else, particularly a parent, insists on it or if you are feeling overwhelmed by budget judgement. In our case, our wedding is a symbol of hope and healing for my family and a time of celebration for the memory of my brother. It’s also a reunion of friends and family who haven’t seen each other in years now that we’re all older and flung around the country with careers and kids and projects and life. As both my fiancee and I are the black sheep/late bloomers/dreamy artsy types in our families (aka adult children without traditional careers with histories of substance abuse!), it’s also a chance for us to show our families what we’re about, what our communities are about, and that, even though they may not understand all our choices, they can understand that those choices are made in love, with care and thoughtfulness, and in service of the greater journey we are now on together as couple.

    And a last thought on people who use that “you could put a down payment on a house” argument when shaming you about your wedding: you can buy a house (if you want) at any time. You may buy MANY houses in your lifetime. But the memories you make buying a house will never be the same as the memories you make getting married. Make it special. Even if you’re just going down to the courthouse, splurge in any way you can, even if it’s a $5 bouquet from the supermarket. You and your partner DESERVE to be celebrated and to celebrate your union. To find love and to make the incredible commitment to support and respect one another no matter what this world brings, that’s a special thing. Don’t let the cynicism of others diminish your rightful joy, love is a beautiful, wonderful thing!

  • Lis

    I am getting married next month. Even though my fiance and I have decided on a budget, I can’t help but feel guilty for wanting something special and unique, which may cost more- especially when deciding on a photographer. But this is a special day for us and I would like to have some great photo memories.

  • Christy

    You know what I feel guilty about? My mom stole the check (we are not from a check-stealing family) for our 21-person post-wedding dinner. (We had no reception.) That was like 30% of our budget, unexpectedly covered. Don’t get me wrong, it was AMAZING, my mom had just sold her house so she was flush with cash, but I still felt bad.

  • Laura

    I was married 6 months ago and I still feel guilty every single day for the money I believe we “wasted” on our wedding. The ironic part is I was the one who wanted a beautiful wedding all my life. We spent what we could afford, and I wasn’t pressured by anyone for anything. But, the next day, it was like a pit in my stomach that hasn’t gone away. I can’t even bear to look at our beautiful wedding photos because all I see is money wasted. Some advice on getting over this sense of regret would be greatly appreciated.

    • For Laura

      Hey Laura, I don’t know if this helps at all, but here’s what weirded me out after the wedding: I felt like it didn’t really change anything at all, and it felt strange to have invested so much time, energy and money in something so inconsequental. I’m not quite sure what change I was expecting, but it ended up being a very lovely ceremony and party with family and friends, and not much more. Two years into the marriage, I think the wedding did in fact matter. I’ve become more grounded and at home in my relationship with my husband. We’ve become a family, even if it’s only the two of us. Perhaps that is where your regreet is coming from? You expected more of the day? And feel underwhelmed by it all?

      • Laura

        You have just summed up what I think I’ve been feeling, but couldn’t explain. I feel like nothing has changed in our relationship, especially because we had our son prior to our nuptuals, except for the money we spent, which could have been diverted elsewhere. I’m happy to hear that I’m not the only person who feels this way, because I often feel like I am. People are so keen to say that their wedding was the most amazing day of their life, and then I feel horrible because I feel the exact opposite. You’ve also given me hope that perhaps with some time I’ll be able to view our wedding day in a more positive light. Thanks so much for your response. I just love the community here at APW!

        • For Laura

          Ditto! I never thought that I’d still be reading wedding websites two years after the fact, but here I am! Much love to you and yours!

  • bex

    I bought a white cocktail dress for our Swiss civil ceremony, and then a lovely ready-to-wear “couture” dress for our big celebration, and both cost less than 350 USD. I was looking at wedding gowns 2’000 USD and up, and I’m SO glad I opted for the budget-friendly options. I agree with Meg, I don’t regret spending any money on the wedding, but at the same time, I am happy I was conscious enough to forgo the crazy (as in, wildly expensive) wedding dress. I’ve read about this dilemma on APW before, and I can appreciate anyone that chooses to splurge on their once-in-a-lifetime dream dress, but for me, that wasn’t it.

    In any case, choose a dress you can actually breathe in, and play Catch with your nieces and nephews!

  • Christina Helen

    I’ve never really understood how my generation collectively *totally* gets the value of dropping tens of thousands of dollars on international holidays, but spend the same amount of money on a major life event/rite of passage and OMG why would you spend all that money on ONE DAY?
    Sorry, but a wedding (even if it only takes place over the course of a single day) is much more significant to the individuals involved and to their community than your European holiday.

    • DetectiveMunch

      Some people see the day they get married as Thee Single Most Significant Day Of Their Life. Good for them! Others see it as *one of* the many super significant days in their life. Good for them too! One of the arguments I’ve heard from the latter group is that it’s a wonderful, important, lovely day, but it’s not the moment that defines them in their life. This “newer” perspective seems to be a reaction against the more traditional view that implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, states that anything other than finding a partner is insignificant. People are finding more and more moments in their lives that they consider infinitely valuable, more and more amazing accomplishments they are proud of. This article a friend posted touches on this a bit (it’s definitely blustery), and it has sparked lots of interesting discussion!

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/natalie-brooke/getting-married-is-not-an-accomplishment_b_9189828.html

  • Elle

    Yes! First wedding fight with fiancé happened about 6 weeks into engagement because of this. I have LOADS of student loan debt. Why are we paying for people to eat, drink, and judge? We have a huge guest list, want a plated dinner, and open beer/wine for everyone. I felt like even catering to the “basics” to make our guests happy was going to drive me insane, throw us into debt, and leave us not enough money for the things we wanted. I’m still frustrated but trying to find 1-2 things that will be just for him and me, double birds to the opinions of anyone else.

  • RageFace

    I’m feeling big time guilty and my wedding is only in a year. I keep trying to keep everything small and intimate, but we have about sixty people we want there and the budget just keeps climbing. I had the PERFECT venue, but they wouldn’t accommodate more than 25 people – my family alone are 25 people! Trying to find a venue that’s affordable, beautiful and big enough had been a MASSIVE hassle and we couldn’t come in at under 15k for the venue alone (in Rand, I’m South African! Doesn’t sound like a lot of money in all y’all fancy pounds, dollars and euro, but trust me… it’s a shit ton for us!) and I don’t even have food, a photographer or a dress!

    This all is incredibly distressing for me because I cannot STAND the idea of spending such an elaborate amount of money on ONE DAY because 1) it feels really frivolous and 2) I would rather use the money to travel. But man, I’m a photographer and I want pretty shit, too. SIGHHHH.