It’s Time to Stop Comparing Wedding Costs to Car Payments

'Cause maybe you don't want to spend that money on a car, anyway

guests dancing at wedding reception

Iwas late to the car-buying game. With nearly a decade in New York followed by a gift of an impractical low-value car, I didn’t buy a car till I was in my thirties (and pregnant). I followed up that act two years ago with the purchase of a car big enough to haul nine-foot seamless backdrops, small sets, and passels of children who needed to go to soccer games. It was my Hail Mary attempt to not have to buy a car for another decade. It’s also how I ended up realizing I had more than the value of my wedding sitting in the driveway on wheels. In fact, because I waited so long to buy those cars, I’d spent more than the value of my wedding in cash on those vehicles combined.

Shame On Your Wedding Budget, Shame

When you’re planning a wedding, you tend to get a lot of guilting comments about what people spend on weddings these days—as if you, the bride/groom to be, is particularly enthused about what weddings cost. The two things I heard most often during my wedding planning were, “You could buy a car with what a wedding costs these days.” And, “Some people would rather have a down payment than a big wedding.” I, apparently, was not part of the wise and frugal “some people.”

The down payment comment was always easy enough for me to dismiss. Our wedding was partially paid for by contributions from parents—contributions they were making toward our wedding, not toward whatever we felt like spending it on. Second, the cost of a reasonable wedding is nowhere close to the size of a down payment in the expensive Bay Area.

But. The car logic. We actually could have bought a pretty decent car for what we spent on our wedding. And cars are practical, right? And weddings are… not. Right?

Except this week, I woke up to a wedding’s worth of cars in my driveway. And it turns out a driveway full of cars feels nothing like our wedding.

Cars Are Good, Experiences Are Better

Let’s say you are spending an amount on your wedding that could result in a car (or even a down payment). Do you feel guilty? Do you make comparisons? Do you ponder the vast number of things you could be doing with this money that seem more legitimate and more responsible than throwing this party to celebrate your union? If you’re a woman living in the Western world, the answer is: Of course you are. Because you’re trapped. On one hand, there is the significant cost of even a scaled-back modern wedding, and trying to somehow manage everyone’s expectations. And on the other hand, there is the endless guilt in the form of articles, eyebrow raises, and elevator-ride lectures on how insane the cost of weddings is these days.

There are a few events in life that are so singular, they can’t be compared to other things. Weddings can be one of those things. At the time I wished our wedding had cost less. But I don’t regret it, because it ended up creating a glowing memory of one wonderful and imperfect day. It wasn’t the only wedding we could have had (in some other universe, we had a cake and punch on the church synagogue lawn kind of wedding). But given a confluence of circumstances, it was the wedding we got. It was our one particular, shockingly hot day in the Bay Area in August, under a chuppah. It was the day we made huge promises, and I dropped David’s ring, and he drank beers on the windowsill with his best friend, and I did the electric slide to Dolly Parton. It was ours. It’s the moment we tied our lives together, legally and religiously. It’s the moment we revisit in our minds when the going gets tough.

Seven years later, no part of me wishes that wedding were instead the two cars in our driveway, practical as they are.

We don’t live on bread alone. Or even cars, as it turns out.

This piece originally ran on APW in April 2014.

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