You Could Buy A Car With That Wedding


I was late to the car buying game. With a near 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 this year, with the purchase of a car big enough to haul nine-foot seamless backdrops, small sets, and passels of children who need to go to soccer games (or whatever). 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.


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. Firstly, 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. And secondly, the amount we were spending on our wedding would have been a down payment on exactly nothing in the expensive Bay Area.

But. The car logic. You 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 worth of cars in my driveway. And it turns out, a driveway full of cars feels nothing like our wedding.

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 are these days.

There are a few events in life that are so singular, they can’t be compared to other things. When I was pregnant, I refused to make a solid birth plan because, I kept pointing out, I didn’t know what labor was LIKE. Labor can’t be compared to other things. It’s not “a little like that time you kept a library book out for a year and got yelled at” or even “kind of like terrible period cramps but with a baby.” Labor exists on another plane of reality.

It turns out, weddings do too. At the time, I wished our wedding had cost less. But I don’t regret it because it ended up creating our singular emotional experience. 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 huppah. 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.

Five 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.

(Though, word to the wise. Obviously, if you need to buy a car, don’t buy a wedding instead. They get terrible gas mileage.)

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  • BeccaC

    So true! In my mind I categorize the wedding as an experience – like travelling. When people go on a big trip they don’t get any guff for spending money on an experience – it should be the same for weddings. And this wedding thing is quite the big experience!

    • Thank you for phrasing it this way. I didn’t regret a down payment or a car, but I had my moments of “think of the trip we could have taken for that much money.” In the end, having both of our immediate families and most of our closest friends all together in one place was an experience well worth the cost to us.

    • Jules

      Huh. Very true. I just realized that I could have bought a car (the equivalent of one I currently own, at least) with the money I spent after graduation, travelling around Europe with my mom, by myself, and with my SO at the time. This vein of thought will definitely help me come to terms with whatever we end up spending on the wedding!

    • Meg Keene


      It’s funny, I haven’t thought about it that way. I never regret money we spend on traveling. In the end, I know that leads to us having lived happier lives that feel more worthwhile… and a nice car is not going to do that. (SCIENCE BACKS US UP! Experiences make you happier, stuff beyond what you need to live, does not.)

    • One of the things I hear most with regard to wedding spending (and particularly spending on an engagement ring) is “You could take an amazing trip with that money!” To which I say, “OK but…I don’t want to take a trip?” I find it so interesting how traveling gets a pass and is even encouraged when it’s not necessarily more lasting or enriching than being surrounded by your nearest and dearest for a day or two. Personally, I’d rather have one day with my loved ones or 50 years with a sparkly ring than a week with strangers in a foreign country. That’s not to say there’s anything WRONG with spending on travel (it’s not like I hate traveling) but it kind of baffles me how that’s deemed an inherently “better” way to spend your money.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        So TRUE. You could do a LOT of things with that money. Guess what? You’re doing what YOU wanna do.

      • KEA1

        and if you had to travel to see each of your friends/family individually, the costs in time and money would be *absurdly* higher than the same costs you invested in throwing a party to which they were all invited to share in your joy…

  • Laurel

    I love the part about parents’ contributions being for the wedding…not for whatever else you felt like spending the money on. I try to remind myself of that when people criticize the amount of money weddings cost (even the woodsy, laidback kind). I have discovered that my wedding is for everyone — parents, friends, family — not just myself and my fiancee. So, when others contribute, they are contributing to a celebration that their loved ones are a part of…not just a car we will drive or a house we will live in without them.

    • Bethany

      People like the elevator guy need to learn to keep their opinions to themselves. I’m not sure why some people feel the need to tell me how to spend my money.

      That being said, Laurel, I agree with you whole-heartedly. My fiance and I talk frequently about the royal scam that is the WIC and how expensive it all becomes once you put “wedding” or “bridal” into the name of anything. But then we remind ourselves that we are throwing a party to celebrate the joining of two lives … which includes (for us) a lot of family (both of our mothers are one of at least 5) and lots of friends. We were so fortunate to have financial support from bonds my grandmother had purchased when I was born (for just this occasion) as well as from both sets of parents. If we hadn’t, our wedding would look very different. But we have a house, we have a car … and we want to throw a bad ass party. So there you have it. Could we throw a bad ass party for less, probably, but we didn’t have to, so instead of doing everything ourselves, we could pay other people to do it for us … and if it means my florist gets to buy a new car, or my photographer gets to put a little of that money into a savings account for that trip to Jamaica she’s been dying to take, I’m cool with that. If at the end of the day, I get to marry him, that’s all that matters.

      • scw

        “But we have a house, we have a car … and we want to throw a bad ass party. So there you have it. Could we throw a bad ass party for less, probably, but we didn’t have to, so instead of doing everything ourselves, we could pay other people to do it for us … and if it means my florist gets to buy a new car, or my photographer gets to put a little of that money into a savings account for that trip to Jamaica she’s been dying to take, I’m cool with that.”


        • Meg Keene

          And to be totally honest: You florist isn’t buying a new car. Your photographer isn’t taking a trip to Jamaica. Making a living in the mom and pop wedding industry is mostly a struggle to stay in the working middle class. Your florist paid her rent. Your photographer paid her photography insurance. They’re both paying to get to work for themselves another day.

          • Brooke

            Yes, this is something we’re keeping in mind through the wedding planning process. I’m a small business owner myself, so I haven’t tried to haggle with our wedding vendors, because I know how much it hurts when people try to haggle with me, and when people imply that I’m gettin’ rich doing what I do. I run a successful business, but let’s just say that I’m nowhere NEAR my lawyer fiance’s tax bracket. And once you account for the amount of work the money pays for, and how much of it gets reinvested right back into the business…I get it. And I’m not going to treat the money we’re paying our photographers like I think it’s “fun money” for them. Our ceremony choir and reception band both offered to do the wedding for free because we’re friends and we turned down the offer. Keeping good musicians afloat is worth paying for!

      • MC

        Ah! Both of our mothers are one of at least 5, too! My MIL is the youngest of 6 and my mom is the youngest of 9. So having a super-budget wedding was immediately out of the question. That’s the reality that I remind myself of whenever I stress about wedding costs.

        • Bethany

          Our families are like at least 3/4 of our guest list. It’s definitely a blessing to have so many of them in our lives, but it means compromises in other ways. I have found that friends are generally pretty understanding, and we always promise to celebrate on our own in our own way. Good luck with your planning!!

      • Rachelle Reese

        I really love that your grandmother bought bonds for your future wedding when you were a baby! I’m sure some people would think that was “bad” for whatever reason – assuming you would get married and want to spend a large amount of money, not putting it towards college, etc. but what a lovely thing to do for your grandchild! Just love stories like that :)
        I also love when people give you monetary gifts and specifically tell you not to be practical with it. We spent a large portion of our wedding cash on way too expensive wine during the honeymoon and I’m so glad we did!

        • Bethany

          Thanks, Rachelle! Yes, I agree. His parents did that for our honeymoon and promptly told us if they hear we didn’t do something because of money, they’d be very very angry!

          My grandmother had 16 grand kids, and I believe she bought bonds for all of us (boys and girls), and told our parents to cash them in on whatever would support our well-being, but encouraged them to use them for our education, emotional fulfillment and love. One of them was cashed in to pay for my semester abroad in college, the other four were used for our wedding. It’s totally a practice I plan on repeating for my own children (some day) and grandchildren (some day). And honestly, even though they both died while I was in college, I truly feel like they had a hand in our special day, and we’ve taken great care as we plan to incorporate elements we think they’d be proud to have paid for. :)

          • Rachelle Reese

            Awwww! Totally just got teary. I have now decided to do this for my someday kids and grandkids as well.

  • Bookshop Becky

    I like the proverb, ‘I spent my money in good company’. Also, just because something is expensive doesn’t make it bad value.

    • Meg Keene

      Mmmmmmm hum.

      Or really, “I spent my money ON good company.”

      • Bookshop Becky

        Good point!

  • Allison

    Gosh this is just perfect. I have received so many statements like, “Don’t spend any money on your dress. I spent so much money on my dress (or photographer, or food, or whatever) and I really wish I hadn’t.” While I appreciate your thoughts, the fact is you DID spend it and got to experience feeling that beautiful (or well photographed, or insanely full, or whatever) and I would like to have that feeling too, please. This is not to say I don’t appreciate it when I directly ask what was worth it or what was not, but a guilt trip from others’ regrets do not make this process any easier.

    • K.

      Yes, one of the weirdest things someone said to me recently was, “Oh, you shouldn’t spend very much on food! When I got married, I barely ate any of it.” So…I should just give my guests mediocre food because we personally might be too busy to savor it? I’m sure that’s not *exactly* what they meant, but it sure came across that way.

      As for the dress, my mom bought me a gorgeous designer gown as an engagement present. It cost a lot (A LOT), but fashion has always been an extremely important part of self-expression for me, so she knew it would be something I would appreciate more than if she, say, paid for all the flowers. I find that the only reason I have any second thoughts or guilt about it is because of the “one-lowmanship” from other people saying that it was a waste…or that you could buy a car for that cost (a pretty cheap used car, but a car nonetheless). I feel like I have to justify it to myself constantly, even though I love it and it’s exactly what I want. But I’m learning to own it and stop referring to it as an unnecessary splurge (at least in my head) because that’s not fair to how I view my dress and it’s certainly unfair to how my mom viewed my dress when she bought it for me (or if I had purchased it myself, for that matter).

      • Allison

        I love that term, “one-lowmanship.” I’ve realized that sometimes I get this rush when I say things like “we can’t afford that” when talking about the wedding. Then I think whoa, where did that come from? Like, “hey, look how practical and unspoiled I am!” Not being able to afford something is definitely not something to be ashamed of, but we shouldn’t be conditioned to feel pride over it either.

        • K.

          Wish I could take credit for it! But it’s from Offbeat Bride (the only other wedding blog I regularly read*) But yes, agreed on all counts!

          *excepting my secret Martha Stewart obsession, but I try not to acknowledge that too much ;)

        • ElisabethJoanne

          While I get not being prideful about how “good” you are at getting a good deal or cutting out “extras,” being able to un-self-consciously say “We can’t afford that” and end the conversation is a skill and sign of maturity worth taking pride in.

          • K.

            Of course! I don’t want to speak for Allison, but I’m more thinking of the types who say things like, “The length of a marriage is inversely proportional to the cost of the wedding” which is smug and sanctimonious whatever way you slice it (not to mention, untrue).

        • Meg Keene

          WELL. I agree with a lot of that about one-lowmanship. But as someone who’s spent most of her life not being able to afford things, I actually do take a lot of pride in that. I think I’ve learned more by not being able to afford things than people have learned by always being able to afford things. I mostly keep it my business, but I’m damn proud of it, frankly. It’s where my hustle and my core values are from.

          • K.

            For sure, and I think there’s definitely a reverse discrimination fallacy that sometimes occurs for people who CAN afford things when reading/posting on blogs like yours and Ariel’s, in that they often note that it’s unfair that people judge them for their more extravagant choices. Obviously, as seen in my comment(s), I include myself in that and I’m definitely guilty of getting pretty peeved when someone makes a value judgment on my consumerist choices, particularly for my wedding (because it’s SO personal ultimately).

            And while I do think everyone should live and let live, and that implying that someone will get a divorce because they’re spending a larger amount of money on a wedding is a really asshole thing to do, it’s also always really, really important to remember that those of us who CAN relatively easily afford the big dress and the big wedding are part of what’s expected in the industry and we’re typically going to have a way easier time “assimilating” into what is expected for our culture. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.

          • Meg Keene

            Of course that’s an asshole thing to do. Of course it’s a dick move to bitch about how if you can’t afford something people who can are bad people. Of course.

            My issue is with saying that people who can’t afford things shouldn’t be proud. Not being able to afford things gives you plenty of skills and values that of course you should be proud of. Being proud of it, and being a dick, are totally different.

            I can afford PLENTY of things these days, and I’m not ashamed of it. But I’m also pretty proud of the fact that I couldn’t afford much, for most of my life. Anyone who tells me not to be proud of that? No dice.

          • K.

            Right, that makes a lot of sense.

            And I guess what I’m trying to say (and remind myself!) is that, in the wedding world, there are way, way more dicks on the “Wow, you’re REALLY not going to hire a calligrapher for your invitation addresses? Don’t you want your guests to know you CARE?” side than one-lowmanship type dicks, which often comes from a totally different place as well. And that is probably at least partially why sites like APW exist in the first place! :)

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            Hmm. I wouldn’t say I’m proud of not being able to afford things. Yes, I’ve learned a lot etc from going without, but that isn’t anything that engenders pride specifically, for me. However, I’m proud of being able to recognize I can’t, afford something own it, live in my financial truth and not be ashamed to say “I can’t afford that.”

          • Allison

            In that sense it absolutely should be a point of pride, but to clarify, where I was coming from is that just as we would never want to make anyone feel badly for being able to not afford something, I get a little upset with myself when I say those words in (mostly sub-conscious) hope that it will make me look a little better. At that point, I am really just giving into the elevator guy. The purpose for the words means a lot.

      • Meg Keene

        Here is what I learned in wedding planning (I’ve written about it in the past). Keep most things on a need to know basis. People will give you all kinds of shit if you tell them about your wedding dress now. They would never have the nerve to give you shit when you’re wearing it (plus, they’ll be sucked up in the beauty of the moment). It’s no one’s business except your moms, yours, and your partners. Keep your sanity by keeping it that way.

  • Rebecca

    The cost of our wedding blew out because of the large number of extended family on my fiance’s side who had to be invited for the sake of future family harmony, and fed properly (travelling a long way) at a ‘real’ reception. You can imagine my disgust when one of them remarked a year later, ‘oh, I don’t see why people have such big weddings, I’d just elope and put the money into a house. Who cares if people don’t like it’. And yet, if we hadn’t invited this person and the rest of them and ‘just eloped’, it would have been ‘rude’, ‘ungrateful’ and ‘selfish’. Can’t win!!

    • Meg Keene

      “F*ck you.” That’s the only response that comes to mind, along with all the effort devoted to saying nothing, in situations like that. WHICH. Are all too common.

      ALSO. I didn’t really mention this in the essay. But I’m so tired of people acting like they’re martyrs because they spent less on their wedding and bought a house (or would be martyrs because in theory they think they would do that, which is worse). THEY ARE BOTH CONSUMER GOODS YOU PURCHASED FOR YOURSELF. If you spent less on your wedding and donated the rest to charity, I am going to respect you forever. If you are bragging to me that you spent less on your wedding so you could spend more on something else you bought for yourself, I’m going to be a little confused about why you expect me to care. Not that it might not be a good choice for you, but it’s not, like, a ethical calling.

      • This reminds me of the Friends episode where Phoebe and Mike keep trying to donate their wedding money to charity and then taking it back because ultimately they really did want a wedding. Even Phoebe Buffay wants a wedding, guys, it’s an okay choice! Also then she changes her name, but to Princess Consuela Bananahammock. As I write this comment, I am maybe realizing that Phoebe has all the answers.

  • This helps put things in perspective for me. I often feel “bad” that we’re spending the “small amount” (<$10k) that we are on our wedding, because we really could use the money elsewhere. We are paying for the vast majority of it. Throughout our year-and-a-half engagement, I've spent a lot of time daydreaming about how we could use the money we're saving toward something more "useful." We're less than a month out now, and the closer we get and the more I think about it, the more I think it will be well worth it for the experience and what it represents.

  • Archivistlady

    Money is complicated, my relationship with money is complicated, and my wedding’s relationship with money is complicated. When lots of things are complicated, my response often does not flow together into a perfectly formed argument. More so it resembles a conglomerate of randomobservations.

    First of all, the wedding world centers such much on budget. What did you spend, did you get your money’s worth (whatever that means), were you in budget, etc. I’m not anti-budget; in fact, I am very pro budget. I am opposed to everyone and their cousin believing they have a right to know what you spent. It seems to lead to a culture of either budget shaming, in both directions, or to feeling like to somehow you hit the magic mark or failed in wedding planning based on what other people were able to accomplish with the same amount of money as you. There has been way, way too many times when I felt like a wedding planning failure because my wedding was not as indy-tastic or delightfully quaint as the other 8-9k weddings on the mysterious wedding blogging world. Or I judged some other poor bride for what s/he spent their 30k budget on. I cannot let things like that bother me because the wedding reality is I don’t have 30k for a wedding and I have a very complicated relationship with a glue gun which impacts my craftiness. I think a little jealousy over what other awesome skills and weddings people can pull off is
    fine; however, it is never fine for it to lead me to judge them or let it make me think somehow my wedding won’t be perfectly lovely.

    All that said, I will make one disclaimer to Meg’s delightful post. I love learning to dismiss the asinine comments from people on elevators who feel free to comment on anyone’s wedding. But it can be much harder when those comments come from those close and dear to you. It has been a massive struggle in my engagement because my fiancé and I come from different socio-economic backgrounds and the choices we have made have had an impact on our families. His family has been and is incredibly generous, but they cannot understand why we turn down certain offers from them because I am not
    comfortable with the cost. My family is very religiously conservative and my parents have some (legitimate) moral qualms with what our wedding costs. They believe, and correctly so, we could have done some real good with that money. I don’t think either of our families are wrong for what they believe, but I will acknowledge I drove a harder bargain and knew exactly what I was getting when I bought my car. Right now I am still hoping the wedding lives up to expectations, while not making our families too uncomfortable.

  • Meg

    I had a car that I didn’t really need. I take public transit to work and live near grocery stores and pretty much everything I need. So when I got in an accident and it was totaled I got a check. I put it in my bank account. I’m really trying to not just put the money from the car into the wedding and keep it to save up for a new car…but well I don’t really NEED a car and not having to put any wedding stuff on credit cards would be nice. We’ll see!

    Also yes I don’t even live in the expensive bay area but right now what we are spending on the wedding would only be a fraction of a down payment on a 2 bedroom home.

  • twofishgirl14

    I just got an assignment at work for a video project that has a $15,000 budget. The same amount of money that I am spending on a detailed, emotionally charged event for 175 people is comparable to the amount of money that will get me a 3 minute corporate video.
    After I was done laughing about this I realized that it makes me feel inordinately better about the money we’re spending on the wedding. Really, this is just a 3 minute video’s worth of money, if I was a corporation. Who could fault us for spending a 3-minute-video’s worth of money on an all-day event celebrating love and family?

    • Meg Keene

      You know what? Corporations spend $15K on far stupider shit than 3 minute videos, too. IE, we hold women to a weirdly different standard around weddings. Now, I’m not justifying that I think weddings SHOULD cost $15K, but at the end of the day, often they do cost that (and more). Money can be spend in a million worse ways.

      • Bethany

        Yes to this! Slowing down and thinking about what business people like to call “Return on Investment” is what really helped me put the cost of our wedding into perspective. What are we getting by having these people, in this location, at this time of year, on this day to attend a party we paid for? My answer was: A whole lot more than a big house or a new car would get me in terms of an incredible, emotional experience. I think it comes down to what we value. Is it the things, or the people and what they mean to us?

        • Meg Keene

          Look, as someone who actually DOES spend a lot of time thinking about ROI, let’s frame it this way. At the end of the day, the reason I work hard to make money is not so I can work harder to make more money. At the end of the day, I work money so I can LIVE. That means: having experiences that matter, supporting causes I care about, eating food I love, giving back whenever I can, building a good life for my family and my employees and my loved ones, and on and on. I make money so I CAN have experiences like weddings. And if I can do that in a way that supports other business people trying to make a living? Well. I’m probably happier than when I’m supporting Mazda’s profit line, you know?

          • Bethany


      • KEA1

        …and frankly, if you have the money, you can even get away with spending some of it on stupid shit. Obviously not corporate-spending orders of magnitude here, at least not for most of us, but if your other bills are paid and you decide you want the matching his-and-hers light-up underwear with coordinating titty tassels as part of your trousseau, who’s really going to be harmed by that?

  • emma

    In a similar vain while our wedding venue prided itself on their food (though not why we picked it) they didn’t offer a taste test. The owner said we could make a reservation to eat at their restaurant (which is open only by request) and ask for certain menu items to be served. We were appalled – as my Dad said, when I go to buy a car I don’t have to pay to test drive it.

    • twofishgirl14

      The bakery we were looking at for dessert wanted to charge $30 per person for a tasting, which would not have been treated like a deposit on the purchase itself. We SKEDADDLED. I know that different areas have different industry standards re: free tastings, but Shelling out $60 for a few bites of pastry that we may not even end up using? Hell to the no.

  • lady brett

    “And it turns out, a driveway full of cars feels nothing like our wedding.” ha.

    one month before our wedding, we spent 4x our wedding budget on our first car purchase (my first car ever, the spouse’s first, i think, purchased without outside assistance). i hated everything about it: the process, the car we ended up with, the money, the indication that we were *not good* at talking about difficult subjects (which, apparently, includes buying a car, but not funerals, house buying, or wedding planning, which we waded through together quite well).

    but…i’m not convinced a car is all that practical (this was one of the causes of strife in our joint car-buying), and even if you decide having a car is practical, the details of what you “need” in your car are up to as much debate and illogic as what you “need” in your wedding (’cause in the same way you can get married at court with a signature (in theory…), you can get to work on a bike, or take 3 kids to school in a 12-year-old corolla).

    (epilogue: our anniversary is tomorrow!!! and every cent we spent on our wedding was worth it. this also means we’ve had the car for 3 years, and i am beginning to come to peace with it. after all, it has roof racks, and can carry 3 kids and 2 dogs while still being called a “car” – i guess we’ve grown into the damn thing.)

    • Jacky Speck

      Yup, “but a car isn’t even that practical” was my first thought while reading this. Driving to work is definitely not practical for me, living and working in a very walkable/bikeable city with decent public transportation. But even if you have to drive to work, like my fiance, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need a “wedding-priced” (see what I did there?) car. Our FOURTEEN year-old Corolla is in great shape and has gotten my fiance to work every day for a couple years now, commuting 30 miles each way on the highway.

      I guess the moral of the story is that someone, somewhere will always disagree with the stuff you decide to spend money on, whether it’s a car or a house or a wedding.

      • Meg Keene

        Well. a fourteen year old Corolla is a lotta people’s wedding price :) So there is that!!

    • Yeah I’m hardpressed to think a car is “practical,” especially when new, and once I have to buy one (quite soon, current car is a clunker, 225k miles, on its last leg) I am going to be really, really scared of it. A lot more scared than the wedding, because the wedding might actually end up costing less (though I hope not). The only way I’ll feel slightly ok about it I think is if the car is a few years old and not financed.

      • Kestrel

        I used to feel this way, but honestly, after realizing the freaking peace of mind I have with a new car, I’ve realized that’s worth the cost for me. I really enjoy just being able to get in my car and go on a long road trip if I want without having to worry if it’s going to break down or overheat again. I like knowing what exact maintenance has been done and exactly what the car sounded like new so I can compare to what it sounds like now.

        This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t ever buy a used car – they’re still incredibly practical and my car is actually used (my SO’s car is the new one, but when we replace my car, we’ll likely get a new one) but for me, buying a new car was actually not such an unreasonable thing.

        • That is true about the maintenance, but also it can work out that a used car has also been well maintained, so it can work out both ways. My fiance and I just have different priorities on this than most people I guess. He did buy a new car in July and mentioned the other day that he wishes he had leased it for the experience of having it (it’s a Subaru WRX, great car) and then gotten a used car after the lease period expired. I hope we will keep the car for a long while after we pay it off, so it will be worth it, it’s just hard for me to reconcile that with the amount of money we pay over 5 years for a depreciating asset.

          Like I said, everyone has different priorities. It also depends what you can afford. My next car will probably be new-to-me, a few years old and well-maintained (I won’t settle for anything less than a car with all the maintenance records). I may feel this way because I can’t afford a new car, or it may be a combination of that and my fear of debt… who knows. Also, priorities may change. Right now we’re a bit strapped for cash with the wedding next month and a cross-country move directly after. Once we are settled in our new location, both employed and working then I might shift my view a bit.

          • twofishgirl14

            When my fiance and I bought a lightly-used 2 year old car, his parents were HORRIFIED. They believe in only driving extremely-used cars, which they can get for almost no money (or get for free when a friend needs to offload it) and then they drive it for a year or 2 until it keels over. I felt like we were super practical because we got a small, low-cost, high MPG vehicle that had already significantly depreciated from its new-car cost, but which was almost in new car shape. And I feel like their system of constantly crossing their fingers that this isn’t the day the car bites the big one is insane. And they felt like I was insane. We would both think that buying a pricey vehicle for fun is insane. Other people would think that paying money for a boring sedan is insane. Everyone thinks that everyone else is insane when it comes to car purchases.

          • Yeah, and like I said, everyone has different priorities. Nothing wrong with that…:)

          • Meg Keene

            This conversation is making me a little uncomfortable at this point, because it feels like there is a lot of under the surface judgement going on, on a bunch of fronts.

            Let’s just say that it proves that even buying something as necessary as a car (plenty of people in plenty of places can’t hold down jobs without one), isn’t free from judgement and discussion on what’s worth it and what’s not. That should make us all feel better about our weddings.

          • Ah, I didn’t mean to come off as judgmental or anything, so I want to apologize if anyone was offended by my comments. Guess I just got carried away with my opinion.

          • Dawn

            As someone who has lived in a big northeastern city, a small southern town. amd a midsized midwestern city:
            I think part of the judgment is the typical “coastal” judgment. People in big cities -often on the coasts in the us– are proud of the fact that they take public transportation, as if they are morally superior to people who live in cities without decent public transportation, or in the burbs, of rural areas. And often those same people act proud of the fact that they can’t afford to buy a house, and look down upon those in low cost of living areas (crappy busses! No metro! Inferior arts scene! Too few trendy food trucks! How do those poor fools live like that??).
            My conclusion:
            Most people are insecure and end up falling into judging others. This naturally comes up with weddings, and cars, and hair cuts, and technology….people are seeking affirmation for ther choices (living in a chep city and buying a house/ choosing the joys of an unaffordable housing market/ buying a cheap wedding dress/ buying am expensive wedding dress).
            Money is fraught.

          • Meg Keene

            And then there are those of us who live places you need a car AND you can’t afford a house. Everyone can feel morally superior to us ;)

      • Meg Keene

        I mean, I’m with you. I’ve worked for years to be less scared of spending money, because I’ve never had it.

        But BECAUSE I’ve never had it, knowing that my (not new, but not old) car isn’t going to break down and have smoke pouring out of it six lanes of fast moving traffic away from safety (various parts of my childhood right there), fuck yes that’s practical.

        (Note: we never buy new cars because the biggest day of a car’s depreciation is the day you drive it off the lot. But we buy cars that are less than five years old, when we can.)

        • Oh yeah, that’s definitely my plan as well. My next car will probably be <5 years old, but not brand new either. This is the first and last time I will ever have a legitimate clunker (my current car is 15 years old and the previous owner got a LOT of miles out of it). I do agree, and I make a distinction between slightly used and clunker, could-break-down-any-second used. My car is pretty close to the latter. The next one will be the former.

    • Meg Keene


  • ruth

    Our anniversary was yesterday, and thinking about our big, expensive, wildly impractical wedding…I have no regrets at all. We got to spread so much joy that day – not only to each other – but to all our guests, who still talk about their wonderful memories of our wedding. It was the first time in 10 years we got the whole family together for something other than a funeral. And that is priceless. I have read studies that money spent on experiences creates far more happiness than money spent on possessions. This was so true in our wedding and honeymoon experience!

  • jashshea

    “Firstly, 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.”

    Yes! Both sets of parents were very generous financially during our wedding planning. But the money they gave us was to cover bills/invoices, not just straight cash (homie?). We spent a decent amount on the wedding, but I feel like we created a great party for the price. We loved every second of our wedding day. But, honestly? If my parents had handed me the cash, I’d have saved it and eloped, because I’m a cash hoarder. Pretty sure my parents knew I’d do that and that’s why they didn’t just hand us cash.

    We’re looking to replace a 16-year old car soon and I’m stressing. Our other car is 11 years old and I think of that one as “new.” I hate everything that goes along with new (or newer used) cars – higher insurance premiums, immediate depreciation, fear that someone will hit the new car, etc etc. Ughx3.

    • Kelsey

      Yes! That line about parental contributions was so resonant for me as well!

    • MC

      “If my parents had handed me the cash, I’d have saved it and eloped, because I’m a cash hoarder.” Yep – when family members give me cash or gift cards as presents and tell me to “buy something special for myself,” I inevitably end up putting it in my savings account or buying something uber-practical, like a toilet brush or a dish rack. It feels like an extra special gift that my in-laws are giving us all this money just so we can have a wonderful, happy celebration of our marriage.

    • Meg Keene

      Agreed. There seems to be this idea that we’re pulling the purse strings on wedding cash. If I’d had a pile of the cash we used on our wedding with no strings, and I was told to have whatever kind of wedding we wanted and keep the change… well… we would have had a very different wedding, and a lot of change. But the money was for the wedding, specifically. In some cases it came with expectations (IE, serve a seated meal). And in some cases it was money that I would have rather family saved. Had they given it to me and said, “do whatever you want with it,” I would have given it back to them without a second thought. But instead we were told that it was very important for them to help pay for our wedding day. Different ballgame.

  • Katie

    I needed to hear this today. I am a second time bride to a first time groom with all the guilt issues about spending money again on a wedding, including a mother who is happily reinforcing all that. Add to that mix that we are far enough into the planning that I am suffering from Budget Fatigue ($200 over what we thought? whatever. just sign it.) and it’s getting hard to remember what this is all really for.

    It’s nice to be reminded what we all already know: hindsight is the clearest vision.

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    I think generally speaking, people guilt women especially into spending money on “impractical” things as if we are financially illiterate and need to be told what we spend is impractical. It’s like the husband who spends thousands of dollars a year on collectible airplanes but thinks his wife is ridiculous because she has a $10,000 handbag collection. That’s been my experience. In sum, we all spend our money however we spend our money. While I wasn’t willing to shell out the price of a decent car for our wedding (bc that wasn’t how I wanted to spend my money), I will gleefully (or sometimes less) fork over the same amount for other things I deem valuable, though maybe not practical. I spend hundreds of dollars a year on books when I could just get a kindle. I have spent a ridiculous amount of money on food when I could afford it. What is practical for you might not be for others and that’s perfectly fine.

    • Meg Keene


      Though to be fair, I didn’t want to fork over the cost of a decent car for our wedding, I just wan’t left with a whole lot of options. And, the amount of money I forked over was not any kind of decent car ;)

      So, I guess, agreed, with the caveat that weddings are even more complicated. Because they are something where the guilt is put on women, but women are not always given a lot of options. If I’m buying a handbag, it’s because I really want a handbag. The kind of wedding I got was really not totally up to me (I mean, I could have said fuck it and eloped, though David would have never gone for it, so there you are. But then I would have been saving other people’s money they wanted to spend on a wedding, not mine.)

  • Kats

    I love everything about this post. Because we apply guilt to the idea of spending money on ourselves, as if to say “You, you don’t deserve this pretty thing, this lovely moment, this luxury, this gift to yourself, to ourselves.” We let others tell us that we’re not entitled to have that frilliness, that happy moment, like we’re letting them make judgments on the rationality of what brings us joy. I’m not saying that one should necessarily spend money like there’s no tomorrow, or go into debt for a wedding that they can’t afford given the resources available to them, but if you’ve made a sound economic judgment on what is the right amount for you to spend on a wedding, a dinner, a vacation, heck, a really amazing pair of shoes, then screw anyone who wants to judge us on spending the money for it. Shoulda’, woulda’, coulda’, are all fine and dandy, but they don’t always make up for moments of rational and unfettered pleasure and joy.

  • Hannah B

    I vote we bring back the 90s “whatever,” complete with hand sign, for situations like this.

    • jashshea

      HA! Doubly hilarious for me, because I read the title of this post in a Clueless voice (You could be a FARMER in that outfit).

  • sara g

    I swear people are encouraging me to spend tons of money on things I don’t care about, and then turning around and bemoaning how expensive weddings are these days. It’s a terrible trap us brides and grooms (but especially brides) are caught in.

    My parents offered us a certain amount of money when we started planning. They said we could spend it on other things if we wanted, but they really really wanted us to have a pretty wedding. And it turns out we will HAVE to use every penny towards the wedding because, as it turns out, 10k doesn’t go very far in Seattle.

    I had so much money guilt at first, but now I’m just ecstatic about getting to share this day with all our friends and family, and prepared to cough up the money in order to have that experience. :)

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      The trap is horrible! People will tell you what you must have but then say you’re spending too much. I have an aunt who is obsessed with a bakery down here called Hansen’s. She’s also actually pretty judgmental about finances so she kept insisting we had to get our cake from there, but criticized our choice to have the ceremony at my parents saying “if we couldn’t afford to have a real wedding we shouldn’t be having one at all.” Yeah. Also, I was NOT interested in paying $700 + for CAKE.

      • sara g

        Oh man, I hear you. Cake is one of the things I give zero shits about, and yet it seems to be super important by how often I get asked about it.

  • Caroline

    Yup! There are a lot of other things we could do with the amount of money from the wedding, but honestly, my parents would not have given us the money for something else, and even if we had the choice, I think I would still spend it on the wedding. The amount is not even close to a down payment. In fact, although it is a decent sized wedding budget, houses are so expensive here that spending the money on a wedding doesn’t even affect our ability to buy a home here in the future. Either we will or won’t, and down payments are so much larger than our wedding costs that that is not a thing.
    As for a car, yes, you could buy a nice car for the cost of the wedding, but I’d rather have the wedding. We have one old but perfectly functional car and that’s all we need. The wedding though, is worth the money. Yes, it’s a lot of money. Yes, I very occasionally think of the travel we could do instead, but my partner has seen his family three times in five years, and they’ve never visited us. Having his family see where we live, to have his family and friends here to celebrate, to have all my family gathered to help us celebrate is worth all the cost.

  • Sarah

    We unexpectedly had to buy a car 6 weeks before the wedding and it cost almost exactly as much as the wedding did. We paid in cash for the wedding and had to finance the car. Did we think about how our wedding fund that we spent 2 years saving could pay for that dang car? Of course. It was stressful knowing we were now in debt because we paid for a wedding AND a car when we could only afford one. But what can you do? We needed the car and we wouldn’t trade our wedding experience for anything. It’s worth the 5 years of car payments. It really was. (On a slightly unrelated note, about a year before the wedding my mother in law sold her house and gifted us some of the money that she hoped we’d use on a down payment for a house. We didn’t touch that money, not one cent, not on the wedding, not even with the unexpected car purchase, not any of it, until we were ready to buy a house. When we finally did purchase a house with it, she was so relieved we’d saved the money. She thought we’d blown it on the wedding. *sigh* We were like MOM! of COURSE! Our wedding was expensive but we aren’t foolish enough to blow our house money on a wedding. We TOLD you we’d been saving! Jeeze.)

  • anon

    It’s nice to be reminded that getting married, and even the wedding, isn’t just about practical, financial concerns. My partner and I were dealt a couple of significant financial blows this week which we could partially fix if we got married, like, right now. Curse you health insurance! BUT, getting married right now isn’t in our emotional, financial, professional timeline and would mean giving up on a lot of things that are important to us (i.e. having an actual wedding with our friends and family present, and making the major change of getting married at a time when we aren’t already completely stressed out by several other major life changes). I’ve already had two friends pull the “just get married right now” line, and I fear further scorn and lack of understanding is on the horizon.

  • Granola

    This is just fucking amazing. That is all. (Also I realized that the car parked around the corner of my house is also roughly equal in value to our wedding, and I would have also not traded them).

  • Sarah E

    The parental gift coming our way doesn’t have strings attached- his parents put aside the same $$ amount for each kid, to be spent however. Though we could spend the entire gift on our wedding, in addition to our own funds and contributions from my mom. . .it just isn’t how we want to use all of the money.

    While we’re aiming to keep the wedding costs to a minimum, I’m not altogether bothered that we’re spending more on the wedding than I ever have on anything else in my life ever. I mean, we considered ditching the party and just running off. . .but even then, we’d want it to be a special occasion, travel somewhere else, pay for a hotel and meals out for however many days, we’d still want a dress and a suit and rings. Could we just head to the city/county building and sign the paperwork? Sure, but that type of process belies the significance we personally feel about getting married. We’d rather honor our priorities and our own sense of meaning by holding a ceremony and party for our giant network of family and friends.

    No matter what you’re spending money on. . .wedding, car, house, clothes, gadgets. . .the cheapest answer is always Don’t Buy It, period. So the march to the most practical spending habits is not easily generalized. Even in our household budgets, you can prioritize buying all organic, premium-quality food, or you can prioritize high-end finishes for all your home renovations, or you can prioritize major financial investments- whatever. It comes down to what you value and how you express that. Make frugal choices when you can, otherwise, it’s not like you get to take the cash with you when you go.

  • Ah, cars. I come from a car family and have had my own car (however crappy and cheap) since I was 17. I have gone through periods in my life where a car hasn’t really been that necessary, but I have had many more times where it has been the more practical choice (like right now, it takes me 15 minutes to get to work by car, or 1hour 20 minutes by foot and bus with shifts that end at 8 and 9 pm. After trying for months to make it work by bus, I now drive). I admit, the used Mazda that I bought over a year before our wedding cost more than my wedding. But, my car is now 7 years old, and I fully intend, and intended when I bought it, to drive it into the ground which should take another 10 years. Maybe by then I’ll be able to afford a newish one again. But I can’t even imagine living completely without a car, whether it cost as much as my wedding or not.

  • Fiona

    Meg, this is lovely and right on time. I’ve been worrying a lot about spending that amount of money on a party because it is a lot for my family, but a stratospheric amount for my fiance’s family.
    The thing is: we’re doing the wedding our way, we’re saving a decent amount of money as far as weddings go, and the feelings for us and family members are so important.
    Getting married is a big transition not just for me, but for my family (the first of 5 children to get married, and the first of 17 grandchildren to get married), especially given that we’ve been such a tight unit since my dad died 9 years ago.
    My mom talks about grief in a way that can be applied here. She says that grief is so, so hard, but you have to let yourself feel it and feel in deeply in order to be able to continue living. In this case, the emotion is joy, among other things, but we have to let ourselves feel it (and the other emotions) in order to process this transition.

    • jashshea

      Your mom sounds like a wise woman!

      • Fiona

        Yes she is! I’m so lucky to have her.

  • Leigh

    I am totally pumped for our August Cape Cod wedding that I will thank my parents 10000 times over for but I know I will never regret it! I have so many August memories on that beach and now I will have all my favorite on my childhood beach watching me become intertwined my soulmate! Toe that is priceless! Thank you!

  • At the beginning of our wedding planning process we thought about the total, broke it down into categories and worked to save as much as possible. Some of our friends were shocked at how much we were willing to pay for a photographer but then when the pics were posted on her blog they agreed that she was the best photographer for us Some folks were surprised/thought we were crazy for using a Lebanese restaurant that was an hour away but when they tasted the food they raved. I felt guilty getting custom made clothes – but our outfits were a HUGE hit. To me it was all about the experience. We did everything we could to make everyone feel welcome and loved. And I think we nailed it. No regrets. If I think back over the entire dollar figure we spent, yes we could have taken one hell of a trip but there is no comparison to our wedding. While our community would be happy we got married anywhere, they were thrilled beyond words to be part of our ceremony. It was all worth it.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    My wedding was on the higher end for the budgets I’ve seen on APW, though right in the middle for the APW budgets for our region. It was the equivalent of 1/10 of a down payment – or a compact, no-extras brand-new car – or about a year’s college tuition. I thought a lot about that last equivalent because I happened to marry in the year between my little sister graduating college and my baby sister starting college.

    Growing up, my family knew families where parents offered engaged children $ to take in cash or for a wedding. It was clear that the children who took the cash made the “right” decision. But when I got engaged, my parents didn’t make that offer. Maybe if there had been something specific we wanted or needed that was about equivalent to what my parents spent on our wedding, we would have been given a choice.

    Throughout planning, I thought of our wedding as our gift to our guests. Sometimes you put more thought and money into choosing the gift than the recipient gets value from the gift, but hopefully both sides are gracious and there are no regrets.

    • Jenni

      “I thought of our wedding as our gift to our guests.”

      Awesome!!! I need to put this on a post-it note and look at it every day when I get nervous about the money choices we’ve made for the wedding!

  • I was trying to decide if I want to give this post a hug or a high five. I think I’ve settled on hug.


  • egerth

    I needed this today! I’m in the very early stages of wedding planning — looking at venues, pulling together a budget. I’ve been feeling really torn about whether we should be spending a reasonable-for-our-situation-but-objectively-large amount on a wedding we’re really excited about or some-kind-of-lower-but-more-reasonable amount on a wedding that is perfectly lovely but less expensive. Making choices, really, for no other reason, than that it would be less expensive… But as my fiance keeps pointing out to me, we’re not crazy spenders (we’re both savers by nature) and we’re not going to go crazy on spending all of the sudden just because its a wedding. So if we splurge a bit on things we care about, that’s fine this time. And I shouldn’t feel guilty about that.

    I’m still working on the not feeling guilty part, but it’s nice to hear from others that I won’t suddenly regret this way of thinking when it’s over.

  • Jenni

    Ironically, the fiance and I were arguing due to me having the opposite feeling last night … we’re in the process of buying a new vehicle, and I’m just thinking about how the extra $$ between two vehicles could go towards the wedding, or the honeymoon!

  • Rachel

    This is exactly how I have come to feel, after feeling extremely guilty and almost panicked about the huge costs of our upcoming wedding. I realized eventually that the reason I found it so shocking to spend as much money as we’re spending was because I was comparing the total amount of the wedding to zero dollars. Like, I was thinking of all the things we could do with that money instead (including things that are legit important, like paying off our grad school loans faster, saving for a house, etc.). But once I realized how much it really was going to cost to have the wedding we wanted– and the wedding that will make our parents and families and friends happy, the wedding that will be a joyful and huge celebration– it kind of fell into place. We are lucky that we can afford it, and everyone contributing wants to contribute. If that weren’t the case, obviously the cost would need to be reconsidered. But once I was comparing the actual cost to the kind of realistic price range of a beautiful, fun wedding in a big city where all your guests are taken care of and feel happy to have made the trip, my whole perception changed from “we should put all this money into an IRA” to “this is gonna be a great way to start our marriage.”

  • Dacia E.

    I’m late to the discussion, but I’ve been struggling with this exact idea a LOT lately. But it’s not a car…it’s student loans. Most of me looks at the cost of a wedding as an investment in an experience that I will never have again. But when I look into a 1500 venue, I can’t seem to silence the voice in my head that says “if I were putting this towards medical school, it wouldn’t end up costing 3x as much down the road” (seriously, f*ck compounding interest). I really, really want a big (ish), beautiful wedding with my family and friends, but I also really, really want to be a doctor (and preferably a doctor that doesn’t have to make loan payments for the next fifty bazillion years). And what does it mean to plan a wedding that you can afford when your net worth is -150,000? I keep wondering – as important as the day may be, is there an objective point where it’s just fiscally irresponsible to hold a wedding?

    The thing is that I would never, ever look at a friend in grad school and think that she’s irresponsible for having a big wedding – it’s her damn choice, and she deserves to celebrate however she wants. And I know there’s actually scientific evidence that spending money on experiences is a better investment for happiness than spending money on objects (seriously!). So if there’s anyone here who has reconciled themselves to spending on a wedding instead of education, I’d love to hear your thought process.

  • Kelsey

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Resisting the urge to forward this link to all relatives.

  • DavidJennifer

    I am really glad someone has put it up. I am in total agreed with the writer. There should be proper thought process about this. We should surely think about spending the wedding money elsewhere. It will be a great kind of savings.

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