My Expensive Wedding Still Makes Me Feel Really Guilty

I wish I could stop thinking about it, but I can't

bride and groom standing together

I was never the little girl who dreamed of her wedding day. In fact, I was fairly certain I would never get married, but then I met Nate. He’s the partner I never knew could exist, and I thought, “Yeah, I could raise a family with this man.” I couldn’t wait to marry him, and in less than a year and a half, we were engaged. But as soon as we were engaged, it became very clear that although we were aligned on how we wanted to spend our lives together, we were not aligned on what we wanted for a wedding.

I had always assumed that the bride’s opinion had more sway when it came to planning a wedding, and it never occurred to me that my partner might have opinions that were equally (if not more) important than mine.

My Dream Wedding…

I started perusing wedding pictures, trying to imagine what the perfect wedding day would look like to me, but I couldn’t picture it. I had spent so much time watching my friends running about in a panic over a rogue wedding guest or late vendor that I had vowed never to put myself into such a stressful situation. I knew two things: I wanted a fun day that allowed my future husband and I to focus on each other, and it had to be stress-free and include no check writing. Then I found this post on APW, and it embodied everything I wanted in a wedding. That was it! I wanted a courthouse wedding.

Wait! His Dream Wedding?

Nate’s plans were a little different. He wanted a party. One that his parents and grandparents could enjoy. His motivations were so selfless that I couldn’t help but feel like he was onto something. We started planning a small wedding, but even a backyard wedding was ruled out as all options would have been too rural and hard to get to for our guests. A preference was expressed to hold the wedding in Philadelphia, where we met and still live together, and to hold the wedding outdoors. The options were growing very slim at this point.

It Costs How Much?!

After much difficulty, we settled on our venue, and I put together a budget that projected it would cost us about $45,000 for a one hundred-person wedding. I also made it very clear that I could not justify this expense and would not be paying for it, and Nate agreed. Our parents made some unsolicited contributions to our wedding fund that were very thoughtful and generous, and Nate picked up the rest of the tab. He never complained about it, never expressed regret, and I will admit that we really enjoyed our day together with so many of our loved ones. It was made even more special by Nate’s dad, who had fallen ill about a month before; even a week before, we weren’t sure if we would be having a wedding. We felt so grateful to have him there to enjoy the day with us. It seemed to validate the whole idea of having a wedding.

Balancing Guilt With Meaning

Now, nearly a year later, I look back at the pictures and am so glad to have it memorialized… but I still harbor a lingering sense of guilt over the cost of our wedding. I find myself rounding down whenever someone asks what it cost. I’ve spent years working as an accountant, and though I know we were in the financial position to afford it, I can’t help but think of how that money would have grown exponentially if invested. I think of all the people who can’t afford to feed their families or go to college, and of what that money would have meant to them. That is a game-changing amount of money for so many people, and I can’t help but feel shame for how we used it.

I try to remind myself how meaningful this wedding was for many members of our family. With several medical hurdles ahead of our family members now, I should be cherishing that day and the fact that we created memories and pictures that we will be an invaluable part of our family’s story. I hope someday I can let this guilt go and just appreciate that we were lucky enough to be able to afford a day that meant so much to so many people.

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  • Amy March

    Wow. This is so sad. This money wasn’t available to you to invest or to change someone else’s life. It belonged to other people, who wanted to spend it on a wedding. When people ask how much your wedding cost, it’s fine to not answer that question if it is upsetting. You’re making this about the budget and the money, but when you say you are ashamed of how much you spent, you are also saying you are ashamed of your spouse, his priorities, and his values. Is that really true? Would thinking of it in those terms “hey, we are all different people, he chose this, and that says wonderful things about him” help you move on? Cause honestly this sounds like it worked out perfectly- you didn’t want to pay, so you didn’t! Family wanted to contribute so they did! He wanted a fun party and had the money to afford it! It really seems like borrowing trouble to be this distressed about it a year later.

    • H

      I second all of this – I don’t really understand what there is to be guilty for – you didn’t actually spend any money, so why feel guilt? If you’re feeling it on behalf of other people then I think that’s not your cross to bear.

      On another note, you didn’t want a big wedding, other people in your life did, and you stayed true to what you wanted and let them pay for it, if they wanted it so badly! So many people end up giving into pressure AND are stuck with the bill – so props to you for sticking to your guns!

    • Nicki

      I have trouble relating to that point of view, since marriage ties their financial futures together. Maybe if they had a pre-nup or were keeping totally separate finances forever, I would feel differently. But I would feel uncomfortable if I wanted one thing and my partner decided to do something else, because he could pay. As a couple, I expect us to make big ticket decisions together, no matter who is bring what money in. If he hadn’t spent it on a wedding, he/ they could have used it for a down payment or vacation or savings or debt or whatever. But everyone’s relationship is different.

      • H

        I’m the same way, but it doesn’t sound like that was the OP’s issue – she doesn’t express being upset with her husband for making that choice. Though maybe that’s what’s actually going on here – she’s upset with him, and it’s manifesting itself as guilt.

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          She expressed her regret in the planning stage as, “I don’t want to pay for this,” and so other people paid for it, and her argument against the big, expensive party was neutralized. Maybe the problem was more, “This isn’t what I want, regardless of who pays for it,” so the regret stems from a communication/expectation breakdown, or feeling like her vision for the day was trampled.

      • Amy March

        Yeah, but she’s the one who defined them separately, and that isn’t an issue she says she has. She presented it as “fine 45k but I’m not contributing.”

      • Elizabeth

        I can agree with that point of view of it being his money more than hers, in the sense that…when it came to our wedding I picked a number that sounded reasonable and we discussed it. We’ve discussed priorities and everything else and I would phrase it as ‘us payiing for the wedding’ because it’s money ‘we’ won’t have. But I’m the one with savings built up, and I’m the one who is setting aside additional money every paycheck to reach the desired goal because I make enough for the money to be ‘disposable’ in that sense and my partner does not. (Due to individual choices we’ve made about our careers prior to meeting each other — were my partner planning a wedding with someone else they would likely have something much simpler/cheaper per head. Yes, we’re making the decision together…but if I’d taken a year off of work to travel before I’d met them that wouldn’t have been a joint decision and then the money wouldn’t be there…the money was saved before the partnership.)

      • NotMotherTheresa

        Money in the context of marriage is so complicated that way! My fiance and I definitely to do not keep our finances totally separate (by any stretch of the imagination), but by the same token, we do NOT have equal say in how money is spent.
        The rough breakdown for us is that his salary pays the bills, and my salary gives us our savings (both of the short term and long term variety). As such, I have some say in where we spend our money day to day, and he has some say in what we do and don’t use our savings for, but ultimately, the person in charge of that financial domain has the final say. If I say we’re spending $900 from our savings on a new sofa, we’re probably doing it. If he says we’re trading in our car and taking on another three years of car payments, we’re probably doing it. As such, I can totally picture a situation where they “made the big ticket decision together” without realllly making it together.

    • LittleOwl

      Yes! “… [Money] that belonged to other people, who wanted to spend it on a wedding”

      My wedding (that I did not pay for) cost about the same as my student loans. I suppose I could have asked for the money to help pay off my loans (which are thankfully reasonable) instead of having a wedding. But I would never have asked that because they are not at all the same thing! My loans are mine, but the wedding was a beautiful gift for my spouse and me, for our families, for our friends. It brought the person who paid for our wedding so much joy to host such a joyous, memorable day! It truly was a gift.

    • i think there’s a bigger underlying issue here: the author and her partner have different attitudes towards money, different priorities. she agreed to do what he wanted, but it’s not how she would normally choose to spend her money, so she’s still experiencing a lot of discomfort about that. my guess is that this attitude will show up in other big purchases they make in life… and there’s nothing wrong with her attitude (i’m a frugal person myself) but it could be a source of tension for them.

      i married someone with different spending habits than myself. it’s hard.

  • Brooke Worley

    What concerns me about this way of thinking is it can spiral out of control – it’s not just about money in a lot of scenarios, it can be about anything. There are an infinite number of “what ifs?” in this life, and the more you focus on them the more you can drive yourself into a really unhappy state. If, upon reflection, you have happy memories about your wedding, as you state, then that’s it. You don’t need to be ashamed, embarrassed or feel guilty. You cannot go back and change what has already been done, and there is no sense in causing yourself grief over it.

  • savannnah

    I’m having a difficult time relating to this peice- even though I also have feelings about my upcoming $30,000 wedding. Those feelings though are entirely around agency and a mutual decision to place value on a number of things and elements to our day that cost major $$ and worrying if thise are the right choices for us. We decided together that we would make certain sacrifices towards this goal and it’s not been easy- many of our friends are having similar budgeted weddings but are not footing the bill- but it’s certainly something we are doing together. I wonder if the writer would have less regret if she had been more involved in contributing to the wedding.

    • Jess

      For the very first few sections, I was fully on board. I was like, “I could totally write this about the wedding I’m having next weekend.” We went with a lot of choices for our families priorities, or for R’s (party!). My original vision was not what we are doing, and I’ve had lots of feelings about that.

      I too wonder how much of the writer’s guilt is due to the fact that while it was lovely, it wasn’t what she really wanted. I know in my least generous moments I really feel conflicted over the amount of money and wonder if it would have been better spent elsewhere.

      In the end, it’s like Amy March says below, though, the money wasn’t ours to use however we wanted. It was to fund exactly this event, to throw a party for our friends and families to enjoy.

      • savannnah

        I agree- I mean I’m having agita because it is our money and could be going to other priorities. From my perspective- it feels a little ungrateful but thats probably just my envy coming out that she was in a position to write a budget and then say this can happen but not with my money…

        • Jess

          That was so interesting to me – once we decided to have A Wedding ™, I was prepared to pay out my own money. It was a really nice thing that we didn’t have to pay as much as expected ourselves, and it definitely gives me some stress when I look at the lump sum and think “That’s so much money!”

          I wonder how much of this also has to do with the writer’s status as a budget blogger – I feel like some layers of the guilt could be coming from low emotional involvement (like me) and some from status as somebody who makes money talking about saving money?

          • Her Lindsayship

            Yes, this came to mind for me as well. I’m sure, just as Team APW spends a lot of time talking and thinking about relationships and weddings, a budget blogger must spend so much time thinking about financial responsibility that it’s hard to spend $45k on anything at once.

  • APlus

    I can somewhat relate to this. Our wedding was relatively inexpensive, but it was also very small, so when you calculate the price per guest (don’t ever do that), it was fancy. But when it comes down to it, it was less than we could afford, and it was the wedding we wanted. It sounds like it’s mainly the dollar sign, not that actual event, that you have trouble with. You should re-frame it in your mind as to, well this was the day we wanted, it ended up being a gift and fun, and forget what the bottom line was.

    • Jess

      I really like the idea of framing it as an expensive gift I am giving my friends and family!

  • gonzalesbeach

    it would be interesting to hear what advice the author would have to other couples involved in planning who might be similarly on different wavelengths. Would she suggest they find a happier medium on costs, take more time to plan and find something more alternative, or other advice?

    • louise danger

      I agree – I sympathize that the wedding might not have been what she envisioned, and I certainly understand guilt or anxiety about the prices of things wedding-related, but I feel like the last 1/4 of the article is missing, the bit that would usually be advice for the audience – “I’m grappling with whether I’d make those same choices again now [because reason]” or “I’m [emotion/feeling] about having listened to $spouse and his wants and needs [because reason].”

      I think it’s kind of ironic that in the ‘related links’ section, the third most-recent article tagged ‘money’ is “It’s Time to Stop Comparing Wedding Costs to Car Payments.”

      • gonzalesbeach

        exactly! I just kept thinking – so what do you think you’d change if you could go back?

  • guest

    What is money for if not to make your life happy and/or easier? I mean of course it is for 1. food 2. clothing 3. shelter and ideally 4. helping others. But it sounds like you have those covered. So throw an awesome party. You can’t take it with you when you die.

    I really hate the idea that spending money on a wedding is a waste. I spent a lot of money on my wedding. I saw my divorced parents dance and smile together. My grandma danced more than she had since her twenties. Friends from different parts of my life still talk about how much fun they had together. We all made memories for a lifetime. It was worth every penny. Why is a house or a car more worthwhile? Those are just things. . .

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      A wedding I both a gift to, and an investment in, the community you’ve built around you. These are the people who have pledged to support you as a couple til death do you part, or whatever is it you’ve written into your vows. It’s one of the big gestures that we as a society use to express love and support. It’s a party, yeah, but it’s also your people.

    • stephanie

      I love your second paragraph so much.

    • Greta

      your second paragraph! This is awesome and super helpful.

  • JenC

    You were in the financial position to afford the wedding and the only thing the money would have otherwise been used for is investments. Why would watching your money grow more money make you feel less shame than spending it on a wedding? It’s not 45k that you would have given to a family for food or college tuition, it’s 45k that you would have hoped turned into 50k which could then grow into 55k and so on.

    I think the shame (lifting the word from the article) is something we can all experience when we’re in a privelleged position. It’s the awkwardness (for want of a better word) of when you can afford something nice and someone else is struggling to find money for food. We felt a similar thing on honeymoon when we went to Cuba. The security guard at the airport was paid a monthly salary of about $10. We could have given her a monthly wage without impacting us in any way because here that would have barely bought us two sandwiches at a coffee shop. We paid over £4,000 ($6,000+) for our honeymoon and whilst we were we aware of the disparity between us and other people. We were able to recognise that those feelings were due to our privellege and having the awareness to recognise it rather than just ignore it. I mean if you want to feel guilty about this then by the same logic you should feel guilty about holidays, having a degree (assumed because of your profession), property (if you own some), organic food and the ability to make investments. Where do you draw the line at feeling shame for what you spend your money on because you’re in a privelleged position to live a comfortable lifestyle? I also think that the shame is attached to the feeling that it’s just a party and the cool girl thing at the minute is to not have an extravagant wedding.

    • Another Meg

      1000% this.

      The wealth gap in the US is huge and expanding, and privileges like $45k weddings that you didn’t even have to pitch in to pay for are not something everyone has.

      I had a similar feeling when my husband and I made our first big purchase together- a new TV. (I know, I know, not the same. But the guilt- OMG the guilt.) We had a long talk and decided that every time we made a big purchase like that, we would budget in enough room for a donation to charity. So when we bought our $500 TV, we made a $100 donation to a group that provides Christmas gifts to kids in Detroit.

      We all have to unpack the privilege backpack from time to time, and giving back, either with money or time, can really help.

      • Ashlah

        I love that idea.

      • JenC

        That’s a really great idea! We’ll be hopefully buying a house next year and all the expensive things that come with it so giving money might not be an option despite the overwhelming privellege backpack we’ll have then. Giving back time seems like something we can do to help with that.

        On a side note – if you volunteer for a charity that allows you to claim expenses (I know not all do) try to submit a full expenses claim. Yes, you might feel awful taking money from a charity (and if you do give it back as a donation) but for one it allows those who have nothing to give but time feel ok about claiming expenses. Some people want to help but the hidden costs of volunteering (getting to places, drinks while out) can prevent them because they have nothing to spare. Secondly, the volunteering sector is undervalued and the work of volunteers is continuously being compared to those of paid employees (volunteering saves the organisation X amount or two paid employees) and therefore to understand the full “saving” expenses should be claimed as if they were employees. Sorry rant over!

        • mssolo

          I know this is a month ago, but on the expenses thing, I’d also like to add it’s important to do so for budgeting purposes. A charity can’t apply for funding without accurate financials, and if it’s all over the place where travel and catering are meant to be, they’re going to end up with funding that doesn’t actually meet their needs.

  • LJ

    You handled this all so well. Clear communication, negotiation over compromises and mutual wants and needs…. you have some guilt, yeah, but all in all I am so impressed with procedure you went through to make this happen and your clear fore- and hind-sight. You did so well.

    Your guilt might benefit from some counseling, but it doesn’t sound debilitating. You’ve got a sound head on your shoulders and you made a choice you wouldn’t have made on your own that you don’t regret (you talk of the importance to other people). That guilt is the small price for your selflessness. Thanks for sharing a story of a functioning, happy, mutually loving relationship with us. You’re providing a great role model.

  • Ebloom

    To me this piece comes off less about guilt around spending so much money on a wedding, and more about guilt around having the privilege to do so. I recognize how frustrating and embarrassing those feelings are, but I also see how they aren’t useful. I don’t say that to be harsh, I empathize with how awkward it is to feel weird and lacking control over how money was spent on you in excessive but necessary ways. Feeling guilty over how money was spent, however, doesn’t feed families, doesn’t send kids to college, and doesn’t grow funds exponentially. Another way of looking at your wedding is to think of all the small businesses you, your partner, and family likely patroned. If your family spent $45,000 on the wedding, significant sums probably went to caterers, seamstresses, photographers, DJs, and other people who are using that money to feed their families. And, your life is not over. You have many years to give money to issues you’re passionate about, to support causes that resonate with you. Don’t spend good energy wallowing in the guilt of a day that made tons of people, as well as you and your husband, really happy. Own that number, own your privilege, and celebrate how lucky you are to have found someone you can securely spend your life with. That sounds like a blessing.

  • Elisa

    The money spent on a wedding, more than almost any other large purchase, stays locally in your community. Recirculating $45,000 amongst the owner of the venue, caterer, photographer, florist, etc. in your town is a great gift to all those people and their families, and is much different than spending the same amount at a big boxed store. It’s going to help someone’s daughter take dance lessons, not give a CEO an extra yacht. The memories and experiences you gave to yourself, your family and friends are also incredibly valuable. To me, weddings are not a waste. They are so worth it!

    • stephanie

      I love this perspective also! I’d never thought of it like this.

    • Lisa

      I love the idea of a wedding as an investment in a community!

    • savannnah

      This! While I’ve got a lot of feelings about the $$ we are spending, I feel great to give it to our all female, small business and super local team of vendors.

      • Lulu

        Same– supporting super-creative, super-talented girl-bosses was a true thrill.

      • Word. We’re loving this opportunity to explore new local businesses and support them financially through our wedding. Just hired a woman-owned, local small business for our caterer.

    • Eenie

      Yes! We were extremely careful with our vendor choices for this exact reason. Couldn’t be happier with how we spent the money, even though it still seems like a lot!

    • Elizabeth

      Yes, I was thinking about this reading some of the comments! It’s very helpful to realize I think that that money isn’t just gone/wasted. It’s not yours anymore, sure, but while spending $45,000 on a day seems like a lot, it’s not a matter of setting $45,000 to watch the flames. It took more than a day’s work to get there, and it will have an impact not just emotionally with you and your guests past that day, but as the money recirculates.

      Our venus is more expensive than I wanted to spend on just the venue. Still doable without putting me under financial pressure, it’s just more than I feel I should spend. But it’s a non-profit and a beautiful building and the money we’re spending is part of what helps maintain that building.

    • Greta

      Our venue-caterer combo is a non-profit that I used to work for and still feel very strongly about. Even though they were really expensive, I know for a fact that the money from outside events and weddings goes straight into the scholarship fund for their participants. Whenever I get the guilt going I have to keep reminding myself that our money was part paying for the wedding and part donation supporting a cause I care deeply about!

    • cpostrophe

      yeah, we had the exact same philosophy when we were planning our wedding — that’s a reason why, say, we immediately ruled out having it in a hotel where the proceeds would just go into the bottom line of an international hospitality chain. We involved a friend’s band and paid them their regular rate, approached restaurants where friends had worked to use them for a rehearsal dinner, bought our party pastries from an independent bakery that I had loved visiting for years.

      The generations of my family have had their share of reversals and great bounty followed by periods of being destitute when someone mismanaged the fortune that another generation had built up, but one of the lingering bits of family history that I remembered was how my grandfather, back in the day, was famous for hosting fiestas that were open to his neighborhood, and would involve him and my grandmother buying food from neighboring farmers or decorations from local shop owners, and it was just his way of taking a good year of business and spreading it back into the community. Before they were ever tied by marriage, my mom’s family knew of my dad’s family as “that house in the next barrio over who always threw a great neighborhood fiesta.” I like to think that our wedding was something like that.

      also, on a related note, I appreciated the APW advice on tipping with, say a spa gift certificate or another experience treat, rather than cash. It was a nice way to cap off the human relationships that we had built up with our vendors over the course of planning the wedding.

  • Her Lindsayship

    I’m surprised to see a lot of commenters either not relating at all or basically saying “just stop feeling guilty and feel awesome instead!” I for one very much relate to this. I feel guilty about spending money on a lot of different things, and I suspect the wedding will be no different. I deal with it, it’s not really that intense, but I think maybe it’s because I grew up in a much different financial position than I currently find myself in. And I don’t think it’s ridiculous to feel this way – I think it’s totally valid and shows you’re thoughtful about money and about your privilege. I certainly don’t mean to say you *should* feel guilty either. It sounds like this is something you’ll be able to overcome with time and a little more kindness to yourself. Hopefully writing this piece was a good step in the direction of moving on from those feelings. And hey, I don’t know if this will help, but people certainly have spent more money on less important/beautiful/worthy things! Hope this improves and one day you feel nothing but happiness about your wedding day.

    • stephanie

      I totally feel you on this – my husband and I both cycle back and forth between feeling guilty about spending money, even when we know we have it, and not feeling guilty. I definitely understand the struggle.

    • Ashlah

      Seriously, I occasionally feel guilt about our $6,000 wedding for no reason, so I totally understand where she’s coming from.

      I think maybe it’s because I grew up in a much different financial position than I currently find myself in
      And this is a huge part of why! I think it’s super common among middle/upper middle class folks, particularly if your family of origin is still in the same financial position, while you’re in a higher one. Spending money on things I know my family couldn’t have afforded when I was a kid, or that I know they still can’t afford now, is weird for me and results in some feelings of guilt. I know logically there’s no reason to feel guilty, but it’s there in the background sometimes.

    • Ashley Worobec

      Absolutely. I completely relate to this post and our wedding was less than half of that amount. I actually paid for the bulk of our wedding, since my husband pays the mortgage. Much of my guilt comes from the fact that my wedding money came from the extra I usually paid to my student loans. I just put that money into a savings account instead of extra loan payments for a year. (I would have been done by now, instead I still have a couple years left!) I think even if I hadn’t had another use for that money I still would feel guilt over it because I’m a frugal person. I also think of how that money might otherwise be used… we have a few friends now who have had medical emergencies costing tens of thousands of dollars. What if that happened to us? You just never know. And two weeks after the honeymoon I got laid off… oh well!

      I do like what people are saying about investing in the community, and I do feel good about the few vendors we did use. I also wanted to keep as much cost off of the guests as possible, as I know weddings can be so expensive to attend. So we covered people’s stay for the weekend since they had to fly/drive all the way out to the wedding.

      I could have spent less and while the memories would have been different, I’m confident they still would have been amazing. While I likely wouldn’t have actually done anything differently, it’s all a matter of perspective, coming out the other end knowing things you couldn’t have known before.

      My mom got offended when I said “if I had done it again…” :/ As in many things in life I think it’s good to think back and consider what you could have done differently, but I guess there are some things you just keep to yourself!

    • Greta

      It’s been 2 years since my wedding and I still struggle with the guilt over what it cost. It was a beautiful weekend and my “dream” wedding – everything I wanted and more. But I do feel like it could have been equally awesome for half the price tag and that’s a struggle to deal with sometimes. I definitely have wedding price guilt for sure… ugh…

  • Laura C

    I’m kind of with you. I would have had a tiny wedding, or a courthouse wedding, or no wedding. If anyone was going to be there, the people essential to me could have fit in a minivan. But I married an extrovert with a big Indian-American family.

    We had a 250 person wedding. It cost more than $45,000. I was more than aware that my wedding cost as much as several full-time minimum-wage workers make in a year. I resisted my MIL’s push to make it bigger and more expensive for that reason. But it was actually important to me to own it and move past the guilt. We did it because it was the first time my husband’s late father’s siblings had all been in one place since his death, and it was important to their side of the family to have a joyful occasion. We did it because my husband’s maternal grandparents may not live to see another of their grandsons get married. We did it because my husband has a close-knit but in some cases far-flung group of college friends for whom weddings are an important chance to see each other. We made it bigger than the bare minimum we could have because his bare minimum would have been like 10 times my bare minimum and it was important that I not spend the entire night meeting new people and that my parents be surrounded by some of their people. I wish we could have figured out a way to honor all of those things and spend 1/4 the money, but we couldn’t, and regret is pointless. I don’t even remember it as all that much fun for me — it was still a lot of new people, and a lot of work and stress. But my husband remembers it as one of the best days of his life, and I love that. And I really appreciate what it was as a community and family event. And that’s enough.

  • Meredith

    Ugh I get this. Our parents were (mainly paying) and fine with it! But I wanted to spend as little money as possible, but I also wanted the party like your husband. It was so hard to balance my guilt. I researched and weighed every. single. option to the penny and did all planning and decorating myself to make sure I was doing it as cheaply as possible. I tried to just tell myself, I’m trying, but this seems to be the way it’s going to be to have a party in this location. It’s been almost three years, and I still feel a little guilty when I look back.

  • Jess

    There’s room for a lot of feelings about money and weddings, and a lot of room for change. I am alternately resentful and grateful for my family’s involvement, excited for and dreading my wedding day, hopeful and fearful about whether or not people will enjoy it, guilty and joyful about spending lots of money on any one thing…

    It would be really good to examine some of this guilt – is it because people spent a lot of money on something you didn’t really want? is it because you feel uncomfortable with having the ability to spend lots of money on something that may seem unnecessary? is it because you have a relationship to money where spending it is difficult for you out of fear for the future?

    If I can get to the root of what I’m really feeling, and examine the reasons for a bit, I can usually let go of the intensity of the emotion.

  • Lacie Shepherd

    You are investing in your community. It’s the very best investment you can make and will touch so many people’s lives.

  • RisaPlata

    “I can’t help but think of how that money would have grown exponentially if invested.” As a thought exercise, try thinking of emotions and memories as being the same as money. You did invest them. “I try to remind myself how meaningful this wedding was for many members of our family. With several medical hurdles ahead of our family members now, I should be cherishing that day and the fact that we created memories and pictures that we will be an invaluable part of our family’s story.” This right here IS your interest. Your parents and husband contributed because the wedding was more important to them than the money, and it’s okay to honor that priority because they are important to you and this was important to them.

  • I fear this myself. I thought my shy private BF would be on board for a smallish informal wedding. I asked him if he’d get a new suit for our wedding, and he said “wouldn’t I be wearing a tuxedo?” Hah! I told him our imaginary weddings were not in the same place at all. He also said we’d have to invite no extended family or ALL 100+ on his side. yeowza.

    • GotMarried!

      Yes to the requirement of “no” extended family or “all” – which in our case was about 80 folks. My husband opted for “no” … and had a total of 4 guests attend our wedding.

  • Booknerd

    I can understand the guilt but at the same time it didn’t come across as a hardship to be able to pay for the wedding. I felt a couple times that our $15000 spent on the wedding could have helped enormously now that we are trying to purchase a bigger home, but at the end of the day that money just wasn’t available to us for that, it was partially a gift from our parents for the wedding. It wasn’t a blank cheque to invest, or use in a more financially responsible way, it was so our parents could celebrate us and participate in our marriage along with their families and our friends. We scrimped and saved for almost two years to come up with the rest and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Within a year more of saving we will be able to sell our condo and buy a house but one year of extra saving is so worth the memories we made on our wedding.

  • heyqueen

    I feel you OP. I think it really comes down to where you get your emotional returns from. Yes, the OP didn’t use her money, but I totally understand the feeling of how that money could have grown if it were invested or what you could buy if it were spent differently. We’ve been discussing what a realistic wedding budget is, and I always cringe at the idea of between $10-15k (even after we’ve cut out A LOT of unnecessary WIC stuff)on our wedding. I know people here hate car/house comparison, but I (only speaking about myself) would totally prefer to put that money toward a house or a car.

    • NotMotherTheresa

      Yeah, my wedding is ultra frugal (like, $8,000 frugal), but still, I can’t help but feel a tad guilty. Because you know, $8k isn’t a TON of money, but it’s sure as heck a lot of money for one night! Like, if poured that money into household projects, I’d not only have a much nicer place to live, but I’d gain quite a bit in home equity!

      • Danielle

        Totally. My wedding cost a similar amount, but that’s still a lot of $$$ to drop on one day.

        However, a year later, I’m really grateful we were able to see all our loved ones together, and they were all celebrating us, which is so special. Those memories carry me through the hard times.

  • Former DC-er

    Totally feel you. We had a Washington, DC wedding that cost about 2x my last pretty nice car. I’m really not sure the final numbers. Husband wrote the final check for catering and I never wanted to know just how much it all added up to. We could afford it, but it made me almost sick to think about. Still, about the only thing I regret about the whole shindig $$-wise was that I rented trees with pretty lights on them. I don’t remember anything about them — or whether they were there. But it was important to my husband that things look pretty.

  • Sweetie

    Can we try and ban the “I was never a girl who thought/cared about my wedding before I started planning my wedding” sentiment? I feel like I read that in 75% wedding blog posts and, honestly, I feel like the vast majority of women only have passing thoughts/ideas of what their wedding day would look like before they actually get serious with a partner or engaged. Just feels like it plays off some misconception that women are wedding-obsessed from birth.

    • idkmybffjill

      Ding ding ding ding ding – it’s like a wedding specific iteration of The Cool Girl.

      • JenC

        I feel it’s one of those those phrases that should be included in The Cool Girl Bingo – The Wedding Addition!

        • Her Lindsayship

          Playing this game from now on in my head

    • Her Lindsayship

      Hah, I actually had the same thought when I read that line! I have never met anyone who was “one of those girls,” unless you count characters in movies??

      • NotMotherTheresa

        I have definitely met “one of those girls”! Her eventual wedding was literally a half million dollar affair.
        In real life, I think most people fall somewhere between the extremes of “I picked out my dream wedding venue when I was 4” and “I literally never even gave a passing thought to weddings”. Like, I definitely gave some thought to weddings before I got engaged, but not to any grand or detailed extent. It was more of a “I think I’ll want a strawberry wedding cake, because I like strawberry cake” kind of thing.

    • Sarah

      ….and speaking of birth all my mommy blogs I now read are all “I never wanted kids until I met my partner.” Cool girl moms edition.

      • Staria

        Yes, can we please retire ‘I never wanted kids and now I’m pregnant…*goofy shrug*’. Really stings when you desperately want to have children and haven’t yet for whatever reason. Just be grateful. I have to deal with this in my everyday life from a sister in law who vehemently and openly disparaged having kids ever since I knew her, then last year sheepishly rang to say she was pregnant and pointedly said it wasn’t an accident. Now everyone protects her feelings about having changed her mind, and no one seems to give a shit that I’ve wanted kids for ten years and am still waiting.

        • Danielle


    • JC

      Yes absolutely. I’m also pondering Rebecca Traistor’s All the Single Ladies, where she discusses how marriage was the mark of the beginning of adulthood for the overwhelming majority of women (until recently, hence the premise of the book). While I am delaying marriage for a while, and I’m experiencing adulthood independent of marriage, is it really that crazy/obsessive, what have you, for me to have spent time considering a really traditional rite of passage?

    • clarkesara

      Why? Some of us genuinely did not think/care about my wedding before getting engaged. Everyone has different experiences. I think if you feel pressured to say this about yourself when it’s not true, well, OK, then don’t say that about yourself. But it’s not fair that I should have to pretend I had it all figured out down to the flowers when actually, I really and truly did not see myself getting married until my FH came along.

      I definitely think it’s relevant for a post like this, where the whole idea is that the author was ambivalent about weddings when she got engaged. Without “I didn’t dream of any particular wedding and wanted to just elope”, this post is just EXPENSIVE WEDDINGS RULE YAY

      • Cathi

        It’s likely dependent upon where one grew up, but I know exactly one person in who “dreamed about her wedding”. Every other woman I know, be she someone I grew up with or someone I know now, is someone who “never dreamed about her wedding day”. Therefore in my experience it should actually be the people who DID dream and DID care and DID have opinions who should be prefacing their blogs and articles!

        I 100% get that it’s pushing back against a deeply ingrained social expectation and it was a sentiment that needed to be expressed by a lot of women for a while in order to gain any sort of legitimacy. But at least on the Internet-at-large (or at least here on APW or OffBeat Bride or other similar venues) I almost feel like we’re in a post-dream-wedding world. We know a lot of people didn’t spare any time thinking about a hypothetical wedding. It almost feels like it doesn’t need to be said anymore.

        Just my quick thoughts, at least.

        • clarkesara

          I hear that, but just about everywhere else I go on the wedding internet, that’s not really the sense I get. I get downvoted at r/weddingplanning pretty frequently just for saying that I didn’t have half my wedding planned before I got engaged. Even among my own friends, I was the big Forever Alone person, whereas all my girlfriends definitely had a lot of big thoughts about weddings. I’m engaged at the same time as two friends, and of the three of us, I’m definitely the “I seriously never thought about this before now” person out of the three of us, whereas they had absolutely done some planning beforehand.

          I’ve definitely felt super alienated during the process of planning this wedding, because the assumption is very obviously that I was supposed to have everything figured out years ago, and am supposed to be super into weddings, highly knowledgeable about event planning, etc.

          I don’t really like the idea that we should all edit our ways of thinking about ourselves because some women are bummed that some other women exist, or whatever. We all think, talk, plan, and dream in our own way, and that’s fine.

        • clarkesara

          I’m especially weirded out about this line of thought in the comments of this particular post. There’s a lot of pressure to spend a lot of money on a wedding. So, yes, it’s very natural to have the reaction of “wow this is a lot and I’m not sure I’m really into this.”

          • Sweetie

            My point was more on the sentiment of “I didn’t have a specific vision of my wedding” vs. “I’m not one of those girls who had a specific vision of her wedding.” It’s semantics, sure, but it’s basing a point of differentiation about oneself on a false assumption.

            If you google that phrase there are TONS AND TONS of blog posts that come up. It’s the phrase that drives me bonkers. I, too, did not dream of cakes and wedding dresses as a little girl, but I think neither did most of the women in my social circles/on APW.

            Totally understand that Lindsay didn’t know what she wanted from a wedding, and that it caused regret/problems for her. Just saying she isn’t an anomaly for not knowing what she wants.

      • Her Lindsayship

        I think there’s a sort of implication that “those girls” (who do plan their weddings from age five) are silly or frivolous, and that it’s important to distinguish oneself from that. Which is why people are referencing the Cool Girl trope – this usually represents an attitude of anti-femininity that automatically casts a pejorative light on the established female stereotype. But it’s also true that the stereotype is harmful, and I recognize that. I think the author really was just saying “I had no idea what I wanted,” but grouping up anyone who does into “those girls” creates an Other.

        Sorry for lecturing, I just really wanted to try to express what bothers me about this. Because I relate to the author too, and I think it’s a really important essay, I just disagree with that one choice she made in the writing.

        • idkmybffjill

          This is so perfectly articulated! Thank you!

        • Sweetie

          Yeah, I absolutely agree. I’m not taking the concept of this article to task; it’s a great story/perspective I liked hearing about. It’s just the specific phase that I’m so tired of seeing. It represents a trope I hate.

      • idkmybffjill

        I think the point is that it’s not actually that unique to not have thought much about it. Making the comment sort of implies like… “I wasn’t one of those girls, I was a cool girl.” And I think @disqus_nCnqG6nb80:disqus’s point was that many girls don’t think about their wedding before they are engaged. We are often presented with the idea that EVERY GIRL DREAMS ABOUT HER WEDDING, and so women feel the need to clarify that they aren’t one of those girls. But I think the point being made was that lots of girls don’t dream about their wedding until they’re getting married.

        • Sweetie

          Yeah, that’s exactly what I meant. It’s a phrase that I take issue with, not an idea. I didn’t give much thought about my future wedding growing up. Neither did the majority of women in my social circles. It seems like a disclaimer that writers shouldn’t need to give anymore.

    • There was someone in one of the comments sections recently that said she felt really out of place being one of those women that don’t dream of their wedding their whole life. So just because some of us are in circles where it’s cool to not wedding-dream your whole life, doesn’t mean all of us are.

      It’s still useful to see this perspective represented.

      • Spot

        Yeah, the narrative that a wedding (and even a marriage proposal) is some grand moment every single girl on earth fantasizes about in detail is still a given for a lot of people…because that is the lived experience of a lot of people. I don’t think it’s fair to jump on OP for committing the sin of trying to be a Cool Girl when she was simply expanding on her “I don’t fit with a typical bride narrative” train of thought.

        • Sweetie

          I don’t think appearing “Cool Girl” what the OP was attempting. Just that the phrase appears in wedding-related posts so much now, I think it needs to be retired.

    • Rebekah

      This comes off as really rude and dismissive to me. This woman has legit feelings about her wedding and is writing about the compromises she made and the residual feelings she has attached to the cost of it. Money is always a touchy subject, and that’s more of what she’s writing about. She isn’t here trying to gain our approval for being “Cool girl bride” or trying to show off how much she spent. She decided to reveal the final budget so that the readers could have context and relate more strongly to her struggle, if in fact they do.

      I feel like a lot of comments in the last few weeks have been more judgmental than APW used to be and it’s not contributing to the community we’re used to having here.

      If you happen to have dreamed about your wedding for years, good for you. We’re happy for you. If you haven’t, also good for you. We still wish you a happy wedding and marriage. But judging someone from the get-go because of how they have or haven’t spent their past thoughts is so unkind and not productive.

    • J.J.

      Well, even if the trope of the wedding-and-baby-obsessed woman is inaccurate, it’s a bit wrong-headed to ignore the fact that a long-term relationship culminating in marriage and motherhood are still the culturally accepted norms for women.

      If you (not you specifically – I’m speaking in generalities) want to find affirmation that it’s okay to plan for your future wedding long before you’re engaged (and it absolutely is), you don’t have to look very hard. The Knot, Wedding Bee, any number of wedding-planning centered Pinterest boards… Heck, even APW used to feature a ‘Pre-Engaged’ section.

      I understand your irritation with the notion that all women are obsessed with weddings. It irritates me too. But I respectfully disagree with your idea that the best way to change (or at least expand) the cultural narrative is to ignore it. We aren’t postgender yet. Asserting that women don’t need to be obsessed with weddings and babies is still a good and necessary thing at this point in history. Articles like this are affirming for women who have felt at odds with what their families and communities expect of them (or gasp! have made some compromises along the way that they feel conflicted about), and serve to normalize the idea that less ‘traditional’ expressions of femininity (or at least ambivalence towards them) are valid and okay.

  • emilyofnewmoon

    I think guilt can actually be a productive emotion. The attitude of “you did nothing to feel guilty for, just enjoy your memories!” is dismissive of OP’s experience, but also (dare I say) speaks to a larger trend of treating unpleasant emotions as unnecessary. Guilt won’t change what happened and certainly won’t make money appear in the OP’s account, but really thinking and processing why one feels guilty, and using that emotional information to make decisions going forward is very healthy. I think a lot of people push those feelings away because we’re not supposed to be down on ourselves. It’s more complicated than that. (This is also getting into larger “life philosophy” territory…)

    ETA: I think of guilt like (very) mild grief. Too much and there’s a danger of wallowing, but grief is necessary and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

  • Jenna

    I had an affordable wedding by industry standards, which basically means I had an expensive party. It cost less than $45,000 – I never did the full accounting but the party itself cost maybe $20,000 (perhaps $25,000 if you count the cost of us taking six unpaid weeks off to get married and go on a long honeymoon, and the cost of international tickets, but not counting the cost of the honeymoon).

    It was the last time I saw two of my older cousins, both died within a year (one we knew was terminal, the other we didn’t) and almost certainly the last time my grandparents on both sides were in the same place. It was also the last family gathering we had before a whole line of deaths and funeral gatherings hit our family, including my mother (in fact it was the last family gathering before she was diagnosed with cancer, so really the last carefree moment we ever had as a family). It was the only time I’ve met my husband’s extended family as we live abroad and they live in parts of the US we never visit.

    People have spent more for memories like that. So. No regrets. We avoided the wedding tax and paid what it cost to throw a party for 100 in the Hudson Valley. That’s all.

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  • Heather

    This whole post sounds like a hand wringing manifesto to excuse the privilege OP has about the situation. I call BS on a lot of it. First of all if you break it down, they spent $450 per person. If that was too much then there was compromises to be made regardless if it was the OH’s dream wedding. Find a less expensive venue, find more reasonable vendors, DIY. Compromise is a huge part of marriage (or so I’m about to legal find out in November). So to read this article as “poor me, I can’t believe we spent that much” on a wedding which I didn’t want in the first place. I took this bit of a slap in the face as someone who wanted a wedding but planned it within her means.

    My fiance and I prioritized 3 things and fit our budget around that 1. People we invite, 2. Photography, 3. Honeymoon. My family is rapidly dwindling and the only time we see each other are at the all to frequent funerals. My fiance’s family has a similar fate, therefore we wanted a celebration of family that only a wedding can provide. As stated above, futures and time are not always guaranteed and getting pictures with our family became our second priority. Third, he and I have scrimped and saved and haven’t had a vacation in ages and we wanted to make sure we took some time for our selves. After that, I have worked and scoured and came in under budget on just about everything else.

    So when our guest list started to get close to 300 we realized that a venue that seemed reasonable at $70 per person for food and drink was out of our budget and we adjusted our plans and got creative. Our new venue costs us $15 for food and we supply the drinks — Now well within our budget.

    I am happy with the amount that I have spent on my wedding. With a guest list of 320 people, I have stayed within and below my 25K budget. It can be done if you want it to be done, and come November I will walk down the ailse with everything paid for that day in advance and not on credit.

    So I do not have pity for OP. They had the luxury and support to pay for their day. Get over it and move on and use this as a lesson. The next time the price tag seems outrageous, use your words and find compromise that satisfies both parties.

    • Ashlah

      This is not a very kind response. She came to a compromise that she thought she was comfortable with at the time. It turns out she still has some guilt. Maybe she would have done it differently if she had a do-over, but she doesn’t. She’s processing her feelings. That doesn’t make her a bad person, and neither does her privilege. I’m not sure what you sticking with your budget has to do with it, as they also stuck with their budget. Anyone could have written this piece about any size budget. Yes, she’s privileged and had a luxurious wedding. That’s exactly what she feels guilty about, so rubbing her face in it and saying you don’t pity her isn’t super constructive.

    • Lexipedia

      If I wanted to have a wedding anywhere near any of my most important family members, $15/person is a pipe dream. Even $50/person would be hard to swing. The OP isn’t asking us to pity her, but she’s sharing some feelings that seem common among other APW readers and they are helping her process it. Yes, she has the privilege of being able to spend that money on her wedding, you have the privilege of living somewhere where it is possible and having guests who are able to attend your $15/person wedding. Instead of chastising her and praising yourself for winning some imaginary “budget race” don’t comment. She isn’t asking for pity, but you are sure as hell asking for congrats.

  • anon

    The money could have grown, or the stock market could have crashed and destroyed all of your hard work and you end up on a Michael Moore documentary. :P This is equally as optimistic and not entirely true, but I find telling myself ‘you can always make more money but you can’t buy time’ helps.

  • egerth

    I think throwing a wedding for extended family and friends is an investment in your future — not just a party. Few rituals in our society bring people together in one physical place like a wedding. So I think of the wedding as partly about investing in my social capital instead of my financial capital for change. And relationships are important parts of my future, too. I had a 150-person wedding that was an opportunity to celebrate and strengthen relationships with the people in our life (and our parents’ lives) who bake casseroles when we’re sick, provide love and support over the phone when we’re sad or grieving a loss, and help us find a new job or path in life when we’re struggling. (They also give us lots of joy and love when we’re happy, too). Sure, we could have saved the funds to buy takeout and therapists and career advice, but my life is richer for relying on people and a community, not just a checkbook. So I still think I come out ahead in the cost-benefit analysis on this one.

    (And this isn’t to mention the fortuitous business and personal relationships the wedding inspired or reinforced among the guests…. those are valuable too!).

  • So sad

  • Jennifer Morrow

    There were so many stupid little things that we “needed” for our wedding that jacked the price. I would spend half the amount, if I were to do it all over again.

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