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What I Learned About Money While Planning My Wedding

I wrote this post for Dana to run on Broke-Ass Bride a few months back. Then I sort of modified it for the new Offbeat Bride book. But I’ve never run it on APW, and I think it deserves to be here. It’s one of the most packed-with-useful-to-me stuff posts I wrote after our wedding. Because learning about my and our relationship to money, ohhhhh boy. That’s applicable to marriage. So, long overdue, what learned about money when planning our wedding.

First of all, I have to say that one of the reasons that I started my blog is because I felt like the only bride in the world with a sensible approach to money when I read wedding media. It sucked. While my partner and I are no longer broke (though, *boy* have we been) we still are fairly cautious with our money. Add to that the fact that we’re a one bread-winner household at the moment (my husband is in law school) and, well, we don’t have a money tree in the backyard. So we figured we’d throw together a nice wedding on a oh-dear-god-it-feels-expensive-to-us-but-I-guess-we-can-do-this kind of budget. Ha. Well, about two seconds into wedding planning I started to feel like the poorest and saddest bride on the planet.

I finally hit the wall when I read about a ‘budget’ wedding on one of those big-shiny-wedding-blogs. It read something like this: “Well, since we were doing a wedding on a budget, we obviously had to be very selective in our choices, and limit what we spent money on. That’s why we decided to really limit things when it came to our music choices. In the end, we decided to only hire a string quartet, a gospel choir, and a rock band, to keep things simple and affordable.”

After I finished slamming my head against the table, I think I sent my then-fiance a link to this wedding with an email along these lines, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS? If this couple HADN’T been on a budget were they planning on also hiring a 100 PERSON OPERA CHORUS? WHAT THE MOTHER F*CKING F*CK? I. Hate. Wedding. Planning.”

Right. So I started my blog. Turns out I wasn’t so alone after all.

What I mean to say is this: when you do not have unlimited resources and you are planning a wedding, sometimes every moment feels like a painful negotiation. You can’t afford the things that it seems like everyone else has, shopping for a wedding dress can feel like h*ll, and finding a venue can become you’re worst nightmare. If you’re at all like me, planning a wedding can feel like you are thinking about money all the time, and learning to hate it.

So here are my very best wedding graduate tips about money and weddings. Here is what I learned, and what I wished I known at the beginning:

  • Weddings are not about money. They feel like they are about money when you’re planning, for effing sure, but in the end, money is not going to matter. At all. Weddings are are about love, plain and simple. On your wedding day you could be getting married in your backyard with not a single pretty detail to be found, and you wouldn’t care. The hugeness of getting married, and making this huge commitment in front of family and friends will surpass every single thing around it, and what you spent will disappear.
  • As one of my wedding graduates said, “You don’t have to spend money in ways that does not feel right to you, or that makes you feel financially uncomfortable.” There were many times that I started feeling backed into a corner “But that is just what getting my hair done is going to cost, no matter how crazy it seems!” And I thought back to this advice and just said, “Nope. Not going to do it.” Every time, that ended up being one of the best decisions we made.
  • Forget DIY. The wedding blog world can make you feel like you have to be a crafty, crafty goddess if you want to save money, and that’s enough to drive anyone over the edge. Start thinking about DIT – doing-it-together. Each time we asked a loved one to contribute to our day – from the girlfriend that did my hair to the girlfriend that managed the weekend – it added a depth of joy to our celebration that no money could have bought. On top of that, it gave each friend a way to show their love and feel like they really contributed to this monumentally important moment of our lives, and that turned out to be a gift in and of itself.
  • Once you make a financial decision that feels right to you – stick to your guns. Wedding planning can be a constant pattern of second guessing – “Well, so and so self-catered, maybe we should do that?” This. Will. Drive. You. Mad. If your choice was right for you, that’s it. You’re done, and you’re fine.
  • Your budget is your business. Make sure you’re spending an amount of money that feels good to you. Then ignore what other people think. Big-wedding-media can consume you with guilt about not spending enough. Indie-web-media can consume you with guilt that you are spending too much. You know what? If you feel good about it, what you are spending is just right.
  • Spend your money on things you care about. We didn’t have lots of ‘must haves.’ We didn’t have a DJ, a florist, favors, or matching bridesmaids dresses. And we didn’t miss them. But you know what we did have? Amazing gourmet food, that we splurged on. We’re foodies, we cared about food. The food at our wedding was staggeringly good, and to us, it was worth every penny.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no. If you don’t care? Don’t buy it. If someone is making you sign a contract that doesn’t feel right? Don’t sign it. If it doesn’t feel right? Put away your wallet. If you do this, things will somehow fall into place. I could not find a single wedding dress that felt right, even if I was willing to spend $1,000. In the end, I said no to all the options that felt awful, and I found the worlds best dress for me, buried in the corner of a vintage shop, for $250, just a few months before the wedding.
  • Sometimes it is worth it to pay full price. As a bride on a limited budget, people will tell you to bargain, to barter, to do anything to pay less. Sometimes this is the right thing to do, and it will all work out. But there are other times when you don’t want to think about something anymore, and you’re willing to throw money at the problem to make it go away. Do it. Sometimes bartering will make your relationship with a vendor so complicated that you’re uncomfortable. Pay full price. It may be worth it.
  • Try not to become obsessed with your target budget. Pay what feels right to you, and what you feel like you can afford. If you end up a little under or a little over budget? Its fine. Because guess what? You don’t have to report your budget to anyone. So be kind to yourself, and remember that you did your best.
  • And finally: Remember, one day the spending will all be behind you. The best part about spending money on your wedding? It happens once, and then you NEVER HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN. The last months before our wedding, I felt like I was taking out my checkbook every two seconds, and I hated it. But on the morning after the wedding I realized it was done, it was over, and I never had to spend that money every again. And that, my friends, felt like freedom.

From one practical bride to another – I wish you thoughtful careful spending, and the nerve to say no. But more than anything, my wish for you is that you learn as much about your relationship to money as I did plann
ing my wedding. Because that was priceless.

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