Today is our 43rd wedding anniversary. I think part of the reason we've lasted so long is because we have similar core values. One of the values we share is that we're not reckless with money. I'm sure it has a lot to do with the fact that we didn't have a lot of it--especially in the early years.
We're adaptable. We made do with what we had and learned early on that going into debt was the devil's bone yard.
Like all young people, we desperately wanted a honeymoon. The best we could afford was Canada. It was fun, but in order to afford it we cut the cost of the wedding to the bone.
We got married at City Hall and announced to our families that there wouldn't be a reception. We just wanted a meal with them before we hit the road for Canada. Yes. We drove.
To our shock, my parents surprised us with a homemade reception, complete with a beautiful cake from our local bakery, and a dinner my father prepared from scratch. The menu included filet mignon, an exquisite Caesar's salad (which still makes me salivate), and more champagne than I've ever seen in my life. The only guests were our combined immediate families.
My "wedding" dress cost all of $10. I got it on clearance at a local department store. It wasn't a wedding gown, just a nice dress I thought was fitting for my big day.
Our honeymoon was the price of gas, food, and a few nights stay at a motel.
In all, I doubt we spent more than $300 for my dress and our honeymoon. My parents probably spent near that on the food and wine. These were 1975 dollars.
According to Business Insider, the price of an average wedding today is $33,391, but it varies by where you live. This does NOT count the cost of the honeymoon.
If I were to venture a guess, I imagine most people spend it on the venue, the meal, the flowers, the cake, photographer, and the gown. And for what? One day. One day that means something to only you and your new spouse.
I think that's what people need to keep in mind when they plan a wedding. By all means celebrate, but don't go into debt for a party.
I can honestly tell you the spread my parents threw for us was way nicer than if we had hosted a costly (fancy) reception full of drunk people and nasty looking food. There's just no comparison.
To date, I've never been to a catered affair where the food was better than what my parents gave us. You simply can't compare a home cooked gourmet meal to cold chicken and dry steak.
I was so proud of my niece when she too bucked tradition and opted not only to pay for their own reception, but had it at a small, local restaurant, inviting only the most important people in their lives.
Maybe I'm wrong but I think people are pressured into having these expensive parties. The moment you say wedding, people assume you're going to go all out. The question is, why? Sometimes it's as simple as saying no to tradition.
In the end, a wedding is just a stepping stone. I'd rather spend my money for an entire path and not just the first step.
Break away from what's expected and spend your money where it counts.
- The wedding gown: You'll only wear it once, honey. Pick out a nice, everyday dress, or better yet, use what you have in your closet or borrow one.
- Flowers: Oy! I know they're beautiful, but they last for such a short time. You can exchange floral arrangements for candles, bare branches, fruit, or potted plants.
- The venue: These cost big bucks because there's an entire industry behind it. Hold your wedding and reception at home, or outdoors like the beach, forest, or in the country. Make sure you get the appropriate approval or license to hold it in an outdoor public place. PS An outdoor location also decorates itself so you won't need those flowers anyway.
- Food: This is a toughie because catered food is just gross. If you had a lot of people coming, you might have to settle for catering, but see below on the guest list. Cut the guest list to the bone, then either have someone cook the meal at home or go to a proper restaurant inviting only the people who mean the most to you.
- The guest list: I was told that the biggest reason behind inviting a lot of people was to get a lot of presents. That's a very sad commentary in itself. A party is for celebration. If you're inviting people for the gifts that just makes you mercenary. Invite the people you love and buy your own stuff. Trust me, you'll like yourself better afterward.
- The photographer: Because this is an important moment I would splurge on the photographer. Be sure to look at their portfolios so you know what you're getting.
If you're married, how was your wedding? Where did you go on your honeymoon? Looking back, would you have done anything differently?