The Wedding Planner – How Much Should a Wedding Cost?

Weddings are a big business. I’ve been to weddings of all sizes and costs — some small and in local parks — others large in luxury city banquet halls. Looking back on the weddings, besides respective heat from being in a park outdoors with no shade, the actual cost of the event does not influence my own review of the event. What I personally remember most is the love the partners shared for each other, the kind words the family said, and how much fun was had by all.

So why is my own wedding budget suddenly increasing from $30,000 to $50,000? Even $30,000 sounds absolutely ridiculous. I have two very conflicting POVs in my mind at the moment and it’s a challenge to find a balance that makes sense.

My parents WANT to pay up to $50,000 for a wedding, but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous in my mind. Regardless of how much they pay (and especially if they pay $50k) then it becomes THEIR wedding and not my wedding. At least they’re fairly flexible on some things, but my mother is starting to bring up all the horrific things her mother did at her wedding and, unfortunately, my mother is not the type to think “this means I should not do them to my own daughter” and instead sees this as an opportunity to do the same (*at least she claims she will not force herself onto our honeymoon, which her own mother did.)

This week I visited over 10 venues in the tri-state area, going so far as Albany, NY and the Poconos, PA to get an idea of cost at a variety of locations which seemed to meet my dream wedding requirements. It was a fun road trip and definitely brought my s/o and I closer together – even though we’ve been dating over 8 years, I think going to wedding venue visits really makes this seem more “real.” I noticed a change in s/o, even though we’re not officially engaged yet. Regardless – when I got home I put together a handy-dandy google spreadsheet to determine actual costs of the venue alone. While one place seemed a tiny bit more affordable, they all are in the $20k – $30k range for just the venue and food/drink. This is for 125 guests (some have higher minimums even if you don’t have the guest count.)

While there are ways to cut costs (lower priced packages, Fri/Sunday weddings, wedding during a likely blizzard) it doesn’t get the price down that much all things considered. And given our guests are flying in from all over a Saturday night wedding would be the most convenient. The LAST thing I want to do is spend a fortune on a wedding and then no one even shows up due to weather or timing. Ultimately, I’m torn between the voices in my head.

Frugal Sally Says…

What on earth are you thinking about spending $50k? I don’t care WHOSE money that is, that is a lot of money. You can’t even afford a down payment on a house in the Bay Area and you are thinking of wasting away $50,000 on five-and-a-half hours? There is so much else you can do with $50,000 (or $10,000 for that matter.) Go on a romantic trip around the world. Bring your closest friends. Save it for your house. Spend it on a year of grad school. Anything but waste it frivolously on a 5-6 hour affair that will be over with in a blink of an eye. You aren’t the person you once were (the one that threw a massive and awesome Bat Mitzvah party complete with custom t-shirts (back then they were more expensive) and a band/DJ. The person who was constantly told that we were not the upper class, that we could spend but not “that much” on such affairs even though we spent more than we needed to. But she’s the old you. The one who only found happiness in throwing money at “the show” versus how you feel. That’s your family style, but that isn’t you anymore, and that certainly doesn’t represent your relationship to a very low-key, homebody man. You two should just elope.

Spendy Jane Says…

What is the point of making money if you don’t spend it on the big life events that matter, that you’ll remember forever? You don’t want a cheapo wedding hall that doesn’t represent the love you have for each other. A park would be lovely but your guest might be too hot or too cold and you have a lot of elderly attendees to think about. Since the wedding will be on the east coast so these people can attend, it could downpour the whole time. An indoor space is best. But most indoor spaces are hideous around here, and they aren’t exactly cheap either (sure you can have a $35k wedding instead of a $50k wedding but costs add up fast and in order to spend under $35,000 one must cut a lot of corners. And that STILL is an ungodly amount of money to spend on one night.) When it comes down to it, your parents have saved up a sizable sum for their daughter’s weddings so why not spend it? They refuse to give it to you if you have a smaller wedding, this is money they saved for a giant party with our family. I love weddings. I love design and I’m addicted to Pinterest. I have so many ideas and my wedding will be incredible. Even though at this point in my life I feel a bit too old for a big bash (in my 20s I wanted a princess wedding. I’m over that. Unfortunately understated elegance seems to cost more than princess castles, go figure.) Just spend the money, it’s one night that is really significant and you’ll have pictures and moments to remember it by. You only have one chance for this (well, assuming you don’t ever get divorced, and you don’t plan to) so you should go big or go home. Make the night reflective of your love – beautiful, simple, elegant, a little rustic/outdoorsy, modern, clean, sparkling. Entertain your friends and family. Your parents want to pay for this, so why not take them up on their offer?

Sane Jess Says…

There HAS to be a middle ground here. $50,000 on one night is ridiculous, I don’t care how much money you have. Friends have spent $10,000 or less on nice affairs in parks. Your parents would flip out if you had a wedding in a park, but this isn’t their event. If you have the wedding on the west coast weather is much more likely to work with an outdoor space. Your mother said “no tents allowed” but maybe you just don’t give her a choice. Maybe YOU even volunteer to pay for this shindig yourself like an actual adult. You may already be in too deep (all this wedding talk with your parents has gotten them excited) but no matter what if you have your ideal wedding at $50k or $10k they are not going to be happy with your vision. If you had to pay for this yourself there is no way in lovebird hell you’d pay $50k. In the future when you have children, you don’t want them to think money, even nuptial money, grows on trees. You need to set an example now. Maybe a $20k budget? It won’t be the wedding you’ve dreamt of or anywhere near it, but it can still be nice event. $30k at the high end is really ridiculous but still within reason for what the average American bride spends. Even though $30k is a lot $50k is still almost double that amount. It’s easy to forget what money means at that amount. Set a budget that seems reasonable and stick to it. There will be lots of added costs, so find a venue that isn’t going to cost an arm and a leg. DIY will be a headache planning a wedding across the coast, so spend where you need to.

Or just elope and reason with your dad for $50k for a downpayment.

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One comment

  1. Jon Atkins says:

    We spent $7000 on wedding for 150 people in Gilbert, AZ in 2011 = Venue, catering, alcohol, decorations, etc. Rings = $2500. Honeymoon to Jamaica = $4000. Then bought a house.
    It’s possible to have an awesome wedding with less, but honestly you should do whatever you think is right, you’re getting married, not your parents. Spend as much or as little as you want, all points are valid. The hard part of marriage is after the wedding!

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