No need for congratulations folks, I’m NOT engaged. Nothing to see here. Move along…
But, I think it’s fair that after seven+ years of dating (and a commitment-longing boyfriend who nearly dumped me in year one because of my admittance that I had no interest in marriage), I’m starting to think about “the big day” to seal the deal.
We’ve both agreed that 2015 is the right year to get married, and I’ve told him I need, ideally, a year and a half after the proposal to plan our wedding (mostly just for 18 months to commit to a hardcore diet and exercise routine because dear lord there is no way I’m walking down the aisle with jiggly tricep wings.) Why an old fashioned proposal? He is adamant that he is the one to propose, and he wants to surprise me, though that’s a bit of a challenge now that we’ve been dating seven years and have practically agreed on our specific 2015 wedding date.
Due to our families being on both coasts, it’s going to be a big production to ensure those most important to us can attend. He has a smaller family, and they’re mostly younger and in better shape compared to some folks on my end, so we’ve agreed that it makes more sense to have the wedding on the east coast (despite my long-term desire to get married at a beautiful northern California venue.) A lot of people have recommended having two separate parties, one on each coast, but that just won’t do. To me, what’s most important about a wedding is bringing the two families together. If we can’t accomplish that, then I’d be just as content with celebrating a quick elopement at city hall and calling it a day.
Or maybe I should be content with that plan anyway. While at 20 I dreamed of designing the perfect wedding and walking down the aisle in a princess dress, at 30, and much more financially savvy, the whole industry just reeks of rip off. Yes, there is definitely ways to have weddings on the lower end of the price spectrum, and lovely ones at that, but it becomes more challenging in a region with unstable weather patterns at any time of year (i.e. a good tent rental or indoor venue is required.) But beyond that, I know myself, and if I’m going to have a wedding, I’m likely going to give into that 20 year old voice in my head – though the dress will likely be more queen than princess in my ripe old age of 30-something.
Step One: How Much Do Venues Cost?
As the first step in the process, I’ve begun making a list of venues that photographically speak to me across the web, and have sent out simple inquiry letters to get a better understanding of pricing and options. When you start talking in the tens of thousands of dollars about anything it’s easy to loose touch of the difference between $30,000 and $50,000, because they’re both a whole lot of money. My father has apparently put away $50,000 for wedding me off, which seems absolutely ridiculous, except not, when I found out how much it costs for any of these professional spaces.
At the high end, a venue I adore in Pennsylvania is $175 per person, with a $5 per person add on for a ceremony. That wouldn’t be so bad with, say, 50 people, but this venue (and most venues in our area) has a minimum people requirement, especially on Saturday nights. Their minimum person count is 175, making it cost $31,500 for just venue and the meal. Perhaps that’s in my budget if I wear a dress from TJ Maxx and ask my friends to put together a band for the entertainment.
So I started with that and worked backwards. I don’t want to spend $50,000 on a wedding, and the rational part of me is saying “idiot take the $50,000 for a partial down payment on a house or invest it for the future or use a chunk of it to travel the world in style and put the rest away for safe keeping, don’t spend it all on one stupid day.” The wedding industry wants you to think that’s normal.
But Can’t I Just Have a $10,000 Wedding?
I recently found myself transfixed by a Four Weddings marathon where four brides compete with one another to win the votes of the other girls for best wedding. What’s most interesting about the show is how they actually display how much each wedding’s budget was — and it seems, more often than not, the weddings with the bigger budgets win (the prize of a lovely honeymoon, which clearly those with the smaller budgets more needed to win.) I read an interesting post somewhere (I can’t find it at the moment) which went back and analyzed the entire series of Four Weddings to determine if the most expensive weddings won more often, and the blog author also analyzed not just total budget but the cost per wedding, finding that weddings that were at least in the mid range or higher fared better overall.
But, other then these bridezillas trying to win a prize for having the best wedding ever, who really cares what other people think? Isn’t a wedding supposed to be about the two people committing their heart and souls to each other for all eternity, yada yada? I really want the wedding to bleed “us” without the blood, and symbolize our love for each other. I don’t want some sort of terrible hall for a standard reception complete with ugly 1980s carpeting and curtains. Beyond this, I’m aesthetically picky. Blame Pinterest, but my addiction to more vintage, DIY-looking, romantic weddings has been pinned and piqued. And there’s no turning back now.
Theoretically, this DIY look can be achieved for less than the typical, traditional wedding. After all, it was clearly inspired by brides seeking to have a classy wedding without the “downpayment” price tag. My mother, judgmental as always, disagrees with just about everything I want for my own wedding (yes this has been discussed as, if my parents pay for it, she feels – rightly so – that they get a say.)
I could opt to pay for the entire thing myself (I’m a working women) and I’m torn on this because it feels just wrong taking any money, especially of that size and sum, at this point in my life. And, if my father is throwing $50k at me to celebrate a wedding — and if it’s a party for them as much it is for me (and given that he has terminal cancer and has dreamed of the day he’d see one of his children wed) I kind of feel ok with it, albeit not quite the total cost. My boyfriend would be happy with a small, intimate wedding in a park any day, so this big hoohah would largely be for my parents. In that case, they can pay. I doubt I’m ultimately going to be able to enjoy the day much anyway, knowing the stress level of such events in my family.
Thus, I’m at the beginning of a long and impractical journey to figure out what my budget should be and how to stay within that budget, make my parents happy while also making sure the day – no matter if we spend $8k or $80k – is about the union of two silly kids who will never grow up and will always remain hopelessly in love for each other, in spite of our parent’s own turmoiled (mine) or nonexistent (his) relationships. Let the journey begin!