My Big Fat American Wedding

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve given up at any semblance of frugality when it comes to planning my wedding.

This goes against everything I’ve learned and preached as a quasi-finance blogger, but it is also aligned to creating an event that meets my family’s expectations of quality while also creating something that feels like a reflection of myself and future “Mr. HECC.” Weddings are crazy expensive, especially if you have expensive taste, and I’ve passed this period of trying to save dollars here and there to just giving up at being the picture of smart finance moves when it comes to this once-a-life event.

My engagement ring cost $500 from Etsy, yet my wedding, all said and done, will be about $60k. That’s insane. I know. I started by having a Sunday night wedding to save costs. I’m having 135 guests, not hundreds upon hundreds. And still, I’m signing contracts left and right which increase the cost. It’s ridiculous to be spending this amount one day, but it’s happening, and as much as many of you out there will roll your eyes at me in disgust, I’m laying off the guilt and trying to build up my own excitement.

In case you’re wondering — How the F*!k can a wedding add up to $65k, here is how…

Ceremony Venue $1,418
Reception Venue $24,255
Vendor Meals $1,040
Ceremony Music $500
Reception Band $5,500
Flowers $3,000
Dress $6,000
Alterations $500
Bridesmaid Gifts $1,700
Rings $3,000
Accessories $1,000
Makeup/Hair $600
Stationary $1,000
Photo $7,000
Video $5,000
Coordinator $1,700
Tips, etc $1,604
TOTAL $64,816

So – clearly weddings do not need to cost this much. There are plenty of splurges in here. My parents are footing the bill for up to $45k of it so my personal spend will be about $20k (which, btw, is more than I’ve ever spent on a car.) This doesn’t include cost of a honeymoon, which may be put on hold for another year so I can ensure that I can still save money this year. Or we may just spend the money this year because we want to have a honeymoon before trying to have our first kid, and we want to have our first kid soon.

To justify this crazy amount of spending (to myself), I repeat the following to myself:

  • While the event is one day, it’s really a full weekend of activities for our friends and family
  • My parents want to spend this money and my dad is terminally ill and this is in many ways his party too, bringing his family together from across the country which last time happened for a funeral, so this is a much more joyous occasion to get together. There will be few opportunities for the family to be together again in my lifetime, at least the family as it stands today.
  • I’m currently taking home a little under $10k per month after tax. As long as I can keep my job (knock on wood) I should earn $120k after tax over the year. My rent is $16.2k for the year plus bills and such, leaving about $100k after tax. I don’t exactly spend a lot on other things in life. That will change once I have kids, but all things considered I’ve saved up about $350k in 10 years. I won’t hit my goal of $500k in savings before I have my first kid, but if the stock market improves I can still get pretty close, even if I spend $20k in the next year on my wedding, or even $30k. I’m super fortunate to be in this position, and I have to kick ass at my job in order to make the numbers work, but it will be ok.
  • Yes, a better, more moral person would just donate money to charity vs spending on a wedding – but the people who earn money from weddings do this for a living too, and they need to put food on the table. For the vendors (band, photographers, videographer, florist) these are people who run their own businesses and supporting them is a good thing, despite how much it adds up.
  • I’m saving money on some areas due to good planning (i.e. hotel I found offers a free shuttle for all guests staying at the hotel, which is a major bonus since the hotel is 35 minutes from the venue.)
  • The reason I don’t buy new cars or live in a fancy city apartment or even a fancier suburb apartment is so I can splurge on moments like this in my life.

All that justification doesn’t avoid this nauseous feeling I get when I look at the overall number, but here’s a final one that is making me feel better about spending this amount on the wedding…

  • IVF (in-vitro fertilization) costs can be up to $60k to actually get pregnant (and there is no guarantee.) This wedding is kicking my ass into shape, fighting my PCOS, and ultimately making me more fertile so HOPEFULLY I can conceive on my own. Another wedding cost is my $600 a month personal trainer who kicks my ass for 3 days a week. So that’s another $3600 spent. BUT, looking at the total cost – if my wedding helps me get healthy enough to conceive naturally, that pretty much covers the cost, and is much better for me because I’ll be healthier and better able to carry and take care of my future child. This is all hypothetical (maybe I wouldn’t actually need IVF anyway or maybe cheaper treatments would work, etc.) Still, my health is priceless, and there’s nothing like wearing a beautiful $6000 strapless designer gown to kick a girl’s ass into shape.

Ultimately, though, I’m just excited to get married to my man. We’ve known each other for 10 years now, having dated for most of them, and while we feel pretty darn married right now, it’s time to make it official. I know I’m going to cry a giant river on my wedding day (tears of joy, people, tears of joy) and it will be a day to remember for the rest of our lives. I’d say I can’t wait, but that would be a lie, because there is so much to do before then — but I’m really excited about getting everyone I love together and to celebrate with so many people who have been part of our lives for all these years. So what if it costs $166 per minute. (!) (yikes.)


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