The Cost of Our Weddings

muriel doesn’t scrimp

Wedding season is upon us, this guy went and upped the game for wedding spending, and I still have no idea how much a wedding should cost, if there is such a thing. Let’s chat, internet. How much did you spend on your wedding?

Anonymous, Montana, 2012: $12,567

We planned a lot of our wedding budget around a spreadsheet my sister and her husband had saved from theirs, which turned out to be extremely useful. They had done a lot of work themselves and had a fantastic party, so it motivated us to keep costs low wherever we could. This total cost includes the rehearsal dinner, the wedding itself, all the mailings involved and my dress and shoes. I’m sure there were small costs that we forgot to record along the way, but we kept pretty good track. We tried to keep thinking of the whole weekend as throwing a big party for all the people we love and appreciate, which helped us make decisions around which expenses really felt important to us. Another major bonus was that we were lucky to have a lot of community support, with people offering their houses to host our friends who had traveled, and baking homemade cakes for the reception. We’ll always be grateful for the generosity of everyone involved — those who traveled, those who sang or played or spoke during the ceremony, those who helped us plan, etc, etc, etc. Sooooo much generosity. So, the total $ amount + a dozen or so truckloads of generosity.

Celia Catalino, California, 2009: $30,000

We were incredibly lucky to get help from my parents when we were planning our wedding, which set our budget at 30K. Yes, I’m fully aware of how un-hipster it was to not cover all the costs ourselves (and then wax poetic about it), but if you told me you wouldn’t take the help when you have a minimum of 40–50 Mexican family members to invite, you’d be lying.

In the end, we spent a grand total of 30K. Maybe around $150-$200 under. What can I say? I get off on sticking to budgets; I’m so vanilla that way. That’s not to say it was easy, though. In the age of wedding blogs, where it seems as if everyone’s wedding is crazy perfect, down to those cute, paper, stripe-y straws, well, it just gets hard not to get caught up in that shit. It’s INSANE how fast everything adds up. It took a hefty amount of strategizing, but we figured out a number of ways to cut corners, have the massive rager of our dreams, AND still manage to include the cute, paper, stripe-y straws.

Would we do it again, and pay the same amount? Absolutely. It’s highly likely you’ll only get once chance in your life to witness your FIL bust a move, way past his bedtime, to Lady Gaga. Totally worth it.

Anonymous, California, 2006: $25,000

We did as much as we could ourselves to try to keep costs down. I mean, at the beginning we were naive and thought we could do it for $10k, but if I remember correctly that was what the catering for 120 people cost alone, so we quickly readjusted. I also spent too much money on a dress.

We were pretty good at budgeting it out, other than that. There were no “surprises” or hidden costs or things I absolutely needed to have once the initial budget had been set. I don’t think I would ever do it again or ADVISE any one to do it, it just seems like an ungodly amount of money to me right now (especially when you consider that the divorce probably cost almost as much… ugh). I’d rather have $25–50k to put a down payment on a house/apartment or start my own business.

Lila Tenenbown, Texas, 2011: $18,000

I loved planning our wedding. I spent ~18K and still have a little left on my credit card five years later. I’m the worst with money and as a result — I have zero regrets about over spending. I was hungover as $%^& at our wedding. Why would I not stay up and drink a bottle of wine with my best friends the night before?

My wedding was pretty DIY, I hand wrote the invitations, sewed our backdrop, bought all the cheese & champagne for our cocktail hour — and then spent money on stuff that really mattered to me. I bought two expensive dresses, hired a day of coordinator and spent a bit more to host the reception dinner at a fancy restaurant. Deciding to host at a restaurant we loved was the best decision I’ve ever made. The food is 10X better than catering and you don’t have to lift a finger. It’s so worth the extra money to avoid drunkenly hauling trash in your wedding dress.

Laramie Dennis, British Columbia, 2008: $12,000-$14,000

Our plan was to spend $10K. In 2008 everybody wanted a wedding for $10K (or was that just the blogs I was reading?). I think we spent more like $12 or $14, but I never ran the final numbers. I’d kept a meticulous spreadsheet right up until the last week, which was a whirlwind of “Can you go find pitchers for the Palapas?” “Oh shit we need fabric to cover the hay bales!” “How much is a pack of Polaroid film? We’ll take ten!!!” The parents all started kicking in for this or that. I wasn’t about to chase them for receipts… And once we were officially hitched, like, why? WHO CARES?

Anonymous, New York, 2014: $50,000

Initially we thought $30,000 was a reasonable amount to spend on a wedding. When we started planning, it was quickly very clear that that budget would not be a thing in New York City. I briefly flirted with the idea of eloping, but my husband, my parents and his mom were not down with my sense of whimsy — they wanted a PARTY, not a trip to a courthouse. That meant a killer venue that would let me get creative (very expensive, blergh), a delicious caterer (I hate catered food generally, so I made sure to choose this one and spend a lot of money there) and good music. We spent the bulk of the budget there. My wedding dress ended up being a reasonable purchase, with tailoring, it cost well under the budget that Say Yes to the Dress would have you consider. We took a chance on our photographer (to clarify: he IS amazing, but had only shot one wedding prior to ours) so that helped cut costs. Because we wanted to stick to NYC, we did spend a lot more than we originally bargained for. My parents were more that happy to splurge on me and the final amount ended up somewhere in the vicinity of $50,000. In the end this was a celebration of our families, so it felt less like a fancy 50k party for me and more of a party for my family and friends.

Anonymous, Maine, 2012: $30,000

Our goal was to spend no more than $20,000. We ended up spending a little more than $30,000. We thought we would save money by putting the event together in my small hometown in Maine, but deciding to have it at a friend’s off-the grid property on a mountainside raised costs, especially having to bring in potable water and a generator (the batteries on the solar panels weren’t large enough to generate the electricity needed for 140 guests). Also, my small town is so small that we had to rent a tent and supplies from a few hours south, which added costs. It was a magical and completely unique celebration, but the accumulated costs certainly surprised us.

Lauren Oster, England, 2006: $17,500

We blew our wedding budget (for a 50-person destination wedding in Oxford, England; my husband and I met when we were studying abroad there and decided to go back to get hitched, because weddings in New York can suck it) by about $5K, as I recall. I wish I could say we blew that money on last-minute tattoos and firework-tipped hair extensions, but the truth is we were victims of the exchange rate: The British pound rang in at about $1.70 in U.S. dollars when we started planning in late 2005 and were making our first deposits, and it was above $1.90 USD when we made our final payments in the summer of 2006. The tide turned a bit at the end of the wedding when the manager at our reception venue informed us that she’d wildly overestimated what our open bar would cost and would be cutting us a check. Hooray for comparatively Puritanical wedding guests! We told her to subtract the cost of a few bottles of champagne from said check and jumped in a black cab. We were young and calculated things on the back of napkins, mostly. My fanciest “planner” was my master guest list, Sharpie’d on graph paper and Xeroxed for multiple pages.

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