What's the Real Purpose of Spending Money on a Wedding?

There are a lot of things I don't like to do the conventional way because I find something to be wrong with the convention.

-I moved to another state without having anything lined up there because I wanted to live there. I figured that if I waited until conditions were perfect, I might never get there. Plus, most employers are not interested in hiring people from out of state. And why should they be? They have plenty of options closer to home.
-I graduated from college in three years because it was awfully expensive and I didn't know what I would have done with the extra year anyway. In fact, only now that my career has gone in some sort of defined direction can I tell you that I wouldn't mind having degrees in journalism, finance, and economics--but how could I have known that without the years of work experience that have led me to where I am now?

-I bought a house with my boyfriend instead of waiting to get married first because I didn't want to spend a bunch of money on a fancy party and then go home and continue living in a crappy apartment. Nor did I want to go the other preapproved route and attempt to buy a house while simultaneously planning a wedding--and, oh, my boyfriend isn't independently wealthy, so you can scratch that whole 1950s notion of the husband buying a house for his wife. Besides, I wanted to help pick it out. I am lucky enough to be in a relationship where both parties understand that committment is something you keep because you choose to, not because you've bought some expensive pieces of metal or gone through a ceremony and put your name on a legal document (though rumor has it that those things don't actually keep people together, anyway).

But now that I have my house, the idea of having a wedding doesn't seem quite as ridiculous. But paying more than $5,000 for it does. I've never been one to blow a lot of money on luxury items, and I've never much cared for parties. In fact, even $5,000 seems high to me as there are actually a lot of other things I would rather do with $5,000 than spend it at the rate of about $1,000 an hour in a single afternoon.

So I've started doing a bit of research into wedding venues, and I am absolutely appalled. Both places I looked at cost $5,000 just for the venue, and then to add insult to injury, they force you to use their preferred catering services to the tune of about $40 per head. For the purpose of simplicity, let's assume a 100-person wedding. That's $4,000 for food, for a meal that no one will remember, that will more than likely be mediocre, and that I won't even get to eat. I know this isn't news to those of you who have planned weddings. I know that the average cost of a wedding is something like $26,000. But that doesn't make it okay.
What is the point of spending all this money, after all? It's different for everyone, but for me, a wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gather for a happy occasion with the company of all the people who are important to me, in the same place at the same time. For someone like me, who lives entirely too far away from the important people in her life, this aspect of a wedding is particularly appealing. Thus, all the expenditures associated with a wedding should contribute to this purpose.
On the other hand, I think a lot of people plan their weddings the way they do for one of three reasons:
1. Because that's what they think they are supposed to do.
2. Because they don't realize that you control the wedding costs, the wedding costs don't control you.
3. Because they want to impress people.

Wedding expenditures that are designed to impress people, that arise solely out of expectation or tradition, or that are inflated because the item has been tied to the word "wedding" don't exactly support the purpose of having an enjoyable time with my loved ones for however many days they can be in town (or whatever other personal reasons people have for throwing weddings). Hundreds of flowers, centerpieces that will end up in the trash, and $40 chicken dinners are not a means to my end.
The other thing I don't think people think about when considering the cost of a wedding is opportunity cost. When you spend $26,000, or $12,000, or $5,000 on a wedding, you are forgoing the option to spend that money on something else. When I think about spending $5,000 on a wedding, I don't think, "Well, $5,000 is a good price for a wedding, considering that most people spend $26,000." I think, "If I could spend $5,000 any way I wanted, what would I do with it?" And I come up with answers like improve my house, go to Europe for five weeks with my boyfriend, or buy a "new" car. All of these things would be a much better use of the money, if you ask me.
Of course, people whose weddings are financed by someone else don't tend to think about wedding costs this way, but my father and I have similar values when it comes to money, so why would I ask him to spend his money on me in a way that I wouldn't spend my own money on myself?
So the challenge upon me is to figure out how to circumvent expectation and convention to create a wedding that is meaningful to me while spending only a modest sum of money. Stay tuned--I'm sure there will be many more posts on this subject as I attempt to figure it out.

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Related posts:
A Beautiful Wedding On A Budget

Photo by f3and1

Post by Amy Fontinelle

3 comments:

http://iseeketh.wordpress.com said...

Very nice post. It is something I think about often. How much to spend on the engagement ring? How much to spend on the wedding itself? Most importantly, why? Spending less does not mean you care less, or that you don't appreciate "good things"... You ask a deep question, if you could spend the money on any other thing, what could it be?
Even if I had my bases covered, I suspect I would still not want to spend so much money on a wedding.

FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com said...

BRAVO!

Hear hear....

I would rather pay the $300 for the signing and then for a HUGE feast or dinner. That is it

No reception, no BS flowers...

I just have different priorities, and I want to spend less on a big party and more on travel or my home, etc

As for engagement rings, a nice ring is enough. NO need for 3 months salary and that crap.. then you are scared of losing it or getting mugged

DogAteMyFinances said...

Plan your wedding how you want, and spend what you want.

But don't tell me why I spent money on my wedding. For me, it's a cultural thing that reflected on my family and my husband's family. My mom had been planning it for years. That is, it's not all about me, got it?

I cut all kinds of things I didn't care about, and no one even noticed. That's the thing about weddings today. You really have the freedom to do whatever you want, assuming you have the luxury of time to plan it.

The real kicker is the ring. Wearing a cheap ring is a topic of discussion for me probably once a week. It's not even financial, it's political for me.