Wednesday, June 27, 2007

That clinking, clanking sound

Money has been on my mind today. One of the wedding-related (yes, still stuck on the wedding) websites I read consists of several pseudonymed women blogging about their wedding planning for weeks or months and then recapping the wedding after the fact. I've been reading the site for a couple of months and have read through the archives, so it was pretty obvious that the majority of women were planning (in MY opinion) expensive and/or lavish weddings, and when they wrote about projects they did themselves it wasn't necessarily to save money but just because they wanted to do them. Granted, most of the bloggers thus far have had weddings in or near NYC (or other big cities), and I could tell from the way they wrote about designer dresses and letterpress invitations and how much they were paying for hair and makeup that their budgets far, far exceeded ours. It's still an interesting site to read, though, one that has given me quite a few ideas for projects or other elements which could be interesting to have.

Today, in response to a comment someone left a few days ago, some of the bloggers wrote out their wedding budgets (ballpark figures) including everything but rings and honeymoon. As I suspected, the one in NYC was nearly 50K, while the one in the midwest (with a lot of DIY, or do-it-yourself projects) was 8K. And that one was a dessert reception - no appetizers or meals were provided.

Way back a long time ago, before we got engaged, before we were even thinking about it, I spoke to a coworker who was planning her wedding, and she cited a figure to me that just sounded outrageous - she'd read that the average wedding cost in the US was over $20K. "For one day!?!" I interrobanged. "Over 20 thousand dollars for just a party for one day?" That figure sounded completely absurd to me - how could people possibly justify spending that much money on a party for one day? When *I* got married, I'd do it for super cheap. I'd do everything myself, or it would be a really tiny event, and I would show the world that it was possible to throw a one-day party (that happened to include two people getting married) for a miniscule amount of money. It could be done, right?

I didn't think much about it again until we got engaged, a couple of years after the conversation I had with my coworker. I didn't know a lot about weddings or wedding planning, so I started doing research. I talked to people who had planned weddings, and I started looking at sample catering menus and poking around on photographer websites. The sticker shock I began to encounter was far greater than I had expected. Dan and I came up with a number for a budget that sounded reasonable to us, one that would allow us to have good food and good drink, yet still not be a completely ridiculous amount of money to spend on a party for one day. As I read more and more information, and read about more budgets and on what sorts of things people spent their money, it started dawning on me that I'd never seen any sort of budget for under a certain amount (the amount we'd decided on) unless the food was provided via family or friends (potluck, knowing the caterer/restaurant people, etc.) It just isn't possible to have a full meal with beverages served to people for under a certain amount of money, and when you add in all the other expenses (despite all the deals and hookups) you arrive at the number we've decided upon. And surprisingly, I'm starting to be OK with that.

I've read about a lot of different kinds of weddings these past few months, daytime and evening, city and country, indoors and out, in all ranges of style, formality, and budget. And I'm starting to realize that money doesn't mean the same things to all people, that the amount of money my wedding dress is going to cost is, in comparison to some of the coture designers, a very small amount. I went to the library this afternoon to do a bit of research and found myself looking at a wedding magazine for the first time. Now I know that I'm not missing out on anything by not buying the enormous bricks they call wedding magazines (because you pay for 25 pages of content and 230948029384 pages of ads), and now I know that wedding magazines really aren't geared for people with the sort of budget we have (just as the trash I read at the gym doesn't feature clothing I could ever afford), I'm glad I did said research. Not to knock the magazines - it's just that I can see the same pictures online, read about lavish details in other people's weddings, and shrug and be OK that our wedding just isn't going to look like the photos in the magazines. Besides, we're not photos-in-magazines people anyhow. To me, it's more important that everyone has a good time, gets good food to eat and drinks to drink, and feels that it was worthwhile to attend.


Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

IMHO, food and photography are where the money should be spent. Take it from me - I spent GOOD money on food (we had a destination wedding for 14 guests in a resort in New Hampshire) and the food was fabulous. However, I totally f&*ked up and went El Cheapo on the photographer and I STILL regret it to this day. What a mistake! I made my own invitations, bought a minimum of flowers, bought no favors and plunked down $500 on a dress. We plugged the money into staying at the resort and having a very fancy meal for our guests (some out of town, some from New England). Honeymoon, wedding, and even buying my mom's plane ticket set us back a total of $5000.

Again, I only regret the photographer!

I agree, though - it's all perspective. I wasn't comfortable spending more than $5000 total, yet you see some brides spend that on a single dress. To each her own. Just make sure you have FUN on your wedding day. Everyone says that, but it's true.

Yank In Texas said...

I agree- food and photos is key. Heck, I'm more for food than photos.
Just do it the way you want to do it and don't think of anything else. Plus it's not the wedding that's really important anyway. It's the marriage and all that.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

My sister's wedding, for what it looked like, cost a whole lot less...but she also fucked up on the photographer and went cheapo and now has shit photos (though if we said that she'd hit the roof so only she says it and we say "no, you still look beautiful"...both true and the appropriate response).

That said, there are some costs she could have cut to make up money for a better photographer. Like a videographer. Who watches those things? I'm cutting that straight out. They didn't have to have it a hotel *in* Boston-my parents were pushing for a very fancy hotel in the 'burbs, which would have dropped the overhead. There's no parking around where they had it and my dad insisted on paying for all the guests' valet parking since it pisses him off to go to weddings in the city and be told he then has to shell out an extra $30 for the parking.

Anyway, their money, their day. I'll have my own wedding someday and the budget will be about 1/2 my sister's unless I also marry someone from a wealthy-ass family who matches the amount my parents have saved up. If my parents give me a penny more my sister will hit the roof.

One thing I am both adamant and afraid about is that I want to design dry ice sculptures as my centerpieces. I am afraid because I know no matter how many effing disclaimers and announcements and releases of liability statements are made someone will still touch the bloody dry ice and end up in the hospital.

I get both points of view. I don't really care how much anyone spends as long as they are gracious hosts, do not freak out at innocent guests and the couple seems happy.

Eden said...

I agree with Cagey - those are the prime things that seem to make everyone happy all around. There is a weeeeeee bit of me that does take the position that it is "your" day and I think it is all about you the bride loving your dress. For some people, that can be accomplished by bargain hunting for a 2nd hand dress at $100.00 plus alterations, some need that designer name to feel good about themselves - and on a day like your wedding, I think that is totally appropriate. Maybe not what I'd do, but this is a bonafide "special occassion". You are a role model Pants, you're into the wedding without being some supercrazed bridezilla.

yournamehere said...

I have been to expensive wedding receptions held at country clubs and budget receptions held at rec centers. I've had a great time at both.

Cilicious said...

We just had a friend take photos.
He took lots. They were swell.
No regrets.
I wore my mom's dress and a little mascara. I did get a hair "updo."
We spent a fair amount on food, music and honeymoon and all were great.
I agree that a good time can be had at a backyard potluck or a country club.