The $28,000 question: Why are we all hypocrites about weddings?

August 14th, 2007 - 241 Comments

On Saturday night, I was out with some friends, including one who’s planning her wedding for next August. I’ve had a bunch of family weddings in the last few months, so I suggested she check out a nearby stationery store for her invitations. “It’s really expensive, like $14 per invitation. But at least you can get some ideas for design.”

She looked at me and, without a hint of arrogance, said, “Oh, I’ll check it out. I actually talked to my family and we have an unlimited budget for the wedding.” With one sentence, I was rendered speechless. She didn’t brag. She just said it matter-of-factly: Her wedding could cost anything and it was ok.

She comes from a very wealthy family, so this isn’t such an unusual thing. What is unusual, however, is that so many people will scoff at the above story — and then proceed to spend ungodly amounts on large purchases like a new home or a wedding while steadfastly insisting how absurd “most” people are. Today, I want to write about how to plan for these large life events. But be prepared — you’re going to have to confront the hypocrisy that we all have when it comes to these purchases.

Of course your wedding will be simple
When my first sister called me to tell me that she’d gotten engaged earlier this year, I was out with my friends. I ordered champagne for everyone. When my other sister told me she was getting married a few months later, I told all my friends again. Then I found out they were having an East coast wedding and a West coast wedding — each — for a total of four weddings in a few months. I ordered a round of cyanide and made mine a double.

That’s what got me started thinking about weddings recently. The average American wedding costs almost $28,000, which, the Wall Street Journal notes, is “well over half the median annual income in U.S. households.” Hold on: just wait a second before you start rolling your eyes. It’s easy to say, “These people should just realize a wedding is about having a special day, not about putting yourselves in crippling debt.”

But guess what? When it’s your wedding, you’re going to want everything to be perfect. Yes, you. So will I. It’ll be your special day, so why not spend some extra money to get the extra-long roses or the filet mignon?

My point isn’t to judge people for having expensive weddings. Quite the opposite: The very same people who spend $28,000 on their weddings are the ones who, a few years earlier, said the same thing you’re saying right now: “I just want a simple wedding. It’s ridiculous to go into debt for just one day.” And yet, little by little, they spend more than they had planned — more than they can afford — on their special day. Why is that?

The spending for weddings increases year after year. Yet we insist that we will be different: Of course we won’t spend that much. Of course we’ll have a budget. Of course we’ll have a small simple wedding. Sure we will.

So what should we do?
So knowing the astonishingly high costs of weddings, what can we do?

I see three choices:

Cut costs and have a simpler wedding. Most people, frankly, are not discplined enough to do this. I don’t say this pejoratively, but statistically: Most people will have a wedding that costs tens of thousands of dollars. (If you want to debate the difference between the average or median amount, see here or below for a simulated wedding budget.)

Do nothing and figure it out later. Most people do this. I spoke to a recently married person I know who spent the last 8 months planning her wedding, which became a very expensive day. Now, months later, he and his wife don’t know how to deal with the debt resulting from the wedding. If you do this, you are a moron. But you are in good company since almost everybody else does it, too.

Budget and plan for the wedding. Ask 10 people which of these choices they’ll do, and every single one of them will pick this one. Then ask them how much money they’re saving every month for their wedding (whether they’re engaged or not). I guarantee the sputtering and silence will be worth it. (Leave a comment describing what happens!) This is a great idea in theory, but is almost never followed in practice.

We actually have all the information we need: The average age at marriage is about 27 for men and 26 for women. We know that the average amount of a wedding is about $28,000. So, if you agree with this choice — and you don’t want to go into debt for your wedding — here’s how much you should be saving (RSS readers, click here):

Most of us haven’t even thought about saving this amount for our weddings. Why not? What do we do instead?

We say things like,

  • “Wow, that’s a lot. There’s no way I can save that. Maybe my parents will help…”
  • My wedding won’t be like that. It’ll be simple and elegant”
  • “I’ll think about it when I get engaged”
  • “Luckily, I won’t have to pay for it.” (Who will? Is your future spouse thinking like this?)
  • “I have to marry a rich guy” (I’ve heard people say this and and they were only half-joking)

More commonly, though, we don’t think about this at all: one of the most major expenditures of our lifetimes, which will almost certainly arrive in the next few years, and we don’t even sit down for 10 minutes to think about it. Something’s broken here.

Here’s a sample expense sheet of a wedding. Try playing around with it (RSS readers, click here):

(Figures taken from my dad, recent wedding-planning expert, and partially combined with these figures and these figures.)

Note how changing the amount of guests doesn’t really change the cost very much: Reducing the headcount 50% only reduces the cost 15%. Creating a simple, affordable wedding, it turns out, is surprisingly hard.

It’s not just weddings
Weddings are just one example. We don’t plan out our largest expenses, like houses, cars, and even kids. This is what I call conscious spending but, honestly, it’s much easier to simply ignore these looming purchases and think about them later.

The problem is, if you don’t plan ahead, it becomes much, much more expensive. From the example above, a 25-year old who starts saving for his wedding will have to save 3.5 times the monthly amount a 20-year old will. The alternative is to simply finance it, which makes it even more expensive because of interest. This is especially true of long-term loans for houses.

Some recommendations
1. Be realistic. Even though you’re reading personal-finance blogs like iwillteachyoutoberich and are probably better at your finances than 99% of other people, you’re still human. Your wedding (and mine) will be more expensive than we plan. The head-in-the-sand approach, however, is the worst thing we can do. Sit down and make a realistic budget of how much your big purchases will cost you in the next ten years. Do it on a napkin — it doesn’t have to be perfect! Just spend 20 minutes and see what you come up with.

2. Set up an automatic savings plan. Since the last recommendation to make a budget was completely unrealistic and almost nobody will do it, I suggest just taking a shortcut and setting up an automatic savings plan. Assume you’ll spend $25,000 on your wedding, $20,000 on a car, and (however much) on a down payment for a house. “But Ramit,” you might say in an annoying perfectionist voice, “that’s almost $3,000 per month. I can’t afford that!” Can you afford $300? If so, that’s $300 better than you were doing yesterday. Now that you’ve read this, your preparation — or debt — is a choice.

3. You can’t have the best of everything, so use the P word. Prioritization is such an important concept. Like I said, it’s human nature to want the best for our wedding day or first house, and we need to be realistic about acknowledging that. With that said, we simply can’t have the best of everything. Do you want the better food or an open bar at your wedding? If you have the costs on paper, you’ll know exactly which tradeoffs you can make to keep within your budget. If you haven’t written anything down, there will appear to be no tradeoffs necessary. And that’s how people get into staggering amounts of debt. For the things you de-prioritize, beg, borrow, and steal to save money: Use a public park instead of a ballroom, ask your baker friend to make the cake, and ask relatives to help with cleanup. This is where, if you plan ahead, time can take the place of money.

Ideally, you do #1 (simplify) and #3 (plan). But even if you can’t simplify, at least you can plan.

The result — and what to do today
Today, sit down and plan out the major purchases you’ll have in the next ten years — whether or not you’re engaged or have any plans to buy a house soon. This is really important: Planning before you need to separates rich people from everyone else. Plan out how much you’ll reasonably need. Plan out how much you can save. Then go into your savings account and set up an automatic deposit plan. (I use Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct) — set up an account in about 15 minutes.) Starting tomorrow, your savings account should have virtual buckets of money for upcoming items (e.g., 30% for your down payment, 25% for your wedding…).

The result: A wedding where you know all the costs and prioritize for what’s important for you. A wedding where, the day after, you’re debt-free and can start your lives together. And the ability to control your spending, instead of having it control you. Sort of like the point of this entire site.

I’ll write more about the logistics setting up automatic savings plan in my upcoming book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich. To get early excerpts and the chance to be featured in the book, sign up for my free newsletter (sample newsletter here):

 

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241 Comments

 

Comments

  1. funny, here in Spain people also do BIG weddings, having 100 guests is like NOTHING… usually between 200 and 400. How do they pay for it? On the lower part of the invititation letter the couple includes their bank account number and you’re expected to give about 100-120 Euro (130-150 $). There are even people who make a profit with their wedding. The more people you invite, the more money you make.

  2. Two scary thoughts:
    (1) I’m not going to get married in time to meet your 27-year old cutoff. Now I can not only NOT be rich but feel doubly bad on your website sans fiance. Oh, and your publishing a book didn’t make me feel any better, either.
    (2) $28,000 would be a bargain in comparison to most of the weddings I’ve been to. I wonder how the average got to 28k, considering I’ve been to 100k and 250k weddings… yeah, booze, country clubs, and ice sculptures can add up. And if you think that’s bad, should we start saving for bat mitzvahs at 6?

    Really though, Ramit, I think you’ve hit upon a very crucial issue. Whether it be that we spend way too much on weddings (god help me if I have to invite all my family and friends or, worse yet, everyone on my facebook account), or that we just generally don’t plan for any of life’s ridiculously expensive landmarks, we all have a problem. It may cost $1500/month to get by, but that hardly takes into account any sort of down payments, unemployment, engagement rings, graduate degrees, and the like.

    Hopefully many people will heed your advice before we all go into terrible credit card debt and find ourselves imprisoned to gruesome 12 hour workdays.

  3. Since I have been recently married (2 weeks, 2 days), I can say that this happens first hand to a lot of people. Here’s some tips that we used (our wedding was about 10k for 180 guests):

    1. Use your memberships:

    Our reception hall came was at the Officer’s club on Eglin Air Force Base, which was very inexpensive compared to other places at that location. My parents are ex-mil and still O-club members. We were members of a local country club and got a really good discount for the rehearsal dinner. A lot of memberships offer discounts for limos (AAA) and other things

    2. Use your friends (and parent’s friends!):

    - Our music was done by a pianist and my best man’s mp3 player.
    - The pianist plays in New Orleans and the cost for him was a hotel room and a bottle of cognac.
    - We knew the photographer and the florist, and they were both done at cost.
    - My friend’s parents did the engraving for my groom’s gifts.
    - The jewelry my wife and her mom wore were loaned out by Valobra Jewelry. The pieces retail for twice the cost of our wedding.
    - I had previously worked for the church wedding planner, and my wife and I both were friends with the pastor.

    **Networking has its perks outside of the cubicle.**

    3. Sit down and find out what is really important:

    If you have a really cool bride-to-be, she probably won’t give a crap about a couple things. For example, I don’t care what my wedding band looks like because I’ll probably lose it in the next year. Also, think about it from another perspective — your guests. When you go to someone else’s wedding, are you going to care whether or not they have a program at the church? We decided no, and didn’t bother. Saved a couple hundred bucks.

    4. Be creative!

    People spending too much money on weddings implies to me that they have no imagination and they have to hire someone to tell them how to make it cool. If you brainstorm a couple hours a weekend, you can find ways to make it work. We went to the beach two days before the wedding to get sand for the centerpieces. We kept two kegs on tap in front of the bar to decrease the service fee for the bartenders. I had enough people renting tuxes from one place that I got mine for free (don’t tell them that).

    Just a couple quick things that came to mind… hope it helps all you lovebirds.

    Steve Place

    PS: One more thing, and I don’t want to sound sexist… this is just from experience: 3 months before the wedding, block ALL wedding shows on TV (Bridezillas, my super platinum wedding, how to get a bank loan for a ring)… it helps reduce stress as well as compulsive spending.

  4. For the past few months, NPR’s “Marketplace Money” has been profiling a couple in the middle of planning their wedding. Here’s the comment I sent them:

    What I find amazing about this series is the fact that noone questions the sanity of the whole enterprise. Why get married in the first place? The tax laws certainly discourage it. And if you are set on marriage on religious or other grounds, why have a wedding that puts financial strain on the young couple, their parents, and even their friends?

    My wife and I went to the city hall to get married. The wedding cost us less than $200. We are not poor–our combined income is well over $200,000/year–but we would much rather take five additional vacations in Europe or Hawaii than donate money to the wedding industry.

    I also posted it here for others to agree/disagree with me:
    http://www.smargue.com/s/bfdeaaa4f60147fdba0521e278531302/Ruinously_expensive_%28i.e._average%29_weddings_are_dumb%21.html

  5. Your notion that nobody has a simple wedding is a little … odd, and probably speaks more to the circles you travel in than anything else. I make six figures, but we spent three grand on our wedding, and have equally comfortable friends who spent less. But yes, of course you should spend what you want.

    I read another stat that may relate to one of the points you’re making recently – something like 75% of Americans think “people are too materialistic” but something like 8% think they personally are.

  6. I get tired of all the commenters on the myriad PF blogs with wedding posts talking about how insane it is to spend 25K for a wedding and how they had a perfect wedding for 3K, etc, etc, so this is a relatively refreshing new take on the matter. Of course it’s insane to spend that much money, but the reality is that most people will do it when it comes down to Their Special Day. It’s a once in a lifetime event, after all!!!! (Allegedly.) Someone should at least talk about how to try to pay for it somewhat responsibly.

    Anyway, Ramit, do you have a special “wedding” savings account? Are you seriously doing this every month? Honestly, I just can’t imagine a guy doing this, so I’m curious since you’re advocating it.

  7. Great post. Planning for my wedding was one of the big reasons I wound up starting Wesabe. I completely agree about automated savings (automated everything, really).

    My best tip for having a reasonable wedding is to find things where you and your partner can agree not to spend. I’m a big dessert person (pun intended), so I insisted on having good (==expensive) cake. She really wanted great pictures, so we spent more on a photographer than the minimum. Unfortunately, we had a lot of categories where one or both of us felt strongly. We saved the most when we could agree that the category didn’t have to be a priority (for instance, the flowers were on the cheaper side, and the music was from an iPod).

    We didn’t do this, but one way to get to a lower cost would be to give each person two or three category choices. If you both choose a category (for us, food was very important), spend a bunch on that. If one of you does, spend on it but not too much. If neither of you does, go for a very inexpensive option. Given the number of things you could potentially spend money on at a wedding, even if there’s no overlap, you’ll still save money.

    But, my friends who went for the Vegas wedding definitely saved a ton. I haven’t had a better experience, ever, than our wedding and honeymoon, so I got a lot of value out of what we spent. But Ramit’s point, that budget becomes unreal the closer you get to the wedding, is right (forgive me) on the money.

  8. Another thing is that a lot of DIY elements or less expensive items look as good as their pricey counterparts.

    * Buying a white prom dress at an end-of-season sale can look better than a dress bought from a bridal boutique. There’s also dresses that can be bought for cheap on Ebay, and not all of them are used.
    * A simple gold, white gold, platinum, titanium, or silver wedding band that is simply worn next to the engagement ring instead of connecting to it, is a lot less expensive than a bridal set. Engraving the inside is very inexpensive if you want it personalized.
    * Few people like DJs, so burning CDs or having a playlist of MP3s set up on your computer or ipod (a friend can even man the music when needed) is cheaper and sure to play only the songs you want.
    * There’s nothing wrong with having the reception in the church fellowship hall. University student unions, public parks, some museums, friends’ backyards are also other less expensive places to hold the festivities.
    * Buy an invitation kit for $30 and print them at home or go creative and make your own unique invitations.
    * Bring your own alcohol if you can — much cheaper to buy kegs of beer and cases of wine from a liquor store. Plus you might be able to return the unopened wine.
    * Have a small wedding cake for display and a big sheet cake in the kitchen to be used for serving.
    *Have a friend do your hair and makeup.
    * Borrow jewelry from relatives and friends or wear what you already have.
    * Drive your own car — a friend can even drive it for you.
    *Morning celebrations are less expensive than afternoon celebrations are less expensive than evening celebrations.
    * A cocktail reception with just some drinks and a lot of appetizers for a couple hours makes for a nice, low-key event.
    * The little details don’t really matter to guests. They’re really happy if they got to see the wedding, had something to eat and drink, and got to see the couple. Centerpieces, matching everything, butterfly releases, bows everywhere, etc, don’t get remembered.

  9. That’s funny — my then girlfriend and I always talked about having a big, elegant wedding, but never thought about the costs. When the time finally came to plan it, we were seniors in college and quickly realized we wouldn’t be able to afford the “average” wedding! We cut the guests from 200 down to 100 and asked favors from about 2/3 of the guests. We also held the ceremony at a church for a donation of $200 and a $100 gift to the pastor. The reception was done Chinese style at a restaurant at $40 a head. Our friends/guests did everything for us, including making all invitations and decorations from scratch. Ceremony cost: $4000 Reception cost: $5000, including tip and wine. It was still the loveliest day of our lives and we cut costs by at least half.

  10. It would be interesting to see some more useful statistics, such as the median, about wedding costs. You throw a couple of million+ celebrity/ultra-wealthy weddings and the averages quickly get skewed upwards.

  11. People don’t think about it, but by simplifying your wedding you can make it greener as well. Supporting local stores and suppliers may end up saving you money, and not having guests fly halfway round the planet to come to your wedding may also save a lot.

    I also don’t get dropping thousands of dollars on a wedding dress. Whatever happened to elegance in simplicity? Why not buy a lower cost dress or a discount dress, and pay a little money to have it beaded or to customize it so it fits your personality better. Not everyone needs a Vera Wang gown.

    I don’t care if other people think it’s tacky, but I would prefer financial gifts in lieu of buying overpriced merchandise off of a bridal registry at some foo foo department store. Then the couple can buy affordable items that they need, and the guests won’t resent them for having to buy that $300 mixer because it was the only thing left in the registry that they could find at their local store. I like the idea that Robert from Spain had above where the people invited to the wedding help to pay for it. The last thing a married couple needs is debt from a wedding and honeymoon hanging over them when they return to the real world. If they were given cash they might not have such a deep hole to dig themselves out of, and they could perhaps even make an investment for their future too.

  12. Here’s my thoughts:

    1. I know my wedding won’t be perfect, and I’m happy with that. In fact, my ornery side wants to thumb my nose at $28,000 bridezilla-fests. What I really want is a big party to celebrate with friends and family. And and I don’t mind if it rains!

    2. I WILL NOT go into debt over my wedding. I’ve made this clear to the guy, and he definitely understands. The (easy-going) parents have mentioned that they’ll chip in, but I’d rather not count on it in the planning stage.

    3. We will have all consumer debt paid off (1 cc, 1 student loan, 1 no interest loan) before the wedding occurs, and will only have my (low, fixed rate) student loan, which I’m also prepaying.

    4. We currently have about 2 months emergency funds built up, and will have about about 3-4 months by the time the wedding occurs. We’re also making the match on our company’s 401k.

    5. I’m currently saving for the wedding, and also have plans for making a down payment within 5-7 years. and I’m putting in all bonuses towards this.

    And on top of all this, I am assuming that the wedding + honeymoon will cost 10,000 MAX (and this is still a very scary cost for me)

    How will this happen?
    a. I’ll most likely be making my own dress (less than $200)
    b. We already know we’re having Fudgie the Whale from carvel as our wedding cake! ($50)
    c. Local “flowers” will be used ($50)
    d. The DJ will probably be friends for as gift (0)
    e. We’ll only be serving beer + wine, in a picnic setting.

    We probably won’t have limos and some of the standard wedding accessories. I would much rather have everyone hanging out at a lobster bake (most likely our big splurge), than in a reception hall doing the chicken dance. And though we’re still at the dreaming stage right now, we have some priorities set down- big group photos are important, a videographer, not.

    For anyone that is interested, I’d suggest reading “How to have a big wedding on a small budget” by Diane Warner. She breaks down each major line item and gives various alternatives for cost (from free to pricey) from everything from reception to flowers. I think the most expensive example budget was 15,000, most being under 10,000, and the cheapest being around 1,500.

  13. Well, it’s refreshing to read some advice on how to plan financially for weddings even if you’re not engaged yet! I write a wedding blog so I thought this was relevant for me to comment on. Though you shouldn’t rely on others to come through and pay for your wedding for you, I do feel you have overlooked the fact that it is actually traditional for families to chip and pay large chunks (or the whole cost) of the wedding total, so it’s not uncommon for that to happen and therefore not unreasonable to think your family might pay if they have indicated to you that they would help with costs. In my case, my parents are contributing $20,000, my future in-laws are contributing $6000, and my fiance and I are paying for items we think should fall under our own budget (rings, gifts for attendants and parents etc). BUT, if we hadn’t had such generous family members, we know we could probably afford about $3000 for our whole wedding if we didn’t want to go into debt, so we would have eloped. Or maybe had a 10-guest wedding or something like that.

    It’s important to remember that you need to live within your means even when planning a major life event like a wedding. “But I deserve it” is not an excuse for buying things you can’t afford. You have to be able to afford it.

    I’d like to finish with a bunch of great tips to reduce your wedding costs that I’ve put together over several months:

    -buy your wedding dress second-hand or from a sample sale
    -book your wedding on a Friday or Sunday or during the low season (Oct – March) for lower rental costs
    -consider a lunch reception instead of dinner and dancing
    -use your connections, like the commenter above suggested
    -the easiest place to cut frivolous costs is details that nobody will notice if they’re missing, such as expensive ribbon wrapping bouquets, letterpress vs. thermography printing on invitations, save-the-dates, inner envelopes, ceremony programs, favours, bridesmaid newsletters, and lots of other decor items.
    -go the DIY route for details you can’t live without that cost too much. Make your own jewelry, invitations, favours, hairpins, out-of-town guest bags, etc.
    -send save-the-dates by email instead of printed save-the-dates by snail mail
    -let your bridesmaids pick their own jewelry and shoes.

  14. I actually get quite angry at people over wedding budgets.

    I was able to pull off an unbelievable affair (my criteria was that it had to be something I’d enjoy going to) for 300 people, for just over $2000.00

    It took creativity, and it took a complete 100% shunning of the wedding industry. I used ebay, friends, unusual locations (an antique warplane museum), local connections, and wholesale dealers.

    And it was an event to be enjoyed, a day my guests always remember fondly, and a wedding that I’ll always hold as a standard when attending other’s weddings. Been married 3 years now and haven’t attended once since that even compares, even though the money people spend is greatly multiplied.

    Spending money on a wedding is stupidity. But having a great wedding that you and all your guests will love is priceless.

    I can’t watch wedding shows, or “so and so marries so and so” or read articles about how much some asshat in hollywood spent on a wedding…it just makes me furious. I would make the perfect wedding coordinator, except for the part where I tell every stupid bride she’s a retarded mindless idiot.

    And really, it’s true. Brides become retarded mindless idiots. They think it has to be a certain way, and so it’s going to cost a certain amount. And the truth is so much more beautiful.

  15. My wedding cost only about $6000. It was very nice, and we didn’t spend loads of cash. We did it in our backyard, and put up some nice decorations and had some catering. It was simple and very nice. We didn’t need a $30,000 wedding to have fabulous day. Our invitations were like $5 a piece, and we invited about 60 people.

  16. In many chinese wedding, it’s encourage to give red envelope (with $$$ inside) as wedding gift. It saves guests headache on what to get for the couple and also help reduce the cost of the wedding.

    Ditto Steve, I know people that got so many red envelopes that they made money off the wedding.

  17. I’m in the middle of planning my wedding. In the end it will cost about half the national average, and it will be easier on the guest as well. Here are my suggestions.

    Plan the whole wedding on a single line of nice public transit. Most cities have a few lines that are one time, clean, and you get to see the city. pick every location of the wedding within 2 blocks of that.

    Ask for help. Do you have a friend who can cook for an army? Higher her. Know a designer? Higher her. A friend with a tent? Give him a call.

    The end result — I hope — is a great wedding because everyone is involved.

  18. How appropriate. I’m getting married in 8 months.

    I really wanted to get married in Mexico, invite anyone who could come, and have one big party, very inexpensively (many places throw in the wedding if you spend a week at their hotel). BUT, my fiance has a big, fat Mexican family, and that just isn’t how they do things. Added to that, my grandmother, who I adore and who would want more than anything to be there, would never get on a plane. So, slowly I let go of the original plan, and we’re getting married in our city.

    Now, I’m not big on the details of planning a huge event like this, but my mom is very Type A, so she’s planning. I find out that she has most everything booked, and this wedding has become much more expensive. My parents aren’t rich, and the only thing I could convince them to let me pay for was the photographer. My mom doesn’t even want to give me an exact figure of what it’s costing, and it’s really bothering me. So now my fiance and I are thinking of cutting back on our invite list to save them money, but my mom is talking about adding more, such as co-workers. I know she wants this day to be perfect, but I care more about being married than the actual day.

    Everything she has planned is absolutely beautiful and exactly what I’d want, but I don’t know what their finances look like, and it worries me. I just wish we could have a frank conversation about expenses.

  19. Heh, I knew we were under the average but not that far. And didn’t think we were thank unique in how we approached it. When my wife and I got married about 2 years ago the very first thing we did was set a budget goal of 5k. Being the first marriage for either of us, we didn’t know how far that would take us. Next step was back of the napkin figures of what our “ouch” point for each item was. 500 for music, 2k for food, etc.

    In the end we went over by about 2k. The main reason seemed to be add the word wedding to any rental. People immediately decide to crank up the price. You are just expected to pay it. Also something we had never bought before was just outside of the expected values. But we never strayed from the budget, I think specifically because we were paying it ourselves. Being our own money, we couldn’t stand to be so wasteful.

    The most common refrain was always “It’s your special day, why worry about it!”. Besides the fact that we paid of it ourselves, we were determined not to start off in debt. The most important part of it was she, I, and the pastor. The rest could just rot for all we cared. ;)

  20. Interesting… and of course the main part of your article is spot on (plan and save for big expenses rather than heedlessly plunging into debt)… but as for wedding costs…

    1. Most of my friends got married much younger than that. I was married at 22. Most of my friends were married around 22-25.

    2. Most of these weddings were paid for primarily by the bride’s parents. Perhaps that’s not so common once the bride and groom are past their early 20′s? Sometimes the parents let the bride know how much she has available to spend, and if the couple wants to go beyond that, they can pay for things themselves. (The honeymoon, however, is usually paid for entirely by the couple, unless some family member surprises them with it as a gift.)

    3. My wife has been a bridesmaid in at least a half-dozen weddings, and the bridesmaids have always been expected to purchase their own dresses. It stinks, but it’s part of the cost of saying “Yes” when asked.

    4. I don’t remember how much our rings cost, but they were nowhere near $5,000. And 10 years later, we still like them.

    Aside from number 4, these seem so normal to me that it’s surprising to see that they are not even considered in your article. When I followed the link, I assumed you’d be talking to parents, not brides- and grooms-to-be…

  21. Your points about being realistic, saving and prioritizing for a wedding (or any other big purchase) are all dead on.

    One criticism, though: be careful about bandying about that “average cost of a wedding is $28,000″ factoid (mentioned in the book mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article). That figure came from a survey done by the Condé Nast Bridal Group–a survey conducted with readers of Condé Nast’s various bridal publications (and thus probably already biased to having an expensive wedding). It also, I believe, includes things like “travel costs” in the price of a wedding, which can inflate the figures quite a bit.

    None of that negates the main point of the article, though: it’s better to control your wedding (or home or new car purchase) than let it control you.

  22. There was recently an article in yahoo’s finance section about the expense of weddings and why we feel the need to spend so much on weddings and the industry as a whole.

    http://finance.yahoo.com/expert/article/moneyhappy/39681

    Its an interesting read.

  23. Weddings are extreme emotions mixed with money, family, and fantasy. It’s a very dangerous cocktail.

    More people should elope. :)

  24. Steve had some very good suggestions. Using a similar approach, our wedding cost only a few thousand dollars, with ~80 guests.

    - Our caterer was a family friend who gave us the meal at cost.
    - For our open bar, we bought the booze ourselves and had a bartender (a friend) who agreed to work for tips.
    - For the ceremony, we had a friend provide music (we have many musician friends!).
    - By scheduling in the early afternoon, we could get away with serving a light meal.
    - Rather than have a DJ or a band, we hired an accordianist to play during the reception. (This decision sprang in part from our previous decision to schedule in the afternoon.)
    - We bought flowers and vases, and decorated the tables ourselves (with the help of family, of course!).
    - My mother-in-law made the cake (and it tasted far better than any from a bakery!).
    - We held the wedding and reception at a public facility. The wedding was outside in a park, and the reception was in a building adjacent to the park.

    We also had an inexpensive honeymoon, by travelling to Canada at a time when the exchange rate was favorable!

  25. I guess your view is distorted by the dual lenses of culture and geography, but not all weddings are anywhere near as expensive as you say. I’ve been to ten, and of those, only one was above the median (reportedly $80K, so touche). The best ways to cut costs are to reduce the number of participants. Really all you need are a bride, a groom, and a celebrant. Bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls and ring bearers add a lot of cost (unless you pawn those expenses off on the “honored”) as well as a lot of room for drama. Get rid of the booze, and don’t invite anyone who probably doesn’t really care about coming. I truly believe that if people weren’t so greedy and self-absorbed, their weddings would be far more affordable.

  26. I forgot to mention, since my reception was Chinese style, we ended up with about $11k in cash gifts which offset the $9k cost of the wedding.

  27. These comments are great, but they also reflect exactly what I wrote in the post: To most people, it seems easier to downsize and simplify a wedding than to plan for it, but the truth is anything but — especially when you have a $160 billion industry (and your family) pressuring you to have a beautiful wedding “because you deserve it.” Curiously, we all think that we’ll be different than the people we know. This is the Lake Wobegon effect.

    From the comments, it seems everyone’s got a suggestion about how to have a simple wedding day. Maybe the people who leave a comment have actually done it, but for most people, dramatically simplifying their wedding day is unrealistic. That’s why planning is more important.

  28. My wife and I had a simple and inexpensive wedding. It was accomplished by utilizing the services of friends for almost everything. Most who contributed were very happy to help and considered it a wedding present (saving them money and us from opening yet another toaster).

    I wonder what the distribution curve for the price of weddings looks like. I imagine there are many cheap weddings and many expensive weddings, but few in the middle (once you’re going into debt, what’s a little more?).

  29. Thank god I’m afraid of commitment!
    But in case I ever get over that, I plan on coordinating the shit out of my wedding. Starting with a estimated total cost and an estimated monthly savings at least 3-4 years before the wedding. I’m 24 and really don’t see myself getting married in the next 4 years. Yeah… I don’t like to rush things and I’m obsessed with being 150% prepared for everything. I plan on being engaged for at least 2 years before I actually tie the knot.

    I also don’t need the whole world at my wedding, only close family (30 total, both sides) and close friends (26 total, both sides). And the only kind of flowers I like are white daises. AND! I know how to sew, and quite well, so it’s highly probable that I’ll make my own wedding dress (not a gown, thanks) since I’m incredibly picky and don’t like dealing with other people doing things for me. Besides, the only way to truly get what you want is to do it yourself.
    But a wedding for me is a long LONG way off. I know this because I haven’t even begun to think about any part of it, aside from the fact that I’m going to have white daisies. :)

  30. [...] of us focus on how to cut corners for a wedding,  this gentleman is focusing on the concept of saving money for an ‘average’ wedding–in 2007 those figures are about $28,000–BEFORE you get [...]

  31. Chris above put it best “Weddings are extreme emotions mixed with money, family, and fantasy. It’s a very dangerous cocktail.”

    I just got married this month. The ceremony was on a pier on one of the Finger lakes, the pier was free but we did need permission. Total cost for the reception was $7660 for 170 people on a boat for 3 hours. The open bar was $1660, which is pretty formidable for the short amount of time we were on the boat. But lets break it down some(1st time ive done this since we did the deed):

    $7660 Reception. Sunday was key for this. Sat. would have been astronomical
    $850 Rings. We don’t like bling. :)
    $100 200 blank invites which we printed ourselves at home.
    $50 100 cd’s and labels which we made music favors from.
    $5 5 songs on a laptop, the rest were pirated.
    $0 DJ, a friend controlled the laptop.
    $150 Photographer, 2 friends with DSLR’s.
    $150 Officiant and Singer.

    Total: $8965(although im forgetting something im sure)

    The main photographer, officiant and singer were all friends, and to be honest we didn’t have to pay for them. In fact they wouldn’t allow us, but we did get them rooms. Luckily the officiant and the singer are a couple. :)

    My main concerns were going cheap on the photographers and the DJ. Not huge fears, as the photographers were professional and excellent amateur respectively. But lets cut to the chase:
    We have over 2000 high quality digital photo’s, and a huge number of them are good. Try to get that with a normal wedding photographer. The music went off without a hitch, the people that helped with that are tech geeks like me. No worries.

    We easily made back all of our money spent.

  32. Weddings can be really expensive for the guests as well. I know they have been expensive for me with travel expenses such as flights, hotels, eating out, wedding gift, etc. I’m killing my wedding budget just by going to so many lately. (I have 50 first cousins and about 25 of them are at that marriage age).

  33. I agree with the general theme: more people should identify and plan for big expenses, save accordingly, and avoid deluding themselves about the actual cost versus the “wishful thinking” cost.

    I disagree however that we’re all hypocrites about weddings. (I’m hoping you just titled it that way to grab the eye.) I don’t know anyone who falls into these statistics — but then I’ve only been to about 4 weddings and I’m dead set on going to the courthouse in a few months myself. Plus, I’ve identified my big expenses and have saved or am saving for them.

    To me, for example, you don’t skimp on rings. So my fiance and I saved the money and picked out some very nice rings that we were able to pay off immediately. Also, we want to throw a party to bring our families together, and we’ve got that money saved already.

    You touch on this in your article, but you could easily substitute “weddings” in your post title with “houses” or “cars”… any pricy shiny thing that we feel we *deserve* without actually earning. I guess what’s driven me to comment is you touched a nerve; it bothers me when people have attitudes like, I deserve a big wedding or a fancy car but I can’t be bothered to save for it. Where does this way of thinking come from? Why do so many people have a hard time planning for the long-term? I just don’t understand it at all.

  34. [...] I Will Teach You To Be Rich has an interesting post about how much people spend for their own weddings but declare that everyone else is crazy for spending that much. [...]

  35. I liked how your post was “interactive” because I actually played around with the wedding spending plan numbers. Nice feature. And great article on planning ahead. I’m going to be 21 this year and am a female who has often thought about her wedding day and is trying my best to be financially smart, BUT I actually haven’t started saving for my wedding….so I will now! So many things to save for! Home, emergency, retirement, future children, wedding, but I will be so happy I did when the day comes where I need that money.

  36. [...] I realize I’m not like most girls. I’m fine with this, and if we’re together, you better be fine with this too. If that time comes when your mushy heart screams at you, “She’s the one!” here are some sure-fire ways to get me to say yes to the $28,000 Question: [...]

  37. I disagree with the commenter who recommended Friday weddings to save money.

    My dad, a part-time professional photographer, has described what a pain in the neck it is to get off work, get home, get ready and back to a 7pm wedding…and he wasn’t bringing a spouse and children to the ceremony.

  38. Photographer – got a friend who was a wedding photographer but worked on the cheap.

    Rehearsal Dinner – rented out a private University dinner club. Was very nice. Only had to pay by the plate. Everything else was taken care of and it was honestly way cheaper than I could have imagined such a nice evening.

    Videographer – traded services with him so it only cost me time

    Wedding was in our church and free. Pastor was free minus a tip we gave him

    Reception was in an old antebellum mansion (we’re in the deep south). Cost only a few hundred dollars and was awesome.

    Food was catered by family, including the cake, and we kept it to simple foods that people actually like. It was an evening wedding so it was dinner.

    Drove my own car which is plenty nice.

    DJ was free and was a friend.

    Grand total Including the honeymoon was only around $10,000 which was right on our budget. It was perfect. We didn’t spend a lot on flours or decorations because the reception was in a garden.

    Big savers were our friends and family. They took amazing care of us.

    My brother’s wedding was around 50k. I preferred ours. And the only thing anyone talked about on his was what it must have costs. Its all in the planning.

  39. When I was getting married, I tried to keep it simple, and recommended inexpensive but guaranteed-to-be-fun options. I got lots of dismissive hand waving from my fiance and her mother. No, this was a going to be a wedding like all the rest. Fancy entertainment, fancy setting, fancy party favors for all to take home with them. Must impress the guests. Lots of money spent, and the day made “special” by having everything be just right.

    M-I-L couldn’t help interfering and deciding what had to be. And lots of stress leading up to the magical day. Thirteen years later she was still interfering and suggesting the way things had to be for her daughter. Spend, spend, spend. More things is the key to happiness. We’d have to put the things we had in storage to make room for more things. And if I wasn’t providing the things that my M-I-L thought I should, I’d hear about it from her.

    After 13-years of marriage, it broke down. We’re getting divorced. M-I-L came to my house to read me the riot act and suggest that it was time we got divorced. I was too selfish and even though I never clamped down hard on my wife’s spending (hey, she makes good money). The fact that I wanted to save my money, quit my job and start up my dream business with my savings was too much for them to bear. What? And have her support the whole family on her income alone for a year? (she makes $100k).

    I think people have it all wrong about weddings. $28k to create a magical day that’s over like that… and 50% of them end in divorce anyways. How about a $5000 party in the beginning and then when you make it for 10 years, throw the big party. When you make it 25 years, throw another party. Celebrate the accomplishments that mean something.

  40. I make quite a bit of money. But my wife was totally cool with a zircon ring for $150 (diamonds are the biggest fraud in the word). We got married in Brazil at the Justice of the peace (equivalent) and had all her family and friends at the reception (about 80 people) for about $1000.

    It really all depends on the woman you choose.

  41. Here’s a strategy: DON’T GET MARRIED!

    As someone who has happily lived with her beloved partner for 15 years, I feel obligated to ask this question. When we were younger, we simply couldn’t fathom spending our money on the wedding-industrial complex and as time went on, we realized we simply didn’t need “marriage” to add legitimacy to our relationship. We certainly don’t love each other any less……and now I realize we’re $28K (x 10% x 15 years) richer for it.

  42. I got married last year, and did *exactly* what Ramit recommends in this post: we simplified, we budgeted and we prioritised. We came in on budget, had a perfect day, with no debt, and don’t regret blowing $10 grand on it, even though it would have been great to put that on our home loan.

    The only other suggestion I’d make is to pay for things in their order of importance: if it’s extremely important to you, stuff the standard wedding time-lines and do it first before you run out of either money or time.

  43. Anyone who is Serious about planning their wedding on a budget, should check out http://www.weddingplanningonabudget.com

    It is a site we put together to help out other couples after we planned our own dream wedding on a budget of just $2,000.

    Thanks for the helpful post. Really puts things in perspective in a practical way.

    Tim and Lisa Spooner
    Authors of Wedding Planning on a Budget

  44. Ha ha, I can’t help but to think it’s funny that some people have said when they get married it’s going to be a very small affair because they don’t have a big family. Not that I’m making fun, but that’s what I thought, too, until I became engaged to someone who has over 25 aunts and uncles, who all have children who are grown, with children of their own, and on and on. And this is direct family, not distant. So either you make it immediate family only, or you are picking and choosing who gets invited, and feelings will get hurt. My family only takes up 1/4 of the guest list!

  45. I had an amazing wedding for less than $4,000. We got married in the Caribbean (St. Thomas) in a villa on the top of a mountain, overlooking the island and ocean. For us it did not make sense to get married locally and spend 10 – 15 thousand dollars.

  46. Love this post! I guess the next post will be about budget planning for babies ;-)

  47. Ugh, this is why I hate wedding posts on finance blogs. Everybody and their brother can’t resist telling the story of how they had the most awesome wedding ever for a super low price and how they did it because they happen to be BFF with a photographer, caterer, jeweler, dress-maker, tent-owner, etc. Not that helpful since most people aren’t that lucky and that’s not even what this post is about! It’s about realistically needing to save for a wedding! Sorry, rant over. It’s just every post about weddings turns into this.

  48. Makes me think of what Calvin Coolidge said regarding thrift:
    “I am for economy. After that I am for more economy.”

    It’s true – there is an entire wedding ‘machine’ at work to convince us to spend more than we have.

  49. I didn’t read through all the posts, so this might have been said already… I read an article on wedding planning somewhere else and it pointed out that the studies performed on wedding costs are being performed by parties (i.e. Conde Nast Bridal Group) who have an interest in driving up spending on weddings. Therefore, I think it’s difficult, if not almost impossible, to say that the numbers are reliable.

  50. How to cut costs?

    1)Replace the word “perfect” in your personal mantra. Instead say “My wedding will be fun, funny, poignant, low-key, lighthearted, funky, unique, etc.”

    2)Make sure that your wedding reflects YOU, as a couple, and not the bridal industry. Anybody can throw money at the bridal industry and have a fairy-tale party. Are you actually a fairy princess? Do you wear a tiara to work to show how glamorous you are? Then why do you think you should even enjoy a wedding straight out of a Disney movie. Grow up and express your own tastes.

    3)Have the balls to set a budget. Don’t get emotional and say crap like “You can’t put a price on our love.” If your wedding trappings are the only thing you have to express your love then you’re doomed. Set a number, try to come in under it, and spend the rest on the honeymoon/down payment on a house, etc.

    My wedding cost just under $4000, for 130 people in 2001. We found a hall that had just been remodeled and needed the bookings. My dress was $400 new, from an outlet (and beautiful). Our caterer was a non-profit that trained women from shelters in restaurant job skills. We only had 3 bridesmaids/groomsmen (siblings and childhood friends).

    We had a sleek, modern look which kept cost down on decorations. Tasteful calla lily accents are cheaper than throwing roses everywhere. We made our own centerpieces, favors, and invitations. I even took an art class before hand just for this purpose, and it was money well spent. Everything about the day came from our hearts, not our wallets.

    Our wedding had beautiful surroundings, great food, dancing, music, and the love of our friends and family. In my mind the actual day is such a blur that I hardly remember it, but people still tell us it was the best wedding they ever attended.

  51. I agree that planning for a wedding is more realistic than cutting it down. In reality, you’re planning the biggest party you’ll likely ever throw in your life, while working full-time, and in our case taking courses at university.

    We got advice like “make your own cards” or “put together your floral arrangements.” Ummm, yeah, I barely have enough time to sleep, what makes you think I have time to print and write cards myself. And on the evening before my wedding day I have other things to do besides playing with flowers.

    We did cut back where we could and preferred simple and elegant. For example, we paid a little more for our reception hall but it was the lobby of a concert hall with a rich Italian Rococo architecture. That saved us thousands on decorations, allowed us to get cheaper/simpler linens, etc.

    Our wedding had about 110 guests, ended up costing $21,543 and took place in Aug, 2003. That includes the honeymoon and groom’s ring. We budgeted for the wedding and projected cash flow so we’d knew what needed to be paid and when.

    Here’s a link to our cash flow projection that breaks down all the costs so you can see where all the money goes:
    http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pkz82X8EXoZQiyWADy9ccRA&gid=0

  52. This article made me want to scream!

    28k for a wedding is utterly ridiculous The key is to NOT invite everyone you know. I spent about $2500 TOTAL on my wedding 4 years ago. Yes, you read that right. We only had 8 people there (some of whom we paid hotel and flight expenses for), had it in the courtyard of a B&B in New Orleans (and saved money by having a wedding and honeymoon all in one), and then took everyone out for dinner and bar hopping late until the night afterwards. I can honestly say that it was the most fun night I ever had in my life.

    What a complete waste of money to spend 28k on one day! What about saving that money for the rest of your life? We took what we would have spent on the wedding and put it in the bank. Guess what- we paid off our mortgage last December.

    Wake up, the wedding industry is a huge machine whose sole purpose is to make you think that you need things that you don’t need, and to part you from your money!

  53. What kills me is that you have line items of $1K for the DJ and $4K for the photographer and $750 for the limo, but you allocate exactly ZERO for paying the minister. It’s like the poor guy is an afterthought. Since he’s the most important “employee” you will have that day, he should be payed at the same level as the other people.

  54. I’m not really all that impressed by people who had awesome weddings with 150 people for 3K or whatever because most of the time they got a bunch of friends/family to donate services (catering, photography, etc). That’s not actually free or simple; it’s just shifting the cost to someone else, even if it’s in time.

    I have a photojournalism degree and sometimes shoot weddings as a side business and felt I was guilted into shooting a co-worker’s wedding for free. I tried to get out of doing it, but she kept bugging me, and I was very resentful in the end because it was a ton of work and she didn’t even write me a thank you note. She did the same kind of things to a lot of her friends and family (ie: asking all the wedding party who was coming from far away to pay for individual hotel rooms at the inn it was held at to make sure all the really expensive rooms were taken, as required by her contract). Now every time I hear her brag about how she had the most awesome wedding ever on a super-low budget, all I can think about is how she did it by taking advantage of people she knows.

    Anyone I really know well enough to shoot their wedding for free probably wouldn’t ask me to because I’m one of their best friends and they would want me to enjoy their day with them.

    I personally think it’s much more honest to acknowledge you really want it this way, and to save up for it, and pay for it yourself. If it REALLY doesn’t matter to you, then elope, or have a 10 person ceremony in your parents’ back yard.

  55. What fun reading these comments has been. I’ve been happily married since 2003.

    Ramit nailed it on the head in his post by using the word “Prioritize”. That’s what it comes down to. Our most important priority was the photographer, because we wanted to have good, high-quality pics of ourselves, our family, and our friends to show our kid(s) one day and to look back at when we’re old and gray to remind us of the details that our minds forget. To help afford the “perfect” photographer for us, we decided to budget everything else accordingly. We had an early wedding with reception brunch to save cost on food. We got married outdoors at a quaint (but inexpensive) spot and we provided an open bar by buying the liquor ourselves and having a family friend “police” the bar area to make sure the teenagers didn’t raid it.

    Was it the perfect wedding? In a word, NO. I screwed up my vows and the maid of honor screwed up her toast. Some of the food was too dry. It was by no means perfect. But if I could go back in time, I still wouldn’t change a thing.

    Point is, it’s the memories that should last the longest on a wedding day. The good, the bad, the quirky… they’re all memories that make the day unique.

  56. I agree with “smart money” above, don’t get married at all. Why does the government need to be involved in my relationship? Marriage is a government contract that says I will lose half my net worth if she decides to shack up with her personal trainer instead. Wow what a deal!

  57. I like that you wrote a sample savings guide for weddings. I think that if people were really saving $300 a month for their wedding, they wouldn’t spend so much on it. If you actually had to sacrifice your clothing and going out budget every month for years to pay for the wedding, you would definitely skip that $800 single use dress. It is a relevant point that a lot of the big spenders are getting some parental help.
    I’m glad I didn’t see your budgeting spreadsheet before planning my wedding (which was this past March). We spent $75 per person on rings, and have gotten a lot of compliments on them. The basic idea is that a wedding ring should be simple, trust me you can get it for much less than $5K. In fact if I had done more research I would have looked into recycled gold, I don’t know if that is more or less pricey.

  58. Ultimately, a wedding is an ILLUSION. You do not need one to get married. You WANT one. It’s drilled into your head from the time you are a child.

    And to Alex’s point, a marriage is ultimately a business contract merging two entities (and divorce is just the opposite).

    I have been to black-tie, all-out, red-rose petals-on-the-floor insanity weddings. I’ve been to small gatherings of just family -20 people. You know what? When it’s all done, all you have your memories. And they will stay with you (hopefully) for the rest of your life. What more does one need?

  59. [...] @ i will teach you to be rich has written a post about how you should save up for your wedding since it is likely to cost a fortune. Fine, that makes perfect reasonable sense. However, I think [...]

  60. Not everyone is a hypocrite. When my husband and I were married a little over 6 years ago, we paid cash for our wedding of about 100 guests with full buffet and honeymoon, and kept the total costs around $5000. We did go the simple route- we had one attendant each, and one flower girl. While we had a harpist for the ceremony, a friend offered to dj for the reception. We did our invitations at home on our printer using vellum, ribbon, and handmade rose petal paper (I didn’t make the paper), and still get people asking me where I purchased them. We also put together our favors. My dress came from an outlet and cost me $350, even though I did visit all the standard stores first. So, not only is it possible to have an inexpensive wedding, people really do have them, perhaps more often than you think.

  61. The point of this post isn’t how to have a dirt-cheap wedding. In my opinion, Ramit is asking why people don’t consider weddings as a financial goal to plan for, knowing that it’s one of the biggest expenditures we’ll make in life. Regardless of what I believe a wedding should or shouldn’t cost, or the political/social relevence of marriage, I still found this post to be very thought-provoking.

    So, I cosign KM. 99.9% of the comments to this post have been severely annoying and completely missed the point.

  62. Two of my friends are teachers and don’ t have much money. They planned their wedding at our alma mater and the cost was puny. I think they were charged about $2,000 for the use of the college’s largest ballroom.

  63. Ok I’m getting married in a little over three weeks and I can tell you right now that my wedding has not cost me even 2 grand, maybe not even 1 grand yet.

    Dress was $300 and it didn’t need any alterations (!)

    Flowers-200-Dad paid for them as a gift

    Photographer-a friend is doing it as a gift/barter for computer work (my Fiance is a computer tech)

    No DJ, no catered food, no wine or beer.

    Friends and family are making food, and I am going to get two platters of meat and cheese and we’ll have sandwiches. The total cost will be below 150.

    Church and pastor-refused to take anything from us.

    Music-a friend is THRILLED to be playing the piano for us.

    Bridesmaids-thrift stores! One dress was $15 and needed a bit of alteration. The other was $5 and needed no alteration.

    Wedding party-Brother needed a tux, $145 there. Sisters needed dresses, one already had one (from a thrift store) the other cost $30 off of ebay. Little bro already had a suit, dad has a suit.

    Spent $150 on decorations (including pew bows, table coverings, table toppers, ring bearers pillow, flower girl’s basket and petals, and guestbook and an engraved knife and server set among other things) on OrientalTrading.com.

    Spent $60 on plates, untensils, knives, and bowls. Nice, paper and plastic ones. Pretty, but affordable.

    Cake-a friend is giving one to us as a gift. If they had not, I would have opted to make one myself. Not that hard.

    Honeymoon will be under $500, using tickets from SkyAuction.com, driving ourselves, bringing mostly our own food, etc. We might spend more. I don’t count this as part of the wedding cost.

    So there we have something like $1600 WITH the honeymoon. Come on guys, it’s possible. I am going to have a beautiful wedding in three weeks and I am going to enjoy it, that’s the way it’s gonna be.

    Fact is, we’ve taken the other money that we’ve had and built an extra bathroom in our house, put insulation in the walls, redecorated our room and put new furniture in it, bought a new bed, and bought a new car. I HATE it when people spend too much on their weddings and then complain about it or go into debt because of it :-O

  64. Your post is very insightful. I couldn’t agree with it more. There are many people who want to have their dream wedding and go broke, and then there are those who actually plan for their dream wedding accordingly – they do the math and plan it well. It’s not about simplifying your wedding at all. It’s about knowing how to plan for it in order to have the wedding of your dreams.

  65. Dude, this post totally freaked me out. I’m single, don’t even have a prospect of a boyfriend at the moment, and it made me feel like I need to set up a special savings account for my eventual wedding someday!

    …which would give the willies to any potential boyfriend. Almost as scary as having a wedding dress waiting in the closet. I think this is one thing that can wait a little while longer for me. But thanks for bringing it to my attention, Ramit!

  66. Ramit is totally correct in this instance. You can say that you’ll do it simpler, cheaper, better etc.. but there are so many other factors: family pressure, pressure from spouse especially women, maybe you don’t know any Djs, photographers, great chefs, maybe your friends don’t want to donate their services (this happens if you’re a photographer, for example, and yet another friend asks for your services). Plus there are costs like wedding rings, bands and ‘little’ things that add up. The truth is you either save and pay or elope. There are no simple weddings. (by the way, I eloped)

  67. Velvet Jones said: “99.9% of the comments to this post have been severely annoying and completely missed the point.”

    Actually, Ramit makes three points in his post:

    1. Be Realistic
    2. Save
    3. Prioritize

    Just because most people choose to discuss his 1st and 3rd point instead of focusing on the 2nd doesn’t make them any less significant. If you find them annoying, stop reading them.

  68. I actually think a bunch of the commenters miss the point, too.

    Just because a few outliers were able to save a bunch of money on their wedding doesn’t mean most people can. Not only that, but the size of a wedding is frankly not always in your control. Your family might want a bigger one. Or your spouse’s family. Or whatever. The realities of life intrude on our ideas of having a simple wedding.

    This happens every year with increasingly expensive weddings, despite young people protesting that their wedding will be simple. Yes, I’m sure you are different than everyone else. Just look at the gigantic wedding expenses I illustrate in my simulation. It’s easy to spend that much. In fact, it’s hard not to. The point of the article is this: Saving is more realistic than having a simple wedding.

  69. For what it’s worth we’ve just released a new product called Wedding Mapper that is designed to lower the cost of your wedding slightly by allowing you to create an online wedding map to share with your guests.

    With the online wedding map you can avoid paying a designer to create a map for your wedding or you can use the online wedding map to get a discount from our design partner on a custom design for invitations.

    The online wedding map can be included in a wedding website, printed for invitations, or linked to from an email, website, or invitation.

    It’s a free and easy way to make sure your guests have all the information they need about your wedding. You can check it out at http://www.weddingmapper.com.

  70. Bravo!! If only i would have started reading your articles couple of years back. I got married at 25 – fresh out of college with student loan and nobody to sponsor my VISA (i’m frm India). But i was lucky to have support from my family. My parents came from India and i had about 20 -25 friends who flew in from various parts of US. I thought with that small number, i wouldn’t have much expense, but during the wedding week many different customs poped up (i had no idea about ‘em) and i ended spending around 20K from my side and i don’t even wanna go into my wife’s side as she had over 200 guests. I maxed out all my cards….
    AFTERWARDS, we lived frugally for sometime and got good jobs and were finally able to pay off all our debts. But i would have been better off if only i was “aware” and had planned to save.
    Poor planning leads to poor performance, so please plan.

  71. I work at a “luxury” hotel, 5-star, 5-diamond and all that jazz. We have about 2-3 weddings each weekend and I have seen the full gamut of price range for ceremonies, from a $500,000 this weekend to one that took place right outside a room, with only 7 people and a priest and a nice dinner at the restaurant for everyone afterwards. Guess who the less stressed out and annoying guests were? Yes, it is some peoples’ dream day, but the intimacy (and cost efficiency) of a small, unique wedding I think far outweighs the extravagance of a 300-400 person wedding where you it seems to just be a garish display of wealth (or future debt).

  72. [...] so I’ve been trying really hard not to make a post about finance, but then I read this wonderful article. So, in that spirit, I’ll likely steer clear of the monetary issues involved with having an [...]

  73. you can also get a wedding dress sewn *very* affordably, if you buy the pattern (no more than $20 bucks) and the material yourself. You don’t have to go to a dressmaker, hunt around for the undercover seamstress.

    Most clothes that are made in the USA are made in a person’s home piecemeal. These people are often amazing seamstresses, very accurate, and very cheap. You can save money and rest secure in the knowledge that you’re paying the person who is making the dress much more than that person would be receiving if you bought the same dress in a dress shop.

  74. For one thing, statistically speaking (and forgive me if this has already been mentioned – I didn’t want to scan through 74 comments) to say that the MEDIAN income is about 28K and the AVERAGE wedding is 28k and, thus, people spend a year’s pay on their weddings is a fun statistic, but the Journal isn’t being as statistically honest as they can in the presentation of that data. I am sure that the weddings of 4 or 5 ridiculous celebrities every year bump up the average by a measurable amount, and I’d be much more curious about the median wedding espense than the average.

    Also, God willing I plan to get married at a county courthouse for $50.

  75. [...] some coin on your wedding day, you know, if that’s your thing? Thoughts in the comments. The $28,000 question: Why are we all hypocrites about weddings? [I Will Teach You To Be [...]

  76. Simplifying ain’t easy. Weddings get competitive, but also there’s the desire to treat your friends to the same caliber of evening that they have treated you to.

  77. While the savings that everyone seems to be proud of are great, it’s not always that easy. My fiancé and I live in a small apartment in a very expensive part of the country. We don’t have a back yard, we don’t have friends who have back yards, and sadly, we don’t have friends who have wedding-useful skills. All we want to do is throw a nice party for our friends and family, almost all of whom will be coming in from (literally) across the country, and we sort of think it would be rude to not feed people dinner who have spent a thousand bucks on airfare + hotel just to show up. And because they are all already spending a lot of time and money to come, we can’t really ask them to contribute to the party.

    That means we have to rent a place big enough to handle our family, our friends, and their kids (minimum 60 people). We have to hire a caterer or alternatively buy out a restaurant for the night. Just that alone, without any of the other costs (dress, photographer, flowers, cake) costs around $15K for that many people (or more, depending on the venue). And we hate contributing to this industry — the process of planning this thing is basically designed to suck the joy out of the day.

    We’re lucky — we have the cash on hand because we’re frugal in almost every other area of our lives. But it’s just not always that easy to not spend the money if you don’t have the other resources available.

  78. Great post. I am currently engaged, 5 weeks, and my fiance and I quickly came to the conclusion that the list of 120 people we had invited was going to cost quite a bit. Our solution was to have a destination wedding on the same Mexican island where we got engaged. We are able to save a lot of money, can invite everyone on our list, and are looking forward to a really fun time.

    As we were trying to figure out what to do, my fiancees mother gave her a great bit of advice. She said that no matter what we do, we’ll never please everyone. When you think about it that way, you realize that it’s your day and you’re inviting everyone you care about to share it with you, not the other way around. With a destination wedding, not everyone will be able to attend. That’s ok. My buddy said it best when he told me that people can back out of not going and no one is hurt because they got invited. You have no hard feelings that someone couldn’t make it. The people who really love you will do what it takes to get there. Also, you have to remember that most people will have to travel to a wedding anyway, unless everyone you know still lives in the same town.

    For my fiancee and me, once we agreed to have a destination wedding, everything fell into place. It takes a lot of stress off because you have a wedding coordinator and you relax because you make some basic choices, but ultimately, you just have to show up. The money you will save is great. All told, we’ll probably spend about $15,000 on the wedding where we anticipate about 100 people. For that many people, we were probably looking at around $25,000-$30,000, at least.

  79. For the few that thought the $28,000 number was low …

    I emphatically didn’t want my family at my wedding. Not the norm, but since it’s usually the bride’s family that insists on “over the top” (not always, I know), we had freedom. Also, we were in our 40s, so the societal pressure is less.

    License: $25 in Santa Fe, NM (where we live – free “destination”)
    Officiant: $0 (Justice of Peace in County prohibited from accepting even a tip)
    Dress/Tux: $0, by looking in our closets
    Dinner afterwards: $150 or so for the 2 of us
    Rings: $0 – he didn’t want one, and I didn’t particularly care one way or the other

    Grand total: $175 or so

    The local courthouse weddings do keep the average under 30 grand.

  80. Loved the article and the rss plugs (huge fan). Never thought at 21 I would need to start saving for a wedding, but the logic is undeniable. Thanks for the referral, I need to starting saving that 389.00/month….probably more since I; like most, will go over budget.

  81. Thanks to you.. you scared the b’jss out of me !. :D

  82. It’s not all the difficult. Break the cycle. Go to the justice of the peace. Get married. Sign the registry. Enjoy a pleasant vacation away from jobs and worries. Return. Merge two already overstuffed households. Send wedding announcements: “share our unbelievable happiness, wish us luck, don’t send presents, go to our myspace to see photos from our vacation at St. Tropez.” Put the money you might have spent on a wedding into a college fund for your future children.

  83. As I have begun the process of planning my wedding, the first step was establishing a proposed budget and working from there. I know exactly how much my parents will give, and not a cent more (I have 3 sisters), how much my fiance’s parents will contribute, and then my fiance and I have worked out how much we plan to spend in total, by getting actual quotes from various places (high end and low end) and deciding how much we will each contribute as a result, leaving extra money for those unexpected expenses that are bound to pop up and don’t want to throw on a credit card and deal with it later.
    Of course everyone wants their dream wedding, but is it really worth all of the stress that will result when you’re sitting at the table 6 months after the wedding and still owe 20,000 towards your wedding? Why not take that extra money that you could have spent and put it towards a down payment on the next big step in your lives together, buying a house.

  84. Wow, I don’t know where morons that spend $28K on weddings buy the stuff to do it, but I’ve got some left over paper plates I can sell you for $100 each.

    My wife and I got married 2 years ago in Vermont, It cost a total of around $4500 we had 205 people at the reception. It was catered by a company called the Abbey and held at a very elegant reception hall, we rented for $200, dinner was $14.50 a plate and that let people choose between Chicken, Steak, and some veggie thing I forget what it was.

    My wife and her mother made all the decorations for the hall, and bought most of them through iParty a party store change. It was a fall wedding, so we did everything up in fall themes.

    We decorated the hall on Thursday for our Saturday wedding and people that worked at the place, were taking pictures of it on Friday saying hands down it was the most beautiful decorations the place ever had.

    We went to Ireland for our Honeymoon, stayed for week, stayed in a 5 star castle, two 4 star hotels, and 2 bed and breakfasts all through Air Lingelus for $900 a person

    You just need to know where to shop and be willing to put some sweat equity in to your wedding. Don’t just expect to waited on hand and foot, if you do you will pay for it and you will be a $28K moron.

  85. The thing that never, ever gets taken into account is this: no matter how determined you are to be frugal, no matter what you swear you won’t do, there will be a mother or aunt or SOMEONE who will cause internecine family warfare for three months and cause you to blow your budget. And before you say “my family isn’t like that,” I want you to look if anyone’s been married yet and go and talk to the married couple about who had the freakout. And even then, you’ll only cover one side of the family.

    Here’s another tip: when you call to arrange flowers, catering, cake – DO NOT SAY IT IS FOR A WEDDING. Say it is for a family reunion, an anniversary party – all they honestly need to know is how many people are coming and what you want. The minute you say “wedding” your costs get jacked up 30-50%. I learned this 10 years ago when a friend decided to get married spontaneously, and we called around. One time I just totally forgot to say “it’s for a wedding” and got the estimate, but then when my friend called back and mentioned the word wedding, suddenly the price jumped up: “Oh, well, you didn’t say it was a WEDDING reception” “but what difference does it make? nothing has changed in my requirements”

  86. Charles: Wow. Morons? That’s really sweet. You need to consider that not everyone can get married in an affordable location. I’m from South Florida and thus chose to have my wedding there. Your $14.50/plate is my $100/plate. And my $100 could be California’s $200. That is the absolute least expensive option from any vendor in the area. We spent around $30K and do not regret a single dollar of it as we had the time of our lives and continue to receive compliments to this day.

    Ramit, Thanks for a great post. It is so important that people realize that saving and planning for a wedding is the most sensible way to go forward. There’s something to be said for going the “simple” route, but it’s not a terribly realistic path for most to follow. I knew going into mine that I wanted things a certain way, prioritized those things and went from there. Until one actually starts shopping for vendors there is no way to anticipate just how much things start to add up. Even just sales tax and required 20% gratuities are expenses that are often overlooked. You should also plan to spend slightly more than you budget for, because there is always one little expense that manages to sneak its way in there at the end (ours was chair covers that were supposed to be included).

  87. I’m typically fairly frugal, and when I got married (at 27; my husband was 25. I’m 40 now) I was determined to do that frugally, like I did everything else. And we did. We drove to a nice little resort town one state over, I wore a dress I “could wear again” (although I never did, and just recently put it in the box for Goodwill, since it dates from 1994), and we were married at a wedding chapel out in the woods with lovely scenery and no guests. I think the whole thing, including rings (family stone, reset in a simple band, matching band for my husband) cost less than $1500. And you know what? If I had it to do over again…

    I’d spend more money and do it UP. Lots of guests, lots of attendants, a fabulous dress, flowers like those huge cabbage roses in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and a great reception. Oh, and a REAL honeymoon.

    But, y’know, I’d save up for it first, because just seeing all that on a credit card statement would probably make me sick to my stomach and unable to sleep. This is one of the benefits of a long engagement: it gives you plenty of time to start putting your money away. If you’re living together (we weren’t, so we had double rent payments, utility payments, etc.) you can really sock away some wedding cash. And if the time comes and you decide that you’d rather use it as a down payment on a house, well, more power to you. Just be warned that you MIGHT wish later on that you’d had those stupid cabbage roses. :-)

    Great post, Ramit.

  88. Ramit, despite your comments, it appears some are still stuck on stupid.

    Time to start saving.

  89. I initially wondered why you didn’t account for compounding interest when figuring out how much to save. Then I did the calcs myself figuring in a conservative interest rate that I receive from ING and then increased the interest rate a bit more for my optimistic self. The monthly contributions do go down a bit but not significantly. I ran some numbers for certain goals for myself, namely a down payment, and was saddened, although not too shocked, to see how much more I would have to save and/or how much longer I would need to wait in order to accumulate my desired amount. I always considered myself fairly good with planning and budgeting but your post definitely pushed me to actually figure out definite numbers for my goals rather than ballpark estimates. Great post!

  90. You are absolutely correct that one laughs at people for spending too much money and then when it becomes “their day” it is amazing how you can find the money to get the stupid centerpieces you want.

    My husband and I paid in full for our entire wedding. To this day I can’t believe how I let the wedding industry convince me I needed the matching pen and guestbook. Do you know where these are now 5 years later? In my closet. 5 years ago the average cost was 20k. It just goes to show how much the industry has grown.

    To have a great wedding follow etiquette (real etiquette, not wedding industry etiquette) and be considerate of your guests. Those two small things ensure a great day for you and your guests.

  91. Oh man. I’m getting married next June and here’s my dilemma. My aunt has always said she’d be paying for my wedding. I don’t have parents anymore and they never saved for anything. Now, we’re planning this thing and she says there is no budget unless she sells an extra house that she has. But since she might be contributing something, she wants veto power of every decision I try to make. Thankfully she’s trying to push things into the cheaper realm, but that’s because she says she’ll cook everything and wants her boyfriend to take the pictures. She’s an ok cook, but I’ve never met her boyfriend. When we told her we’d picked a professional photographer that we know she answered “Well, I don’t see why you’d want to pay a photographer when you have one for free!”

    So, the pressure doesn’t always come from where you expect.

  92. When we got married in 2002 I left my wife do all the planning. She was balanced as she chose things that she wanted to splurge on and other she wanted to conserve on. We had a day wedding/reception because it’s cheaper; no one really drinks during the day and older people find it easier to attend. We paid for the wedding $14,000 on our credit card earning miles; our honeymoon trip was free with all the miles and we already had the money to pay off the credit card cause we saved toward the wedding. We made a profit on the wedding and used the money for the downpayment on our house that we moved into the following year.

    I remember one episode of Friends where Monica tells Ross that that British girl he married has been thinking of that day her whole life. It made me think and realize that yes as a guy you really don’t play “wedding day” as a child or daydream about it. So there needed to be some balance between practical and extravagant. :)

  93. I agree completely with you about the difference between budgeting and planning for a major event. I got married in April of this year, engaged in August ’06, and had begun saving for a wedding in January ’06, once we’d begun talking about getting married.
    So when we got engaged, we each wrote down a must have list for the wedding/reception, and it came to be that we had a great catered BBQ, small wedding party, immediate family and close friends (70 total- sibs, grands/parents, and nieces/nephews totaled close to 40) a budding photographer, our favorite 3-person local band, and our favorite local microbrew’s kegs.

    Including gifts for wedding party, food/drink, flowers, rentals, officiant, wedding night hotel room, clothing, music, photographer, invites, family dinner the night before (some of our family had not met yet) we came in at $3,100. No debt, tons of fun, and rave reviews from friends and family.

    We let our money we ALREADY HAD determine what we would spend, not what people expected or what the industry tells you you should do. Or worst of all, what we could put ona charge card or get out a loan to cover.

    The only cost we transfered to other people was some friends setting up the hall the morning of, and friends who delivered outrgifts to our house after the wedding (they were stying at our place for a few nights after the wedding to pet sit and save $$ on a hotel).

  94. [...] by sepial at August 20th, 2007 This time the wedding money-saving is more to do with adopting a smart strategy as early as [...]

  95. It’s all very well to go on about how much money you saved on your wedding — no doubt lots of good ideas there — but it does start sounding like the Four Yorkshiremen talking about how hard they had it as kids: “You got married under a tarp held up by four sticks? Luxury! We’d have given our eyeteeth to have a tarp, if we hadn’t sold our eyeteeth already. We got married in a cardboard box on a traffic island on the Interstate Highway, and thought ourselves lucky…”

    Here’s the heart of the matter: retail businesses have their pricing structures. Within those structures, there’s almost always a level near the top of the scale that’s there to catch people who don’t ask how much a thing costs. Those people are spending Fool Money. The most expensive thing you can say is “Price is no object.” You’re really saying “Hello, charge me the Fool Money rate.”

    It’s worse if your fantasies about fairy-princess luxury include the idea that fairy princesses never have to stop and consider how much something costs. In some families, budget discussions are always painful. They’re not about the sense of power and reassurance you get from being in control of your own finances. Instead, they’re always and forever about not having enough money — even if the family in question is well off. If you internalize that emotional response to budgeting, the only way to not have that flash of pain when you consider buying something is if you don’t consider the cost at all. And how can you have you special, perfect day if all the preparations for it hurt? So the lid comes off the budget.

    There is, in fact, a link between overspending at weddings and the incidence of divorce. Money problems are the single biggest source of stress for young couples. Taking on a heavy load of wedding debt may not break every marriage, but it makes things a lot harder than they need to be.

    The trick isn’t to not have fantasies. You’re going to have them. That’s good. They nourish the soul. But you have to learn to manage them in non-destructive ways. Loading yourself down with years of debt in order to film an advertisement for the life you wish you were having is not a good plan for happiness.

    For instance, I keep hearing young women justify their wedding spending on the grounds that they’ve been dreaming about this day since they were little girls. Well, so what? Little kids have lots of fantasies, but most kids don’t grow up to be firemen or cowgirls or clowns. Why should this little-girl fantasy about the perfect wedding day be so overwhelmingly important that it makes you throw reason and prudence out the window? Learn some new stories! Fantasize about something else!

    Besides, the perfect wedding day makes a lousy fantasy. You get ONE DAY of pretending you’re the most special girl in the whole wide world. Is that it? Will the rest of your life be an anticlimax? Is getting married the only adventure you can imagine having?

    The other reason the perfect wedding day makes a lousy fantasy is that weddings take place in the real world, and they involve other people. All it takes is a freak thunderstorm, case of food poisoning, scheduling mixup, regional blackout, heart attack, decamped caterer, bad fall on a polished floor, et cetera, to bust you back down into the thoroughly imperfect everyday world. And those are just physical mishaps. There’s no guarantee that none of your guests are going to be involved in an acrimonious lawsuit with another guest, or grab the mike from the DJ and start exhorting everyone to Come to Jesus, or get drunk and decide to have it out, at the top of her lungs, with the older cousin who sexually abused her as a child and the aunt who (as she sees it) let it happen. If your wedding-day dreams can’t encompass the sudden eruption of messy real-world events, you need to re-think them.

    The point isn’t to have the cheapest wedding possible. The point is to not think of your wedding as something that happens on another plane of reality from the rest of your life, and plan for it like you’d plan for any other major expense.

  96. It’s funny how Mr. Setha keeps insisting, “It just isn’t *realistic* to cut back and have a simple wedding,” even as one reader after another posts to say how he/she did just that. It seems to me that at some point he’d be forced to consider the evidence that simplifying *is* a realistic approach that many people find preferable to saving for years to finance a one-day event.

    When my husband and I married three years ago, we had over $40,000 in the bank and could easily have afforded the “average” $28,000 wedding–but to us, it made no sense at all to spend that kind of money on a single day. So we planned a simple, very personal wedding that ended up costing us around $2,500. (I’ll spare you the details of how we managed this, since I’m sure you’d consider our very informal outdoor wedding “unrealistic”–but many relatives and friends told us it was the nicest wedding they’d ever been to.) The extra money went toward saving up to buy a house, a goal that was much more important to both of us than having an expensive wedding–and last month, we celebrated our third anniversary in our new home.

    My point is simply this: of course, you want your wedding day to be beautiful. But my experience, and that of many other readers of this column, has been that how beautiful it is has little or no correlation to how much money you spend on it. You can have a beautiful, expensive wedding or a beautiful, simple wedding. And for those who can think of things they’d rather save their money for (not to mention those who actually *prefer* a simple wedding), the latter option is perfectly realistic.

  97. In this day and age with divorce rates soaring, some women (and men) get to spend that childhood fantasy over (2nd marriage) and over (3rd marriage) again. :)

    I wonder if the costs go up each time. They probably do because of inflation. ;)

  98. [...] some coin on your wedding day, you know, if that’s your thing? Thoughts in the comments. The $28,000 question: Why are we all hypocrites about weddings? [I Will Teach You To Be [...]

  99. [...] Sethi has a fascinating article on how to save for a wedding, including excel sheets so you can play with the numbers. Since, as the WSJ points out, the average [...]

  100. jp – Your last comment reminded me of a buddy of mine. His third fiancee was finally the one with whom he actually walked down the aisle. And she had one hell of a nice diamond on her finger. Why?

    Fiancee #1 is the type of person that I’d describe as the northern end of a south-moving donkey. She broke off the engagement and was kind enough to give him back the ring (but nothing else). But then he was stuck with a ring.

    Financee #2 managed somehow to be even worse than Fiancee #1 and was unwilling to wear the new ring, so he upgraded it to a larger diamond model that had higher quality in each of the 4C’s. Fortunately, he had the common sense to end that one.

    Fiancee #3 was the keeper. She’s a sweetheart and my buddy decided that she deserved her own ring, partially because he didn’t want the ring to remind him of the previous women. So he upgraded yet again. Her rock is the size of a dwarf planet.

  101. Kudos to you for saving money on something. You deserve a pat on the back. Unfortunately, having less than 10 people at my wedding isn’t realistic. Having someone DJ, take pictures, bake a cake, etc also isn’t realistic for me (I don’t know anyone that could). Having a bring a dish wedding also isn’t realistic. Renting a giant hall at the VFW isn’t realistic because my lady loves architecture and wants her wedding to be in a setting that is architecturally beautiful and unique (a big room with tables and chairs is not I’ve come to find out). Also note we’re buying a dress, because she can’t sew for shit. If you made your own, awesome. If you’d like to make one for her, for free, I can send you her measurements. Don’t hate on me because I’m going to spend some money on my wedding (which we’ve planned and are saving for – I’m not dropping $30k, but I’m not spending less than $10k either, unless we all stand in a field and catered food rains from the sky). You didn’t spend a lot of money. That’s great. You’re fighting against the “wedding industrial complex”, which I’m told is quite the sinister entity (they want you to buy stuff they sell, holy shit, what a concept). I’m sure you had a good time at your wedding and I’m sure your guests did too. But, how you saved money doesn’t allow me to save money, since some (most) of them aren’t options for various reasons (or maybe I’ve just been brainwashed by society). We’ve done research, asked around, determined the things that were important, estimated prices for them based on getting price quotes, and have come up with a cost for the whole deal and are saving for 10% more than that. If it’s less, then awesome. If it’s more, then shame on me for not planning and saving enough. It’s a big deal to us and we want to celebrate it how we want to celebrate it.

    I’m sure all the super cheap wedding people that posted before me have something else in their lives that are important to them and they spend money on it, whether it be their child’s education, cars, their house, vacations, sports, clothes, technology, charity, whatever. It’s great that you wanted to buy a house and saved for it and cut your spending on things that were less important to you (like your wedding). I think that’s the point of this article. Plan and save. Spend on what’s important to you. Is a wedding as important to some people as a house is to others? Dare I say…yes? Yeah, I know, I’m an idiot because I don’t think like you. Hate me.

  102. I don’t know if people missed the point. I think trying to pay for the wedding you “have” to have is very in the box thinking. Change the paradigm and convince your parents that if they want a huge wedding for you, that’s great if they want to pay for it. Otherwise, they are robbing their children and their grandchildren of a financially sound future.

  103. The trouble is, we have such a strongly ingrained cultural idea of what a wedding is “supposed” to look like, that when we think about a budget wedding, we think, “Okay, where can I get a less expensive DJ?” and don’t stop to consider, “Do I need a DJ at all?”

    My grandparents and my husband’s parents dashed down to the Justice of the Peace to get married, and they were just as married and as happy as any couple today who had a $25,000 wedding. What’s happened in between their time and ours is the rise of the giant corporate Wedding Industry, publishing bridal magazines that try to convince us that we’re getting cheated out of our SPESHUL day if we don’t have a gazillion dollar dress, hundreds of guests, limo, band, fine china, and all the other expensive trimmings.

    Not long after I was married the second time around, we were in a store and spotted a giant $500 wedding cake. My husband and I laughed. Our entire wedding hadn’t cost that much. We had only the immediate family, used a chapel on the campus where we’d met (which was so pretty that it didn’t need flowers), had a friend play guitar, and went to my parents’ house for dinner afterwards. And guess what? The second marriage has lasted, while the first, that began with a big church wedding, didn’t.

    It’s the marriage that matters, not the wedding. Keep that firmly in mind when planning.

  104. ^haha, I think I said exactly that.

    I tallied up what a young lady could spend on important things, all generally occurring before age 30 (give or take a couple years):
    (1) Graduate school
    (2) Condo down payment
    (3) Replace a car
    (4) Wedding

    I currently have an emergency fund, retirement accounts, a 529 plan & a condo fund. That’s a lot! Once I get the cash built up for my b-school application fees ($250 each, generally), I’ll move my 2nd job income into a car fund.

    I think I told my parents 2 years ago that if they want a wedding, it’s their responsibility because I am tapped out trying to cover everything else.

  105. [...] a celebrity wedding, but what about the rest of us? Financial blogger Ramit Sethi has written up an intriguing post on how to avoid potential sticker shock when planning a wedding, entitled “The 28,000 [...]

  106. Thanks, Ramit, for bringing a fresh perspective to the topic and sticking to it. It seems that everyone gets caught up in the wedding competition–even if they’re just competing to see who could spend the least.

    If eloping or getting married at the courthouse is right for you, hurrah. However, it’s not outrageous for people to want to have their friends and relations share one of life’s most special occasions. The courthouse or Vegas isn’t an answer for everyone–for some, it can be the equivalent of giving friends, family and business contacts the metaphorical finger. (Certainly not worth a savings of a few thousand dollars in those cases…)

    A significant portion of most “outrageous” wedding budgets is about simple courtesy and respect–such as feeding guests non-crappy food and having the wedding on a day (usually Saturday) that’s convenient for everyone–not just the bride and groom.

    Ramit’s right on here, as are the commenters who noted that shifting costs onto others is not necessarily worthy of emulation. To each their own–there’s nothing wrong with spending money on a wedding, provided it’s done responsibly.

  107. [...] Ramit Sethi, personal finance smart cookie at I Will Teach You To Be Rich, has one one of the absolute best posts I’ve read about the reality of wedding finances on this site. Check out:  The $28,000 Question: Why Are We All Hypocrites About Weddings? [...]

  108. There just seems to be something so wrong about moving so much closer into debt the day of your wedding… Like the diamond industry, the wedding industry has found a way to make expensive weddings the norm now….

    -Raymond
    Money Blue Book

  109. I have been a private jeweler for more than 20 years and I could tell you some stories! One that comes to mind: a young couple came to purchase wedding bands with the father of the bride to be. He joked he was going broke paying for this wedding and told them he would write them a check for $25,000 to forget about a wedding and get married in the preacher’s office. They declined such an offer.

  110. Just wanted to point out this article from last week’s WSJ about the MEDIAN cost of a wedding (not the mean). According to the article the median cost of a wedding is closer to $15,000.
    http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB118790518546107112.html
    So, yes, it makes sense that all the commenters above were able to tell their nice stories about how they planned a cheaper wedding than everyone else. They didn’t really have a cheaper wedding than the majority of people, they just fell below the average cost of the wedding which is skewed by people who have $800,000 weddings. (no joke see this article from the Wash Post http://mobile.washingtonpost.com/detail.jsp?key=68409&rc=bu )

  111. Totally correct about the saving, I bought a house (and drained all of my ready cash) then found the man I married. We then bought a house together (while renting out my little one) and basically turned to our credit cards to pay for our CHEAP by necessity wedding (5000 for 120 guests, but only because we live in a cheapish part of the country). We then went camping on our honeymoon because we had about $50 left on our visas.
    Our wedding was fine, and I feel good about how I spent the money, but it would have been really nice to have had money set aside to spend on a honeymoon, nicer decorations or helped out with my bridesmaids costs. I had to wait 2 months before I could pay off the balance of my photographers bill.

    Anyway, saving is good- I wish I’d done it.

  112. Elizabeth: I was going to point out the WSJ article, but you beat me to it!

    Ramit, you got suckered on this one like the rest of us. The wedding industry loves the high numbers, but really most people don’t spend that kind of money. However, this DOES mean that your quick spreadsheet is terribly flawed.

  113. Here in the UK, if you mention “wedding” to any florist, caterer or marquee company and the price is automatically greater. Many people book for their, erm, “party” to get a competitive quote.

    I see weddings as sort of like government expenditure. Since you are invariably locked into a date, and it cannot be cancelled if the price is not competitive, it gives contractors carte blanche to charge over the odds.

  114. It’s easy to scoff at expensive weddings when you have no idea how expensive even the simplest of things is. I just had my wedding, and I was shocked at all the things I never thought of that were all of a sudden burning huge holes in our wallet. You never realize how much tradition and etiquette will force you to pay for things you don’t think you need to pay for. But the main thing that will get you is the numbers. All of a sudden when you’re writing the invites, you start feeling guilty for not inviting people, and start inviting everyone. All of a sudden you have a HUGE number of guests, and it’s impossible to do anything semi-cheap. My main advice is for boys and girls who are close to an engagement to start doing some heavy research on where to get the best deals, and don’t get married less than 9 months after your engagement, a rushed wedding means rushed, desperate, and expensive choices.

  115. I believe our wedding came in under $5000. I’m not positive about a few points, since I wasn’t involved with some of the cost near the end. But it should have been under $5000.

    We did things like have some photography students whose work we loved (3) take our pictures. 3 of them for backup. They actually all did it as a wedding gift or to add to their portfolios (though we offered to pay a decent student price). And since they were our friends, we were so calm and happy during the shoot.

    Things like that. We have good friends who volunteered things they were good at as wedding gifts. I think that probably made our wedding easier for their budgets.

    Plus, I’m a seamstress and made my own dress for the cost of $160 worth of lace fabric and $10 worth of muslin. The fabric was also a gift. So it was only $10 to us.

    As you said, one has to prioritize–we cut down on things–and one has to be intentional about spending. And when you take up friends offers, you have to also be intentional about not exploiting their goodwill.

  116. [...] said and done? If these questions got you stumped you might want to check out this article, “The $28,000 Question: Why are we all hypocrites about our wedding?” This is a great post in the I will Teach You to be Rich blog. It has a lot of good advice on how [...]

  117. In Spain we used to give presents at weddings until the end of the 80′s.

    During the 90′s there started the “Wedding List” trend mainly generated by the ubiquitous “El Corte Ingles” mall chain.

    This Wedding list consists of 2 things:

    1. The mall’s account, which is not a bank account but just a place were the invitees will transfer their money.

    2. A list of things you would like to receive as a present.

    When the guest pay for a present of that list, his name will be recorded so that you can know who paid for it (and how much). The guest can make a call before going to the mall to check if the have a list for that marrying couple (usually everybody create a Wedding List here)

    The thing is that the money transferred to that account can actually be used to buy anything with the mall’s card (it doesn’t matter if is not in the list). So people can pay for their Honey Moon trip or even buy groceries (which is not the ideal present but it helps!).

    As this list became popular the logic evolution was to just pay an amount of money straight to the couple’s bank account so that they could buy anything.

    That’s why many people discreetly indicate their bank account in the invitation card.
    These days, the average present is 120 Euros (about 175 USD) per person.

    Other countries like Japan or China pay in cash the same day (money in an envelope) buy you should take care of not losing all that money in your wedding day!

    The best and easiest way is a bank transfer. Don’t you think?

  118. Hello Ramit,
    I’ve read this article and comments from readers:

    I’d like to make few points
    – It seems that most of readers didn’t get you main idea. It’s not about the price of the wedding, it’s about getting ready to write such a check. Not in 1 month but at least 2-3 years ahead. But people here mostly brag how they were able to pull it off for less than $5k and to spend on a wedding $30k is absurd. I did buy a ring for 5$k and wedding most likely won’t be cheap. BUT I was setting money aside for that. Does that mean I’m wrong to spend that much? I don’t think so.
    - Also from your article I get the idea that it is expected for soon to be husband and wife to cover all cost? Is this correct? I’m coming from a different background and in our culture it is expected family and friends will bring money as a present. I guess it is not common in US and that’s why you didn’t even mention that?
    - And lastly, why haven’t you made a point about relation between cost of the wedding and income? What if $28k is just a 10% to 20% of future family yearly income? You have talked about people spending 20k a year on shoes and said it’s ok because it’s relatively small portion of their income. Why this logic doesn’t apply to wedding budget?

  119. [...] time the wedding money-saving is more to do with adopting a smart strategy as early as [...]

  120. These are great AND thorough tips. It flabbergasts me to think of all the people who choose to start their new life together buy throwing away good money. The marriage is more important than the wedding, after all. My wife and I got married 4 years ago in a small family affair at my parents house, then we had a larger gathering that was catered, but very informal. We did the whole thing for

  121. It is interesting to see how many people have saddled up their high horse on here. It does not make you a better person because you spend a few hundred bucks on your wedding, as it does not make one a better person for spending $100k. I am currently in the middle of planning my 11/08 wedding and am dealing with the cost of living in the NYC area. My FI and I are trying to not exceed $45k (the reception site/food/bar alone cost $25k). However, I do not feel I am “throwing away good money” on my wedding. It is extremely difficult to plan a budget wedding in this area for 200+ guests. I think people here are missing the point of the article, its not that spending a lot of money on a wedding is wrong, its that people have to consider how much they want to spend versus how much they can afford now/save up for later. My FI and I are saving like mad for this (plus a small contribution from each of our retired parents) and I know we will be able to “afford” this wedding. We are cutting corners where we can and are pleased with the results so far. Isn’t that all that matters? My point is, don’t look down your nose at expensive weddings because someone can just as easily look down their nose at something you choose to spend your money on- motorcycles, expensive travel, collections, golf, etc. It’s MY money and I can choose to do with it as I please. As long as I have it and I’m not racking up insurmountable debt, then leave me be with my “moronic” wedding :)

  122. I think people are able to spend $28000 on their wedding because they generally have financial help from family members. I don’t know if I’ll ever get married or not. But one thing I do know is if I ever do, then theres a 90% chance I’ll be paying for it. (I’m not rich by any means). So I can say with CONFIDENCE that any wedding of mine will cost nowhere NEAR $28000. My wedding will be small, local, and simple. The majority of the money should go to the honeymoon since most the time the honeymoon lasts longer than the wedding. Honestly, $28000 is a down payment on a house, which I don’t have right now. My point is, count your blessings. At least you are ABLE to spend that kind of money.

  123. I paid nothing for my wedding. Went to City Hall. After the marriage, the in-laws suddenly insisted on having a proper wedding. My view was: “What’s the point, I already married your daughter.” They did the wedding anyway, but they paid the whole amount. I’ve been to several expensive weddings. From what I’ve seen, the only thing worse than a Bridezilla at a wedding is a Bridezilla at a big expensive crazy wedding (and let’s not forget Bridezilla’s mother). Unless you have the money to show off, throwing a lot of money at a wedding is stupid.

  124. We married a bit later (32 years old each) and ended up funding our entire wedding/rehearsal w/o help from family. Yes, we spent more than the average – it was a conscious decision, because we were asking our friends to travel pretty far to the area where my family lived, so we wanted to host a few events over the weekend. The point is that we had lived frugally before the wedding, already had a lot in savings, and we didn’t have to go a cent into debt for the wedding. We’re still living more frugally than our friends, i.e. living together in a studio apartment, and we’re essentially living on one salary and saving the other. The point isn’t who has done the best on cutting corners for one day – it is that you should always be more focused on saving than spending, and that even for “that big day”, you shouldn’t sacrifice your financial stability.

  125. I tried reading through all the comments, but I got annoyed after reading the same thing about twenty times (I stopped around where you agreed with KM that not everyone knows a pro quality photographer). Here’s my two cents:

    It is possible to have a lovely wedding for somewhere around $60, depending on how much the license costs in your states. It’s possible to have a lovely wedding for $200,000 or millions of dollars – the sky’s the limit on that end. What frustrates me about all the commenters (all the ones I read, at least) is that everyone thinks that people who spend any more than they did on a wedding is stupid. I think it was George Carlin who said, “Anyone driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac.” I think that people should consider weddings the same way you consider your friend’s expensive shoe addiction – it may seem crazy to you, but if they have their finances in order, they’ve been saving, and they aren’t going into debt over it, LEAVE THEM ALONE. You want your mother to make your wedding cake? Fine. I don’t. Don’t get on my case for spending $200 on wedding cakes. I’m sure that everyone spends money on something that others would find ridiculous – that’s not what this article or this website are about at all. I think your point, Ramit, is really good: Budget for a wedding if you’re planning to have one and then save appropriately.

  126. I agree with everyone on here about how crazy it is to spend that kind of money.

    But trust me, when the planning is going on and the decisions are being made, expenses add up extremely fast. We are having 150 people and we are being very cost conscious. We will be spending upwards of $35,000 for the whole thing.
    It sounds awful but it is what it is. The wedding machine is something that, once it sucks you in, is very hard to fight.
    Of course, if this was my $35,000 it would be a whole different story. But it isn’t and so . . .

  127. [...] recent popular articles Conscious Spending: How My Friend Spends $21,000/year Going Out The $28,000 Question: Why Are We All Hypocrites About Weddings? Chicken Little and Kooks Who Don’t Know What They’re Talking About I Hate Indian [...]

  128. We had a $3500 wedding but for me, that was a lot. I do wish we’d gotten a photographer but I had a good time and it was 1 day, and not worth sacrificing our down payment on our house.

    I’m a bit glad I didn’t go overboard because something I didn’t expect to happen, happened. I was scared silly of all those people looking at me. Turns out I don’t like being the center of attention, something I knew before the wedding but wasn’t expecting to affect me. Even with the relatively small wedding we had, I was still nearly panicked by being “on stage” (there was no stage, just expressing the feeling) and I didn’t really relax until about 3 hours into the party.

    The actual ceremony was beautiful and simple and I will never forget it and I wish (and I bet you will too if you go overboard) that I’d just had a simpler party… luckily my husband likes being the life of the party and took some of the heat off me – guess we’re a good match :)

  129. PFt, I’m engaged and have my wedding almost entirely planned out. It will be less than $2200 (wedding, reception, rings, and tux.dress) And it would have been cheaper except my fiance wanted more people there rather than the family only affair I always had in mind. :D We’ll have 40 people at our wedding.. It will still be special, have a beautiful location picked out, our loved ones will be there– and MOST importantly, I’ll be married to the man I love more than anything.

    it’s a day. I don’t see excusing people for going into debt because some silly emotions come into play. If you can’t afford it, don’t get married, don’t have kids, don’t buy some expensive car… all those things people have problems with. I came from a very poor family, and have earned everything I have and all I can say is get over it. Put your priorities into order.

  130. Because of my work, I think about these issues every day. I share your incredulity over the big, big numbers vs. the usual lack of planning.

    Actually, the costs are so high now I think parents should start a savings fund for their kids as soon as they’re born. I mean, college is nice, too, but the wedding could pretty easily beat out college in terms of a long-term crippling debt load.

    There aren’t any simple, ‘we’re not rich, so let’s rent out the VFW and have the family bring the food’ weddings anymore. Everyone plans like they’re rich, even young couples who’ve barely got a few years into their jobs. And everyone assumes they’ll pay it off somehow. After all, everyone else manages, right?

    Some people have unfortunately lost cushy jobs from economic downturns right after the rice was thrown. And their stories are kind of sad.

  131. [...] When consciously saving towards a targeted goal, starting earlier means you actually have to save less per month than if you start later (see a spreadsheet of how this works) [...]

  132. I agree that budgeting ahead of time based on your priorities for your own wedding is key to not going into debt, whether you and your significant other will be paying the tab, or whether family is helping out. I’ve been married for just over 3 years now, and I’m quite happy with what we spent, and no one went into debt over it.
    However, the one thing I would tell any bride, in particular, is to remember that you’re planning the party for your guests, not yourself–you won’t remember/enjoy/appreciate nearly as much as you think you will (and nearly all my friends agree with this too, it’s not just me). So, keep things in reason– if the item you want to spend on is something that only you would notice/enjoy, it might be time to re-think that particular item/spending.

  133. [...] recent popular articles Conscious Spending: How My Friend Spends $21,000/year Going Out The $28,000 Question: Why Are We All Hypocrites About Weddings? Chicken Little and Kooks Who Don’t Know What They’re Talking About I Hate Indian [...]

  134. I am in the midst of wedding planning myself and have realized first hand how quickly prices escalate. With the help of low budget bride planning guides, we have managed to stay below the national average even though it is a huge expense. But let’s be realistic, the cost of the reception is usually covered by the guests with gifts. I know it is rude to say you expect a gift but, let’s be honest, everyone brings a gift and the rule of thumb is to pay for your place at the meal. We figure that this will not cover expenses like the honeymoon but saving up for and paying for that is much more reasonable than the entire amount.

  135. Yes, most weddings cost too much. We’re working on one in my family at the moment and our catch phrase for splendid excess is “gold dusted almonds”. At end of the day, people will remember good times and good friends. They won’t remember the junk you spent a fortune on for their “favors.” Simple is good, and Ramit, just a question, now *when* are you getting married?

  136. [...] at I Will Teach You to Be Rich recently wrote an article about the cost of weddings. On average, a wedding costs $28,000. That’s more than half what the typical American [...]

  137. [...] something. Anyway, not that I’m jumping the gun and announcing a wedding or nothing, but as Ramit pointed out, a wedding can be a large expense and like any large expense it’s better to plan [...]

  138. It has never occurred to me to start saving for a wedding, but this post has inspired me to do just that. I don’t want a big wedding, but to tell you the truth, I don’t have the finances now to plunk down even $2500 on a wedding! Even if your wedding is cheap compared to $28,000, you’re still in debt if you haven’t paid for it.

    There is another advantage to being able to pay for your wedding yourself: control. No family members telling you because they contributed money they MUST get a say and you MUST have that pink tulle everywhere otherwise they won’t pay for anything and poof, there’s your source of money.

    But a question–how do you come off as if you’re not a wedding-crazy Bridezilla/Groomzilla-to-be if you start saving for your wedding now? I can’t imagine talking to a boyfriend or girlfriend about finances and then the subject of the “wedding budget” comes up–what if you’re not planning on marrying them? How do you explain that one?

  139. Being a parent, I feel parents have a lot to do with the wedding budget. When our first daughter was engaged we told her we had a budget for her. We told her she could use 1/2, all, or none but we encouraged her to have a personal meaningful wedding. Our second suggestion was to make sure the wedding party didn’t have to pay an arm and a leg to be in their wedding. So, they had us send them 1/2 the money, they told their wedding party they would like them to dress in the colors chosen for wedding, and they are active fun people so they had their wedding at a bowling alley. We all bowled in our wedding clothes and bowling shoes. They had one friend do their video, three friends do their music, and two friends do a dance. They ended up spending $1,000 less than the 1/2 we sent. The rest they put in some CD’s to save for a house. Our other daughter got married at Yosemite for about $300 including the dress which she has already sold on Craigslist for the same price. They are planning a party for 80 later in the year to celebrate at a restaurant that only charges for the food not space. They have the rest of their money saved for a better house as they already own a home. Basically, we hoped both couples would put more work into making a good marriage than a year planning for one day.

  140. [...] the $28k question: why are we all hypocrites about weddings – why don’t single people just plan that they’re going to have a really expensive wedding, because they probably will. I guess if you don’t spend the money on the wedding, you can use it on something else [...]

  141. I actually know a guy who is saving for his wedding, He is in the military, is 23, drives a porsche and has NO DEBT. He’s amazing. I got married in a civil ceremony before my husband left on deployment and we are paying off the credit cards we have now AND saving for the wedding. My budget is 10k. I hope to be under but I doubt it. We are having approx 20 guests I think.. family flying in to Hawaii and itll be on the beach. I am trying to find a restaurant that will give us a private room for my tiny wedding dinner and then I want to have a very nice honeymoon to one of the resorts on the neighboring islands.. I figure 4-5k on the wedding/reception and probably 5k on the honeymoon, all told.

  142. Here in San Francisco, spending $28K is almost nothing. I’ve participated at weddings with a budget well above $100K. Some were over $200K. Sample Saturday reception at Ritz Carlton could cost $30K. Inviting 400 guests bring a food bill to $30000. $28K sounds almost like a dream here in Bay Area. If you have to pay for guests lodging and transportation you’re into another five numbers investment. There other activities such as rehearsal dinner, afterparty, etc.,

  143. Funny, I’ve been married three times, the first time at age 19. Not a single one of those weddings cost more than $100.

  144. Think back to all of the weddings you have attended, what do you really remember about them – you remember how young and good looking the members of the party were, the conversations you might have had with distant friends and relatives, but hardly do you remeber what food they served or how long the open bar was or how fancy the joint was. Keep it simple, most people don’t care and will not remember the things people waste a lot of money on. Keep your cash for a house.

  145. I always wanted a nice wedding dress so I could pass it on to my daughter….And an open bar…

    I plan to spend anything that my in-laws will throw at me for the ceremony. They will more than likely invite all their business associates anyway.

    I think the high cost of a formal wedding is quite worth saving your virginity for 27 years…

  146. So here’s the most interesting thing about keeping the cost of a wedding down: You and your partner have to be on the same page, or be willing to compromise to get there.

    I recently got married and because I’m a penny-pincher and had been previously married, all I wanted was to wander off to Vegas and save the 28K we otherwise would have spent to increase the down payment on our house or our cars. My future-husband, though, had never been married before and strongly wanted a wedding that his 200 – 300 extended family members could attend. We had a similar conversation over an engagement ring because he wanted to buy something far more expensive than I thought was reasonable for our incomes.

    Once I pointed out how much money we would have to save every month to pay cash for the event and how that would impact house and car purchases down the road…we started meeting somewhere in the middle. We spent waaaaaay more than I ever wanted to, but we compromised on a number and committed to paying cash for it. We both saved like crazy and paid for the big event in case with some help from parents who were absolutely insistent on pitching in.

    It was a great event that neither one of us would have changed…but the key was getting on the same page really early in the process and having some hard discussions. Incidentally, that’s good practice for married life down the road. If you can come to terms with how to handle a 30K price tag and the impact it has on house choices, car choices, etc., (and get there with everyone’s sanity in place) then you’re setting a good foundation for other future financial decisions.

  147. Ugh, I hate to admit, but we’re one of these “morons”… we didn’t think our wedding would as much as it was until it was too late and we added about $6k to our credit card debt… stupid, stupid, stupid. Six months later, we have our heads on straight and are getting out of credit card debt, but it’s a slow process, as most of us know! Great post!

  148. Wow! I hosted 50 people on the beach in Cape May, NJ for about 5 Grand.

  149. I happened upon your article “The $28,000 question: Why are we all hypocrites about weddings?” while pouring over your site, which my dear cousin the lawyer directed me to upon hearing that I was looking for some fresh ideas and guidance for investment, as I’ve amassed enough interest in my CD/money market accounts to warrant action.

    As I am getting married next year, I was drawn in and…I would say horror stricken, but I’ve shopped around and I’m not the least bit surprised.

    Getting married (and everything else you do in the Bay Area) is insanely f*cking expensive.

    Fortunately, my hunk is Chinese. (they are a frugal people)

    Unfortunately, his family is also Chinese. (they are a bountiful people)

    Being a waspish gal from the East Coast, I figured I was on easy street once the engagement became official. I’d always wanted a small wedding, and when I say small, I mean SMALL. Can fit around one long table small. Play a board game after the cake gets cut small.

    Then my beloved hunk announced that he too wished for a small reception…no more than a hundred people.

    Here’s a secret about the Anglo-Saxon middle class: for the most part, if it requires a plane ride, the wedding’s not worth going to. They’ll send you a nice gift from your registry and their sincerest apologies. You can invite 500 people, but if the wedding’s on the other side of America, you’re getting a polite refusal and a dutch oven.

    Secretly, I’d suggest brides in a similar situation send out invitations in heats to rack up refusals and acceptances until she’d hit her quota for guests…invite the people you really really really want to be there first, then vaguer acquaintances and such…you might rack up a few more items on your registry that way.

    Anyway, I’d figured that my small immediate family and scattered cousins meant a very small wedding party. I’d quite forgotten that my hubs has about 63 cousins and general relations in California (most in the bay) and that weddings are not optional or burdensome in his family’s cultural tradition.

    I blanched. My elegant small wedding suddenly exploded into a potentially crippling fiduciary black hole. I ditched my pretty wedding magazines. I threw out pamphlets on reception locations. I laughed at people that asked about my ideas for flowers and invitations.

    I have nothing to say on the subject of the girls that never outgrew the princess syndrome, but I will say this for the poor clueless gals holed up with a copy of Martha Stewart Weddings and a pocket full of dreams.

    Trim.

    Either take a class and figure out how to do some of these things for yourselves or buy a hat and hold the f*ck on.

    Here are my top ten suggestions for brides that, like me, have no desire to go to the poor house or Vegas to take care of their marital needs. My suggestions are designed specifically for someone that wishes to stay below 5 grand in their wedding budget (5 grand, that is, on shit you will never see again after your special day…see number 5 for the exception).

    1) Hit the craigslist section for “crew” and start volunteering for amateur/student fashion shows. You will meet a hell of a lot of young hopeful fashion designers that know how to work a sewing machine. Eventually you will find one that you like enough to become friends with or at least take to lunch once in a while and you can hire him/her to do you and your bridesmaids up at a fraction of the cost, provided that you bring the fabric and the pattern (buy a vintage vogue pattern for ten bucks on eBay). Buy good fabric. Bolts of fabric in SF can be bought for super cheap at a joint called “Scrap”. Stalk them for a few months, you might strike gold. Hell, the staff will probably fall all over themselves to put bolts on hold for you if you tell them what you’re looking for.

    2) F*ck florists. Send your sibling to buy some cut flowers at Whole Foods the day of (or day before if you’re the nervous type). Let your wedding party choose their own flowers for goodness sake. Who needs to be so “matchy”? (Who needs bridesmaids’ dresses for that matter?) Or simply make your flowers out of paper. Origami isn’t that hard and it’s a fun arts and crafts project if you’re so inclined.

    3) Be honest with yourself about invitations. Do you care if your name is engraved or written in ink? A $200 course in calligraphy would give you a new hobby AND save you $1800. OR buy good stationary and call it a day, for Pete’s sake. I got fancy envelopes and simple stamped card stock to go in them. Do you know how much cheaper it is to buy fancy envelopes? Yet you get just as many compliments! (which is the only reason girls go all out on invitations anyway…to be complimented on good taste.)

    4) Forget limos and drive yourself. If you have a crappy car, it’s still cheaper to rent a sporty sedan from Avis for a day. Get a dress that will fit into a normal automobile. Who are you, Princess Di? Even her fancy big train wasn’t enough to ensure matrimonial bliss, so save yourself the 25 pounds of fabric.

    5) Forget the DJ. Invest in a Bose portable sound system for your own entertainment purposes and hook in your iPod (you can send home mix cds in lieu of crappy favors too). Want the illusion of a live band? Learn to use an editing system (ie Media 100) and put together a loop of clips from old big band movies (ie Fred Astaire features) and rent a projector. Order a big band CD from time life and VOILA! Classy and creative. Be wary of Myspace syndrome though. No one needs another power point presentation set to Coldplay with pictures of you and your beloved bouncing on and off the screen. That mess is why there’ll be shaving cream and condoms on your car when you leave.

    6) Rings=Titanium for the gent will save a pocketful. They’re classy too. And for the ladies, estate jewels are the way to go. Edwardian is my personal favorite era for jewelry, and you can really twist arms on prices because those vintage pieces aren’t hard to find (a lot of ladies that wore jewelry in the 1920s are kicking off these days).

    7) Honeymoon=don’t go somewhere you’ve never been before. It’s a honeymoon. You’re going to be occupied. Indoors. A lot. So forget Hawaii (save that for winter) and just hit up a really nice bed and breakfast that’s just far enough away from home to feel like a vacation. (I suggest the Atherton Inn for San Franciscans…$125-250 a night for abject luxury and the best bed you’ve ever slept in…seriously, it astounds me that they haven’t jacked up their prices)

    8) Photographer= do invest in someone that will take good portraits but pay attention to those dear shutterbugs in your life that possess professional equipment because they “like taking pictures”. I’m pretty sure there’s one in every family or social circle. Offer to pay them something, naturally, since you’re asking them to share your special day by working at it, and you’ll be a good deal more comfortable letting a friend or family member capture private moments. I hate those damned portraits of posing brides and wedding parties. I love the ones of “behind the scenes” glory. The bride caught in a moment of natural beauty. The mother looking exhausted and cross/weepy. The groom dropping the first piece of cake on the floor. Good stuff.

    9) Rentals/restaurants/etc. If your family is like my future family, rent out a portion of their favorite restaurant (Theirs is a simple joint called Good Neighbor, which I bet I could close entirely to the public for $2000 for an entire business day.) and just have one party. Rehearsal dinners are for chumps. Barbecue on the night of the rehearsal. As for booze (which is where the real money comes in) tell your family that you’ve become a Pentecostal holy roller and cannot stain your lips with the venom of sinful men. Or hit up Costco and get the family drunk BEFORE the reception (in the parking lot of the restaurant while you’re waiting for the afternoon reception to clear out) to avoid obscene serving fees. (or bite the bullet if you simply must have a champagne toast, but keep the options to red wine, beer and a glass of champagne for the speeches)

    10) Location location location. Pick a place to exchange vows that you find naturally beautiful, then let it just be beautiful. Why adorn what is already so wonderful? Aren’t you, the bride and groom, adornment enough? There’s no need to cover a joint up in lilies and silk streamers. Be very, very selective about the decor you choose, lest you get carried away with the airy promises of florists or wedding planners.

    I hate to admit it, but I will mock tacky weddings. I hate those damned excuses for luaus with Jimmy Buffet lyrics written on everything and crepe paper decorations. Ew! (I recently went to one with tables decorated with salt shakers and little slips of paper on them that said Adam and Sarah The Last Shaker of Salt 2008…seriously? Seriously? What does that even mean?) I also hate the overdone wastes of flowers and lights and music. Best wedding I ever went to was in a roller disco. (I would do the same thing, if I wasn’t morally opposed to copycatting someone else’s brilliant wedding idea)

    I can understand the intense pressure on young women with good taste but better fiscal sense. It’s time to turn the tables and reexamine what is really a necessity when putting on a wedding.

  150. This comment is much later than the earliest ones, but it looks like people are still coming to this post at this time.

    Add me to the list of people who are starting to get annoyed by the people who look down their noses at people whose weddings cost over $3000. The point is to make sure that you don’t spend what you can’t afford, not that you spend the least amount possible. I have been to several weddings that were fun and cheap, but that’s because the bride and groom were pretty much on college student budgets. I have also been to various fancy corporate events that were not nearly as nice and fun as the expense would suggest. However, I will be getting married at a point in my life when I will have (assuming the career is going well) a decent amount of money saved up, some of which I will be earmarking for a wedding. At this point in my life, I have spent a lot of time in buildings that have very nice decor, whether they are cathedrals or university buildings with ornate gothic decor. I am a fairly visual person, and to me it would be disappointing to hold my reception in a room with movable walls like my elementary school classrooms (like at my cousin’s wedding) rather than in a nice location with flowers on the table. Places in my area that aren’t made of 100% plastic usually have their own catering lists, too. So, as Ramit has intelligently pointed out, I will be saving accordingly.

    I haven’t dreamed of a wedding since I was a little girl, and don’t expect a “perfect” day, but I just started looking and found that weddings in the area I live in are really expensive. And while I’m not saying “go into debt because it’s your perfect day,” I would also say that there’s something to a wedding being a special, once-in-a-lifetime occasion. I like hosting bbq’s and cheap wine and cheese parties, but once in my life I would like to be able to throw a NICE party for my family and friends, you know? And doing that on a budget will be difficult in my area, and for me. One of the trade-offs to being able to save for a wedding is that I will also be working 80 hour weeks, which allows exceptionally little time to make all the decorations by hand (same with my friends, so I would not be able to coerce them into doing the work for me); oh, boo-hoo, I know, but the person working two jobs just to make ends meet isn’t going to have a lot of time to sew her own dress, either.

    Finally, having traveled to weddings on a tight budge, I can guarantee you that if a guest makes an effort to pay high travel costs to get to your wedding, that guest is going to notice if your only consideration was cutting costs.

  151. I’m getting married in Sept. And my wedding will cost less than 5k. I dropped 1k on the ring, a paltry amount by most people’s standards, and 1k on the dress, I got my ring on Overstock.com for 80 bucks. My bride to be understands the importance of sacrifice now reward later. Our friends are wearing big diamonds, driving BMWs, going to Europe, buying boats, motorcycles, and shelling out 25-30k or more on 500+ people at their wedding. We’re buying a house, not just any house, a duplex. I’m renting the other half out to my brother, effectively cutting my house payment down to 500 dollars a month, we both work and have no debt leaving us free to build a business and invest in other areas. I started my first company at 21 years old and will continue to build new businesses. I’m working on opening my 2nd business this year. Ramit, I love reading your blogs. You have inspired me to get escape and start my own blog documenting my plot. I won’t post it here cuz that might be considered spamming, but it’s the link in my email. I hope you will visit and give me some pointers. It’s not really my goal to make money off of it, just to share some wisdom and to learn a thing or two from people who are ahead of me on this crazy journey. Keep up the good work man.

  152. My wedding came in at about $10k. We cut costs in several ways. Most of the ways we cut costs had to do with exploiting resources we had already. For example, I do bonsai, so we used my bonsai collection as a decoration at the wedding. My wife dabbles in calligraphy, so she did the invitations.

    i realize some of these things cannot be done by every one (i.e., not every one has a friend with a liqour store), but the more you do yourself, the cheaper it becomes, and the more personal and unique your wedding is. Most of the time, when I see pictures of a 30k, 40k, or 100k wedding, I cant help but think they all look practically the same.

    1. We had the reception / dinner at a gorgeous park with a sunken garden. Total cost to rent the reception hall for the day was $500.

    2. Rather than renting table cloths and silverware, we found is significantly cheaper to go to IKEA and buy several dozen utensil sets, and hit up a Big Lots store for table cloths (less than $3 per cloth, less then $1 per set for utensils).

    3. The cake was made by a small vegetarian restaurant we frequented. The cake(s) was a custom flavor they worked with us to develop (spicy ancho chocolate cake, with different spicy levels, including super hot for me. yum…) Cake to feed 110 people cost about $200.

    4. We have a friend who owns a liquor store, so we got the booze at cost, and he took back what wasn’t consumed. I realize that doesn’t work for everyone.

    5. Biodegradable bamboo plates were cheaper than renting plates and look much nicer than chinette.

    6. No limos. Whats the point?

    7. Dinner was an Indian food buffet, with wait service provided by the restaurant. Cost was much less than trying to make 110 individual stakes or such, and the restaurant wait staff was very professional and amused that we wanted them to cater our wedding.

    8. Instead of flowers for tables, we trolled library sales for months leading up to the wedding. For each table, we had a stack of books by a particular favorite author of ours, tied with a ribbon. Next to the stack were old fashioned picture frames with a quote from the author. The total cost for all the books and frames was easily under $100, since most of the books were $1 each, and we got the frames at good will and other thrift stores.

    10. My wife did the calligraphy for the invitations her self, and then we mass produced them, and stuffed the envelopes ourselves. Price was just the materials cost.

  153. We are determined to spend none of our own money on our wedding, which is in three months. We will only spend what our parents are giving us, which, I can assure you, is much, much less than the $28,000 average. We were hoping to keep it under $5,000, but with some additional $$, we’re comfortable to be looking at closer to $7-8k. Of course, this does not include a honeymoon, where I intend to blow a ton of cash. The biggest VACATION of your life is more important than the “BIGGEST DAY” of your life, if you ask me.

    The big problem I see with people and their special day is the amount of TRADITION that people count on being part of their wedding. So much of our American weddings have become institutionalized over the years, people think that they need these things to be a part of the Big Day.

    For example, the DJ. When did the obnoxious DJ become a necessity of a wedding? Posed photographs? Not necessary. Matching gowns for bridesmaids? Not necessary either. (And don’t get me started on the traditional elements that don’t cost money – first dances, rice throwing, cake-face-smushing, bouquet-throwing,,etc) If you leave everything traditional at the doorstep, you can create something original and fun for everyone. So your wedding will stand out, rather than blend in with every other one.

    We are getting married in Vermont in a small ceremony, and inviting only our parents for a nice weekend. She’s wearing a nice summery $80 J Crew dress. We are having a reception for family two weeks later at a privately-owned home that is rented out for events. They give you all the tables/chairs. Here’s how we’re saving money:

    iPod and speaker system instead of DJ.
    Potted ferns instead of flowers. Ferns are a part of our invitation and cake design.
    Inviting 50 people. Any more and you won’t even get to say hello to most of them.
    No limo. We both plan on showing up early and helping set up anyway.
    Hiring a hotographer that’s been doing family portraits for years, and will do our wedding for a good price.
    Invitations will be from a self-assembled self-printed kit from InviteSite.com for $200.
    I’m buying a nice $400 suit instead a tuxedo. That’s something I can use later.
    Smaller # of guests means a smaller cake.

    Also, I am excited because we are getting personalized Jones Soda bottles, flavored Green Apple, which looks like one of our colors. There will be different pictures of us on the bottles. It’s different, it’s cute and it’s only $30 a case. But it’s something everyone will remember. A $1,000 DJ? No one will remember that because it will just blend in with every other wedding they’ve attended.

    Unfortunately, we have an $800 wedding dress on our hands from before we decided to go away for the ceremony. Ah well.

  154. You left off the cost for the clergy or judge officiating. It’s considered a “donation” but it’s still required.

    (Our clergy asked how much I planned to pay him and wasn’t happy with the amount. He wouldn’t tell me how much he wanted. He asked how much we were paying the caterer, so I said $15/person and told him I didn’t think $30 was enough for his services.)

  155. You left off the cost for the clergy or judge officiating. It’s considered a “donation” but it’s still required.

    (Our clergy asked how much I planned to pay him and wasn’t happy with the amount. He wouldn’t tell me how much he wanted. He asked how much we were paying the caterer, so I said $15/person and told him I didn’t think $30 was enough for his services.)

  156. [...] always save you money.” If you liked this, you may want to check out my takes on why we’re all hypocrites about our $28,000 weddings and why I bought a new (not used) [...]

  157. 50% of marriages fail, and the majority of expensive weddings I’ve been to fall into this category.

    Some were paying wedding expenses during the divorce.

    How much is it worth to someone for their guests to talk about what an awesomely nice wedding they went to?

    Truth is, most forget about it within a month.

  158. Luckily for me, my wife and I didn’t want a big wedding. We spent about $400 on ours. My uncle married us, my Grandmother paid $25 to reserve a gazebo near the water, and my wife’s wedding dress was on sale at Dillard’s for $50. It wasn’t hard for us. We had a budget of $3000 but we decided it would be better to save that and just have a simple wedding.

  159. the idea is cool, but I think you took a wrong turn somewhere….forget the wedding lets get to the honey moon.
    and of course here the last ditch effort GET married 3 times a day =)

  160. Fantastic post! I couldn’t agree more. I’m simultaneously terrified and inspired. =)
    As terrible as it sounds, I actually congratulate the wedding industry as a whole for its brilliant marketing. All wedding companies do is convince people who are getting married that they have to spend thousands of dollars in order to have a half-decent wedding.
    For example, I went to a wedding expo over the weekend, and in one of the magazines I got there, there was an article on what you can get for your wedding depending on your budget.
    Here’s the funny part: The three budgets they talked about were $25,000, $50,000, and $75,000.
    They make it seem like the “average” budget is at the lower end of the spectrum!
    It’s psychological. If a bride-to-be sees that enough times, eventually she’s going to believe it, and begin to raise her standards on what she considers “affordable.”
    Hopefully your blog can help keep them grounded in reality.

  161. [...] in reading a great blog post about the high cost of weddings and how to plan for them, try this one at the iwillteachyoutoberich blog. Also scan the comments for real life wedding stories and [...]

  162. Thank you so much for this article/blog. I have learned so much, not only from Ramit, but from all of the other comments posted here. I came to this article because I was going crazy over how to have an economical wedding without blowing all of our money…my fiance really wants a casual bbq reception. I was feeling pressured into having the run of the mill, average wedding (for me, about $10k)…but then I read this from top to bottom and am so excited to have the answer to my economical wedding blues!!
    We will rent out a grove at a local park in Pittsburgh, PA (which are very beautiful with lots of trees, as I originally wanted a garden wedding). We will hire a BBQ caterer, of course have linens and china plates, buy cases of wine, a cake from Foodland, an Ipod, plenty of daisys to honor his great-grandmother, and lots of fun! We live in southern California, so the following day, we’ll all plan to go to one of the summer festivals that are always happening in our area so the out-of-towners can experience Pgh. The night before the wedding, I’ll sleep at my best friends house, my fiance, at my mom’s or with his family in a hotel and someone will drive both of us there. I can hardly wait! I’m not sure how much this will cost but I think pretty cheap: the bbq people (they even bring a smoker) charge about $10-15/ person, the grove rental is $50 so it’s a start…I’m soooo EXCITED!! Thank you for everything!!!

  163. For our wedding, my husband and I were on the extreme side in terms of how inexpensive it was. We got married in our home with a justice of the peace presiding and with two friends as witnesses. For our reception, we had a great potluck with close friends at our home, and then a family party months later when we traveled home for the summer (we were grad students at the time). Not only was our wedding inexpensive, it was also extremely intimate and memorable. On the downside, we didn’t receive nearly the amount of gifts and cash we would have had we had a huge wedding and reception that included acquaintances of the family.

  164. My doesn’t he sound so sure of himself. Too bad he’s full of sh*t. Plenty of people have a wedding for way cheaper than $28,000. In fact there’s a thread in the budget forum of brides.com with a lot of brides who have already had their wedding for five thousand US dollars. You can find people who paid less than twenty eight thousand dollars on their wedding on pretty much every wedding forum on the internet. Newsflash: I’m paying five thousand dollars for my wedding with 125 guests. I’d like to know how the heck I’m going to go 23 thousand dollars off budget. Also, my sister got married for two thousand dollars. She had a beautiful wedding.

  165. [...] how do we pay for the wedding? Ramit Sethi, another financial blogger, suggests saving in advance for your wedding based on the average ages in which we tend to get married. In the United States, women tend to tie [...]

  166. [...] how do we pay for the wedding? Ramit Sethi, another financial blogger, suggests saving in advance for your wedding based on the average ages in which we tend to get married. In the United States, women tend to tie [...]

  167. [...] lots of commenters to brag about how you got out of debt by making hard choices (just as they annoyingly bragged about their inexpensive weddings in the comments of this post). That’s great. But I’m sick of those comments that tell people to “just spend [...]

  168. One problem I see with the $333 per month idea. How many 20 year olds have $333 per month for a wedding PLUS $500 for the Roth IRA PLUS $250 (or whatever for the student loan) PLUS … well, you get the idea!

    Whether you’re saving for something up front or paying for it after the fact, most people only have so much money to work with — all else they just “have to have”, like the perfect wedding day, is going to end up on the credit card.

  169. [...] post on why we’re all hypocrites about our weddings was one of my most [...]

  170. Well, I am obviously late to the party, but I have some refreshing news from personal experience – saving and prioritizing IS more realistic than trimming, begging, borrowing, and skimping! You got it Ramit! My fiancé and I are getting married next month in Seattle, have planned a fabulous, $36,500 wedding for 120 people, and will be debt free after the honeymoon. How do I know the exact cost? Because that’s how much money we budgeted to spend!

    Granted, my fiancé and I are both engineers, so we love data and numbers and planning in general, but I believe that spreadsheets are really vital to anyone who wants to come out debt free. The first spreadsheet was a summary of how much we could spend on the wedding – $15K from my parents (the only-child wedding fund clause), $5K from his parents, he could save $4K (after mortgage, etc.), and I could save $12.5K (free rent :). We opened an online savings account with Emigrant Direct, deposited the lump sums from the parents, and started earning interest. Then we scheduled automatic deposits over the course of our 15-month engagement. By making a plan and sticking to it, we were able save exactly what we planned, plus we earned over $600 in interest, which was just a bonus and a bit of a cushion.

    The next spreadsheet was the nitty gritty of what we were going to spend our money on. Here is where we had to prioritize. We knew exactly what we could spend total, so we just had to give and take to make it all work out in the end. For example, photography = important = spend more; flowers = not as important = spend less. By making tradeoffs we were able to get exactly what was important to us (amazing view, great food, beautiful dress), an no one will notice what we didn’t include (a huge cake, a big band, designer flower arrangements). Then don’t get me started on the RSVP spreadsheets, seating charts, etc…

    I’m sure that the folks who posted comments about how cheaply they were able to plan their weddings are mighty proud (and very lucky to have so many helpful friends). But I’m also proud – we planned, saved, prioritized, and will get exactly what we want out of our wedding with no debt. Plus our friends just get to enjoy the party!

  171. Ramit, I had 500 guest at my wedding less than a year ago and both sets of parents and me and my wife were able to pay cash for the wedding. It costs a little over the average price you listed but we did it through saving throughout the year. We also split it three ways so that nobody had to pay more than the other.

    Hey, we’re Hispanic there is no such thing as your family has to pay more because of father of the bride, we split the costs and had the best wedding ever.

  172. [...] Ramit has a great post about weddings on I will teach you to be rich. Check out the post, it has great insight to what typical Americans [...]

  173. [...] considering i’ve never planned a wedding before so I have no clue! My first resource was this blog entry that offers a Wedding Cost Estimator excel file to help you with planning. I will admit that I was [...]

  174. Interesting comments. 4 1/2 years I got married and the wedding totalled $8,500. We had 150 guests and an elegant reception with a string quartett. It doesn’t have to cost that much.

  175. My wedding cost under $25, which was the cost of the registration fee (in 1997). No charge for officiating: it was performed by my father who is ordained. My mother didn’t charge us rent to use her house, and she and my sister were the witnesses. No guests.

    Mind you, this wasn’t only about saving money. My wife and I had full and busy lives, and neither of us had any intention of joining our friends in the diabolical game of spending every waking moment for 6 months planning a party. Life is too short for that kind of stress. (And although some of you may have different friends than we do, I personally have never known anyone with a more complicated wedding who wasn’t stressed out by the experience).

  176. [...] 15, 2008 in General I was rereading Ramit’s article at iwillteachyoutoberich.com about why we are all hypocrites about weddings. The comments are full of people bragging about how very little they spent on their weddings [...]

  177. [...] it sounds like a great idea to me, I might end up being a hypocrite about it and going the traditional route.  It is hard to break away from the norm, but [...]

  178. The price tag is staggering.

  179. My husband and I just got married (march 2008) and we spent $3000 on our entire wedding including rings.

    We found a wonderful bed and breakfast in Florida that did full weddings (guests optional but still very affordable) and photography. We were so happy with the private event but even more proud of ourselves that we started our new life together without debt. It can be done – people just let emotions get in the way and all financial reason goes out of the window.

  180. spent a total of about $5000 on our wedding.
    people do not need to do all of the crap they think they need for their weddings. mine was beautiful, it was simple, i had 200 guests approximately. i fed them cake and banana splits. my mother (yes it saved a little but not much when you add it all up) made my wedding dress $300-$400(AND it was not only beautiful but looked like a designer dress). the tuxes were rented. we drove away in our old junky car on purpose, for fun, and so our good car (note: OUR car, not a limo) wouldn’t get shaving cream on the paint. i had orchids and birds of paradise. the musicians were free friends and the chairs and pastor were borrowed from our church :)
    my mother and aunt made the dresses, which were not difficult and most who can sew could have done it.
    my sister made the cake.
    the photographer was a family friend just getting started in the business – $200.
    and, the site (outdoor) was a beautiful garden designed for weddings in the middle of a sheep ranch – $500 for the whole day and night before practice.
    of course there were costs i will never know about that mostly my in-laws paid, but all in all the wedding was mostly paid for by my family and it was perfect.
    i folded each of the 100 origami boxes to hold the rice myself, and also found glass vases with rocks i found myself and free dahlias from my aunts dahlia farm.
    people just need to enlist family and friends and quit demanding all the ‘best’ stuff.
    we also saved money because my other aunt who is a genius co-ordinator managed things the day of – for free.

    the idea is to make the day meaningful, and special, and important. not waste money on useless things. that is the whole point. after all when 50% of americans divorce it seems pretty wasteful to spend money on catering so you can impress your friends and family.

  181. So really 50% of everyone should also start saving for their expensive divorce as well. Oh and after that their next “special day”. Come on, spending tens of thousands on a single day, 1 freaking day, is just plain stupid. Want to know how the rich stay rich they don’t blow money on things like weddings and $20,000 cars.

  182. My (now) husband and I swore we wouldn’t spend more than $5000 on a wedding, that we’d keep it simple, and we did. You know how? We took the advice of most of our married friends who always said, “you know, if there was one thing we’d have done differently its…” and eloped to Las Vegas. Our most expensive purchase was the airline tickets, followed by the Elvis impersonator (you can’t have a Vegas wedding without one!) who did our vows.

  183. [...] The $28,000 question: Why are we all hypocrites about weddings?: Ramit Sethi offers some frank advice about financing and saving for your wedding. [...]

  184. [...] The $28,000 question: Why are we all hypocrites about weddings?: Ramit Sethi offers some frank advice about financing and saving for your wedding. [...]

  185. As a DJ who’s done his share of weddings I have one solid piece of advice for anyone looking for a DJ:
    Keep it simple.

    So many DJ’s today hawk light shows, fog machines, outlandish personalities… from the guests perspective, this is all incredibly annoying when attempting to celebrate the union of two people! Find a DJ who will bring in some decent speakers, a CD deck/laptop, and an amp, let them play something light in the background if you have a meal, and then let them turn it up a bit and switch to something everyone likes when the dance floor opens up.
    Your DJ should be able to control the mood of the room without anyone knowing he/she is there. Finding someone like that will definitely save you from the overpriced and over-the-top dealbreakers!

  186. A man saving for his wedding? I’ll marry you!! Call me!

  187. [...] in reading a great blog post about the high cost of weddings and how to plan for them, try this one at the iwillteachyoutoberich blog. Also scan the comments for real life wedding stories and [...]

  188. [...] We actually have all the information we need: The average age at marriage is about 27 for men and 26 for women. We know that the average amount of a wedding is about $28,000. So, if you agree with this choice — and you don’t want to go into debt for your wedding — here’s how much you should be saving (RSS readers, click here): [...]

  189. My church hosts weddings, they cover everything but the pastor and tech.

  190. I am seriously thinking of just changing my Facebook status to “married” and be done with it.

  191. Bah!

    I couldn’t get through this whole post.

    My wife and I will be celebrating our tenth anniversary this June. 10 best years of our lives. Friggin wedded bliss.

    Total cost for our wedding (including marriage license, ceremony fee, hotel, travel, meals, rings, photography…in short the whole darn thing) was under 500 bucks.

    If we had it to do over again, we wouldn’t change a thing!

  192. Has anyone noticed how people who comment on wedding posts are the most annoying people in the world? They ALWAYS brag about how cheap their wedding was. I swear to god, go look at any other post about weddings and you’ll see it’s not just this one.

  193. I don’t think its so much as bragging, but rather letting other people know that doing it cheaply is actually achievable.

    When you’re budgeting the whole celebration, it sometimes can feel that its impossible to do it without breaking the bank.

  194. Weddings aren’t that expensive if you consider the fact that it usually isn’t one person or couple paying for the whole thing. Usually the groom buys the ring, for instance, one of the larger chunks of the cost of a wedding. He and/or his parents often pay for the honeymoon too, another chunk of the cost. The bride pays for a lot of stuff out of pocket, like spa visits, gifts for bridesmaids, her hubby’s ring, etc. Meanwhile the bride’s parents generally pay for the reception. Often grandparents chip in as well, offering up things like the use of their country club, cash gifts, or whatever.

    So if the average wedding is $30K then the average groom probably spends around $7K, and so does the average girl. The average girl’s parents probably spend $10-$15K.

  195. I was thinking about this post today as I forked over more money for a bridesmaid dress than I’ve ever spent on any other piece of clothing in my life. I’m more than happy to be part of a close friend’s celebration, but I’m still shell shocked. If most people are ignorant about the costs of their own wedding, I think it’s fair to say that almost all of us have our heads buried in the sand when it comes to participating in other people’s weddings.

    Odds are that you’ll be part of several weddings and odds are these weddings will end up being expensive affairs, as you discuss above. As it’s not your wedding, you realistically have little cost control. It’s frustrating, but there’s not much you can do about it except plan for it.

    If you’re really going to be objective about weddings, you should also consider saving for the dresses/tuxes, gifts, and travel expenses that will invariably come as you celebrate with your friends.

  196. This is all too true. I got engaged 2 months ago & it has been a rollercoaster of shock at what people charge for things (like a one-day dress) and relief that my parents offered to help with costs. The problem is my better-half’s family who is inviting 2/3rds of the people but paying for nothing but have opinions on everything. It’s really frustrating for me to explain why we can’t have a prime rib carving station when we can’t afford to feed people & send out invitations!!!

  197. I started saving for my wedding since I got my first job when I was 21 and didn’t even have a boyfriend. My fiance (now my husband :) we got married few months ago) and I had a budget of 25k. Its a lot of money in Indian currency. Even though bride’s parents usually pay for the whole wedding in India, we insisted on paying. A month before the wedding, it just got out of control!!!

    My parents had to invite 1500 people and my in-laws insisted that we get married in a big wedding hall that costs $4k/night etc etc . The total cost of the wedding was around 50k!! so we had to spend 10k more than we planned and my parents covered the rest. We had to postpone our honeymoon as we didn’t want to start our married life with debt. There were times when we thought we should have eloped!!!

  198. I think the point I was trying to make got lost in my rant… What I was trying to say is…

    1) Have a budget and stick to it.
    2) If some one insists on having something expensive, politely say that you can’t afford it and if they still insist, make them pay for it ;) I should have done that with my in-laws

  199. I am tired of people saying it is stupid or unnecessary to spend a lot of money on a wedding. I for one do not have parents or future in-laws who can afford to help much with the wedding, nor do I know anyone who can sew my dress, or DJ the reception. I plan on saving for my wedding (2-3 years away) myself and having the dream wedding I have always wanted despite my lack of resources. I do not think that it is smart to go for a cheap photographer or videographer just to save money because I have had friends do that and they were very disappointed in the outcome. I also have a friend who plans on doing everything nontraditional (no flowers, no cake, any white dress will do) in order to get the money her dad planned on spending for the wedding. I thought it was very interesting but I did not judge her for her choice, so I should not be judged for wanting to spend close to $30,000 to make my dream come true. Best of luck to all those saving for their future weddings!

  200. I just wanted to say thank you for the thoughtful post. I just stopped back here about a year after first reading it, when I my boyfriend and I were starting to move from “if we get married” into “when we get married” discussions. Even though we’re just starting to pick out rings now, I already have savings for the wedding. And grad school. And my next car. And a kid fund (which is at least 5 years away.)

    In other words, this article was a lightbulb “aha!” moment that made me think about my 10-year timeframe financial goals. Instead of just putting $ aside for general monthly savings, I now know my overal priorities and where wedding costs fit within that structure ($150 per month versus $416 for an IRA versus $200 for grad school etc.) Just getting a sense of how hard it is to save can help simplify my wedding expectations alot.

  201. [...] January 17, 2009 in General I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned that I am a big fan of Ramit’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich. His tips are the only ones that aren’t the same old stuff regurgitated to the masses (except his Save $1,000 in 30 Days series). I always go back to reread his posts on conscious spending and why we are all hypocrites about weddings. [...]

  202. [...] to some simple rules of asset allocation? 14. In the next ten years, you’ll have to pay for a wedding, new car, have kids, take vacations, etc. How much are you saving each month for those things? (In [...]

  203. I wish you had written this last year or the year before. You are so right about everything. This is one of the best posts I’ve read on your blog. Such an obvious thing .. and yet, most people including me, are so clueless.

    Thank you for this !

  204. Very well put. People are now trying to claim that wedding photography is overpriced, ‘we can just have uncle Fred take pictures.’ Well, unless Uncle Fred comes with 3 camera bodies, 5 lenses, 3 flashes, a spare compact camera, effects boxes and filters, you will probably be disappointed with the results. What if Uncle Fred’s camera goes on the fritz? Exactly.When I did weddings years ago, I negotiated with the couple over price, letting them set limits. And I gave them good quality photography, too. These same folks wouldn’t dream of letting Uncle Fred do the family portrait.!

  205. $28,000 for a wedding is absurd. Most weddings end in divorce, why start your marriage financially cramped by a wedding? Yes, I realize you can plan to save that $28,000 in advance. However, wouldn’t it be more sensible to use that money for a down payment on a home (instant equity!). Or, to buy outright a late model used car? Just a few thoughts.

  206. [...] goals make it easier for you – they come with a set cost. For example, the average American wedding costs $28,000. Many of us dream of having a beautiful wedding somewhere down the line, so that number gives us [...]

  207. [...] to cut down on wedding costs floating around on the internet, and if you check out the comments on wedding posts on any popular PF blog, you’ll see people bragging about how little they spent & [...]

  208. Unfortunately, unless you have a lot of time on your hands to do a lot of work yourself (and even if you do), you can end up with a cheap — instead of inexpensive — wedding.

    Don’t try to have traditional evening reception and save money on food by putting out cold cuts. I have been to a wedding like that and I swear it’s the only thing I remember about it. No one wants to be remembered as tacky.

    Saving money means thinking outside the box. Have an afternoon wedding in the outdoors with a tea reception. If the food is tasty and elegant, it doesn’t have to be in huge quantities.

    Personally, I eloped, which saved a huge amount of money (and stress due to family hassles) but is obviously not right for everyone.

    If you already have a household set up with your fiance and do not need more household bric-a-brac, then consider having a wedding in a way that saves money for you and puts more of the cost onto the guest in order for them to attend, which can be their gift to you instead of more clutter. A simple, inexpensive ceremony in an exotic location (like where your intend to honeymoon) is at least as good as a huge expensive hullabaloo in your hometown’s most expensive hotel. I paid a minister $200 and wore a $10 sarong to get married at sunrise on a beach in Hawaii and I by far had the most memorable ceremony than any of my friends who went the traditional route.

  209. [...] most of the articles there quite worth reading. Two great examples of his style and advice are The $28,000 question: Why are we all hypocrites about weddings? and Money Diaries: The 20-something cube-dweller with an addiction to phone [...]

  210. We had a fantastic wedding for $6,000 – of which $4,000 was for the most amazing food (people still mention the food), and we loved our wedding – and stress levels were so much lower than any other wedding I’ve been to.
    The tricks were:
    *Very limited guest list
    *I refused to be married in white (I’m 6′ tall, blonde, and very white skinned – can you imagine a 6′ tall meringue floating down the aisle?? Plus I object to the wedding industry and the whole “I’m a Princess” thing brides seem to get caught up in. You’re not a princess, get over yourselves!), so I was able to get a gorgeous beautiful non-white dress for something like $200.
    *Hubby bought a very nice suit that he can wear to work.
    *Flowers I did myself (taught myself in high school for prom, and have been delighted with the savings ever since, it’s so ridiculously easy it’s criminal; I routinely do the flowers for my friends and sisters’ weddings)
    *Cake my amazing sister volunteered to do (with no prompting!) and did a fantastic job on
    *Reception was at a top-rated local restaurant that let us use their banquet room for free b/c of the size of the party, and not only was the food to-die-for (no rubber chicken like most receptions – and it was all piping hot!), the banquet hall looked as nice as most receptions I’ve been to.
    *I did buy really good makeup ($300), and had a makeup artist that morning. Very good investment.
    *Made my own jewelry for the wedding party and me (which actually taught me the skills I needed to eventually start my own jewelry business)

    I have never been to a wedding I enjoyed more :) Plus now I’m married to my favorite person in the world, which is after all the big point, right?

  211. We got married in 1983 for $600 total, minus the honeymoon which my parents gave us as a wedding gift. We didn’t have credit cards back then so it had to be pre-paid in cash. It was a nice afternoon weekday (cheaper) reception in a beautiful Italian style cultural center with appetizers and white wine. Everyone who attended always tells us it was the type of wedding they wanted: intimate and fun. Several couples who attended married at the same place later. We still remember our wedding fondly and we are still happily married 26 years later. A friend married us, friends played guitars and sang, family helped us set up and friends took pictures. We knew everyone at our wedding. There was no pressure for everything to be perfect; it was a very relaxing day (and the happiest) of my life

  212. You know, at first I thought the whole idea of commenting on a comment about weddings was stupid. Then, I started to read, and all of a sudden I got it. . .these comments, like the weddings that spawned them, are all about declaring who you are to the world. What a frightening idea. However, as I said, I’ve been inspired to make my own comments, and here we go.

    First, I don’t think the cost of the wedding matters as much as how it comports with YOUR view on weddings, and marriage, and what not. But more importantly, Ramit’s point seems to have been largely missed. All he was saying was that it’s important to save for your wedding and PLAN for what it’s going to end up to be. He mentioned the $28,000 cost average simply as one of the facts that should be considered. If he’d decided to comment on, say, the average price of a car, and how it’s important to save up for the down payment, maybe things wouldn’t have spun so out of control. On the other hand, people love their cars. Ramit, they say the road to hell, and aggravating frustration, is paved with good intentions.

    Ramit’s good intentions which have become evil devilspawn to the contrary, I’m going to put my own very head in the lion’s mouth by commenting on some of the right dumb ideas I’ve heard expressed here today. I almost certainly have better things to do with my time, but, since I’m here anyway, here we go. And, with the exception of Ashley, none of you people are invited. Except, of course, Ashley’s hunk. I’ve never seen a Chinese hunk, and I’m dying to. Mine, of course, is from Taiwan.

    Let’s go element by element. There’s no particular order, except the order in which my enfeebled brain will recall them. Please keep your hands and arms inside the rides at all times. Here we go:

    1. The Rings: Oh, f that cheap rings are good rings argument. I’m totally spending on a ring. And so is he. It’s a symbol, it’s traditional, and, besides that, even though I hate jewelry, my hands were BORN to wear it. I think cheaping out on a ring not only shows you’re cheap in a to-the-bone deep way, but also that you’re unwilling to advertise the fact that you’re no longer on the market. And that you’re cheap. And you lack commitment. Did I mention that you’re also a cheap bastard ya cheap bastard? Just asking.

    2. Wedding Dress: It’s a wedding for frick’s sake. It deserves a dress. And you’re a bride. And, unless you have some longing need to prove that Mrs. McKenna, she of Home Ec fame, was wrong, and you really COULD make a dress, you really really could, there’s no good reason to make your own freaking dress. With the respect to the argument that it’s a cool $800 dollars for something that you’ll only wear the one time. . .that’s like saying I shouldn’t buy this amazing bottle of wine (or champagne) because I’ll only get to drink it once. As if I’d want to drink it a second time. What a stupid argument. It’s your wedding for Pete’s sake. Suck it up. Or else send me the money and I’ll buy that damn bottle of champagne and never, ever open it. I swear.

    3. Low-balling the priest/officiator: Four words: You’re. Going. To. wait for it. . ..HELL! And you should. At least split the difference and have one fewer colour of Jordan Almonds and give the guy a few hundred bucks ($300 and not a penny less, you tightass). I don’t know for SURE that it’ll help you out with whatever deity or non-diety you believe or don’t believe in, but, just in case, it doesn’t hurt. And even if God is dead, she’s almost certain to have passed on a list to Karma. . .you don’t wanna go messing around with that.

    4. The Limo: What, are you kidding? How often, unless you’re an evil corporate officer/raider type, do you really get to go tootin’ around in a limo? I KNOW, it’s expensive. So is not doing cool shit you’ve always wanted to do. When CATS came to my town, my friends and I rented a Limo to take us to the show, hang out during the show, and drive us around all night while we partied. It cost many, many dollars. And it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Don’t be a punk, spring for the Limo. BTW, the limo ride was way, WAY better than the show.

    5. Food. Seriously, I don’t where all those OTHER wedding people went, but totally great food and drink are really, other than seeing your friends and loved ones admit in public that they’re settling, the only reason anyone ever comes to a wedding. Or, at least a reception. The best wedding I ever went to heavily back-loaded the reception with all the great stuff. In fact, they didn’t even serve the cake there. It was a pre-reception, wine, finger foods, etc; the wedding (do you? will you? have you? kiss her!), and the obligatory cake-hole stuffing (bi-lateral, in this case. Or, put another way, Mutually Assured Stupid-Looking). And then, it was off to the races, I mean reception, where, as the evening progressed, I am ashamed to admit, my previously innocent attraction to one of my kissing-cousins took a dangerous turn. Luckily, my then current sexual partner was there to remind me that I don’t like girls. (Whew! Dodged a bullet there.)

    What followed was a riot of great food, great booze, hours of laughter, and not even ONE successful conviction. Well, maybe one, but I’m up for parole in a matter of weeks, so it’s all good.

    My point is that food and drink are key. No, you don’t have to rent the Penthouse Suite at the Las Vegas Hoo De Hoo, or even the Portland Hoo De Hoo, and most especially not the New York Hoo De Hoo (the Hoodiest Hoo of all!), but I think you have to pay attention. After all, we know a guest is a guest, but, really, most all good weddings are about crab puffs and roll-up sandwiches. The bride and groom? Merely afterthoughts.

    6. Slave labour. This is disturbing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love being able to count on friends and family to help me get what I want (in this case marriage), but I would never use it as a strategy. And I come from a long family of amazing cooks, who always bring a dish to everything (“Sorry about your crushing chest injury under a tractor there, Bob, but I brought some green bean casserole and a shoo-fly pie. Just have a little drop!”). Having said all this, I think it’s worth having a ittybitty budget for food and drink. Besides, once everybody’s back in the room, there’ll be other things to occupy their minds.

    7. The Suite: Absolutely necessary. First of all, all good weddings go deep into the night. Second, it’s always SOMETHING. Having a room is a good way to make sure that stuff can get dropped off, you can sit down when (not if) you begin to spasm, and everybody can go by for a quick whiff of, um, AIR, yeah, air, to refresh themselves. Not that I or anyone here would ever need or want air, I’m just saying. Also, since I plan to party deep into the night, Ima need somewhere to crash before we head out to the honeymoon. And, of course, there’s the post-wedding, pre-reception bang-the-f-out-my-husband-for-a-good-hour-or-two-fest that WILL happen about five minutes after the wedding. You don’t think the wedding/reception break is an accident, do you?

    8. The Honeymoon: That stuff about staying close is crap. But DO consider the idea of staying close the FIRST night. You want your Honeymoon to be memorable, otherwise you’re just going to have to pay for one in five or ten years “to make up for the Honeymoon we never really got.” She’ll say it anyway, no matter where you go (“But, honey, I really REALLY thought that renting Tahiti for ten days qualified as a honeymoon”), so you might as well do it up for the first one. On the good side, you TOTALLY get to use a great honeymoon as a credit against the cost of a REAL (her words, not mine), (i.e. second). honeymoon.

    9. The tux: An absolute necessity. Even if it’s just the formalization of an illicit and torrid affair with his high school gym teacher, oh, but enough about me. . .even if it IS just that, every man owes his mother the courtesy of seeing him dressed up once in his life, and despite the fact that most of you can’t carry it off at ALL, you should also dress up for your adoring wife, given that she’s probably a lot better people than you are, anyway. Besides, speaking as someone who’s been around a LOT of cater-waiters, undressing someone in a tux is HOT. She’ll love it.

    10. Dearly Beloved: There are just some people you have to invite. But men, fear not. . .you will be advised of who they are within seconds of offering your plea, or plying your troth, or doing whatever it is betrotheds do when they’re betrothing. Daughters, no matter how you slice it, if you have ANY kind of a relationship with your mother in which you communicate, your wedding is HER wedding, so you might as well just shut up about it now. And sons, your wedding is mama’s wedding as well, and if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, especially that bitch mother-in-law of yours (isn’t it amazing how fast your fiancee’s mother became that bitch mother-in-law of yours? And vice versa.). And you all wondered why half of all marriages fail. This is why. Anyway, you still have to invite everyone who could possibly cause you pain in the future if they weren’t invited. I mean, I KNOW that crazy-ass cousin of yours gets on your nerves, but, if you don’t invite her, she’ll be on her mother for years, who’ll be on YOUR mother for years, who’ll be on YOU for years, which will cause you to eat too much Toasted Pound Cake with Ice Cream and Chocolate, which will piss you off, which will cause you to take it out on your otherwise totally delightful husband, who will never NEVER understand that when you attack him for doing absolutely nothing wrong, it’s because of that bitch Cassie, who you should have invited to your frickin’ wedding, it’s only ONE invitation, right? How could I have been so frickin’ stupid? But your experience might be different.

    However, I did find a good way to partially stave off the attacks. Just do this before they start heating up the oil: “Mom,” you say, “Mom, me and Wilfredo only have (this much money) to do the wedding, and that’s it. Anything else (by which you mean her dumb ass idea/order), is an extra we just can’t afford. But I love it, I really do. I just wish we could do it. . .(voice trailing off wistfully). And, in that subtle, sneaky way you do, just look off into the distance whilst communicating pain and sincerity. Like when you borrowed the car for Prom. Eventually, they’ll give up and find something else to screw with you about, or they’ll offer to pay. And then, it’s round two. And, oh, by the way, if you accept their offer, you don’t get to bitch about her mother’s control issues. Even though you’re right. And his mother’s no prize either.

    In any event, if you aren’t flush with cash, arrange everything EVERYTHING so that, if someone isn’t invited, it’s someone else’s fault, but not and never YOUR fault. BTW, you should also try to find a way to make your spouse guilt-free, otherwise you might have to pay for that in your marriage, once the crazyhot hot sex cools off.

    12. DJ: This one, I’m not so sure about. On the one hand, I don’t like going to weddings with a DJ who has a PROGRAM. Everybody over here, say this do that, bite this, f- that. I hate that crap. Weddings, no matter whatever ELSE they are, are supposed to be fun. I don’t need a little fascist in a stupid t-shirt (that probably says “I’m with stupid” and he’s a solo act. . .geddit?) to tell me what to do. Except for the Chicken Dance, which I love, but who doesn’t?

    On the other hand, think about your friends and family. Now, think about their musical taste. And the fact that they’ll almost invariably want to help, or, um “DeeJay” for you. And, think about the fact that they’ll be deejaying on your own very equipment. Now weigh the potential actual costs (cost for all your electrical/musical equipment? A freakin’ lot), as well as the frayed nerves, potential exhaustion, and very real possibility that you might lose a friend, or an eye, and compare to the cost of a “real” DJ. You do anything you want, cupcake, but I’m willing to go without a second latte every Friday for a long damn time to pay someone else to deal with the music. And, besides, I love that chicken dance.

    13. Venue: Let’s face it, if they call it a venue, it’s too damn expensive. This is extremely personal, and yet, I’m still going to tell you what to do. Make one of two choices. . .inside or outside. Outside? Fine, I think you should go to a park. Inside? Go to some form of “Church” if you’re religious, or the Town Hall, or appropriate location, if you are not. Your guests most probably don’t care. And, as I said before, and I’m right. . .it’s mostly the reception, not the wedding.

    There’s more, I’m sure, and I already know that I’ll be ticked off when I close this chapter and move on to something that’s actually of use to someone in society, but, I have to admit, I feel a LOT better.

    Although, now that I think about it, I am absolutely committed to not ever, ever, EVER getting married, ever. Someone needs to tell my mother.

    Warm Regards,

    James.

  213. I used you simulator and realized that my wedding will be around $5000 since I plan to keep it small. I have considered going to a justice of the peace and then just having a potluck reception at the house so I can spend a little more on the honeymoon and stay under $2000. Since I am from the south, it won’t be hard to get all of the ladies in the kitchen to make a big feast and have the men barbecue. I really am a very simple person. Plus with the divorce rate today there is no way that I will go in debt for my wedding. My coworker just planned a beautiful wedding for under $3000. I will call her when it is my turn.

  214. [...] want to do it yourself, then feel free to do it. If you want to spend a large amount of  money, plan ahead and start saving now even before you get engaged. Planning ahead can give you an extraordinary amount of freedom. If you [...]

  215. You can go to India and have the most extravagant wedding for under $10000. Wedding shouldn’t cost a leg. Flowers are really cheap in India, and so are tailor made suits. You enjoy a lot and not have to cringe because it doesn`t look perfect. Also, I don`t understand why people need everything to be perfect. Is perfection more important than your enjoyment of the “single most important day of life`. Shouldn`t you spend the money on entertainment without it being a cliché

    Of course the downside to going to India is that all your friends and family may not be there.

  216. Incredible how so many missed the point and then actually brag about hitting friends and family up for freebies. Agree with KM in comment #47, Sara in #55 and Rachel in #197.

    Even if the wedding is only $5k did you plan for it? Probably not. And the whole point of this article, in case you missed the other dozens of mentions is about saving and being prepared.

    When a friend tells me they’re getting married, I start saving for it right away. I’ve spent as much as $1000 just being a part of a wedding, only to receive some lame champagne glass with the couples initials on it. Attending a wedding is expensive, and since I’m a professional photog, I always get asked for deals or freebies, since you know “they’re trying to keep costs down.” Ugh. This is why I don’t do weddings. No thanks.

    Funny the “all about us” couple never seems to spare their guests any costs, or cut back on the gift registry. They talk about how silly it is to spend $$ on the wedding, but no more ridiculous than some of the gifts I’ve seen on the registry, or the bachelor/bachelorette party that the attendants are always expected to pick up the tab for.

    The bridezillas/groomzillas will soon start having kids, and will most likely be as ill-prepared financially for that as well. It will be the same thing. Just as they were unprepared for the cost of their “simple” wedding, they will be slammed with the real cost of having kids.

  217. I got married two months ago and was excited when I read this post. I was all set to comment about how I saved money on my wedding, but then I read tiredweddingguest’s comment #219 and decided to rethink my comment.

    I did not plan and budget for my wedding before hand, but I wish I had. Fortunately, I know a lot of people who are talented and lovely and helpful, and we pulled off a wedding for 120 people for less than $9,000 and we did it without going into debt. If we had planned, or saved, maybe we could have done things differently. Not that it wasn’t lovely, but it could have been even more amazing.

    Even as we were trying to save money for ourselves and our families, I was worried about how much my guests were going to have to spend to come to our wedding. Everyone told me not to worry about it, but I’ve been to my fair share of weddings, and as tiredweddingguest said, it can be an expensive proposition.

    And then, of course, there’s the cost of being in a wedding that is not your own. I wonder how many people who scrimp and cut-cost on their wedding ever consider how to make it less expensive for their wedding party? They’ll make their own wedding dress, or get it on ebay, but they’ll have their bridesmaids buying a crazy expensive dress from the hottest little boutique in town. Yet another $300 dress that will just hang in the closet because odds are the bridesmaid’s will have no choice in the style or color. And the groom will go to a tux shop that offers the groom’s tux for free with this many other rentals (because it really does work that way at many places), and so he won’t be paying anything, but they’ll be shelling out $120 on top of the other costs of going to a wedding.

    This is the piece of advice I would offer to everyone who’s going to take your wedding budgeting advice, Ramit: when you’re figuring out how much money you’re going to spend on your wedding, and how much you need to save every month, take a moment to add a line-item or two for the cost of renting a tux, buying a bridesmaid dress, and airfare for those of your friends/family who “just have to come.” They won’t expect you to pay it, usually, but if you think about it ahead of time, and can help them even a little with the overall costs, I’m sure that they’ll appreciate it. Just think about it this way: the less choice they have in what they’re wearing (especially if it’s a one-time use thing like a tux-rental) the more you should consider paying for it as part of your wedding costs.

  218. So far I’ve found the easiest way to save money on a wedding is not having one.

  219. How very sad.I grew up in a small town in the foothills. Weddings were simple affairs, held in the afternoon.After the church ceremony, everyone met at the grammar school cafeteria or the VFW hall for wedding cake, punch, and dancing to records. No liquor was generally served.There was no meal.Yet everyone seemed to have a good time.The brides friends and relatives cut and served cake and punch.There were no caterers. These simple affairs allowed the young couple to start life with little if any debt connected to the wedding.I remember my brother complaining about the high cost for wedding pictures – $75.More than the reception ! (His mother-in-law baked the cake.) I feel sorry for young people today who feel they must postpone their wedding because of the high cost.The thousands they save for a wedding would be better spent on the down payment for a house.

  220. Is it wrong to BEG your guests NOT to send you wedding gifts? Why does everyone need to spend their hard earned cash on silly trinkets that will end up in the garage sale pile, or a lovely tea set that no one will use – EVER? I’m all for the frugal wedding, and I’m not one of those “hypocrites,” either. I’m your new biggest fan, love this blog!

  221. This is such BS. We had a simple wedding, where friends did most of the work with us. We had about 70 guests, it didn’t cost a fortune (we paid for it all ourselves) and everyone still (11 years later) says it was the best wedding they have ever attended.

  222. Sigh. I am 26, and I will go to my 12th wedding, in the past 15 months, this August. Now, I love going to weddings and taking part in something important that my good friends and close family are doing. I am happy to pay travel costs to places I can afford to go, and buy gifts. I am also never offended if someone has a small wedding and can’t invite me, or elopes. But if all those people asked me to come “pitch in” for their wedding because they are on a budget but don’t want to compromise on quality, I would freak out. And I don’t think that makes me a bad person.

    Seriously — think about what it would be like if every wedding you went to, you were expected to not only pay for travel, and a gift, and maybe buy new clothes, especially if you’re in the wedding party, but also say, spend the ceremony taking photos, or spend the whole day of the wedding decorating the hall or cooking food. Because that’s what a bunch of you guys are saying you asked your friends and family to do. Which is baffling to me.

    So let me say the same thing I said almost two years ago (in comment #55) — having an inexpensive wedding by exploiting the kind nature of your friends and family is not something to brag about. It’s just mean. And shitty. And every other connotatively negative word you want to insert. If you really don’t want to spend money, then go to city hall. Or elope, and only invite your parents.

  223. This is good stuff. Some people are not hypocrites, though.
    My girlfriend and I eloped last year and got married by ourselves on the beach in Margarita Island, Venezuela (she’s Venezuelan). It cost about $3000, honeymoon included. She had been married once before and couldn’t take another lavish waste of money, and I had been a wedding DJ on Maui and wanted no part in all of that foolishness and none of the attention.
    Yes, of course the whole family is important, but ultimately it is about the couple, their love, their future together, so I recommend just doing your own thing. If you really just want a simple, elegant, inexpensive wedding do that, and forget about the opinions of others and knucklehead cousins that didn’t get invited and now they pretend to be upset.

  224. [...] Yes, you WILL have a nice and very expensive wedding (even if you’re a hypocrite and think you’ll have a “small, beautiful” wedding) [...]

  225. If you had asked me what I would spend on a wedding before I got engaged, I probably would have said “next to nothing”, as I wanted a simple small affair. (Marriage lesson #1: I thought it would be a small afternoon tea for my small family and close friends. I happened to marry into a larger family from a different culture where weddings are more formal and my original idea was not workable.)

    But after I got engaged and started looking at prices for the sort of wedding my fiance and I decided on, I had some sticker shock! We ended up budgeting and spending about $40K on our wedding.

    Did we have to make compromises, even on a budget that I myself would have considered ridiculous 12 months ago? Yes, of course (we live in a major city, so the “average” wedding cost figures are much higher). We — and more importantly — our guests, had a fabulous time, but that’s not even the point.

    The point is that, because we had been aggressively saving for a number of years, we could comfortably spend a fairly large chunk of money without jeopardizing our medium-term financial goals for the future. (We weren’t saving specifically for a wedding, as per Ramit’s advice, but our principle was that we weren’t going to divert money from big goals or postpone our wedding to “save for the kind of wedding we want.” We’d put what we comfortably could toward it and that would be our budget.) We stuck to our budget, and I don’t regret what we spent at all, because I know that — again, because of aggressive savings both toward planned goals and unplanned expenses — we didn’t have to make financial sacrifices in order to fund our wedding.

    I think that’s the ultimate point of Ramit’s post, whether you’re thinking your wedding budget is $500, $5K, $50K.

  226. I agree. You rock.

  227. @James comment 215, you are a crack up! LOL! I love your response.

    I’m not yet married but I’m planning to in a few yrs (not yet proposed to either but we’ve talked about it!) I haven’t even thought about how much our wedding would cost until this article initiated a discussion between us but I’m sure it will be a decent amount. We’ve decided that we’re not planning to have a budget wedding or an extremely extravagant one – it will be the biggest party in my lifetime and I’m doing it right but sensibly.

    I haven’t yet saved for my wedding (or figured out how much it would cost) but I’ve planned already on how I’d be able to afford it. Firstly, we are buying our first home BEFORE we get married. This is my number 1 goal. All my savings up to now are concentrated on a house. With my partner we will have at least 50% of the cost of the house covered with our current savings so the mortgage will only cover less than half of the property. Then I am putting everything I can into the mortgage. For the wedding, we will be taking it out of the extra repayments we make on the mortgage. We are in Australia so unlike the U.S. we don’t get tax deductions on the mortgage on our home (only on investment properties) so the mortgage is just pure liability to us.

    Also I plan to pay off the mortgage in about 5-7 years. So we will not be a slave to the banks for 30 years. So far I personally save about 65% of my take home pay (we both earn a professional’s salary but I wouldn’t consider it a high income salary). It is because we both have above income salaries and we are both diligent savers that we can do this.

    I am assuming we will approach a wedding the same way as we do everything else we plan i.e. get the most bang for our buck :) I am not planning on getting large contributions from anyone whether monetary or in the form of help at the wedding. If anyone offers that would be nice but I’m not planning on it and I’m not expecting it. We will prioritise the important things and put more money there, while the less important can have the least budget.

    So in my head I’ve vaguely budgeted for it but it is not set in concrete like Ramit’s budgeting example – i.e. save $x a month for it. Thanks Ramit for posting and getting me thinking about this.

    - My 2c on my wedding budget plans :)

  228. Of course, you mention wedding to anyone, be it limo services, florist, photographer, or hotel…and prices would jump double Wedding = Time to suck $$$$ out of client’s pocket… Because they know you want things to be perfect, in time and of course you don’t want to be labeled as “cheap” for the rest of your life… “Don’t you talk to me you a$$-cheap-hole, you asked your crappy cousin to bake our wedding cake…”

  229. I just had a “destination” wedding (Lake Tahoe) with over 100 guests for less than $6,000. EVERYONE commented that is was the best wedding they had ever been to. It can be done!

  230. My idea of a wedding was very similar to Shanti’s – a small dinner with the closest family. And I didn’t care for a wedding dress either. It had nothing to do with frugality and everything to do with how I really wanted to spend my special day. But my fiance pursuaded me to look at some wedding mags first. He felt that I, being from a different culture, didn’t know all the options available to me.

    Ok, fast forward 3 months… I looked through dozens of catalogs, read TheKnot.com religiously, started a wedding planning notebook, etc, etc. The plan was becoming more elaborate (read: expensive) every day.

    I first didn’t want a wedding dress at all. Then I thought to get something for under $1000. Then – under $5000. Same with a guest list. The closest family (5 people) morphed into almost 100 “must invite” people.

    We even travelled all around Florida where we used to live at the time looking for a suitable wedding venue! Pretty soon our wedding budget was at around $20000.

    Both of us were getting very uncomfortable with this figure. The whole planning thing was turning into a nightmare (and we haven’t even booked any vendors).

    Finally, after a couple more months we quietly eloped. I wore a simple summer dress that cost me less than $100 and that I still get to wear. My husband wore slacks and a Hawaiian shirt (ok, it was in Key West). We had a very private ceremony at a wonderful B&B we stayed at (free use of the gasebo, free flowers from their tropical garden, free champaign and a free room upgrade).

    So I’d say that if you want to save a lot on a wedding, cut your planning time to just a couple of weeks (a month tops). If not, you’re gonna get sucked into ever more expensive options.

    Also, pick what really matters to you. I could care less about flowers, cake, etc. But I really wanted hair and makeup done professionally and we both wanted professional pictures of the ceremony. So we splurged on these two items.

  231. We started with the idea of a simple and small wedding, except then reality hit. My family alone numbers 100 people and our guest list grew to 300+ very quickly and that’s with keeping it small. We’re now looking at event that’s probably going to cost all parties involved more than $25,000. We’re not stressed about it though because we have a savings plan and we have been diligently putting away money every month to pay for this event and we have enough cushion where we could add a little bit more if necessary. We track our expenses through an Excel spreadsheet so we know where the money is going and what’s left. It’s allowed us to make some compromises — i.e. spending more on an open bar means we’ll probably flower centerpieces in favor of candles provided by the venue.

    We’re also spending money in places we didn’t anticipate. For instance, we were going to ask our friend, who is a professional DJ, to perform at our wedding for the cost of his hotel room and gas (our wedding is 180 miles away from where we live) but then we realized our requirements would put an unfair burden on a friend who was doing us a favor and we’d rather have our friend enjoy himself at the wedding. So we ended up hiring a DJ. It costs us more in the short term, but in the longterm we were looking at preserving a valuable friendship.

    We also found ourselves hiring out for a traditional Indian mandap. Originally, we were going to build one ourselves and then assemble it with the help of our friends. We realized how stressful that would be and how much we would have to ask our friends for help, so when a good value came along, we took it. (the provider was looking for an ‘unveiling’ in our market and we managed to strike a deal for the furniture and structure in return for allowing him to use pictures from our wedding to promote his service in the future). Again, short-term expense, but we figured that saving everyone’s sanity was worth the extra money.

    We also found a good photographer and made some concessions there to bring down the costs (only 6 hours, no engagement/bridal pictures, etc). We figured the pictures from the ceremony were what we really wanted and we weren’t interested in professional engagement/bridal portraits. We also found that once we planned our agenda, 6 hours was more than enough to cover everything we wanted covered.

    We’re saving where we can, figuring out what’s important, what’s not.
    (no cake, no centerpieces, outfits and invitations purchased in India, online RSVP system versus postage-paid envelopes, etc). We’re both frugal people and so would we love having an event for $3000 and banking the difference? Sure, but reality intruded – we have large families, we live 180 miles from where we’re getting married, we have full-time jobs (I travel more than 25% of the time), and we are reluctant to ask too much of our friends as we really want them to enjoy as much as possible.

    The upside of all this? In the last year since we got engaged, we have put a good savings plan into place to pay for this event because we agreed that we were going to pay cash for everything and not incur any debt. As a result, we’ve had to deal with merged finances/attitudes really early on and we’ve found that we can do it, and we’re not planning to change a thing once we’re married. So after the wedding, we’re looking ahead to our downpayment on a house, a new car for him, a really nice vacation, and we feel very confident how we can work together on finances because by the time we get married, we’ll have had more than 12 months of experience of making difficult financial decisions together. And that is priceless.

  232. [...] The $28000 question: Why are we all hypocrites about weddings? | I … [...]

  233. [...] My short-term savings accounts are through ING Direct, and they automatically withdraw 3% of my paycheck each month (I would really like to get this number higher). Right now I have two short-term savings accounts: my emergency fund and my car fund (for unexpected repairs). I would like to add two more for clothes and travel. Ramit has a great post on why you should also have a wedding fund (shocking how fast even “modest” weddings add up). Check it out: The 28,000 question: Why are we all hypocrites about weddings? [...]

  234. [...] at I Will Teach You to Be Rich recently wrote an article about the cost of weddings. On average, a wedding costs $28,000. That’s more than half what the typical American household [...]

  235. [...] a celebrity wedding, but what about the rest of us? Financial blogger Ramit Sethi has written up an intriguing post on how to avoid potential sticker shock when planning a wedding, entitled “The 28,000 [...]

  236. [...] [1] The $28,000 question: Why are we all hypocrites about weddings? [...]

  237. [...] People who spend $20,000+ on their weddings are dumb (same as above — see comments) [...]

  238. [...]  Ramit tells it like it is.  If you’ve still got time to save $$, this is for you! [...]