Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The finances behind weddings

Want to hear something crazy?

We profited from our wedding. We have parents that are entirely too generous (we are seriously undeserving), and friends and family that were also quite generous.  More importantly, all our friends and family are wonderful and added to our wedding and were very much appreciated for their presence.  I tried writing about this earlier (unsuccessfully) and felt icky talking about gifts and money people gave us.  While I'm a completely open book when it comes to money, most of our friends and family aren't, so it felt uncool to disclose anything about their spectrum of giving.  So I'll just speak in generalities: all of our guests gave us the best gift, that of their presence.  Most also gave money, some gave us things. Not having a registry and gently telling anyone who asked that we live in a small apartment without room for more things was quite effective for communicating our preferences.  That said, my favorite gift was a handmade present from Sebastien's aunt.

Weddings are in many ways terribly inefficient - there is a lot of wedding-specific (and event planning) information you have to learn while planning a wedding, provided you don't generally host catered events for large groups.  It's quite expensive (time-wise) to learn how wedding logistics work, which galls me.  I completely hated wedding planning and that is no secret.  But before I lay our finances bare, it's worth noting that you don't need to do any of the below to get married: weddings are entirely optional, and getting married doesn't have to be expensive, or involve a wedding (at least not a traditional one).  That said, our wedding was quite standard in that it was at a wedding venue, we had a catered dinner, cocktail hour, dancing, DJ, and photographer.  The questions that guided our planning were: Is this option good enough?  Is this the cheapest option?

Our wedding cost 18K (for 87 people, including us).  The biggest items:
Catering: 9,100
Alcohol: 1,300
Venue: 1,800
Photographer: 1,610
DJ: 1,000
Dance Floor: 510
Tent: 1,270
Chairs: 390
Rings & attire: 320
Invites & Postage: 150

That's pretty much everything  -- anything that didn't matter to us, we gladly did not waste money on. (I think that's the definition of wasting money -- spending it on something that doesn't matter to you.) I don't always spend lots of money (that's why I have $$$ retirement savings) ... but when I do, it's on something that I really care about.

I have so much love for our wedding -- while it was certainly not relaxing, in most ways it was way, WAY more fun than any other wedding I've attended.  Turns out, having all your favorite people together and meeting each other and telling you that you look gorgeous is lots of fun, and it's way different when the wedding is yours, rather than an event you're more peripherally involved with.  That said, in a lot of ways the wedding felt like a relationship facade, and that it wasn't about our relationship at all.  Which might sound weird, but ... we had already committed to each other, the wedding changed none of that.  Nothing in my vows was groundbreaking or new -- I had said everything before.  The big difference was our community; While I have said a lot of meaningful and mushy things to Sebastien, never before had I shared them with Sebastien's family.  And my friends have heard me brag about my husband's cute butt (with visual aids) and the sweet things he's done for me, but they haven't heard him talk about the many reasons he loves us together. This is why our vows were so important and emotional -- because we were letting our friends and family into our private relationship, the good and the bad.  We'll be counting on them to help us be good to each other and continue to grow individually and together.

We planned a wedding that we could afford -- so all the generosity of our family and friends leaves us in the funny position of having lots of cash on hand.  I'm itching to invest it, but I guess I'm watching and waiting - for a big market decline I can benefit from, or the messiness that may be life in the coming years (and will necessitate a cushion).

Is the cost of a wedding surprising to you?  I hope so, and I'm sorry, it was a pretty unholy shock to me.  Is profiting from a wedding exceedingly uncool or really awesome? What do you think about the cost and purpose of weddings?

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