And thus opens yet another subtly bride-bashing article in the mainstream media. In the Wall Street Journal's Return on Investment column, Brett Arends examines what a wedding really costs, in an article entitled "A Lavish Wedding Costs More Than You Think." As if $18,000 isn't panic-inducing enough, Arends wants to make sure you know that it's not just $18,000 you're spending:
"Your $18,000 wedding? It may really end up costing you between $90,000 and $200,000. That $2,000 dress? Think: $10,000 to $22,000. The $10,000 food bill for your guests? Try $50,000 to $110,000.
No, I am not kidding.
That's because the biggest cost of every dollar you spend is invisible. It's all the money you'd accumulate if you saved it instead.
Do the math. The typical bride is just 26 at her first wedding, according to the U.S. Census. She has four decades or more to save.
If her savings earn 4% a year above inflation over the long haul, each dollar she spends now is actually taking $5—in today's terms—out of her lifetime savings. If her money earns 6% a year above inflation, an estimate that is challenging but not ridiculous, she is taking out $11.
Per dollar spent."I know it's Arend's job to make us more conscious of the impact our spend-versus-save decisions have on our future life. And I'm going to be generous and assume he's already ripped apart typically male gadget purchases and flat screen TVs and luxury autos. Because this particular wedding article is dripping with gendered budget-judging bullshit. It opens with judgment about the dress expense and moves right into discussions of the average bride's age. What about the groom's preference for an expensive DJ? Or the groom with a larger family who wants a more traditional wedding when you just wanted to get married in the backyard? Or what about the damn groom's age and HIS lost savings?
Oh, that's right. The $18,000 excessive budget is my bridezilla-inspired fault. The bridezilla who apparently can't do math and can't figure out the value, import, and consequences of her own financial decisions.
Except that, I've done my math. I know the full value of every hard-earned dollar we're spending on this thing and I know every alternative vacation or grad school plan or house savings account we could have funded otherwise. I also know there's no possible investment (that I have access to) that's earning over 4% above inflation these days (math? hmm?). I also know that investing in this wedding will pay dividends in goodwill and love and family and spousal harmony. Yes, investing in this wedding, in this marriage, and in this opportunity to build new family and intertwine old.
One of the most difficult aspects of planning this wedding has been the immediate and overwhelming moral judgment ascribed to our highly personal decision-making process. Everyone has an opinion about how we're planning this wedding and everyone thinks we're doing it wrong. Especially since I'm a woman who apparently can't do math. Jason and I have written a bit about the gender expectations associated with weddings and the damage caused by both the bridezilla b*s and the hands-off expectations for grooms. Relying on these caricatures does nothing to further the concept or practice of marriage as a partnership. It's much the opposite, in fact. Arends is addressing the very real financial issue of opportunity cost, but doing it in a way that subtly blames the woman for this specifically lost opportunity related to wedding. Even though the article notes that the average wedding cost fell 8% since 2008 to $17,500 (based on a survey by the Knot), this new frugality isn't enough for Arends. So he interviews a wedding expert whose brilliant advice we've all heard before (DIY the invitations! Have a DJ instead of a band! Don't get married on Saturday! Hire a new photographer! Cut the guest list!), but still won't generally help us crack that mythical $10,000 budget goal. Especially when the contradictory advice also admonishes us that we can't have a cash bar, ask a friend to take photos, or cut back on waiters.
I just want to tell everyone to keep their uninformed opinion and concurrently contradictory no-cash-bar expectations out of my damn wedding. Having an ipod wedding (that's right - we're even cutting the DJ!) still won't get us to a number you think is reasonable. And you know what? I don't give a damn what you think anymore or how much your punch-and-cake wedding cost in 1975. This bride has done her math. I do it every week, in fact, as I look for new ways to shave $10, $100, or even $1000 off the wedding that my groom wants even more than I do. And my math says that the opportunity cost of NOT having this wedding would be far worse than moving forward with the event.
Hopefully tomorrow's column can refrain from bashing grooms for spending too much at strip clubs on their bachelor parties. Sheesh.