Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Progression of a Wedding Budget

Wedding budget, pre-engagement - $10,000: I am going to be the savviest budget bride ever. I am going to throw a giant party with an open bar for 100 people and it will be AMAZING. That national average of $28,000 is complete and utter foolishness. Only boneheads would pay that much for one day. I'd rather put that money towards a house or retirement or a vacation. Woo, a vacation. Yeah honeymoon. I'll buy a department store dress, do my own hair and makeup, and DIY my own cheap non-floral centerpieces, have an ipod wedding, and serve tacos and pie. All I want is an outdoor wedding with Jason and the people we love. That's all that matters. That and nice photography to capture it all. I'll find an up and comer who's still cheap. Yeah. That's what I'll do. I'm a budget superstar. Ha ha, $28,000 suckers.

Wedding budget, one month in - $15,000: So, apparently it's impossible to rent an empty room in Los Angeles for less than $5000 (and it's usually more like $10,000). And um, apparently we aren't entirely on the same page about this small and casual thing (I had no idea you had so many uncles and cousins. Wow.) And I really still want that outdoor wedding. And it turns out I like the idea of having a ring and ketubah and a rabbi in addition to everything else. And why the heck is it nearly impossible to find a nice dress for under $1000?!! Department stores and their flimsy chiffon and shiny sateen are FAILING ME. Crap. Crapitty crap crap. But we can find another $5,000 and start making some deep cuts to make this work. Yes. I am still a budget rockstar. 

Wedding Budget, six months in - $20,000: Somehow, in all this planning, it has been brought to my attention that an ipod DJ is not exactly what my music-loving, music-industry-working partner had always dreamed of. And, for some strange reason, this is causing some tension. Sigh. Also, it turns out that I am utterly incapable of applying false eyelashes in a way that doesn't look like a caterpillar is nesting on my eyelid. This would be less terrible if I were capable of giving myself a sleek and stylish hairdo or applying camera-ready makeup in a way that doesn't look clown-like, but I'm not. And I'm not sure why budget superstar weddingbrain ever convinced me that I could, when I have enough difficulties dealing with the morning blow-dry and lipgloss routine. Also, why must all the dresses I like cost about $1500. Really dresses? Lame. Lame lame lame. I'm going back to Nordstom and Macy's again, in addition to trying on every bridesmaid dress in the city, and all I can say is LAME.

Tearful elopement budget - $1000: Sob. Chestwracking sob after sob. Waaaaaaaaaaaah. But. I. Never. Wanted. This. Expense. Or. Stress. Eff it. Eff it ALL. WAAAAAAAH. Oh, you mean if I elope I won't be able to share our celebration with our loved ones, WHICH WAS THE ENTIRE POINT OF THIS D*MN WEDDING IN THE FIRST PLACE?! Also, our mothers might disown us. But still. A simple, peaceful elopement...

Wedding budget, nine months in - $25,000 How in the @#*(^(@!#!@$%^*;)%;*)@!#!(%^*) do rentals cost this much money?! Sure, I got a $1000 steal on our beautiful outdoor venue that allows us to: nix ceremony decor, BYOB, bring whatever catering/self-catering options we want. But Dear. G-d. The RENTALS. Also, as my mother so helpfully pointed out, the venue is a bit remote. And at the top of a twisty windy multi-mile road. And we're serving alcohol to people who have been known to party. And unfortunately buses seem to cost about $2000. Also, I am now scouring ebay, craigslist, and every used wedding dress site in existence to try and find that mythical cheap dress. I am now bartering my soul for makeup and hair favors. And somehow, it's still not enough. It's never enough.

Wedding budget, one year in - I give up. With our guest list, I simply give up. I've got the department store dress, the taco truck catering, the Two Buck Chuck and the borrowed decor and the numbers still don't seem to be budging. I have this fantasy that we'll get back from our honeymoon and suddenly discover that the $100 savings here and the $100 savings there have suddenly added up to a substantial number like, oh say, $5,000.  But the truth is that probably won't happen and I can no longer give a d*mn. We're getting married. And everyone gets food, everyone get drinks, we all get some joy, and it's going to cost a ton because a ton of you are probably coming. Which is wonderful and is the point. 

I'm very uncomfortable with the amount of money we're spending, but I'm also entirely comfortable with how we're choosing to spend it. As I'm learning, there's not a lot of black-or-white clarity surrounding weddings, especially as we muddle through the real compromises and real challenges in planning a big-city, 150+ person wedding in a way that feels right to us. I just wish I could finally convince my pre-engagement $10K dreaming scheming self that it's all right. Because it really truly is.


  1. this happened to us. exactly this. right after engagement i made myself swear-to-whatever that there is no way we'd spend that national-average budget for our wedding. well, we ended up spending more than that. and we're happy we did.

  2. hahaaa. totally went through this progression. i started out with, "bah! i can do all that MYSELF!"

    and then found out that doing things yourself costs money, too.

    our wedding budget doubled to $12,000 by the end. and i don't regret a penny.

  3. BAHAHAHA omg. i so approve of this. isn't it crazy how a simple change in attitude takes the albatross off your neck? it's the best feeling ever.

  4. BAHAHAHAHAHA! I am so sorry to laugh at your stress, but this is an awesomely funny post only because I think EVERY SINGLE BRIDE goes through this. We started at $15K. Then went to $16K. After that, I realized that things were going to keep costing more than we even imagined. I think the whole shebang ended up at $18,700. You know I just realized? I never finished my budget recaps on my blog. Well, I know what I'm writing today....that was easy, thanks!

  5. I was right there with you...we more than doubled our budget by the end...And I'm always in awe of these folks who are able to host a 150+ wedding for like, 12,000 or something?? Who are they and how do they do it?? It was just not feasible where I live, not even close...Le siiiigh...But it's worth it in the end!

  6. Oh, jeez. What a familiar tale. We started with $4K, it jumped up to $20K (long story), checked itself and went back down, to $8K. All this, over the course of four months.

  7. I think the scariest part is realizing how much I've really and truly *saved*. If I'd just followed the "you need to do this" prescriptions about weddings, it would have *easily* cost $45,000 without remotely being excessive or high end. Invitations, a salon dress (even from DB), normal venue rental fees, a cake, a few other things and POOF! You're at $45,000. I can't believe this is still "inexpensive" for an LA wedding of this size.

  8. This should be required reading for all those people who haven't planned a wedding, but still insist on writing "wedding budget advice" articles in major publications!

    Oh, and "word" times 1,000 on the part about your partner having a much bigger family than you'd realized, and not being so down with your cost-saving iPod DJ idea. We went through the same thing. My idea for a small, inexpensive, low-key morning wedding followed by brunch was soundly rejected by my horrified husband, who had his heart set on a Saturday evening dance party and a giant guest list. I hate it when people act as though growing budgets are always the bride's idea!

  9. aw, runrgrl. i'm sorta smarting over your comment.

    we had a city wedding for 150+ for 12grand.

  10. We started at 25k originally. Thought that would be plenty! Well we are now up to 65k. Yes it more than doubled in size. Partially because of people offering the contribute and partially due to my cluelessness of how much things would cost.

  11. I originally told Mr Fix It I needed a $35,000 budget for 200 guests. He said $25,000 max. I said okay...well, as you might have read in my Keeping Little Secrets post this week, I didn't share how much everything was costing. I stuck to my $35,000 budget and in the end we maxed out at about $38,000. He would tell people he couldn't believe we were spending $25k on a wedding...then in another conversation he'd say it was $30k...after the wedding, the last comment I heard, he said something about spending $35k on a wedding. So he had a good idea of the cost. But in reality, I knew exactly how much everything was going to cost and stuck pretty well to *MY* $35k budget :)

    Besides, we didn't have to go into debt to do it which was our biggest concern. I saved like every penny I could scrounge up. And this week, a friend e-mailed me saying she went to a $200,000 wedding at the Ritz Carlton and she said our wedding was way better and way more fun! So money doesn't really's like you said - how you spend it and how the personality of the couple and the event comes out.

    No stress, what you want to do! No regrets!

  12. Our wedding budget started at $11,000 two years before the wedding. Then the economy took a dump and I was no longer full time at work. We had to really do a lot of reorganizing and figuring out what we wanted, what we didn't need, what we could do ourselves and what to hire someone else for. We widdled it down to less than $5,000 - photography being more than half of that - for a sit down dinner for 120 people. It can be done!

  13. @Liz - but your wedding was super amazing and I'm still in awe of the style and price. You singlehandedly made me rethink the possibility of a dessert reception being able to please our families (but we're having enough trouble with tacos for dinner, let alone nixing dinner). I think, without examples like yours (and a steal of an amazing reception hall. Woah) it gets a lot harder. And, well, I have family in PA. Your cities are still cheaper than ours (it's not a contest. Just a note. Though, if it were a contest, you might win.)

  14. Oh, and I live in the SF Bay Area, which is insanely expensive as well.

  15. @Rachel - it *can* be done... depending on where you live and the support and TIME you have. For us, we work much longer hours than 9-5 (plus commutes) and Jason has a side/passion-business. We don't have DIY family support. We don't have a lot of time. And we don't have a free venue, plates, tables, etc. Here, the rental quotes for dishes, utensils, tablecloths and a few random necessities runs $2000-$3000. We're looking for alternatives (eco-plastic, thrifting, muslin overlays) but again that's time that we genuinely don't have. We wanted a Jewish wedding and that costs a good $1000 extra for our rabbi, the ketubah, and the chuppah. It's a tradeoff. We couldn't possibly have done it for less than $20,000, really and truly. And I applaud everyone who does it for so much less.

  16. I maintain that a $25,000 wedding in Los Angeles IS a budget wedding, and just as scrappy as $10,000 somewhere else.

  17. Love this. Thank you. I wanted to curl into a little ball thinking about how much more we're spending than I wanted to the other day, but . . . We want to be able to celebrate with our (big) families and friends, and to serve them dinner and booze and provide them with, ahem, chairs, and to have rings to symbolize our commitment, and professional photographs of the day, and help with day-of coordination so I'm not a stress ball -- and this is how much it costs to do that, even with lots and lots and lots of cuts and omissions. For us at least, as a couple that's getting married in an expensive and distant city, works long-hours, has family and friends-scattered across the country/world, has no-connections to the industry, and hasn't had some lucky break despite tons of research. So I hear ya. And yes, we have to give ourselves a break, even though it's hard.

    (But really, I think the worst part of it is that, despite all the wedding "budget" advice out there, it is hard to find "steals" and "discounts" in the wedding world, which has been tough to swallow for this bargain shopper who thought she'd just bring her budget skillz to the wedding planning. The service industry, and the wedding industry particularly, generally doesn't work like that, so I just have to get over it and keep trying to find vendors that I respect and think deserve the full prices that we're stuck with paying. That way at least I don't feel ripped off and foolish, even as I'm spending money that I thought I'd be socking away for a one-day-home.)

  18. Rentals were our main cut. We ended up borrowing banquet tables from friends and rented a few to make up the difference. We did rent all of our chairs though. We placed the tables end to end to make long tables (which everyone sat at during the ceremony and reception so we only had to rent one set of chairs). I bought a 100 yard roll of 60" poplin (table cloth material) and ran it down the tables and cut to length (no sewing needed and only took about 5 minutes to do). I bought cloth napkins online for cheaper than I could rent them and then sold them after the wedding. We decided we didn't absolutely have to have "real" plates and utensils so we bought eco-friendly ones that we composted. I guess it just depends on your preferences and priorities.

  19. Beware: Extremely long comment below. So long, that it's a two-parter!

    I experienced something very similar - in that our wedding budget evolved over time (and our initial number became increasingly laughable as time progressed). BUT, my experience was also very different, in that it was actually the exact OPPOSITE of yours (and apparently many other brides). Indeed, SOMEHOW, over the course of our 9-month engagement, our budget shrank exponentially.

    Before we even got engaged and were talking about weddings only in the hypothetical, my now husband and I had a conversation about what a "good" amount of money to spend on a wedding might be. We both agreed that $15k seemed about right. This number was literally pulled out of our asses, however, as neither of us had ever planned anything even resembling a wedding and had no idea what anything might actually cost. We just knew that to us, $15k seemed like an OK target because it felt generous enough to do something great, but not so generous that either of us would feel as if the entire point of having a job was to funnel any and all money made there toward a one-day affair.

    Then we got engaged and started talking more seriously. We came up with a proposed guest list, did some research on venues, priced some caterers, and I said 'you know, I think we could do this for $12k.'

    So $12k it was. And even though $12k was $3k less than what we'd previously discussed, it started to feel like A LOT of money, because I started thinking about it in terms of how many days, weeks, months, we'd have to work to earn, much less save $12k. But it felt doable, and so we planned.

    We found a beautiful hidden gem of a venue that came crazy cheap, but empty. Which meant lots and lots of rentals would be in order, and like you, I was pretty appalled by the numbers I was coming up with in terms of tables and chairs and forks and such. So much so, that I'm pretty damn sure it would have been cheaper to opt for one of those all-inclusive joints that SEEMS more expensive on paper.

    But I digress.

    At some point, I got it in my brain that we could knock it down to $10k and still have the kickass mountain wedding we wanted. So we did, and it felt good.

    Then, it was $8k, which felt REALLY good.

    We'd deliberately booked a venue that maxed out at 90 people, for the specific purpose of forcing ourselves to keep the guest list in check. Both of us are ultra-social people who've lived all over the place and accumulated a great number of friends that continue to be an important part of our lives long after we've (physically) moved on. Likewise, we're both much more oriented toward our families of choice than our families of origin, and made the decision early on that we would be inviting only our immediate families, meaning our parents and one sibling (his). We ran this idea past both sets of parents early on and it was fine.

    However, as plans progressed, his mom - who hails from a family of 12 - decided she was uncomfortable with this and would like for her siblings and their spouses to be invited, even though my husband had not seen any of them in at least 5 years, and I'd never met any of them.

    It caused A LOT of drama. A LOT. Adding 24 "distant" relatives (in the physical and emotional sense) would necessitate eliminating 24 people who actually know and love my husband and I, which felt impossible.

  20. My mother is absolutely horrified at what she is hearing "weddings these days" cost. I'm going to share this with her when the time is right. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  21. @Michele - I have yet to meet anyone who didn't have guest list drama. He had a big family and tons of close friends we wouldn't feel comfortable excluding. Not an option. My initial thoughts that this could be a 100 person wedding all went poof once we started to have real sit-down conversations.

  22. awesome post. totally agree about the scary part being the realization of how much you saved. If I hadn't done my own invitations (and had instead purchased something equivalent) I'd have had to add another 2 grand right there.. OY.

  23. Oof, I needed that belly laugh. This so obviously happens to everyone, just sub out different numbers for what the original reasonal aspiration is and the ultimate "here, take all my MONEY... just let me get MARRIED!" figure is.

    And I really respond to your comment about how much more expensive it COULD be. Like, our wedding already has the makings of outrageously expensive. And we're not having flowers. And we're not paying a venue rental fee. And we're DIYing invitations. It's actually kind of a terrifying thought.

  24. We ended up very close to the budget I had set out for BUT that's only because his mother paid for/arranged our reception flowers, my mother paid for the DJ and part of my dress and my brother paid for our honeymoon. Otherwise we would have been WAY over and that was with me cutting costs and doing as much DIY as I could. Having a wedding in a suburb of DC is just ridiculously expensive.

    I did find out that my husband's cousin spent twice as much on their wedding but from the sounds of it and the pictures ours was way better!

  25. @Rachel - Exactly. It's all about priorities and the money/time/support that any one couple has. We feel extremely lucky that we're in a financial position to have this wedding without debt. If Jason hadn't found another job, this would be a different wedding (but he'd also have more time for DIY and dealseeking to offset it.) We have a few splurges but, everything you mentioned on your list... we're doing it. We're cutting like fiends in every way possible aside from staffing, DJ and photography (which we still were very smart about). Which is to say, there's no black and white. People are still going to think we're cheap because we're having plastic plates (albeit eco-friendly) and tacos while other people are going to think we're excessive because we're spending $X. We can't win, so I'm not even trying anymore. It's all a matter of feeling comfortable with our own choices.

  26. I know the feeling! Our budget progression was the same. But you don't need to spend $2,000 on buses! Contact local school bus companies. I live in an expensive northeastern city, and we had the wedding a complicated 20 minute drive from downtown, and we were able to get two 48-seat school buses for 7 hours each for a grand total of $750. It took a bit of calling around but we found school bus companies really open to this idea and cheaper than we imagined. Most of these companies do not have good websites; we instead jotted down when we passed school buses the name on the side and used google maps to find local businesses with "transportation" in the name. We had a total of 120 people -- all but 15 of which were from out of town -- and honestly could have done with one bus, cutting this cost in half.

  27. @Erica - thanks for the transportation tip! We haven't booked buses yet, so I'll start doing some more research on school bus options...

  28. We did this, too. I started out with the idea that I could put a wedding together for $5,000. Keep small, park, simple, tada! But the park rangers -- they laughed at me.

    You want alcohol? Of course, I said. Well, then you'll need security, and one park ranger for every 50 people, and insurance -- you do have insurance? -- and a licensed bartender...

    But we only want to have beer and wine. You still have to have a licensed bartender. And your alcohol permit, that's in addition to your special use permit. Oh, and we have a contract with a food vendor. Are you serving food? You'll need to use our caterer for food and any tents or rental equipment. [Check the caterer's website; holy mother of !!!! BBQ chicken starts at $65 per person?! WTF?]

    So we scrapped the park plan. We'll do it at home! Yes, this is brilliant. Wait. Why is this costing just as much as the beach party plan?

    City Hall. City hall will save us. Oh, crap. We have to travel to city hall and that didn't change the reception problems....

    All told, for our city hall wedding and chinese take-out reception, we'll end up spending about $25,000 for everything (and I do mean everything; rings, clothes, hotels, honeymoon, travel, food, entertainment, ceremony, decor, invitations, etc. etc.). It may be "average," but it feels horribly spendy, and I am constantly looking for ways to cut down the costs more.

  29. This is fantastic, I laughed through the entire post because I swear I could have written it. It was exactly our experience, right down to the timeline and the "HOLY CRAP they cost WHAT?? DAMN RENTALS!!" (followed by my first wedding-related angry outburst and tears, because I finally realized my small victories of saving $50 here and there was barely a drop in the bucket)
    We also ended up somewhere around the average and that was with some MAJOR deals and cutting out quite a lot. This is the reality, but I think everyone probably has to go through this progression to realize it for themselves.

  30. @Sarah - yeah, our budget is our "all in" budget too (except for the honeymoon, which we're using our annual travel budget to pay for.) And this seemed like the cheap plan. And actually, it is.

    Also, you have one heck of a gorgeous City Hall and a vacation wedding in an incredible city, so there's that.

  31. Can I just hug you? Would that be weird? Like "I don't know this girl who is hugging me" weird? 'Cause I don't want it to be weird.

    I don't live in LA (heck, I live in Taipei) but our wedding is being held not far from New York City, in the Hudson Valley, where there are a crapton of gorgeous venues and they can cost up to $12,500 (as I learned the hard way). We're not paying half that, but still, not quite half that is still a lot of money.

    We, too, thought we could do it for $10k. Maybe $15k because I have elderly relatives who need things like easy access to venues and good bathrooms. Even those basic things cost money.

    And there ya go - none of the usual wedding budget advice worked for us (which is no surprise, huge tracts of it are completely useless):

    - We don't want to not invite children - I love my cousins
    - Public parks and other traditionally "budget" venues are off limits because of the limitations of my elderly relatlves, and anyway they're impossible if you want to serve food to a large group, and many do charge for large groups - and require rentals and their own caterers etc. and don't allow alcohol
    - With our guestlist, an off-peak time was not going to work
    - With our expat lives and work schedules, an off-peak season was not going to work
    - Even with DIY flowers, a Made in Taiwan (literally made by a seamstress in a Taipei market) dress and none of the fancy stuff and self-provided alcohol, those savings are adding up to a lot but not what we hoped
    - Other interesting venues, like boats, were off-limits for the same reasons as parks
    - "Offbeat" venues in my area have realized they're offbeat and started charging ridonkulous prices (see aforementioned $12,500 venue - just for the grounds mind you)

    Basically, I learned very fast that if you want to have all of your loved ones there, and some of them require things like shade, no long walks and bathrooms, and you want to play music and feed them and you don't already own a piece of property large enough to do this, and want to provide alcohol, and can't self-cater, it doesn't matter how cheap your dress is or how much DIY you do. You're still going to pay a pretty penny just for the venue, food and drink.

    So I totally feel your pain. 110%. In fact, I was beating myself up over all the people out there who seemed to be able to do this for $10k when I could barely do it for $28k. Planning from abroad meant that I couldn't be a budget rockstar, but I sure was trying, and feeling bad for failing. Reading this has given me faith that yes, we all go through this, and yes, the prices are asinine and we shouldn't have to pay them, but everyone gets dealt this hand, and no, I'm not the sole person who looks at the numbers and thinks "No,"

  32. i don't doubt it, lady. geography is HUGE in this wedding planning junk.

  33. @Jenna - the handicapped accessibility and guest comfort needs nixed a lot of options for us too. It's a HUGE consideration that never gets talked about in budget wedding articles. Again, choices. We're choosing to invite our old, young, baby, and scattered guests and feel a real responsibility to them. Also, since there are so many old/young/scattered folks, a self-catered/total DIY wedding didn't feel right for us. People with different guest list needs/priorities may have other options that feel a lot more comfortable and cheaper.

  34. I think everyone has been through this. Sometimes the budget judgment makes me nuts, because like, big events cost a lot of money, and that is true of all of them, but somehow we pretend weddings shouldn't. I'm currently organizing a SMALL (30 person) conference in which we'll need about $25 000 to make it work. Things cost money. That is life.

    When I think about our own wedding budget (I am not sure how much stuff cost in total, but we were def. around the $20 000 mark), I STILL bristle that we spent so much on one day, especially as the wedding becomes more distant and seems more insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But I do not regret the money we spent or think we spent it wrong. If you are going to choose to have a catered wedding with over 100 guests and dinner in a formal venue, etc., it just will cost that much. People like you and me have very good reasons for choosing that kind of wedding (mostly to do with family expectations). So for me, I very much at once STILL feel all adfhoaisjoda that we spent that much, and like it makes total sense, and couldn't/shouldn't really have been any other way. It feels at once stupidly extravagant, but at the same time, what we paid for each item was totally reasonable, and we nixed everything stupid, etc. etc.

    All that to say, my motto on this one is: It is what it is. I still hate it, but I also think us reasonable women who find ourselves spending more than we ever expected are still sane. It is what it is.

  35. @ accordionsandlace - if you're only spending $25K on a small conference you ARE a budget rockstar. Our office spends $25,000 on lunch alone at our convention center conferences. It's for ~400-500 people, but still. Services and product costs add up quickly. End of story. I'd like to think I'm a devious budget ninja who can subvert it all, but alas, that does not seem to be the case.

  36. Sing it, sistah! I know this song so well! I don't even know what the final budget was, because we just stopped counting, and starting paying bills. We added a bunch of stuff at in the final week, too, just to help things run smoothly: the ceremony musician that I never knew Eric wanted; rental sound equipment for him; 3 babysitters to keep the kids busy; a Day of Coordinator. All totally worth it, but far, far beyond the $15K we originally discussed (which sounded HUGE at the time). If you include the cost of the honeymoon, we might well have tripled our original estimate - and all while trying to be sane and budget conscious. It's an amazing process.

  37. I'm with petitechablis--I see so many budgeting articles and workbooks that cite arbitrary numbers for various services (e.g. "$150 for an officiant, $300 for a cake, $250 room rental"...really? in L.A.? Really?) without any mention how they arrived at these figures...a Tuesday wedding in winter in Peoria, maybe.

  38. I think our wedding ended up costing around $12-13,000. I still need to sell my first wedding dress (that will be 700 bucks of budget back). But we too started out with the whole "10K budget" thing. And the number crunching was endless. Towards the end, we just came to terms with the fact that 10K wasn't going to cut it and that we needed to dip into our savings (which hurt, but oh well. i guess? ha). but if we had hired a DJ, our budget would have been 15,000 -- and if we didn't make the bouquets by hand and go with flowers bought at Ralphs the day of, that budget would have been at least 16,000. i mean, i could go on and on. we couldn't have a $16,000+ wedding because we didn't have the money, so we made do with what we had -- BUT that surely doesn't mean that we would have spent the 16,000 if we had it. Looking back on the day, I can safely say that every dime we spent was worth it, and I think that I would say the same had we spent 3,000 more dollars. So I guess what I am saying to you is don't feel bad for spending the money on your wedding. yes, it is a ballsload of money for one day, but you have been so financially smart and savvy about planning this wedding that every dime you do end up spending will be money that needed to be spent to make it work.

    mike and i are here for you guys in any way we can help. have you found make-up/hair person yet? what else are you still needing? We need to pow wow soon!

  39. First of all, rentals suck. So much. I remember looking over those price lists and realizing I could purchase the stuff at Ikea for the same amount of money. But then what would I do with 150 champagne glasses afterward? Ugh.

    Second, I love hearing real numbers, even though I understand why people don't choose to share them. I'm so glad no one is getting judge-y in this conversation, because you simply don't know all the circumstances when you see the numbers.

    Third, we're still going to aim for $10K. In SoCal. I know everyone who has already posted is falling out of their chairs laughing right now. The budget will probably undergo some adjustment and I'll probably undergo some panic. But it kinda sounds like everyone has to go through this on their own, no matter how many breakdowns they read. I'll just jump in and follow in everyone else's footsteps.

    I do want to be comfortable with how much we spend and how we spend it, so the budget journey is probably necessary.

  40. @Rachel - you can absolutely do it for $10K! (Or, like Bowie Bride above, for $12-13K in Downtown LA. I am entirely impressed.) It just won't look like most of the weddings we're familiar with, which is more than okay. I pushed for all the options that could have got us closer to $15K (picnic wedding, champagne brunch wedding, no DJ, no shuttles, smaller please) but in the push-pull balance of everyone's genuinely treasured priorities and needs, it just isn't happening for us. But we also made our journey to get here, had a little bit more wiggle room, and capped it out at the "no debt or dipping into savings" level and feel okay.

  41. My thoughts as our NYC 150+ person/ 10k wedding budget fluctuated: Am I not thrifty or creative enough? Have I sold out? Is it rude to nix all of the good host stuff, like appetizers and fancy desserts? Am I a diva because I want to shell out $500 for hair and make up after all? Is another $1,000 really going to hurt anybody? How much of the grunt work can I get my family and friends to do for free before they start making a voo doo doll that looks remarkably like me? Can people live without coffee with their cake? Speaking of cake, is it unrealistic for us to make our own roasted pig-shaped wedding cake 2 days before the wedding when we have zero baking experience?

    So yeah. This post was frickin' hilarious. Amazingly, we came in just under our budget in the end. This was due to the following:

    1. A surprisingly high number of people RSVP'd no (and at the last minute, too), which brought our catering bill way down. This made us sad but we ended up loving our "intimate" 109 person wedding.

    2. There were lots of things that we simply didn't have TIME to go out and purchase (like material for the fun and charming projects in the DIY file cabinet of my mind).

    3. We got desperate and deliberately cut corners in ways that I never thought we would. I, a lover of wild and goofy dancing, gave in to my non-dancing hubby's idea to do the iPod DJ thing. And let's just say we got what we paid much so that I felt a little embarrassed and disappointed with how it all turned out, and I found myself crying in our fancy marble bathroom on the first day of the honeymoon just thinking about it. But. Our major screw up has not scarred me nearly as much as I thought it would, here about 3 weeks out from the wedding.

    Having said all this, I don't think we would have been emotionally scarred by going over the budget, either. In other words, I've found that RESILIENCE and a healthy PERSPECTIVE make you feel satisfied in the end, not how much you spent, how much you saved, how much you wasted, who didn't show up, which guests were a bit disappointed, or how much you regret in hindsight.

    By the way, I love your blog. I feel privileged to have access to your mind and heart as you plan your wedding. Seriously. :)

  42. @ Becca - Oh, yes. I should have mentioned that we've already gone through the ways in which a $10K wedding will be a little different. We have hashed it out and made it very clear to ourselves that we will be aiming to spend $10K on a $10K wedding, not trying to spend $10K on a $30K wedding. Crucial. You don't get an open bar or an all night dance party on a barbecue budget.

  43. This is the key that transcends all the numbers that everyone's throwing out there:

    "I'm very uncomfortable with the amount of money we're spending, but I'm also entirely comfortable with how we're choosing to spend it."

    You can UNDERSTAND that it's ridiculous while still FEELING that it's right. That's kind of the golden rule of planning a wedding.

  44. @Rachel -- That *is* a crucial point. Couples can plan a great party on pretty much any budget, but trying to throw a $30K party on a $10K budget is going to drive everyone involved nuts.

    Oh, and somewhat off-topic, but I'll still say it: what annoyed me the most about the budgeting process was people announcing that weddings were frivolous and excessive, and then -- in practically the same breath! -- demanding to know if our wedding would include the things that were most important to *them.* Example: my brother announcing that all weddings, including ours, were "so insanely expensive, I can't believe how much you're spending," and then twenty minutes later informing us that we *had* to include a beef option on the menu and hard alcohol at the bar. ::headdesk::

  45. I relate in many ways to your story, but in others I don't. I originally set a number figuring it was doable. Of course, like you and soooo many others, realized that the actual number would be higher. Then I reevaluated how much money we actually can spend. Yeah, it's less than my original guestimated number. I don't know how this is going to get done or when. I need a fairy god mother to make it all better.

    But you are very right that the actual numbers don't matter so much, as long as you can afford it and that you are working with vendors that you feel comfortable with. Those are the two most important things regarding a budget. Not hitting a mythical/guestimated number.

  46. LOL. I just finished posting my own budget experiences and then came here and saw you did the same.

    You progression sounds a lot like ours - including the brief fantasy elopement. Like you, part of my is profoundly uncomfortable with what we spent. But at the same time, I feel like we tried to cut corners, we weren't outrageously extravagant (at least in my mind; I guess it's debateable... but we didn't have a dove-release or life-sized ice scupltures ;-)), and hopefully, we will never host such a big event again. But still, the $$ kept adding up. :P

  47. Yeah our original ideas of how much we wanted to spend is so going to be way off! Hope by not too much but we've still got 10 months to go so check with me then ;)

  48. Dang, I wish the second half of my comment had posted rather than disappearing off into the ether. Ah well, boo hiss.

    Anyway, to very quickly sum up: Our hypothetical $15k budget ultimately morphed into $3,500 total spent. BUT, that's only because we totally pulled the plug on EVERYTHING midway through, including the location, the guest list, the aesthetic...EVERYTHING.

    Rather than having a rustic, relatively traditional (in terms of flow), 90ish person wedding in the mountains, we had a 50 person BBQ in our friends' backyard (which I must point out was MUCH, MUCH more "us," which was pointed out to us multiple times by various people who knew about our original plans).

    I'm VERY happy with not only what we spent and how we spent it, but also with what we DIDN'T spend. But only when I think of it in the context of it having been A WEDDING. Like 'wow, we ONLY spent $3,500 on our wedding!' But when I think about it in the context of it having been a BBQ, my head spins a little bit, because 'holy crap, we spent $3500 on A BBQ?!?!?'.

    Obviously, it was more than just a BBQ, but still. Given the size of our guest list and the casual air surrounding all of it, even $3,500 feels like quite a bit of money. I mean, I can't think of any other circumstances under which I'd give myself permission to spend $3,500 on a BBQ, but because it was our wedding, it felt OK.

    And ultimately, I think that's where I sometimes get a little hung up when it comes to budgets: The nature of the event - a wedding, presumably a once-in-a-lifetime thing - compels many couples and their families to give themselves permission to spend money in a way that they would never, ever dream of under "normal" circumstances.

    The budget is something that is revised to account for what things cost, rather than the plans being revised to account for what the budget allows for.

  49. @Michelle "And ultimately, I think that's where I sometimes get a little hung up when it comes to budgets: The nature of the event - a wedding, presumably a once-in-a-lifetime thing - compels many couples and their families to give themselves permission to spend money in a way that they would never, ever dream of under "normal" circumstances.

    The budget is something that is revised to account for what things cost, rather than the plans being revised to account for what the budget allows for."

    I think you're right, but I also disagree. Because we're not spending money in a way that we would "never dream of in normal circumstances." Some may, but for us, we're spending *precisely* in a way that meets our true values and we're cutting everything else. I wanted a casual backyard BBQ. We don't have a backyard/friend's backyard that accommodates our large family or wheelchair access. And our values prioritize family and being able to invite/host them all. So we had to rent a venue space. And our values prioritize a reform Jewish wedding, which necessitates about $1000 more than we would have otherwise spent. And my eco-values prioritize limited waste & reusability, so we're willing to do some rentals and eco-plastic plates (which are more expensive than standard paper or plastic by a real margin). And we *love* throwing parties. It's part of who we are. We have dinner parties all the time and a giant holiday party every year, so I wanted food and alcohol and great music and buses so people don't crash coming down the mountain. We got some great deals on those things (like $22 pp catering and BYO 2 Buck Chuck) but it still adds up.

    So yes, there is a revision based on what things cost AND values. So long as those both remain in sync, any couple is okay.

  50. Point well taken. :) I'd argue though that in some cases, the values a couple holds in regards to wedding are either mildly or wildly different from their "everyday" values. It DOES NOT sound like that's the case for you, your fiance and your families, but I've seen it time and time again.

    For example: Couples for whom food does not play a particularly important roll in their day to day lives outside of the fact that they eat it, who then choose to serve a high-end, local/organic, and/or five-course meal at their wedding. Or couples who don't generally exhibit a strong interest in photography or art, display it in their home, or otherwise make an effort to learn about/appreciate it, but deem photography their #1 priority and splurge when it comes to their wedding. Or women who buy 99% of their clothing at affordable stores that might utilize suspect means of labor and production, but would never dream of buying their wedding dress direct from China out of a supposed objection to the working conditions there. I can think of a dozen more examples.

    It's almost as if people make decisions according to the values they ASPIRE to, rather than those that they live by. And really, there's nothing inherently wrong with that, because it's completely natural to want to be (and to feel like) the BEST version of yourself on your wedding day. And any effort to be the kind of person you most want to be and to live authentically is to be commended.

    BUT, in some cases, these seem to be one-day-only, wedding-specific values, never to be revisited again. And that's where the 'budget based on what things cost' rather than 'plan based on what we have allocated to spend' model becomes troublesome.

  51. Hey Becca, thanks so much for addressing this. I remember a post quite a while back in which you publicly mused about the actual dollar amount of LA weddings. We're not planning a wedding in LA, but we are in a similarly expensive city (Boston), and, like you, the budget has increased not only in response to location but also in response to the things that are really important to us, and really important to the people who are really important to us.

    In the wedding blog world, talking about budget in real, concrete terms is almost unheard of. I was really surprised to hear the actual numbers of some of the blog ladies I read above, and I think it's telling that the largest budget number mentioned here was announced anonymously (not calling out - just observing). As someone planning an expensive wedding with contributions from parents (shock! horror!) I can totally relate to the desire to post anonymously about budget or to just stay out of the conversation altogether. As Petit Chablis wrote above, there's an enormous amount of criticism surrounding wedding budgets, particularly of the "oh god, your wedding is so expensive you must be a bridezilla, but, wait! no open bar! SHAME ON YOU" variety. I'm working on reaching your "zen" level here. I think the inherent competitiveness of the wedding world leads us to forget that the national average is just that - an average. You certainly haven't failed when you manage to spend just about what everyone else spends, particularly in a city more expensive than most.

  52. @ Michele: "It's almost as if people make decisions according to the values they ASPIRE to, rather than those that they live by."

    I suppose this is somewhat true in our case; we chose to do things in as eco-conscious a way as we could, even though we aren't perfect in this respect in daily life (we aspire to this value, we don't always practice it). But it seemed to me that on a day when we'd be causing WAY more waste (by inviting so many people and providing them with dishes) than we normally cause, we should try harder than we normally do to alleviate the harm.

  53. i can relate almost step by step!!! somehow a year and a half later i find myself with a professional florist, a professional to do my hair, and a second dress becuase the budget dress i bought and thought i could live with made me want to hide under the bed...i think it's ok - no one but us is counting... i made some decisions to trade money for the reassurance that it wasnt going to be something to stress about on the day of my wedding...and yeah it may suck to feel like i threw money at a problem but hey - i decided it was worth it, and none of them were easy or thoughtless decisions.

  54. I could echo many of the budget comments above -- two months in, we've already added another $2,000 to the budget and will be lucky if that's all we end up adding. I especially identify with petite's comment about those that editorialize about budget while piling on their expectations of your wedding.

    But I wanted to chime in on something else -- the false eyelashes! Are you using individual clusters, rather than the strip? The individual ones are magic and wonderful and relatively easy to apply. The others, not so much.

  55. @MM - I bought both types of eyelashes, but the individual ones were even worse! I think I also had trouble with the glue (Duo, which came recommended.) I think I need more patience to be any good at eyelash application, blowdrying, or general event prettification.

  56. I love this post.

    I always thought that we wouldn't spend more than $10,000 on the wedding.

    Then, we decided to have two. And one of those we are paying for in Euros, which is a whole lot more Aussie Dollars.

    Once we started booking everything, we budgeted $15,000 for each wedding. We've gone to about $17,000 on the Aussie one and a bit under with the Irish one. So it has evened out for the moment...

    But there are so many things I thought I wouldn't bother with that we are doing now. Where does it end?

  57. Becca, yet again a stellar blog post. I love seeing your thought process, and I love that you're not angry and screaming that it's the WIC out to scam you. I sometimes see brides passing blame as if those of us who make a living providing services to brides & grooms are FORCING them spend this money.

    It only cost $90 to get married in LA. ANYTHING on top of that marriage license from the county is due to your desire to have some sort of mile marker to signify this life decision you and your partner just made.

  58. @Amber - I think scammy vendors and the general spandspendspend marketing pressure about the wedding "must haves" are what drive couples to rant about the WIC. Those pressures are HUGE and insidious and some vendors DO take advantage of it and the limited time/experience we have with wedding planning. Unfortunately, less aware couples can take it out on vendors in general, which is entirely unfair. You don't want it, don't get it. But if you want it, look for fair and reasonable vendors, remembering that fair and reasonable vendors have businesses to run and there's a reason they're charging what they charge (time, materials, overhead, marketing, service quality, etc.)

  59. That is about how it went for us too. In the end we ended up spending about $20k though I'm not done crunching the final numbers yet. And that was with a lot of DIY, cutting a formal dinner (and the rentals involved with such) and a whole lot of help from our friends.

  60. There *are* WIC vendors out to scam people - it's just very unfair to blanket all wedding vendors with that assertion, as I'd say the majority are not. Most of them charge a fair price for their services, and it's just higher than most people ever thought because hey, they've never had to rent 150 wine glasses, hire a photographer, cater a meal or rent a nice venue before and it genuinely never occurred to them that it might cost that much. It is what needs to be charged to stay in business - it's just a shock is all.

    It honestly had never occurred to me that a lovely room tables and chairs (NICE chairs) included, with terrace, garden, full bathrooms and catering kitchen (so ceremony and reception venue all in one) would cost $6,000 in the Hudson Valley. But it does. And it's gorgeous. And we need a place for 100 people. And my parents loved it. And the profits go to the preservation of a historic home. After a lot of research, we decided that it was, in fact, a fair price - the cheaper venues all required rentals that would have pushed it up to the same number. The "bugdet" venues had issues like no bathrooms or electricity. Renting port-a-potties and a generator would have made them no longer "budget". So yes, it seems high, but that's what it costs, and we just never expected it.

    There's also the fact that weddings don't happen "often" in a family - once every few years at best. The last big wedding my parents could guess the cost of happened in the early 90s, back when the prices someone quoted above ($250 room rental! Haha!) were closer to the truth. The true extent of inflation had never been considered until we started planning for my wedding. Sometimes I think those wedding advice editors really do just grab prices from their own weddings in the 80s and use that, not even considering what it costs *now*.

    Anyway. Point. Most vendors do charge a fair price - it just surprises people what that price is because they've never shopped for it before.

    But there are bad vendors out there - it would be unfair to brides to tell them that there aren't (heck, online and print wedding advice often pretends that all vendors are Wedding Angels and a lot of couples do get scammed into spending more money than they need to because they don't think to question the pricing).

    There's the $12k venue I found - just the grounds, no rentals - which I do believe was about $4000 fair price and $8000 wedding markup. There was the restaurant I looked into that had separate catering menus - one was for a corporate meal and one was for a wedding reception. Guess which one was twice as expensive for almost the same food ("vegetable platter" was called "colorful crudite". Heh.) Their are $300 pieces of netting that pass for veils.

    So yeah - most vendors don't do this but the ones who do give them ALL a bad name.

  61. "I'm also entirely comfortable with how we choose to spend it"

    Just remember that dear.

    We were almost $4k over on alcohol alone (combo of lots of drinks and restaurant taking away full glasses). I wanted to cry, but it was for our friends and they had fun (and thought our wedding was super fancy when it was def budget NYC). Oh and we had an amazing unexpected gift that really helped defray costs. It balances out somewhere along the line.

    Again, it's worth it if it's worth it to you (and you don't dig a hole of debt).

  62. @ Michele: "It's almost as if people make decisions according to the values they ASPIRE to, rather than those that they live by."

    This is true for us. I never take pictures but I love looking at pictures others have taken of themselves, us, different events, etc. But I REALLY want a professional photographer even though I told myself and my future hubby (FH) that friend's photos would be just fine....

    As for our original budget. I thought $5K in a park would be doable but FH nixed the idea as too rustic and we are now spending $5K on just the site fee (no food, etc.), so we are now looking at 15K and probably more if I get my wish for a pro photographer....

    @Becca - I have budgeted very little for rentals and hope that it doesn't become a 'someone told me so' moment...

  63. Well said. By doing our wedding out-of-town and on a Friday, we've peeved some people, but the town we chose is beautiful (NYS wine country) and cheaper than where we live, and cheaper still than where his family is from!

    So, out-of-town + Friday = trimmed list. There are a few people who can't make it, that I am sad about, but I get the feeling that those people in particular would have been unable to make it regardless. The rest of the people who are Nos are people that, while I would love to have there (or I would not have invited them), I'm OK with them not attending.

    That, and I nixed flowers entirely and hired a student photographer. However, I'm not a DIY kind of girl ... I'm not crafty to the point of craft projects making my blood pressure go up. The thought of printing invites stressed me out!

    Our budget is going to land somewhere between $10 and $15K. I hope.

  64. I second the "school bus" comment mentioned way above. A friend of mine rented a school bus and it cost about 300$ (umm... we live in small town NOva Scotia, so probably equivalent to 750$ in big town USA).

    right now our budget has gone awry. we have managed to save and pay for all of it ourselves (and we have 8 more weeks left!) with purchased gifts from family to help.

    I feel very proud that our wedding won't cause us debt... but we just had a discussion over the weekend about a school-friend's recent wedding.

    my mom GUSHED about how beautiful it was, the venue prep alone (cottage) took three months of renovation and landscaping and cost over 20,000$, with a 10,000$ rented outside tent... blah blah. "It looked like a fairytale".

    I was ready to vomit. Yeah, good for them that they can afford (or his parents) a 50-60k wedding (in rural nova scotia that is astronomical). And i'm sure it was beautiful and nice.

    but man did i feel jealous. HUGELY. I would LOVE to be able to have beeswax candles everywhere, and solar lanterns on the property.... and and....

    so i took a deep breath, didn't scream obscenities at my mother, and calmly agreed with how beautiful it must have been and good for them for having the resources to spend on the day.

    i just wish weddings didn't have to be about compromise with family... and that i didn't care what my family wanted. cuz we'd probably just elope at the moment.

  65. i'm so opposed to the rental industry, it's like my religion.

    granted- sometimes it's unavoidable. (we needed tables. whatre ya gonna do.) but holy crap, i bought the majority of the stuff we used (linens, glasses, etc) and SAVED a ton of money. THEN sold/lent it all to other brides after the wedding.

    what a racket that stuff is.

  66. @elizabeth, that's so awesome that you were able to purchase and sell/lend all of the items you used for your wedding!

    I do have to let you know, though, that the rental industry is a tough one to be in. Their overhead is probably the most expensive of all wedding/event vendors as they have the initial purchase of the item, the storage facility, the insurance, security, maintenance of that facility, the trucks/vans that it takes to transport, the labor that it takes to transport, set up,& strike the item, and then the cleaning of the item. They also have breakage and wear and tear on the item. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Then they have the administration side of the above stuff: Q&A, rental quotes, site walk-throughs, billing, customer service, etc.

    I'm not telling you this to sell you on rentals, I'm just letting you know why a wine glass costs $1.65 to RENT(!!!!) when you can buy it for less.

    It's not a racket, it's business.

  67. Thank you ALL so much for your honesty, i have been crying over money the last two days.

    I am pretty OK with what we spent and everyone chipped in so it helped a ton, I am just stressing out about last minute unplanned expenses. We will not have a ton of (wedding)debt after the wedding, but i really wanted to not have any and I hate knowing we have that waiting for us on the other side. Our wedding is Sunday and I KNOW it will all work out and be worth it, I just needed to hear it a few more times to believe it.

    this is so brilliant btw;

    "I'm very uncomfortable with the amount of money we're spending, but I'm also entirely comfortable with how we're choosing to spend it."

    and I feel good knowing I feel the same way about what we chose to spend it on :)

  68. @Sealicious - it is what it is. You're nearly there and you made those choices for a reason because something about them mattered more than minimal debt. Please forgive yourself for what you wanted 8 months ago and allow yourself to enjoy what you have NOW. You know your wedding is going to be worth it or you wouldn't have made your choices. So breathe, put aside money stress because the tears won't change it, and just allow yourself to soak in the wedding you both lovingly created and the energy from the family and friends who will be joining you. Wishing you all the the joy in the world on your Sunday wedding.

  69. haha, thanks amber- i get that you pay for convenience. but i'm very much tainted by my own HORRIBLE renting experience. and the horror had little to do with the pricing.

    (plus, in comparison shopping, i found that philly rentals weren't even in the same ballpark as many other rental companies- not sure what that's all about)

  70. and sealicious, i have wedding debt. it's probably the cardinal sin of the wedding blogger.

    but you know what? when i go and bring that check over to the loan office every month, i don't feel a weight or a dread. it actually ALWAYS reminds me of my wedding day and how happy i was that i spent it. i still don't regret our financial shoices- even if we'll be paying for them for another year.

    (LA, don't hate me for taking over your blog- slow work day...)

  71. I'd be against rentals too...but yeah. Sometimes you just need them. We could buy all the glassware and cutlery, but the wedding is being held 10,000 miles from where we live (yes, four zeros) and my parents don't exactly have hte time to sell every last thing post-wedding or the space to stockpile it all...or the time to help us buy it all. We're using plastic cups at the bar and renting just water and wine glasses, getting our own paper napkins etc. but there are still rentals...but that's far better than the alternative of being stuck with 100 water goblets, 100 wine glasses, 100 plates, 12 tablecloths in odd colors and needing to sell it all from across the planet. Looking around for tablecloths in the colors we want, it'd cost just as much to buy as to rent. So yeah, what're ya gonna do.

    My caterer asked us for the seating layout, saying that if we want fewer than 6 or more than 11 people at tables, to let them know because they'd rent different tables. Our venue comes with 8-seater tables if we'd rent OTHER tables and not use the free ones. Haha, caterer, I love your work. AND you're funny.

  72. crazy how it spirals bigger and bigger. kudos to knowing whats worth it :)

  73. Ummm...this totally strikes a chord with us. I was just sobbing over where our budget has gone recently. and my dress only cost $575. And we have SEVERAL favors. got a discount on photography for processing ourselves. and only 75 guests. but we are having an NYC wedding. our catering and rentals alone are totaling what our original budget was. and (taking Bowie Bride's suggestion) we aren't going to have our family/friends clean-up after our wedding the day after.

    I just don't let myself look at our budget spreadsheet anymore. As I tell myself at times (when I get too penny-pinching)... it's only money :)

  74. I love this post, especially the let's just elope budget. I'm definitely there right now. I haven't really thought a lot about the budget, because a) we haven't saved and b) we still haven't reserved anything beyond the church, reception venue, dress and photographer. The only money I've spent is on my after party dress and shoes and the Boy has only spent money on my engagement ring. Maybe this is why I should be worried with 7 months to go? We met with the caterer and know what our per person cost will be ($10-$15 per person). But all the logistics, rentals, alcohol, music, flowers, decorations, I have yet to do anything about. UH OH.

  75. @Jessica - Once you have a venue and a caterer, 7 months is more than fine. It will be a hectic 7 months, but it's enough. I would recommend stalking BevMo for its 5 cent sales now, though, for the alcohol...


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