My Friends are Spending $30K on Their Wedding — And I’m Keeping My Mouth Shut

by Thursday Bram · 1,280 comments

Thirty thousand dollars. I heard that figure and my jaw dropped. That’s the amount that a couple of my friends are spending on their upcoming wedding.

Every time I hear about some new detail of the plans for the wedding, there’s a little voice in my head that starts commenting on the bottom line. But here’s the thing — it’s not my wedding. I’m not going to say a word because my friends are adults and seem to be pretty pleased with what they’re getting for their money.

The High Cost of Weddings

The Wedding Report, an industry publication, reports that the average wedding costs $29,000 in the U.S, so my friends aren’t so far off the norm. The number may be hard to wrap your head around if you’re used to thinking about things in terms of budgeting, saving money and all the other little things that go along with thinking hard about your personal finances, but it’s also not so uncommon when you think about the number of cultures in which families bring themselves to the edge of bankruptcy for weddings, dowries and other related expenses.

Personally, I don’t like those numbers but the simple fact of the matter is that I know I’m in the minority. My wedding cost just under $200 and I got exactly what I wanted (down to the perfect cake). While I have a hard time understanding the big numbers some people spend on weddings, many people have just as hard a time understanding how I could spend so little.

Nothing I can say or do will make my friends see things my way — and the reverse is just as true. And since they’re happy, the only result I can see from saying anything at all is putting my friendships in danger. So, I’m keeping my mouth shut.

High-Priced Weddings Aren’t Going Away

But I’m still thinking about the matter.

I’m thinking about why people so clearly prefer big weddings, even with the price tag. For a lot of people, I think it’s a matter of priorities: they’ve thought things through and the idea of a big wedding and all that goes with it (fun times with family, a great party and so on) is worth it. The experience of the perfect wedding is worth more than the alternatives of where they can spend that money.

At the end of the day, it’s a matter of personal choices, as it should be. If your financial priority is your wedding, that’s fine. You should be able to throw the rockingest party you can. The problems creep in when we think about the fact that not everyone manages their finances perfectly. Not everyone saves up money to pay for their wedding ahead of time or budget for what they can afford to spend. Some people choose to go pretty deep into debt in order to have the wedding of their dreams and wind up paying even more in interest, not to mention causing damage to their credit.

The idea of massive debt for one day of fun — charging an amount equivalent to at least a down payment on a house, if not most of the total cost — is what bothers me. I’m lucky enough that my friends aren’t in that boat, but even if they were, it seems like it’s not considered polite to even bring up wedding costs and talk about debts. It’s not a friend’s place to say anything. I can’t help but wonder if costs would be a little lower if friends talked about how they were able to save money on their celebrations or talk candidly about staying out of debt.

The current state of the economy seems to be bringing a few more of those discussions out into the open. But we’ve still got a ways to go. I’m certainly not interested in risking my friendships just to talk about money. I don’t think I’m the only one, either.

So, I wish my friends all the happiness in the world — a beautiful wedding and a wonderful marriage. I will be there for the happy day and I will gladly celebrate with them.

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{ 1280 comments… read them below or add one }

Material Girl June 7, 2014 at 5:29 pm

what is the whole purpose of a wedding? sure its a symbolic event to mark the beginning of a new life together with your partner and in some cases not even because it seems more people are living in defacto relationships today. But you see its not going to change how you feel about your partner and its definitely not going to improve the quality of your marriage. the only thing it will change is the weight of your wallet. all weddings are is a demonstration of consumerist and how materialistic society is.


Beverly July 8, 2014 at 7:17 am

are you just talking about yourself, or did you talk to everybody in this world ask them this question

next time just say, this is what I think about it.


Leena June 7, 2014 at 6:45 pm

What is the “purpose” of a baptism? What is the “purpose” of a birthday party? Marriage is NOT just like shacking up – it is a commitment worthy of a celebration, a wedding is a celebration. It is no more a “display of materialism” by definition than any celebration.


David July 7, 2014 at 8:44 pm

I don’t get the logic “a commitment worthy of a(n) (expensive) celebration. The expensive celebration doesn’t improve the quality or sincerity of the commitment. And if one partner (all it takes these days) decides to file for no-fault divorce, all those guests can’t stop it, and they won’t be in the thoughts of the person filing either.

If you want to spend money that way, great. But a lot of people who really can’t afford it are doing it and starting off the marriage in a weakened position.


Leena, thanks June 7, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Exactly Leena! Thank you.

Have you ever noticed that the people whining about how
Materialistic the world is, seem to be trying to console themselves for what they can’t have by hating what others have. I didn’t have a fancy wedding and so on for any other reason that I wanted my wife to be, to be the star of the day. I didn’t care what anyone else thought but us. I was so excited to make that commitment to one another that we invited everyone that mattered to us and marked the occasion. It’s the people we care about while
At the same time, I wasn’t worried If they liked the flowers or food and so on. Based on our family there should have been 200 more people but we wanted gourmet food and so on because that is what we enjoy, so we cut out list to
Under 300. Never considered the event for its material possessions or comforts above the spiritual. We had a full mass as well as other religious ceremonies going hand and hand with the decadence we felt necessary for the importance of the event.

Grab your marriage license and pick a stranger to witness if it does it for you. We celebrate life differently and your jealousy has no place.


Material Girl June 8, 2014 at 2:24 am

Yes but it is not like the ‘baptism industry’ has transformed an important rite of passage into a corporate revenue stream.
Place the word ‘wedding’ in front of any products title and instantly double the price. The price becomes justifiable purely in the name of ‘sensible splurging’.

So instead of sharing an important day of your life with people you love, you cut numbers down because you value gourmet food more than the pleasure of their company?


Cut the numbers down June 8, 2014 at 8:02 am

We went with gourmet food and didn’t invite the people that most couples wonder why they invited xyz. No dad, you don’t need to invite the entire men’s group out of obligation. We made our wedding about us and then kept costs down by inviting actual friends and family and avoiding generic invites. The parents wanted to invite everyone anyway and they were paying and we would have received tons more gifts, but we thought we would keep it more intimate. We also saved a lot of people from having to go to a wedding of a coworkers daughter etc.


Calipartygurl June 9, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Having been a caterer and seen over 200 weddings with over half “ending” in divorce I’d be more for a small civil ceremony and then a blow out bash at the 20 year anniversary? My grandmothers and great aunts were married during the Great Depression. They each bought “nice suits”(skirt and jacket) in either navy or black-that they went on to wear as church clothes for another ten years? Their friends and family met them at the church, their family pastor presided over the affair. Everyone went back to my grandmother’s parents for a “nice meal.” These were midwestern values. For all of them it was a “death do us part” marriage. “Over the top” weddings have only been “vogue” since the 1950′s?It was a way to boost the economy with consumerism post world war two…Watching my dad and stepmom shell out $30 K for my younger sister is funny considering that the brides husband hasn’t landed a “real job” yet, she gives piano lessons and I’m constantly hearing how “broke” they are. My gift to them was their hotel in Hawaii for 7 days. I spent $140 on a pastor, $50 on a license and my two sons were in attendance 12 years ago.(They were 5 months and 3 at the time) We had a “nice lunch” in Reno before driving home to the Bay Area. Ten days later we drove “kid free” to Monterey for a weekend away. We own 3 homes, have retirement savings and college funds for both boys. We drive old cars and live in a small house, in a good school district so we could avoid paying private school fees. It’s a choice, however if you can’t afford a fancy wedding, why do it? Why try and keep up appearances? These are your friends and family? Don’t you think they’d understand if you said, “we are saving for a house” so this is our wedding, please join us for a ceremony followed by cake and champagne at 2pm on Saturday in our parent’s back yard? The bride can still wear white, Target has cute wedding dresses for $150? Everyone knows someone who can take photos? Online invites and a few phone calls to older relatives? Weddings are an industry, love is a four letter word and often sadly not part of the “industry.”


David July 7, 2014 at 8:38 pm

This, 100%. It’s like a test. You CAN jeopardize your marriage’s future by spending your nest egg before you even get started. Or, you can quietly decide not to do that and live the values of sincerity and frugality on the wedding day too, the values that will help you all the rest of the way.


MJ42 July 16, 2014 at 5:12 pm

One of my friends got married this summer and they classified the event as a party with a small 5 minute wedding ceremony instead of a wedding. They had a tent, got some catered finger food, my friend was in a wedding dress, and everyone else was in casual dress. They are saving for a house and didn’t want to spend their savings on a wedding. When I get married I want to do a bit more than that, but not too much. I want mine to be a backyard bbq style that is very family friendly.


mrsammler June 10, 2014 at 10:38 am

My daughter’s wedding was just two weeks ago. It was a dream wedding: beautiful venue, great reception (food, band, venue, open bar, waitstaff–all excellent), band and photographer were excellent, etc. Everyone had a wonderful, deeply resonant and memorable time–and it cost me (as the bride’s father, I paid for everything) about $11K. I don’t understand these bloated wedding cost figures you see all the time–it doesn’t have to be the Taj Mahal, the Rolling Stones, limousine service, the top chef in the city, and/or Annie Liebovitz.


MorrisCoveMom July 1, 2014 at 12:50 pm

$11k? That’s bloated and/or rich. $11k is what my husband makes every 5-6 months. Perspective is the issue.


Beverly July 1, 2014 at 1:14 pm

this issue is not about either of you


Beverly June 10, 2014 at 1:39 pm

you are funny


Beverly June 10, 2014 at 1:41 pm

by chance have you had a chance toread what this is all about. It started out as someone else wedding not theirs.
ok my ten secound is up


Jason June 12, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Yeah Beverly, I did – the question is this – why question someone else’s choice in weddings (it is the author’s friend’s not his) and why write about it. See, now I wasted more brain cycles than this article was worth….


Beverly June 13, 2014 at 6:38 am

I like you Jason


Patrick June 10, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Yes bookmaking this site was not an awful decision since it is an excellent article!


Lila June 11, 2014 at 7:02 pm

My boyfriend of 12 years started planning our wedding. Between a 10k wedding for 18 people in San Francisco and a lavish vacation planned later in the year, we were looking at 18k to $20k after it was all said and done. It seems so hard to grasp $10k for one day. More than a whole week vacation. We decided to elope in a very romantic day in sf. And use the $18k to take our entire immediate family on a week cruise. We got the most basic rooms for everyone and our family had option of buying up at their cost. We got so much more for our $18k.


MorrisCoveMom July 1, 2014 at 12:52 pm

$18k is almost 9-10 months of salary for my husband. That’s why people have issue. Even if we were rich, we wouldn’t have spent that. It’s confusing to me to have such an expensive party to celebrate something we all do every day.


Beverly July 1, 2014 at 1:16 pm

that’s why it is not your wedding day, it theirs


Jason June 12, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Wow – self righteous much? What was your purpose in writing this article anyway? To justify your $200 wedding? To feel better in your choices? As a member of a group of people for whom wedding = pagentry and party to the extreme, your thoughts here are about as petty as your subject matter.


Beverly June 13, 2014 at 6:39 am

now that’s what I’m am talking about


David July 7, 2014 at 8:30 pm

What’s wrong with a $200 wedding? It makes you just as married as a 20,000 one.


PghMike2 June 20, 2014 at 6:14 am

Obviously you shouldn’t have a bigger wedding than you can afford, but we had a modest wedding (about 100 people) in a nice venue for about $10K about 20 years ago. That’s about $16K today, and is affordable for a lot of couples — we certainly didn’t go into debt for it.


Caleb June 20, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Weddings are ever so expensive. You set a budget and in no time you are going right over it with no complications. We thought we were setting a realistic budget and boy did we get a wake up call.


David July 7, 2014 at 8:28 pm

There is an alternative. You can go to the courthouse and get married for a very modest fee, then have your friends over for a party to celebrate.

Or be really clever when planning the wedding as my wife was. Our university owned a forest. So we arranged to have an outdoor wedding there. Simple, rustic, beautiful. Not so many friends because we’re not so social and to keep the budget down.

Remember, the wedding is for you. It’s not for the guests. I don’t see the point of throwing a big party for guests, they should be throwing it for you if anything. You’re the ones that need the financial help at that moment as well as all the good wishes.


MorrisCoveMom July 1, 2014 at 12:53 pm

Why not put that away for retirement, down payment on a house, emergency fund? People put these huge weddings on credit cards, and for what? An extravagant party celebrating something we all do every day?


Beverly July 1, 2014 at 1:18 pm

why are you so worried about what others people do with their money.


TorLicious July 1, 2014 at 1:24 pm

200!? LOL! that’s the cost of hmmm…both my husband’s and mine’s bow ties!


Teelo July 7, 2014 at 10:10 am

Stop confusing the “average” wedding cost with the “median” wedding cost. The median (half the population pays more than that number, half pays less than that number) more closely represents what most people pay (~$18K). The $30K number is skewed by the over-the-top “event” weddings of the uber-rich.


Tim July 17, 2014 at 12:12 pm

That comment should be added to every article about wedding planning posted on the Internet.


David July 7, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Some marriages probably fail because of the debt or lack of funds resulting from the big wedding.

It makes a hell of a lot more sense to have a very modest wedding, then a big party when the kids are done with college, or some other event marking the real end of your financial servitude. Then you really have the money to spend if that’s what you want.

Besides, work before play. Accomplish something, then celebrate, rather than blowing all the money before you’ve even had your marriage yet.


Pam July 19, 2014 at 8:01 am

A year ago, my husband and I (and our daughter) spent approx. 30K on her wedding. We are not rich people, but we’ve all worked since we were teenagers, and by world standards we live a comfortable life in a middle-class suburb. The 30K paid for a weekend wedding party — from Saturday through Monday — at an old inn. There were about 60 people at the actual ceremony, and about 20 people (family & wedding party) stayed at the inn for the weekend. My own wedding, 30+ years ago, cost more like $300 so it’s not as if our family is known for its lavish weddings. Before last year’s wedding, I would have agreed fully with the idea that spending that much money on a wedding is foolish. But now I have a different perspective. The gathering of family and friends for a weekend of good food, hand-made decorations for the wedding tent, hand-made floral arrangements, and general hanging out and laughing was worth every penny. Some people pay 30K for a car. My 30K produced wonderful memories for a bunch of people I love.


Moderate July 21, 2014 at 1:09 pm

I’m going to preface this by saying that my wife and I did both things. We had a small JOP wedding in a beautiful park with a very small number of friends, some of whom did the photography for us) and we went out for sushi after. It was wonderful and only cost us a few hundred dollars. About a year later (recently) we did the whole big wedding celebration. It was beautiful and so much fun. The venue was terrific and the food phenomenal. It cost around $30K. Well within our means as we saved up specifically for this event and did not have to put anything on credit.
Having said that –
So long as I’m not putting anyone else in debt or doing something illegal, no one has any right to tell me how I spend what I earn. Your way of saving or spending money may be fine for you but it doesn’t work for everyone. I have my views, which in this case fall pretty much smack dab in the middle. I’m not going to go out and buy a Porsche because a) I don’t want to put that much strain on my budget and b) I don’t need that much car. On the other hand I’m not going to own a used 1997 Toyota either because a) I want something nicer (like power windows) and b) I can afford something with more of the features I want.
However I understand that there are many folks who will drive a car into the ground before even considering something else and I have known other folks who buy a new luxury car every 2 years (not lease, buy).

The sooner you stop worrying about what everyone else does with their money, the happier you’ll be.


Jp July 23, 2014 at 5:02 am

1. It’s someone else’s money, not yours.
2. A wedding is a special day and if there’s one reason to spend a little extra, this would be the day. Who wants to overspend on a funeral?
3. A lot of people are doing very well these past few years so why not reap the profits sell a few stocks and enjoy your new life as one?


Dena K July 28, 2014 at 5:59 pm

I’m with the author on the $200 wedding. My SO and I, when we marry, are thinking of having his oldest son officiate (in our state, anyone can get a temporary license to marry someone) and his youngest son as best man. We would marry at either our house or his parents’ with a reception to follow. Guests would be extremely limited, and we don’t need or want presents. I think we could pull it off for $200 or so.


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