Wedding Budgets, They Triple

coffee talk: wedding budgets

Throughout this wedding planning process, I’ve spoken a lot about budgetary stress.

Of all the stress that accompanies the planning of a wedding (a ton) this is the thing that has hit me the hardest. I can try to rationalize it a million different ways, but the reality is that we are getting ourselves into a hefty chunk of debt, for a day… and something about that is deeply hard for me to swallow.

I often talk about my student loan debt (because it kind of blows my mind) and when I do I always express my regret that someone did not take me aside and explain — truly explain — what I was doing when I signed over the next 30 years of my life at just 21.

When I signed those papers for my (mortgage-sized) student loans, I was under two very false (and in retrospect, very stupid) impressions.

1) I was under the impression that a master’s degree would result in a starting salary of, oh, about $50,000. I think kids these days are a little more realistic on this subject, but hey, when I was in school the economy was doing pretty well… I wasn’t scared of not being able to get a job.

Until, that is, it came time to get a job.

2) I swear to you that every bit of information I ever received led me to believe that my student loan payments, even as large as my loans were, would never be more than $600 a month.

Fast forward to that time of my life when it was hard to get a job? That’s when I came to realize that those loan payments would actually be upwards of $1000 a month… unemployed and relatively unaware of what $1,000 a month even looked like, I would consider myself incredibly lucky when I finally landed a job… starting at $27,500.

But nobody warned me. My parents didn’t really understand, because they weren’t subject to the same kind of debt, and the information available was lacking.

I felt wholly unprepared for what hit me on the day I was asked to pay those loans back… and today, I find that again, I am unprepared.

Despite my ranting and raving (sorry, I have a bone to pick with those darn student loans) this is not to say that the situation is the same.

I knew that a wedding would be very expensive… and nobody was feeding me any bs to the contrary. I entered into this one with my eyes (mostly) open.

There are tons of resources out there that will tell you that a wedding is expensive and maybe, just maybe, you should consider the courthouse and a backyard barbeque… because no matter what you do, once you book the big gorgeous venue, the cost is going to snowball.

No matter how you try.

The thing is, there are also quite a few resources out there that make $100,000 weddings look like the norm… and $10,000 dresses look commonplace. And a few lovely ladies who have managed to pull off some seriously beautiful weddings for a reasonable price.

There are enough relevant, sane examples out there to lead a girl to believe that if she just plays it safe, she can keep her costs well under, say, $20,000 and still have the wedding of her dreams.

But costs, oh costs. They triple. And somehow, the influence of location on the cost of my little shindig didn’t quite get through…. until it was a little too late.

And that’s the thing.  There are so many factors that go into the cost of a wedding, that each one is unique.  And unless you’re careful, it is really really easy to overlook one or two.

The lovely budget I so painstakingly crafted at the beginning of this process no longer resembles its former self.  When Budget was shiny and new, it was svelt, handsome and strong.  It was ready to both rock, and knock the socks off Grandma with its fantastic manners.

Now there are stains on Budget’s shirt and it’s just a bit drunk… crying and drooling in the corner, claiming that it’s fine, but we all know it’s had one too many.

The change wasn’t as obvious as it was happening.  The current state of affairs just kind of, crept up.

And it’s the little things that really snuck up on me. Like the high cost of rentals (my god the high cost of rentals), servers, and lights. It seemed, as I was searching for my vendors, that each estimate came in at at least double the amount I had anticipated.

A few months of this and you remember how I started to freak out.

I changed the whole plan, but still the costs add up… really, I can’t imagine at this point what the budget would look like had I not simplified our plan.  Would the cost of one day start to rival the cost of our house?  I was only in this for a slightly tricked out Smart Car… I’m not prepared for the price of a Range Rover.

Not yet, anyway.  Not at the very beginning of our lives together.

I think in starting out, if they’re anything like me, a lot of ladies search the Internet for an idea of what exactly this big crazy party is going to cost… and I’m not sure the information is always quite as well, blunt as it should be.

So my advice, for what it’s worth in the midst of all of this rambling, is to set your budget first.

Go for it. Set the number that you believe is reasonable for your day. Big, small, whatever you want.  But BE HONEST.

Then double it, and take a step back.

If the number says go for it, then by all means please go for it.  But if the number is likely to cause you severe amounts of stress and sleepless nights for months, maybe years to come… well, you should really reconsider… and try your darndest not to get swept up in the wedding you think you should have.

Maybe even take a little time out and read this book.

Because, ultimately, this day isn’t about the budget, it’s about the love.  And nothing – nothing – should ever come to overshadow that.

Maybe, in the end, that backyard barbeque wouldn’t be so bad.

Photo: barbasia, via flickr


  1. Posted August 29, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    God, the wedding you “should” have. It kills me, it really does, especially when it’s so difficult to stop thinking about.

    • Posted August 29, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      Oh, Lena, hang in there! I know exactly how you feel. And I promise you… in the end, the thing (the only thing) that will make you really happy is to be true to yourself. 🙂

  2. Posted August 30, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    This is some beautiful writing. I imagine it was hard for you to write but thanks for sharing! It’s great advice. It’s kind of strange, I had a super cheap wedding. Super. Cheap. And now I’m on the other side, thinking, maybe if we would have spent a little more here, or here… it would have been prettier. But those thoughts are usually in passing, and then I’m just happy to be married. My mom and I did SO much by hand to try to avoid the rentals… but goodness, it was a lot of work. Weddings are a strange, strange thing on our culture. We want it to be perfect, but we don’t want to pay for it. I hope you’re able to find the right balance!! And you’re totally right, in the end, it’s all about love and debt shouldn’t get in the way of that.

  3. Posted August 31, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    i feel the same about my student loan. don’t stress!!! it will all work out. sending you some hugs.

  4. Posted September 5, 2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Oh – I hear you, Laicie. I have a mortgage size law school loan debt that at the rate of current payment, will haunt me until I am past 63. It’s frightening. I’ve called Sallie Mae at times to make sure they don’t up my monthly payment amount and with the way this economy is going, they were more than happy to oblige. I’ve also started a whole life insurance policy in hopes that that will be my little saving grace in addition to my very slowly growing 401k (which started only in my early 30s). Hang in there, Laicie – there’s more to life than worrying about our student loan, right?!! 🙂

    • Posted September 5, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Oh my gosh, yes. 🙂 There is totally more… I just have to remember that more often. You hang in there too! It helps to know I’m not the only one.

  5. Elisa
    Posted September 9, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink


    Our stories are all too similar. I too am starting to plan a wedding, small (30-40 guests). The thought of it costing more than a car is simply unimaginable. I also have a mortgage size student loan from grad school which I regret almost every day. I am the product of the big lending frenzy that happened right around 2005/2006. “go to grad school, study what you want (decorative art history), move to an expensive city (Washington, DC), take out money to pay your rent, you will get a great job with that degree.” What a huge blunder! Like you there was no one to tell me otherwise. I jumped head first into an abyss that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Add to the fact that I also had a child while finishing grad school and you can see the bigger picture. My fiancé and I want a small wedding, only close family and friends, but even as I start to think of small things I want the costs really add up. I think I will end up making a lot of the decorations and my mom and sister will defiantly help with the food. We plan on having an oceanside ceremony and celebrating at my mom’s beach cottage. Lots of homemade goodies, yummy BBQ, drinks, and music. I am sure that even my simple affair will end up costing more than I expect, but it is worth it to have a great day with the ones you love. Keep positive about the nasty student loans, maybe things will turn around and those fabulous jobs will once again appear! Good luck with your wedding and wonderful life ahead.

    • Posted September 10, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      That sounds lovely, Elisa. 🙂 It will be beautiful. Keep positive yourself, and thank you so much for the encouragement! I need it… it’s crazy how many of us there are out there dealing with crushing student loans.

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