The Wedding Scam
Most girls, when they dream of their wedding day, don’t think about the costs associated with bringing their dreams of that special day to fruition. When FI Guy and I got engaged, we didn’t initially think of the potential price tag either as we were honestly quite clueless when it came to that stuff. So like many others do, we decided to check out several local Wedding Shows and Expos to get some ideas for our big day as well as check out some prices.
So the year was 2007 and I clearly remember walking in to our first Wedding Show. Right up front there was a table that was surrounded by attendees. Curious, both FI Guy and I checked that out first. We figured it must be something really exciting or a great offer! Wrong. We were both shocked when we got closer to find that what they were offering were loans so you could finance your Dream Wedding.
My heart sank and sticker shock settled in. I thought “Are you kidding me? I haven’t even finished paying off my student loans. I can’t take a loan out for a wedding?!? How will we ever afford a house?”
So after roaming the booths for about 10 minutes, looking at the ridiculous prices, we turned around and left. After realizing anything with the word “Wedding” attached to it was going to cost on the upwards of 2 – 5 times what it would cost without that word attached to it, we decided we had to do things differently.
Coming from a single parent household (without any financial support from my father), FI Guy and I had decided we would pay for our own wedding as we didn’t want to put any additional financial stress or burden on my mother. Either way, we couldn’t rationalize shelling out what could buy us two brand new vehicles on an event that would only last one day.
So the search began… and of course everyone wanted to weigh in.
We had all sorts of suggestions, many of them outrageous and expensive because they too were not aware or thinking of the cost. There were tears shed over the venue, the date, the color scheme, the number of guests we would allow each side of the family as well as who would be invited (Rule of thumb: If we never met them, they were not invited). It’s really funny how out of control wedding planning can get and how everyone else wants to put in their two cents even though they are not paying for it.
So after way too many demands, arguments and tears, FI Guy and I settled on a destination wedding. FI Guy and I love to travel and more specifically, love cruising, so what better way to get married than on a cruise ship! We announced our plan and let folks know what we were doing and that they were welcome to come if they wanted to.
This of course upset a number of people but at the end of the day, it was our special day, not any one else’s. In the end we did make some changes to accommodate family which cost us a bit more but we were still able to keep everything under $10,000 including the wedding, honeymoon and a second ceremony / reception when we returned. (That’s right; we ultimately ended up having 2 weddings!)
Here’s the breakdown of our Wedding costs:
Wow! 2 weddings and a honeymoon for well under $10,000!
Not to mention our first wedding, included a week long “reception” on a cruise ship. Now that’s our kind of wedding. To give you an idea of how we did in comparison to the national average, we did a bit of research and I think you will be surprised by the numbers as they are eye-opening.
Each year TheKnot.com surveys nearly 13,000 brides that have gotten married in the last year to collect information on their wedding budget, style preferences, and other key details and they publish the results in “The Knot Real Weddings Study”.
In 2016 the National Average Cost of a Wedding in the United States hit an all-time high of $35,329 according to TheKnot.com.
And if you live in New England, like we do, the average can range anywhere from $44,028 to $78,464! Oh! And that does not include the cost of the honeymoon, my friends. (Read the full article here The Knot 2016 Real Weddings Study)
Looking back on our wedding experience, there were a few key choices that we believe saved us a boat load of cash:
- We recognized early on that the whole wedding industry is sort of a scam to suck money out of young couples.
Know that anything with the word “Wedding” attached to it is likely going to cost you way more than it should. So find ways to remove that word when booking your event. Take the example of our “Blessing Ceremony” which was essentially a second wedding.We felt bad that there were some immediate family members and close friends that could not attend our actual wedding so we eventually gave in and decided to throw a “re-enactment”, if you will, to celebrate our marriage. I called every hotel and restaurant in the nearby area to obtain prices for such an event and was shocked by the prices they quoted. About half way through the calls, I changed my strategy and explained that this was not a “Wedding”, as we were already married, and this should be seen more of a re-enactment, celebration or blessing ceremony. Well, wouldn’t you know it? That slashed the price tag in half and in some cases even more!We ended up settling for this beautiful venue at a nearby hotel which had an outdoor space with a gazebo for the “Blessing Ceremony” and an indoor private dining area. We had 40 guests and only paid $1554 for everything including:
- Beautiful private outdoor venue with chairs and gazebo for the ceremony and toast (1 hour)
- Indoor private dining venue for reception / lunch (3 hours)
- Pre-fix luncheon menu for 40 guests which included choice of Salad, Entre, Ice Cream and drink (Coffee/Tea/Soda/Water/Juice)
- Toasting champagne for 40 guests
- Audio/Video for showing the video we made during dessert
Another big savings here was that a family friend made our cake for the event. With average prices well over $500 for a “wedding cake”, this saved us a ton of money. The venue we were working with had no problem with us bringing our own cake and even gave us a table to present it on and offered to cut and serve it to our guests.
It was a beautiful day and we honestly couldn’t have asked for more. Looking back on it, we probably could have gotten away with just doing this so long as we didn’t say it was a “Wedding”.
- Wedding day attire will likely only be worn once (or twice in my case) so don’t blow your budget on it.I ended up with a beautiful dress that was on clearance from David’s Bridal and I couldn’t have been happier. I tried on plenty of dresses that could have sucked anywhere from $600 – $1500 out of my pocket and looking back at the pictures, I’m so happy I went for one that was on sale. I can guarantee if I looked harder and longer I could have found one for even less that would have been just fine.
If you do purchase your dress at a bridal shop, don’t be sucked in to buying everything else there (e.g. veil, shoes, etc.) because you can usually find those items for a lot less elsewhere. Also remember to borrow at least one item for your big day. I borrowed this beautiful hair piece from a close friend that saved me a good $100 from what the bridal store was offering it for.For FI Guys clothes, we decided to go with a traditional suit instead of a tux. We’re not super formal peeps ourselves so this made a lot more sense. Plus we figured he would be able to wear the pants and shoes to work and would have a suit jacket for other special occasions if needed. We bought most of his wedding day gear at places like Marshalls and other discount clothing stores and we are happy we did.
With the National Average close to $1,800 on wedding day attire, you’ll need to remind yourself that you will likely only be wearing these items once or just a handful of times.
$1800 is a hefty cost for some clothes that you will only wear once…maybe twice.
This is one area we didn’t think was worth breaking the bank for.
- Destination Wedding Costs vs. Local Wedding Costs:
As we already proved with the “Blessing Ceremony”, it is entirely possible to have a low cost kick ass wedding locally, but you will need to do your research and think outside of the box. Our local ceremony cost us under $2,000 and we couldn’t have been happier. When it comes to prices, we found that location does matter. For a traditional wedding, couples tying the knot in Arkansas spent $19,522 on average in 2016 while those in Manhattan spent a whopping $78,464!
Whether you choose to have a local or a destination wedding is a personal choice.
We chose a destination wedding for a couple of reasons:
- We both love to travel and we love going on cruises so why not get married on one (We were engaged on a cruise ship).
- We didn’t want to break the bank on a wedding, as we wanted to save for our future home.
- We were tired of everyone fighting (or crying) over our wedding plans.
- We liked the idea of having a week long party rather than a one day event.
- This enabled us to extend our wedding / honeymoon with another week long vacation in Disney and Universal Studios after the cruise wedding.
When you break it down, we ended up spending under $6,000 for our destination wedding which included a week long cruise! There are so many destination wedding packages and options available out there which cost even less, so if this is something that peaks your interest, keep an open mind and you can have the wedding of your dreams without going broke!
Now I could probably go on for another 10 pages about tips and tricks on how to save money on your big day as well as lessons learned but let me end on this note:
Remember, your wedding day is YOUR day.
You don’t have to do what everyone else says you must or wants you to do. Do what makes you happy. Oh and know that you can easily stretch your dollars by thinking creatively. Having a budget wedding doesn’t mean it will be any less glamorous, fun or special than a high cost, bank breaking wedding but I CAN guarantee, when all is said and done, that it WILL be a lot less stressful.
Say “I Don’t” to crazy wedding costs and “I Do” to the rest of your life.
P.S. If you ever need some hacks on how to get a great deal on an engagement ring, reach out to FI Guy.