Monday, August 21, 2006

The wedding blues

Now that the summer is nearly over, I feel that I can safely bring to light my gripe about time-, money-, and "stuff"-consuming weddings.

Being in my mid-20's means that the streak of friends getting married is just starting. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of weddings: friends and family getting together to witness and celebrate the love of two people. But the weight that the average wedding carries with it -- through engagement parties, wedding showers, bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners, receptions and even post-wedding get-togethers -- is more than I can bear.

The wedding industry is a multi-billion dollar business, with magazines, stores, websites, and consultants dedicated to the special day.

This recent New York Times article
sums it up, with an astonishing figure: "A survey this year found that the average wedding costs $27,852, compared with $15,208 in 1990." I know many families and couples who have taken out loans, made payment plans for wedding dresses, and scraped by in their normal lives to throw an incredibly lavish party. It all adds up -- from the rental hall to the specially-dyed bridesmaid shoes to those candy-covered almonds that everyone leaves behind.

Not wanting to end the summer on such a sour note, there are plenty of ways to celebrate your love while saving money, being creative, and making your ceremony memorable for all! You can find these tips on the same websites that advertise destination weddings to Hawaii or Europe. Here's a great article in the most recent newsletter of the Center for a New American Dream.

Or, as another guest said to me at the last wedding I attended: "Eloping is very underrated!"


Sally Parrott Ashbrook said...

I understand what you're saying. People can and do go absolutely nuts with their wedding expenses and their throw-away attitudes with how they run their weddings.

But many people don't want to elope, and there are ways to hold reasonably priced weddings that contain green elements--weddings that are frugal and consistent with values of simplicity.

I'm about to start a new blog on this topic. I got nationally certified as a wedding planner but have really been struggling with these concepts. I realized that helping budget brides and brides who want to keep things simple and meaningful is what's important to me. I love weddings, but I don't love debt and immense piles of garbage at the end of the wedding day.

One thing to keep in mind about weddings in general, though, is that compared to most purchases, they generally disburse money into the local economy in a variety of ways: florist, caterer, dresses, bartending, etc. (That's not true of destination weddings at all-inclusives, but it is true of most weddings.) In that sense, weddings are much better expenditure of money than lots of things that we buy. I am not saying that people should go deeply in debt for weddings--they shouldn't--but that weddings are usually very good to local economies.

Cindy said...

Good point. I'm glad you're taking this in your hands and trying to change what you can!

I don't know if this is true, but I've heard that caterers and entertainers charge more once they realize the event that they're hired for is a wedding... is this true? If so, are there reasons for this? I'd love to hear stories.

Sally Parrott Ashbrook said...

Almost any time you say 'wedding,' you get a different set of prices, different menus, etc. Why? Because they know you'll pay it. (In some cases, it may also be because of the standards brides set for weddings, which are higher than with other events.) But if you say up-front to a vendor, "I may not be your normal client; I'm poor," if they're good, they'll work with you.