By: Revanche

Weddings in the time of fixed incomes

May 26, 2011

The average American wedding is said to cost in the neighborhood of $25,000.  The average Asian wedding, of all the weddings I’ve helped to organize, are in that neighborhood as well, if not more depending on your guest list.  We may not have too much set yet but I can tell you this much:  that’s not happening.

It’s actually sort of funny that we’re caught in between the weird expectations of both. We have gently corrected people from all sides of the equation: no guys, we’re not throwing a big American-tradition wedding because we don’t actually have to live up to everyone else’s expectations. No, guys, we’re not throwing a Gigantor Asian wedding because we don’t actually have to.  We’re not inviting many members of my family and depending on our guests to subsidize the bill.   (To clarify: Dozens of family guest lists have been created by the phrase “who cares how many people are there? They’ll pay their own way.” I am happy to be an anomaly.)

We’re setting our own budget and paying our own bill out of pocket.  And doing it our way.  #utterlyforeign

Confession time: We have barely been saving for this thing.  Yes, we have been together for years, but I honestly was not expecting to be engaged this year. I wasn’t expecting anything at any time.  As far as I’m concerned, this thing just happened.  For me, I’m scrambling to get ahead of the 8-ball. But the half lifetime of good habits means that we won’t be piling debt upon debt, we won’t be going into debt for this wedding, and we won’t be spending our entire cash reserves for it either. 

You all know that a budget was certainly the first thing I’d want to do before we committed to anything. Still is, since we’ve only talked about plans in theory and the only thing we’ve I’ve spent on so far is a dress that I expect to return to J.Crew returned to J.Crew.

PiC, however, is not addicted to personal finance, nor a PF blogger, so found my need to laser-focus on immediately carving out savings goals disconcerting.  I don’t blame him, though I did pout for a minute. 😉  Things are different now that we’re becoming more and more bonded – we move more slowly than I’m used to and I can’t make all the executive and financial decisions in a split second.  The flip side of that change is that I no longer bear all the burdens alone.  It’s a fair enough trade, I think.

I digress.

I’m working with a skeleton number mentally and that’s actually ok for now.

We’ve noodled our guest list. It’s not final but it’s down to 180 which is near miraculous considering what we were starting with.  We’re happy with the concept of a tiny ceremony and a casual lunch type meal with the bigger group of people we’d invite (and therefore feed).  Pictures are important to him, and by extension, me, so we’ll have to hire an actual photographer.

With those factors in mind, the three most important items we’ll have to worry about are: setting a date, booking a venue, and booking a photographer.

I’m aiming to keep our total cost within the $7000 range.  I’d like to make it a challenge to myself, but I’ll be honest with y’all, I’m a bit worried I won’t be able to do it.

Obstacles: 
Feed 180 people delicious food,
Hosting them in a relatively nice, clean (not relatively), place,
      Caveat: Homes and backyards are not an option, we don’t know anyone with that capacity
Have great photos.
Do it all without stressing overmuch. **
Have I missed anything?

** Being annoyed doesn’t count.  It’s not allowed to count. 

We’re pricing things out now.  The little things are easier.  A marriage license: $100.  Dress alterations: $ UM. Airfare to SoCal before the wedding: Southwest Rapid Rewards!  <3 The big things, they’re negotiable. It’s a start.

9 Responses to “Weddings in the time of fixed incomes”

  1. CA state park! That’s my vote. 🙂 http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=23428 Catered as a party, not as a wedding.

    Word verification: tables

  2. Our wedding cost around 10k for 100 people and it was at a fairly fancy place and we had a sit-down dinner; my aunt is an expert negotiator and knew the wedding coordinator at the venue so got us an awesome deal. I honestly think your biggest cost would be food so you may even think about doing an afternoon tea…ceremony at 2 with refreshments to follow? Definitely do not skimp on the photographer, I totally regret our decision to go with one of my former classmates who was not a wedding photographer…it showed.

  3. I had a much smaller event (not a wedding) and two friends offered to cook for me. We had a wonderful buffet. I did a lot of the cooking too. We cooked for around 100. Totally do-able.

  4. Regarding the cost of the “average American wedding:”

    That $25-$28K number that is typically bandied about is NOT the cost of the “average” American wedding (there’s no such thing). It’s the AVERAGE COST of ALL AMERICAN WEDDINGS, which is very different.

    It’s important to keep in mind that averages are incredibly susceptible to outliers. For example: Imagine you have 100 couples. If 99 of them spend $10K on their weddings and 1 spends $1,000,000, the average cost of all their weddings is actually $20K – a number that tells us absolutely nothing.

    A much more telling and reliable number to look at is the MEDIAN cost of a wedding in America, which is about $15K.

    Finally, also keep in mind that these numbers are generated primarily from data gathered from wedding planners, who primarily serve couples with budgets large enough to include a line item for a wedding planner in the first place.

    People who go it alone and cut corners creatively in an effort to keep costs down are almost never included in these figures, and if they were, they would almost certainly cause them to trend downward.

  5. When I get married (in about 1000 years) I’ll want to keep it as small as possible. I don’t think I even know 180 people.

  6. Shelley says:

    I cannot for the life of me imagine spending $25K on anything like a wedding. The only thing I can even start to imagine spending that sort of cash on is a house. I’m clearly from a different planet… Someone mentioned they didn’t think they knew 180. I probably have known that many people in my life time…like them enough to feed them all at once? Nah… :-}

  7. Revanche says:

    @nicoleandmaggie: Looks like a local (possibly county!) park may be available!!

    @pamplemousse1983: I’m spending a lot of time on the photographer hunt, thanks for the cautionary tip.

    Food is looking to be the big spend of it all, though.

    @frugalscholar: That sounds pretty fantastic. I really wish I could do that but I’d also be a crippled wreck if I tried. :} Wistfully wishing I had people who would not at all mind doing it for me but no one comes to mind, at least no one in town, anyway.

    @alottalettuce: I should have clarified – the average American wedding, also among a lot of the people I know – is roughly in that range. In my blogging days alone, the weddings that I have attended, mainly of PiC’s cohort as they are older and wealthier, spend at least $20K, probably $30K or more, on their weddings.

    @chipsforsupper: In 1000 years, I’m going to guarantee you will have gotten to know more than 180 people, but you may lose a few of them along the way. Attrition, and whatnot. 😉

    @Shelley: Knowing and Liking. Such very different places to be! 😀

    @Kay: thank you!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Check out http://www.budgetsavvybride.com, you can view weddings according to the budget and get ideas.

    Greenvelope.com is a pretty good deal for invitations.

    Found these while helping a friend plan for her wedding.

    MAH
    http://www.ifiwereawealtygirl.wordpress.com

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