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The Cost of My Wedding – Part 2

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I got a lot of comments on the cost of my wedding yesterday. I should have clarified a few details. I was still a little groggy from the jet-lag. I'll address all the comments here.

Moneymonk noted that 23K is a down payment on a house and car. My perception of money is different, because I lived in Boston and San Francisco and it's not close to a down payment here. That doesn't make it any less money, but just something worth thinking about. The amount of money means something different to nearly every reader. Bill Gates probably wouldn't bat an eye at such a tiny sum. To someone who make minimum wage though, this is probably an enormous windfall. MapGirl really helped make me feel good by saying that she knows people that spent as much for half the amount of people.

Susanna mentioned that "the cost of a wedding depends not only on how many guests you have, but where you have it." The location of our wedding was very ideal. It was in a extremely ritzy New England town. A friend of mine looked to have her wedding there, but I think the cost would have been near 6-figures for what she had in mind. The connections we had helped us get a similar quality place at cost. She also mentioned the photographer absconded with her money
(yikes). One way we saved on costs was by not getting any prints. We simply chose to get the negatives and will print out what we think is the best. We'll cut a couple of corners on the wedding albums and not get the thousand dollar bindings and everything.

PF Odyssey wisely mentioned that the net expense is much less. We haven't opened all the gifts yet, but if I had to take a guess, I'd say that we'll probably get $12K in gifts. I didn't really want to bring in the net expense into things, because it just seems wrong to factor in gifts.

We did receive some financial help from our parents. One thing that we did early on is ask parents to pay for the relatives and their friends. This may sound like an unusual prospect, but we wanted to have a much smaller wedding. My wife's mother invited over 60 friends and relatives including second cousins. My wife's father (they are divorced) added another 30 people to the invite list of people who "must be invited". If we were going to finance this on our own we would have just invited immediate family and friends. The agreement was a compromise that I suggested which only seemed far. With this financial deal and the aforementioned gifts, there's a chance that we could come close to break even.

Angie Hartford chimes in with "What you spent on it is your business. FYI: $22,500 is 11.66% of your total net worth. Whether or not you consider that to be a good use of your money is also your business." Ouch, I shuttered in reading that. However, I looked at it a little more and realized that while it was true with the original information I wrote, it's not true in reality. Also, the net worth I post is my own net worth, not my new wife's. We are not rushing in to combining finances (tomorrow I may talk more about this), but her net worth is close to mine (she has more in real estate equity, mine is more in retirement savings). If we had to finance the whole $22,500 ourselves it would probably be closer to 7% of our net worth. We planned it so that wouldn't be the case, and the net expense is very minimal to our net worth - perhaps close to one month's savings by the time it's all said and done.

I'm going to go a little off-tangent and claim that the net worth calculation isn't very valid anyway. If a person was just out of Havard Business school with a 150K salary, limited debt (pretend my parents helped me), and limited net worth, should he/she have a very, very cheap wedding? I would argue that they could have at least an average wedding - one many times their limited net worth. And now back to wedding comments...

Jon mentioned that the open bar was the toughest decision at his wedding. After everyone in my social circle, even the ones that make less money than us, had an open bar, I felt that it was only fair to pay for their drinks. Yes, it was expensive and I think came in at $3500 for all the top shelf liquor we had there. I had thought that we had requested more Absolut-level vodka than Grey Goose, but in hindsight the difference in pricing was minimal, so I'm glad we went with the best stuff.

Dong and Chuck asked about the honeymoon. I don't know how I didn't mention this in the original post. When we lived in Boston we had planned to go to Napa on our honeymoon. Now that we live an hour drive from Napa, it seemed a little silly. We'll probably take a weekend soon and go there. San Francisco in the summertime is pretty nice for someone that's used to Boston winters. In November, we have a Carribean cruise scheduled along with a week stay in Aruba - one of my favorite places in the world. The cruise was booked for around $650 a person, and because it includes meals, should be fairly cheap. I had mentioned in the past that we own a timeshare in Aruba. We will likely do some shopping at the local grocery store to get food on the cheap. We'll do most of the dinners out, but I imagine breakfast and lunch will be home-cooked. We'll save on flights because it's more or less what we would have paid for our usual yearly vacation - we'll just be there longer.

Posted on July 11, 2007.

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12 Responses to “The Cost of My Wedding – Part 2”

  1. mapgirl says:

    Nothing wrong with Napa for your honeymoon. My sibling did just that. They went for a week at a nice resort, a duration they wouldn’t normally take and had a great time decompressing and relaxing after all the wind-up of the wedding.

  2. James says:

    You mentioned Grey Goose is the “best stuff.” I agree Grey Goose is a phenomenal brand, but have you ever tasted it next to Level or any of the other competitors? If not, you should. Level blows it away. In fact, almost any super premium vodka blows it away. Heck, Smirnoff tastes better.

    Goose comes in hot and gets even hotter in your mouth. 20/20 did a blind taste test a few months ago and Goose fared terribly; especially with self-professed Goose drinkers.

    My two cents…

  3. dong says:

    I think open bar is the one place everyone should splurge on in wedding. Nobody cares about the food that much – wedding food is never going to be the best meal – a good meal but not a great meal. No meal being prepared for a large group can be all things to all people (let alone be the best prepared).

    I was at a wedding a few months ago, and we did a straight taste test with some different vodkas given that it was open bar… Almost universally everyone agreed that Ketel One was the best. That’s probably because it had the least flavor. Grey Goose ended up being on par with Absolut in terms of the ratings.

  4. I think you should consider costs net of gifts. Your wedding cost a little over $100 per guest, and I would hope that the guests would probably give you something close to that on average as gifts. Maybe it’s strange, but my gift to a newlywed couple is usually cash for a little more than I think it cost them to tie the knot. I hate buying people overpriced wedding-stuff, especially if they’re not just starting out and so don’t really need it. Sometimes I buy them something personal, like a piece of art, but usually it’s just money.

    At my wedding I nearly broke even, and we didn’t get assistance except through the cash gifts.

  5. gail says:


    Those that say you spent too much are those that this saying belongs to :people know the cost of everything, but the value of nothing”

    The memories are far more valuable than the money you spent.

    Many years of happiness, health, and wealth.

  6. Brent says:

    Thanks for your great advice. My fiance and I just started planning our wedding. We are from Florida, but we were thinking about having a destination wedding up in the areas you talk about. Are there any specific towns or places you might recommend for a wedding of about 50? Since we are going smaller, we are ok with going a little more high end, but we don’t want to spend more than we would have with a larger sized (125-150 person) wedding. If you would like to email me directly, my email is bgatoruf at yahoo dot com.

    Thanks in advance,

    PS–In regards to the bar, I have had many discussions on this subject, and one of the top things people remember (or don’t remember if it is done right) is the bar. So cheers for doing it properly.

  7. Jon Van Deurzen says:

    I don’t think that 20K to 25K is too bad for a wedding of your size in your area of the country. 3 weeks ago I got married, and I believe that it cost around 10K – 12K with 190 people (around $18 a plate). We were married in Sturgeon Bay, WI, a high tourist area where she grew up. Beautiful if you get the chance to go.

    We were fortunate to have her family pay for a majority of the wedding costs, so I couldn’t keep exact tabs on the amount of money.

    We saved some money a few ways…
    1. My uncle is a photographer and did the professional photography for us at no cost. http://picasaweb.google.com/discgolf14324
    2. For “open bar” we had a limit on the number of bottles of wine and kegs of beer. But we did have an unlimited open bar for anyone in the wedding party.
    3. The women all took care of their own makeup and hair.
    4. We also took care of decorating the resort ourselves.
    5. We also printed up our own programs and invites.

    Overall, we actually made a little money.

    Congrats by the way.

  8. Dude,
    Don’t feel too guilty about that $23K amount. I spent $25K on my 200 person wedding in 1995. Some of the costs were neutralized from all the cash gifts I received. I come from a culture where cash gifts are quite acceptable. I’ll need to write a tie-in post on this to describe what my own wedding cost! :)

  9. MossySF says:

    The wedding costs seems about right for the number of people and location. Roughly what I paid also. Nothing you can do about location, space and food. You can try your best to cut costs in different areas but when you have that many people, who’s going to cook a delicious banquest feast? And where are they going to sit to eat?

  10. Kristina says:

    I find it profoundly depressing that people are discussing wedding costs in terms of how much you make up or make back in gifts. That is terribly crass and an awful sign of how are materialistic and excessively marketed to society has twisted once pleasant social customs. Not to mention that most of these attitudes and practices violate all notions of manners according to any traditional book on ethics out there. Weddings are suppose to be events thrown BY the people getting married FOR their guests with the purpose of celebrating and blessing their union. Gifts should not be center stage. Nor should any other material displays. There is no such etiquette rule that people are suppose to buy gifts equivalent to how much the hosts pay per plate. That’s a falsehood invented in recent years (or maybe decades) by marketers and over-indulged brides and grooms. It is also crude to ask for cash or to otherwise dictate how people should spend their money. If people choose to give a gift, it should be something thoughtful that falls within their budget. End of story.

    Next topic: do not try to budget your wedding according to some percentage of your salary or net worth. It should cost what you can comfortably afford to pay for in CASH. Or less. Much less if you prefer. Just because you can afford it doesn’t mean you need to spend tens of thousands on one day. Perhaps you’d rather use the money for something else or for other gatherings where you gather the ones you love.

    Finally, people from low-cost parts of the country really shouldn’t comment about down payments on houses in the Bay Area. 23k certainly is not a down payment on a house and a car out here. First of all, you shouldn’t be making down payments on cars…people should buy what they can afford in cash and no more. Second, studio apartments in the Bay Area can cost $200,000 – 300,000, so the blogger is correct that $23,000 isn’t even a decent down payment around here (at least for people who want to be financially responsible and not take out ridiculous mortgages).

  11. Lazy Man says:

    Kristina: “I didn’t really want to bring in the net expense into things, because it just seems wrong to factor in gifts.”

    I wouldn’t budget a wedding based on what I could pay for in cash. It’s true that we were able to pay for everything in cash (well credit card that were paid off instantly to earn the rewards), but if you want to have 200 people eating in a function hall, it’s going to cost you tens of thousand of dollars either way you cut it.

    Thanks for the defense on the down payment, but I like to appeal to all parts of the country. I realize my reality in the SF Bay area is different than many people’s.

    I think the plan of paying what you can afford in cash is kind of flawed. I could choose to avoid investments, retirement savings and everything else so that I’d have lots of cash making everything “affordable” :-).

  12. All that matters is that it was YOUR wedding, and both you and your wife were on the SAME page together in terms of what you wanted. I’ve seen too many brides get heady with power and spend TRIPLE what they budgeted because their spouse allowed them even though he constantly worried behind the scenes and had to cut many many corners to appease his bridezilla.

    My friend (in perspective) is spending $50k on a wedding for the same amount of people :P

    As for saving money on pictures – we did the same thing. We got digital pictures, I editted/cropped them for free on Photoshop and I burned them to CDs for everyone who attended, and let them decide which ones they wanted to print and how many of. Me, I’m printing ALL of them to put in a wedding album I got as a gift, along with our families’ pictures…

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