Thirty thousand dollars. I heard that figure and my jaw dropped. That's the amount that a couple of my friends are spending on their upcoming wedding.
Every time I hear about some new detail of the plans for the wedding, there's a little voice in my head that starts commenting on the bottom line. But here's the thing — it's not my wedding. I'm not going to say a word because my friends are adults and seem to be pretty pleased with what they're getting for their money.
The High Cost of Weddings
The Wedding Report, an industry publication, reports that the average wedding costs $29,000 in the U.S, so my friends aren't so far off the norm. The number may be hard to wrap your head around if you're used to thinking about things in terms of budgeting, saving money and all the other little things that go along with thinking hard about your personal finances, but it's also not so uncommon when you think about the number of cultures in which families bring themselves to the edge of bankruptcy for weddings, dowries and other related expenses.
Personally, I don't like those numbers but the simple fact of the matter is that I know I'm in the minority. My wedding cost just under $200 and I got exactly what I wanted (down to the perfect cake). While I have a hard time understanding the big numbers some people spend on weddings, many people have just as hard a time understanding how I could spend so little.
Nothing I can say or do will make my friends see things my way — and the reverse is just as true. And since they're happy, the only result I can see from saying anything at all is putting my friendships in danger. So, I'm keeping my mouth shut.
High-Priced Weddings Aren't Going Away
But I'm still thinking about the matter.
I'm thinking about why people so clearly prefer big weddings, even with the price tag. For a lot of people, I think it's a matter of priorities: they've thought things through and the idea of a big wedding and all that goes with it (fun times with family, a great party and so on) is worth it. The experience of the perfect wedding is worth more than the alternatives of where they can spend that money.
At the end of the day, it's a matter of personal choices, as it should be. If your financial priority is your wedding, that's fine. You should be able to throw the rockingest party you can. The problems creep in when we think about the fact that not everyone manages their finances perfectly. Not everyone saves up money to pay for their wedding ahead of time or budget for what they can afford to spend. Some people choose to go pretty deep into debt in order to have the wedding of their dreams and wind up paying even more in interest, not to mention causing damage to their credit.
The idea of massive debt for one day of fun — charging an amount equivalent to at least a down payment on a house, if not most of the total cost — is what bothers me. I'm lucky enough that my friends aren't in that boat, but even if they were, it seems like it's not considered polite to even bring up wedding costs and talk about debts. It's not a friend's place to say anything. I can't help but wonder if costs would be a little lower if friends talked about how they were able to save money on their celebrations or talk candidly about staying out of debt.
The current state of the economy seems to be bringing a few more of those discussions out into the open. But we've still got a ways to go. I'm certainly not interested in risking my friendships just to talk about money. I don't think I'm the only one, either.
So, I wish my friends all the happiness in the world — a beautiful wedding and a wonderful marriage. I will be there for the happy day and I will gladly celebrate with them.
Written by Thursday Bram for MoneyNing and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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