Wedding Budgets, They Triple

by Laicie

coffee talk: wedding budgets

Throughout this wedding planning process, I’ve spoken a lot about budgetary stress.

Of all the stress that accompanies the planning of a wedding (a ton) this is the thing that has hit me the hardest. I can try to rationalize it a million different ways, but the reality is that we are getting ourselves into a hefty chunk of debt, for a day… and something about that is deeply hard for me to swallow.

I often talk about my student loan debt (because it kind of blows my mind) and when I do I always express my regret that someone did not take me aside and explain — truly explain — what I was doing when I signed over the next 30 years of my life at just 21.

When I signed those papers for my (mortgage-sized) student loans, I was under two very false (and in retrospect, very stupid) impressions.

1) I was under the impression that a master’s degree would result in a starting salary of, oh, about $50,000. I think kids these days are a little more realistic on this subject, but hey, when I was in school the economy was doing pretty well… I wasn’t scared of not being able to get a job.

Until, that is, it came time to get a job.

2) I swear to you that every bit of information I ever received led me to believe that my student loan payments, even as large as my loans were, would never be more than $600 a month.

Fast forward to that time of my life when it was hard to get a job? That’s when I came to realize that those loan payments would actually be upwards of $1000 a month… unemployed and relatively unaware of what $1,000 a month even looked like, I would consider myself incredibly lucky when I finally landed a job… starting at $27,500.

But nobody warned me. My parents didn’t really understand, because they weren’t subject to the same kind of debt, and the information available was lacking.

I felt wholly unprepared for what hit me on the day I was asked to pay those loans back… and today, I find that again, I am unprepared.

Despite my ranting and raving (sorry, I have a bone to pick with those darn student loans) this is not to say that the situation is the same.

I knew that a wedding would be very expensive… and nobody was feeding me any bs to the contrary. I entered into this one with my eyes (mostly) open.

There are tons of resources out there that will tell you that a wedding is expensive and maybe, just maybe, you should consider the courthouse and a backyard barbeque… because no matter what you do, once you book the big gorgeous venue, the cost is going to snowball.

No matter how you try.

The thing is, there are also quite a few resources out there that make $100,000 weddings look like the norm… and $10,000 dresses look commonplace. And a few lovely ladies who have managed to pull off some seriously beautiful weddings for a reasonable price.

There are enough relevant, sane examples out there to lead a girl to believe that if she just plays it safe, she can keep her costs well under, say, $20,000 and still have the wedding of her dreams.

But costs, oh costs. They triple. And somehow, the influence of location on the cost of my little shindig didn’t quite get through…. until it was a little too late.

And that’s the thing.  There are so many factors that go into the cost of a wedding, that each one is unique.  And unless you’re careful, it is really really easy to overlook one or two.

The lovely budget I so painstakingly crafted at the beginning of this process no longer resembles its former self.  When Budget was shiny and new, it was svelt, handsome and strong.  It was ready to both rock, and knock the socks off Grandma with its fantastic manners.

Now there are stains on Budget’s shirt and it’s just a bit drunk… crying and drooling in the corner, claiming that it’s fine, but we all know it’s had one too many.

The change wasn’t as obvious as it was happening.  The current state of affairs just kind of, crept up.

And it’s the little things that really snuck up on me. Like the high cost of rentals (my god the high cost of rentals), servers, and lights. It seemed, as I was searching for my vendors, that each estimate came in at at least double the amount I had anticipated.

A few months of this and you remember how I started to freak out.

I changed the whole plan, but still the costs add up… really, I can’t imagine at this point what the budget would look like had I not simplified our plan.  Would the cost of one day start to rival the cost of our house?  I was only in this for a slightly tricked out Smart Car… I’m not prepared for the price of a Range Rover.

Not yet, anyway.  Not at the very beginning of our lives together.

I think in starting out, if they’re anything like me, a lot of ladies search the Internet for an idea of what exactly this big crazy party is going to cost… and I’m not sure the information is always quite as well, blunt as it should be.

So my advice, for what it’s worth in the midst of all of this rambling, is to set your budget first.

Go for it. Set the number that you believe is reasonable for your day. Big, small, whatever you want.  But BE HONEST.

Then double it, and take a step back.

If the number says go for it, then by all means please go for it.  But if the number is likely to cause you severe amounts of stress and sleepless nights for months, maybe years to come… well, you should really reconsider… and try your darndest not to get swept up in the wedding you think you should have.

Maybe even take a little time out and read this book.

Because, ultimately, this day isn’t about the budget, it’s about the love.  And nothing – nothing – should ever come to overshadow that.

Maybe, in the end, that backyard barbeque wouldn’t be so bad.

Photo: barbasia, via flickr