One-lowmanship and luxury shame: one more way you’re supposed to feel bad about your stupid wedding

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One of the most important pieces I wrote in Offbeat Bride's first few months online was a post titled Your wedding is not a contest. In that post, I was trying to address the reverse-offbeat concerns I was hearing from more traditional readers (lovingly known as Offbeat Lite), who were basically like, “omg, I'm freaking out — is my wedding TOO NORMAL?!”

You should read that old post for my answer, but the tl;dr version is this: brides do not need more ways to feel bad about their weddings.

…And yet, we're constantly finding new ones. What's the most recent way I see brides feeling bad? Couples with resources are feeling bad about their higher-budget weddings.

I know from our reader survey exactly how many of you are trying to plan economical weddings with budgets under $10k (or $5k… or $2k). It's a lot of you. But I also know exactly how many of you are planning weddings with budgets over $10k — or even over $30k:

wedding budget

So if almost one-third of you are planning weddings over $10,000, why is everyone feeling so weird about it?

This shit is hard to talk about

I absolutely understand why wedding budgets are such a loaded issue. Not only is there money involved (which gets into issues of class and privilege) but there's often family involved (Who's paying? Why? What do they want?). And as if issues of financial responsibility and family responsibility weren't enough, we add the whole issue of “tastefulness” on top of it all and… yeah. Shit gets ugly real fast, with lower-budget brides feeling pulled to spend money on things they can't afford, and higher-budget brides feeling like they can't talk about the money they've decided to spend, because it might look wasteful or indulgent.

For me personally, my best guidance is to spend within your means (avoid debt), and feel good about your purchasing decisions (avoid buying things because you feel like you “should”; despite what the mainstream wedding industry may tell you, there are very few “you gottas” with wedding budgets). Also, and this is key for everyone: recognize that other people's financial and family situations are different, and that's ok.

One-lowmanship vs. One-upmanship

The competitive nature of weddings is so easy to get sucked into, and for some people low-budget machismo can be new way to keep up with the Joneses. As I wrote in another post, On being an offbeat consumer:

I see [competitive vibes] embodied all sorts of ways in nontraditonal wedding culture. DIY machismo is one example. Wedding hipsterism is another, where novelty threatens to overwhelm authenticity. Then there's budget one-lowmanship, where how little money you spend is a matter of stern pride, and you get judgey about how much others spend. It's all forms of status-seeking and seriously: that's just fine. We all status-seek — the issue is laying off the judgment of people who are seeking a status different than yours.


That bride on some reality show gritting her teeth and fighting for the overpriced ice sculpture that has to be dyed exactly to match the bridesmaids' bouquets or else she's going to pitch a fit is just seeking a different status than the eco-bride who stays up at night worrying that her plastic cups aren't going to bio-degrade for 65 years and maybe she should buy a carbon off-set for her brother's flight. We can make a judgment call about whose anxiety is more worthy, but ultimately we're all just freaking out about shit and need to be more patient with each other.

The moving target of tastefulness

So, yes: some of us have more money to spend on our weddings. It might be because we're lucky enough to have families who are willing and able to contribute. It might be because we have established careers and substantial savings. It might be because we won the lottery (yay!) or lost a family member (sad!) or any number of other reasons. Again, as far as I'm concerned, as long as you're not thoughtlessly putting it all on a credit card you can't pay off, you can spend whatever you want, however you want on your wedding. (And for those of you who put it on credit: I grit my teeth and cross my fingers for you and hope you can get it paid off smoother than I was able to pay off the credit card bills that dogged me through my early 20s. Godspeed!)

I totally understand and respect that for some of us, seeing someone else spend more than X amount on a wedding can seem wasteful. But ultimately, when it comes to how much is “too much” for other people spend on their weddings, it all comes down to an issue of personal taste — and we all know how I feel about the word tacky and the concept of decreeing what's tasteful. More importantly, other people's personal tastes make for an impossible measuring stick. What qualifies as “too much” will vary widely depending on a lot of factors — for some people, if they see couples planning more than a justice of the peace wedding, it seems like a waste. For others, they feel fine up until they see a wedding with ice sculptures. Others are ok with it up until they see people renting a private island. For every person, there's going to be a different line in the tasteful sand. Trying to measure yourself against a moving tastefulness target is a sure-fire way to drive yourself crazy.

Where is your money going? (And where COULD it go?)

Then again, even if most of us can agree that spending over $200,000 on a wedding might be pretty indulgent, there's a silver lining even there: the vast majority of wedding vendors are independent businesses (most of which are owned by women) and those higher-end budgets go toward supporting these creative indie business types.

Trying measure yourself against a moving tastefulness target is a sure-fire way to drive yourself crazy.

I have an old friend who does high-end videography, and she's worked some extremely high-budget weddings, charging more for her services alone than the majority of Offbeat Brides spend on their entire weddings. And you know what? These high-budget weddings make it possible for her to stay in business, and cut deals for the smaller, lower-budget weddings that are a better fit with her style and cultural leanings.

I'm certainly not arguing that anyone should spend money they don't have on a wedding. All I'm saying is, if you have the money, and you've chosen to spend it, stop feeling bad about it. Feeling bad helps no-one. If you want to feel like your high-budget wedding is doing some kind of greater good, how about making a donation to your favorite charity, timed up with your wedding? Or having a charitable gift registry, like the ones offered by Heifer International? What about giving away your wedding supplies on the Offbeat Bride Tribe‘s classifieds forum? How about telling your favorite vendor that you'd like to offer a grant for one of their lower-budget clients? How about spending your honeymoon doing aid work? (I'm sure there are a ton of awesome and constructive ways couples with large budgets could spread their wedding resources around — share your ideas in the comments!)

Too long; didn't read

Ultimately, as I said six years ago, way back in May of 2007:

Engaged women don't need another voice telling them they're failing. It doesn't matter if it's a voice of tradition telling them they're wrong for wanting to have their wedding in the round, or a voice of non-tradition telling them they're wrong for wanting to wear a white dress — brides need encouragement and support.

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Comments on One-lowmanship and luxury shame: one more way you’re supposed to feel bad about your stupid wedding

  1. i made certain that when my family was talking about giving me money for it they knew where it was going to and made it certain it was for things they couldn’t complain about, like the venue or food. My main thing was no debt i don’t want to be paying for the wedding once it was over. So we put away our tax refund, and my dad generously gave us some money from his work bonus. And now that we (begrudgingly) opened a bank account its funny how much little extra money out of the paycheck can be spent on the wedding and not dvds or fast food…or beer….or hoops……haha. but its important not to be in debt since we plan on moving some months after the wedding. Be proud of what you did regardless of the cost. Its your day and everyone can shove it haha

  2. Yes yes yes. And so much of this applies to much more than weddings. Money is such a loaded topic and can cause such friction between friends and family. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty because I now earn more than a few of my friends. I feel like I have to justify why I spent X on Y item in case they think it sounds wasteful. And while on the one hand I should be sensitive to their situation, I also try to remember that until a couple of years ago, *I* was the one struggling and scraping, and I deserve to (responsibly) enjoy the money I make now.

    As for weddings, I too have been guilty of thinking (at least not saying!!) “you spent WHAT?”. I think when you have spent time watching pennies (and my fiance and I totally have a mid-range wedding budget, btw, we didn’t get RICH, just a bit better off), when you see money being spent you don’t just see $$$, you see “that’s five mortgage/rent payments”, “that’s a downpayment on a house”, “that would pay my student loans for a year”, and letting go of the resentment that other people have that to spare can be hard. It helps to remember: they probably don’t have it SPARE. Most people don’t just have tons of money lying around. For 99% of people, I bet, even lavish weddings involve some scrimping and saving, because their wedding is something they are treating as simultaneously a luxury AND a necessity.

    As long as people are spending responsibly (i.e. not getting into dangerous debt, not denying themselves, I dunno, FOOD to afford it), and having the wedding they want, then more power to them, and their $1k or $100k wedding will contain thousands of meaningful details for them, regardless of cost.

    • I think your comment points to a very central issue on this whole subject: priorities. Some people have dreamt their whole lives about a wedding entrance on a horse or a hot air balloon flower girl. For them, that is a priority much higher than a down payment on a house. It is their life’s dream! And the house thing is just not as important as renting.

      At first I couldn’t wrap my head around it, but the more weddings I have attended and worked, the more I realize a lot of these seemingly crazy expenditures can simply be related to priorities. The one day with the most expensive cake ever can legitimately be more important than months of student loan payments or food!! It all depends on what people value for themselves.

      • Love this point! For me, I really wanted the most money spent on THE CAKE (I love cake) and the PICTURES because those last forever. I didn’t care nearly as much as the other stuff, and was really happy that I splurged (for us) on those two things!

  3. Great post. As a planner, I always try to get the money issue out of the way quickly. It’s imperative to discuss it early…accept it, and then begin enjoying the process. Thank you for the great read.

  4. This is well-timed for me; writer boy and I paid for our wedding ourselves. I felt guilty for spending $4,500 (I had $5,000 saved for the wedding). We have just started house looking, and man, I wish we had that money in the bank right now. But then I just remember; we had a nice wedding. I learned how to make tons of paper flowers (from free Craigslist books!). Thanks to Craigslist and yard sales, it turned out quite well! Writer boy and I had some serious bonding time yard-saleing in the months before the wedding, and it got him involved in a way he enjoyed.

    Bottom line; set a reasonable budget you both agree on and stick to it! You will be just as married if you spend $150 or $150,000. I will admit, I did get tiny bit jealous when I’d see an awesome venue that was completely out of the budget and someone else was getting married there. It happens. Don’t beat yourself up over it, and move on.

  5. One thing I had trouble with is that I have friends who are dirt poor. When my friends realized how much we were spending (and we are in your majority of amounts), they were outraged when we said we wouldn’t have enough for our vision and were thinking of eloping.

    I felt horrible at how much we were spending and insulted that our friends would chide us for ‘paying for a cake from a baker when you could just bake it yourself’. Part of our budget was paying for their hotels and costumes and even food outside the wedding!

    It took a long time for me to emotionally recover from that. In the end, I reached the same conclusion. This is what we were spending, the end.

    • You paid for their hotels? Wow, how ungracious of them to then complain about your budget. It may have stung for them to take assistance from you, but since they chose to do that, it seems very unfriendly to them complain about your choices.

  6. This is a fantastic post! My partner and I got married in the city we wanted/needed to, which is an expensive place, and I dealt with countless vendors referring to me (TO MY FACE) as a “budget bride” and saying things like “budget weddings are so hard” (we eventually found vendors who did not do this and gave them our money instead). But we spent close to $14,000 and hey, it felt like a rough, calculated challenge to be able to do what we did in this city with that much. Privately, we were very happy with how far we managed to make what we had go!

    But the one or two friends who asked (while we weren’t sober and before we got real careful about these things) exactly how much we spent were HORRIFIED at how expensive our wedding was. And that was pretty deflating for us after feeling so beaten down for not having more money to spend, and after what felt like pretty savvy and careful decisions on our part.

    I can never, ever, read this enough: “Engaged women don’t need another voice telling them they’re failing.”

    • I dealt with countless vendors referring to me (TO MY FACE) as a “budget bride” and saying things like “budget weddings are so hard”

      I really like how Liene over at ThinkSplendid suggests vendors use the term “economical wedding” instead of “budget wedding.” As she said:

      I also wanted to name the segments with terms that were not demeaning to a couple’s financial choices … I also wanted to stay away from the term “low-budget”. $10,000 is a lot of money, no matter your household income. If someone chooses to spend less on a wedding than someone else does, we as an industry shouldn’t be turning that into some type of wedding caste system.

      Every wedding budget has a story — some couples pay for their weddings entirely themselves, some are paid for by parents who have been socking money away every month since the day the doctor told them their baby was a girl, and so on. How we talk about budgets in the wedding industry matters, and I tried to choose words that were respectful of the different choices we see every day.

      Read Liene’s full post.

      • Right, because aren’t, like, 90% of brides budget brides? I have friends who spent way, way more than we are on our wedding, but they still had to make budget decisions, too. They couldn’t have everything they wanted or dreamed of either.

        • A friend of mine who is a bridal florist said that whenever she was in a consultation with the couple they’d always say, “We’re on a budget.” She’d reply, “I’ve never known a wedding that doesn’t have a budget.”

          (Meaning some may have a $1K budget and some a $100K budget, but [nearly] everyone chooses to draw a dollar line somewhere.)

          • That’s totally my experience as another wedding vendor — almost everyone says they are on a budget, or even a tight budget, but what amount they think that means varies from $300 to $2000 (for what I make, not for their entire wedding.) So even people on relatively larger budgets are still thinking of everything as a very controlled stretch.

        • Exactly, Barbra! I’m having a destination wedding in Disneyworld this September, and it’s costing us a lot of money. Not Beyonce money, but still ridiculous when you think about it. We’re very lucky that we can afford it, we’ve worked hard for it and waited a long time. But we’re still on a budget – almost everyone has to draw a line somewhere, make compromises, and not everyone can have everything they’ve dreamed. Because we’re doing what we are, some people don’t get why we won’t spend cash on certain things. Like, I fell in love with some designer shoes, but I’m not spending £500 on shoes I’ll wear once, and my friend said ‘but your wedding is costing loads, why not!’ Er, because you have to stop somewhere? Because I still have rent to pay? Because it’s my money?

    • Yeah, I think what’s troubling to me about the cost of weddings (currently in initial planning stages for a poly commitment ceremony in a year or so) is that the amount we have to spend is, like, a couple of thousand. I don’t begrudge other people their larger budgets, and I’d love a big elaborate wedding or even a slightly more elaborate wedding, but that’s all we’ve got as I’m a PhD student and one of my partners is currently unemployed. We just don’t have a lot of money to spend on anything, let alone a party. And it’s rather distressing to go looking for “budget” wedding advice and find that most of that stuff is directed at weddings with budgets more like yours than mine! I find that can make me resentful of people who have $20,000+ to spend and still complain they can’t get their perfect ice sculpture. I’m trying to be more understanding about that, but it does feel a bit like a slap in the face.

  7. Aah so true. I’ve been struggling with this the last couple days especially, and eventually came to the same sort of conclusion. If I have a loving and supportive family who’s willing to spend this much money to make sure we have a special, memorable day, why be sad about it? And since this is one of the only times in my life where I’ll even be able to spend this much on one day/thing, why waste it feeling anxious? Might as well at least enjoy it! I’m sure I’ll continue to have weird feelings about it, but thinking about it like that helps.

    It doesn’t help when people turn it into some kind of moral thing (we don’t *believe* in spending that much money on that kind of thing), implying that whoever may choose to do so is somehow morally wrong. For instance I got a shiny expensive ring and I’m still feeling a little anxious about how much we’re spending on it, but . . . that’s something I’m going to cherish my whole life!! We had it custom designed by a local jeweler and I’ve seriously never seen a ring so beautiful in my whole life (of course, that’s probably just because it’s just so *me*). So, yeah, I’d say that it was the right decision, emphasizing FOR US. Not everyone.

  8. Hi! I love LOVE this post. The issue is within the tribe, it’s with your partner, it’s with your mother-in-law, and it’s with your friend who’s getting married 6 months after you. We kind of started out with having a 10K budget in mind. But then you find out everything f***ing costs $1000. $1K here, 1K there, and boom, you’re over your 10K budget that you started out with (yep, that’s me). In fact like 5 or 6K over that budget. My partner and I feel bad about it but it’s within our means and YOGMO (Yo Only Get Married Once/ Once More). But, it’s okay. We have parents that have helped and we’re not going into credit card debt. We’re not having an affair that is too lavish for us or is going to make us feel guilty. We like good food and we’re not ashamed to admit it. Our April/May budget sucks, but only in a guilty “we’re touching our savings and we don’t normally do this” sort of way.

    • with us it was: “venues in this area for the amount of people you want to celebrate with you that don’t make you cringe (aka: why spend the money? Why spend min $12k on something you HATE? 12k on something you hate is very different then 15k on something you love) will cost you MINIMUM $15k”

      As soon as I figured out that we were having a $20,000 wedding for just venue and food ALONE (luckily we own a home already and have resources) we just accepted it and said “okay. we can afford this with the help that people are giving us. let’s have this really special day the way we want to have it.”

      I feel guilt every time i read comments on DIY posts and posts about economical weddings. left out, sure, but also like a spoiled brat. I feel judged by those who have economical weddings and are DIY divas (i am not a natural born crafter), even though I know that the only one judging me is ME.

      • I just wanted to say THANK YOU for : “12k on something you hate is very different then 15k on something you love” and “okay. we can afford this with the help that people are giving us. let’s have this really special day the way we want to have it.”

        This is exactly the kind of thing I needed to hear, and the way I need to start looking at my situation.

    • I started with a 3000 budget that has doubled and I have been feeling really bad about it, as I am a full time student and my partner is the main breadwinner. Its not going into debt, as we saved more than the 3000 and as some of the family that urged us into a larger venue and guest list than originally planned is helping us out, but I keep beating myself up about it, especially since my brother and his wife just got married at the courthouse and didn’t even buy rings because they are saving for a house. I find myself jealous every time I see a tiny courthouse or backyard potluck wedding on an indie blog, more than I used to get of people with the $50,000 200 person weddings. But I’m getting past it, this wedding is important to me, all our family and friends are so excited about it, and if we work hard and make good plans for our future going forward, $6000 should not seem like a lot to sacrifice for what I hope will be a beautiful experience that we will treasure for the rest of our lives.

  9. I managed to circumvent the guilt by having a long engagement followed by a tri-continental wedding. A year before we got married, we visited my home in America and bought our wedding clothes and some other necessities. We picked up other small things – favors, decorations – in Japan, where we were living. And we got married in England, in my husband’s hometown, so spent most of our budget there. How much I spent depends a lot on the value of the pound versus the dollar versus the yen!

    • Is this my wedding you’re talking about? This is exactly what we’re doing, but in Scotland! Complete with little bits from Japan. Right now we’re in the process of socking away yen to transfer to pounds whenever the exchange rate is particularly good. Our budget, however, is in dollars, as I find that easiest to keep track of simultaneously (don’t ask me why).

  10. A couple of my co-workers are getting married & spending on the upper end of budgets. Both young ladies are working 5-6 days a week, twelve hour shifts. When I first heard of the amount of the spending, I thought to myself “that’s a lot money.” After seeing how hard each woman is working to make it happen, I realize how important it is to them on many levels. And I will admit that I was never that committed to working so hard to have a wedding of that nature. But if it’s your dream, & you want it that badly…go for it! I hope both of them have the loveliest of days. They’ve earned some time off & pampering. I’m happy for them! 🙂

  11. When I found out how much I was getting my my parents for our wedding I about had a heart attack. 7000 may not seem like much in California but in South Dakota it goes a long way. Geoff and I were planning to budget about 3000 about half of that from my parents and the rest our own money. Thank goodness they gave us more because our vendors are ending up being much more than we thought. Not to mention the financial hardship we’ve come across in the last year. I feel like there are some people with more to spend than me but honestly I also know people with less to spend and in way more debt than I. I don’t feel bad that I was given more money than my younger sister (who’s parents were going through a nasty divorce at the time) because I know that someday her wedding will be just as awesome as mine! It’s all about your resources people!

  12. I’ve had mixed feelings about my first wedding and what we spent on it – “Yeah, we spent only $X – as much as most people drop on buttermints – but it all came out looking cheap to me”. When I asked friends about the wedding, they didn’t notice what price tag it had – they only noticed how much fun and authentic it was. A couple older ones commented that it was obvious we were under financial hardship, but the fact that we never pointed at it made it more enjoyable.

    As I plan my second wedding, I’m old enough and experienced enough to know that whatever we decide to spend, it’s simply going to remain authentic to us. The price tag simply does not matter in the long run; as long as we work with what we have and everyone has a ball at our party, that’s all that I want.

  13. I love all of the encouragement and non-judgement in this piece, so let me just say this. As a bride who went into credit card debt for her wedding, that was fine too. I find that so many discussions of money seem to be, “well as long as you don’t go into debt then I won’t judge your financial decisions.” And you know what? I don’t think that it’s anyone’s business to judge any of the financial decisions that a couple make, including debt. I’m not going to say that’s a great choice for everyone, but I think it was right for us. I’ve gone into debt to buy a car (paid it off), over cancer (paid it off) and now I’m in the process of paying off our wedding. Some days I start to regret it, but looking back it was right for me. No guilt at all, just a wish that the banks were using our money for better things in the world… 😉

    • Thanks for this. We (well, really I) saved lots of money for the wedding, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to save enough, and my budget contained an “overage” amount that I was willing to put on my credit card. When it got closer to the wedding, I mapped out when to buy things so the bill wouldn’t be due until after; that way, we would have to spend less time (and money) paying interest. I have absolutely no guilt over putting some of the wedding on my credit card. I planned it out carefully and it’s an amount I feel I can manage (even if we get zero dollars for gifts). And the wedding makes me way more excited than my car does!

    • Another thanks for this! Our $15,000 wedding was paid for in a variety of ways, and we paid for most of it ourselves. My mom and stepdad contributed by buying my dress, which was less than $1,000, and my dad and stepmom gifted us $1,000 that we used for our officiant and our premarital sessions with her (as well as a couple other small things).

      About a third of the rest of the costs we put on a credit card. It was an amount we’re comfortable with that we know we can pay off and we put it on a credit card specifically to get travel points. We definitely don’t regret it, but we also knew we had a limit when it came to how willing we were to put anything on credit. Another third came from out of pocket funds we had including extra side jobs I did and bonuses we got at work, and the last third came from a settlement I received for a car accident I was in (a portion of which is still in my savings account).

      Funny enough, my husband didn’t want me to use ANY of my car accident settlement, but I argued with him that I’d rather spend money I have than put more on credit. 🙂 I got my way, but promised I wouldn’t use it all so I’d still have some money in my savings account.

  14. Our wedding cost about $50,000 total. It was an amazing, awesome wedding. We were able to celebrate with all the people we wanted to be there (280 of our nearest and dearest), bridge cultural and religious differences between communities, have a wedding that reflected our values (glatt kosher catering+secular dancing. In fact, venues in our area that could/would accommodate those two things with a party of our size often cost $50,000 alone just for venue+food!), and work with vendors who understood and celebrated our vision.

    Between my husband and I, my parents, and his parents, we could comfortably afford our wedding, and for that, I’m incredibly grateful. And yes, sometimes I do feel guilty about how much we accepted from my parents and my in-laws. But it’s more about the bigger picture of how much they’ve already given us emotionally and in the form of raising us in addition to financially, and how much they continue to give of themselves, and the fact that I don’t feel like we can ever give back to them in the same way. For what it’s worth, we could have afforded the wedding entirely on our own. It would have been more challenging, but not impossible. But they wanted to give to us and voluntarily offered (we never expected or asked) generously, and for that, we are incredibly grateful.

    Bottom line, I spent $50,000 on my wedding and I don’t regret it.

  15. PLEASE carefully consider spending a honeymoon on ‘voluntourism.’ As hard as it may be to hear, a lot of travel/short-term aid companies actually do more harm than good. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you’d be comfortable doing their activities in your home town – if the thought of going into an orphanage in your city, playing with the kids for two weeks, then leaving to never see them again is weird to you, don’t do it in a different country! Just my two cents x

  16. I personally was not comfortable with going into debt to pay for our wedding. We want to do some travelling and build a deposit on a house, so paying off a wedding debt would make it even harder to do those things. The great news is my fiance got a new job which means she’s getting more work, so we’ve been able to spend a little more and still be comfortable with that.

    We’ve taken the approach to scrimp on cash where we can, and strategically invest into the things which we consider most important for us. So we’ve paying good money for a great photographer because I’m super fussy on my photography, and my fiance is a foodie so we’ve spent good money on getting an awesome caterer. But at the same time we’ll be using a country hall and setting up the ceremony and reception areas ourselves, music will come from an ipod, we’re making our decorations and bouquet, we’ve designed our invitations etc and the clothes are all things we’ll wear again – so a rockabilly style dress for my fiance and work suitable suite and vest for myself.

    For me its all about identifying your overall budget (whether it comes from savings, a loan, your family etc), and from there working out how much you need to spend on your priority areas to meet your expectations, how much you can do yourself to make it more economical, and then going from there. As with any major project it will evolve and develop over time, and thats just part of the process.

    • Totally! There are some things that I decided weren’t that important–like hot appetizers. We opted for cold finger foods I could purchase where I work for a discount. I live in LA, so all of my friends and co-workers have more than one job, and often own companies in the entertainment business that are giving me very deep discounts for their services. That gives you more money to spend on the things that you love. Good luck…you sound like you’re making it work!

  17. I am afraid this is just the way our culture is these days. People feel like they have a right to comment on a couple’s finances like a couple’s finances are anyone’s business but the couples! People constantly ask my bf how much we pay for rent, then tell us that we are paying too much (really for what we are getting and the neighborhood we aren’t) and that we could be paying a mortgage with that, to which we reply not in this neighborhood – so the answer is always no but you could live in a cheaper neighborhood… but we like this one! *sigh* I can see how wedding planning would be the same. You COULD spend $5,000 but if you have $50,000 and you want to spend it why is that anyone’s business? People are so nosy.

    • One of my grandmother’s favorite questions regarding weddings is how much money is being spent on someone else’s wedding. Also, my mom will sometimes talk about how my sister’s wedding was so much nicer than one of our cousins’ wedding and then point out for the sake of irony that there was much more money being spent on my cousin’s nuptials than my sister’s. Here’s what I think: Who the eff cares how much money is being spent on so-and-so’s wedding? There is so much more to weddings than the effin’ expenses! Every wedding is special in its own way. It’s times like these when people really need to mind their own business.

  18. You hit the nail on the head. I feel like this every time I read a super long wedding announcement IRL about “We wouldn’t dream of spending money on our wedding. We only used one garbage bag, only spent $$ and would never ever do xyz traditions. Gawd, wedding activities result in puppy kicking and summoning the Daleks. Tacky!” And I’m fairly crunchy, so you know it’s bad when I’m going “yo, let’s take the double martyr act down a notch”

  19. Yes! Love it! And this ethos should totally carry through to all of those typical post-wedding decisions – cars, houses, kids, etc. If I hear one more “I bought this baby carrier used from goodwill and then lent it to a friend who used it for her three kids before I had my own, who I only diaper in 100% organic cloth diapers that I found for free on the side of the road and who I only feed squash that I puree myself because it’s like $.05 per serving instead of the $1 at the grocery store” I will scream. Everyone should think about what money they have, what kind of budget they’re working with, and what they value. And everyone else should stay out of it. I’m not even saying this because I have a lot of money to spend. But if I won the lottery, I sure as heck would spend that money, and if you won life’s lottery, you have the right to do the same.

  20. “All I’m saying is, if you have the money, and you’ve chosen to spend it, stop feeling bad about it. Feeling bad helps no-one.”

    Exactly. If we are embarrassed or uncomfortable with the choices being made- we should always try our best to evaluate where that is coming from.

    Are we making choices that contradict our core ethics and principles? Are we doing so out of some sense of what a wedding (or anything else, for that matter) SHOULD look like? Then we should acknowledge a mistake, move on, and make different choices in the future.

    Are we embarrassed merely because of what other people think we SHOULD be doing, whether they think we should be spending more or less? Even though we feel our decisions are in line with our own ethics and principles? Gotta let that go.

  21. In a recent conversation with my parents we were freaking out about the cost of catering, and I think my dad put it best: “You can angst all you want, but the price is fine with us and we’re happy to pay it.”

    Right. Better to focus my energy on being grateful for what we can afford than to worry about something that isn’t actually a problem.

  22. Amen to this! And the comments. Our wedding budget is knocking on $17k (crap, I said it), which is twice what we originally intended to spend. We said no to self-catering, yes to a professional day-of coordinator, yes to an expensive photographer, etc. But we’re making our own cupcakes, have a friend as DJ, and I paid $120 for my dress, so we cut corners too. Everyone’s situation is different, and if we judge each other (and our weddings) by one set of ultra-thrifty standards, we miss out on all the awesome things going on behind the budget.

  23. This post is fantastically timely. I’m on a mad price quote hunt this week for final wedding bits and pieces. I’m recently unemployed, so I just slashed $1500 from the budget so that I know I can pay for the wedding entirely. We were fortunate and got money from parents/grandparents, but with me out of a job and trying to sort that out we had to shift priorities. So I’m finding the price of all the last pieces to make decisions–do I want to make cupcakes, or buy? Can I afford to pay a friendor to play live music at the wedding?

    It’s so easy to try and compare to other people’s weddings. But you’re right, there’s a story behind every budget.

  24. I’ve said this in relation to this conversation on OBB before and I’ll say it again. I agree that no one should be treated badly or shamed because of their wedding budget. But that doesn’t mean the experience of having a low-budget wedding and the experience of having a high-budget wedding are the same.

    Having a high wedding budget means you are going to be able to say YES to a lot more things. YES to having a talented and expensive photographer, YES to feeding everyone the food of your choice, YES to the perfect dress, YES to a hundred thoughtful details.

    Having a low-budget wedding means a lot more NO and a lot more compromises you may end up feeling forced to make. NO professional photographer, you have to ask a friend. NO to a beautiful location because the VFW Hall is cheaper. Or yes you can serve a plated meal but NO you can’t afford alcohol.

    And this is not always a matter of personal taste or values. Many low-budget brides are not low-budget by choice. They might want to spend $10,000+ on a wedding but don’t the economic privilege to do so.

    I don’t think it’s right to judge anyone or tear them down for their good fortune or decisions. But I also think it’s unfair to draw equivalencies, as if budgets are just a matter of preferences.

    • TOTALLY agree 100% with everything you’ve said here, and hope that came through in my post.

      • I don’t think it *did* come through in your post (at least it didn’t for me, and I finished reading feeling a bit troubled at the idea that my $2000 wedding – which will involve a lot of work other brides might pay vendors to do for them – is “my choice” and not simply a matter of necessity) but I’m glad to hear you think so 🙂

        • Super curious about what makes you feel this way — I didn’t use the word “choice” at all in my post, so it’s interest to hear that two of you felt like that’s what I was suggesting. I might need to reword something if it’s coming off that way.

          • It might be the “Tastefulness” section, especially the second paragraph where you address how different budgets are applied and why. The consumer choices are presented as a result of a personal values system. Other reasons are absent. It was harder to read after that….

            I know you’re fully aware and sympathetic to those who have to Say No to ways of expressing their values because, financially, it’s simply unobtainable, unimaginable. But sometimes those compromises are a conflicted decision undershot with longing, not a refutation of the things we didn’t (couldn’t) create for ourselves and our communities.

            In those moments, it’s not about comparing our event to what other people are doing. It’s about comparing it to what I feel would have been the right thing to do, had I been able to do it.

            To be fair, I don’t know what 1 or 2 sentences you could have used to acknowledge that experience, without needing to write a whole other blog post.

            Still, the core message of “stop telling brides they are failing” applies to the internal judgments too. Thanks for the forgiveness check.

          • AHA! I could see how my wording in that section was unclear. I was trying to say it’s all an issue of taste when you’re judging how much other people are spending — when it comes to your OWN budget, there are clearly cold/hard financial factors. I’ve reworded that section to hopefully clarify. Thanks again for that feedback.

  25. This post made me feel so much better. I am getting married in two months, and a close friend of mine is getting married next year. She goes on and on about how budget-conscious she is, how she’d never spend as much as I am on a wedding, how I shouldn’t prioritize keeping my family happy over keeping the wedding low-cost…

    She’s very in-my-face about the fact that she’s spending less than $10k for a wedding of 30 people. We’re in the $20k bracket, but that’s because we have two receptions on two continents, each about 80 people, so that his Scottish friends and family don’t have to bear the expense of attending a U.S. wedding and vice versa. I’ve never shared my budget with her, but when I do a dance-of-excitement about booking an amazing and affordable museum-venue in Glasgow, I’m greeted with this nasty comment about how SHE would NEVER spend money on something like that. It’s been hard to bite my tongue and not run the numbers for her.

    Thank you, everyone, for your comments, and to Ariel for writing this – it helps to know this is a common problem, and not some over-sensitivity I have. (And while I’m at it, thanks for all the amazing wedding profiles: I found my US baker and my Scotland photographer through OBB!)

  26. Sometimes I feel bad about the length of our engagement. I don’t really feel bad about the pricetag on our shindig – my friends and family know that weddings are expensive and that we’re going our best. What gives me a case of the “womp womps” is the scenario where a friend of mine gets engaged after me, and then gets married (or sets a date) before me. Writing this out, it sounds childish and shallow, but it bugs me. I know that our long engagement is enabling us to have the kind of wedding we want to have – giving us the time to save up and plan and do price comparisons.

    On the other hand, if I get one more haughty look from an acquaintance about how their wedding is all planned and happening 9 months before mine, and they just got engaged a week ago, I will punch a bitch.

    • Hahaha, I love you!!! This was us too. And we’d had it going on even before our engagement. My husband and I were together for six years before we were engaged, so we saw friends meet their girlfriend, turn them into a fiance and get married and start families all before we were even engaged. Then we were engaged for two years and would see friends get engaged, then married within that time frame. Now we’ve been together nine years total, and married for five months and I can finally be done with all those feelings, but I SOOOO understand this! You’re not alone!

    • This was driving me crazy for awhile. I am lucky enough that no one has been haughty but it was seriously reaching epic levels. I think I am up to 8 or 9 people I know engaged after us and getting married before us, and our engagement is only 2 and half years long! So the way I helped myself get over it was to embrace it. Since these are mostly people I know who are closer than acquaintances even if they are not close friends, we are going to have collage on our wall after our wedding. With one of our wedding photos right in the middle and a wedding pic of everyone we know who got engaged after us but married before us around us. Its going to have dates, and somehow it made that sort of sticky not fun feeling go away for me. Now they are a part of what makes our wedding and engagement fun instead of something that bothers me.

    • To offer a perspective from the other side, I had a fairly short engagement (6 months) and had a lot of judgy people tell me that I wouldn’t be able to plan it all/ was being ridiculous and selfish for having a short engagement.

      Our engagement length was perfect for us— we were dealing with being on separate continents the entire time! Boo being far from the one you love! Plus, my husband had always dreamed of a shorter engagement. To him, the day he proposed was the day he was ready to tie the knot, and I understood this about him from early on in the relationship. Every couple has a different pace and wedding time-frame.

      That being said, I get how it would be annoying for people to judge a long engagement (and imply that it “can” be done with less time/ use ideas that you were going to use/ etc.) Judgment in general is no fun.

  27. YES! I’ve had some internal and external angst about our budget…everything from my aunt and cousin telling me that I “deserve” real flowers instead of the fabric flowers I’m making to save a few bucks to questioning our reception venue choice (skipping the super expensive dream venue) about two months out from the big day. Everyone just needs to keep in mind that people have different spending habits. My cousin would have no problem going into huge debt over a wedding so it could be exactly the way she wanted it, whereas I would rather make a few sacrifices and have something we don’t have to go into debt over. I would rather skip the photobooth, limo, and swap real flowers out for fabric ones, and be able to afford our amazing new apartment in the city instead.

    When it really comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what you spend on your wedding whether it’s a little or a lot. The important thing is that you’re committing yourself to your partner, and that your loved ones are sharing that special moment with you (or not…eloping doesn’t sound so bad after some of the drama!)

  28. I know this was posted a few months ago, but right now I am SO glad that I took the time to browse the “budget” tag…

    For the past week I have been struggling with our budget possibly being “too much” because I have constantly been reading about all of these fabulous venues that people got for $1,000 and even $500 (or less!) and I start to sweat about the fact that my venue, when all is said and done, is going to cost closer to $16k! My father has agreed to help me pay for it. While we haven’t talked outright about specific costs and dates, he did say “We can do that” when I told him an estimate. It still left me uncomfortable when I compared my space to others on here.

    And even with my Dad’s help I still feel a slight pull of buyers remorse (I already paid the deposit) and keep thinking. “Can we do it differently for cheaper??” I know I need to look at my own priorities. I am happy with my venue because includes 1. Ceremony space, 2. Open bar cocktail hour, 3. Reception space, 4. All of the food, 5. the cake 6. Complimentary motel room for use during the day and overnight after the wedding for the married couple, plus a bunch of other things I’m forgetting… It really is a weight off my shoulders that I don’t have to worry about hiring MORE vendors for any of that stuff separately!

    I really needed to read this today. I’m doing it my way and that’s alright with me.

  29. I have been so careful not to mention dollar amounts on my wedding, or my ring, or any of it. But the people close to us (attendants, close friends), have started to get an idea of the kind of money we’re going to spend, and I’ve actually gotten some crap for it! We own out home, our cars are paid off, our only debt is our mortgage, and we spend money wisely and frugally. But people INSIST that we’re being too extravagant on our wedding, or that it “must be nice” to have all of those things. My fiancé and I started dating when we were both in the military (he’s still in, I’m in school on the GI Bill), it has never been a secret how much we make. There were people that made more than us getting angry at the things we have and the life we live, because they made different financial choices. To those people I say: grow the f*ck up. If I want to spend X amount on my wedding, I will. If I want to forgo stupid stuff like Starbucks and eating out all the time and trips to freaking Disney Land every other month in favor of saving that money and putting 30% down on a house (which is what we did) I will! I try hard not to judge other people’s spending habits, but when I hear “you’re so lucky you have so much money,” or “I’m so broke!” *five days later* “Let’s go to Vegas!” I lose my cool. Hating other people for their success is so wrong!

  30. What a great article! What I find interesting about the topic of “one-upmanship” and judgment of personal choices, is that for women more so than men (at least it seems to me), this judgment issue reaches throughout all our life choices, not just how much we spend on our weddings.

    Take childbirth, for instance. It seems like, no matter what choice a woman makes, (DIY it at home? Go to the hospital? Take the meds? Use a midwife? OB-GYN?), our personal choices seem to be open to discussion and judgment and we get to feel bad _no matter what choice we make_. An example? I had a home birth (actually, two – excellent, trauma-free, healthy child, thanksverymuch) and got the usual “are you crazy”? type comments. I expected those. But what I didn’t expect, was when my dear friend chose elective C-section (based on her family history and her own personal sense of safety and what was right for her), and got the same type of second-guessing and judgment, from the (female) OB-GYN on duty the day she went into labor. (“Are you SURE you want a C-section? We could just get you an epidural right now, you could do this!”)

    Or parenting (stay at home? work at home? Full time nanny? Full time childcare?). There is a constant societal tsk-tsking, that we internalize, over how the choices we make will or won’t harm our children. I won’t even go into the socioeconomic reasons why for many women, what they do with their kids does not come with the luxury of choice; it is a decision borne out of survival.

    It just seems that no matter what choices women make, there’s always someone who’s gotta tell us we don’t know what we’re doing, when actually, we f***ing do. It’s exhausting. Thanks for listening.

    • Take childbirth, for instance. It seems like, no matter what choice a woman makes, (DIY it at home? Go to the hospital? Take the meds? Use a midwife? OB-GYN?), our personal choices seem to be open to discussion and judgment and we get to feel bad _no matter what choice we make.

      UG, childbirth machismo. As the daughter of a midwife, I haaate that shit. Here’s a semi-related post on Offbeat Families:

    • Personally, I think judging medical decisions based on scientific validity is a COMPLETELY different topic than judging someone’s personal choices with money and weddings. Medical decisions are based in science – and when they aren’t and unnecessary risk is introduced, I think it should be full on judgment mode for the safety of everyone involved. You wouldn’t want your doctor (or your friends) to be like “oh yeah, you want to choose to drink arsenic? Not my choice, but more power to you!” No. You’d want your doctor (and your friends) to say: “Absolutely not! Are you crazy?! That shit will kill you!” Definitely an apples to oranges comparison there.

  31. This echoes so much with me right now! We’re having an £19k/$30k wedding and several people have questioned why we’re spending so much! It makes me feel bad for having to defend our choice. We’re not getting into debt and we have got nearly half the budget from our combined parents, so we know how lucky we are! Trust me we are aware of our luck! But we also make all our friends aware that we are saving like mad for it. We eat as cheaply as possible, we don’t go out as much, and opt to see friends in homely locations rather than at a bar. The way I see it is, this is the one chance to have the ultimate celebration. It is the most significant moment in our life paths, joining 2 families to make 1. This is important and deserves to have all we can muster into it. If we couldn’t afford to have what we truly wanted, we would have waited. For us, that just happened to involve a more expensive venue (waterside that allows fire near London is very tricky!). Everything else is as low budget as we can make it. I don’t even have an engagement ring because I felt the money would be wasted (and it wreaks of sexist, old, purchasing-your-woman tradition to me). But like I already said, we’re lucky and we don’t intend to squander that luck on something as trivial as other people’s competitions. Our priority is this one singular treat in our lives before we devote ourselves to family. We’re not taking away from anyone else and shouldn’t need to feel ashamed.

  32. So good! And I love the last quote. Thank you.

    I was trying to wrap my brain around the way I’m feeling, and this helps immensely. I forget that I am competitive too with matters of pride (saving money, creating a nice experience for guests), and I always think it’s everyone else being competitive.

    2 to tango, and we are all guilty of something. This is one of my favorite posts so far. Reminder to be humble and quiet about money/wedding plans. If it’s a good party, everyone should be happy.

  33. Yes! The telling you how much things will cost for you to do it right definitely got to me. Some people are used to paying the asking price on top dollar items. I am used to shopping around [hard] for the price and quality I want in underrated items (or vendors). Some people don’t realize you often can have what you want, if you’re willing to dig deep.

  34. Why is money such an ugly issue? Normally I have quite a good relationship with money we don’t make a bomb but we have enough. We are estimating total costs of £10k and currently we are immensly lucky to be in a situation that makes saving easier and that both sets of parents have offered (more insisted) that they want to contribute.
    When it actually comes to spending said money I seem to have an internal battle of judging my own descisions/wants, etc but it is something I need to figure outand this has helped so thank you 🙂

  35. I am a wedding photographer now but when my husband and I got married I was straight out of college working a minimum wage job. My parents were overburdened trying to pay my older sisters medical bills from fighting cancer so the last thing I wanted to do was ask them for money for my wedding. My husband’s parents did help us pay for most of the food, but we saved and scraped and paid everything else ourselves. It was hard and we had a shoestring budget wedding. I think we spent 2k at most? We didn’t have a traditional venue, cake or photographer or anything like that. We ended up DIY almost everything and I found my dress on super sale at Anthropologie when I worked there in school. Being able to work for so many wonderful clients and see amazing weddings there are times I wish we had more of a budget to work with when we got married but in the end the memories are what I love the most and having our family and friends with us. Maybe someday in 20 years we’ll throw a big party for our anniversary but who knows, now I’ve got to think about saving for my kids to go to school someday.

  36. My cousin and I got engaged with in four months of each other. I have a budget of MAYBE 3k… shes getting married in a castle on the beach… so… lets just say that there feels like a lot of competition with my cousin. Not from her but from her family. I got to the point the other day where I freaked out (interestingly right after pictures of her castle popped up on facebook) I didn’t think my wedding was going to be good enough. No one was going to like it. They were all going to talk behind my back.
    It took a moment but then it came to me that it’s a wedding. As long as I get married to my love then who cares? they should all be happy to even be invited to such a personal event! so what if they don’t like it!!

  37. This post hit home. I know a friend who’s dad is rich and is paying for her whole wedding. Whenever we talk about our weddings, she always mentions, “Oh, I’ll just tell daddy what I want and he’ll write a check for whatever amount.” She doesn’t mean it to hurt me, but it does. She’s my MoH, so I can’t be too mad at her. She’s just fortunate enough to come from a great family who worked hard for where they’re at! Me, on the other hand, I had a budget of $5,000 for my wedding, and it’s quickly gone up to $7,000. My mother, bless her soul, paid for my dress, so that saved me a bunch, but our guest list has doubled in size and I’m the only one paying for the rest of the wedding. It’s stressful, but it’s my day and I can be proud to have paid for it (besides my dress) all on my own. Even if I had unlimited funds, I’d still have my wedding the way I am right now.

  38. This post also kind of hits home for me too. This is a second wedding for me and I don’t want this one to be anything like my first! (If you call a shotgun wedding done in 2 days with an old blue bridesmaid dress, a quickly bought costco cake, milk, my parents bishop officiating for free and 10 people total being there that didn’t even include my best friend and most family knowing about it; a wedding.)

    We have a budget of 15K that I would give back in a heartbeat if it would get us my father in law back and a chance for me to meet my mother in law. But it won’t. We actually are already legally married but we didn’t have a wedding because at the time I just starting school again and he was unemployed and we were on state assistance. We didn’t really even tell anyone about it except my parents the weekend before (we had already been engaged for 9 months).

    Now almost a year later, things are much better. And we want to have a wedding. We are paying for it. We are also house hunting for our first home. We have gone from basicly homeless to lower income for the area but stable and secure in a year. And I tell my parents what we are planning and I get back, “why are you spending so much on a second wedding? You are already married! That’s a kitchen remodel in 5 years.” This pulls me in some many directions because I am very practical but why should I have to feel guilty for wanting a dream?? And when the means are given, why not make it a reality?? I also beat myself up for it because not too long ago 15K was 9 months pay for me.

    So thank you for the article. I’m not going to keep justifying it anymore. We’ve earned this and we probably won’t get another chance at this again. And one thing I’ve learned with money even if can make a penny scream, money always manages to disappear on something one way or another on something.

  39. Thank you for this! I’ve been drowning in “wedding guilt” recently, and this little bit of validation made my evening. 🙂

  40. I saw this in my facebook feed and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I got into a conversation with some co-workers about how much we were spending on our wedding and walked away upset. One co-worker in particular made me feel ashamed that we were spending so much since her wedding cost was low budget.

  41. I SOOOOO needed this today. We’re getting into the home stretch and I’ve been spending so much time worrying that it won’t be good enough. We’re on an extremely tight budget, we didn’t necessarily need a “wedding” we just wanted to be married and we wanted our loved ones to be there. It starts out with **Am I going to look cheap, will so-and-so mock us over our choice of “XYZ”**What about my rich step-mother, what will SHE think?** and then evolves into **Does this look lazy and cheap or deliberately low-maintenance**Is the family expecting a fancy meal, WE CAN’T HANDLE A FANCY MEAL!**
    Nothing you ever do is going to appease everyone, chances are the guests are going to be glad that they were included at all and happy that they received free food.
    Logically, I know that, but sometimes it’s easy to get wrapped up in imaginary expectations.

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