“Weddings are kind of weird. I mean, what’s the logic? It’s like, ‘Well, we love each other. Why don’t we pretend we have a kingdom? We’ll invite your parents’ friends and my parents’ friends, and we’ll have a banquet. And the two kingdoms shall come together as one,’” comedian Jim Gaffigan joked in his special “Obsessed.”
He’s not too far off the mark. The cost of playing royalty for a day averaged more than $34,000 in 2017, according to The Knot. Granted, that pales in comparison to the cost of an actual royal wedding. It’s expected that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s nuptials this month will cost British taxpayers more than $26 million—just for security.
If you’re thinking $34,000 doesn’t sound that bad now… don’t. A whopping 57 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 saved—and 39 percent have nothing saved—according to a 2017 GoBankingRates survey. And let’s not forget that marrying millennials likely both have $20,000 or more in student loan debt.
That just doesn’t compute with the fact that average wedding costs continue to climb year over year—meaning people are just going into debt for their weddings. You might think you deserve a fairytale wedding, but no one deserves to start a marriage with that kind of undue financial stress. (True, your parents may be willing to help fund your nuptials, but there’s no guarantee. They may not be in a position to drop that kind of money either, at least without it having a negative impact on their own finances).
So, why do we spend so much on weddings? For starters, there’s an intense and insidious belief that all women dream of an over-the-top wedding day, and even the most rational among us will instantly transform into a bridezilla once a ring is placed upon her finger. I like to think I personally dodged this curse, having chosen to ditch the engagement-ring tradition altogether.
But ring or not, the pressure to dedicate countless hours, and tens of thousands of dollars, to plan “the most special day of my life”—a once-in-a-lifetime event!—is a steady drumbeat. (Nevermind that statistics show it isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime thing for many couples.) Even though my fiancé is the one who wants the traditional wedding, vendors address me. I assume because it’s supposed to be “my day,” even though he’s 50 percent of the equation.
While some millennials have begun gravitating to simpler weddings with tighter guest lists, the stereotype that our generation wants to be special rings true here. You see this manifest with food trucks for dinner, dramatic entrances and exits, puppies instead of flower bouquets and llamas to relax any uptight guests. Yeah, you read that last part right.
I should say, for the record, I’m not anti-wedding—just anti-getting into debt for a one-day event. Weddings are a lot of fun, and my fiancé and I enjoyed attending more than 10 together before starting to plan our own. That gave us an opportunity to pay attention to what stressed out other couples, details guests actually cared about—and which traditions were superfluous. Our biggest planning goal became to ensure our wedding felt specific to us as a couple.
We’ve kept ourselves in check—and saved some dollars—thus far with a two-fold approach: First, we discussed what was most important to us (a killer dance party and good photos), and what we could skrimp on (flowers and invitations) or skip (reception outfit changes, a cake topper and individual name cards). Second, we’ve booked vendors our friends used, which minimized research. I even scored $500 off my photography package by mentioning I’d met the photographers when they shot my friend’s wedding.
Knowing our values has made wedding planning pretty simple. In fact, we handled the bulk of it within a month of getting engaged. That’s allowed us to unplug from the wedding industrial complex and stop agonizing over every decision. We don’t talk about our wedding on a daily, or even weekly, basis and instead concentrate on what’s more important: our marriage. That helps us keep the focus on investing in our relationship, not just the party that simply celebrates the first day of a new chapter.