You Can Be a Feminist and Have a Big Wedding

Personal finance blogs can be the source of some great financial wisdom but also a lot of judgmental and conflicting advice. For instance, many financial bloggers espouse the idea that one should choose experiences over stuff. So it should come as no surprise that if a young couple saves money to travel the world, that’s equated with living the dream. Contrast that with  a young couple who buys all their loved ones dinner and drinks to celebrate their commitment to one another – i.e. they have a wedding. This couple is stupid and wasteful and stupid again.

A wedding is an experience – it’s not stuff. So why should the couple throwing the wedding be derided?

When I thought about planning my own wedding, I was very cognizant of this judgment and of the possibility of being labeled a bridezilla. I figured I could cut out nonsense like releasing doves or hand carved ice sculptures and save a ton of money.

But two things stood in the way of having my uber-budget wedding. One, my fiance was not afraid to be called a groomzilla. He was very interested in wedding planning and would not sign off on a shoddy menu or anything less than an open bar (in his defense, I thought these were perfectly reasonable requests). Two, and most importantly, weddings are crazy expensive even if you cut the luxury items.

We were planning a wedding in a small town, in a “budget” space, with a mid-cost well-reviewed caterer serving the cheaper buffet option in the wedding shoulder season. Our wedding budget spreadsheet was filled with 0’s. I would wear an old dress and shoes. He owned a tux. No decorations. No video. No DJ/band. Invitations were emailed.

The wedding (including rehearsal dinner, bachelor/ette parties and flying relatives in) was still going to cost $30k.

I ran the numbers over and over again, sure I’d missed something. The average wedding costs $25,576, but that number is going to be skewed by the weddings of the wealthy and, you know, Prince Harry and Megan Markle. Most weddings cost less than $10,000 to feed and entertain 120 guests.  Though our guest count was higher, I was still aghast that we would be above average in our budget.

The biggest costs for a wedding are the space and the food and drink. I read every single article on the Internet about saving money on a wedding. The only ways to cut these costs were 1) having the wedding during weekdays and/or in the morning; 2) not serving alcohol or having a cash bar; and/or 3) passing costs to our guests, like having friends and family perform services for free. These were all concessions we loathed.

Perhaps even more stunning than the estimated budget was the fact that we could afford it. We didn’t have to put the wedding on credit or get help from family members. (See, we are actually frugal!).

Still, I had it ingrained in my mind that a wise person shouldn’t spend too much on her wedding. It felt frivolous. It felt almost shameful.

Eventually, I learned to love the idea of spending on my wedding. I mean, I wasn’t happy that everything cost so much money and if I could spend less, I would. But if that was the cost of the wedding we wanted, then we were willing to pay, I was willing to pay. Though I ultimately had to cancel my wedding, I don’t regret any of it. Our wedding was going to be a celebration and I couldn’t think of a better way to use my money than to bring my friends and family together for the ride.

I have a theory that the reason that spending on weddings is viewed so negatively is because weddings are considered “feminine” activities, and thus, they’re not valued. But “feminine” activities are not inherently less important. Spending on them shouldn’t automatically be considered a waste of money.

Contrast the scorn over wedding spending to the lack of vitriol for expensive bachelor parties. Some cost $850 for each member to attend (meaning the cost of the entire party is in the thousands). Bachelor parties can be quite expensive but, unlike weddings, they don’t serve a communal purpose. And even if a man spends way too much on a bachelor party, there’s no equivalent term to bridezilla – no bachelor-zilla.

Weddings are about love, commitment, family, friends, and community.

Most people would agree that these are the most important things in life. And if you have 120 guests who love you and support you and you want to (and can afford to) buy them dinner and celebrate your love, there seems to be a good argument that that’s a good use of money.

Having a wedding within your budget (and a happy marriage!) should be a couple’s main goal. You shouldn’t have to worry about being labeled a bridezilla or a bad feminist. I hope we can someday reduce some of the stigma associated with spending on weddings, because weddings can be beautiful affairs.

Also, congratulations!
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The Give and Get

An attorney striving to convert money into a meaningful life.

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