Before I got engaged, I always said I wouldn’t let my wedding take over my life. I watched so many friends become consumed by their wedding planning process. Every time we hung out would become about some wedding-related activity, whether it be dress shopping or a trip to Michael’s. Our dinner conversations would revolve around their latest updates. I vowed this would not be me. After all, there is a lot more going on in my life: jobs, friendships, hobbies … and people are probably a lot more interested in the other aspects of my life. No one cares as much about my wedding as I do! Well, apparently, that is not the case.
Everyone wants to talk about my wedding. It has become a more popular topic than the weather, and people love talking about the weather. I attended a conference this week where I saw many of my former co-workers. The first question everyone asked was “how’s wedding planning going?” or “your wedding is right around the corner!” No one wanted to know how my new job was or noticed my new hair style. Even a person they hired after me asked about my wedding, having heard about it from my friends. It definitely feels nice that so many people care about me and my big day, but sometimes I want a break from wedding mania! Believe it or not, there are times even I don’t want to talk about my wedding.
Weddings (and pregnancies) seem to be universally relatable. Strangers see a ring, and immediately feel comfortable asking you all about your plans and telling stories of their own weddings, whether they are planning or have been married for 50 years. You, of course, smile and nod and make pleasant conversation with all of these people, but if you’re like me, after a while you get tired of explaining your plans to people and telling the same stories over and over, justifying your choices in a way. Right now, I’m in the waiting phase where all the major stuff is set, and not much is going on in the way of planning, so I don’t really have much to tell. Even my mom seems to expect me to talk about the wedding all the time and is disappointed when I don’t have updates. So please, if you see me, talk about the weather.
Have you hit the wedding planning wall? How are you dealing with it?
Every time I see a post or discussion about ways to save money on your wedding, the number one piece of advice I see is “keep your guest list small.” I can see why this is appealing in many ways: For me, I wanted to keep my numbers down because I didn’t want the kind of day where I was spending all my time walking table to table, greeting and thanking my mother’s cousin’s friend. I wanted to be able to spend quality time with the people that are most important to me. Of course, I recently decided to decrease the guest list to zero and have our ceremony with just us, but our after party list will still have less than 100 guests.
I think having a smaller wedding is great, but I want to caution that it doesn’t necessarily save money. Is having 50 people cheaper than having 250 people? Likely yes, but the difference between 50 and 100 isn’t as much as you might think. Sometimes, there is a minimum you have to spend at a venue or a minimum number of people you have to pay for which can put you on the hook even if you want to keep it small. We found this at several places, especially on weekends and during peak season. (Venues suggested getting married Monday through Thursday or in the winter to avoid this). I was hopeful that a side effect of our small group would be saving money, but it turned out that the areas we were really spending were not dependent on guest count. Here are some of the things that are going to cost the same regardless:
- Your dress
- His suit
- Any bridal party expenses (flowers, gifts, etc.)
- Your DJ or other entertainment
- Ceremony fee (if applicable)
- Site fee/room rental
- Bride and groom flowers
- Delivery or setup fees (cake, flowers, etc.)
- Hair and makeup
- Marriage license
Some areas where you can save a bit by keeping your guest count down:
- Food & Drink!
- Invitations and mailing
- Table decor (you would have fewer tables)
So is it worth it? Well if we take a wedding that is $75 per person, invitations that are $1 per person and $.50 to mail, tables of eight with $40 worth of decor per table and favors that are $3 a piece you’re looking at about $4,200 — double that for a party of 100. Another element to consider, though is gifts. I know, I used to cringe at the thought too. Weddings are not a for-profit affair just to get gifts, but hear me out. If you got $100 from 80% of your guests, it essentially covers all of the per guest expenses in this, admittedly frugal, scenario. That would mean the added guests are not really costing you anything since all of the other costs are static at that point.
So don’t invite your estranged uncle in hopes of getting gifts, but don’t drive yourself crazy over those few people on the gray area of the guest list either. Those few extras are not what is going to make or break your budget. A budget will be busted on those static costs! It’s hard to wrap your mind around, but that means that more guests don’t always mean more money, and the flip side, small weddings don’t necessarily mean savings!