Are Weddings a Waste of Money?

Brent and his wife, Joslyn, on their wedding day.
Photo: Terra Nyce / TNP Wedding Photography. terranyce.com.

2020 has been a crazy year. But with all that has happened in recent memory, there has been some good that has come during this pandemic. For me, this included celebrating my marriage in October to my college sweetheart, Joslyn. Even though it was all a blur, it was a wonderful day spent with friends and family. One thing that stood out to me in particular was the day after my wedding, when Joslyn and I were opening gifts with my immediate family. There were new kitchen appliances and various other gifts from the registry, including cards with money tucked inside. As we were opening all of these gifts, my sister’s boyfriend mentioned that a wedding seemed like a pretty lucrative venture. From the outside looking in, I’m sure it certainly looked that way; but to be honest, we were actually recouping our losses

Weddings are expensive. According to the website The Knot, the average American wedding will cost you around $30,000. That is a substantial amount of money to spend on just one day. Our wedding, on the other hand, cost approximately $15,000 in total. In addition to the funds we saved as a couple, we were fortunate to have many family members who helped contribute to our special day, and I am very grateful for their generosity. Now some (especially those in the financial world) may say that a wedding is a waste of money, or perhaps suggest those funds could be better spent on other things, such as saving for retirement. That might be true, but if I had a second chance, I would do it all over again. Ultimately, we are the ones who decide what is important to us – and the opportunity to see my family, eat, drink, sing, dance, and get married to the woman that I love was worth the price associated with the experience.

So, with a total cost of $15,000, what did we end up spending our money on? The goal was to always be reasonable with our budget, but there were two items in particular that were certainly more expensive relative to the other categories. First, a decent portion of it went to the venue. Joslyn and I both loved the location and facility which made the decision fairly easy. The second area that took up a large portion of our budget was our photographer. We felt it was money well spent to have the day documented. Another area that can begin to drive up the cost of a wedding is the overall size. In our mind, we wanted to keep our guest list to around 100 people total. COVID-19 helped to trim our list down to a modest size and we were able to stay under that limit.

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For the honeymoon, we drove to Bend, Oregon to spend some time checking out the city and surrounding areas. Dubbed the “Ale Trail,” Bend is home to a lot of small, local breweries, many of which are within walking distance of downtown. In one afternoon, were able to make it to five different spots in total. The next day, we went on a 5-mile roundtrip hike just outside of the city. It is always fun to take a big vacation and spend more on activities, but Joslyn and I just wanted to get away for a bit after the craziness of the wedding. We tried to keep it simple and just do what we genuinely enjoyed. In comparison to everything else, the honeymoon was very reasonable in terms of cost. Does that mean it was not good time? Not at all. I got to watch Monday Night Football in a hot tub overlooking the Deschutes River, with a cold drink in hand as my fantasy team came from behind to steal the victory.

Photo: Terra Nyce / TNP Wedding Photography. terranyce.com.

In reflecting on my own wedding day, my intent is not for my experiences to be used as an excuse to spend large sums of money on outlandish things. I think this is a story that mixes both splurging on things that you would like and finding creative ways to save money. My hope is that you take it as an opportunity to identify what is important to you in life. Is it money and material things? Or is it family, friends, and experiences?

As an aspiring financial advisor, my first goal is to make certain to give sound advice. My second goal is to enable individuals to live their lives to the fullest extent and give them the opportunity to enjoy life. I am slowly starting to learn that life needs to be lived in balance, not absolutes or extremes. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of work and sacrifice that went into saving the money necessary for something like a wedding. But if you spend all your time working and saving without any enjoyment, what is the point?

Brent Schafer

Wealth Planner, HFG Trust