My Wedding Cost $18,106 and It Was Worth Every Penny

36 Comments

On Saturday October 3rd, 2015 I got married  It was amazing, even better than we expected. And the final bill wasn’t too bad either.

The average wedding costs $31,213

Which can be interpreted as expensive or cheap, depending who you talk to. People are nuts about weddings, particularly the cost of weddings, and it always ends in a bizarre mix of frugality and extravagance.

Our wedding was no different.

At 29, I’ve already been to elaborate weddings that have ended in divorce, and knew better than to assume the right place setting was the secret to marital bliss. I wanted a wedding that was casual but elegant, and reflected our actual spending power rather than aspirational riches. We weren’t trying to be frugal or extravagant, we were merely focused on having the best wedding we could afford without compromising the rest of our financial goals.

I know most personal finance websites will tell you, “set a budget and stick to it!”, but I didn’t, and everything turned out okay. Unexpected costs creep up, virtually everything costs more than you expect it to, but as long as you’re not an idiot about it, it’s unlikely you’ll end up with $5,000 unaccounted for.

The costs we kept low

  • I did my own hair & make-up for the wedding. After virtually the entire summer watching Samantha Ravndahl work her magic on Batalash, I’ve become supremely confident at putting my own face on. Now I suffer extremely low self-esteem when I’m not wearing fake eyelashes. I curled my hair, but it was stubborn and fell out less than 2 hours after doing it. Oh well.
  • Our wedding bands are plain gold rings that cost $879 for both, and I used a $500 Amex gift card I won on Twitter to help pay the cost.
  • I completely opted out of flowers, which saved us 100% on decor costs. I originally had a wacky idea that I was going to pick up flowers from Costco the day before and haphazardly make my own bouquet, but my best friend wouldn’t let me have it and showed up with the most gorgeous bouquet of flowers from Fabloomosity. She saved the day, because I honestly would not have looked like a bride at all without that bouquet and I can’t believe I even considered going without one. Thank god for friends that don’t let friends make dumb decisions.
  • I bought my bridal jewelry at Superstore during a regular grocery trip, because practicality must win above all else.
  • We didn’t have guest favors. We originally intended to have some personalized chocolate bars but got distracted by life and didn’t order them in time. We went to a craft store two days before our wedding under the ridiculous notion that we would make our own favors. Thankfully, we recovered our sanity and returned our unopened purchases within 48 hours of our vows.
  • We hired our photographer for only 4 hours, rather than the traditional 10-hour “wedding package”. This was perfect for us. Because we had a short wedding (vows said, then dinner served immediately after, all in one location), we didn’t need lengthly photo coverage.
  • My sister’s boyfriend is superbly trained cellist, and played the music for our ceremony. My new brother-in-law is an aspiring DJ, and a damn good one at that, and played the music for our reception. Musicians are good friends to have.

The costs we DGAF about

  • My dress came in at $2,300. It’s the Azealia dress by Candela, which retails for just under $1,900 USD on Free People. The Canadian dollar was already weakening when I ordered it in February, so after the exchange rate, taxes, and customs fees, it came to $2,200, making it the most expensive item of clothing I’ve ever owned. I had the straps and the hem shortened, which cost $100. The dress was gorgeous, and because it’s not white, I hope to be able to wear it again in the future. If not, I will simply take it out of it’s garment bag every few months and lovingly stroke the silvery beads. No regrets.
  • A week before the wedding, I still didn’t have shoes to wear. Since it was already Fall, most retail stores had already traded all their cute ballet flats for boots, so I was really struggling to find footwear for my Big Day. Panic led to me purchasing a $540 pair of gold Chloé ballet flats from Nordstrom. It’s the most money my procrastination has cost me in awhile, but I have long ago accepted the financial consequences of my laziness.
  • The hotel room we booked for our wedding night cost $730. It was the Heritage Suite in the Palliser Hotel. Believe it or not, that’s its “sale price” — it typically goes for $2,300/night. I can’t really imagine it being worth that much, because it wasn’t really worth the $730 but, whatever, that’s what it cost.
  • I also ordered a $30 sandwhich from room service. My sister offered to pay for it and I thought she had, until it showed up on our room charges. No hard feelings. It was a good sandwich.
  • We had an open bar at our wedding, and dinner cost $90 per plate before taxes + gratuity. The per person cost was high (calculate it yourself by dividing the catering total in the budget below by 46 guests!), but the meal was phenomenal. I hate when beautiful weddings have bad food, so incredible food was a must for us.

The final tally: $18,106 (17% over budget!)

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 11.29.54 AM

My wedding budget on Wedding Wire

Our final total came to $18,106 which was $2,500 more than we were expecting. But we didn’t have to pay the full cost ourselves. Parents contributed $3,000 to our big day, bringing our out of pocket costs to only $15,000. This represents less than 10% of our gross household income, which is the main reason we were able to spend it without feeling too much of a pinch.

When it came to paying that $15,000, we used a mix of savings plus day-to-day spending to afford it. As many of you know, we opened a joint savings account together before we were even engaged. Initially we were contributing only $200/mo, but this got brought up to $400 to $500 per month pretty fast when we realized how much our big day would really cost. Additionally, we bought our own attire — my dress was my responsibility and his suit was his — so these didn’t come out of our joint savings. Finally, we paid all deposits and small costs out of our joint chequing account as they came up. Anything that cost less than $300, like our wedding license or invitations, we hardly felt the pain of by paying this way, which was nice.

Our wedding was the greatest party of our lives, and we’d pay for it again.

Getting married was a blast. Donning an expensive gown and throwing a party for your closest friends and family is a hell of a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it — though never at the expense of your other financial goals. I think I would have loved a $50,000 or $100,000 wedding, but the financial consequences weren’t worth it. Even though my husband and I have high incomes, we’re still playing catch up on our savings after spending so much of our 20’s alternating between being in school and mired in student loan debt.

To be able to afford the wedding we did makes us grateful, and I don’t think either of us could have wished for anything more.


36 Comments

  1. As long as you have no regrets, I think this is one time when it’s OK if the budget goes a little out the window. Once, I was second guessing myself after the fact and said to my mom, “I’m not sure I’d spend all that money all over again.” She asked me what specifically I’d want to do differently, and I couldn’t think of a darn thing. In my mind, that’s money well spent.

    PS – Your photos are lovely! I hope you will be sharing more of them. Congratulations and best wishes. Married life is just the best!

    • Bridget Casey (Author)

      I can’t think of anything I’d do differently either… maybe shop for shoes earlier 😉

      Married life IS the best!

  2. First off congrats! You guys look like such a lovely couple!

    Seeing how much money my friends are spending on weddings, it makes me wonder how much I would pay for mine. We have talked about how we have a small list of people we would actually invite, which cuts costs down by quite a bit. And like you, very few flowers but I do need that bouquet!

    • Bridget Casey (Author)

      When we first got engaged, our budget was so small because I was earning so little, but once I got the job I have now and my annual income grew substantially, we let the reigns go a bit. I say let your circumstances dictate what you do — I would have loved a $50,000 wedding but I would have HATED the regret (and debt) that followed.

  3. Your wedding sounds wonderful, Bridget. And your financial approach seems very practical. As you’ve mentioned, you still spent significantly less than the average wedding. But you didn’t sacrifice the details that were important to you. Congratulations again! 🙂

  4. L

    Congratulations and best wishes for a happy life together!

    We are tieing the knot next July and holy cow weddings are expensive. We have a large guest list (200 but most likely 150-175 will come)so we had to opt out of some things like an open bar or else we would be bankrupt. It will be expensive but we are well prepared, savings and day to day like yourselves, and in the end it will all be worth it!

    • Bridget Casey (Author)

      It’s totally worth it. And honestly, while a 175 person guest list is expensive, each person you add isn’t as expensive as you would think. I thought we were cutting costs by keeping a super small guest list, and while that’s true, so many things cost the same amount regardless of how big your wedding is: ie. wedding dress, rings, etc.

  5. Congratulations, Bridget! The photos you have posted have looked exceptional. There is such a wide array of expenses that gather when planning a wedding – and you hit it spot on, things are ALWAYS way more expensive than anticipated (as we are continuing to plan for our wedding in July of next year). It’s fantastic to hear that it was worth every penny!

    • Mary

      If you don’t mind me asking, is your engagement ring included in that cost if you had one?

      • Bridget Casey (Author)

        It is not included! My husband purchased my engagement ring last summer. I didn’t know what it cost, but at the time I told him not to spend more than $3,000 so I expect (hope) it doesn’t cost more than that.

        The above also does not include our honeymoon, which will probably be $5,000 to $6,000 later this year.

    • Bridget Casey (Author)

      Thank you so much!!

    • You have both an excellent name and sage wisdom 🙂 Good luck with the continued wedding planning, and congrats—it really is worth every penny (or shall I say, every sixpence in your shoe 🙂 ).

  6. stephanie

    see, I was JUST thinking about how great your hair looked before you said it wasn’t what you were going for! You looked gorgeous!

    • Bridget Casey (Author)

      haha that makes me feel better — because I’m looking at photos and am like, “damn that took 2 hours for nothing!”

  7. Congratulations. You had a perfect day that balanced the occasion with the practicality. I LOVE your dress!

  8. “Donning an expensive gown and throwing a party for your closest friends and family is a hell of a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it — though never at the expense of your other financial goals.”

    That summarizes it perfectly! My husband and I learned quickly during our wedding planning process that as long as you defined priorities and limited costs on the rest, you’d be in good shape. We had a blast and no regrets. The WIC is an ugly hydra; however, either way, you’re planning a huge a** party for a lot of people—it’s going to get costly.

    Love the picture, and can’t wait to see more!

  9. Married life is the best! We spent quite a bit on our wedding, and I’ll have to admit it wasn’t the best day of my life *gasp*. We went the traditional South Asian route meaning inviting 300+ guests, a morning ceremony followed by a lunchtime reception. I still wish I was able to do a fun evening reception, but with that many guests it would’ve easily cost 60K+ and there’s no way I’m willing to tap out my savings account (or even go into debt) for one day. Sacrifices, I suppose. Sigh.

  10. Congrats! That’s great you were able to have the beautiful wedding of your dreams without any debt. We got married when we were young & still in college, and though I’ve never regretted that decision, I’ve always felt a bit guilty that my parents took on some debt to pay for the ($7000) wedding.

  11. Congratulations – you two look like a very lovely couple. And I love that your dress isn’t super traditional 🙂 I think that’s a totally reasonable cost for a wedding, compared to a lot of the costs I’ve heard about out there.

  12. Katelynne

    I actually felt my boyfriend’s head explode that I was even reading this post. We are going to try to do a wedding for $6k and even that is making him cry a little (in a super manly way of course)

    I dig the DGAF list. I love how things seem to reach a poitn with brides where it is like EFF THIS, I’M SPENDING THIS MONEY FOR MY DAY. When my friend looked back at her wedding budget she was like and THIS is where I decided we were just goin to spend to get it done hahaha.

    Love the photo! And the dress!

    • Marion

      I’m glad to hear your boyfriend is crying a little at the cost. Every time I bring up the budget for the wedding, mine cringes. We are going to stay as practical and low-budget as possible, but it’s not easy!

  13. Congrats! Sounds like it was a great time and very reasonably priced too!

  14. Congratulations! I absolutely love your wedding dress and you two look stunning. I think that that as long as you’re comfortable with what you spent then it’s all good. Also, it’s still well below the average wedding price in the States. I think you did a great job planning.

  15. JB

    I got married on October 3rd as well and totally share the feeling that it was worth it! We had about 100 people but more parental contributions so the portion we paid is about the same as you and your new hubby. This post is a great example of why I love your blog and perspective in general. It is ok to splurge on things here and there as long as you have the means to do so and everything else is in order.
    Thanks for the fresh take and congrats to you!!

  16. Marie

    Interesting post. My wedding cost about $5000-6000 and if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing! I guess getting married in January instead of June helped with finding reasonable everything, but considering prices in the tri-state area, I still feel pretty lucky.

  17. Congrats on your wedding. It is such a wonderful occasion. We were able to celebrate and almost save money at the same time which is a good habit to have the rest of your lives. No reason to let the best day turn in to an on-going financial nightmare that you regret later on.

  18. Congratulations!
    I agree that too many couples are overspending on their wedding day. When my wife and I got married we opted out of many of the same things as you both did. Her sister did her hair and make-up, we didn’t have a huge dinner or hall wedding party. I think we spent around $1000 for the entire wedding although my parents and family did not attend. We could have spent more but we wouldn’t change anything about our wedding day. Enjoy the bliss of married life.

  19. Angela

    Thanks for breaking this down! It sounds like you really got what you wanted out of the wedding celebration :). Also, you and your husband are total babes!!

  20. Congratulations … on getting married (awesome!), and on the practical and creative way you approached your wedding day. I’ve done a lot of weddings in my line of work, and this sounds like one of the best!

  21. Erin

    Congrats! We share a wedding day 🙂 My wedding also took place October 3, 2015. Total cost was about $10,000 for 150 people. There were a lot of things that just weren’t important to us, and thus out the window they went. But I wouldn’t change a thing. It was relaxed and fun, and perfectly reflected us as a couple. We are now spending a year traveling around the world, because that’s where our priorities lie (currently writing from a bus in Colombia). I think the key is to know yourself and spend on what us important to you, don’t get caught up it the web of expectations, and don’t let people make you feel bad for spending differently than they would.

  22. My favorite part of this whole piece was what you said in the end about your wedding being less than 10% of your household income. That’s the biggest take away for me because its not really how much you spend (or save), its the ratio of how much out compared to how much in. I have been to $50k – $60k weddings when the family income was $60k! I’ve also been to a $100k wedding when of a retired couple in their 30s because they we worth millions already. And, you’re exactly right – your wedding party is the best party you’ll ever be at!! Congrats on getting married (and for having an open bar) 🙂

  23. Good for you for keep costs low!

    We spent around 15K USD. We had a brunch reception in hotel right on the oceanfront. It helped keep cost low. We didn’t have much decorations, except the ones that were free and provided by the hotel (great right?). We wished we knew someone who could have DJ for us, instead of the one we hired for 1000$+

    I do not regret paying for my hairdresser. I’m not that great when it comes to doing hair. My mother actually helped with makeup and hair costs. My mother in law paid for various expenses totaling around 1500$USD, and my husband aunt contributed 3000$USD for the reception. We were blessed indeed.

    I think if you spend 20K or less then you are good. It’s all about keeping a budget in mind.

    FIY the reception always cost more than what you think you will spend. Services taxes is horrible. I think we paid 22% off a 4000$ bill.