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.
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!)
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.