Save. Spend. Splurge.

Why NOT go all out and spend a ton of money on your one special wedding day?

I am reading a lot on PF blogs about people not wanting to spend a ton on their wedding day.

I can get that — it’s a lot of effin’ money… but research has proven time and time again that experiences matter more than buying actual, physical items.

For instance if you go on vacation for a week and spend $1000, you will be happier than if you spent that same $1000 on a laptop.

(Whether or not they take into account that your old laptop went on a blitz and needed to be replaced, has not been determined.)

Nevertheless, the equation for happiness seems to be:


With that in mind, why NOT spend on your wedding day? It’s an experience, no?


It’s not technically ALL stuff.

I mean yes, there are wedding dresses, tuxedos or suits, bridesmaid dresses and so on, but the rest of it is paying for the experience of sharing your commitment to each other on a big day.

So why not spend on making your day as a couple together as perfect as possible?

I think where it falls short for many people to avoid wanting to spend all that money on a wedding is because of the following reasons:


A lot of people see $33,000 (the average cost of a wedding) could be put towards a down payment on a home.

But a home is … STUFF, is it not?

Okay, so it’s more than “stuff”, it’s a fixed asset and a type of investment *cough*, but even so.

Still, $33,000 is no joke. Some people take years upon years to save that, and to spend it all on a dress, food, flowers and entertainment seems so… frivolous to some extent.



I doubt that if anyone spends $33,000 on a wedding and invites let’s say 200 people, they are going to even break even.

$33,000 / 200 people = $165 per person

This means each person would have to gift $165 just for the couple to break even.

So unless your parents are paying and all the cash you receive is yours to keep, or your parents are uber generous and give you a major gift for your wedding (like a new home!), you are probably going to lose money.

Or in the old days, you basically had a simple ceremony and dinner (it wasn’t a big party like it is today), and people still gave pretty generously to help the new couple along, seeing as most young couples started out with $0. Like my parents’ time.

Nowadays, it’s seen as one big party or a celebration where the couple eats the cost to show everyone how committed they are, and what’s worse is that many guests don’t even give a fraction of what I consider to be the standard rule:

AT LEAST cover the cost of your plate (assume $100 – $150 a head, so if you bring a partner, you better fork over $200 – $300 in cash).

This is a rule I follow.

I’ve heard of people giving $20 gift cards to Wal-Mart, buying cheap dollar store candy and putting it into a basket, and considering it all perfectly fine.

In fact, these people are angry when people tell them otherwise.

Sure, if the couple decided to have a cheap hoe-down BBQ where they bought food in bulk and had it in a public park, that would be fine as a gift, but if they are booking a venue, paying for food, decoration and so on, you should consider what is appropriate as a gift or not.


Otherwise, DON’T GO IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT, but send that $20 gift card to Wal-Mart anyway to thank them for inviting you (come to think of it, that gift card would probably only covers the cost of printing the invitations, I bet.)

Alternatively, maybe you can offer to help them with the wedding (driving them around, helping them make centerpieces, decorating, etc), in lieu of paying for the cost of your plate. Be up front that you don’t have any money or cash is tight, and act accordingly.

This is in the same vein as people who go to restaurants but then refuse to tip the waiter or waitress. If you cannot afford to go out to a restaurant AND leave at least a 15% tip, eat at home until you are able to treat service industry folks fairly.

The only exceptions I can make to this rule are if guests had to fly in and stay for the wedding from out of town, which is not cheap in the slightest.


Yes, yes they did. But you chose to go as a guest.

I am not saying that if you go to a wedding you know cost $100,000 with 500 guests, you are expected to pay at least $200 a head to cover the cost of their wedding, but there is a MINIMUM amount you should be gifting.



$33,000 for ONE day. Not even 24 hours.

$33,000 / 24 hours = $1375 an hour

..but if you imagine that a wedding starts at perhaps 5 a.m. and goes until 2 a.m. in the morning at the latest, it is more like 22 hours.

$33,000 / 22 hours = $1500 an hour

Solution? Party longer.


I obviously don’t recommend this, but this is not unusual. What they don’t see is that those expensive flowers THEY HAD TO HAVE for their wedding will have to be paid with interest off their credit cards long after they have wilted and died.

I see plenty of brides on TV fork over $5000 – $8000 for a wedding dress they will wear less than 24 hours because it is THEIR DAY goddamnit.

Perhaps, this is one case where experience does not trump stuff.



Maybe they already spent a lot on the engagement ring itself, and once the momentum of spending picks up, it is VERY easy to start thinking: SCREW IT. … and to spend more and more and more just to enjoy themselves without thinking about the long-term consequences.

The equation is more like this for me:


..which is probably why I skipped the whole wedding thing and went straight into having a baby instead.

That and getting married apparently makes you fat to the tune of about 4 pounds a year once you start realizing you don’t have to impress your significant other any longer.

What do you think? 


  • C

    We DID elope. It was awesome! You can get all kinds of packages these days – at B&B’s, Vegas hotels, or even by Hemingway impersonators in the FL Keys. I had my essential elements that I really wanted in my wedding – my mom was there, chocolate cake rather than white – and didn’t have to worry about how to avoid inviting my cousin’s three hoodlums. I didn’t have to plan hardly at all: it was very relaxing. We spent about as much on the wedding as we did on the honeymoon (which was TEN days, not just one) AND had money for our house down payment.

  • Kathy

    I always think the more a couple spend on their wedding that it is more about the event than it is the marriage. Maybe someone should do a study about the correlation between the cost of the wedding and the length of the marriage.

  • Jeff

    I don’t agree with the experience > stuff framework in spending money. My framework is maximize lifetime utility. The ultimate currency in life is time, the decision behind every capital purchase ultimately boils down to does this allow me to spend more of my remaining life doing things I enjoy than if I didn’t buy it?

    For example, if buying a used car for commuting to work cost $8000 and can save me an hour each working day for the next 10 years, and allow me to spend that extra hour doing something I enjoy, assuming I work 250 days a year that’s 2500 hours of extra enjoyment over the next 10 years.

    It cost around $15/hour to hire a maid, if you hired a maid to clean your house/apartment for 2 hours each week, it would cost you $1560/year. How much fewer fights would you have with your spouse if you got a maid instead of fighting over who gets to do the dishes or take out the garbage this time? If you managed to get 4.7% returns in the markets, you can finance the annual cost of the maid on just the returns on $33k. Would you rather have a huge wedding day or never have fights over chores again?

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Preaching to the converted. I am not into weddings or big days so that expense to me is too big to bear. But I do see how people can make a big deal out of it as the final: THIS is how we’re married and it’s official to everyone.

  • Erika

    I’m not a huge fan of weddings in general. I think big weddings are more for friends and family than about the bride and groom and their commitment to each other. From what I’ve seen, the couples usually end up stressed out about the whole event and enjoy very little of it. I do go, give a decent gift, and enjoy celebrating with the happy couple. Personally, I would rather just elope and spend my money on a decent honeymoon. Don’t tell my mother!

    • save. spend. splurge.

      I think a big event is really for the family more than it is for the couple sometimes. Not all couples, but I completely agree that parents may really cherish that day.

  • middle class

    I think people should spend the big bucks on their 10th anniversary! That way, at least you’re celebrating a marriage that lasted a while 🙂

  • Poppy

    I’ve been married for 14 years. My marriage cost approximately $260 for the license and a courthouse ceremony. This wasn’t to save money, because we couldn’t afford a big wedding or because we would have rather spent on a house. We just wanted to be married to each other. Many people put a high value on an extravagant wedding (which is an individual choice that I don’t have any problem with) but it does seem so much focus and investment goes into that one big day. I know too many friends and colleagues that spent tens of thousands on their wedding and were divorced within a few years.

  • raluca

    I guess the reason we did not go all out for our wedding is that the marriage matters more than the party.
    The wedding is just a day out of the 80 years we hope we have left. What happens in the rest of the 99.9999% of the time matters more for us than having a fancy party and the money we did not spend served us well.
    That, and having to save for the wedding for the 2 years previous, made us really careful with money. But we did spend on good booze :).

  • Kim @ Needing The Dough

    We spent about $17K on our wedding (we paid some, as well as having contributions from both sets of parents; it is a lot of money. We looked at our budget, and decided exactly what we wanted our wedding to look like for that amount of money we were willing to spend. Now, I planned a lux 2-week honeymoon for us for $7K. The amount of money you put into the 1-day wedding generally gives you less “experience” bang for your buck than other spending. I’ve known people on the full spectrum of wedding budgets. Some went down to city hall and got married for basically the cost of the license and a new dress. Others spent probably about what I paid for my house on their wedding. No marriage is any more or less strong than the others. As long as you’re honest with yourself about cost and what value you’re getting from the whole experience, have the wedding you want (even if it’s none at all) 🙂

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