Why are weddings so expensive?

So it turns out weddings are super expensive.  We’ve already talked a little bit about why wedding planning sucks and the average cost of weddings in the US but now that I’m fully ingrained in the process, I’m seeing a bit more of the nonsense than before.  In this day and age, I’m used to looking up the prices of whatever I want online.  Want to compare prices of surf lessons?  Not a problem.  Skydiving quotes?  On it.  Cost of wedding venues?  Hah, forget about it.  Most wedding venues do not put cost information online.  Neither do caterers.  Why is this?  Why wouldn’t they want people to be able to find out more about their costs?

Because we’re young, dumb and in love!  That’s why.  The wedding business is a big business, $50 Billion a year in revenue, and thrives on the lack of information and efficiency.  Most of these places don’t want people to be able to know the itemized costs without meeting them.  Some places like to adjust the costs based on the people that are getting married.  Some places even make you fill out a form that includes your yearly salary.  All of this so that they can size you up and figure out how much you may be willing to pay.

Now, I’m not saying that all wedding venues are bad.  The truth of the matter here is that the wedding industry has one fantastic advantage over other industries that stands out among all else: almost everyone is a first time buyer.  You may be a great negotiator but if it’s your first wedding (and it likely is), then you don’t know where the best areas to push people are.  Maybe it’s the flowers.  Maybe it’s the chairs.  Maybe you need to hire a coordinator (more money) and let them deal with the vendors to get the best prices.  Everything costs something.

Another big problem is just random fees that seem to appear.  Maybe a caterer charges $40 per head for food, plus tax, plus service charge, plus gratuity.  So $40 a head can quickly turn into $60 a head (although a good budget SHOULD account for tax and tip.  Who knows what this service charge is).  Maybe the place is great, has a food and drink minimum that’s in your budget, great band, perfect view.  Then, boom, rental fee.  Some places charge a separate fee for the location.  Normally, this is fine.  I’ve seen them range from $500 to $2000, all of which makes sense to me.  It’s your place, might as make some extra money!  But sometimes, sometimes, the fee is outrageous.  I’ve heard of some places where the food and drink minimum can be north of $25K with a rental feee over $10K put on top of that.  At that point, things are starting to get ridiculous.

All I really want from any of these vendors is a list.  An itemized list of costs.  How much do the forks and knives cost?  Are linens included?  Is there cake (the answer best be yes)?  These are simple wishes and demands and as I trudge along, looking for a place that won’t send me to bankruptcy, I’ll be sure to keep you all informed.  I know that at least a couple of you are enjoying the oncoming insanity that seems to be brewing!

I'm just saying, Vegas wedding...

I’m just saying, Vegas wedding…


Photo courtesy of Andy Baker

Wedding planning sucks

The thought of getting married to the woman of my dreams is awesome.  Seriously, I feel ridiculously lucky that I met her, somehow got her to go out with me and then eventually fall in love with me.  It’s absurd when I think about the whole story but hey, I’ll take it!  However, this has led me to a problem.  This is a somewhat large, not even remotely insignificant problem.

Weddings are expensive and suck to plan.  

Now, this is in no way an indictment on the wedding planning industry (that will likely come later) but seriously, this is rough.  See, the fiancé and I are having troubles with this.  Since we don’t know where we want to live, we don’t know where to have the wedding.  Since we don’t know where we want to have the wedding, we can’t entirely budget the event right.  Since we’re trying to pay for it entirely ourselves, we’re in a bit of a bind.  We initially wanted to have it next fall but at this point, we’re already too close to it.  That’s right, TOO close.  It’s a year away and it’s too close.

Then there is cost.  Even though I can’t quite budget things out yet, I’ve got a pretty good idea about the true cost of these events.  Last year, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. was $28,400.  That’s more than my car cost.  That’s a downpayment on a house!  What’s even worse is that that is the national average, including places that are cheap.  In NY, the average was over $76K.  In Chicago, it’s nearly $50k.  Right now, I live in Los Angeles, a fairly expensive city in its own right.

They're smiling now but you should've seen them during the budgeting period

They’re smiling now but you should’ve seen them during the budgeting period

The Fiancé and I are trying to beat that amount.  Right now, the goal to get under is $20k.  I think we can do it but we’re going to need to find the right place, a good caterer, and some significant compromises.  For example, a lot of places charge you obscene amounts of money just to have your ceremony and reception there.  I’ve seen everything ranging from $4000 to $35K.  What’s worse is that is before you take food or the bar into account.  For us, we’re considering a cash bar (sorry everyone) and maxing out our cost per person for catering at $45.  With 100 guests, that will be $4500.  If we included a full bar, we’d likely be looking at another $3000.

None of these costs include silverware and plates, tables, chairs, and other items.  Some places may include them but many seem to charge extra.  After location costs you start having to take into account the wedding dress, rings, tuxes, invitations, etc.  Before you know it, the wedding is costing WAY more than you anticipated.

I’m hopeful that in the next few months, we’ll figure out where it is we’re going to live.  Then we’ll be able to get on from this limbo place we’re currently in.  Once we do, you’ll finally see my ridiculous wedding budget spreadsheet and my wedding cost tracking page.  Of course, if anyone wants to donate time or cash to helping us plan our wedding, we’re more than happy to take it!  Until next time

Photo credit to Meagan Jennett at www.meaganjennettphotography.zenfolio.com.  Get a shorter website name!