The Costs of Wedding Fever

weddingAre you in Love?

Not love, but Love? Do you wake up in the morning and think about someone else rather than yourself? Then you may be ready to tie the knot.

Here’s the part that will really make you swoon: it can be done for less than a fortune. I mean, not if you read any publication discussing it, or watch any TV shows on the issue (thanks a lot, the “Learning” Channel). They would have you believe you must take out a mortgage to get married.

I just got married recently myself. It was a beautiful ceremony, the best day of my life, and a decision I don’t regret in the slightest. It cost about $7,000, which to me is a lot of money. It’s also less than half of what “most couples pay,” a statement I have to put in quotations because, as you’ll see, it’s a bit loaded.

According to the widely published Real Weddings Survey, the average wedding cost in the United States in 2012 was a preposterous $28,427. This number is somewhat misleading, as a Slate article by Will Oremus helpfully points out. That number is not only suffering from selection bias, as the respondents to the survey were from a registration list for a wedding website, but it’s also not the best representation of the norm. The average can be distorted by the Kanyes spending a trillion dollars on the proposal alone.

The median spent is a much better representation of what is “normal” and that number is more like $18,000. Even that number is weighted by locality. The average in New York City is obviously going to be many times more than it will be in Corvallis.

Again, I have no regrets (honey, I swear, not a one) about spending that kind of money on what amounts to one single party. But others might. And they should be free of society’s pressures to spend that amount or more. Which is not to say that you should feel bad about spending some dough. Just make sure you really want it, not that you’re doing it because other people do it. That’s a lemming death spiral of wedding waste.

My wedding also wasn’t just one single party. We opted to forgo some of the more expensive and ridiculous aspects (expensive venue, live band, pricey cake, etc.) and got our friends and family to a secluded cabin for a long weekend party. It was like the Woodstock of weddings, only there were fewer bands and more outdoor coitus. I mean less, less!

Moving along…

Do Without
Here are a few of the more absurd figures from that survey. This is “normal” wedding spending:
$2,379 – photographer 
$560 – cake
$1,847 – wedding planner 
$12,905 – reception hall.

Those numbers are bonkers. Nobody really loves wedding cake that much anyway. Just get a fleet of pies from a local bakery and your baked good price just dropped by $400.

The person snapping shots with their DSLR? Who’s also going to want a dinner? If you spend $2,400 dollars on them, they better be Ansel Adam’s reanimated corpse, or at least Annie Leibovitz. You should be able to easily find a solid young pro or photography student who can give you good results and four to eight hours of work for under $500.

A wedding planner? If you have less than 200 guests, and you’re using a wedding planner, you probably also still rely on a travel agent to arrange for plane tickets. It’s the year 2013—you can do most of this stuff yourself.

Hell, I’m doing a decent amount of it for you.

Nearly $13,000 for the party spot is unacceptable. Unless you’re holding the place at Jay Z’s villa and it’s emceed by
Willow & Jaden Smith. And even then, yikes. What’s the matter with you?

Here are a few local spots where you can have a beautiful wedding without breaking the bank:

The Vue
Vue is not where I’d want to have my wedding. But it’s not tacky or horrible in any way, and the views are genuinely great. They can accommodate up to 150 and at $2,000 to $3,500 depending on the day of the week and the season; you could do worse.

Rose Garden in Avery Park
Again, not really where I’d go, and a little obvious. But a wedding venue isn’t a clever response to a question. It’s a place where you and your loved ones can share a beautiful day. Obviousness is part of the get here. And for under $275 you can rent the place for eight hours and get the sound and alcohol permits you’ll need.

Harris Bridge Vineyard
These guys run a beautiful spot that can host a small to medium wedding for a bargain. I considered having my wedding here before finally deciding on exotic Klamath Falls. If you do have a wedding here, though, you may want to ignore some of my earlier advice and splurge on a photographer, because it’s going to be a beautiful event.

Here’s a crazy idea: ask someone with a farm. Just because wedding websites recommend other farms, or the farm has never had a wedding, doesn’t mean they won’t do it. This is a buyer’s market for specialty stuff like a wedding venue. And farms are likely to be looking for ways to make some extra money. Give it a try and you may end up tying the knot in an unexpectedly beautiful spot.

The bottom line when it comes to weddings is you have to forget about what everyone else does. Just decide which parts you and your partner can’t live without. Shortcut the ever-loving hell out of the stuff you can live without, and make the being there with loved ones the most important part. It’s easy to get wrapped up and forget to enjoy yourself… or so I’m told. That didn’t happen to me.

I had a kick-ass time at my wedding.

by Ygal Kaufman