Wedding, schmeddng!
March 4, 2008 4:40 PM   Subscribe

Why have a wedding?

Help, the fiance and I are at an impass about our wedding. I want a very small $3K or less affair: civil ceremony, family dinner and maybe a casual party at a lounge with our larger circle of friends. He wants a big catered affair costing $25K (he's come down to $10K which I still think is outragous).

I feel terrible because I cannot see how that expense is worth it but I know it makes him really sad because he thinks that I don't think it (it being the celebration of our love) is important. I do, it's just that I think it can be special w/o all the cost. He wants it to be something celebrated w/ our friends, I think it's a personal thing between the two of us.

A couple things of note, we are paying for this ourselves. We don't have any savings and I am in terrible financial shape w/ bad credit. We both earn decent salaries but he earns about twice as much as I do, which is over $100K annually. He thinks we should both pay for this equally because he wants and "equal parnter". Also, both of our parents are divorced and my mother has been married eight (8) times.

Can someone make an arguement to say it's worth the expense and hassle when I think we should save that money to get out of debt or for our future (kids or a house). I want to be enthusiastic about this for his sake but I'm having a really hard time figuring out a way to justify this to myself.
posted by lannanh to Human Relations (52 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It's not worth the expense and hassle if you don't BOTH want to do it. You two need to come to a compromise or one of you is going to resent the other over what's supposed to be a joyous occasion. If I were in your shoes, I'd probably tell my partner, "You want us to pay for this equally, but I can't afford half of what you want to do. I don't want to begin our marriage in debt, so let's work out something we can both be happy with."

Have you thought of coming up with an alternative plan, doing the research, and showing it to him? He might realize that something simpler is actually kinda cool.
posted by katillathehun at 4:46 PM on March 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Always. Get. Out. Of. Debt. if you can.

Would your fiance agree to have something small and simple now and when you (not him) feel financially stable and have the 5k to pay for half, have the big hullabaloo? And when that point comes, stick to the 10k budget. Maybe have him sign something now to agree to keep it 10k total.
posted by spec80 at 4:49 PM on March 4, 2008

Best answer: Tell him you are willing to do $10k, but you aren't going to be able to put up half, especially since you don't feel strongly about it and don't make the kind of money he does. See if he'll let you pay $2000-2500 and he can cover the rest. Seems like a fair compromise.

Ultimately, you have to compromise. That's what the rest of your marriage is going to be all about. If you don't like the idea of compromise, better to not get married.
posted by bprater at 4:49 PM on March 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

well, i don't really have any advice about the wedding thing. in my mind, weddings are just so you can get presents from people. but that's me.

if he earns $100K and you earn $50K, you are not equal partners, at least in terms of financial matters. if he wants a big shindig, he should pay for it (though you should chip in, but in a percentage equal to your salary).

if you don't have any savings and you have bad credit your (and by extension, his) first priority should be taking care of that. pay off the debt, start saving. don't get $10K deeper in debt right at the beginning of your marriage.

getting married absolutely can be special on a small scale. if i were able to get married in this country, i'd want to sign the paper or whatever, then just whoop it up with my friends to celebrate. you don't need a band and a caterer and a photographer and a florist to do all that.

generally when brides are pushing for the big shindig, it's seen as "normal" because they've supposedly been dreaming about their whole lives and they "deserve" a day where they're beautiful and the day is all about them. is this what he wants for himself?
posted by misanthropicsarah at 4:57 PM on March 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

You know, there is nothing wrong with getting married at the Clerk's office with a small party and then having a big potluck barbecue afterward. Then, you can save the real festivities for when you're out of debt. Believe me, you won't regret it.
posted by parmanparman at 5:00 PM on March 4, 2008

I'm not going to even attempt to justify a $10K+ wedding; I'm firmly with you. Marriage should be about the rest of your lives, not one big day. Better to invest that money accordingly.

Is it possible to plan on having the wedding in a few years, after you've gotten your finances in better condition? Work out how much and when you can pitch in. He might be more open to compromise if you come up to him with some hard figures and say "I've done some research, and I can afford my share of a $10K wedding in 2012."
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:02 PM on March 4, 2008

Ms Vegetable and I set up an arrangement where we split costs proportionally to our income. Otherwise it puts the lower-income partner in an untenable position. For example, the person making $100k will probably want to live in an upscale expensive place. A partner making $50k probably wouldn't be able to afford such a place. The higher income partner will, by wanting to live at the level of their income, systematically destroy the finances of the lower income partner who is being made to spend money as if they made twice as much as they do.

If he wants an "equal partner" does that mean common-property common-debt no-prenup?

If you have no saving and terrible credit making combined >$150k you terribly need to sit down with a financial planner and work out what you're going to do over the next few years. Money is the most common cause of marital difficulty, and you're already seeing why. You need to work these issues out and figure out how you're going to live the rest of your lives without having to argue about money. One of the great ways to not have to worry about money is to save up a bit at the start and defer expensive things like a $25k ceremony.

Save the money for a few years. When you have decent credit and a bankroll throw the catered party to celebrate the birth/conception of your first child.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:12 PM on March 4, 2008 [5 favorites]

A possible compromise would be a small civil ceremony, followed by a reception with all your family and friends. This would definitely cut down the cost, but also allow your wedding day to be celebrated with your friends, as he really wants. Also, since you are on a budget, you can choose to have a fairly inexpensive dress and bridesmaids dresses. You definitely shouldn't do anything to hurt your credit badly or jeopardize your future plans of a house and kids. Also, a wedding is a celebration of your relationship, so you should definitely work hard to create a compromise so that both of you have a fun and stress-free day.
posted by jlweber at 5:14 PM on March 4, 2008

It's arguably the most lavish party you'll ever get to throw for your friends and family...and that's what it's really about, it's about your friends and family, and them recognizing that you are getting married. Did you ever wish you could ring the bell in a bar and buy a round for everyone? Well that's what this is, but you also buy the meal and the dessert.

Another reason for doing it is to meet the expectations of others, e.g. parents or friends or relatives that expect there to be a ceremony and reception and a bouquet to be thrown and flowers at every table etc. I'm not saying it's a good reason, but it can be a very tangible one. It also is an expression of your own attitude "I deserve a flower girl and a train on my dress." or "Who says you need to have a wedding in a church?" and how you expect people to look towards you and your husband in the future. A tone will be set with your wedding, a pecking order will be established amongst friends. It's spooky, but there it is.

A more selfish reason is that you have to spend money to make money. This is your chance to get that set of china, to get that nest egg for your new home. Regardless of how your wedding turns out, people will give you stuff, but the scale of your wedding can influence these sorts of things as word gets out. It was not our intention, but we spent under $10k on our wedding and made out with more than that in return.

That's about it. Everything else is just a matter of living up to preconceived notions of expectation, and my own experience is that no matter how much money you throw at it you'll always manage to disappoint a certain segment, so better off clearly defining what exactly you want your wedding to be, and not worry about price right away.

Seriously though, the best party I ever threw was my wedding.
posted by furtive at 5:15 PM on March 4, 2008

Are you the only one is debt? It sounds as though he is also in debt and he wants to spend $25K on a wedding. That's not a sign of financial maturity. In fact, the "pay 50% of the costs even though you earn far less" attitude doesn't seem to be all that mature either.

Don't spend money on a wedding you can't afford.

Debt is no way to start a marriage. However, debt ends plenty of marriages.
posted by 26.2 at 5:20 PM on March 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

he's come down to $10K which I still think is outragous

In terms of average wedding costs, for an American in your income range, it's rather modest. I understand that you have other priorities, but it is not at all unusual or absurd for your fiance to expect to pay that much for a wedding.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:26 PM on March 4, 2008

I'll go with common sentiments. My wedding was also the best party I've ever thrown. I was more on your side at the beginning, against a big wedding mainly on finance grounds. Well and on grounds that i am uncomfortable with all the attention. I was able to see that it really was what my wife wanted, and I got behind it. (the sticker shock at the catering bill notwithstanding)

But the one thing I would add is that I do not understand his insistence that you split the costs. My wife and I paid for our wedding ourselves. I have no idea who paid for what. I don't see what that has to do with anything. Once you are married, all the money left is both of yours. Why does it matter where the funds come from? That part just seems ludicrous. Like if you were to pay for half of it, the next day you'd (together) have the same amount of money as if he'd paid for all of it. This just seems like rearranging the furniture.
On the other hand. I do think you should agree about it and not say to him"if you want this you pay for all of it". Again--its all both of your money.
posted by alkupe at 5:26 PM on March 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

People telling you that you need to learn to compromise are being ridiculous. Marital compromise is not typically a financial negotiation where one can be high-balled and expected to meet in the middle. If you can't afford something, then you can't afford it, and he needs to understand this.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:26 PM on March 4, 2008

Ask him what it is about the blowout wedding that's really important to him, the actual individual factors, and you may find out some really interesting things. But, bottom line, if he earns more than twice what you do and still wants you to go in half, you've got bigger things to talk about. That's not equal. (I'm prejudiced maybe, because my husband and I split things by percentage (we put in 60ish% of our income to the communal pool, and certain expenses are considered personal choice and come out of personal money), but it is difficult to get much fairer than that.)

I had the $3K wedding. We got a lot of manpower help from friends and family, most of it entirely voluntary - we could have gotten by without it, but it was incredibly touching and personal and made things much more special. We minimized everything that wasn't important to us. We were both poor, and we were in debt, and my parents (who were just into retirement and did not have big cash to throw around) were contributing, so the most important thing to me was to NOT start off on a painful foot - either more in debt than we were, or putting my family out.

Here's the agreement we made with ourselves: if we regretted not spending bullshit money on the wedding, we could throw a massive 5th anniversary party when we had begun to scratch the surface of deserving it. I'm glad we came up with that, because (among many other factors) we have SO many friends now that we didn't then, and that's going to be true for the rest of our lives. It's not the end-all-be-all, it's the beginning. There's no way in hell I'm spending $10K on our 5th next year, but we'll certainly spend our entire budget on food and booze.

The bulk of our tiny budget went to food, which was so much better than I expected so maybe we lucked out there, or my standards were low. I've been to blowout weddings, the sit-down dinner tasted exactly like a cafeteria meal, because cooking in bulk for sort-of simultaneous seating (though I've also been fed an hour after the first table at these blowouts) generally tastes like cafeteria food unless you're a Trump. If I'd had more money to spend, I would have done better on the booze, and I would have had the cliche chocolate fountain as an inside joke with our friends. That's all I would change.

It doesn't matter. I still get rave reviews of our wedding, people had a good time, they seem to feel like they were only there because we wanted to celebrate with them, and not because we wanted to impress them or squeeze better gifts out of them. My grandfather was in the hospital trying to die that day (you can't have a perfect day, you don't have that much control), I only took the day-of off work (the venue was half price on Fridays) so I'd have vacation time for our honeymoon. Since the wedding was Friday, we invited everyone to come to our favorite bar on Saturday, where my husband's band played and he sang me our first dance song and I cried, and we ate leftover cake. Money can't buy those kinds of memories. It's about how YOU do it, not how much you spend.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:32 PM on March 4, 2008 [8 favorites]

I was at Lyn Never's wedding - in fact, I was in Lyn's wedding. I can confirm that it was fabulous.
posted by 26.2 at 5:38 PM on March 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

As someone who did not have a wedding (eloped), the only thing I can stress is the importance of family and close friends that would not have an opportunity to get to know one another be given a couple of days to mesh. I think the big old wedding with rehersal dinner accomplishes this, with everyone having jobs to do and having to work together.

It's a good time to build bonds between people who will share grandchildren and nieces and nephews. I'm sure you can think of ways to do this, but a simple reception after a ceremony is not enough.

I wish we had realized how important this is - it's definitely sad and kind of creepy after 20+ years (and the marriage ended) that my some of my children's aunts and uncles have never met.
posted by readery at 5:45 PM on March 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Depends on your attitude towards debt. My upbringing is that it's never justifiable to go into debt for any reason, other than education & real estate. YMMV.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:50 PM on March 4, 2008

We spent a fair amount of money on our wedding -- about 15% of our combined gross annual income at the time. Aside from a few jokes over the years about things we would like to have now that could have been purchased with our wedding budget, we haven't regretted the expense at all. It's a big, fun, crazy party, and it's hard to find a better excuse in life to throw a big party for yourselves.

I'm not going to even attempt to justify a $10K+ wedding; I'm firmly with you. Marriage should be about the rest of your lives, not one big day.
Weddings are about celebrating your union with family and friends. There's no reason to have a lavish wedding . . .

Please. There are plenty of reasons to spend a lot of money on a wedding. It's a chance to give friends and family a fancy dinner, awesome booze, tasty dessert, good music, beautiful surroundings, all while celebrating one of the biggest days in your life. Is it necessary to spend a lot of money to have a good wedding and/or good marriage? Of course not. Should everyone do it? No way. But it can be a blast for some people in the right circumstances. It's silly to say that there's "no reason" to throw a fancy party.
posted by brain_drain at 5:54 PM on March 4, 2008

First of all, I am somewhat baffled as to how a couple can be making over $150k combined and still be in debt. Perhaps you can cut corners in other places in order to pay for the wedding you both want? I agree that a elaborate and lavish wedding is a bad idea when you are in debt.

10k, though, qualifies as a budget wedding these days (The average american wedding costs well over 20k). My fiancée and I are doing it for around that amount, which is very doable, if you're willing to do a lot of work yourself, and skip some of the pricier add-ons.

This, of course, depends on the size of your guest list. Sure, the wedding will cost more with a bigger guest list, but if lots of people want to show up and wish you all the best at your marriage, is that really so bad?

Plus, as furtive said, you'll also be receiving a larger number of gifts. I don't look at this as a money-making event at all, but I have been amazed at the generosity of people at bridal showers, and that's before we've even gotten to the wedding.

Also, on preview, pretty much everything Dasein and furtive said. The split proportional to income, in particular seems like a fabulous idea. That is, unless you're planning on doing joint accounts after you get married. In that case, who cares where the money comes from, since it's all one big pot?
posted by chrisamiller at 5:55 PM on March 4, 2008

This is weird. Do you guys have some kind of prenup or something? Because isn't his wedding money your wedding money and vice versa? Or are you guys committed to remaining financially separate?
posted by onepapertiger at 5:55 PM on March 4, 2008

I didn't want a big wedding. I wanted something like you've described you wanted. My parents wanted a big wedding. I gave in and let them have it, due to all the reasons outlined above.

I have always regretted it. It felt like a huge play; we were just putting on a show and acting out our respective parts. It was incredibly stressful, incredibly expensive and incredibly time-consuming, and when I think of that day, I don't feel good. My parents really enjoyed it though; it made them happy, and that is why I did it. If you do this, you will be doing it to make your fiance happy, and that is the only argument you can use for having one. There's not really a compromise here. If your fiance offered to foot the bill in exchange for you giving up what you really want, that could also be a form of compromise, but he wants you to pay for half of what he wants instead. (And don't bank on gifts--the value of the gifts we got may have covered half the cost of the wedding. This is not a good reason to throw a party and won't work anyway, unless you have very generous guests).

Regardless of what you do, the more worrisome issue here is that he doesn't understand why you wouldn't want a big wedding. It sounds like you two have completely different ways of thinking. This isn't necessarily bad and doesn't necessarily mean anything at all, but it can also be a huge indicator of unresolvable problems to come. It's very difficult to come to an accord with someone who just cannot even understand why you think the way you do.
posted by Polychrome at 6:02 PM on March 4, 2008

The old caveat is, "A wedding is a day, a marriage is a lifetime." If you go into serious debt from your wedding, that debt will be over your heads, shadowing you throughout your marriage until it is paid off. Financial problems are one of the main reasons married couples fight. As newlyweds, do you really need that added pressure?

That being said, a wedding is also a celebration of your love, and it should reflect that. Despite what wedding planners would have you believe, though, a wedding doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars to be memorable.

Ceremony--Consider marrying barefoot, on the beach. If the beach is out, is there anywhere special where the two of you could exchange vows that has personal significance to you both? Have a small ceremony by sunset, with family and close friends, and then a big party afterwards, for the reception.

The Reception Guest List--do you really have hundreds of friends to invite, or does you significant other feel that you should invite all the family acquaintances, etc. that you barely know, as a social obligation? Here's news--people don't want to be invited out of social obligation. It's perfectly okay to send an announcement to distant family members rather than an invitation to the wedding (they will likely be relieved they don't have to pay for travel and a gift or make up an elaborate excuse not to go). Print up your own invitations and announcements and save a lot of $$. You can still make them look lovely. After all, who are you trying to impress? No one ever says, "Wow, they had the best wedding invitations ever!" Get as many people as you can involved in the planning: making favors if you want them, baking a groom's cake, etc. Get everyone involved on that level and your fiance' will see that you do take this seriously.

Menu--Don't worry about the whole "sit down meal" affair--how many weddings have you been to where your favorite memory is the food? None. Opt for cake and champagne, maybe an open bar if you want to go nuts. Have FUN.

You CAN do this on a budget and still make it special! Explain to your fiance' that you want to start your MARRIAGE off on the right foot, and that's even more important to you than the perfect wedding day.
posted by misha at 6:12 PM on March 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

I agree with Lyn Never about asking about why he wants a big wedding. My wife and I were on course for a big (costly) wedding when she started to get stressed. I asked her what it is she really wanted in our big day, and to her credit she actually took the time to stop and really think about it. She decided that she didn't want a big wedding. (She wanted a nice honeymoon!) We made it a challenge to keep the costs under $5,000.00. We had a very nice, relatively low-stress wedding and reception.

There were a couple of books that helped us out. One is Bridal Bargains by Denise Fields. I was surprised by how many of the tips from the book we ended up using. It turns out that I proposed at a very opportune time for the bridal bargain hunter. (A few weeks before Christmas.) The second book was The Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say "I Do" by Susan Piver. This one is not for everyone, but it was helpful to us. My wife and I would spend an hour or so each weekend over the course of a few weeks going through the questions and writing down the answers. There's a section on money that was helpful in helping us frame and share our respective attitudes towards money, work and lifestyle.
posted by braveterry at 6:18 PM on March 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

From the lavish-for-this-thread wedding perspective: Mrs True and I had a 22K wedding. It was a great way to bring all our friends and family together for a party we'll remember forever. To quote an earlier poster:

It's arguably the most lavish party you'll ever get to throw for your friends and family...and that's what it's really about, it's about your friends and family, and them recognizing that you are getting married. Did you ever wish you could ring the bell in a bar and buy a round for everyone? Well that's what this is, but you also buy the meal and the dessert.

We spent the money on things we felt were important: Location (top floor of a 50 story building with great views). Great food. Open bar for as long as we could possibly afford it. Great DJ. Great photographer. We didn't spend much money on things we didn't care about (centerpieces, flowers, super fancy dress, limos etc). It was a great party that still gets talked about years later and I wouldn't change a thing.

That said - If we had had to borrow a single dollar to do it we would not have done it. Either put off the wedding or spend an amount you can afford. You're in debt already, and it's a big red flag for me that he wants to do this even so and make you split the cost. When you get married your debt will be his debt, and either he's ok with that (which isn't great) or he isn't planning on taking your bad with your good (which is worse). In our wedding Mrs True had some family gifts (which were nice to have but we didn't count on) and I paid all the rest - gladly, since I earned about 3x what she did at the time.
posted by true at 6:27 PM on March 4, 2008

I'm going to address your real problem. Which is that he's not hearing you. If this is a problem before the wedding........?

And that's the exact tact you should take.
posted by filmgeek at 6:28 PM on March 4, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your answers so far.

For those of you wondering how we're still in debt at our income level, it's fairly new to both of us. His income doubled in the last year and mine was raised about 50% in the last 3 months. I also made a LOT of stupid mistakes in my past financially which I am working on straightening out. He has debt but it is much more managed than mine.

We currently split rent according to our earning but he wants to split the wedding 50/50. I think he thinks it will show equal commitment to our relationship or something.

He's explained to me why he wants a big wedding, he says that being in love w/ me is the most important thing that has ever happened to him and he wants to share that and celebrate it with the other people that he loves. And that's why I'm trying to get on board with this.

One major sticking point for me is as much as I love my friends and family, but I don't see why we should throw THEM a party. I'm not especially close to a lot of people so I would imagine in 5 years I wont even talk to the people who we'd invite. He says that just because he's not close to those people anymore but was at one point that that is reason enough to invite them. For example, is an email back and forth every couple of month to someone who was my best friend 10 yrs ago worthy enough relationship now to invite them?

Plus, I think weddings are a sort of obligation to others and I don't really want to subject them to that. We were originally planning on a sort of a destination wedding requiring basically every guest to travel out of town overnight. We wanted to do the ceremony on the beach (free), the reception at his friends winery (cheap) and catered by one of his friends (also cheap) but the cost and hassle of getting everyone down there put the it right back at $10K even w/ the guest list pared down to 40 people.

Am I being unreasonable? I want to somehow feel good about this and I just can't and it's breaking his heart. Ugh.
posted by lannanh at 6:41 PM on March 4, 2008

I don't get the sharing thing -- how can you share costs if you're about to get married? It'll all be the same pot soon enough.
posted by AwkwardPause at 7:10 PM on March 4, 2008

His income doubled in the last year and mine was raised about 50% in the last 3 months. I also made a LOT of stupid mistakes in my past financially which I am working on straightening out. He has debt but it is much more managed than mine.

Fair enough - I didn't mean to be rude. If you now have fairly good incomes and have a good plan for eliminating your debt, see if you can't add the costs of this wedding into your calculations. (just as you might if you suddenly needed a new car)

is an email back and forth every couple of month to someone who was my best friend 10 yrs ago worthy enough relationship now to invite them?

Yes, paring down the guest list is always difficult. I tend to be an exclusionist and my fiancee is an inclusionist, so I can empathize. Some useful criteria:

Family - bite the bullet and invite them. Even if you don't see them except for Christmas and Thanksgiving, it's expected, and it will make your parents happy.

Friends - haven't talked to them in six months? Drop em. Would you be excited about attending their wedding, or hesitant, in that "I don't know you all that well" way? Would they be hurt if they weren't invited and other friends were? Sometimes it's worth adding someone just to keep the peace.
posted by chrisamiller at 7:45 PM on March 4, 2008

I think weddings are a sort of obligation to others and I don't really want to subject them to that.

How many weddings have you been to? People *love* weddings. I get so excited about simply the prospect of attending weddings, that when I find out a couple is engaged I begin to plot my way into their lives in order to score an invite (alas, lack of ambition and time always gets in the way). I've been to tons of weddings and there's really nothing else like them. Dressing up in my finest clothes. Being around family -not neccessarily my own even- just seeing a family gather and celebrate - it warms my heart. Hitting the dance floor with the groom's Uncle.

as much as I love my friends and family, but I don't see why we should throw THEM a party.

Because they love you.
posted by yeti at 7:51 PM on March 4, 2008

1) While I think it is really valid of you to hesitate about the costs, don't lose sight of the fact that sharing the day with a lot family and friends is really important to him, even though it isn't to you. If I were you I'd really focus on cutting costs by making the wedding cheaper per head rather than cutting the numbers too much. But I do think it's fair to tell him "Even though I don't agree, I understand that having a lot of friends and family there is really important to you, and I want to help you make it happen. But I'm uncomfortable with the cost of having that many people plus having fancy caterers/expensive location/other add-ons. If the number of people is what's important to you, I'm willing to spend a little more than I'd prefer, as long as we both work really hard to find ways to make the cost per person cheaper." Is he willing to have a picnic in the park or in someone's backyard in order to have the guest list he wants? I think the most important part is respecting eachothers' desires and genuinely trying hard to help eachother be happy about how things end up.

2) Like many others have said, you are about to be married. This will be the first day of your marriage. How does "splitting the costs" even make sense? Honestly the way it sounds to me is that he doesn't expect you're actually going to end up getting married (or won't stay married for long.) That thing about demonstrating "equal committment to our relationship" by the amount of money you spend sounds like a manipulative and guilt-tripping way to put it (not to mention dead wrong, IMO-- if you are spending twice as much as a percentage of your income, then aren't you showing "twice as much committment" as he is?)

It sounds to me like you two really need to have some good, long, detailed conversations about your shared financial goals (short, medium, and long-term), your plans on how to get there, your monthly budget, and the way your finances will be structured (separate accounts, joint accounts, a combination, etc.) Have you done this at all so far? You are becoming a financial team and you need to be ready for that.

Maybe one possible compromise would be, after you've set your monthly budget together, to look at whatever set-asides/"allowances" you've decided you each should have for fun/entertainment. If he wants to spend more on the wedding, he can take it out of that pool of discretionary money, his personal "fun money" from your joint budget for the next however-many months it takes-- in other words, he's sacrificing some of his fun and entertainment over the next year (or two, or however-long) so that he can spend more a wedding that makes him happy on one day. That's not a trade-off you're willing to make, but if he is, let him knock himself out... as long as it's with his discretionary money.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 7:57 PM on March 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

I also considered having a small destination wedding, but like you found that the logistics of paying for a vacation for 15 people was outside my comfort level. (And believe me, you are the only ones who will truly appreciate/acknowledge/remember the stress and expense of your generosity.)

For my part, I think you can have an exquisite, beautiful, and intimate wedding for under 5 thousand dollars. Like you, I would rather not suffer the expense of a large contrived affair.

To do this, I'm:
-- keeping my guest list under 50 people
-- informing all guests of the date well in advance
-- getting my (baking-obsessed) coworker to bake for our guests instead of hiring an expensive caterer (we'll have our own small professional wedding cake)
-- getting another coworker to play the harp
-- getting married at on a Saturday at my Sunday gathering/fellowship place by the officiant/director (free for members)
-- buying my shoes and accessories at retail department stores instead of specialty bridal stores
-- having the groom and groomsmen rent their tuxes instead of buying them
-- having the bridesmaids buy their own dresses (and considering their finances in selecting the dress)

The most expensive part of the whole thing will be the photography (you can't afford to scrimp on photography).

And the best part is that you can apply your savings toward an exotic, private honeymoon.

And I am absolutely convinced that it will be the most beautiful day of my life. Not the happiest day, not the most romantic day. But a beautiful, emotional day that I will remember forever.

It might help your fiance to realize that although it will be a beautiful day, it is just a Day. One Day. Out of the hundreds of days leading up to it and the thousands of days following it. One day, where you celebrate your love for one another in front of your closest friends.

But it's not the day you realized you felt safe with him, were in love with him, or decided you wanted to have his children. This one day is a culmination of so many unplanned beautiful moments. But alas, it's only one day. (I like the saying, "A wedding is one day, a marriage is a lifetime.")

If you present it in this perspective, it might help him understand that money didn't buy your love (hopefully! lol), and you don't need to spend big bucks to prove your love to one another. Or to anyone else for that matter.

Best of luck and best wishes for your Marriage.
posted by mynameismandab at 8:11 PM on March 4, 2008

Make it 10K and agree to pay him back over time. Compromise means he pays, you pay him back. You can't get blood from a turnip.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:18 PM on March 4, 2008

For what it's worth... I agree with you. I don't care it's "normal" or "modest" these days, the idea of spending $10,000 on a wedding horrifies me.

Affordable weddings? There Are Ways. Evidence / ideas for cutting corners to add to mynameismandab's excellent ones:

I was bridesmaid for a friend a couple years ago. They had the wedding in a chapel the groom had a family connection to; the officiant was the minister from my friend's home church. The bride and groom each had two attendants and we picked out & paid for our own gear. The wedding gown came from a friend who didn't need it anymore--it was free, beautiful, and fit with minor alterations (that, I'll concede, was a huge stroke of luck and not something to count on). A baker friend did the cake as her gift; another friend did the bride's hair and makeup; her stepmother and I did photographs. The reception was at the groom's parents' farm, food provided by his family. Coworkers of the bride gave them a couple days at a bed-and-breakfast for a mini-honeymoon. Total cost to the couple? Around $400. And it was beautiful.

Another couple of friends married last summer. They found a really cool space near their families, sort of an amphitheater with stone benches, and opened up the wedding. Anybody who could get to Utah and wanted to celebrate was welcome. The officiant was a friend from NYC (maybe they flew her out? dunno). The reception was a potluck picnic with dancing. I don't have exact figures, but knowing the couple, I'd be astonished if it were even close to 3K.

I'll tell you, both those couples were glowing and so was everyone around them.

I'm with your fiance on one thing, though--marriages are about the two of you committing, but weddings about celebrating that commitment with people who love you and will be supporting you marriage through the years ahead. That doesn't have to include your husband's third grade teacher. It doesn't have to include a catered dinner at $30/head. Or a thousand-dollar dress. It just has to be a venue for true celebration with the people most important to you. If your fiance can realize that people will have a good time and be truly happy for you at a more modest event, maybe he'll be more willing to tone down the big-ticket items. I promise, your friends and family don't want you two to go into debt (/live a in a rat-hole/put off kids/not be able to afford vacations) entertaining them for one day.
posted by hippugeek at 8:24 PM on March 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

I think this one of those special times when everyone's right and everyone's wrong. You're perfectly justified in not wanting to have strangers and acquaintances celebrate your partnership. You're totally justified in not wanting to spend money you don't have. I'm very much like you. I married 17 years ago for $500 with about 7 guests. 1 is dead and 3 we don't see anymore. Our marriage is about so much more than our wedding (and probably just as well).

According to your culture though (I assume AskMe's pretty representative), it's more than normal, it's a rite of passage for people in your circumstances to have large and expensive (to my way of thinking) marriages. It's in the movies and literature. I can understand why it would feel absolutely necessary to your partner.

It's interesting that with the rent, you guys pay a proportional amount, and yet, he thinks you will demonstrate your love more, if you pay a greater percentage of your income than he does for an event that you're not rapt in. This is going to be a wonderful opportunity for learning how to make compromises and partnership decisions without either of you feeling like you got shafted.

Perhaps you could suggest that paying shares that are proportional to your incomes represents the equity in your marriage, and how committed you both are to being fair. Point out that if you are paying $x for the wedding, that gives you as much right as him to make decisions about how the wedding is, and you can tell him, you can only afford $x, regardless of the way he would like to celebrate. You can tell him that you don't enjoy large gatherings, that you're philosophically opposed to the whole party thing, you're an introvert. Tell him everything, and listen to his viewpoint. And if you guys can't reach a reasonable compromise, I would suggest postponing getting hitched, because it's only going to get worse. The house you buy, the way you raise kids, how you budget. This is the bread and butter of being married and if you can't do it for a wedding, it's not going to get any easier.
posted by b33j at 8:30 PM on March 4, 2008

Make it 10K and agree to pay him back over time. Compromise means he pays, you pay him back. You can't get blood from a turnip.

A marriage where one partner is "paying back" the other? Really?
posted by narrativium at 8:59 PM on March 4, 2008

How many weddings have you been to? People *love* weddings.
Sorry, but I'm in the "oh geez, we've got to get dressed up and eat rubbery food and listen to a third-rate band do cover versions of fifth-rate tunes." Even when it's been a dear friend or close relative, I counted the minutes until we could leave while still being polite. And even though the flowers are pretty and the bride's dress is lovely, a week later I probably couldn't describe any of it in detail if I had to. Spending $10K on a wedding when your whole heart isn't into it is ridiculous. The groom to be says he wants to demonstrate his love for his fiancee via a lavish wedding. Why not do that by taking her on a fabulous honeymoon trip that she'll never forget? A huge wedding that the bride doesn't want isn't expressing anything except the groom's desire for attention.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:40 PM on March 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

This discussion doesn't make sense without some context of how you two are planning to manage your finances after you are married. Will you have joint finances, separate finances, some combo, or what?

That he's insisting on you paying for 50% for something a lot more expensive than you want when you're already in financial trouble seems like a big huge red warning flag. I predict that money issues will be a constant source of tension and fights in your marriage if you two don't figure these things out in advance. How the wedding is paid for could also be a source of long term resentments.

If you guys are already having this much trouble just planning a party, what is going to happen when you have to negotiate more serious issues like kids, house purchases, career paths, financial planning for retirement, etc.?
posted by Jacqueline at 10:24 PM on March 4, 2008

If you are truly thinking that your marriage is about you and the wedding is about your guests, then concentrate on what guests will most enjoy. Great food and an open bar. The rest are all trimmings that the guests will either won't notice or will forget the next day.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:01 PM on March 4, 2008

He wants it to be something celebrated w/ our friends, I think it's a personal thing between the two of us.

Do you really? I mean, if you had plenty of money would you still be balking at a large wedding?

It seems like there are two issues you need to sort out here: 1) What size your ideal wedding would be, and 2) how much are you willing to spend on it.

I would strongly suggest that you treat these as separate issues.

As far costs are concerned, I've been to great weddings that cost less than $500 (ceremony in a park, catering by Togos) and great weddings that cost more than $100,000. My own wedding cost about $30,000 -- expensive but affordable for us at the time -- and I have no regrets about spending the money even in light of the subsequent divorce. It was an awesome day and an awesome party, and (sadly) about the best day of my married life.

If we not had $30,000 to blow we probably would have gone that $500 dollar route: a nice location in a state park, rented folding chairs, a bolt of purple velvet for an altar, all of our friends and families in attendance ... mmmm... if I ever get married again, that's for me.
posted by tkolar at 11:27 PM on March 4, 2008

A good friend of mine is planning her wedding and is in a similar situation in that she wants something small and he wants something big. They agreed that she would pay for the ceremony and he would pay for the reception. It's not 50/50, but they are each paying for what is important to them. Perhaps there is some similar way that you and your fiance could split the individual costs, i.e. he pays for the caterer and you pay for the photographer.

(Sorry if a similar suggestion was posted earlier; I skimmed most of the answers.)
posted by easy_being_green at 12:06 AM on March 5, 2008

He wants it to be something celebrated w/ our friends, I think it's a personal thing between the two of us.

Just wanted to say that I'm with ya on this. I can't even fathom wanting to get married in front of people. I never wanted a wedding, not even when I was a giddy schoolgirl.

So, my SO would kinda like a wedding; I am adamantly opposed. We'll get married privately at some point and then have a big party at some other point. This is still a compromise -- if I had my way, whether or not we get legally married would be our secret -- but not actually Having A Wedding eliminates a lot of the squick factor for me. YMMV.
posted by desuetude at 6:53 AM on March 5, 2008

I may get pummeled by naysayers after saying this but: Why do YOU have to pay for other people's vacations??!

I don't get that at all. You find a hotel, you arrange a group rate, you suggest to people coming to the wedding that they stay there. You don't have to pay for their travel and lodging; that's just ridiculous. Ideally, you should get married somewhere close to where you live so that won't be as much of a problem (spend the real bucks on the honeymoon trip!). But even if that wasn't the case, I can't believe the bride and groom are expected to pay for all the travel stuff!
posted by misha at 9:24 AM on March 5, 2008

I'm in the camp that believes you don't need an expensive wedding to have a great wedding -- but you do need a great wedding; it's something you'll remember forever so you shouldn't skimp on it.

Your original idea of the wedding on the beach / friend's winery sounds ideal, why not do that? (You are not responsible for your guests' travel expenses. Negotiate a group rate for them at a nearby hotel, but they'll expect to pay for their own room and travel; you only need to cover the ceremony and reception.)

He thinks we should both pay for this equally
I don't get this at all; if you're getting married, you're both paying for everything anyway, aren't you?
posted by ook at 10:53 AM on March 5, 2008

Are you suggesting that he wants to pay for travel and lodging for the guests? That is very unusual.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:58 AM on March 5, 2008

Are you suggesting that he wants to pay for travel and lodging for the guests?

I think that was in reference to a small destination wedding. If you get married on the beach at a lavish resort in Jamaica, and expect your few close family members and friends to attend, you often pay their way. It's not exactly fair to say "you're the best man, and by the way, it'll cost you 2 grand for the privilege.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:22 AM on March 5, 2008

Don't spend money on a wedding you can't afford.

This is the bottom line. I've gotten married twice: each time little money was spent but everyone had a great time. Of course, I haven't married anyone who thought "the celebration of our love" meant spending many thousands of dollars; that strikes me as completely insane, but it's an attitude you have to come to terms with, obviously.

But this:

he wants to split the wedding 50/50. I think he thinks it will show equal commitment to our relationship or something.

is total bullshit, and you need to sit down and have a serious talk about finances, completely apart from the marriage issue. Equal commitment to the relationship means equal willingness to do the hard stuff: chores, maintaining both family relationships, bringing up kids if that becomes an issue. People with more money always think that it's not an issue, that people with less should just pony up; if you're going to live with the guy, you have to get him not to think that way. My first wife was a struggling student and then artist for years, and I basically paid for everything; then she got a good job as a graphic artist and made more money than me, and she started paying the majority of the bills. That's how it should work: from each according to their means. If you let him pressure you into taking on debt you don't want, you will regret it, and eventually so will he.
posted by languagehat at 12:35 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you get married on the beach at a lavish resort in Jamaica, and expect your few close family members and friends to attend, you often pay their way.

Really? I've never had this offer made to me. Is anyone getting married somewhere cool? I'll be you BFF and bridesmaid. I'll wear taffeta and a butt bow for any destination in Europe.

In my experience, it's more common to have the couple say, "We're getting married in Jamaica. We'd love for you to attend, but understand if you can't make the trip." At most, the couple might cover part of the trip - a group rate at the hotel while the guest cover flights.
posted by 26.2 at 12:39 PM on March 5, 2008

my wedding was under 3k and it was big and fun and f-ing great. Tons of great people came, we ate great food and had a wonderful time.

I do not get the big $$ wedding thing at all. Does the debt make it extra special?

If you don't want to spend X-amount on your wedding, then don't. If he can't love you on a reasonable budget, maybe he should rethink about what all these dollars really add up to.
posted by French Fry at 1:07 PM on March 5, 2008

Another point: you are going about this all wrong. FIRST you decide on what you can afford to budget, then you plan the wedding to fit what you can afford. That's the way you have to budget for most things once you are married, so now's a good time to start!
posted by misha at 5:15 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

He wants to go dutch for your wedding, seriously, what the heck?!?! That is really alarming to me, his idea of equal partners is not quite right. I would say, for the time being, ignore all the comments except for languagehat's.
posted by zarah at 12:27 AM on March 6, 2008

A little late to the game, but a few thoughts:

- This is about so much (yet not really about the question that you originally asked). The money, the ideas of what a wedding should be, the society pressures and of course, the coming to the first of many compromises in your lives together. I suggest talking this out with a third party. These people might be a good resource for you. They don't focus on the logistics (which cake flavor or color scheme), but rather the overall people stress involved in planning your wedding. The reconciling of different wants and needs and setting the foundation for something that both of you (and anyone else who has a say) will be happy with. I strongly urge you to check them out.

- I, like a few others, am totally aghast at your fiance's suggestion. To me, it would be like saying, "Honey, I want the 60" LCD HD TV" when you're fine with the regular old 30" CRT version. And then expecting you to pay for half of it. When combined with your disparate incomes and financial troubles, this just seems more like a warning sign in general than being solely about your wedding.

- My fiance and I do not earn the same thing. I earn roughly twice what he does and would never dream of "going dutch" with him. To us, being equal partners means we get equal say, equal access and that it's our money. The fact that my career happens to be more lucrative than his doesn't mean that he has to suffer or "pay up" to be equal with me. Obviously not everyone is the same as us, but it's another perspective of "equal" to consider.

- These days practically any wedding is a destination wedding - I haven't been to a single wedding located in the city where I live. So whether it's in the Bahamas, Vancouver, or Knoxville TN, I'm still paying to go and so are your guests. You don't have to pay their way (except maybe the officiant). You can, however, say, "We'd like you to be the best man, but because we're planning the wedding in Nassau, we'll understand if you can't make it." If you plan a year or so out you'll also give people more time to save and plan so they can be there. One of my closest friends got married in Belgium (with only about 6 months notice) and as much as I wanted to go, I just couldn't. She understood what she was asking and knew that not everyone would be able to swing it. You need to have the same attitude if you're planning a destination wedding.

Good luck. Again, I really think you should check out the wedding stress coaching, or at least find some other third party to help you guys address this.
posted by ml98tu at 8:32 AM on March 6, 2008

Best answer: I'm wondering if there is something else at play here. You say your Mum has been married eight times?? Eight is ALOT. I can totally understand you feeling overwhelmed by the thought of a huge do, regardless of the cost because many you've seen your mum do it so many times that the 'public declaration' part has kind of become devalued in your eyes?

Maybe he's nervous about your feelings on how much of a commitment marriage actually is, and wants to have the big shebang in order to assuage those fears in himself or people around you - especially seeing as his parents are divorced too.

I'm also agreeing with all the comments above about being realistic about finances, and what equal contribution actually means, if you gloss over these points now, they'll be back to bite you in the ass once the confetti has settled. You haven't said how long you two have been together, would it be possible to wait a while until you've talked some of this stuff through? The wedding itself shouldn't matter as much as the two of you wanting to be married to eachother, and being confident in each other's view of what marriage actually means to you. Once that's sorted, it shouldn't be too hard to find a solution for the day itself.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:03 AM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

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