A lot of girls grow up dreaming about a big, fancy wedding. However, money is not usually thought about as part of those dreams. The average cost of a wedding that isn't even all that extravagant can cost $20,000 - $30,000. It's quite possible to spend much more than that too.
So the real question is whether you should have an expensive wedding or would that money be best used in other ways for a newlywed couple? It is easy to get lost in the moment and only focus on having a perfect day to get married that will create lifetime memories. When the wedding and honeymoon are over, real life begins. You may soon discover that spending all of that money on a big wedding wasn't the best way to use that cash.
I don't want anyone that think that my views on marriage or weddings may be different from how they are in reality. I've been married for 18 years, as of 2022. I had a wedding that cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $20k - $25k. It was a great day that I still have memories of now. In many ways, it was worth the cost. However, since we didn't have a ton of money, we financially struggled for the first half of our marriage. In hindsight, it seems like the smarter choice would've been to forego the expensive wedding.
Weddings are a very sentimental time, especially for women. If you're a guy that will be getting married soon, you do run the risk of killing the relationship by asking your future wife to get married cheaply instead of the lavish wedding she's always dreamed of having. For anyone that has tons of money, by all means enjoy an absurdly expensive wedding. However, if you have to save for years to pay for it or get assistance for family because it's not even possible for you to pay, you should really consider other alternatives.
Sentimentality vs practicality can be a tough dilemma in a relationship. Ultimately, I would prefer to have someone that is at least capable of being practical and not 100% wrapped up in sentimentality. If you can have a better life as a married couple by skipping the expensive wedding and using the money in other, more useful ways, wouldn't that be better for your marriage long-term?
Half of all marriages in the United States end up in a divorce. When more than two-thirds of marriages start with the couple already in debt and fighting about money is the second most common reason for divorce, none of this information seems to add up. Don't start your life with someone by making a really bad financial decision simply because one or both of you are blinded by sentimentality.
My Marriage Story
When I was about to get married, neither myself nor my bride-to-be really had any money to our names. Our families paid for our wedding in the more traditional way - my parents paid for the rehearsal dinner and her parents paid for the actual wedding. At some point her father sat down with both of us and asked us a question: I can pay for the wedding or use that money towards a down payment to buy a house for you guys, which would you prefer?
Personally, I was really keen on the down payment idea and just doing a cheap marriage. I'm an introvert and not a big fan of crowds, even a crowd of my own family, so the idea of a big wedding wasn't particularly appealing to me. However, my wife wanted the wedding she had always dreamed about. Trying to be a good partner, I agreed to the wedding.
In hindsight, that was a bad decision. Being a good husband would've actually been to encourage the house idea. It ended up taking us nearly 15 years to buy a house on our own. If we had owned our own home for the whole marriage, we would've had a decent net worth at that 15-year mark instead of having a negative net worth. I was able to overcome those problems and make it out the other side with my marriage in-tact, but it certainly would've been easier and much less stressful if we had both made a smart financial decision at the start of the marriage.
Saving for a Wedding
In general, if you have to save money to pay for your big day, it may not be the best idea to spend so much. You should already be contributing to a retirement account each month. If you don't own a house yet, you should also be saving up for a down payment. When it's possible to continue saving for those important financial goals and also add additional savings for your wedding, then it's okay.
Basically, you don't want the cost of your single day as bride and groom to take away from other important savings goals. When you're living paycheck to paycheck already, you won't have extra money you can save for a wedding. In that scenario, you'd be much more likely to stop retirement contributions to save money, but that's a really bad idea.
Being forced to waste money on rent and worry about housing instability for the start of your marriage won't help your relationship, so don't sacrifice the potential to make this happen sooner just to have a dream wedding. It really isn't worth it long-term. Likewise, never sacrifice retirement savings for a single day either. You and your spouse need to be able to afford to live comfortably when you retire, but that won't happen if you don't build a retirement fund from an early age. You should already be working on this fund before you even get engaged.
Alternative Wedding Money Uses
An extra $30,000 can easily be a down payment on a starter home these days, even with higher house prices in the current market. I personally believe that is a much wiser way to utilize that amount of money instead of spending it on a wedding. You can still have a wedding without going broke and make a wise choice with your money at the same time.
Saving for retirement can also see the same type of returns over 30 years as buying a house. With compounding interest and appreciating stock prices, that $30,000 can turn into many times that after three decades. I would even consider paying for an education to get a good paying career would even be a better investment.
The point I'm trying to make here is simply to avoid the same mistake I made. Don't sacrifice something that could really benefit you and your spouse long-term for a single day, no matter how great or wonderful that day can be. It can be a really tough decision to make in the moment and an even harder decision to approach your future wife to make. However, it really can pay off for you in major ways when you get older.
Long-Term Financial Repercussions
Think about this from a long-term perspective. On your 30th wedding anniversary, what is left from your wedding day and the $30k spent? The dress, memories, pictures, a video tape with only one copy that your mom lost (yep that's me), and perhaps a really old piece of cake in the back of your freezer. If you had used that money to start buying a house instead, you'll have a completely paid off house on your 30th anniversary. The house may be worth hundreds of thousands or even a million or two by that time.
On the other end of the financial spectrum, sometimes when a good financial decision is missed, your money situation may suffer much worse than the benefits would've been. I've lived in 10 different homes during my 18 years of marriage. That's a lot of moving! Not only did I miss out on building equity in my house for most of those years, but I also spent more money than I should've along the way.
Every single landlord made it a point to essentially steal our deposits because I never saw a penny of them back, even after paying to have houses professionally cleaned upon moving out. I also lost money simply paying to move each time and spending time moving instead of working. New houses often require new utility deposits. You're almost guaranteed to need to buy things from the store once you realize that you're lacking certain items you had before at your previous house. Each time you jump from one house to the next, you just burn more money.
Ultimately, all of that lost or wasted money can really be traced back to a single decision about whether we should have an expensive wedding or use the cash to buy a house instead. We missed out on the benefits of owning a home all of that time, and we also suffered the financial repercussions by not owning a home. That's a double whammy.
Again, I know everyone's situation will be different and not exactly like mine. However, if you don't have extra money at the start of your marriage and are faced with this type of decision, you're almost guaranteed to be better off financially in the long run if you avoid the expensive wedding. Start your life together with a good choice, and you'll reap the rewards for many years.