Friday, 11 February 2011

why we're spending money on our wedding

We should know better. Every time an article about spending any sort of money on weddings appears in the press, we read it and agonise over it. This one appeared today. We’re already blogging about it.

And worse than reacting – we read the comments below the articles, where folk hold an informal competition to prove that they are more down to earth and spent less than the next person. Then we get wildly and incoherently upset at the criticism. It’s like the Four Yorkshiremen sketch:

“We just went to the register office and then had a drink in the garden. It was good enough for us – why isn’t it good enough for you? Everyone said our wedding was the best!”

“Well in my day, we had got a single cocktail sausage and they only gave us half a pint of Strongbow. Now THAT was a wedding!”

For God’s sake. It makes me admire the Gypsy tradition of telling everyone that what you spent on anything is none of your goddamned business. Because really, it isn’t.

Let’s get this straight. A wedding is a luxury purchase unless you literally just go to the register office and spend nothing else. Albeit a luxury purchase with a little more meaning than a £500 handbag. It’s like a car, or a holiday, or a gap year, or a house. You spend what you want, and what you can.

So I thought I might tell you why we decided to spend money on our wedding. Why we might want to do such a thing. Not what we are spending, but why we are spending it.

It’s a lot of money. But it’s not £21k. It won’t be as much as the £12k spent in the Guardian article. But we’re definitely spending money on it.

Before we were engaged, I thought we’d keep costs down to a minimum. I thought, in my head, we might spend about £3-5k as an absolute maximum. Spending money on something - or not - does not confer significance.

But when we started to look into it, we realised that for this money, we could have a tiny wedding out of town, or stay here in London and book a local restaurant.

But neither of us really wanted that. We have parties like that all the time and they are fun. It would have been good, I’m sure. It just wasn’t what we really wanted.

But we thought about it. What did we want? To be outdoors. Being outdoors makes us happier than anything. Probably not to be in London. Not to get stressed. And to celebrate with lots of people we care about. Music, a hogroast. Some booze. Lovely.

We found an amazing place to get married and worked out how much it would cost for everything. It was more than £5k. But less than £12k.

That was the choice. The wedding we both wanted, or a cheaper thing that would suffice.

Would we spend the money?

It is a lot of money, there’s absolutely no denying it. We’ve never spend as much on anything. We never had gap years, either of us. We don’t own a house. We travel rarely and frugally. And before anyone says anything about a house deposit – where we live, we’d need at least three times this much to buy anywhere, plus liquid cash to pay solicitors. And we don’t want to buy because it just doesn’t suit us right now and won’t for a few years. Yes we could save the money for some indeterminate point in the future. But we could also get hit by a bus tomorrow, or watch house prices rise even further out of reach.

When we got betrothed, we decided on a long engagement so we could save money and I could lose weight (something that was already underway), so we worked out that we would have time to save.

When we told people we were engaged, our parents also made it clear that they wanted to help – we never ever asked for a penny and did protest. But they are excited, and it turns out they’ve been planning for it. They wanted to give money, despite all our reassurances that we were fine.

So we started to think that maybe we could do this. Maybe we could have this amazing, once in a lifetime party.

And the fact remains: if you want to invite a lot of people to your wedding and feed them, you will have to spend money. Because food costs money. And unless you are unemployed or have lots of friends who are willing to spend loads of time making food, this is the way it is.

I read all the time about people who had amazing DIY weddings, DIY-ing their food, having the party in someone’s garden. Well, let me tell you about the people I know. They all have jobs. Their gardens, if they have them, are tiny. They might fit a BBQ for 10 at a push.

I can almost read the comments now. What’s the matter – wouldn’t you be satisfied with a BBQ for 10? Are you an attention-seeker? Do you demand everyone plays a little part in your big charade of a day? Isn’t a wedding just between the two of you?

Well no, it’s not. A wedding is a party because of you, but it’s a day for lots of people. A day for your parents and friends. You might be the reason for it, but it isn’t YOUR day. I don’t feel I have the prerogative to demand that people pull together and take days off work (oh yes, I have a full time job and I work on the side as do most friends) in order to make couscous salad for 1000. We want to throw them a party because we like them, because this is one time we justifiably can, and ask very little in return.

There’s no denying we are lucky. There is also no denying that we want this, and have worked hard for it because it matters to us. We don’t judge people who buy a £10k new car that is worthless mere minutes after purchased. This day will never be worthless. We are spending money because we deem it to matter to us, much more than some shoddy flat in zone five, much more than a swanky new car.

I would never dare to judge someone who got married for £20. I wouldn’t judge someone who spent money on their dream car or on an amazing trip away. That’s why we are spending money on our wedding. But whatever you spend on your wedding is no business of anyone else.


  1. Loved reading this; a well written, honest and genuine post. Though I'm far from planning my wedding day (or even engagement!) I find weddings all too quickly become other peoples' property and an invitation for comments and judgement...

    It's your (plural!) wedding, your money and your right to do enjoy both exactly how you wish,

    Keep writing! Bird x

  2. Yay, but I'd take it a step further.

    It doesn't matter if you hoped your parents would help, or even if you asked. It doesn't matter if you took three gap years and spend all your money on champagne and bonbons. It doesn't matter if you buy a new car every year simply because you fancy it.

    So long as you're not getting your money by stealing or cheating other people, you're free to spend how you wish.

    I know my little bump isn't even visible to the outside world yet, but I know that one of the reasons I have sat through years of crappy exams is so that I can provide a good life for him/her and any siblings. In my mind, that'd include paying for uni, weddings, making sure they don't have to buy an old banger that'll break down on some dark country road, and helping with a house deposit, if we're lucky enough to be able to do so. Financial help is just one of the millions of ways that people show their love, and there's no shame whatsoever in giving or accepting such a gift.

    I only read wedding blogs nowadays when I'm actually interested in the bride. The ones showcasing couple after couple, bleating on about how each one is the most perfect and unique and inexpensive wedding ever were useful for photo inspiration, but now they just grate.

  3. Could not agree more Becca. I would never judge anyone for spending money on something that really mattered to them. Why are people so smug?

    The blog isn't meant to be a justification for us, but just generally - why you might want, god forbid, to actually spend money on it. Not that I'm spending loads, but I will defend anyone's right to do whatever legal thing they like with their money.

    So exciting about your bump! You sound like you are mentally so ready.

    And thanks for reading :)! It's so nice to know I have readers :)

  4. My post was not a comment on what they (or anyone else spent) but that it was misleading to suggest a wedding such as they had cost 12k.

  5. Peacock - I know. I read your blog and am going to comment, I thought it was great. I thought it was more about how these articles are so unhelpful all round - it's no surprise they elicit reactions. I loved your post (it alerted me to the Guardian article) but just had a different take :)

  6. We are also spending money on our wedding. And I completely agree with what you are saying. At first, we got scared when big amounts were thrown at us, but then we realised that it is a day that we WANT to spend money on. Not a day that we should be settling for a budget option that we personally won't enjoy. So now we have our budget and we are happy with it, and it really IS no-one else's business and certainly not a competition.

  7. Great post.

    I get annoyed sometimes by how much people feel they need to prove (to who, I don't know... the internet??) that their wedding is one thing or another.

    We're having TWO weddings. We set ourselves a budget and we're mostly sticking to it. We aren't having two weddings for ourselves- we are doing it so that each of our families/communities can be involved. We're having a 27 month engagement all up so that we can save for it. We're paying for both weddings ourselves because it is important to us to celebrate with everyone that we care about.

  8. Great post - came over via Peacock Feathers after reading your comment there. How a couple chooses to celebrate and what they choose to spend on their wedding is completely up to them. It's a (touch wood) one off event and deserves to be celebrated in the way you want it to be.

    I do feel there is a lot of pressure from the wedding industry, though, to have or do certain things. It can be very hard to metaphorically put your fingers in your ears and forge your own path to ensure you don't end up spending money on things that afterwards really don't matter to you but that at the time you think do.

    I think the most important thing is to look back on your wedding and be able to say "yes, it was how we wanted it, we had a fantastic day and it was a great start to a new chapter in our lives." However that manifests itself is completely up to you.

  9. Abso-bloody-lutely! It ain't nobody's business but [your] own as I believe someone once sung...


  10. Brilliant post! We're spending more money on ours than my frugal self is really comfortable with – but we ended up justifying it by saying the alternatives still cost money and they just weren't things we wanted. Such a tricky area really!