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.