Editors note: Advertisers are not responsible for the contents of this site including any editorials or reviews that may appear on this site. For complete and current information on any advertiser product, please visit their Web site.
Aren’t weddings a fairly simple concept at their core? The cost of weddings have risen to a staggering value this past decade, is it worth it?

I’m a Grinch, I don’t like Christmas and I don’t like Weddings, or I should rephrase – I don’t like the commercialization of them. I’m all in favour of celebrating special days with friends and family. The celebration of the winter solstice or Christ’s birthday is all fine and good, just as the idea of coming together to honour the idea of two people committing for life is really uplifting. However, the ridiculous obsession with gifts and pageantry astounds me. I cannot believe how I can open a paper on any given day and read matching headlines to the tune of, “Average cost of wedding now in the $26,000 range” and, “Average student now graduates with $28,000 of debt.” If we are so far in debt as young people why do we feel the need to put on such extravagant weddings?!

Why Do We Ruin a Good Thing?

Aren’t weddings a fairly simple concept at their core? Isn’t the main idea of getting together to celebrate the unique bond between two individuals who want to be together for the rest of their lives fairly straightforward and about as non-materialistic as you can get? Why then do we seek to pervert this pure ideal? As a young person it seems like I am invited to a new wedding every week. For a detail person like myself, the lack of solid precedent or stone-engraved etiquette when it comes to wedding invitations drives me batty! I recently got a wedding invite from an old friend I hadn’t talked to in over two years, and whose significant other I met once. The wedding would be extremely expensive, and I’m not sure I would want to go if it was right next door. So what is the proper move here? Do I send a cheque? Only a card? It seems ridiculous. At what point can you justify not attending a wedding by simply saying, “Sorry I can’t come, I just can’t afford it.” When travelling for weddings the costs add up quicker than you can say, “I Do”. Meals out, rental clothes and/or dry cleaning costs, flights and/or car costs. I don’t at all mind spending money to go to a close relative’s or a good friend’s wedding. I look forward to these occasions like most people do, but I can’t be the only one that has a bunch of “Facebook friends” (people you only keep up with on Facebook) that feel like sending an invite to everyone they have ever met.

Yes I’m Cheap – But Am I Wrong?

I have written (in addition to many other people) that the whole idea of gift giving is inherently flawed. By socially forcing gift giving we are severely undercutting the overall positive utility our economy has. The reason behind this is that other people can’t possibly know as well as you do what you want, so therefore they can’t possibly spend their money the way you would, and vice versa. The overall effect is that over the course of a lifetime you get a lot of presents that you don’t need, don’t want, or are even pretty good, just not as good as if you simply would have bought the exact item you wanted. You will also give hundreds of these presents in the same manner. Here is a revolutionary idea – what if we all just kept our money and got together for the sake of getting together and forgot the whole stressful notion of socially-riddled gift-giving?!

Who Keeps Track of This Crap?

There are so many weird social rules out there that no one can agree specifically when it comes to weddings and I don’t know why we subscribe to them at all. First of all, for guys there is the crazy De Beers-driven notion of how much you should spend on an engagement ring to show how “real” your love is. In an abstract way, is there anything more materialistic than the idea of representing love as a certain type of rock? Seriously though, a mineral is supposed to intrinsically romantic? Then there is the whole “Say Yes To The Dress” movement which has made every woman feel that they have to spend half a year’s salary on a dress they will use for a few hours lest they be considered impoverished by the ever-judging onlookers. Finally, we get to the idea of how much money to give for a wedding gift. Some people say enough to cover the cost of the dinner, but this can be problematic as I’m not sure what dinners cost in many areas. Other people say with supreme confidence that the number is $100 or $200 per person. There seems to be no rationale for this other than that they are round numbers. To me, the logical-to-the-point-of-frustration individual, if I invite someone to spend hundreds of dollars to fly in from out of town, what right do I have to then expect a gift out of them anyway?!

It’s Personal

Perhaps I feel so strongly about the issue because I myself have been dating the same girl for over four years now. We live together and are extremely happy and have committed to each other for the rest of our lives. Society expects demands us to have a wedding, and the pressure seems to be building. While I would be perfectly content to tell the world to screw off, my girlfriend feels some responsibility to everyone else, and her brother and sister-in-law are in the exact same situation we are. At this point in our lives the cost of a “decent” wedding by today’s standards makes no sense at all from a personal finance perspective, and it probably won’t for a couple of years until my girlfriend graduates with her B. Ed degree, yet everyone seems to want a wedding far more than we do. Has anyone else had this experience?

Can someone help out a clueless guy here? I know us boys aren’t supposed to get the whole wedding thing, but I am actually starting to actively resent the whole idea. Some people have parents that will pay (we don’t) but even that seems insane to me. I know how hard my folks have to work for that much money, why should I expect them to lavish it on me for a single ceremony that I wouldn’t even really enjoy that much? Am I just a total jerk that needs to seek help (at least I’m a self-aware jerk I guess)? Can anyone conclusively explain to me what sort of gift a young couple should give to another young couple? Why can’t we all just be economist-minded and simply keep our own money?! If the average wedding costs a certain amount, and we then pay everyone else in $100 or $200 increments over our lifetimes, couldn’t we simply all pay for own wedding and skip the awkwardness of debating over amounts 5 times a year altogether?

Article comments

$-Saavy Wife says:

Our solution:
-Destination wedding/honeymoon in Jamaica. Only a couple family members.

-Economical post-wedding parties for relatives and local friends (because that is where the obligation that I felt to have a wedding was really coming from). The downside is that this only works if many of your friends and relatives live near each other. We had one for each side of my family (flew there and had them both in one trip). Family members agreed to host it at their homes- otherwise the backup was going to a park or renting a space at the state park. Picking up food from caterers is delicious and much cheaper than catering at weddings. We did not request gifts, but did make a registry in case people wanted to gift us gifts. We received gifts, but I was glad that people didn’t feel obligated to give expensive gifts.

-We also hosted a basic house party to celebrate with friends. No gifts expected or received.

Jer says:

I think it’s all case by case basis. For myself, we just got married a few weeks ago, and the total cost was around 50K for a total of 150 guests. I got half that amount from my in laws, some from my side, and my wife and I split the rest. We had a beautiful wedding by the ocean,and a wonderful ceremony after. Is 50K a lot of money ?YES, but i will say that I think it was well worth the money, as the memories will last a lifetime, and we had an amazing wedding experience, with our closets friends and family. At the end of the day you can’t take your money with you, and spending some of your own money on a wedding hopefully will not make or break your long term financial goals. Cash gifts averaged around $100 – $150 per person which I think is more then generous, as we were happy to have everyone there, and any gifts that we got were great. i think if you have to take on debt to finance a medium to high end wedding then it’s definitely Not the right move, however if your family can help you with the cost, and you are in a position where you can pay for a portion of it as well, i think it is well worth it. My other suggestion would be while planning to avoid your parents from taking over your guest list and inviting all of their friends, co workers, associates, etc.. It’s about you and your fiance, and its more importnat to have your family, and closest friends with you. I know it’s hard to demand that when your parents are footing some of the bill, but we were lucky enough to have laid back parents who let us do that, and it is by far the way to go. It changes the party afterwards, and makes it really about you, your friends, your family, and your celebration. Just my two cents…..

Teacher Man says:

I don’t know man, 50K or so when you’re a young person can definitely make or break your long-term financial goals in my opinion. If you have the money to afford a large luxury purchase like that and you honestly believe that will give you the largest amount of joy then who I am to say don’t do it? I just think the vast majority of people are not in that situation. Great point on the parents’ friends list, and yet another reason why the destination wedding might help weed out a lot of those problems. Thanks for stopping by!

dear genny says:

My now husband and I were also reluctant to spendtons of money, this was our cheap wedding :
– electronic invitations, designed jointly with a graphic designer friend : family and close friends received it. no mention of gifts at all.
_ got a hotel that would serve dinner for us at modic prices but won’t charge for a room : the way you reserve a table in a restaurant for a group
_since no gifts were expected each guest paid for their own plate, we just made sure plates.were pretty affordable (under $30 and special menu for us, chosen from the hotel’s menu) we offered champagne for dessert and some bottles of wine for dinner
_we did not plan for a cake but a friend’s wwife baked a cake for us as a gift (lucky for us, a pastry chef)
_a friend and his wife took our pictures (wife was studying photography, :))
_got married a friday afternoon to make sure some of our friends won’t come, bebe
_ also, made sure many of our friends were on vacations : many hotels or restaurants accept reservations for over 30 people without a deposit
_I bought a $500 wedding dress and $20 pair of shoes more beautiful than those wedding shoes of 200
_ my husband bought a suit he would be able to use at work (he sometimes needs it)

it also helped we got married in a different country from our own, so no far related relatives would come, just parents and brothers. by the way I love my wedding, and spent less thn $2000 if you take into account ouur clothes, wine, etc! you see the pictures and it looks amazing 🙂
hope this tips will help someone!!!

Teacher Man says:

These are some great idea “Genny”. Another person for a destination wedding in order to save money. I’m glad my initial feelings were correct on this front.

We have two kiddos and were engaged for the longest, longest time now. Even before kids it seemed ridiculous to spend upwards of thirty thousand dollars on a wedding – and now with the kids it seems even more ridiculous. I mean, there are so many other things that the money can be used to purchase.

We are going to elope on one of our next vacations. I don’t want to buy dinner and drinks for 100+ guests just so they can come and enjoy it at our expensive.

Everyone says the cost are recouped by the wedding gifts – but then, what’s the point? No big wedding on this girl’s plan!

Teacher Man says:

I know, how insane is the idea that the costs are recouped by wedding gifts? It’s philosophies like that, that make me want to tear my hair out.

With two kids I can see how it would really seem small in comparison. Throw that money in RESPs and you’re kids get a major boost as opposed to one fun day/night. It doesn’t seem like much of a decision for me.

crabbymaggi says:

speaking as an old timer, why does anyone think that they have to meet certain standards, Had a perfectly nice wedding years ago that was not very expensive. Got a hi-fashion pattern and made the dress myself, hired a marriage commisioner which allows you to fine-tune the vows,held the ceremony at the same place that we had the reception, and invited family and friends who were important to us(worked out to about 200 as we both have largish families) .Because we felt that we were having a party we did buy the food and the drinks and some single flowers for older family members and friends who we wanted to honour for their presence- Never the less we didn’t feel all stresed out, and were not left with debts, it was just a lovely reunion of friends and family to celebrate a day that was special to us.

My son about 4 years ago got married— we were set to travel to where they were, when they called and said that it was getting too stressful with all the planning and fussing so they were going to elope to home. They came home by car the next month bringing a wedding dress along, and without much trouble in the next week we had found a marriage commisioner, got a lovely park site with an arbour and a reflecting pond, called the close friends and family and got every one to take pictures . The ceremony was lovely and meaningful to those involved, and was followed up by a potluck barbeque and the whole thing excluding the ring cost less than $1000 (including a pre-ceremony massage for both the bride and groom to settle the nerves, and the drive home and back) We have pictures and good memories and the important people were there. I haven’t heard that they have an regrets.
We have also had friends who had big weddings because that was thier idea of honouring the occasion and that is fine too. Isn’t the idea to have the kind of occasion that is meaning ful to you. Meaningful does not equal exspensive.
However I have noticed that it’s a lot easier to call the tune when it is you paying the piper. If it’s your wedding (or graduation , or funeral or whatever) the important thing is that it reflects the desires and world view of the people concerned.

Teacher Man says:

Hey “crabby”

I really like the idea of doing your own vows and creating our own ceremony as well. I honestly like the idea of inviting someone special to you to get their marriage license or whatever it is called online and performing the ceremony themselves. I don’t mind the big weddings as a fun luxury if you can afford it. I don’t think it is a waste of money or whatever because that is totally subjective. I do think it is crazy for young people to go into debt in order to afford an extravagant 1 day celebration.

GS says:

As part of Society, I am neither expecting nor demanding that you get married. If other parts of Society insist, I think you can tell them to mind their own business.

I’ve been common-law for 4 years and there isn’t much about a wedding that appeals (despite being female!) Luckily the people who have asked me about having a wedding do respect the fact that I’m an adult, I can make my own decisions, and it’s up to me and my partner what we do with our time and money. If I say I want to pay off my mortgage, no one has responded “that’s so boring, have a party for us instead.”

To be honest, I say no to at least 3/4 wedding invitations. If I am not actually thrilled that you are getting married (perhaps because we don’t know each other well), if I’ve never met the person that you are marrying (and can’t know that this is a union I want to celebrate), if it’s too far away, or too expensive, or involves doing something that is highly unpleasant/uncomfortable, I say I’m sorry I can’t be there and hope you have a great day. I am sure the couple will have enough support and blessings from the people who are truly close to them.

Teacher Man says:

Another female in my “weddings are overrated” camp. Ladies, I have to admit that maybe I had you pegged wrong on this one! I didn’t think I would get nearly this response. It seems like behemoth wedding industry had me convinced of certain social norms that aren’t the norm at all!

GS says:

Yes, their advertising campaign has been well-funded and VERY successful 🙂

Mikhaila says:

I have no idea about why weddings have exploded into this huge industry, but I think it might be feeding into the “I’m a special little snowflake and I deserve a wedding that people will be talking about for YEARS” instead of “we’ve decided to make a legal commitment to each other and would like it if you’d be there”. If you haven’t talked to the friend in over two years, then why the hell are you being invited to their wedding? Their guest list must be outrageous. Send a little card along with your RSVP (which I hope is “no”), and be done with it. Even though I agree with you that cards are kind of weird and people end up throwing them out anyway (I don’t, card hoarder over here), it still means you took the time to pick one out, write something in it, and send it to them.

Engagement ring spending drives me nuts too – just buy what you can afford and be done with it. OR don’t buy an engagement ring at all and get really nice matching wedding bands. Done.

neener says:

And if you have a girlfriend that wants something big and shiny, get her a manufactured diamond from Diamond Nexus: http://www.diamondnexus.com/?gclid=CN-B4KmlwrICFWHZQgodJFoA-w

My husband and I are both pretty frugal, but he still wanted to give me a fabulous ring. We got a gorgeous almost 2-carat ring (and these arn’t some crappy cz, they’re chemically and geologically a diamond, just made in a lab instead of in the ground) plus the matching band for about $800, and no one can tell that it’s not a $5000 ring. Then I bought his tungsten ring on Amazon for $90, $300 less than the exact same ring at a jewelery store.

I totally agree, buy what you can afford, but definitely look around to see what affordable alternatives are out there!

Teacher Man says:

Hmm… Interesting. So you honestly haven’t had a single person tell you that they could tell the difference? If you’re husband had surprised you with it, could you have ever told the difference do you think, or would you have felt less loved in any way?

Peter Stern says:

Don’t get married. The initial cost of the wedding is only the tip of the iceberg in the total of what marriage costs.

And I hate to say it but it’s men that usually have to pick up the tab in one form or another.

I was married and am split up now. Looking back, I can’t say that marriage provided or added any meaningful benefits.

Yeah… you can pool assets… but you also end up pooling debts. Many men have ended up paying off their wives student loans, for example.

And if you get split up (50% chance of that… and of the 50%, most of the time, it’s the woman initiating the divorce), you are at great risk of paying, paying and paying some more.

Continue to live together… even have kids… but if you ever decide to get married, at the very least, read the Marriage Act, Divorce Act and Family Law Act (that’s Ontario… names of the legislation may vary depending on the province).

Also while you’re reading the legislation, note that the word ‘love’ isn’t listed even once… because marriage is NOT about love or commitment. Legally speaking, marriage is just an asset, liability and responsibility sharing contract where the government imposes the terms and conditions on you whether you like it or not.

Teacher Man says:

That’s certainly the ultimate extension of logic on some level I guess Peter. I know from a historical perspective marriage was more or less just a tool of social stability amongst the elite in order to cement allegiances. You’re correct about the official wording of the legislation, and in the past I think your conclusions would have been very interesting. I think that as more and more women become the breadwinners, that analysis doesn’t have quite as much weight. In my case we will both be teachers, and with the way common law precedent has been going, I’m not certain how much different life would be with a marriage contract. Not that I have any plans of becoming a negative statistic… but then again I guess few do.

Velma says:

I got married 15 years ago. We planned a very intimate, low key wedding due to the failing health of my dad. Our intention was to keep everything simple with no travelling between the ceremony, photos and meal so held it at a local hotel. The entire wedding with 45 guests including the meal, my dress, flowers, tux rentals etc. cost less than $3,000. My uncle and my maid of honour’s husband were the photographers. The meal was brunch, so no DJ. My dad was unable to attend, so we went to the hospital to have photos taken with him there. We kept the guest list to aunts, uncles and close friends since I have a large family and to invite all the cousins would have meant several hundred people. My parents contributed a small amount, and we paid the rest ourselves.

Guests gave us cash, and my mother’s side of the family held a bridal shower for us a month later at the family reunion. Cousins who had not been invited gave us some lovely thoughtful gifts, such as the framed cross stitch with our wedding date and a design of doves.

You can have a meaningful wedding for not a lot of money. You just have to let go of the “fairytale” that gets sold daily. If I could do it all over again, there is very little I would change. I might add a couple of items to the menu, but not much else.

Teacher Man says:

I’m sorry to hear about your father, but the wedding itself sounds very nice! “A couple of items to the menu, but not much else,” – There are so many people who spend tens of thousands of dollars on their wedding that wish they could say that!

Della says:

I’m a woman and I’m sick of this too.

My boyfriend and I are committed for life as well and have no intentions on marrying. Instead of blowing a bunch of money on a dress, a ring and a party, we put that money towards a downpayment on a home and a will. How romantic.

For me what is becoming increasingly troublesome is that as we age the demands of weddings is only increasing. Now it’s not enough to simply have one night out with the boys or girls for the bachelor or bachelorette party. It has to be an entire weekend somewhere exotic.

My boyfriend’s brother is getting married this fall and they are taking him(paying for his portion in addition to theirs) to Vegas for his bachelor party. Then there will be another party in the city for his friends who can’t afford Vegas. There will be the cost of the flight, the hotel, the cabs, the booze, the bottle service, the strip clubs, the dinners at fancy restaurants, the afternoon of paintball, the tickets to see a DJ play. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

On top of that they are going to hold the wedding abroad. So we will be paying for a flight for two of us, a hotel for the week and all of our meals plus the gift. This wedding will literally cost us in the thousands of dollars (insane since the money spend on the bachelor party alone is probably more than they are spending on their actual wedding).

My best friend where I was maid of honour had no less than an engagement party (bring a gift!), a get-to-know the wedding party party (event out of town), three showers (travel out of town for 2 of them – three more gifts and I hosted one so I dropped cash on food and drinks), a stag and doe (out of town and drink so that they can have more money!), had me purchase a $450 dress that needed another $200 of alterations done to it, a bachelorette party (paid for by me) and then the wedding itself was out of town (more money on a hotel and transportation) and don’t forget the gift! They got divorced five years later.

While I believe that showing up and being supportive of the couple is wonderful, I don’t like this new trend of lavishing thousands of dollars upon them.

If it’s supposed to be about love why does it always feel like it’s all about money?

Teacher Man says:

YES! I couldn’t agree more. All that ends up happening is people end up viewing “your special day” as a chore, and that’s the last thing I want. I have heard your story about being the maid of honour so many times at this point. I almost think you should get married just for the sake of giving her the “honour” of being your right hand lady and asking her to throw you 1001 events just so it’s “really special” haha.

GS says:

And there are “traditions” – are they really traditions or did some marketing guru just make them up a few years ago? Some traditions had a specific purpose – a shower was to help a new homemaker collect a few supplies, a ring was a circle, symbolizing eternity (or something like that). What’s the purpose of a stag in Vegas? Why is it different than any other trip to Vegas?

Teacher Man says:

I guess if they have fun in Vegas then it is worth it for those specific people possibly?

Goldeneer says:

Seriously reconsider eloping.

Not only are weddings expensive, they are stressful to plan especially when parents have high expectations that aren’t shared with the bride and groom.

There are good reasons to not accept money from parents as it usually comes with strings attached such as a guest list and requirements.

It took me a long time to justify getting married but ended up saying yes for legal and financial benefits when we wanted to have a family. I’m the bride who pushed to have an inexpensive wedding. We kept it small, cooked the food with family and asked for charity donations instead of gifts. I chose not to get a wedding band and instead use my engagement ring since I’m not able to wear jewelry at work. At the end we spent intimate time with our family and spent a lot of time with them over the weekend event. After this family-caused stressful event for a laid back bride like me, I would have seriously considered eloping instead.

Best advice, only do what the two of you want and ignore everyone’s advice.

Teacher Man says:

Eloping doesn’t sound like too bad a deal, but I’m pretty sure my better half wouldn’t really be up for that. She is usually super low-maintenance, but when it comes to a wedding some compromise will be in order I think. Keeping things small is an absolute deal-breaker for me, so that is where I’m going to push my chips.

Fi says:

Just think about what’s most important to you and splurge on that while keeping everything else low-key. My sister and I each got $10,000 from our dad – we enjoy food so made sure there was a fantastic meal while my sister rented a hall, had a potluck, and spent most of her money on a relatively well known band (out wedding was 75 ppl, hers was 300). Everything else we did on the cheap. Use your friends talents – we asked my sister to make out wedding cake instead of a gift and another friend did my hair and make-up while my mom and her friends arranged bulk flowers into bouquets. And as long as your requests are within reason, it can be a really special way to include people in your day. Just don’t strive for perfect – strive for awesome!

Teacher Man says:

Strive for awesome instead of perfect – I really like that advice! Thanks for the comment Fi.

Marie says:

I feel exactly the same way as you do, and I’m a woman! By “exactly” I mean, that if I had been asked to write on this topic the article would have been exactly the same: same examples, same gripes, same everything! That’s why, if I decide to marry my boyfriend at some point although we already know we’ll be spending the rest of our lives together, it’ll be what I call a “non-wedding” wedding. No dinner, no hall, no dance, no DJ, no gifts and no one except for close family and friends. The average wedding cost, $26 000 is a friggin down payment on a house! How is that even possible unless you are part of the 1% ? How can middle-class couples who have middle-class parents (who most likely can’t contribute financially) possibly afford this, without feeling weighed down under the stress that comes with being in this much debt? I am as baffled as you are, sir.

Teacher Man says:

Thanks for commenting Marie, I’m glad to hear that wedding frustration is getting cross-gender support here. I honestly didn’t think that so many people would agree so precisely with what I wrote. I honestly believed that I was the outlier here since people seem more than willing to continue to inflate the general wedding industry. I have no idea how all this is financially possible either, but I assume it has something to do with the crazy debt ratios we keep hearing about (and which I refuse to become a part of).

Rob says:

We are eloping within the next week or two.

I have been planning this for the last three years. My long time gf (now common-law wife,) does not know about it. I figure it’s time to make it official since she has put up with me all these years.

I hate doing the “normal” boring expected things. So an around the world trip- literally, disguised as the ultimate vacation for just the two of us. I pop the question she, hopefully, says yes! lol We get hitched and have the honeymoon and wedding all in one.

If I am going to be blowing this amount of cash we might as well make it memorable and enjoy it. Once we get back we’ll do a small dinner ceremony for the friends and family back here in Canada… I figure pizza and beer for everyone. I’ll just tell them we are now broke and can’t afford anything else! HA. j/k

But seriously- weddings are about you and your love. So make the best of it and don’t put yourself in debt because of it. Do what you can afford for now. And later when you are able to, nothing sez you both can’t do it again on a bigger scale… or else just buy a big screen TV or fast convertible. (I choice the latter >B)

Teacher Man says:

Seriously though piazza, beer, and a decent song list – does it get much better than that if you have the right people? Good luck with the big proposal!

GS says:

That sounds perfect!

Kait says:

You need to check out http://www.apracticalwedding.com it’s the only way to stay sane in this world that seems to think that you need to buy ALL the things in order to have a socially acceptable wedding. Really great site and has made our planning all that much more enjoyable.

Teacher Man says:

Thanks a lot Kait I appreciate the link. At first glance it seems to make a lot of sense.

Hanna- Belle Soiree Weddings says:

Disclaimer: I am a wedding planner, so professionally the higher the budget the better, since my fee is based on the total budget. But personally, I believe everyone should have the ability to hold a wedding to celebrate their marriage with their nearest and dearest, and that should never put anyone into debt. There are many inexpensive options, eloping being one, but also brunch, a picnic, cake and sparkling wine, or keep it really small and treat only your immediate family and best friends to a nice dinner at a favourite restaurant. The biggest cost is always going to be the food and drink.

It should be up to you and your girlfriend to decide if you want to get married or not, and after a few years, everyone (except maybe your parents) will stop asking when you are going to get hitched. But don’t underestimate the magic of weddings, having everyone you love together in one place to witness you make the commitment to each other and celebrate with you is an amazing thing. Several clients who only reluctantly decided to get married were overwhelmed with the emotions they felt when they finally did it.

Once you decide to have a wedding with your family and friends in attendance, your first concern should be how to make it a good experience for them, whether its a traditional wedding or not. My opinion is that any money you spend on the wedding itself should be spent on making the guests feel like they are welcome and valued, as opposed to making yourselves King and Queen for a day.

And the same is true in reverse. The people you invite to your wedding should be people who love you and wish you well, and usually that means they want to give you something to commemorate the day. Things have gotten out of hand in gift giving anyway, Christmas, birthdays, etc., but the whole point is wanting to give something that symbolizes your love and respect for the recipient. And there should be no “right” dollar amount for that, it should be based on what you can afford, how close you are to the recipient, and what they need or want, not how much they are spending to host the event. It is not your job as a guest to reimburse them for your ‘plate’, they are hosting you.

As to cards, I think that must be a guy girl thing. They are insanely priced, but you might just have to suck it up, because unfortunately a handshake isn’t enough on occasions like this. How about a gift tag?

Teacher Man says:

Haha, thanks for the immediate disclaimer Hanna. I like your inexpensive options, they seem to encapsulate the spirit of a wedding a little more than whatever it is I see on Say Yes To Dress. I’m glad that we can find middle ground in the gift giving is now border on absolutely insane. It is an economist’s nightmare in many ways.

When it comes to cards I’m sure that I will continue to be way too much of a wussy to take a stand against this super weird and illogical social norm. I’ll just inwardly seethe and complain about it on my blog haha. Think about the money you will spend on cards in your life and then realize you could get a sweet cruise vacation for that amount!

BNgarden says:

Re gifts: We usually budget about $150 for a couple we are really close to, although we are older with one retiree. And we only buy things if we know they’ll get used, and may not be something someone would spend $ on for themselves. I have given a box of 10 or 12 half bottles of wine, so the couple could enjoy them over time, and sometimes with a vacuum pump / keeper system. I like a card, the husband could care less. Our own wedding was a Sunday morning brunch at a historic site with 42 people planned in 5 days. (Cheaper if you don’t have a typical Saturday and night-time wedding.) I wore a 50’s dress (rented two, of the two bought the one I wore), for $75. Got flowers but forgot to hold them in any pics. All in with wedding pics (the most expensive part of the day) it was less than $1200. No gifts as we were too old ;=} and have what we need, people’s attendance was their gift to us. There are no rules, but I like to be able to actually converse with every guest. We had a series of dinner parties later with groups of friends too…

BNgarden says:

Forgot to note that for many couples we know now, a gift card to Mountain Equipment Co-op gives them some flexibility in what they acquire and they are all outdoorsy types…

Teacher Man says:

A 5-day planning scenario sounds great to me! I completely agree with being able to converse with everyone. Thanks for the suggestions.

DH says:

I don’t think you should expect a guest to give you more than on average $100 per person so you should plan your wedding accordingly.

Anything extra is bonus.

Teacher Man says:

Ok, so for a young couple if $200 is the high end, is $100 still acceptable?

Marielo says:

Absolutely. If they just invited a bunch of people to get gifts, then too bad for them. We had a wedding and didn’t have a gift registry or anything. Some people gave gifts, some money, some nothing. And we never knew the difference. We were just happy to have family and friends there. Oh and we refused any money from our parents as well. We saved it all ahead of time so we didn’t have to go into debt for a wedding (such a crazy thought).

Teacher Man says:

No debt to celebrate starting a new life together? Obviously you didn’t get the memo here buddy, I’ll have you know you need to start trying to fit in a little more around here 😉

Amandeep says:

Great article Teacher Man! I couldn’t believe it when I read your article. I felt like you went inside my head and wrote this article!

It is true weddings do cost a lot of money and it’s a waste!! Indian weddings are worse we invite 600-1000 people to a wedding which makes absolutely no sense but it’s done because of the parents, the family, and the tradition.

The biggest issue is who to invite? And when somebody is invited they do not want to offend anyone by not showing up. Also, parents do not want to offend anyone by not inviting them. It may be a cultural thing but I am of the opinion that if I have not spoken to you or seen you in the last year why do I have to invite you to my wedding??

It gets very complicated! But I have no choice we have to do it for our parents (and lucky for us they will help us with some of the finances). However, I still do not agree with the idea of inviting that many people (many of which you do not talk to or have not spoken to in years) to your wedding. Then the family politics of inviting every random auntie, uncle, family friend, babysitter etc. that you and your parents have ever had a conversation with!

Weddings today (at least Indian weddings) are no longer for the couple….they are for the 100s of people you invite to your wedding. The pressure from family is there because they want to enjoy a party.

Personally if it was up to me I would have a small wedding with about 100 of my closest friends and family. Why we are spending money on people who really do not care about us is beyond me! Also, wouldn’t it be nice to spend that money on yourself (your honeymoon, a new car, a down payment for a house etc.)

Thanks for the article…..hopefully things change for the better soon!

Teacher Man says:

Hey thanks Amandeep, I’m glad I channelled your inner frustration as well. Blogging is very therapeutic in case no one told you. All I can say at the idea of 600-1,000 people is WOW. That honestly boggles my mind. Invitations and guest lists mean all kinds of social paradigms I have no real grasp of and couldn’t really care less about to be honest. For me, even 100 people seems way too big. I picture 20-25 of us on a beach somewhere in a perfect world.

Virginia says:

Don’t do anything you will resent later. I did a couple things for my wedding because I thought “I’ll regret it if I don’t do this.” Turns out, my first instinct was right. I know what I like and don’t like. I think you should be able to get away with paying far less than $28K. One of my favorites weddings that I attended was at a friend’s home.

Teacher Man says:

Don’t do anything I would resent sounds reasonable. You don’t want to have any of those feelings tied up in your wedding day right?

KarenO says:

Elope or some variant therein. I had spent the six years prior to my wedding working as an event coordinator so the last thing I wanted to do was put on an event! Even spending $10K on a wedding seems offensive to me, unless it is somewhere exotic.

I’d go with the destination wedding and be very clear to people attending that, while you’d love to see them there, you also get that they may not be able to come. We instituted a no-gift policy which a couple of family members ignored, but they gave us cash so we bought a really great Cuisinart cofffee brewer and a high end knife that will probably be passed on to the grandchildren. It is kind of nice to “honeymoon” with the friends and family who make up your life community or own personal “village.” A couple of months after the wedding we took a train trip to the East coast (75% discount on Via at certain times of year) with our own cabin and had a really romantic four days, including tiny cabin fun!

Finally, I rarely attend weddings. I thank and congratulate the people who invited me and wish them a long and happy life together. If I feel like it, I send them a gift. Usually if I know them really well and I’ve seen something that I know they’ll treasure for function or use through the years–I do tend to give really good paring knives! I go to the weddings of people I love and often tip towards whether there will be other people I know and want to see before I buy the plane ticket. Selfish? A bit. But I feel pretty comfortable with it.

Like someone said earlier, too much focus on the wedding and not on the marriage…I’ve seen the seeds of divorce sown during the planning of the wedding day.

Teacher Man says:

Chalk up another vote for elope eh? I didn’t realize how popular this option was getting, but I certainly see why.

Ten K and some where exotic is sort of my line right now as well.

Does anyone have some destination wedding recommendations? I’ll probably do a post on this at some point as well, but if anyone is reading this now and has some great starting points I’d love to hear them! KarenO we are totally on the same page. Thanks for the advice!

The cost of a wedding is nuts. My wife and I went to Jamaica 🙂 Much cheaper than $28K.

Teacher Man says:

Yah that option is looking better and better for sure Mark.

As someone who is getting married next summer, I say, just buck the trend! My fianc

Teacher Man says:

I could stomach that bill. On the other hand if you’ve gotten away with ten years then I should have some breathing room left eh? Great point on socially accepted norms.

We got married a year ago and the finances were a huge stress for us. We did not have parents who were going to pay for the whole thing, so it was up to us to figure out where that money would come from. For about a year or so most of our extra money went towards wedding expenses. In the end we saved money where we could and put more money towards things we cared about.

We did not live together before getting married so we were in a little different boat than you. I can see how sinking all that money into a wedding would be tough after living together for a few years (think of what else that money could go towards!). I also agree that there seems to be a minimum standard for weddings these days…and that standard is still very expensive.

Essentially I have no advice for you…it’s really up to what your girlfriend wants in the wedding.

Teacher Man says:

Thanks for the insight DC. Believe me, I think about what that money could go towards ALL THE TIME! I also love the honesty haha. Basically, sorry bro, this is part of being a man… at least we pee standing up.

Greg Cooper says:

Oh and I didn’t even address your question. Don’t feel bad. If the couple judges you for not sending anything, well, screw ’em. Your family and your true friends should not expect you to give them money just because you’re invited to a wedding.

If they are that desperate for money, well, they shouldn’t be doing the big pomp and circumstance. Head to city hall and get it done.

There’s too much focus on the wedding these days and not enough on the marriage.

Teacher Man says:

Thanks for the backup on the weird gift expectations. I definitely agree on your conclusion sentence. So much focuses on the commercialization of weddings and yet the divorce rate keeps climbing. Connection?

Greg Cooper says:

I just got married a few weeks ago. We had our wedding in beautiful Banff Alberta in the Rockies. We live in Edmonton and have a lot of family and friends in Ontario, so they had to fly to come to our wedding. We didn’t ask for anything, no registry no nothing.

We stayed a week in Banff and had a mini honey moon afterwards. All in, for our wedding, the mini moon, hotel accommodations for the week, going out, basically everything for the wedding (including boarding our dog, so you understand I mean everything); we came in at just under $9000. We had 46 people, and 10 of them were kids.

The ceremony was outside, and that was one of our bigger costs. It was about $300 to rent out the gazebo, $400 for our wedding official.

The Food and Booze were fairly inexpensive. It was approx $30 a plate for food, and the total cost for booze was about $800. All we did was wine and beer. We did all the decorations ourselves. The wedding dress was nothing crazy expensive, neither were our rings. Same with the flowers. We have a friend that did all the bouquets and boutonnieres minus my wife’s bouquet and my boutonniere.

Beyond that, we spent more on our hotel, gas, and going out during our vacation (the days leading up to the wedding. I think that was somewhere in the $2300 range.

Teacher Man says:

That sounds like a pretty great deal Greg. A small destination wedding sounds like a pretty good deal to me. I am thinking about possibly negotiating with a hotel for a big block of rooms at an all-inclusive place and footing the bill for the 25 or so people that would come down. They would just have to buy their plan ticket and I would literally refuse to accept gifts (at least from my young friends that made a pretty large financial sacrifice to come down there). I think that would be a lot of fun and value for the money you’re putting out.

I could handle $9,000 in exchange for a sweet destination wedding/honeymoon like that… I think.

Little House says:

Weddings don’t have to be that expensive. Keep it simple and personal – to keep the costs down for yourself and your friends, have a more intimate affair and only invite close friends and relatives. You can always have an “at home” celebration later for other people – but more of just a party. And, I don’t think you are expected to send wedding gifts for people you don’t know well. Just send an RSVP card regretting you can’t make it.

Teacher Man says:

That’s sort what I think I will ultimately do LH in terms of small wedding and a party after. Also, does anyone else agree with us that an RSVP card saying “Congratulations and sorry I can’t make it” is cool in terms of “Facebook friends” that you are not really close with any longer?

Dotty says:

I’m going to chime in as someone from the other end of the spectrum: I got married *almost* two years ago, and our wedding cost just over $60,000 (gasp!).

Here’s the lowdown. My parents paid for over half (their choice), my husband’s family offered a lump sum, and my fiancee and I covered the rest. I couldn’t offer a complete breakdown of expenses, but I can say that half went to food and drink ($110 plates, which included a 5 course meal and open bar), while the rest was spent on miscellaneous items: paying for the church services, transportation, lunch for our guests (half of our 220 guests were from another province, so after the church service, we provided lunch for everyone), photographer, videographer, clothing, reception decor, DJ… and I’m sure I’m missing a few things.

It’s a lot of money. Part of the reason why it’s a lot of money is because as soon as you say the word “wedding” to a vendor, the price becomes inflated. But not only that, my mom was a bit of the bridezilla (let’s blame that partly on her personality, partly on our Italian heritage) who demanded a certain level of quality at the wedding.

It’s kind of funny, actually. For my side of the family, being Italian, it was a pretty standard wedding; for my husband’s side of the family, being Canadian, it was an extravagant Hollywood affair.

There is a lot of unnecessary expenses involved with weddings, but one thing I refused to skimp on were my bridesmaids: I loathe the idea of asking someone to stand up with me, and then have them pay for all related costs of doing so. I bought my girls’ dresses and jewellery, and purchased them each a small token gift out of appreciation.

Was $60,000 “worth” it? I’m sure many people would see that total and balk at the price. I kind of shrug my shoulders at it. No one went into debt to pay for this (believe me, my parents had been saving for years!), our guests were contented and we had a lovely day.

When it comes to gifts, I try not to hold any level of expectation of what to receive from people. Because weddings are so “standard” in my community, I was generally not surprised at what my family gave (cash), and was quite pleased at some of the creative and thoughtful gifts that came from my husband’s side (like a homemade blanket that we love). I will say that if you are going to give, at a wedding cash is probably preferred simply for logistics (at 3am after an entire day of celebratory bliss, it’s hard to coordinate where things will go 🙂 However, I’m sure the bride and groom will appreciate anything, even if it is just your attendance.

As for cards, we kept all of ours. It’s a wonderful keepsake, and it also helps with my memory… I wrote in each card what each guests gift was, so I was able to write a personalized thank you note after the event. These are my scattered thoughts — not sure if they help!

Teacher Man says:

I appreciate the insight Dotty! I love the fact that you describe your mom as the Bridezilla, that’s hilarious! I’m also glad to hear that as a Canadian male, I might not be quite as abnormal as I thought. I think treating your wedding party was a great move and very classy. I agree, that isn’t where I would cut costs either.

I’m just not a cards guy. I know that I’m too extremely logical for most people to make sense of (ironically) and I think how much money gets spent on cards every year? Is is really more meaningful to have someone else express feelings that you think you should express? If cards were really about expressing our true feelings wouldn’t they all just come blank with a maybe a picture or something so we could truly write what we felt? I picture some guy like Don Draper up in a Hallmark office thinking this stuff up all day and laughing at the whole industry.

I’m truly happy that you were able to enjoy the day and that your parents liked being able to give that to you. For me, if I spent that much all I would be able to think about all night is that I just spent a year’s gross pay (actually a little more) on a one-night event. I couldn’t escape that.

Dotty says:

Just one thing re: the cards… there’s absolutely no reason why you have to buy one. A homemade card is just as nice, and probably preferable. I didn’t get any for my wedding, but the best homemade card I ever received was for a birthday in undergrad, when a friend made me a “Choose Your Own Adventure Birthday Card”; it was hilarious. If you’re so inclined, you could create a “CYOA Wedding Card” — the bride and groom would likely get a thrill out of receiving that!

Also, re: gifts… one of our friends gave us a gift of experience; they bought us a cooking class for two at a local kitchen store. That was loads of fun.

Another friend bought us three bottles of wine: one for our one-year anniversary; one for our five-year anniversary; one for our ten-year anniversary. We loved that!

Teacher Man says:

You’re definitely right about the card Dotty. I’m not a real crafty guy, but that makes a lot of sense, and I love the specific suggestion! Also, sweet ideas on the wine and the cooking lessons!! I’m definitely blatantly stealing both of those ideas. Hey, do you got some more? You should make a blog about this, we’d definitely show you love.

neener says:

I posted above, then realized this was a better place – we got lots of movie tickets at our wedding and loved it! We’ve started getting those for most of the weddings we go to now. We buy them ata discount at AMA and tuck a few into a card, then the couple can enjoy a night out together intead of having tons of towels and kitchen gadgets. Especially nowadays when lots of young couples will move a lot for work, grad school etc, all the stuff doesn’t make as much sense.

Rob says:

BTW the Spanish have solved the who issue of expensive weddings, each guest, including kids is expected to contribute a minimum of 150 euros a piece, so a family of 4 would run at least 500euros, more than covering the cost of the wedding.

And giving cash is my preferred option

Teacher Man says:

Is that solved? To me that is crazy. You invite people to YOUR wedding, only to expect them to foot the bill? If I had to pay that much money (not sure what the Euro is at these days, but it’s still a lot of money) for my family of four to go to a wedding you can bet my family would be “busy” that weekend and making a less formal stop after the honeymoon where I could actually talk to the bride and groom.

Rob says:

I know, the joys of cross cultural living!

Rob says:

Call me old (fashion) but to me living together is simply a stop on the way till you find the perfect girl (guy) and to get married to. Besides that getting married bestows inalienable legal rights, why do you think gays (or homosexual if you’re real fuddy duddy) are fighting so hard to have marriage rights. Yes it may only be a piece of paper but so is a deed or a will. If you’ve decided that marriage is too old fashion than you need to make sure that all your legal/ownership documents are in order. Things like spousal rollovers etc. etc.

But on to your post, was watching a wedding show the other day and couple had a limited budget to work with and at the very end they went over all the costs. 15,000 dollars in total, 4 grand on dress hall, preacher etc etc and 11 grand, ELEVEN GRAND on dinner insane!!!

So the real cost isn’t so much the wedding it’s the stupid meal afterwards.

It also helps if you spouse to be isn’t insisting on a fancy$ 5,000 rock. My wife’s ring (28 years latter) cost $500 because she was frugal and took a cluster.

Teacher Man says:

The really funny thing is that I dislike the vast majority of wedding food! You know what the best food I ever had was at a wedding? When my uncle got a small town Ukrainian catering service to come do it buffet-style. Enough perogies to fill up even a big guy like me, as opposed to half a chicken breast and three asparagus sprouts!

See now to me, I’d rather spend a little more on the rock because at least my bride would have that forever (as opposed to an uber-fancy wedding night).

In response to the prior point about property rights etc. Correct me if I’m wrong, I thought that after 12 months of common-law status you were essentially afforded the same right as any other couple? I know this is definitely true when it comes to taxes and insurance coverage in Canada.

Rob says:

Yes your correct but it varies depending on where you live, on the other hand marriage is pretty standard round the world. Plus for immigration purposes you need a marriage certificate

As an aside in Germany if you choose not to marry and have children the father is required to sign a document stating he is the father, or something to that effect

In the UK and other European countries, where common law couples find they have no rights, the most famous being the unmarried wife of Stieg Larsson, he died and they never got around to getting married or doing a will. Guess what, after 25 years of unmarried bliss his Dad and brother inherited everything.

“See now to me, I

Teacher Man says:

Ah, I see now. I took it for granted that Europe would be ahead of us on social movements since they pretty much always seem to be. Very interesting (and sad/limiting in some ways).

lol. You sound exactly like me and I’m female. Although I am currently in a serious relationship, but not engaged, I find it very hard to justify having a wedding. While I think its great people want to get married, I think its ridiculous how much they spend on the wedding. All that money just for ONE NIGHT. A lot of it is pretty wasteful to be honest: dresses that will never get worn again, flowers/wedding invitations/take home gifts that will get thrown away. Maybe I’ve been to enough weddings that they’ve all become cooke cutter versions of each other. Same thing over and over again. Honestly, I would rather use the money to put towards a down payment on a house or take an amazing vacation. But that’s just me. Maybe I’m too practical. 🙂

Koala says:

Proper etiquette for wedding gifts are based on #1, what you can afford, as the couple likely doesn’t want you to experience hardship due to the gift, and #2 your relationship to the couple and what you would like to give.

There were guests at my wedding who didn’t give anything, but I would never do that. At the very least, I think guests should give a card.

If you want to give a great gift and the couple is registered you can always get together with a group. I also like to look at other stores that carry the same stuff the couple is registered for. I’ve found registry items on clearance at stores where the couple didn’t register. There are things that money can’t buy, you can offer services or make something yourself.

Teacher Man says:

Thanks Koala, I needed someone to give me some solid rules like this. I hear you on the card, and yet at the same time I hate the idea of cards. I mean, maybe it’s just this whole XY chromosome thing I have going, but what are cards exactly? If I just give you a hug or shake your hand and sincerely offer you my congratulations, why do we need a card to somehow convey that same feeling? I think Hallmark has just done a great job of exploiting our guilt. Thanks for the suggestions!

GS says:

I think the card is about having something tangible the couple can look at afterwards to remember your sentiments. There are some weddings that get really busy, and despite their desire to connect with everyone, the couple might not get a chance to hug every friend.

Personally, I think it’s OK to not give a gift if you can’t afford it. I hope that any friends who invite me to a party would still want me to come even if I wasn’t bringing them a present, and wouldn’t think I loved them any less because I didn’t hand them money or an object.

Teacher Man says:

Even better, why not remove the weird social institution altogether?! Statistics show that most of us are solidly in debt anyway and don’t need most of what we get as gifts. With people marrying later and later, it’s rarely like it used to be in “the olden days” where a couple needed household goods in order to start life together.

neener says:

My husband and I get invited to a lot of weddings, and being a new couple starting out, we don’t have a ton to spend on wedding presents. However, I still think it’s polite to bring something, so our go-to-gift has become two movie tickets in a card that usually consists of a handwritten note on a plain piece of stationery. I hate the trite love poems on wedding cards, they’re terrible! You can pick up single-admission movie tickets at AMA or probably from the ticket-seller on your girlfriend’s campus for less than $10 apiece, abnd everyone we’ve given movie tickets to says that they’re the most fun and original gift.

Teacher Man says:

Movie tickets eh? If I combine that with a previous idea about a bottle of wine for year 5 and year 10, that’s a heck of an idea for a very low price. Thanks for the suggestion.

Elope! It was cheap and more meaningful than anything else I could have imagined.

Here are our rules of thumbs on gifts and attending…
Unless it’s local, we don’t go to weddings unless we are extremely close to the couple (or at least one half of it). If we don’t go, we also don’t really send gifts – but we do send a nice heartfelt card. Gifts when we attend are generally in the $100-$200 range.

Maybe someone will say we’re cheapskates, but it works for us, and we’ve never lost any friends over not sending giant gifts or going to tons of far-flung weddings.

Teacher Man says:

Wow… two elope suggestions, very interesting! I think there would some serious value there as well. I’m definitely coming around on the whole “refusing to do distant weddings” thing.

I really don’t get the big to do with weddings either. It should be people you care about celebrating your marriage and not expecting anything else in my opinion. If you need to celebrate with food and alcohol for my wedding to be a good one then you don’t have to come! I think us guys are missing something but it just doesn’t make sense to me.

Teacher Man says:

I’m glad to hear it’s not just myself who is a clueless male Lance!

You raise some good points – weddings can get ridiculously expensive and it’s not fair to expect guests to cover the cost of their trips (for destination weddings) on top of spending more money on gifts. And I totally understand the pressure from family – which is why to this day I wish I’d eloped when I got married!

Teacher Man says:

Eloping looks better and better! Why is it that we pressure people that we love to go through with this crazy materialistic ceremony anyway?

Chris Reed says:

I always look at weddings as a party with a very traditional theme. Invite friends and fam as witnesses to one of the biggest days of your life, and have a hell of a party afterwards. Everything not relating to that? Isn’t worth it.

poorted says:

I agree with you completely – its crazy the number of occasions that pressure us into gift giving when we can better buy the things we need ourselves, and all we really want to do is spend time together anyway. I know my girlfriend is definitely feeling the pressure to get married and have a fancy wedding from her friends and family – and is finding it increasingly hard to just say no.

Teacher Man says:

Are we jerks for thinking this way poorted? It seems we are in the minority.

Charles P. Cohen says:

. I know my girlfriend is definitely feeling the pressure to get married and have a fancy wedding from her friends and family

Teacher Man says:

I hear you Charles. Since becoming a fan of Mad Men I always want to see what is going on “behind the scenes” in advertising. Whoever the wedding companies have on their side definitely deserves a bonus. I mean what else can you say when a group of people like North Americans that are in completely irrational amounts of debt will still choose to spend nearly $30K for a one day event that you get to benefit from with insane profit margins? Crazy by any big picture, logical reasoning right?