You know the phrase “calm before the storm”? That’s the proposal, and then there’s the planning.
I was only half done with my celebratory dessert when the questions began. Even questions from the most well-meaning friends and family made me feel overwhelmed. When? Where? What will you wear? Who will cater? How will you decorate? Colors? Themes? Open bar? Signature drink?
Of all the questions, one loomed largest for Seth and me as we began the planning process: how will we pay for it?
Financially, we were not a wreck. If there had not been a wedding on the horizon, our bank accounts would be in good shape. Part of the problem occurred because of our places in life. I work for a nonprofit; Seth was a college student, and will be again when he attends grad school this fall. Our parents aren’t wealthy, and they are generously giving what they can, but the majority of the bill falls on us.
Our commitment to budget goes beyond what we have in our bank account. I love my job in the Development department of a nonprofit. It’s a private high school for students from the urban core, students who would not receive a college prep education otherwise. Most will be the first in their families to go to college. Without education, their futures look bleak: the average family (about 4.5 people) brings in just over $25,000 per year.
And TheKnot.com reports that, on average, a wedding in America costs $27,800. Brides and grooms spend $2,200 more on one day than our students’ families earn in one year. That’s something to make you reconsider an ice sculpture, yes?
Between the two of us, Seth is the numbers guy. We knew we couldn’t afford much, but before planning could commence, we had to know what we could afford. With his mad Excel skills, Seth crafted an impressive spreadsheet with targeted values for each category.
As we began to put price tags on various aspects of our day, we quickly realized that we couldn’t have what the magazines and TV shows would call “the wedding of your dreams.” But that didn’t mean we could not have the wedding of OUR dreams. This paradigm shift has kept us focused as we navigate what can often be a dollar-sign-driven industry.
And a quick note to brides with a comfier budget: I don’t mean to rain on your wedding day. I only tell our story to offer context as to why we have chosen to stick to our budget. If you have the means to throw a big party, then enjoy every minute of it and feel no guilt. It’s your special day, after all!
In future posts, I’ll share Seth’s and my adventures as we plan a wedding on a tight budget, including venue, caterer, decor, save-the-dates/invites and much more. For those who are also on a budget, I hope that our trials, tribulations, stories and suggestions may help you plan one heck of a party without one heck of a price tag.