Today I “occupy” Jana’s blog as part of a Yakezie blog swap organized by Jacob at My Personal Finance Journey. It’s my first blog swap so I’m super psyched that I got paired with Jana, one of my favorite bloggers, principally because of her relevant and very honest posts, but also because she’s really accessible (Jana’s note: I think I’m flattered by this. Jury’s still out). Anyhow, enough about Jana If you’re wondering who I am, my name is Nick (Jana’s note: Nick is, incidentally, one of my favorite bloggers. And not just because he thinks I’m awesome). I’m a father of two (and, relevant to this post, a husband of one…) and I babble incessantly over at Step Away from the Mall, a blog about my views on life and money. This post is about how my wife and I (two very cheap people) spent a ton of money on our wedding…
It’s admittedly a bit different than other posts about weddings in that it’s not a checklist of “things you can do” to save money on weddings (but some of you can find things “not to do” from it because it ended up costing a lot of money…). But I’m the one occupying Jana’s blog today and when I occupy, I do it my way…
Later this month “Wifey McGee” and I will celebrate our fourth anniversary. I don’t remember exactly how much our wedding cost (suppressed) but let’s just say I’m pretty sure it was at least twice the national average… We had a huge guest list, and I’m not sure what the average wedding “size” is, but we spent a lot… In fact, we spent money on a lot of things we either didn’t even notice or didn’t care about on our special day. We definitely could have cut some from our flowers and DJ (we now use a DJ who charges 25% of what we spent on our wedding, for example).
But we did a few things right… First of all we had an incredible wedding. My wife was a star! I was appropriately in the background… From what I understand, everyone had fun. We even had wedding crashers who said it was the “best wedding they ever crashed…” Second, we had everyone we wanted there. Third, we negotiated and received discounts on everything we got. But two “big issues” stick out from that lovely day that smacked us in the wallet…
The Issue: Too many people to invite.
One “Big Fat Greek family” on my side and two “Big Fat Extended Families” on my wife’s side. Collectively we have 8 full, half- or step-siblings and about 20 first cousins alone… So just inviting a “first-tier” of family would be big! We anticipated about 450 people if we invited “everyone” from our families and work with necessary “plus ones.” This was unacceptable (to her mostly…).
The Solution: Reduce “categories” and make it inconvenient…
We did not invite “kids.” I wanted to because I felt bad for parents who had to get babysitters. But my wife was against it, wanting an adult-only celebration with drinking and partying. So we “compromised.” (Whenever you see “compromised” in quotes that means McGee thinks we compromised but she actually won completely…).
Result: No kids. We ended up inviting between 350 and 400 people. Amount saved: We estimated at least $2,000 (we have a lot of kids in the family – note I now agree with her and am happy we nixed the kiddos.).
Second, we booked it on Sunday of a long weekend. This cut about 150 people from the guest list for sure. And not 150 of the close ones… 150 of the “cousins of cousins” and “bosses” or “if we invite him we have to invite hers.” The people we really wanted there didn’t care when it was (or where). They were coming.
Result: We had a little less than 250 show up – and each person who came was very, very important to us! It was really awesome. Amount saved: We estimated about $6,000.
The Issue: Having a “nice” wedding!
Definitions! Wifey McGee wanted a “nice, small” wedding. I wanted a “big, but casual” wedding. McGee’s definition of “nice” is the same as mine for “fancy”… haha. And her definition of “small” apparently meant immediate family and grandparents only! My definition of “big, but casual” meant a tent in my parents’ yard and barbecue for 500 people (this includes the kids that lost their invites…).
The Solution: Budgets and written priority lists!
We went the first month of planning without a budget. We figured we had a lot of money to spend and were cheap people so we didn’t need a budget even though we budgeted in our daily spending… Big mistake. Things started to get out of control. So we sat down and listed everything we wanted and an amount we were willing to spend. Once we had everything listed on the page we put priority numbers 1-25 and a budget for each. If something had to be cut, it was the lower-priority ones. Once we were done, we could spend up to the budget for each item and we didn’t freak out. She had all of the “nice” things she wanted and, while I didn’t “understand,” I was comfortable because we had control. Once we got to the bottom of our budget we didn’t spend more unless we cut somewhere else. If there was money left over we either kept it or added some of the lower priority items.
Result: Things like upgraded napkins and seat covers never made the cut in favor of things like open bar for everyone all night. (We had a food and beverage minimum, so we focused on adding to food and beverage items at the expense of other things that didn’t count towards the minimum.).
We spent way more than necessary for our wedding, which would have been amazing even if it weren’t somewhat fancy. But we did a couple of things right. We had a budget and stuck to it, cutting unnecessary categories of “invites” and “things.” We saved up and were ready to spend some of our money and our parents gave us some money they “demanded” we spent on the wedding (long story…). Spending without guilt was one of the rewards of saving carefully over a long time for something we “wanted.”
One thing we probably could do differently if we were doing it all again, which would have saved a lot of money would be the “location, location, location.” My family is north of Boston. Her family is south of Boston. So we picked a place in Boston to meet in the middle. At the time, I didn’t want to make my family travel too far. Reasonable for sure, but we could have moved it slightly south of Boston and saved at least 20%. The real important stuff happens inside the hall. What’s on the outside of the hall is really not worth “paying up” for, if you ask me. We also likely would have had less of a food and beverage minimum at a place outside of Boston. Finally, we could have saved money on flowers and lights, which were very nice, but I don’t think contributed that much over basic flowers and lighting (we splurged a couple hundred bucks for mood lighting at the last minute…).
And, if you’re wondering, that’s an actual pic from our wedding: The last time two cheap people spent like royalty….