Don't Be Fooled By "Average Wedding Costs"
While doing the research for this calculator I was amazed at how many websites included the average cost of a wedding in their calculations. Some sites reported an average wedding cost of $29,000, and most even went so far as to base the calculated wedding costs breakdown on budgeting percentages for the various categories.
It's no wonder so many couples are spending so much money on their weddings.
I can just hear the typical spouse-to-be, "Look honey, our budget is only $25,000. That means we are saving $4,000 dollars!". Well, I hate to be the one to break it to them, but "saving money" is not applicable to weddings.
In order to actually save money, a reduction must occur in the cost of an expenditure that is NOT optional. So given the fact that costs for weddings are optional expenses of getting married (except for the cost of the marriage license), this disqualifies them from being a source of any savings.
Personally, I see "average wedding costs" as being totally insignificant to the average couple who is budgeting for a wedding. In my opinion there is only one number that should dictate how much a couple should spend to get married ... the amount they have saved up to pay for the ceremony and reception. After all, if they truly want their marriage to last, then one of the worst things they can do is to start out their marriage under the stress and pressure of debt.
Financial Problems Are an All-Too-Common Reason for Divorce
Depending on who you ask, somewhere around 1/2 of all marriages end in divorce (less for first marriages and more for each additional marriage). And among those divorces, a recent study concluded that in 57% of the cases, disagreements over money was listed as the primary reason for the divorce. The question is, what causes these disagreements over money? The answer, a lack of money. Or more specifically, a lack of discretionary money.
Disagreements over money typically arise when there's not enough discretionary income for both partners to get what they want. And the primary reason there's not enough money to go around is because couples typically spend a large chunk of their future discretionary income right out of the gate.
They borrow for lavish weddings, dream honeymoons, and cover of Better Homes & Garden houses -- all before the ink dries on their marriage certificate.
Then, seven years later when the newness of the relationships and the newness of the dream homes are gone, and the memories of the lavish weddings and dream honeymoons have faded, along comes the future from which they have already spent all of their discretionary income. Talk about bad timing.
The Wedding IS for YOU!
If you visit a website that's trying to sell you something related to weddings, you will no doubt read the phrase, "Weddings are not for you, they are for others." Really? Here's what I say, if the "others" genuinely cared about you and your spouse-to-be, they would NEVER expect you to do anything that would put your marriage at risk.
The truth is, "others" will be so busy running their own lives they will hardly give a fleeting thought to how your marriage is doing. Your wedding day affects only one day of their lives, whereas that day will effect the rest of yours. You are the one that's going to have to deal with the opportunity costs of going into debt for the sake of having a lavish wedding on behalf of others. Opportunity costs? You bet.
The Real Average Wedding Cost: $300,000
If you listen to the wedding industry who is telling you that the average cost of a wedding is $29,000 -- which is just an excuse for you to spend that much -- you should also realize that when you spend that $29,000 you are also giving up the right to earn interest on that money ... for the rest of your life.
If two 25-year-olds were to invest the $29,000 rather than spend it on getting married, and only averaged a 6% return, by the time they reach retirement age (40 years later), their investment will have grown to $298,285.82. That's the real "average wedding cost" -- all spent for a single day.
But even worse than spending that money instead of investing it, is if you put the entire cost of getting married on an 18% credit card and make only the 3% minimum payments. If you did that you would end up spending an additional $28,698.27 in credit card interest charges (see the credit card minimum payment calculator).
And guess what you could have done with those interest charges? That's right, you could have invested that money as well. And I'd be willing to bet that you will never be alerted to these opportunity costs from companies who stand to gain from your expensive wedding.
Save the Ticker Tape Parade for Important Victories
Have you ever witnessed a ticker tape parade for a professional sports team that took place before their season even started? Of course not. That's because there won't be any cause for celebration until the team wins a significant title.
So why do we celebrate marriages before their "season" even begins? It's because we've been taught to believe that the more we spend on a wedding, the better our marriage will be. Too bad all of the rich and famous celebrities keep proving that theory wrong.
The bottom line is this, no amount of money spent on your wedding will insure that it will stand the test of time. But you can be sure that going into debt for a lavish wedding will put your marriage at a higher risk of failing. And for that matter, asking others to go into debt on your behalf may put their marriages at risk as well.
But, you say, we only have $300 saved up? Then I say, for the sake of the success of your marriage, you have one of two choices. Either get married in the courthouse, or postpone the marriage until you've managed to save up enough to pay for the wedding that you feel you must have. If you can't save up for something that important, how are you ever going to save enough to pay for all of the other important costs of being married (buying a house, having children, college educations, retirement, etc.)?
Now I don't mean to say that weddings are a bad thing, or that nothing good can come from spending a small fortune on them. My only intent is to offer an alternative perspective that I hope will help to offset some of the hype being thrown at you by those who stand to gain from your decisions. My only concern is that your marriage manages to last until death do you part instead of till debt do you part.