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Why I Think Weddings Are a Stupid Waste of Money

Posted: 07/24/2012 10:39 am

People have a lot of opinions about money.

In our "Money Mic" series, we hand over the podium to someone with a strong opinion on a financial topic. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.

Today, one married woman tells us why she thinks that weddings are not only not the best day of your life, but also a huge waste of money.

I'm usually not one to give Dr. Phil any credence; I hate that self-righteous, twangy, moustachioed cue-ball. But he did say one thing that struck me as genius.

A woman on his show was pouring some huge amount of money into her wedding, and as a reason for this irresponsible, childish behavior, she said, "But I've always dreamed of my wedding."

"Well, I've always dreamed of playing in the NBA," he told her, invoking his most patronizing sing-song so it sounded like enn-bee-aaaaay. "That doesn't mean I get to suit up and play."

Point taken. When I was 9, I thought I was going to marry a horse, for heaven's sake. (Wait. Actually, I kind of did that; my husband is 6"4.) Just because we were brainwashed into thinking a wedding is the ultimate entitlement doesn't mean we have to act on it.

I Learned Better the Second Time Around
I've had two weddings. One cost about $20,000 and had 150 guests. It was really fun, and I cut a lot of corners and was proud of how little I (my parents) spent. The second time around, there was no way I was going to ask for their financial input yet again. The total cost was $6,000, it was just as fun, and we had the rest of our savings for the three months of unpaid leave I ended up having to take a few months later to care for our premature baby.

Now, I realize putting those things in the same paragraph might seem unfair, but it's actually the perfect way to illustrate what I am talking about. Because maybe you're a bajillionaire with stacks of money placed together to form an end-table on which you have a lamp that burns $100 bills, in which case, go on with your bad self at Lake Como across from George Clooney.

Or maybe you're just a regular woman who really does have a secret desire for Your Day and you need to be talked down. So I'll say it again: Because we kept the wedding to a reasonable party level, we had a big enough savings cushion to get us through the worst health crisis of our lives (we hope).

And that is the correct priority to keep in mind when planning your wedding.

It Was Not the Best Day of Our Lives
Look, I get it. Any overhyped event can make you anxious enough to turn into a 'zilla of some kind -- I've known Prom-zillas, Christmas-zillas and even a Bris-zilla. You must resist the hype and focus on the fact that no matter how beautiful an event it is, it's Just. One. Day.

I don't know if I speak for every wife when I say this, but honestly, when I look back on my wedding pictures, the main emotion I feel is incredulous -- that my husband and I had no idea of the challenges we were facing, that we barely knew each other, that I wish I had professional portraits that weren't so obviously bridal shots and oh my God, my dress was more low-cut than I realized.

It was not the best day of our lives. It was an amazing party and probably the best day of our lives up till then, but we've had days since that blew that one out of the water. And some of them didn't cost nothin'.

A Wedding Costs a House Down Payment
Enough preaching. These are the numbers. According to CostOfWedding.com, which is produced by a market-research company collecting information for the wedding industry, the average wedding in the U.S. costs about $25,631, possibly more depending on where you live (here in the Bay Area, it goes up to more than $40,000). That is a down payment on a very nice house here -- or the whole house, in large swaths of the country -- and an amount many claim they just can't manage to save up.

So ask yourself: You want to take that amount and blow it on a one-day party, or you want to use it to create an investment that'll end up paying your kids' tuition if you play it right? And if your answer is the former, holy crap. Are you bipolar?

The website goes on to list all the expenses you should take into account when planning a wedding. Things like gifts for the parents, wedding favors, a "traditional leather bound album" for the photos, flower-girl petals. According to the Association of Wedding Professionals, the wedding industry nets about $86 billion per year. That's billion with a B.

That is a lot of people counting on you getting starry-eyed about your wedding. Just like Las Vegas counts on chumps who think they're going to beat the craps table, and the tobacco industry counts on weak-willed copycats who feel rebellious when they emulate Courtney Love.

It's an industry. It wants your money. Don't give in to it. This idea that you deserve a wedding is not the point; of course you deserve a wonderful day. But what you deserve even more is financial security and a debt-free future. So plan a wedding based in reality, and who you are and what kind of wife you want to be: supportive, smart and with two feet firmly in reality.

You're not a princess, princess. You're a smart cookie. Trust me, that's so much better.

Amy Keyishian has been a staff writer for Cosmopolitan Magazine, a freelance writer for Glamour, Self, Maxim and other magazines, and now blogs for Learnvest as well as Recipe.com and Kveller. She lives with her family in San Francisco

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