Your Big Fat Expensive Wedding: Stupid Is As Stupid Does

According to the New York Daily News, Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky spent roughly $3.3 million in 2010 on their marriage celebration.

Talk about a big fat expensive wedding.

The good news is, more than three years after saying “I do,” the famous couple is still, apparently, happily married.

Truth be told, 18 years ago I spent a little over $6000 on my wedding, excluding the Honeybee’s engagement ring and wedding band.

With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to make a quick-and-dirty approximate cost comparison between the Clinton/Mezvinsky and Honeybee/Penzo wedding celebrations — so here it is:

Okay, I know what a lot of you ladies out there are thinking right now: Penzo, you’re a pathetic cheapskate.

But before you start feeling all sad and sorry for the Honeybee, let me just say that we had a great time. At least that’s what we’ve been told — and the photos seem to back that up.

You also need to keep in mind that the massive and incredibly pernicious effects of inflation skew those numbers somewhat. So much so that six grand in 1996 equates to roughly $8700 today.

Okay, so it looks like the massive and incredibly pernicious effects of inflation didn’t help make my case so much. Nevertheless, you have to believe me when I tell you that a big fat expensive wedding is a luxury that is best left to couples out there who: a) can truly afford it, or; b) have wealthy parents willing to pay for one.

It’s true. For all of you other brides- and grooms-to-be, here is the bottom line: Blowing a big chunk of your savings on a big fat expensive wedding is one of the worst financial mistakes most you could ever make. Sorry, ladies.

When people look at a bride and groom of modest means throwing a wedding soiree that would make Kim Kardashian blush, I’ll often hear many of them — the same types who think fancy cars are indicative of a person’s wealth — say how impressed they are with the happy couple. Not me. I always look at those financially delusional newlyweds and think this: dumb and dumber.

Yep. Is there anything more stupid than people of modest means throwing away their hard-earned money on an opulent, yet fleeting, wedding reception when they’d be better served having a more modest affair (okay, that was a bad choice of words) and then using the savings to pay for an awesome honeymoon or, even better, a down-payment on their first home?

Of course not.

And if you think that still makes me a pathetic cheapskate, well, so be it.

Photo Credit: BarbieFantasies

(This is an updated version of an article originally posted on July 28, 2010.)

104 comments to Your Big Fat Expensive Wedding: Stupid Is As Stupid Does

  • For a super multi millionaire or billionaire, I could understand the expenses. But for a relative young couple, this amount (despite who her hubby works for) look a wee bit extravagant!

    But hey Len, they do live in another world and we live in another world! As Yankee fans love to say to Pedro Martinez

    “WHO”S YOUR DADDY!”

    • Did you take a close look at some of those expenses, Mr. CC? I mean, really, $250k for a rehearsal dinner? What were they serving? Gold bullion? And ten thousand dollars for a cake? They only invited 300 people! I could bake a cake for 300 people for far far less than that. And $500,000 for flowers? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just buy a florist shop?

  • Lynn

    Personally I think this is ridiculous. But my dad wasn’t President. I bet they aren’t paying for a lot of it because of the who they are. But in all honesty, I’d rather have a 10K wedding and a father-in-law who’s not a crook! : )

  • I can actually beat you on the cheap front Len! I didn’t want a whole ceremony thing, or to be the center of attention for all my relatives. Texas has common law marriage, so my husband and I went to the courthouse and did a “Declaration of Informal Marriage.” This cost $37 and involved swearing to a couple things, like the fact that we weren’t married to anyone else, and we weren’t close relatives. Despite the name, we really are legally married in all 50 states. :)

  • Len, you beat me and my wife. We spent $6800 almost 6 years ago – including the honeymoon. Hey, maybe inflation explains our higher expense. I am glad you and I did not have to spend money on media consultants and security.

    I don’t see the point in spending a ton on weddings. The average wedding in the US runs to about $20,000 which is also way too much for me. But people make all kinds of spending choices. I am sure that I spend money on things that you or others would call frivolous and vice versa. Isn’t it great that we live in a place where we can make such choices – and where we can pass judgment on other people’s choices?

  • Spedie

    I got you beat, Len, on cheap weddings. Cost: $30 for the marriage license and about 3 gallons of gas, back and forth to the court house.

    I work full time, M – F. Hubby works full time Tue – Sat. We had both been laid off and got new jobs before we got married – so no time off unless we wanted to be shown the front door at work.

    We got married at the courthouse by the Justice of the Peace. No fanfare, and the witnesses were the couple in line behind us. We have no friends or relatives in this area, anyway.

    Now, WE are CHEAP!

    This Clinton wedding is price wise, well, ridiculous!

  • Slackerjo

    The funny thing, okay, maybe not funny, more pathetic, about the Clinton/Mezinsky wedding is the 25K for “wedding favors.” Really most of the guest are probably pretty well off and the last thing they need is a bunch of junk (probably really nice junk)from a wedding that they will be hard pressed 1 year from now to recall details about the flowers or the music or the table linen.

  • Now I remember why we got married in ‘Vegas. We were broke and have a huge family. We would have been in debt for years if we had a big wedding. I wanted low stress and close family and that’s how it turned out.

    We bought $675 worth of rings at the jewelry exchange in downtown LA. They were way nicer than I thought we could afford. The best money we spent was the $30 for the video at the chappell. It still cracks me up.

  • The sad part about the Clinton wedding is that the event feeds the wedding industry. Everytime somebody who’s “somebody” throws one of those highly publicized Roman feasts for a guest list of thousands it cements the practice of the lavish wedding on the masses. I always thought that the Charles-Diana wedding might have been the biggest ever shot in the arm for the industry, complete with princes!

    Let the wedding competition begin!!!

    • Karen Kinnane

      “Talk about a big fat expensive wedding.” Well, the Clintons were footing the bill, with, no doubt, expensive contributions from wealthy friends. On the bright side, look at the money earned by so many HARD WORKING people from this extravaganza: caterers, florists, cake bakers, wedding favor purveyors, jewelers, limo companies, bridal dress sellers, and the spin offs to other working people and companies in new clothing purchased by wedding guests, travel expenses, hotels, the honeymoon must have given a lift to a lot of workers too. The money spent doesn’t disappear, it goes to people who work by providing goods and services for the wedding. People who can afford to pay cash for a wedding should have what suits them. It is DUMB when the couple or the family goes into debt for a wedding which lasts a day, for a marriage which may not last at all. The Clinton wedding took a lot of money which was doing nothing and put it into circulation.

  • Julie

    How the heck can anyone spend THAT much money on a wedding? Sorry, but I cannot wrap my brain around it. DH and I went to the courthouse, found a judge and asked him to sign the license. No ceremony, no bridesmaids (no one gave a crap anyway). DH, me, our witnesses and our three-month old baby. I waited til Christmas for my ring.

    I wonder how many Haitians could be fed and housed for $3.3 million?

    • @Lynn: I’d be shocked too if Mom and Dad aren’t paying for it.
      @Jennifer: Oh, I wanted to get married in Vegas and save even more money – even after the gambling losses, but I was overruled. The only other difference I see between your wedding and mine (aside from the cost) is that I’ve done all my swearing AFTER the marriage. LOL ;-)
      @Money: If you include our honeymoon, you’ve got us beat. We went to Maui, so that was another $4k or $5k, easy. Re: “Isn’t it great that we live in a place where we can make such choices – and where we can pass judgment on other people’s choices?” Amen!!! :-)
      @Spedie: You sound like my kind of woman. ;-)
      @Slackerjoe: I know what you mean. Our wedding favors were a book of matches and a plastic cup full of mints. LOL
      @Bret: I was glad we kept our wedding relatively small too. I think it was just over 100 people. I got the Honeybee’s ring at the diamond district in downtown LA. Dozens of jewelry stores there… I spent all day there looking for rings and had a blast playing one vendor off the other.
      @Kevin: You know what else I’ve noticed? It seems like some photographers and bakers automatically add a 10 or 20 percent premium to their usual fees when they know their service is for a wedding. Am I imagining that, or have you noticed it too?
      @Julie: “I wonder how many Haitians could be fed and housed for $3.3 million?” I don’t know, but if the private sector was doing it, they could house five times as many as the government could for the same cost.

      • “Am I imagining that, or have you noticed it too?”–Absolutely, weddings and funerals! The vendors take advantage of the emotional factors and bleed everyone dry.

      • rhea

        hi len

        i think that the cost of weddings are an absurd waste of money for a party, that very often is not even remembered much by the couple whose event it is (for various reasons). i also believe that people get spwrapped upin the “wedding” and forget about the marriage. so many people i know have started their married lives off deeply in debt due to the weddings costs – on top of any other debt each person bring to the marriage. additionally and sadly, so many marriages nowadays don’t last.

        i believe that if a couple wants to have a big celebration for family and friends, then have it when there really is a reason to celebrate. at the time of the wedding, i am an advocate of a small and very modest ceremony, either in church or before a justice follwed by a nice dinner with close family and a fewfriends. perhaps at a 10 year anniversary mark, or at some other time in the future after couples have weathered storms together and have remained commeted to each other and their marriage vows. then there is great reason to celebrate. i still do not believe in spending large sums of money for that, but at least the cost seems more reasonable to me at that time, so long as the coupke has the resources to afford it without going into debt or neglecting other financial responsibilities. the couple

      • Wow, even more similarities…I wanted to go to Vegas and got overruled. Our wedding was about 105 people.

        Our Wedding favors were little candies/ mints/ hershey kisses.

    • Karen Kinnane

      Julie, Very few Haitians would be housed for the 3.3 million due to the stupendous, monumental graft built into the “charity for Haiti” system and the rest of the Haitian way of life. The money would be funneled into fake charities (by well meaning people) and would go to fatten the pockets of the predators, with almost nothing going to the average Haitian person. Why do you think that the people in Haiti have lived in misery for so many decades? The Haitians are not just suffering due to the earthquake. They were suffering BEFORE from massive government greed, graft and corruption. Better the 3.3 million was spent in America making work for Americans.

  • Jenna

    I think it depends on what is important to you. Big family gathering with food and drinks is more expensive than a cheap, small, dry wedding.

    Personally, I’d rather have a cheaper wedding and a fun honeymoon than anything else.

  • Len

    you think the couple actually looks at the expenses line by line? NO way – probably hired a “wedding planner” or “consultant”!

    BTW – I had no rehearsal dinner! what’s there to rehearse eating..I do understand if you have a rehearsal with your pastor for the part where you exchange vows – but rehearsal for dinner, totally unnecessary!

  • I am one of those guys that spent a bit more than I should have. Oh well, chalk it up to being dumb and in love:)

    After the fact, one realizes that its not the money spent or how lavish it is that matters, but the bond and commitment between two people.

    I hope my kids grow up seeing it that way!

    • @ squirrelers — I think most people are in the same boat, but I think its all part of the experience and everyone should really enjoy their wedding (I would never recommend spending 3.3 million however).

      It seems like every generation gets smarter and smarter and figures out ways to do the same things for cheaper.

  • I can’t believe the homosexuals actually want a piece of this nonsense. They should consider themselves lucky.

  • To say nothing of the divorce costs that will follow in at least 50% of the marriages. It’s like a giant, super expensive toll gate going and coming ;-)

    • @Mr. CC: LOL! Maybe our wedding wouldn’t have had so many flubs if we had rehearsed the wedding vows instead of eating! ;-)
      @WiseSquirrel: When it comes right down to it, what red-blooded guy hasn’t blown more money than he should have at least once in his life in the pursuit of love (or sex)?
      @Greg: I agree. Be careful what you wish for.
      @Kevin: You got that, brother. I’m always telling the Honeybee I can’t afford to divorce her! ;-) LOL

  • If it’s important to you, go for it, spend the money. There are some things I will be willing to spend money on when I get married (BOOZE!) and other things I will not be willing to spend money on (flowers, a photographer, etc.) Everyone has their priorities. I’m just glad my priorities cost less than three million!

  • Wow, pretty good at cost control! We were probably more like $12K about 10 yrs ago. Well, there’s one difference between us, you vs. the Clintons… We paid for our wedding ourselves! And probably came close to breaking even with gifts, but we did need the money up front. Somehow I suspect Chelsea and her beau haven’t earned $3.3 Million just yet.

    • I thought we put on a great wedding for the money! Folks who are determined to do so, can definitely do it – it just takes a bit more digging around to find the right service providers. When the money comes out of your own pocket it tends to provide a little extra motivation, don’t you think, Darwin? :-)

  • Kelly

    My 1999 wedding cost UNDER 5K! Our reception for 175 people cost $1788 for food and drink(soda,wine and beer). That was our biggest expense. My parents gave us 2K for a wedding gift which I used to pay for other expenses such as photography, invitations, favors, flowers,fees for pianist, soloist, clergy, DJ, the cake and decorations. I paid $450 for my wedding dress. Hubby’s tux was free as we had 5 other paid rentals. My mother is a licensed beautician and she did my hair. I did my own makeup. I did have a manicure that cost $15.

    We did not rent a limo or any other transportation for our bridal party..we drove our own vehicles from the church to the reception hall. It was a fun day and over way too quick. NO WAY would I go into deep debt to get married.

  • Len,
    I totally agree with this post. For a couple to dig a deep debt hole as a start for a 30 minute ceremony and three hour reception is indeed stupid. If they have to borrow money to get married, they either need to scale back or wait.

  • I think we spent too much on our wedding, which was around 8,000 dollars 19 years ago. We paid for it all ourselves, and went into debt for it. We got married at 23, so we were young and naive and doing what we thought we were supposed to do. (Which meant inviting all billion of my husbands cousins that we never saw again.) I have a small family, so my side of the guest list was all friends, most of which I am still close with so I don’t regret that.

    I still remember wrapping those dumb Jordan almonds that break everyone’s teeth in little mesh bags and tying it with ribbon, like anyone actually wanted them.

  • In my experience, the more expensive a wedding, the more likely the couple will divorce! Seriously, ten years ago I was planning my own, very modest, wedding (ballpark figure about $6,000). An old friend from childhood called me up and told me she too was getting married. She was marrying her boss (well, okay, maybe that was the problem!) I ended up not being able to attend her wedding on the east coast (I was busy saving money for mine), however she ended up getting married in some castle and registering at Tiffany’s. My parent’s attended and said it was a very opulent wedding. One year later, my friend and her husband were divorced.

  • If you’re a cheapskate, what does that make our $3000 wedding in 2005? Oh well, we had a good time.

    For anybody looking to cut costs or just not go too crazy, my name is the link to my wedding post with all our details, lol. :-)

  • My last comment seems to have gotten eaten by spam blocker…anyway, our wedding was $3000 in 2005, so you are not a cheapskate. :-)

    Here’s what we spent:

    - Apparel: $300 ($125 gorgeous David’s Bridal special, a $150 tux with tails and accessories rental, and my mom spent $25 on all the materials to make my 5 foot long veil…it was amazing and decorated with shinies and fake pearls…the patterns were awesome against the back of my dress and went great with the train)
    - Rings: $250 ($250 for hubby’s band and my bands are from his mother)
    - Music: $0 (my mother set up a sound system with CD’s)
    - Miscellaneous: $500 (reception decorations and the fake flowers used for bouquets and decorations)
    - Ceremony Site and Officiant: $250 ($150 for chapel and organist and $100 for the preacher)
    - Flowers: $50 (the roses that my youngest sister handed out as the flower girl were from Sam’s Club)
    - Cake: $125 (3 tier Kroger’s cake decorated with our light blue wedding color)
    - Reception/Catering: $500-$800 (reception hall for 60 guests and linens were $125, my mother bought trays from Sam’s Club of shrimp, vegetables, meat, and fruit, my MIL baked and decorated an awesome groom’s cake, and my aunt-in-law and my MIL decorated the tables with glitter and little reception souvenirs)
    - Photography: $500 (he was fantastic, stayed until we left, and took over 400 photos)
    - Videography: $0 (But please get one…this is my only regret)
    - Invitations: $100 (made by my mom and her computer)

  • Not a cheapskate. I was married in 2003 and did everything for a cool $10,000. It’s still a huge chunk of change, but if you saw our wedding, you’d have thought it was more. I bought my wedding dress online for $200 with free shipping! :D

    We saved a ton of money by going to a small scenic town and using a bunch of the local vendors. The reception dinner? A BBQ with a guided mine tour ($175 for 25 ppl). Entertainment? A 4-wheel drive trip followed by a soak at the local hotsprings. The wedding itself was beautiful with wholesale roses, greenery picked from the mountains, and a really delicious prime rib dinner ($8/pp) cooked by a New York Chef who moved to the small town because his wife wanted him to (and who was severely undervalued!).

    Everyone had an amazing time, 7 years later we still get comments on our wedding. There’s something to be said for starting off in a sensible manner that’s reflective of who you are. The one thing I wish I HADN’T paid for? A videographer. We NEVER watch that movie and it was one of the most expensive items!

  • You’re definitely NOT pathetic. I completely agree with you- I don’t understand the concept of spending $25K (thats the average we North Americans spend on weddings) on ONE day, let alone $3.3 million dollars.

    That 25K could go to a nice down payment for a home, or a trip around the world, or a nice masters degree etc.

    She’s even controlling the airspace above her wedding location- I suppose that also factors into the $3.3 million budget =)

  • Before we judge them harshly for wasting money, you should remember that they (the couple and maybe the parents too) probably don’t use their own money on much of the items.

    Their world is so different from us, it’s disgusting. I know it is common (at least in some countries) for top politicians to have their (or their kids’) wedding sponsored by companies or other people wanting to have their “favours”. Don’t know how it works in US, but I suppose it’s possible they receive some form of sponsorship for the wedding (is it?).

    And as for the gifts from the guests, there’s no way they’re getting the ubiquitous toaster and knives. Probably they get their money worth there.

    My point is, we shouldn’t judge them from our humble position. I like that you point out that different economy positions influence this decision. Just as we think “What the frak are they eating on that $250k rehearsal dinner?”, I suppose they might also think that we’re crazy to spend 30 minutes scouring for a better internet deal.

    • @Everyday: I think you make a good point that often times we do things a certain way simply because we think it’s expected. Thanks for showing us that we need to reconsider that!
      @LittleHouse: I think that would be an interesting study to make. But I’ll wager there is a grain of truth in your hypothesis!
      @Budgeting: Great job keeping those costs down! (See, folks, it CAN be done! And I thought I did a good job controlling my costs!)
      @Christa: I love the BBQ idea for the reception dinner – and the mine tour too! Where did you get married? I’m sorry you didn’t invite me! :-)
      @Young: Word!
      @Bytta: Well, although I can’t comprehend the costs, I’m not really judging Chelsea or her fiancee at all – they can afford it. I was just using her wedding as a springboard for the topic of discussion. And I’m sure they are wondering how we can feed 100 guests at $15 per plate. They probably think we’re serving Alpo for the main course! ;-) LOL

  • Well, I think I confused politicians to celebrities there (isn’t everyone?). Celebs’ weddings get commercial sponsorship all the time(on the items or when they sell the story); I suppose it is considered as bribery or kickbacks for politicians (although it’s not unheard of) to accept sponsorship like that, no?

    Since wedding is highly personal and subjective, you should also compare the cost of the wedding to their net worth. Even if you spend $1000 on your wedding but if your net worth is $0, you’re a bonker. Compare the Clinton family who has hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and is connected to VIPs and heads of state… really,… no contest there.

  • Hey Len!
    We were married in Ouray, CO (near where I grew up). If you’ve never been you should go! It doesn’t get any prettier than that location. And mine tours are awesome. We DID have one guest get claustrophobic and attempt to call for her husband from about a mile below the surface in a panic…but adds to wedding memories, right?! :D

  • When I first saw the price tag of Chelsea Clinton’s wedding I thought what an incredible waste of money.

    But then I can see her parents wanting to throw a big celebration. She’s their only child and they can afford it. I don’t understand inviting the celebrities (Tom Hanks a close friend?) but understand the motivation.

    My wedding had about 80 guests and cost approximately $2000 15 years ago. It was wonderful!

  • Sam

    Going deep in debt for a big fat wedding is expensive indeed. But if you can afford it, why not? But for those who prefer to go frugal and be practical even if you can afford an expensive wedding, kudos to you.

    For my own preference, even if I did have $3M to spend for my wedding, I’d much rather spend a part of it for a simple ceremony, and the rest would go towards savings and more investments. :)

    • @Bucksome: Two grand for 80 people is impressive! I realize the Clinton’s can certainly afford it. The website Celebrity Net Worth estimates Bill is worth $200 million all by himself – even without Hillary’s income. Put in that perspective, the $3 million price tag seems about in line compared to what the average joe spends today on their weddings.
      @Sam: I’m with you. I know if my net worth was $200 million I would not worry about the price of the wedding. :-)

  • I win. Our wedding cost $3000 but after the cash gifts we paid $96. I wanted to post something about the 3.3 million dollar wedding, how insane! It definitely feeds the wedding industry frenzy, I can see it now: “Honey, I want to spend $100K on our wedding” “No way, that’s too expensive!” “But Chelsea Clinton got to spend 33 times that much, you don’t love me!”

  • I wish I had known how wholly unimportant wedding details would end up being when we were planning our wedding in 2004. My parents generously paid for it and set the budget at $10,000–not including rings and rehearsal dinner and other things my husband’s family paid for. One horse-drawn carriage ride, a snobby musical group, and a pricey reception later, we exceeded it by I’m not sure how much. My mom was involved in all the decisions and we did this together, but I still wish I had shaved at least $4000 of foolishness off that total. The reception was probably the most expensive, and ironically was the part we were least satisfied with. As evidenced by Bridezillas, a boatload of wasted money does not guarantee a happy wedding! We already have two daughters and I hope they’re not offended when we set their wedding budget a good bit lower than our own.

    • @Mrs.A: Hmm. I’m not sure how much we got in cash gifts, but if I had to guess it was under $2500 (and a good chunk of that came from my folks). That means our wedding still cost, what, $3500 or so? Yep. You win! LOL
      @Jenny: You’re worried about your kids being offended if they don’t agree with your budget??? Jenny, Jenny, Jenny! If your kids expressed offense at WHATEVER amount you have budgeted (even if it is ZERO), then it should be YOU that is offended. If you raise them like I am raising my kids – to understand that an entitlement mentality is not only offensive, but outright wrong – I guarantee you that your kids will completely understand and feel gratified with whatever you can contribute (no matter how little that amount may be). And that’s the way it should be. :-)

  • Betsy

    When we were married in 1966, we were given $1000 for our wedding, most of which went to a cross-country summer camping trip, with about $200 or less for the actual wedding (friends made my dress and baked the wedding cake, tiny reception in our backyard.) About 30 years later our daughter’s wedding came in at under $4000…another friend made the weddng cake, friends brought and arranged flowers, everyone enjoyed a buffet dinner after the ceremony, etc. From the posts so far, I think both weddings put us somewhere in the lower middle…and a great time was had at both weddings!

  • J Roberts

    Their money, they can spend what they want. Having said that how different their world is from most of the 9-5 Joe Blows out there. The sad thing is the real folk seem to feel the need to live up to or compete with cousins, sisters, next door Jones or just a plain case of wedding envy with ???. Going into debt for a wedding is never a good idea, if the folks can’t or won’t help out, keeping it smaller in every department that way three years down the road you will not still be paying for guests who you have not seen since, a reception you can’t really remember and the venue that was pulled down for an apartment building (two years ago). The nicest wedding I ever went to was in a local Conservation Area, $100 bbq and tables were already there. The groomsmen cooked, music was on CD’s drinks were in coolers total cost $4000.00 including dresses and transport. Great wedding, great memories. And they are still married.

    • @Betsy: Assuming you spent $200 on your wedding in 1966, that comes out to $1300 in today’s bucks. I’d say you did pretty darn good! :-)
      @J: Well said, sir. And you’re the second person to mention a BBQ for the wedding reception. I really wish the Honeybee and I had thought of that idea!

  • My marriage license was $25 in Long Beach, CA.

    That was quickly made up in that my GI Bill for going to school increased $62 per month (one dependent).

    No kidding. God I’m cheap. No wonder I’ve been married 8 times.

  • Disgusted

    So it’s stupid now to spend more than a couple thousand dollars on a wedding?!? I’m surprised by how judgmental all of you are… Why don’t you find something better to do with your time than compare who can do the cheapest wedding. No one cares. If you have the money who cares? At least they’re keeping some people in business for the time being.

  • from Len: @Mike: Anybody who has been married eight times can’t possibly be cheap; marriage is a very expensive proposition, regardless of how much you spend on the ceremony and reception. Right?

    Right about that Len. Especially opportunity cost. But along with my first divorce, that also was under $100. While walking with my girlfriend in Westwood, we went into a bookstore and bought a package on “how to do your own divorce”. She was pretty smart, I wish I’d marry her.

    And with my second wife, she actually paid for my suit, her ring, and come to think of it, she paid for the divorce too.

  • Olivia

    25 years ago we wed, with a church wedding, organist, and preacher doing the deed. My mom made the food for the reception (she purchased a bunch of serving pieces for it and bought linens) and for a second more intimate dinner for out of town family, we got our wedding duds at thrift/vintge stores. My uncle made the (professional looking) cake as his gift, a friend did the photos (for food, at cost), a sister in law made chocolate favors as her gift. We got our rings at a super going out of business sale, and honeymooned at a little place at the Jersey shore in March for $6 a night. Pizza for the rehersal dinner. Pre wedding physicals and marriage liscence too. The invitations and stamps were by far the biggest hit. All told it came to $2000. (Mom spent $1000). I dunno, we had a great time and we’re very pleased with the results.

  • Wow. Is the only thing I can say. Way to go on saving for your wedding and I’m sure your ceremony was just as beautiful!

  • stephanie

    weddings have gotten as out of hand as the divorce that follows them

  • I think most women would want a Clinton wedding for themselves…but it’s just too expensive. And wow, they are spending $2000 in tents alone. Hey len, I don’t pity you. In fact you are very practical. My husband and I spent just right for our wedding. The wedding car was borrowed from a well-to-do cousin, the flowers were bought in bulk and my best friend had most things arrnaged for me. For those who want to have a beautiful but very cheap wedding, there are so many wedding sites on the net which can give you ideas. From lovely invitations to wedding trinkets they have the steps on how to do it yourself. Don’t mind that it’s cheap as long as you have a debt free future ahead of you. Plus you will make yourself proud if you managed to pull off things quite perfectly.@Kevin Yeah I thought so too about Charles and Diana but the wedding ended miserably. I hope this new couple won’t end up divorcing themselves after this big fat expensive wedding.

    • Thanks for your support! I agree that very nice weddings and receptions can be had on a reasonable budget. I think the trick is to do lots and lots of comparison shopping.

  • Mary

    My first wedding was modest. I’m not sure how much we spent but doubt it was over $5000 plus the honeymoon. That marriage lasted 7 years. The second time I eloped in Vegas and we’re going on 14 years. Eloping was so much better. No stress at all – wedding and honeymoon in one! Even planning a modest wedding can be very stressful and cause a lot of fights between the couple (mine sure did). Young couples spend so much time focusing on the wedding and not enough figuring out what marriage really entails. They go into it thinking the marriage is a continuation of the fairy tale wedding and are in for a very rude shock when the truth hits. :)

    • Len Penzo

      Very interesting, Mary. So should I conclude that the success of a marriage will be inversely proportional to the cost of the wedding? ;-)

  • BubamaraMama

    I think anyone spending more than a month’s rent on a wedding is stupid/crazy. If my parents or anyone else had wanted to spend $6K or more on my wedding, I WOULDN”T LET THEM. What a waste!! It’s a ten minute ceremony and a small party afterward. What in the world makes people think they need to spend so much?!?! I would ask they let me/us spend the money on a car, furniture, or down payment on a home..all of which would last for many years, not a few hours at most! Crazy. My first wedding was a country quilts and wildflowers theme in a tiny country church (white clapboard and all). Total cost about $400. My mother and friends made the food. I wore her old dress and sewed my sister’s bridesmaid dress. My husband wore his military uniform and his brother wore his regular church suit. We paid for some backup flowers just in case (used tons of BEAUTIFUL wildflowers gathered for free), photography (friend gave a cut rate), and stationery. Because the church used to be a Baptist church, the reception held afterward at the same location was prohibited from alcohol and dancing :) hehe. We were married in the morning as well, so that worked out well for expectations of dinner or drinks. Nope, a brunchy buffet and lovely daisy decorated cake. Almost EVERYTHING was donated/borrowed/given. And many guests, including some very wealthy folks, said it was the most beautiful wedding they had ever been to. So there. No need to go out of your way or put anyone into debt or spend money that could be put to much better use by a young couple starting out!! I’m very practical, I know. ;)
    My second wedding was tiny, in a public water-side park, with a friend officiating. I already had a nice dress, picked out a bouquet from a catalog and had a local florist replicate it to match the dress (the only expense other than dinner afterward!). Again, lovely, beautiful, meaningful, and for less than $100. This tradition of expensive weddings, especially for anyone less well off than celebrities and royalty, is for the birds.

  • bjp

    When my husband and I were married 16 years ago we had a wedding in the park and a party afterwards in a rented hall. Total cost (including rings, outfits, dj & food) $550. We received more in cash gifts then we paid out. My husband to this day is quite proud that we “made a profit” on our wedding :).

  • Life Insurance

    Yeah interesting one, I have seems some really crazy weddings over the years, it is amazing how some people spend so much money on them.

  • For what it is worth…Partners want their marriage ceremony to show their style as well as leaving their party guests with a great experience. The very last thing a happy couple want to stress about is paying out a bundle of funds on wedding favors. Thank you.

  • loyda

    Interesting article and loved all the feedback. But comparing these two weddings just doesn’t work. Most of theses types of couples (oober wealthy) don’t necessarily pay for even half of the amount of what is published. Most get there wedding paid for in trade of advertising ! Example – the K wedding. $20,000 wedding cake was “donated” I like to say traded for free advertising. What business wouldn’t donate there work to get this much advertising?

  • Bill

    Fair enough! I think sinking the money into a nicer home, especially when you are first starting out is far more wiser. 8k for a day? Really? I know it’s romantic and all that…but I think having a nice house is much more romantic anytime!

  • sandra

    I love this post

  • “I know what a lot of you ladies out there are thinking right now: what a pathetic cheapskate.”

    Not me! I was thinking, “Ha ha, we beat you!”

    Of course, lots of your other commenters spent way less than we did–but many of them spent only the minimum needed to get themselves legally married. We waned to have an actual wedding, with our friends and families present, but not totally deplete our savings (or, God forbid, borrow money) to do it. So we married at a state park ($50 for the permit). My husband wore his “good suit,” and my wedding dress was a bodice bought from a vendor on eBay and a simple A-line skirt made by my mother-in-law. Our photographer friends provided photos at cost as their gift to us, our musician friends brought their instruments, and all the flowers came from the local farmers’ market. The biggest expense was the catering ($11 a head, which included the *most fabulous* wedding cake I’ve ever tasted), but I considered it well worth it to avoid the hassle of trying to prepare it all ourselves when we had so much else to do. All told, we spent about $2700 on the wedding, $3300 if you include the honeymoon (just five days in Amish country). And our guests still reminisce fondly about it, so I guess they had a good time. :-)

    • Len Penzo

      My sister and her hubby got married in a very small wedding “on the cheap” at Yosemite in California. It was absolutely gorgeous. I’m not sure how much she spent, but it couldn’t have more than $1000 total.

  • That’s a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a wedding. I had a great wedding but we were frugal. My only regret was not getting cake insurance because our cake turned out to be a disaster. But, being realistic will lead to not overspending on your wedding.

  • Wow. That makes me apprreicate that I got married once for $25 and then my second one was $75. But neither one worked out. Maybe my next one I will spend enough money to make me go bankrupt then maybe the marriage will work.

  • Lisa

    We had a wedding in a beautiful Victorian mansion in Sonoma, CA — with a sit down formal dinner for 32 [which was the maximum occupancy of the place]. The trick was, we did it 50+ miles away from where most of our friends and family lived — and we did it on a Friday. We invited everyone we knew, and let people self-select who cared enough to make it. The whole thing including an overnight room at the Manor was about $6,000 in 1998.

  • Earl W.

    It seems the era of expensive weddings is back, and I just don’t understand it. When I was married over a decade and a half ago, we spent roughly $5000 (not including wedding bands). Our logic was we can have a nice event little in our church rec center, and enjoy a really nice honeymoon (Fiji). Or we can enjoy a super fancy wedding, and a modest honeymoon. But that we were not going to go into debt over our wedding. Most of our friends of the time did something along the same lines at the time. In recent years all the weddings I’ve been to have been lavish affairs at fancy country clubs or high end hotels. On some level that is no doubt a result of in the 90s our circle of friends all young 20-somethings, and now as 40-somethings there’s better jobs and bigger savings accounts for friends just getting married now (of for those whose kids are starting to marry). But I still don’t understand spending like $30,000 on one day. Some of the most touching ceremonies I’ve been to have been really simple, and some of the funnest receptions had little more than a keg of beer and a friends stereo system.

  • i couldn’t agree more len. i do wedding makeup so i go to allot of weddings and can say hands down that the best weddings i have gone to were not necessarily the most extravagant. frankly, i think if they are too ostentatious the guests can’t have a good time… they are too worried about acting “Proper” to enjoy their selves!

  • Vanessa Lee

    A lot of people where I come from use weddings to showoff. Its not simply to show that you lve your wife but people arning ess than $40k/year are gving away puppies as wedding favours..ridiculous, useless and definitely a waste of money. A lot of things can be cut down and nowadays so many beautiful and good quality items can be bought for cheap b researchng online.

  • TLSF

    In 2002, my husband and I spent $5,600.00 on our wedding and reception. We had 123 guests at our wedding in a picturesque little chapel. Our reception was a one-fee deal that included a light buffet, wedding cake, grooms cake, and an ice sculpture of our choice. My parents wrote me a check for $2000.00 and said that we could use that money to elope, plan a wedding for that amount, or add to it out of our own pockets.

    • Len Penzo

      Your parents are smart people, TLSF. I plan on giving my kids almost the exact same option — but I will give them an additional option for the money: use it to get a head start on a new home.

  • Truth, Len! I think an affordable wedding brings as much joy as an opulent one. That said, I think there’s a limit to the benefits of frugality, and would still urge any couple to have a wedding and reception, as that sort of experience is one of the best uses of money. Spending money on meaningful experiences increases happiness, and isn’t that what it’s all about? Still, the $10k wedding will make you just as happy as the one that puts you in debt for the next 5 years (and when you consider how miserable debt is, probably a lot happier).

  • I agree with you 100%, Len. I think couples who go all out on a wedding they cannot afford are crazy! It is just not worth it to me. I would much rather have a house that I can call my own someday than a wedding that is only going to last a couple of hours. When we got married we spent less than $100 for my dress, $250 for flowers, his suit was under $100, and we were married at the church and used their reception hall. His uncle took photos for free, a family friend videotaped the wedding for free, and my grandmother baked our wedding cake. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I don’t care if people want to call me cheap either. I’ve been called worse. lol ;)

  • This was pretty amazing. We also got married in 1996, spent approximately $10k on our wedding (including the honeymoon). We spent more on food than you (it was the bulk of the cost, about half) but my wedding band was $125.

    I bought my dress, my mother bought the invitations, my husband paid for everything else (he was the one who wanted the wedding, I was happy with a trip to Las Vegas).

  • David C.

    Our wedding twelve years ago probably cost us about $1,000 dollars or so.

    The divorce last year cost substantially more. LOL

  • DrewShock

    Len it’s all relative. I think you spent way too much on your wedding. I could think of a lot things to do with 6K instead of blowing it on basically a big party and jewelry. Of course I’m not married, came close and thought the $1200 engagement ring was too much. But to each there own. Blow your money on whatever tickles your fancy.

  • I was at your wedding, Len, all those many years ago. I remember that Wendi and I had a great time . It’s all about the people and the love in the air that make the event, not the venue. I had a friend who had to file bankruptcy after splurging on an expensive wedding. I think I am going to advise my kids to keep it simple…we have a nice backyard, so a garden wedding would be nice.

  • happy husband

    6K for a wedding? Extravagance!!

    I spent less than $100 to rent the North Berkeley Senior Citizens Center for the afternoon. About $2K at the restaurant where we had our dinner with guests. Less than $200 for the two rings (it was in 1999 before gold went sky high). Flowers and a few other things. Maybe $3k altogether.

    Still married.

    I’m lucky, my wife is more frugal than I.

  • Fencedin

    One shopping tip: when you look at places to have the wedding reception, don’t say it’s for a wedding. The prices quoted for a nice dinner party are a lot cheaper. Say the word wedding, and the price goes up exponentially.

  • You wedding is pretty much how I’d have it, one day maybe; frugal but no doubt a lovely, big occasion.
    Their wedding sounds like hell; enough money to feed a hungry city for a week and too big and flashy. Probably soulless and plastic too! :)

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