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.)


  1. 1


    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


    • 2


      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?

  2. 4

    Lynn says

    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! : )

  3. 5


    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. :)

  4. 8


    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?

  5. 9

    Spedie says

    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!

  6. 10

    Slackerjo says

    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.

  7. 11


    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.

  8. 12


    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!!!

    • 13

      Karen Kinnane says

      “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.

  9. 14

    Julie says

    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?

    • 15


      @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.

      • 17

        rhea says

        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

      • 18


        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.

    • 19

      Karen Kinnane says

      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.

  10. 20

    Jenna says

    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.

  11. 24



    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!

  12. 25


    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!

    • 26


      @ 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.

    • 29


      @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

  13. 30


    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!

  14. 32


    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.

    • 33


      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? :-)

  15. 34

    Kelly says

    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.

  16. 35


    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.

  17. 36


    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.

  18. 37


    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.

  19. 38


    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. :-)

  20. 39


    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)

  21. 40


    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! 😀

    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!

  22. 41


    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 =)

  23. 42


    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.

    • 43


      @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


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