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Melancholy and Wedding Folly

I’ve launched a blog for Real Simple (the magazine) on its Web site. The forum is called ”Simply Stated” and is loaded with righteous ways to make life a little sweeter. You can check out my latest post — “The Upside of the Winter Blues” — here. (The post explains, in part, why I haven’t been writing here for a week.)

In the meantime, I’ve received several interesting emails about the latest Yahoo!Finance column, “The Myth of the $18,000 Wedding.” That story talks about how biased numbers (i.e., “the average wedding costs $18,000″) can influence our decision-making. The brain latches on to so-called “anchors” and we can end up basing spending norms on arbitrary figures. It’s not that I’m philosophically opposed to big weddings, just random anchors. My husband and I hosted 150 people — primarily relatives, as we both come from large families – in a ballroom in New York City, and it was definitely an affair to remember.  We paid for it ourselves and found lots of ways to budget (see this post for ideas) and didn’t run up debt that haunted us after the honeymoon. I think that’s hugely important for couples starting their lives together.

Here’s a comment I received by email from a reader named Tamara, arguing that sometimes you just have to spend the dough:

My husband and I married in 2007. In total we spent a combined $15,000. Over 4 months Our original idea was to have a simple ceremony at our church attended by immediate family. We did (the budget) and the costs were around $2,000 for everything.

But my mother couldn’t handle it. She wanted a big party. This was, for her, a “keeping up” with my cousins’ who had each had very lavish affairs. After a few discussions and near tears, we agreed to split a formal reception with dinner, cake, and dancing costs 50-50 up to $5000 each. Thankfully we came in under budget.

That covers $8,000. The other $7,000 was consumed in travel costs and our honeymoon. Why? My husband and I got married in Illinois at Thanksgiving. Our reception was held in Arizona, where the majority of family lives, just after Christmas. My bridal shower, also held in Arizona, was in October. We went on our honeymoon, a wonderful cruise, in January 2008.

Why spend all of that money on a wedding? Because it was so much more than just one day. It was 3 separate weeks with family during the holidays. It was a unique experience seeing the Caribbean and learning that I don’t have sea legs. It was the end of one life and the beginning of another and we got to spread it out over 4 months. Would we have more money 40 years from now had we not spent then but invested? Absolutely yes.

But we would not have so many memories to fill our hearts with. My grandparents are already gone. Time passes and things change. And sometimes spending a large amount of money is the right thing to do.

What’s the best money you ever spent — that led to enduring happiness and/or priceless memories? Comment here or email me at laura at laurarowley dot com.

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One Response to “Melancholy and Wedding Folly”

  1. A Cheap Guy Says:

    I went to a wedding about 2 years ago that I would conservatively estimate cost $50K. It was at a very upscale country club, about 200 people, open bar, designer dress, the works. A year later, I was talking with the groom about a trip my wife had taken to Europe earlier in the summer. He said to me, ‘man one of these days we’ll be finished paying off that wedding and maybe we’ll have enough money to go on a trip somewhere”.

    But it was a hell of a 4 hour party, so I guess it must have been worth it, right?

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