In Defense of the “Big Wedding”

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When we got engaged the advice started to pour in. “Save yourself the stress and elope.” “Spend the money on a nice house instead.” “You’re better off buying a big house/ nice car/ [insert expensive material item here] than having a big wedding.” This advice might work great for some people, but honestly, what does this say about America’s consumerism culture? That having nice things is more important than sharing the experience of saying “I do” with the people we love most? That material things are more important than people or experiences or creating beautiful and lasting memories?

Don’t get me wrong; of course I do want to save money and I don’t want to spend ridiculous sums on an extravagant or over the top wedding. The other side of the consumerism spectrum says you have to have this, this, and this at your wedding. If it doesn’t align with your values and you don’t actually want it, then you don’t need it. A wedding is not a tool to show off; it is a day to share. A loving atmosphere, good food, and great music to create amazing memories. That is what it is all about. Both Matthew and I have extremely large families that we feel very close with. We want them all to be there as well as our closest friends if we can afford to fit them onto the guest list. I know that if we didn’t have them there we would forever regret not celebrating with them. However, we do have to draw the line somewhere. There are distant family and friends that won’t make the cut (sorry, I cannot afford to fit you in), but for the most part people do understand, especially if it has been more than a year since they have talked to you in person.

I also want to feel beautiful on my wedding day in a gown that was made to fit me. We want the venue to be lovely because we are investing in a great photographer. (One of my values and priorities, of course!) However, the sticker shock has been, well, shocking. Being a wedding vendor myself I at least understand the hidden work that goes on behind the scenes and why things cost the way they do.

The ways we can save money are by creating a list of priorities and attempting to cut costs everywhere else. We can also barter for services, find creative solutions, or even design our own (DIY is fun and meaningful too).

The point I am trying to make is that experiences, like a wedding or honeymoon, are more important than material things. Yet going into debt for a wedding (or anything else) or struggling to pay our living expenses to pay for a wedding is poor judgment. Take the time to save up, live within your means, prioritize, and know when to compromise. If a small elopement or town hall wedding makes your heart sing, do it. But don’t allow anyone else’s baggage (financial or emotional) talk you out of your own choices and happiness. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty to designing the wedding that you want.

Chances are, when people give you negative wedding advice (“Don’t do it.”), it is because they went overboard and put themselves into unmanageable debt, they let someone else push them into a wedding that was different from the one they wanted, their relationship did not work out or is on the rocks, or they are jealous. Really analyze your source. You would be surprised by how often jealousy plays a role. They couldn’t afford the venue they wanted, so neither should you. Their mother talked them into wearing a dress they didn’t love so you shouldn’t get your dream dress. It goes on and on.

It is no one else’s business how you plan or what you spend. Know what will make you happy, learn to prioritize and compromise, and cherish every moment of the experience as well as the memories that will last a lifetime afterwards.

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