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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Expensive wedding madness

The Bargain Queen gets really concerned when she hears how much a wedding is expected to cost these days. The average bill is now $28,700 in Australia, £17,740 in Britain and $22,360 in the U.S.A., which seems mad. As a cheapskate bride who's now happily married, she feels it's her duty to offer a dissenting view to the pervading 'your big day must be perfect' messages and hopefully start an anti-bridezilla movement.

To put those big dollar amounts into perspective, here's some of the other things $28,000 will buy you in Australia $28,000:
  • a 10% deposit on a one-bedroom apartment in the most desirable suburbs in Sydney
  • a pretty nice car
  • a year's backpacking alone, or a six-month honeymoon if you take your spouse
  • some pretty serious artwork
Or you can blow it in one day on a wedding... does this strike anyone else as a little bit strange?

The Bargain Queen understands exactly how this happens because from the day she got engaged, she started hearing what she ought to do. Considering she never wanted to get married before she met Mr Bargain Queen, she couldn't find the enthusiasm for $8-apiece invitation cards that she was supposed to feel. Every time she thought about planning a big white wedding she felt like handing the engagement ring back, even though she loved both it and the man. So she picked the sane solution: she opted out. She skipped the church, the bridesmaids, the flower girls, the reception and practically everything that defines a wedding today... and she's still happily married. It's not a choice that works for everyone, but if you haven't dreamed about your wedding gown since you were a little girl, is it really worth $5,000?

There are a lot of people who'll tell you that if you do what we did, you're cheap and nasty - and they're possibly right. The Bargain Queen shocked and offended a few people with her low-key wedding. Otherwise sane people have complex sets of rules about where the ceremony should be held, who must be invited, what you should provide for them and all the other details that go into a very big 'big day'. If you don't obey those rules - and they won't tell you until you've broken one - they get unhappy. But on the bright side, the few people who were really upset with The Bargain Queen's decision are very difficult to please. She'd much rather offend them for free than spend $100+ to them complain that they didn't like the food, the seating plan was wrong, the flowers gave them hayfever and her dress could've been prettier. (Yes, some of The Bargain Queen's relatives are really like this. Maybe some of yours are too.)

If you're planning a wedding, the best advice The Bargain Queen can give you is to skip the bridal magazines and ignore most of the advice you're given. The 'right' way to get married these days is expensive and stressful, so when you're told to do things that doesn't suit your personality or finances, remember that the world won't end if you don't. It takes guts to stand up to everyone's expectations and do what suits you instead, but it beats blowing your hard-earned savings on a wedding day that isn't 'you' - or worse, paying it off your credit card for the next few years.

To put it very bluntly, if you can't skip the trimmings, you shouldn't be getting married at all. It's not wrong to want them - if you do, good luck to you - but you really shouldn't need them. Your wedding day should be blissfully happy simply because you're marrying that person. If it could be spoiled by the wrong flowers, dress, catering or DJ, The Bargain Queen recommends you call it off now. Those are just the trimmings, not the reason for the day. Maybe having them makes the day even better (we don't know, we skipped them) but even a disaster like bad hair should be trivial compared to the joy of making a commitment to the right person.

When it comes to planning your wedding, if you're uncomfortable with a three-ring circus, consider something more basic.
If you strip it down to bare essentials, all you need is to say your vows and sign some forms in front of a registered celebrant. If you do it in a registry office they'll insist you dress reasonably nicely; if not, you can get married in a bikini a la Pamela Anderson, or wear flip-flops (thongs for Aussies) like Sarah Michelle Gellar if it suits you. Legally, that's all there is to it; you can skip all the fanfare and your marriage is still 100% valid.

It's sad that some people are offended by a simple wedding, but look on the bright side: if you've ever been to a no-fun wedding, do you really want to inflict that on your friends (and pay $20,000+ to do it)? Spare your closest friends from your self-designed bridesmaid gowns. If you're not Vera Wang, they're probably hideous. Spare your guests the hours of standing around waiting
; the champagne that runs out; the meal options only you like; the dreaded wedding DJ; and the awkward conversations with your deaf great-aunt or your husband's yokel mate from high school. But most importantly, save your fiance months of tears, tantrums and bridezilla-worthy conduct... at least until the wedding's over and you start renovating ;)

If you really break the rules, you could even turn what could be a mind-numbingly dull day into actual fun... we did!

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  • At 12:08 am, Blogger Slughorn said…

    Oh, MY!

    A blast of Common Sense.

    I'm sure you'll be blackballed from Bride Magazine forever for this one! They'll never, ever let you have a subscription ... even when your GRANDDAUGHTERS get married!

    I'm gonna make my kids read this blog when they're older. Common Sense about weddings -- who'd 'a thunk?

  • At 1:15 am, Blogger Rebecca said…

    "If it could be spoiled by the wrong flowers, dress, catering or DJ, The Bargain Queen recommends you call it off now."

    Best wedding advice I've ever heard!

  • At 9:34 am, Blogger The Bargain Queen said…

    Thank you both!

    And Slughorn, I would be thrilled to be blackballed from Bride Magazine. Merely opening one of those mags makes me feel nauseous and vertiginous, like if I cross that edge it's a LONG way down :)

    It reminds me of that line in Mean Girls, "it's like I'd left the real world and entered Girl World", except it's Bride World you enter.

  • At 12:22 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    OK, I am getting sick of reading posts from PF bloggers who are either unmarried or didn't have a wedding, criticizing those who do choose to have a formal wedding. I enjoyed having all of my family and friends around me for the big day; the wedding was a joining of two families and it was important for my husband and me to mark the occasion and celebrate together. Granted, the wedding industry has gone overboard but what you should be criticizing is the industry itself, rather than the brides and grooms. Yes, it is possible to have a nice wedding and to do it on your own terms without breaking the bank.

  • At 8:30 am, Blogger The Bargain Queen said…

    Hi Anonymous, I would never tell someone not to have a big wedding if that's what they want! I'm just saying that people shouldn't be obliged to have a big wedding - which, between the media and family pressures, they often feel they are.

    I'm actually trying to encourage exactly what you had: "a nice wedding... on your own terms without breaking the bank"!

  • At 6:55 am, Blogger wordsonwater said…

    Unfortunately, weddings have a way of getting a bit out of hand. For my daughter's nuptials we had the best of intentions on keeping costs down. I am quite crafty and a good cook, so I would do all the clothing plus the food, including the cakes. I thought at the onset it might cost around $5000 (US), but since I never had much of a wedding myself, and she is my only daughter, we just kept tossing in things. She decided on a costume wedding and wanted everyone to dress up in any outrageous thing they wanted. I made the bridesmaids fairy costumes, including the wings, and the groomsmen’s pirate outfits. My husband and I came as a king and queen, but the groom’s family declined to go for fancy dress. Evidently Brits aren’t as keen on making fools of themselves as Americans. Who knew?

    There were two hurricanes the week of the wedding and a river ran through our basement where the food was located, and across the back yard where the tents were set up. In addition, the get away car developed a flat tire, and the groom ended up with 13 stitches in his hand when his tipsy father tried to steal his sword. There was tons of good food, gallons of wine, great music, constant laughter, and an awful lot of mud. One of the guests was a doctor and stitched up Nick’s hand, one was a disaster recovery specialist and sent for men with vacuums and fans to dry us out a bit. My daughter’s new in laws pitched in to help with everything and we became friends for life. In short it was the best wedding ever! I have no idea how much it actually cost although it was a great deal more than the original plan, but I wouldn’t change a thing. You can see the results on
    My oldest son took the pictures (another cost savings) but was not using flicker then, so the results are very slow to load. Loved your wedding photos. It was nice getting to see you and loved ones, plus a bit of Australia.

  • At 9:20 am, Blogger The Bargain Queen said…

    Wow, what a fun wedding! Whatever you spent, it looks well worth the money. Everyone looks like they're having a blast!

  • At 1:56 pm, Blogger Heather and Dan said…

    The average wedding in Canada is up over $18,000...
    We share your sentiment (especially your response to the person who WANTED the big, expensive wedding). It never fails to amaze us how much time, money, and energy people will put into planning their wedding day. But what about putting some of those same resources into planning their marriage and their future together?

  • At 4:34 pm, Blogger The Bargain Queen said…

    That's a great point, Heather and Dan! Mr Bargain Queen and I put much more effort into planning our marriage than we did planning our wedding. I think it'll take a follow-up post to go into all of it, and it's definitely a topic that deserves it. So stay tuned for more :)


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