|Getting all dressed up to get married, July 14, 2007.|
Yet, I will speak in defense of spending serious money on a wedding.*
I think that the sort of article that bemoans Americans' supposed stupidity for spending money on weddings or other celebrations — christenings, quinceañeras, graduations — often misses something important about living in communities. Sure, if we never threw birthday parties, we would have larger savings accounts, but that is a fairly cold measure of achievement. I think that assuming that the only thing that motivates people to spend money on celebrations is a self-centered love of conspicuous consumption overlooks how people create and sustain social bonds. A wedding isn't just a chance to show off — it's a chance to bring people you love together and to give them a opportunity to enjoy one another. For many people, marking the milestones of their lives with some amount of revelry is worth stretching their financial resources. It's not that they don't understand the magic of compound interest — they are making different (and reasonable) choices.
When Pete and I got married in 2007, we spent nearly $10,000 on our wedding and it was totally worth it. If I could live that day over again for 10k, I would do it in a heartbeat.
We did not have a fancy wedding — we got married in the little church up the street from my aunt's house and had the reception in her back yard. I bought most of my flowers at Stop & Shop and cut many of the rest in my mom's and aunts' gardens. Another aunt made the invitations. I bought my dress for $110 off the rack at Macy's. The bridesmaids' dresses were $100 each at the mall. We played music off of Pete's iPod over a sound system borrowed from my uncle.
|Caitlin and Brighid in their fancy (but cheap!) dresses.|
We spent money on the things that would make the day great for our 150+ guests. We wanted to give our families and friends one wonderful day of enjoying one another and I think we succeeded in that.
About $1,000 went to cake. Rather than get an elaborate wedding cake, we bought about 30 cakes from our favorite bakery (Pastiche in Providence, RI) and had a cake buffet. Rather than choose one or two flavors, we ordered a bit of everything: cheesecake, carrot cake, lemon chiffon, chocolate, fruit tart, chocolate-raspberry torte, etc.:
Another $1,000 went to drinks: beer, wine, soda, water, and coffee. Three kegs of Sam Adams (Boston lager, stout, and summer ale) took up a chunk of that, as did 2 or three cases of wine. There's a local soda maker up the street from my parents' house, so we got a dozen different flavors of soda in glass bottles. We filled some big tubs with ice and put pitchers on a table and people helped themselves.
About $3,000 went to food. My mother and aunts made vats of pasta salad and potato salad, piles of cookies, and vast fruit plates. The bulk of this money went to a friend-of-a-friend who is a BBQ competition champ — we hired him to bring his setup and make pulled pork, spare ribs, bbq chicken, and grilled vegetables:
An additional $1,500 went to two large canopies. It turned out to be a spectacular day, weather-wise, but you can never tell in New England. If it had been drizzly, we would have been very thankful that we had those tents, so I can't regret the money we spent on them.
About $2,000 went to the photographer. It was a big expense, but we treasure the pictures we have from that day. We had her take family portraits of all of the nuclear families and extended families, with everyone looking their best and all together in the same place. We gave those pictures as Christmas presents and everyone has them framed in their houses now.
|All the Galante cousins smiling and looking in the same direction — a rare occurrence.|
Perhaps I remember my wedding with affection because my beloved grandfather had a devastating stroke a few weeks later, so it was the last time we were really all together as a family. When I look back at the pictures, I see my mom talking to my mother-in-law's friends and my grandmothers eating lunch together while my high school friends play badminton with Pete's cousins and the younger kids splash in the pool. Both of our families are musically inclined and many people brought instruments, leading to an hours-long cross-family, friend-inclusive jam session. Everyone got to chat with everyone else and enjoy free beer and good food.
So, I suppose it's true that if we had eloped and saved that $10,000, we could have invested it and spent it on Snapdragon's college education in 18 years. But we wouldn't have had that day, and we would have been the poorer for it.
|Happy Three Years!|