Wedding Crasher: Should we be Spending this Much?

As a father of five, specifically two young ladies, the thoughts of weddings and the potential costs are welling up in my mind. It’s something I worry about and I suspect a lot of us with kids worry about the costs and all that goes into the process.

What are we getting into?

A bride and groom have come to the conclusion that they want to spend the rest of their lives with each other. The next step is marriage. It’s a celebration! The happy couple wants to share their happiness with everyone else. They decide to show everyone how happy the are by throwing a huge, expensive party. They spend $2,000 on a photographer, $6,000 on an engagement ring, $14,000 on a wedding venue, $71 per person for catering and $2,500 on flowers. Don’t forget an average of $268 for party favors like these awesome bride-and-groom glasses.

The average wedding costs a bit over $35,000  in the US today.  Don’t worry, if you live in a high cost of living area like Manhattan. The average cost is more than double at $78,000! (Wait, nevermind, do worry.) Did I mention this doesn’t even cover the honeymoon?

Check out this study for even more amazing wedding cost statistics. 

 

This Jim Gaffigan bit pretty much sums up my opinion of the entire wedding experience.

 

 

Why are you such a buzzkill?

I get it. We like to have a good time. Who doesn’t want to go to a fancy party where you get free food, free drinks, and dancing? (Free to the guests anyway). You all know my love for cake and that seems to be quite prevalent at these wedding type functions.

The problem is this is a huge expense usually right at the time when our kids should not be blowing that kind of cash. If the parents are footing the bill, we need to ask ourselves if this is the best use of our resources.

 

Need more stats?

The average age for getting hitched is 29 for the fellas and 27 for women. 

The bride’s family still springs for 44% of the wedding costs, The groom’s family contributes 12% and the couple themselves at 43%. The other 1% comes from Uncle Joe and Aunt Sally or other distant relatives and friends.

Do you have any idea what the average savings are of a 20-something-year-old?

I put age 29 into this calculator. You can click the picture and see where you stack up.

8,525 Lousy Bucks

Hmm. There seems to be a bit of a disconnect here. The average cost if over $35,000 and the savings are less that a quarter of that? Sounds like the American dream. 

We’ve talked about the “spare no expense” approach to financing college in 160 strategies for conquering college expenses and how destructive it can be to a parent’s retirement or their kids’ future financial success.

A wedding shouldn’t cost as much as college, but if a young couple acquires debt just to get married, they add one more unnecessary hurdle to achieving a healthy financial relationship.

Could overspending on a wedding lead to divorce?

I’m kinda disgusted by these wedding loan ads. Check this out.

 

Typing “wedding loans” returns 4.4 million results in Google. Seems like plenty of companies loan money for wedding cost. I put this up there with vacation loans. Don’t do it!

22% of couples cite financial issues as the reason for divorce.

People getting married today have enough hurdles to jump over to make their relationship work. As parents, we have to help set our kids up for a strong future. Maybe curbing costs for what amounts to an awesome party could be a great first step. High earners that can afford to throw a big party for their kids should look into the alternatives that may make their kids much happier in the long run.

We need to have a strategy when it comes to setting our kids up for marriage and the wedding. Blowing a huge amount and borrowing for a wedding are just going to be symptoms of future financial problems that can develop later in a marriage.

On top of that, if you think the current costs for a wedding are steep, just look at divorce related expenses. Attorney fees alone average $12,800. Then add-on the real estate costs (divorce usually leads to selling the home and/or buying another property) and counseling sessions. 

If things get bitter during the separation, all these things can escalate. As the couple earns more and more money, these costs go up. Higher priced properties have higher closing costs. Wealthier couples have more assets to divide. That takes even more court time and lawyer fees. 

 

Opportunity to Teach

This is another step in our financial relationship with our kids. Start grooming them early to make borrowing for a wedding as crazy as smashing their thumb with a hammer. 

As parents, look at your own situation and see what you can really afford and what you want to afford. There isn’t a law that says you need to pay for your kids’ wedding. It isn’t going to make you a bad person if you don’t. I do think you jeopardize your young adult children’s future if you encourage them to overspend on a wedding. 

Even if you want to give your kids an average American wedding and plop down the entire $35,000, consider what that could be in thirty years. At a 7% rate of return, that’s $284,000. Would you rather give your kids $284,000 by setting them up with a taxable account or another investment vehicle? How about getting your kids off to a great start with a down payment on a $175,000 home? $35,000 should just about cover that. 

How about $141,000 towards your grandchild’s education in a 529 plan? Put $35,000 in a 529 plan and in 20 years at 7% this is what it’s worth. 

 

Party Time, Not Excellent

Remember, we are talking about a big party where we spend the money in one day. I get that people want to make the event special, but at least consider some alternative. Show your kids the alternatives. 

If you’re in the situation that you just can’t afford the average wedding, then whatever you do, don’t borrow for it.

Most high earners won’t be in that difficult of a situation, but this is an opportunity to teach another financial lesson. You could get your son or daughter off to a better financial start in his or her married life.

Maybe spending $35,000 on a wedding won’t jeopardize your own future, but what about multiple weddings? If you have several children, that is another consideration that could double, triple, or quadruple your costs.

Just be sure to look at all the other aspects associated with spending that kind of money.

There are plenty of ways to make the day special without a couple killing their financial future or at least giving them a major setback. I want to encourage you to sit down and talk about these things early. Help set healthy expectations and encourage saving, investing and planning for the future over extravagantly spending on a special party. 

 


Track your expenses and your net worth all in one easy place. Personal Capital is what I use.


What do you think? Am I being too hard on weddings? How was your wedding? How do envision your own children’s weddings?

Tom
Tom is a doctor, husband and father of five with a passion for parenting and finance. When he isn't skateboarding, riding BMX, or jumping on the trampoline with his kids, he is reading and writing about personal finance. He helps high income parents educate and mentor their kids to become financially, emotionally, and intellectually self sufficient.

12 Responses to “Wedding Crasher: Should we be Spending this Much?

  • For what it’s worth, we spent ~$2,000 on our wedding. We only invited our closest friends and family to a celebration dinner and that was it. No stress of wedding planning and the money we saved went towards a huge down payment for our apartment in the city.

    • That’s solid financial planning on your part. At least you have something that will probably increase in value to show for your smart planning.
      My wife is from a big family and her parents expected a big wedding. My wife and I would have been fine with a small affair but they wanted to pay for a bigger event and so we didn’t stand in the way.
      It was a ton of fun but they didn’t need to spend that much and personally I would have rather had the money for a home down payment or just let them save the cash. I really appreciate them and they are awesome parents so one big splurge isn’t the end of the world, but I just hope more people think about the future and don’t borrow for their weddings.

      Tom @ HIP

  • My mom made a deal with me in high school. She would pay for one prom dress and one college degree and zero weddings. Anything I wanted beyond that was up to me. I feel like I got a good deal.

    I think that the meaning of marriage has gotten too tied up into the material-the ring, the dress, the party. Marriage is way more than that. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with spending thousands on a wedding if you have the money-that’s your choice. But there is absolutely no reason to go into debt for a wedding.

    I may be in the minority, but I find it icky when people my age (31) or older expect their parents to chip in for their wedding. Presumably, we have been in the workforce for many years-save up yourself and have a wedding that you can afford.

    • That’s awesome that you and your mom talked about the expectations and had a plan. That’s the most important thing.
      The stat about the average age of marriage is about 28 now and still parents are paying a large portion of the cost, that was crazy to me. I had two kids and a mortgage by then. I guess I got started early.
      I don’t think my parents had paid for anything for about 5-6 years by then.
      Thanks for sharing.

      Tom @ HIP

  • When our son was to be married we gave them a gift ahead of time of $20,000. They could keep anything they did not spend on the wedding. They wisely spent only half.

    • That sounds like a great plan. No borrowing, talk to your son about financial management and then let him decide. That’s awesome. Well done.

      Tom @ HIP

  • I think that as long as parents foot the bill, wedding costs will continue to spiral out of control. Imagine if everyone paid for their own wedding. I think there’d be a lot of people eloping on the beach.

    I’m getting married in NYC and we will be spending less than 15k for a small wedding. I saved up for my share by saving small amounts pretty early on. Paying for the wedding so far has been pretty stress-free, and my net worth has stayed relatively flat.

    So, it wasn’t clear from the post. What do you plan on doing with your kids? Are you going to pay for their weddings?

    • Sounds like you have a good plan that you are happy with and no borrowing which is awesome!
      As for my own kids, I’m still looking at my options. We are fortunate to have access to some relatives land that is a pretty scenic place. If I was planning everything, I would have a nice event there with a nice small dinner and just celebrating the new marriage.
      Of course, I’m not the entire boss so I imagine my kids will have some say in this 🙂
      I plan on offering them some assistance, but I hope that they would take the money to invest in their future over spending it all for one day. I definitely won’t need to borrow and I won’t let the amount given harm my own retirement future. I would like to help my children and their future partners get off to a head start, but hopefully all my teaching and guidance will pay off way more than any amount of money I can give them.
      Thanks for the awesome question.

  • Great post. We got married 3 years ago, – just us, our officiant, and photographer. Then we had a casual dinner with our families. No regrets. We still consider this to be one of our best decisions!

    Our son just turned one. I envision his wedding to be like ours. We plan on giving him x amount as a wedding gift and he (and his significant other) can use it as they see fit. Hopefully, I do a good enough job of teaching him the value of money!

    Happy to have found your blog.

    • Thanks Jen!
      Thanks for reading.
      It sounds like y’all did a great job. I’m hopefully several years away but I that is pretty close to our strategy too.

      Tom @ HIP

  • We didn’t have a wedding, not price or anything but I don’t like socialization. Or anything that requires me to get up. His father gave us a $15K check – no borrowing. We could do something with it if we chooses but we just pocked the check.

    I’m very surprise at the $8000 bucks net worth…I just…sorry but I can’t believe it. At 29? How are is CNN getting this information?! No way, cmon. No way.

    • It does seem low doesn’t it Lily but I suspect we are biased since we see more of us that care about getting ahead and personal finance. I had a negative net worth at 29 but I was in school until age 31.
      There were some other studies that gave ranges of net worth and they lined up with what CNN said.
      It looks like you had a good plan with your parents that everyone could agree on and not go into debt. Sounds like a win to me.

      Tom @ HIP

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