Our Wedding: What We Spent, Who Paid For It, and How It Went

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First, even though it could have been executed better, to the right are the results of my informal wedding cost survey. While there was a big spread, over 30% of people said they spent less than $5,000 on their weddings. Impressive! The median value was near $10,000.

Now, a few people asked me what we spent on our wedding. I’m sure more people were wondering, but weren’t so bold. 😉 I’ve actually avoided talking about this topic for a variety of reasons, the main one being that I don’t think I have anything especially helpful to offer on this front! However, I’m sharing all kinds of money stuff already, so why not throw it out there and see what happens…

Weddings Are Very Personal
Weddings are tricky. They involve the expectations, cultures, and traditions of two families, who might have completely different ideas of what a wedding “should” be. This is on top of what the media perpetuates as standard, in everything from wedding magazines to movies. As such, I try to refrain from forming opinions on what people should or should not do for their weddings. Everyone needs to find their own balance between wants and costs.

What We Spent
In our case, each set of parents decided to give us $10,000, for a total of $20,000. However, this was not “spend whatever you want, and keep the rest” money. With this money, we had fulfill a ton of expectations. Both of our extended families were coming from around the world, and we had to throw a grand ceremony. The location had to be fancy. The food had to be fancy. We fought a lot to keep the guest list under 200. I couldn’t believe some of the prices we were paying. We did what we could to save money in several other areas in order to make these things fit into the budget, but I’m not going to suggest we performed any grand feats of frugality. In end, I think we ended up paying a few thousand dollars ourselves to cover everything. Total cost: About $23,000 in 2004, which excludes rings.

What We Received
Gifts seem to be a very hot topic in weddings as well. We didn’t mention gifts on our invitations, but most people did provide gifts of varying sizes. In my family, large cash gifts from family are also traditional. In the end, I would say the value of the gifts came to about 50% of the cost of the wedding – $10,000.

But wait, shouldn’t I include this in our net worth history? Actually, no. We ended up giving $10,000 back to my parents-in-law, which left us even with respect to net worth implications.

Here’s a peek of what our wedding looked like. 😀 Even though I wasn’t very involved at all in the details, I was a lot more emotional than I thought I would be. It was a very rare event to have all my family and friends, who are usually scattered across the globe, to come together. I was touched that they came just to see us celebrate our love. Cheesy, but true. I’m very grateful that our parents were so generous in helping us pay for the wedding, and I plan on doing the same for our own children. We remain truly blessed.

So that’s it. Not very exciting, huh? I think my only real opinion is that I don’t believe a couple should go into an unreasonable amount of debt for a wedding. If they save up for it and that’s how they want to spend their money, then fine. If their parents want it pay for it, then that’s fine too. If they want to keep it simple and small, that’s also great.

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    I wonder if people factor in the cost of the engagement ring into the cost of the wedding? They say it’s supposed to be worth 2-3 months of your salary, or more even.


  2. WOW 10,000 Each… must be nice to be part of rich families. No wonder you have so much money! We had to have our wedding in vegas to save some money, in the end our parents gave us 4000 for a house.

  3. Hey Heathrow, did you read the whole thing, it’s not like his parents just said “here have 10k”, they said “here, have 10k, this is what we expect from your wedding”, that wasn’t free money. Heck, they even had to go beyond that number just to make everything work.

    If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, it should be pretty obvious that Jonathan’s success is definitely the result of his own personal success rather than some “golden spoon”.

  4. very similar to my experience as well. my in laws chipped in 10k and my mom paid for the rehearsal dinner, 2kish. we paid about 8k for the rest of the wedding night, nothing fancy by any means, shoe leather steak, 70 guests, etc. 6k on rings, 5k on honeymoon, but also got 5k in cash gifts (her side of the family is very generous) plus some registry items. we’re trying to think of some way to pay back the in laws, they wont take the money, though they could use it, so we’re thinking of sending them off to europe since they never vacation.

  5. We’re tracking for 15k wedding including ring (I won’t wear a ring or any jewelry). We have a guest list of about 130 people (her mother padded it with a billion relatives). We expect a number of around 120. Sadly, on my side we’re getting all yes (54 people) but we knew going in that every one of them would say yes. Her mother is going hogwild with invites and I think that’s because her ex-husband is footing the bill. She’s rather vindictive about the whole thing – 15 years after their divorce. God, get over it. He’s far more generous than he should be.

    I’ve been intimately involved in all the planning. To be frank, I don’t want the big event but she does and thus I played a part to make my wife-to-be happy. My only hope about the event: she enjoys herself.

    Regarding gits… we combined two households a year ago. We do not need or want anything. We tried doing a registry and after 30 minutes my fiancee gave up. So we have something at BB&B but it’s small and has maybe 20 items.

    Rather than leaving things to chance I noticed many friends have done honeymoon registries. Now these online services create a site and they take 8% of every dollar given to the couple for their honeymoon. 8%?! Not impressed with that usurious rate we built our own wedding website and made an attached honeymoon registry (it also links to BB&B). The money is funneled through paypal to us and we’re paying 3% on the dollar to paypal. We get a full breakdown of what someone bought for us – maybe a share or two of a night at the Le Meridien and the funds transfer to use within days.

    We expect outliers and people to give us random things but we’ve also been told by many recent newlyweds that after cash, their second largest percentage of gifts came off their registry. If that holds true, we should in essence collect quite a bit of cash as the registry is really cash too (Bed Bath and Beyond allows you to return for cash also).

    We were worried that some may find the honeymoon registry odd or distasteful; my mother, for example, can’t comprehend why we don’t want more china on a traditional registry. But thus far, the response to the registry has been extremely positive. We sent invitations last week and already we’ve had a few registry purchases.

  6. Sorry if this was already asked and answered but is honeymoon cost included in this? I think we spent a relatively high proportion of total money on our honeymoon since in our opinion the whole thing is supposed to be about the two getting married, not everyone else.

  7. I’m not a big fan of accepting cash from parents – particularly that which comes with strings attached. On the other hand, if the strings are attached anyway you may as well accept the cash, especially if the alternative is to go into debt.

  8. I tried to stop myself from asking — but you said you gave the 10K back to your in-laws — but what about your parents? That was real nice, by the way — I know people who would have kept it for sure.

  9. As a former bride, I highly suggest no throwing tons of money into your wedding. It really isn’t worth it. I learned on that day 5 years ago the ceremony was for us and the reception was for everyone else. Had someone told me that, I would have put more effort into the ceremony. We paid for the entire thing ourselves which I do not regret to this day. Our families could not afford the event we threw. It did teach us about financial goals and saving for them. The wedding was paid in full and never put on a credit card.

  10. $23,000? OUCH.

    I understand its a special day..but its just that, one day.

    I’d never be able to stomach dropping 3 months of my salary on a rock, or $25,000 on one day. I certainly wouldn’t ask my parents too.

    But as always, whatever works for you 🙂

  11. We spent $60,000 on our wedding (not including ring), but we had 450 people and recouped around $24,000 in cash not including gifts.

  12. @Jason – would you say that cash made up 30% of your gifts? 20%

  13. I must say I agree it must be nice to come from such wealthy families. The more I read this blog, the more I realize that I will more than likely never be able to have a net worth of any + value and it’s depressing to read about people who make and have so much money.

  14. I know a couple whose parents on both sides didnt give them anything, but the grooms parents saved over 80k for their daughters wedding. She was married well over a year after him.

    I am not married FWIW.

  15. I’m not sure about the rest of the country, but in the Bay Area, CA (East Bay), just to rent the facility (a nice country club) was $10K, that does not include food or anything else, just the right to congregate. There is SO much money to earn in this industry, it’s ridiculous. And now people want to make theirs as unique as possible. Considering I’ve seen a painter who captures the reception “live” painting us into the image, attendees releasing butterflies at the ceremony that were stored under their seat, a vodka bar made of ice, I would consider our “big day” relatively tame in comparison.

  16. Jon Matthias says

    I like to think we’re sensible, practical folk. I spent less than $400 on our wedding. That includes rental car, gas to drive to Vegas, hotel, license, ceremony (drive-through, of course), and titanium rings. Now we’re just as married as everybody else. As a bonus we have a great story to tell everyone.

    Imagine adding that $20k or more to your down payment on your first house, perhaps getting you out of that mortgage a couple years sooner, and cutting your monthly payment.

  17. 1. I think people are forgetting that the parents gave money with specific requirements to be met.

    2. I don’t think anyone has the right to judge how much someone spent on their wedding day as this is a personal choice. Maybe I’d rather drive a cruddy car and have an awesome wedding. to each his own.

    3. depending on where you live 20 grand is the cheapest wedding you can probably do and do right

  18. I cannot believe that some people take/borrow moneyu from theier parents inlaws to meet the sedding cost!!!
    Giving $10,000 back to your parents-in-law was the right thing to do

  19. Awesome blog. Interesting statistics on how much people spend on their weddings. Good thing I am long ways away from that =P

  20. This idea of parents or parents in law giving any amount of money for a wedding is so foreign to me. I live in the Great State Of Tennessee and have never known any of my friend’s to receive money for their weddings. There is zero expectation among my circle of friends that the father’s of the bride should have or will foot the bill. Maybe this tradition is finally dying out or maybe it is a geographical and social economical thing.

    Besides that, and note I am making this point about me only and not directed toward any person or post, taking money from parents for any reason ended when I was old enough to support myself. This is my feelings only, not directed to any poster.

    As lulu said above, how much you spend is your personal choice and is judgement proof to me. I think what makes the cost jaw dropping to me is places like California that apparently requires selling a kidney to have an average wedding.

    I am philosophically against the idea of marriage itself so take my opinions as you will but even if money is given with strings attached it is still “free money” to me.


  21. Location, location, location. It’s all in what you want. And remember, wedding costs are inflated because of the insurance factor – you pay more to make absolutely sure it all goes right.

  22. I think the ‘tradition’ of the bride side paying is still more alive than it’s given credit – at least on the east coast where I’m from.

    My parents paid a lot of my sisters wedding and paid only for the rehearsal dinner at my wedding while my wife’s parents paid for most everything. We’ve been married for 7 years and have our third child on the way, which I hope is another boy for several reasons one of them being I have one girl already and her princess wedding is going to cost me a fortune.

    Keeping that tradition alive cause there’s nothing wrong with it…

    Maybe I should post something on how this tradition got started – back in the old days.

  23. @Jon Matthias – I agree totally. If my fiancee’s dad said $500 wedding and 15k in cash or a 15k wedding, I’d take the money and run. She, of course wants the big 100+ person wedding. We may already own three homes, but I know with another 15k we could certainly do quite a bit of solid investing. Maybe even use it to get a 3rd rental property in a cheaper state than CA.

    As for the parents, paying for weddings/strings attached money thing…I’m fine with it. As I wanted a small, simple wedding, if a parent wants to foot the bill and dictate elements of the wedding, go ahead. It doesn’t matter to me in the end. As long as I marry my dream girl, I couldn’t care less what the wedding is like. It’s one day. She’s for life.

  24. My wife and also recieved help from our parents to pay for our wedding, and yes it was very obligitory for use to have the whole traditional wedding. We had about 190 people attend. The whole thing cost just under 25K. As long as our parents needs were met they did not want any of the money back. In the end we can away with 20K in cash and many gifts. All in all we did what they wanted for one day and in return ended up with a down payment for our condo.

  25. Your wedding description is a big giveaway to your ethnic identity 🙂 I’m willing to bet my net worth (figuratively speaking of course) that you’re Asian, specifically, either Chinese or Vietnamese.

    You don’t have to post this message if you don’t want to. I understand.

    I really enjoy your posts. Keep up the good work.

  26. In my family and culture, like Jonathan’s, huge weddings and big expectations are the norm. In lieu of accepting cash from either of our parents to throw such an event, we have decided to do what we want to do- small and destination.

    On the flip side of parents offering us money, we offered to cover the cost of flights for our immediate families (11 adults total) to the destination. All graciously declined.

    I can understand Jonathan’s decision to take the family money and meet their families’ desires. Part of the reason I’m comfortable breaking the mold is because big sis and bil already did Vegas.

  27. We didn’t want a real wedding, so we got on a plane to the UK and spent three weeks in Scotland, Ireland, and England. (This was not an elopement; it was planned.) We got married in Edinburgh at the end of the first week at a registry office. It was just the two of us plus the officiant and our two witnesses (our photographer and the groundskeeper).

    About a month after we got back, we had a party weekend. Self-catered family-only event Friday night, catered event at a winery Saturday night, self-catered friends-only brunch on Sunday morning. We figured it would be weird to have people come into down only for one event since there was no wedding for them to see, so we made multiple events for them. The winery event was the largest, about 35 people or so.

    Total cost around $10k, but the trip was a lot more fun for us than the regular wedding crap would have been!

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