How Much Should A Wedding Cost?

I should begin by saying this post is not going to be prescriptive like the title suggests. If after reading this you are satisfied that it’s the right thing for you to have the luxury wedding you’ve always dreamed of, then go you! But I do hope to give some food for thought.

Unlike kids, who cost money over an extended period of time, weddings are a big chunk of money you spend all in one hit. Or at least over a period of around a year or so. This means the impact of a wedding on your finances is not dissimilar to the impact of university/college. Just like tertiary study can set you up with debt that will have a significant impact on the next 10 or more years of your life, an expensive wedding will impact your finances in a way that will affect your financial world for several years to come.

Weddings have a strange place in our culture. A lot of romance movies end with the wedding between the two main characters. What happens after that? Well, no one cares, that’s why it’s not in the movie. The point is they’re together, right? We grow up watching these and thinking that as long as a wedding happens, everything is happily ever after. But the wedding isn’t the end of something. The wedding is the beginning of something: a marriage. So it makes sense when planning a wedding to factor in the impact that the wedding spend will have on married life.

Best case scenario is you save up fully for the wedding beforehand. This means you might have to go on more basic dates during your engagement, but at least post-wedding you can get on with life. Worst case scenario is you go into debt to pay for your fabulous wedding and you end up stressed and fighting over things you shouldn’t need to be fighting over.

But in all scenarios, there is opportunity cost. If you spend tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding, by default you’re choosing not to spend that money on any number of other things. That money could be your house deposit. It could be your holidays for the next five years. It could be your retirement savings. Chuck $20,000 in an index fund for 30 years at an average rate of return and I shudder to think how many hundreds of thousands of dollars you could have in your 60s.

If upon considering all of this, you’re totally convinced having an opulent wedding is going to be worth it, great! But at least you can rest assured that you looked at all the options and the opportunities you’re missing by putting your money towards your wedding instead of everything else that’s out there.

It’s also worth considering what’s really important to you in a wedding. Now there may be some people who would just be absolutely miserable if they don’t have the world’s finest caviar shipped fresh from international markets as part of their wedding feast. But I think most of us will be happy if we have our families, the one we love and some good photos to remember the day by. And that’s something that can cost as much or as little as you want really. Don’t forget as well that the more things cost, the more stressed out you’re likely to get if they go wrong. You’re much less likely to freak out about spilling wine on your shirt/dress if it’s not encrusted with $50,000 of diamonds 😉

So if you’re planning your big day, congratulations! Try to relax, don’t prioritise things over people, get some good snaps, and make sure you consider all your future plans before you commit to a budget.

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