OPINION: I regret the money I spent on my wedding

And the factors that led me to blow my budget entirely.

I regret the money I spent on my wedding.

Hear me out! My wedding day was the best day of my life so far. I know a lot of people say that, but the euphoric joy, and love I felt, crammed into a single day, how could it not be?

I regret the money I spent on my wedding; not my actual wedding.

Over the two years I spent planning our big day, it was easy to see how couples can go to the pit of their savings to keep up with the monster that has become wedding culture.

Now, as the dust settles, I’m seeing the way that this behemoth of an industry took one look at me and my $35K budget, gobbled us up, and spat me back out on the other side of a $50K wedding.

Photo Credit: @_sarahbradyphotography

Let’s talk about everyone’s favourite offender, social media. 

Between TikTok, Instagram, and Pinterest, these platforms somehow make the unattainable, the end goal. The access to celebrities and influencers and their budget-less weddings continues to set unrealistic expectations that far exceed the odd celeb wedding coverage in a magazine.

Every detail, in all its glorious excess just readily available for the newly engaged bride-to-be.

I watched Sofia Richie and Steph Claire Smith’s weddings. Just like every other bride-to-be I thought to myself “How can I embody that on a budget?”. But, the truth is – you can’t.

The floral arrangements alone would be three times my entire wedding budget. And to hire a vintage car to take us 20 minutes from our accommodation to the venue would set me back almost $3K.

So I did what any other Gen Z bride would do. I rebranded the narrative of “bride too broke for Lake Como” and searched these platforms to inspire my new vision “chic bride opts for backyard vibe”. The problem with this? It doesn’t save you much.

The secret with DIY weddings is that the hidden costs associated with booking everything yourself, don’t leave you with any financial wiggle room. 

One of the things that made this an unaccounted-for factor was the lack of transparency in the wedding industry.

There’s this common business approach where to compare vendor pricing you first have to go through the quoting process with any prospective vendors.

And if you don’t have the time, patience or capacity to reach out to as many caterers, florists, or stylists as you can (while also trying to ensure they’re all available on the same date)? You probably won’t understand what you’re paying for. Or whether you’ve been hit with the “wedding tax”.

Photo Credit: @_sarahbradyphotography

As the first of my friends to get married, I had no idea what the average cost for each element was. Even after receiving quote after quote, I wasn’t sure where the sweet spot between quality and quantity was.

The anxiety of paying a deposit, and praying my overall “vision” wouldn’t leave me gasping at the additions added to my final invoices weeks before the big day haunted me. Spoiler alert: it did!

I knew venues were a huge chunk of any bride’s budget, so I opted for a DIY venue. I was quite smug about how little I paid for this space. Also that quite a few additional cost items were already included in the price. But I was very quickly humbled.

I was being quoted $18K for a marquee. My wet weather plan was about to set me back 15 times what my venue had cost me. That wasn’t including the setup and pack-down fees, the weekend surcharges, and the security I needed to hire to watch the structure overnight because it was visible from a main road… Huh?!

I had also never hired a band before. And for my “backyard vibe” I was going to need two separate generators if I didn’t want cords galore stretching from my marquee to the nearest outlets.

On top of that, because my venue was set in a rural location, each vendor included a travel fee for every staff member and my guests required organised transport to get home at the end of the night when there would be no transport available.

These were just a few of the unexpected and unavoidable extras that saw my spreadsheet turning red.

Photo Credit: @_sarahbradyphotography

The icing on the cake (or should I say the final nail in my budget’s coffin) was the unexpected pressure to give my guests and bridal party an experience like no other.

No matter how many times I told people “It’s super casual – it’s cocktail style!”, the reality is the insecurity of not meeting their unfounded expectations of my wedding day, slowly saw that dollar amount get higher and higher.

The pressure I placed on myself to not make my wedding their financial burden led me to pay for quite a few expenses that, in all honestly, I couldn’t afford. 

I spent thousands on accommodation the night of. But that went to waste with many heading home unintentionally in a drunken state. 

My car, to this day, has unclaimed bridal party gifts piled up in the back. Which really, who needs another personalised whiskey glass or toiletry bag to store anyway? 

And no one looked twice at the personalised signage for each table. Or commented on the roaming canape menus I spent hundreds of dollars on, and hours designing.

Truth is all of these things, if not included, would have gone unnoticed and without complaint. My new husband and I would have also walked away with a better sense of financial security in our first few months as a married couple.

Because at the crux of it all, the only unfounded expectations – whether they were influenced by that perfect Pinterest bride or the image of someone wiping their hands on a paper napkin -were all my own. Placed entirely on myself – by me.

Photo Credit: @_sarahbradyphotography

Almost amusingly, after all of this effort, money, and angst spent to create the “perfect” day, half of our equipment didn’t get used because of unexpected hurricane winds picking up an hour before the ceremony. 

In all honesty, coming out of the wedding fog and looking where we are now financially, I do think we could have been smarter. 

At the time the individual linen napkins on the unassigned table settings, for an evening consisting purely of roaming canapes, was a hill I was prepared to die on.

But looking where we are now; I don’t think a smaller cake, or less ombre candlesticks, would have made that perfect day feel any less perfect. 

When I speak to my guests now, not a single person has mentioned how they wish I had more petals to throw as we walked back down the aisle. Nor how I should have spent the extra $800 on the extra vocalist in the band.

They tell me how wonderful it was to have a rare glimpse into our relationship. And how they teared up as my sister spoke of her excitement in welcoming her new brother-in-law into our family.

I know it’s cliche, but as soon as I stepped out of that limousine, it wouldn’t have mattered if I stuck to my budget and chose to drive myself there in my 2003 Honda CRV. Because the moment I glimpsed my teary-eyed husband waiting for me at the end of the aisle, everyone and everything else that day, was just a bonus.

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