According to a recent study, the average wedding cost in the US is $33,391—and that’s not even including the amount spent on an engagement ring.
As you might imagine, the figures vary widely from state-to-state. Couples in New York City spend the most at $76,944, while couples in New Mexico spend the least at $17,584.
If that sounds like a lot of money, it is. To put that into historical perspective, wedding spending has increased 3000% since the 1950s! Extravagant, expensive weddings are becoming the norm.
A wedding is an important day and a significant moment in time. It signifies the day we commit the rest of our lives to another human being—to love, cherish, and honor until death do us part. It is a commitment we make in front of friends and family and often represents the joining of two families into one.
This article is, by no means, meant to downplay the importance of that special day. But we should consider if this trend to spend more and more money on weddings is a wise choice.
It is helpful, I think, to consider some of the negative ramifications of an expensive and extravagant wedding. Ever-increasing wedding costs are not necessary and may actually do more harm than good.
Consider the reasons:
1. Extravagant weddings result in increased stress and distraction. Wedding days are stressful enough—adding dozens of unnecessary frills and expenses makes them even more so.
On the other hand, a simple wedding helps keep focus on the bride and groom rather than decorations, accommodations, and food.
2. Expensive weddings bring financial consequences felt for years. If you are going into debt to pay for your wedding, please don’t. Financial pressures consistently rank as one of the top reasons for divorce.
Even if you do have the money saved, it can almost certainly be spent wiser elsewhere: paying off debt, a down payment on your first home, or even the honeymoon experience.
3. Extravagant weddings often distract from the hard work of preparing for marriage. When it comes to joining two lives into one, how many flowers will be in each centerpiece at the reception dinner is the least of your concerns. You and your future spouse should be talking about plans for your life together, methods of communication, and family experiences that may result in mismatched expectations.
Spend as much time together in premarital counseling as you do planning the actual ceremony. That is where the true foundation for a happy marriage is laid.
4. Expensive weddings are not necessarily more beautiful. The early assumption made by brides and grooms is that spending more money will result in a more beautiful experience and ceremony. But that is simply not the case. I have attended expensive weddings that were beautiful, for sure. But I have also attended simple weddings that were even more beautiful and often showcased more of the bride’s (and groom’s) personality.
Simplicity, as they say, is the ultimate sophistication.
5. Extravagant weddings magnify mistakes and mishaps. Almost no wedding gets by without some mishap occurring during the day—whether before, during, or after the ceremony. In my opinion, when a couple has invested so much time, energy, and money into a ceremony, they are more likely to sweat the small stuff thinking their financial investment would have insulated them from any moments of imperfection.
Take heart. The little mishaps on your wedding day will be the memories you talk about the most. Not allowing them to ruin your special moment when they occur is key to enjoying your day.
6. Extravagant weddings tend to promote (or result from) competition. Thinking your wedding day must measure up to a purely subjective standard set by a friend or family member is a foolish way to spend your day. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” Theodore Roosevelt once famously said. Allowing it to creep into your wedding day, in any fashion, is a poor choice.
Your wedding day is about you and your future spouse. Nobody else.
7. Expensive weddings often result in shorter marriages. Believe it or not, there is evidence that marriage duration is inversely associated with spending on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony. Couples who spend less on their ceremony are more likely to remain together longer.
In the same study, there was also connection made between the honeymoon and the marriage: Going on a honeymoon is “significantly associated with a lower hazard of divorce.” Based on these stats, spending money on your honeymoon is a wiser investment than money on the ceremony.
My wedding occurred before my introduction to minimalism. And yet, it was not an extravagant one. It was big, but not expensive.
Kim and I got married at our home church in Omaha, NE with 400-500 people in attendance. Our ceremony was not flashy, but included many beautiful elements you would assume to be present at a traditional church wedding service. For our reception, we served sandwiches and cake and punch. If I could do it over, there’s not a single thing I would change.
Not a single day of our lives have we looked back and regretted not spending more on our wedding. But I know many couples who look back and regret the amount of money they wasted on their ceremony.
If you’d like a simple wedding, here are some helpful ideas to get you started:
- Set a budget (and stick to it).
- Choose elements that are important to you, but limit the number. Try fewer flowers, simpler decorations, or less food choices. You can keep many of the traditional elements (if that is your style) without needing to go over the top with any of them.
- Don’t shell out big money for expensive accommodations. A simple church building can be just as beautiful as an expensive wedding chapel. And if the time of year permits, a backyard can easily host an intimate, informal, unforgettable reception with little expense.
- Look for personal touches. A wedding ceremony that communicates your unique personalities and/or time together will always be considered more thoughtful by your guests than expensive add-ons bought at the bridal store.
- Realize the wedding industry is built entirely on convincing you that you need x. There are entire stores, catalogs, and websites in business today working tirelessly to convince you that you need x or y in order for your wedding to be perfect. They are wrong. You don’t need anything—except for maybe official paperwork from your state and a few witnesses to sign the document.
- Enjoy your simple, precious day focused on the things that matter most.
Marital happiness has nothing to do with your wedding ceremony. It has everything to do with the weeks and years and life together after.
That’s why the simplest weddings are often the happiest.
Ronnie Rand says
HI Joshua, Thank you for being such an inspiration to so many people to improve their lives. A long time ago I read a book of yours and it mentioned donating wedding rings, I think to provide water to people in Africa? I would like to do this but can’t find the charity that does it. Can you please help me find it? Thanks
joshua becker says
The name of the charity is With this Ring: https://withthisring.org/
Alice Taylor Sharrock says
My husband and I are not conventional. Outdoorsy, yes. We spent $250 on our wedding and it was memorable. Simple too. Outdoors on a Blue Ridge Parkway overlook. A friend did the music beautifully with her guitar, 2 meaningful songs. 10 couples including my in-laws. My natural/casual bouquet was a mix of gorgeous roses raised by friends and my in-laws–again, meaningful. We wore interesting clothes–no expensive gowns etc. (Me: long linen riding skirt and riding boots, lacy blouse, pith helmet with long trailing chiffon scarf. Think “Out of Africa”. Husband: Akubra hat and western wear.) Deliciously squishy Napoleon pastries and champagne. We had a wonderful time, lots of laughter with friends, a gorgeous view overlooking the Shenendoah Valley below. And oh, yes, I traded my artwork to the preacher and to the photographer in lieu of $. We have just celebrated our 28th Anniversary and 28 years of love, laughter and adventures around the world. God is good!
Pablo S. says
Was married 6 months ago, and my Bride’s mom controlled pretty much every aspect of the wedding. My family got to go the rehearsal dinner at a nice restaurant, but the Mother in law was pushing for us to do it at her country club…
I confirmed for myself (and with my bride) after the extravagant wedding she put on, that she needs to show off and have people give her the attention and spotlight and be the one who gets her way. The rehearsal dinner was intimate and wonderful! (with better food and atmosphere than the CC would have been) The wife brought it up recently after she had the realization of her mother’s control over everything.
Anyway. the wedding, I heard, cost upwards of $50,000, which is insane given the mother’s financial situation. I had no idea it was that much. It was beautiful and a wild party… But all the great memories of the design and people were things we did, not bought with $.
The wife and I never wanted something this extravagant, heck, we were playing with the thought of doing a small party or just going out to a local pub to celebrate with our friends and immediate family. So I don’t feel regret, or stress from any of it looking back.
But it helped me see how others feel the need to show off with $ and extravagance.
Rain San Martin says
I would love to see you write a similar post on funerals!! Thank you for having the courage to write this. I am appalled that people spend so much and needlessly spin their wheels on weddings today. Marriages were also more sacred in the 1950’s. The most simple solution is to get married with Justice of the Peace! Only $50 to $100 for a simple civil ceremony. And no wedding planning or debt stress!