The cost of getting married

So I just received an email from the Washingtonian, which I usually love.  Today in their bridal party email, there is an ad for a photographer that has rates starting at $6,200.  STARTING!  Yes, the guy has been a White House photographer, but really?  Which got me to thinking about the cost of my wedding - now 5 weeks away. A little quick internet research tells me that:

On average, couples that live in Washington, DC 20009 spend between $27,384 and $45,641 for their wedding. This does not include cost for a honeymoon or engagement ring.

Well, that may be true, but for Groom and I, our Italian wedding, complete with honeymoon is going to be a lot closer to $14,000,  if you add in the cost of my dress ($650 after student discount) .  Why am I telling you this?  Because I think it is important to get the word out to all newly engaged folks that you can have an amazing amazing wedding, without going into debt.  You just need to be realistic.

Groom and I have had a seventeen month engagement.  While this might be too long for some - it does give you a LOT of time to ponder details - it gave us time to determine how much we could reasonably save from each paycheck to pay for this shindig.  That's right, our very first decision was not how big a party we want, but how much can we save.  Once we figured out what our ball park number was going to be, we worked out a wedding plan from there.

We knew we would be inviting a lot of people - Groom and I are both people collectors, and for us, it was really important that we be surrounded by the people we love.  But even here, we had to be realistic.  We knew we couldn't afford a 5 course tasting meal for 250 of our friends.  So we decided to host the reception at a favorite restaurant in Chicago.  This did  a few things for us.  1)  Those who wanted to be there likely had to travel.  Chicago is central for our families, mostly located in Wisconsin and Iowa, but the rest, including us, will have to travel.  That did limit the guest list a bit, but in a way that we wouldn't have to determine.  2) This site only holds 100 people max.  I would love to tell you that we only invited 100 guests, but we didn't.  We invited more than that, and are right now hoping for the best.  At this point, it is two weeks after I asked people to RSVP.  I feel like I can safely tell who is most likely and able to attend by the responses - or non-response.  3) We picked a venue that is much more Groom and me than any hall or large space.  I fell in love with this place the first time Groom took me here; in fact I joked about hosting our reception here even then.   It's cozy, and when I said the word "wedding" they didn't double the price.

More realism - we're doing the meal family style.  Not quite plated, not exactly a buffet, this format forces everyone to interact with each other.  As this restaurant already specializes in family style sharing, it was perfect.

The next big thing people can get carried away with is decoration - this will be very simple, which is fine with me.  I don't like overdone anyway.   Candles, twinkly lights, gerbera daisies (my favorite flower) and I can call it a day.  Not only is this low cost, it is low stress.

As for paper stuff - the save the dates, invites, menus, and thank you cards - I found an amazing designer, Pinklilypress, on Etsy, who has done all of this stuff for me for wonderful prices.  Not only am I not required to be traditional, but I have custom pieces that I know I love, made by someone who is passionate about her work.

My last tip is avoid any person who says "your perfect day" or "the greatest day of your life" or "the happiest day of your life."  These people will charge you twice as much as soon as you utter wedding.

Really, what I am getting at is that a wedding is still a wedding, even if it doesn't include $90 a plate dinners for 300 of your parents friends, $6500 dresses, and $2500 letterpress invites.  Start with a budget that you can reasonably afford.  Don't go into massive debt for a party.  You want to remember this day for the amazing, not for the interest you are still paying off.