plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

August 13, 2008

paying for weddings

Filed under: philosophical — Tags: , , — plonkee @ 12:50 pm

I’m completely single, not just unmarried, but having no experience in an area doesn’t normally stop me either having an opinion, or wanting to learn more. My peers are getting into prime marriageable age, which is great, but always makes me wonder about how such things get paid for.

Most of my peers are like me (funnily enough) non-religious graduates, these are not people who balk at *living in sin*. But, this means that the people getting married now are having first weddings of the conventional variety. In England that means in either a C of E church, hotel or stately home, in the early afternoon with a sit-down three course meal for around 70 people with wine, followed by an evening do – disco, buffet and cash bar – for around 120 to 150. You can add to that a professional photographer, white wedding dress for the bride, morning suits for the groom and any ushers, flowers, three tiered cake, etc, etc.

I believe that the average cost of a wedding in the UK is in the £20k region (about $40k US). I’ve always thought that was a lot of money, but actually you can see how it adds up. Standard-ish prices in my area (outside London) for the things mentioned are:

  • wedding breakfast – £5,000
  • evening reception – £2,000
  • rings – £2000
  • photographer – £1,200
  • flowers – £1,000
  • cars – £500
  • wedding dress – £500
  • church – £300
  • suits – £300
  • cake – £250
  • stationery – £250
  • legal costs – £100

That’s well over £13k and I bet I haven’t nearly thought of everything. Plus there’s a fancy honeymoon. Actually the honeymoon is often the first thing that falls by the wayside when people are trying to cut costs. And people do cut back on the amounts that they spend, but mostly on the smaller things like making their own invitations, or non-professional flowers. But a traditional English wedding reception is just in the £7k range and upwards. That’s how much food, alcohol and pretty buildings cost.

So, how do people pay for it? I know my friends and they aren’t rolling in money. They have the same sorts of income that I do and I’m not sure that I could save up those sums over the course of one or two years which seems to be the typical length of an engagement. I do my best, but I’ve consistently found that it takes me about 3 years to save £6k, and given conversations that we’ve had about credit card debts, my friends and acquantainces are not all *sensible personal finance* people. I suspect that some of the money may be going on credit cards (yes, you’re right a wedding is a poor excuse for consumer debt). But I think more of it is being contributed by parents.

That I’m not a fan of. Maybe it’s because I’m a little bit unconventional. I don’t think that getting married is an achievement – certainly a very nice thing for the couple but not an achievement. I also don’t think that grown adults who moved out of home more than a couple of years ago who have good incomes should be accepting money from their parents to pay for a big party. Now, I understand that it’s a little difficult to refuse an unsolicited gifts, but expecting a contribution is definitely beyond the pale.

People who have these (very nice) conventional weddings often expect their parents to contribute probably because there’s no way they could afford a *standard* wedding otherwise. But I think that if you’re grown up enough to get married, you’re grown up enough to pay for it yourself, and to be satisfied with a wedding that you can afford yourselves. Of course people may find it difficult/impossible to refuse a no strings gift from their parents, but why use that to upgrade the experience? Why not save money to put towards something else?

Honestly it’s not me being bitter, and thinking that people shouldn’t get married at all. I’m always delighted when my friends get married and excited to send a card and gift, and to go if I’m invited. I just wish that spending less money on them was the norm.

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