Carolyn Hax: Advice

Wedding costs are causing couple woes

Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My fiancee, “Shelly,” and I are planning our wedding, which she is mostly paying for since she makes over twice what I do.

I’m starting to have a real problem with how much we’re spending. It sounded great at first — only 75 people and the reception will be at her folks’ beach house, so, pretty cheap, right?

Absolutely not! The tent, chairs, tables, band, food, booze, flowers and so on, and we’re looking at over $25k! I haven’t said much because, as I said, it’s mainly her money — yet the staggering (to me) cost is starting to overwhelm things.

To be clear — I am NOT getting cold feet, I’d happily marry Shelly tomorrow at the courthouse, but that’s not what we agreed on and really, I’d like a nice wedding with our friends and family around us. I’m just not sure it should cost this much.

Should I tell Shelly I’d like to dial things back a bit? Is it even reasonable to try to spend less than this? Shelly doesn’t seem to think so but my sister’s wedding for 150 people didn’t cost half as much. I’m not sure how to approach the subject without seeming like a spoilsport or like I’m trying to tell Shelly how she can spend her own money.

Wedding Bucks Blues

Would you and Shelly please have a conversation about money — navigating yours/mine/ours, priorities, privacy, budgeting and percentages saved for the future? You write this whole question as a bystander, presumably because she makes more and you haven’t combined accounts, but even if we take it as a black-and-white calculation (which I argue it isn’t), her making twice what you do means she has 66.6 percent say to your 33.4, not 100 percent to 0.

Maybe, “I was comfortable letting the wedding be your show, because it’s your money and we both want a nice party — and I’m grateful for your effort. It has shown me, though, that I’m either naive about wedding costs or we have different comfort levels with spending. I’d like to make sure we bring a unified approach to money to our marriage.”

Stacks of books discuss couples and money — my colleague Michelle Singletary writes on the topic extensively

Re: Wedding: I am also planning a wedding and I am shocked, horrified, stunned at how much it costs to do so. We have chosen a free venue, downscaled lunch buffet, no band, a friend is doing the ceremony, another is doing the photos, and we are STILL looking at $15,000-plus. We go over the budget together and make decisions and I am gobsmacked at it all.

In sum — talk to her. But at this point, I don’t think she is even close to a bridezilla when it comes to cost. And stay off Pinterest — that place is a suck hole of all joy and fun.

Anonymous

Thanks for this — I was actually thinking, too, that some couples would see 25K as a bargain, especially those in expensive metropolitan areas.

I’m also glad you said A suck hole of all joy and fun, and not THE suck hole of all joy and fun, because I was going to be hurt to see my column lose that distinction.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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