When my Redstate colleague Kimberly Ross posted a comment about the average cost of a millennial wedding I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had to look it up for myself. She wasn’t making it up.
According to CNN’s Money page millennial couples spend an average of…are you ready for this?…$35,000 per wedding.
The report (based on a survey of 13,000 people) went on to say that while the wedding budgets have ballooned the guest list has shrunk. Instead, millennials are inviting fewer guests and providing them with a more personalized experience and “boutique” options like unique bar options, live bands in addition to (that’s right, in addition to) DJs and custom video packages.
Unsurprisingly millennials aren’t really paying for the entire thing themselves. Less than 10% cover the entirety of their own wedding costs while the bride’s parents are picking up nearly 44% of the tab. Most of the rest of the cost is typically covered by the groom’s parents and the couple.
Regardless of who pays, $35,000 is a hell of a lot of money to spend on one single day in your life. As a woman who has been happily married for almost 20 years, let me share some wisdom with my millennial friends who are currently planning expensive, “boutique” weddings…
IT’S NOT WORTH IT.
Don’t get defensive. I can already hear you reading this and saying to yourself, “It’s a special day and it only happens once. There’s nothing wrong with making it everything you want it to be. You’ll remember it forever!”
No, you won’t.
I know it seems unimaginable right now. You’re so in love. You’re the center of attention and everyone is happy and you can only imagine ever feeling exactly the way you do this day. You think that this “love” is owed some type of recognition, something special that you’ll never forget. Something you can look back on in tough times and be reminded of how excited and happy you were together in that moment.
I get it. I do. But I’ve got some years on you so let me tell you what you’ll really be saying when you look back on those pictures and videos…
“Damn. We should have bought a house. That was a down payment!”
The truth is, if you do this marriage thing right your wedding day will be the least important day of your lives together. You think that the way you feel now is the strongest you’ll ever feel about anything. You are dead wrong. In a few years, or even a few months you’ll be hurt…or you’ll hurt your partner. You’ll feel rage when someone you love so much could be so hurtful. Then you’ll feel passion and gratefulness when you realize no one loves you like your spouse and no one knows you like they do.
You’ll have children and they will change everything. They will make the love you feel today look like a Disney movie. You’ll never recover from the discovery that you can love a single being that much. It will change your marriage, your friendships, yourself.
You will move, switch jobs, battle illness, take dream vacations, suffer loss, celebrate successes…your life will fill up with experiences that can only be had with this one other person. You won’t think about your wedding day much. When you get to be my age you’ll barely think of it at all.
And that’s a good thing.
Your wedding shouldn’t be the most memorable event in your lives together. It’s only a starting point. Studies show that the more money couples spend on weddings, the more chance they have of divorcing down the road. I’m sure there are all kinds of explanations for this but one reason could be that young people are setting themselves up with unrealistic expectations from the start. In terms a millennial might understand, “The higher the high the lower the low.”
That’s not to say you should give up your dream wedding just so you don’t get too disappointed afterwards. You should give up your dream wedding because it’s stupid. In fifteen years when you’re getting sick of shuffling the kids’ sleeping arrangements around every time the grandparents want to come stay for a week you’ll wish you had that $35K to put down on a bigger house. You’ll kick yourself for being so naive and shortsighted.
In 20 years when you’re looking at the first round of college costs and you’re facing yet another withdrawal from your retirement savings, you’ll ask yourself if you really needed that 1920’s speakeasy themed after party on top of the reception.
In just a few years or months when you’re having your first real, angry, loud fight over money you’ll for damn sure wish you had that $35K in your bank account.
Before you break the bank on a day that probably won’t even crack the top 5 of memorable experiences you have with your partner, ask yourself what you’d do with that kind of money if you weren’t getting married. Would you invest it? Have an adventure? Buy a home? Buy a new car? Pay off some bills?
Do any of those options sound more appealing than a day as a pretend prince and princess? If so, ask your parents if they’ll invest in your future instead of your day and if they say yes, take the money and run. Find a lovely yard or park to marry in, scale back the guest list and throw a party down the road for those you couldn’t fit in. Breakfast is cheaper to serve so get married in the morning. Instead of having guests check off gifts on a ridiculously lavish registry, ask if they’ll chip in for an open bar.
In case you’re wondering, we did not have a lavish wedding. My husband was a teacher in the inner city and I was an actress. Neither of us had parents in a position to pay for anything. It was all up to us. All we wanted to do was start our lives together as quickly as possible. We did it on $1400 with about 20 of our closest friends and family in attendance.
I rarely think of that day, not because it isn’t important but because it was only the beginning. I think of it in the way that a champion figure skater might remember her first lesson or a singer might remember her first concert. There is a feeling of nostalgia but so many more amazing, incredible unpredictable things have happened since that day. The scope of the life we have created together looms so much larger than that one single day.
That day was only the beginning.
Trust me, there’ll be so many other more amazing days…and so many moments where you’ll say to yourself, “If only I had $35,000 right about now.”