You Paid WHAT for Your Wedding?


 Isn’t this wedding decor fun?  Looks like those dandelion heads at the end of summer/early fall, where they’re ready to blow all over…This lighting decor’s expensive but maybe you can come up with a knock-off of the idea.

Well, we’re not Dead-Last for a change, as we are in many surveys…No, in this one, we’re in the top five  in the nation and that’s a dubious honor, indeed.

What’s the rank for?  It’s the  top states with highest wedding expenses. Rhode Island came in at number 5, or $41,307 spent, on average…pretty amazing, really, since we’re low in household income and high in unemployment.

Why do I find this so compelling?  Because my own daughter’s in the current crop of engaged people, and frankly, that’s how these figures get ramped up.  What becomes “de rigueur” is what other couples are doing.  A bride and groom feel compelled to follow suit and do what others do…

They might not want to stand out—in a bad way.

But the cost involved in bankrolling today’s weddings might just lead some to run off…the parents, I mean.

For instance, years ago, parents of the bride foot the entire bill with the reasoning:  Bride goes from father to husband, and the bride’s family should pay. The woman was going to be a stay-at-home wife to her breadwinner husband.

The centuries-old dowry translated into “bride’s family pays for the wedding.”

But in the past several decades, all that’s changed. 

The bride’s family has already presumably spent a great deal on her education (I’ve personally invested $100,000 for college on each of my two girls: One graduated from McGill, in Pittsburgh and the other from McGill in Montreal.) 

Then there’s  all that “other money” I spent on them, raising them, just getting them to college age.

Today, as women embark on marriage, they bring tremendous earning power to the equation, earning power made possible by their families’ investment.

Dowries aren’t expected anymore, for these women won’t be stay-at-home Moms, so there’s a more equitable sharing of wedding cost.

When I hear the sums spent on some weddings,  I blanch:  $175,000…$150,000 for a singular day of spectacle.  Yes, those affairs might be beautiful, but I have to admit:  I’m too working-class for that. As a single Mom, I’ve had to penny-pinch too often to OK such expense.

But I have no problem if others do it…as long as they take responsibility for the cost. For instance, most people I know pretty much believe the “kids” should pay for the wedding once they’re over the age of 30. After all, if they’ve done it right, those “kids” probably earn more than the parent, by that point.

If they do pay, I suggest they whittle wedding costs by using craft and inventiveness:  Negotiate food costs…determine an unusual venue (as long as protected from weather vagaries;) be Spartan with the guest list (you’ll never see a lot of those people again;) hire newer caterers who might work with you all the more and avoid the prestige names whose cachet often trumps quality.

Figure unusual, crafty table arrangements (to cut down flower costs.) Same with the wedding favors—Be original but with flair (See picture of decor above? Try to duplicate at far reduced cost.)

The task is daunting, but as most of you know, you’ll be planning it all a long way out, so you’ve got time.

If I were doing it again, I’d make the ceremony as simple and meaningful as possible:  hired hall, an obliging but good caterer, friends for the music (one of the best weddings I attended was an at-home Quaker wedding where friends brought the food.)

You see, I speak about Wedding Waste with authority:  My father continued to pay for my wedding far longer than my first marriage lasted (and he reminded me of that fact, often.)

My husband might have been more inclined to work at our life together if he’d invested in the cost. 

In conclusion, Be wise:  Don’t get roped into the Marriage Madness. Stay unique and don’t buckle to pressure created by others. 

Your friends may just remember yours as the “Best Wedding Ever,” and you won’t needlessly stress or take on what amounts to an almost-mortgage to supply the fun and memories of what should be ‘Your Special Day.’

Now, click this link to read about Rhode Island’s “fame,” and see who came in as other Top Spenders, and then comment as to your favorite wedding…Was it a big, grand affair or homespun, easy, informal?


About admin

A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog,, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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