Category Archives: Weddings

Wedding Registry Etiquette

wedding registryWedding registries have become so pervasive in the past few years that guests have now come to expect them. The concept of the wedding registry was first created in the 1920′s, and allowed the bride and groom to choose a pattern for china, silver, and crystal dinnerware. In the 1990′s, Target introduced the electronic self-service gift registry, and now registries include everything from the traditional china to towels, cash funds, charities, and even DVDs.

If you’re like me, you’re probably conflicted about wedding registries. On the one hand, they make it easier for guests to purchase gifts without worrying that the couple doesn’t want/need the gift, but on the other hand, telling people what to give you just seems so damned tacky.

Unfortunately  (or fortunately?), the decision has been all but made for us nowadays, with wedding registries being so common that not having one would turn heads. And it’s not all bad, registries do certainly make the gift buying process easier, but they also introduce a host of new complications and stress inducers that you should be aware of. After the jump, some of the most common wedding registry headaches.

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Weddings Kill Your Budget (But Not the Way You Expect)

weddingWeddings are expensive, elaborate, complicated occasions that require a lot of planning. You need to find a venue and then coordinate all your vendors, including a caterer, florist, baker, DJ, photographer, officiant, etc. There are a lot of details that require quite a bit of advanced planning. And most of those details are very expensive. That means you spend months and months immersed in things you would never pay so much for on a regular basis. It starts to warp your sense of perspective.

After you’ve spent weeks getting price quotes from caterers who want to charge you $100pp, suddenly going out for a $15 lunch doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Once you’ve tried on $1000 dresses, that cute $150 sun dress you saw at the store seems downright cheap. If you’re not careful, you could blow your entire budget.

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The Wedding Industry Wants Your Money

Bride and Groom Outside a Drive-in ChurchI haven’t been doing too much writing lately. It’s primarily because I’ve started wedding planning and it’s an all-consuming endeavor. An all-consuming endeavor that makes me want to punch someone in the face. This picture represents what I’d really like to do right now.

Weddings costs are out of control. I’ve always known this. But now that I’ve begun planning my wedding, my eyes have been opened to all sorts of ridiculousness. From $200 bouquets to $100pp meals to $12,000 space rental fees, I feel as though I just want to give up. The fact of the matter is, unless you want to spend the time and effort to create a DIY wedding with creative food options and lots of help from friends to do things like photography, invitations, and DJing, you’re going to end up being robbed by the wedding industry.

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Engagement Party Etiquette

I’ll cut right to the chase with the thesis of this post: how do you invite people to an informal, no-gifts engagement party and convince them that you really mean informal and no-gifts?

My fiance and I are planning an engagement party for next month, and we would like it to be exactly that. No big hoopla, no gifts, don’t bother flying across the country for it, just if you happen to be in town and free that night, come hang out with us and celebrate. We’re trying to get invitations (evites) out this week, and we’ve run into so many problems.

After the jump, I need some advice from anyone who has had or been to a similar engagement party!

1) Can we invite people that may not be invited to the wedding?

Everything we read says that you should only invite people who will be invited to your wedding. But our wedding is still over a year away and we don’t know the venue yet, so we have no idea who is going to be on our guest list. Our rationale is that since the engagement party will be informal and we’re asking people to not bring gifts, we should be able to invite everyone.

2) Should we invite out-of-towners?

We are planning our engagement party to be so informal that it seems ludicrous to ask anyone to pay for a plane ticket to come. I don’t want an invitation to make our out-of-town relatives feel like they have any obligation to come, but I also don’t want to hurt their feelings by not inviting them. I think the right strategy here is to send them an invite, but make it abundantly clear that while we would love their company, we do not expect anyone to fly across the country for this. I’ve been mulling over how exactly to phrase that sentiment, and nothing sounds quite right to me.

3) Should we register somewhere even though we don’t want gifts?

Some of our friends told us that even though we stipulate no gifts, some people will want to bring gifts anyway, and out-of-towners will want to send gifts. (That’s another reason I’m hesitant to invite out-of-towners; I don’t want them to feel like if they can’t come, they should send a gift.) I don’t want the presence of a registry to cause anyone who would not otherwise have bought us a gift to buy us something. I worry that registering somewhere sends the message that we’re just trying to be polite by saying no gifts, but we really do want you to get us something.

I’m Back (and with some big news!)

Well that was a long break. Work has been absolutely crazy for the past few weeks, with the fiscal year end, a conference in Vegas, and hiring a couple new additions to my department. There are plenty of topics there I could write about, from how to evaluate yourself for your performance review, to gambling, to the exorbitant amounts of money we pour into conferences, to what happens to your raise when your boss decides to hire two new people instead of the one he had budgeted for. I’ll likely write about some or all of those topics in the coming weeks, but there’s something much more exciting I’d rather write about… I got engaged on Monday!

It’s been an incredibly exciting few days, and I’ve had conversation after conversation with friends and relatives about all the sappy, romantic aspects of getting engaged. My Facebook wall is plastered with congratulatory messages and tons of adorable pictures. I figure for this blog, I’ll stick with the financial aspects, most of which are actually pretty exciting too.

The first thing everyone says when they find out you’re engaged is “let me see the ring!” I’m proud to be displaying an absolutely gorgeous ring on my finger that I can show off to all my friends. I’m in love with this ring. How much did my fiance spend on it? Nada. It’s a ring that’s been in his family since 1935. It was a gift from his great-grandfather to his great-grandmother for their 25th anniversary. It has been through two more owners since then, and now I’m so honored to be the new owner. We were really lucky to get this ring of course, and if we hadn’t, my fiance would have probably ended up spending more than I wanted him to on a ring. Still, even though it was dumb luck that we got this ring, I feel like it’s a great financial start for our future.

The second thing everyone says when they find out you’re engaged is “when’s the wedding?” Why anyone thinks we’d already have a date set a mere day after the proposal, I don’t know, but we’ve been asked quite a many times already. I posted several weeks ago about two weddings I attended, one expensive and one frugal, and my fiance and I are using those two weddings as a starting point for most of our conversations. (I was happy that my suggestion of having a barefoot wedding on the beach was met with some excitement.) We’ve agreed that we’re in no rush and we’ll visit as many places as we have to until we find the right location for us. My parents are also visiting in a few months, so we’ll be able to sit down with them and talk about budget. I’m not sure if they’ll be able/willing to pay for the whole wedding, but we’ll be eternally grateful for any financial assistance they give us!

Since the engagement, we’ve also started talking about merging finances and working toward specific goals like the down payment and the investment portfolio together rather than each doing our own thing. We don’t know exactly how we’re going to do it yet, but we’ll figure that out soon enough. Any advice on merging finances would be much appreciated!

All in all, it seems like we’ve gotten very lucky financially, between the family ring and my parents’ willingness to help pay for the wedding. I had been quite concerned that the engagement and wedding would seriously derail our long term goals, and I’m incredibly touched by the willingness of our families to help. I realize at the same time that as a blog post, I’m not offering any concrete advice on saving money on engagement rings or weddings. I did have a thought last night though that would be an interesting one to discuss: it is the tradition that the bride’s family pays for the wedding, but that came from a time when women were considered objects to be given from the father to the husband, endured during a time when people typically got married very young and therefore didn’t have their own money to pay for a wedding, and may not be a viable option in a time when a bride’s parents are looking to retire and have recently lost a good chunk of their retirement funds. Is it still reasonable to expect that the bride’s parents will pay for the wedding?

Wedding Expenses

In the past 7 months, I’ve gone to two weddings. The first back in October 2011 was quite extravagant, while the second this past weekend was very minimalistic. I’m assuming I’ll be planning a wedding of my own in the next couple years, so friends’ weddings are a great way to figure out which parts of a wedding are important to me and on which parts I would be fine cutting costs.

Wedding #1 had gorgeous invitations and matching save the date cards. Wedding #2 had simply a post card with a picture of the bride and groom for the save the date card and a very basic, brightly colored invitation. #1 was clearly more expensive than #2. Did I care? Not really. But did I notice that #2 looked cheaper than your standard wedding invitation? Immediately. The question then becomes, do you care if your friends and relatives receive an invitation that they will immediately recognize as inexpensive?

I’d like to find some middle ground on this one. I’m thinking the way to go may be an inexpensive invitation that’s in a more formal color scheme or has a fancier looking design. Anyone who really cares about appearances will still be able to tell that it’s a cheap invitation, but I just don’t think I care.

This one is a little harder to analyze because I really have no concept of how much either of my friends paid for their venues. Friend #1 told me that her venue was less expensive because she got married a little off the beaten path… but it was still at a frigging castle, so I can’t imagine it was cheap. Wedding #2 was at a garden, which was a lovely setting. The reception was in the visitor’s center, which was nothing special, but there was plenty of space, big windows with a gorgeous view of the gardens and it wasn’t missing any necessities.

I’m sure I’ll get a better sense of venue costs when it’s time to start planning my wedding, but I thought both weddings were in beautiful locations, and I would also like to have my wedding in a beautiful location. I once went to a very small wedding in the backyard of a huge house, and that was beautiful too. The trick here will be finding a sufficiently beautiful location that’s relatively inexpensive. And I have no idea if that will be hard to find yet.

For wedding #1 I had to choose my dinner selection when I sent my RSVP. Unfortunately, I made the wrong selection. The salmon was over cooked and it came on a bed of unsalted risotto. They did also serve hors d’oeuvres between the ceremony and reception which I really liked. Wedding #2 had a small buffet and no hors d’oeuvres. There was a salad, vegetables, mashed potatoes, salmon, portabella mushrooms, and a carving station with beef.

I like to eat. I went to a wedding a while back that had a buffet that spanned three huge tables. That’s my kind of wedding. And it probably cost less than the food at wedding #1. Unfortunately, my boyfriend is adamantly against having a buffet. He wants everyone to be served their dinner. This one will be a battle. In my mind, buffets are both better and cheaper.

Wedding #1 had wine (and maybe beer?), but no hard alcohol, which I’m sure saved a bundle. But wedding #2 saved even more by having absolutely no alcohol, not even champagne for a toast. It was a religious choice, but I’m sure they appreciated the reduced bill as well.

I’m not much of a drinker, and my boyfriend doesn’t drink at all, but I think I’d still like to have at least some alcohol at our wedding, because I know the guests will be appreciative. Wine, beer and champagne seems like a pretty good plan. When it comes to hard alcohol, having an open bar is out, it’s far too much money to spend on something my boyfriend and I won’t even use. But on the other hand, a cash bar has always seemed a little tacky to me. We may settle on wine/beer/champagne plus a cash bar.

Here’s the thing: I’m sure wedding #1 had gorgeous centerpieces that cost a bundle, but I can’t remember what they were. Wedding #2 made centerpieces out of bowls of fruit that matched the color scheme of the invitations/cake/groomsmen’s ties. They probably spent $3 per centerpiece, and it generated a lot of conversation. Every single person who sat down at our table after me said “hey, cool centerpiece, I wonder if it’s ok to eat it?” We had this conversation about 4 times throughout the night until we decided to eat it.

I’m definitely a fan of the fruit centerpiece. It was a very unique touch and saved them a lot of money I’m sure. I’d like to do something similar.

Both weddings had pretty standard wedding cakes. I think it would be fun to do something non-standard like cupcakes, but I don’t think I’ll win that battle. What’s most important is that the cake tastes good. You can ooh and aah over a beautiful cake all you want, but you’ll have already forgotten how it looked when you take a bite of bad cake.

It seems like a live musician for the ceremony and a DJ for the reception is pretty standard nowadays. I’d like to have live music for the reception, but I’d be willing to go with a DJ if it would save a significant sum of money.

Wedding Party
I was a bridesmaid at wedding #1 and damn was that expensive. The wedding party consisted of 5 bridesmaids and 5 groomsmen. The bridesmaids bought matching $300 dresses and the groomsmen rented matching tuxes. Wedding #2 had a 4 person wedding party: one bridesmaid and 3 groomsmen. The groomsmen rented tuxes and were wearing matching ties, but the bridesmaid was not really matching anything; she clearly was able to get whatever dress she wanted that vaguely matched the color scheme.

I am a huge fan of the small wedding party without matching dresses. I don’t even really want a wedding party because I don’t want to deal with the drama of deciding who to ask and possibly offending someone who thought I would ask her. Maybe we’ll just end up with a best man and a maid of honor. And I absolutely will not mandate that she wear a specific dress. If I end up with multiple bridesmaids, I’ll probably just have them all wear black.

The Dress
I have absolutely no idea how much either of the brides spend on their dresses, but I will absolutely be looking to cut costs as much as possible with the dress. I do not need to get married in a poofy princess gown that cost $2000. Hell, I’ve got some white dresses in my closet that I’d be happy getting married in.

Wedding #1 had two photographers and a videographer. Wedding #2 had one photographer and no videographer.

I think wedding #2 had it right. Having a wedding video seems really cool, but how many people ever actually watch their wedding video? If it’s not hugely expensive I may be able to be convinced, but I don’t think a video of my wedding is worth a thousand dollars. I was there. I’ll remember it.