Friday, March 4, 2011

Great Expectations

My maid of honor, my sister, is probably screaming right now because she has been waiting for me to post about the wedding venues my cousin and I looked at last weekend, and instead I'm posting something about Charles Dickens.
What is this doing on a wedding blog??

In actuality, this post is about wedding expectations.  I've talked about the fact that M and I set wedding goals, and a budget, but what I haven't talked about is how both of those are spiraling out of control, without us even spending a single dollar.  I've known about this for a while, and watched our budget spreadsheet creep up a thousand dollars at a time as I try ourt different venues.  But yesterday, I realized how truly insane it has become.  My mom and I were emailing about wedding sites, and when I mentioned we were having trouble finding a location, she wrote, "Dad and I will talk tonight about your budget (I think it is too low)."  I think my eyes bulged out of my head reading that.

It's a point of pride for M and I that were are paying for over half our weddingOur parents graciously offered to chip in a certain amount (which ended up being the same amount, and roughly 1/4 of our budget) and since we are DINKs* we felt like we could cover the rest ourselves without going into debt or breaking the bank.  Maybe this means we can't have our dream location or unlimited resources, but we felt confident we could pull off a classy, fun wedding on what felt like a larger-than-average budget.  My previously mentioned sister, after all, held a wedding for 50 people on a shoe-string budget of $5000 - I could certainly plan a wedding for 125 with over 4 times that amount.

*Dual Income No Kids

But the longer I look, the more it seems that our "elaborate" budget is too low in the Northern Virginia area.  We've debated cutting our guest list, but we are social people and (believe it or not) we love all 140 people that we're planning to invite.  We've expanded our location and looked further out from NoVA, into Richmond or Charlottesville, but it seems like wedding-inflation has hit those areas as well.  We've cut flowers to the bare minimum, my dress limit is $500, I'm looking into catering at $20 a person....  There isn't much left to cut, except our vision of the wedding.  We never imagined having a Princess Di (or Chelsea Clinton) style wedding.  We're pretty simple people and we know our limits.  Still, we know want a seated dinner for the reception, with a cocktail hour and nice touches like a quality photographer and a DJ to keep people dancing.  But whenever I browse sites like A Practical Wedding or 2000 Dollar Wedding it seems like the only budget-friendly option is to rent a park pavilion, have a pig roast, and throw a big party without the wedding industry's helping hand.

From 2000 Dollar Wedding:  Fun? Yes.  Us?  No.
I'm starting to wonder where the middle ground is.  How we can still have something that looks and feels like the wedding and reception we want, without going way over our budget.  And the more I read about traditional vs. indie weddings, the less I want to do with any of them.  How do we plan a wedding that feels like us - M and Y? 

No answers to these questions yet, ladies (and gents?) but feel free to share your stories in the comments - how did you tackle your budget and avoid cost creep?  What have you planned to make your wedding unique?  Did you buck tradition completely to save money, or pay extra to have touches that made the wedding feel special?


  1. Wow! I could have written this post myself. Like you we want an elegant wedding and it seems like in DC you can't do that for under $30K. It's very difficult to find per plate catering under $100 here. We had our meltdowns and discussions but decided to press on with the same budget. The plan is that we will stay under as much as we can and if anything unforseen happens we will use credit for that with a plan to pay it off. But I feel your pain.

  2. @Linnie-Me Glad I'm not the only one feeling the pain in the DC area. I thought we would get some slack looking at Loudon County area vineyards, but even these start at $5000+ for site fees. I think we're probably going to take the same approach that you are - stick to our budget as much as possible, and put what we can't afford on credit to pay off after the wedding.
    What reception venue did you choose (or have looked at, if you haven't picked yet)?

  3. What the Dickens! Yes, the post you keep promising never arrives. But now you have multiple comment posts at least. Don't feel as though you have to compare to me money wise - I was booking for a much smaller number in off season in a place that never books weddings. I know you're looking at May, but you might be able to save a little more if you look at different months - then again, if it's an outdoor wedding, it would be a little nervewracking to plan for a month that could be inclimate. Post my other story!!

  4. I am facing the same issue here in Richmond with the ideal site being around $9,000 even before catering! Teddy and I have a similar budget but I know that we all can do a great wedding with that much money. Just have to determine your priorities and how you'll cut costs elsewhere. I'm not much of a DIY wedding girl myself so it'll be interesting how things turn out so that I don't end up in debt after getting married!

  5. @Flamboer I'm hoping to DIY quite a few of the decorations, but for the biggie things like catering, site fees, etc there's just not much you can do except shop around and compromise. *sigh*