Princess Weddings: How To Start Married Life In Debt

My friend is a complete idiot — which is a much worse insult than it may first appear since it’s being given by a guy who views drinking beer and watching TV as a worthy goal to strive for each and every day. I wish I could say it isn’t so, but I have always been one to call a spade a spade. He isn’t a bad guy. He just decided to swallow hook, line and sinker the financial disaster known as “the bride can’t be wrong and no expense spared” when it comes to her wedding day.

I am single, but I do hope to get married one day when I meet the perfect beer drinking woman. I must admit to being jealous of my friends that never seem to have a problem finding girlfriends, and all of them seem to be getting hitched these days. Even though my record with women gives a pretty reliable forecast that a wedding is not likely in my near future, I can confidently say (especially after drinking a few beers while writing this) that any woman who insists on having an extravagant wedding, and is unwilling to compromise on the wedding budget, is a flashing neon warning sign saying that you should be running for the hills with both hands over your wallet.

I could see that my friend was in trouble as soon as I showed up for the wedding rehearsal dinner to find the bride wearing a princess tiara and fancy pre-wedding dress (I didn’t even know that pre-wedding dresses existed). They served prime rib and lobster, and the rehearsal dinner was far fancier than most wedding receptions I had ever attended. Everything about the wedding made it clear that no amount of money was spared. It’s not often that a beer guy uses “gorgeous” as part of his vocabulary, but that is the only way to describe their wedding. They had gone to great lengths to make sure that everything was perfect. It was so impressive that it’s a wedding that will be hard to forget even after consuming large amounts of expensive free alcohol at the open bar.

When I finally had the chance to talk to my friend, the real damage came out. Each family had agreed to pay $10,000 each toward the wedding for a $20,000 wedding that would have left the newlyweds debt free. The bride, not satisfied with what $20,000 could buy, planned out a $45,000 wedding leaving the bride and groom with a $25,000 wedding loan to begin their happy lives together. That’s the beginning of a decent down payment on a house (or enough to get a hell of a lot of top quality beer). The couple did an excellent job of showing off and impressing all their friends and family with the taste and quality they believe they deserve, but can’t afford.

It is a sad day when a beer drinking couch potato can see better through his blurred vision that over-indulgent weddings rank up there with unplanned pregnancies as one of the top ways to ensure that you remain penniless than his more accomplished friends with good jobs. A princess complex wedding is just as damaging as years of trying to keep up with the Joneses, conveniently compacted into a single day to magnify the mistake. If you are going to start married life tens of thousands of dollars in debt, money (and lack thereof) is going to be a pretty contentious issue which will quickly place a large dose of reality on that fantasy of eternal wedding bliss, especially when it comes after a wedding where money was never an issue.

Upon further reflection after writing this blog post, maybe I have highly under rated the single, beer drinking lifestyle.

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18 Responses to Princess Weddings: How To Start Married Life In Debt

  1. doreen says:

    I have never understood the whole princess wedding thing and couple’s willingness to go into debt for it. It is possible to have a wonderful wedding at a fairly low cost with a bit of planning and effort. I had a wonderful wedding for next to nothing. I think the key is knowing what you want and not getting caught up in the image of what the wedding industry puts out there.

  2. Christine says:

    I think that you are going to be single a very long time if your writing is indicative of who you are. No woman wants a lazy man that only wants to drink beer and watch TV. Why don’t you get off your butt and get a job?

  3. teresa says:

    People need to figure out that married is married no matter how much you spend. The more you spend does not equal how much you are married!!

  4. Christine #2 says:

    I agree, spending $20,000 on a wedding is RIDICULOUS, much less $45,000???? on ONE day of your life???!!!

  5. Isabelle says:

    It’s the same here in the UK. We don’t have the wedding rehearsal dinner thing – what we have is the Hen Party and Stag Party. These have gone from a night out drinking to a week’s holiday drinking somewhere such as Krakov, Prague or a Med resort, giving British people a dreadful reputation in these places. AND, this is not just a few people.

    Then there is the wedding itself, expensive this, expensive that and must have the other! Most of it on credit!

    Amy D. of Tightwad Gazette talks about the satisfaction curve. The big surge of satisfaction comes quickly and then flattens out – beyond this money is wasted!

    Still, I’m sure the bride and groom (because there are two of them) feel they ‘deserve’ a princess wedding. Feel they are ‘entitled’ to have such a splurge at the start of their married life. That they haven’t got the money is neither here nor there!

  6. Phillip says:

    Princess wedding?….you know everything you need to know – you have a “dumbass with money” on your hands.

    Run like hell.

  7. miclason says:

    Weddings now a days are ridiculous! We were talking about it with some friends the other day. It used to be that you had a reception after the wedding and the favors people gave out were those almond candies wrapped in tulle or gauze. Nowadays, the wedding invitation consists on about 3-4 pieces of paper (the invitation itself, the RSVP, the list of places where the couple have registered for gifts! — granny would shudder in her grave: this is actually ASKING for gifts!). You have to have a reception AND a “carnavalito” or mini-carnival at the end of the reception (that actually means buying masks, boas, beads, hats to distribute among the guests so they can participate properly in the carnavalito)… the tamest ones only include the tequila pyramid, but I’ve heard of/been to some that included acrobats, belly dancers, fire dancers, batucada… and, of course, the favors of today would have been considered appropriate wedding presents (from guests to the couple) only 15 years ago!
    And yes, when I married I wanted a “dream” wedding at one of the poshest places in town, and I wanted a small string orchestra at the church… but we cut those and used the money to complete the downpayment of a small apartment. getting married is for grownups, and grownups understand that spending all that money on one day, especially if it’s money you DON’T actually have, is not logical!
    And don’t get me started with the Quinceaniera parties! Those now have become mini-weddings!

  8. Pat Chiappa says:

    I’m happily married for 18 years (we eloped!) so I’m not a cynic when it comes to marriage – quite the opposite really. My two cents is this: since 1 in 2 marriages fail, shouldn’t couples spend more time and energy on working on the their relationships rather than having a blow-out wedding? A marriage is about the commitment and love and planning a future together – not a fancy party.
    OK – maybe it was five cents worth…

  9. fe2o3ez says:

    Oh, boy… this sounds familiar. Ten years ago, tomorrow in fact, I was in your friend’s shoes. I made the mistake of never setting a budget for my fiancee. She was 32 and had been planning the day for like 20 years. We had the limo, top notch hotel, prime rib, lots of out of town guests, and to top it off, a 12-piece live orchestra jazz band. Being that we had both been ‘out of the house’ for many years, she saw no sense in our parents contributing to our expenses, and insisted we pay for everything ourselves – even though I was in Grad school and all expenses went on (you guessed it) credit cards. Some $25k worth, plus another $13k for the diamond ring that had already been financed. OUCH. I learned a great deal about credit cards over the next few years. That was all for my FIRST marriage… and it lasted 10 months. (the marriage, not the bills) I got much smarter the second time around.

    Guys, be reasonable. Give her a budget that is 10-15% below what you are comfortable paying, then get out of her way and let her do it. The 10-15% gives you a little wiggle room to look like the good guy when she finds that perfect dress, or wants to fly in her orphaned friend from halfway around the world. Think about her… (but take care of yourself!)

  10. Dee says:

    Refusal to deal with financial reality is a sign of immaturity and immaturity in a spouse, male or female, is bad.

    Beer Guy, your friend needs to prepare for bankrupcy and or divorce as soon as he or she loses their job, or when he refuses to go into anymore joint debt.

    If you are rich, or famous, or a child of the rich or famous, then by all means, have a million dollar wedding. The economy needs your money.

    If you’ve saved up $45,000.00 for your wedding, then, woohoo, spend it! Brag to everyone that you’re not going into debt for your wedding, and how hard you worked to save that cash. You might even decide you worked too hard just to blow it all on impressing/pleasing your wedding guests and put some toward your future.

    If your parents are willing to contribute $10,000 each toward a $20,000 wedding, thank them profusely and spend it wisely. Where I live, $20,000 is a downpayment on a house.

    Oh, by the way, no amount of money guarantees perfection. You will still hear complaints from guests who were unhappy about something at your wedding.

  11. pen says:

    on the opposite end, my fiance and I are trying to keep our wedding under $3000. Beer guy, I wish your friend luck.

  12. snafu says:

    A wedding is a celebration to let friends and relatives join your happy event. That poor shmuck hasn’t married a ‘princess,’ he’s chosen an immature, woman with low self esteem who needs an elaborate party to make herself feel special. A genuine Princess brings something of long term value to the union that serves them both. What long term value has the lady brought? Every dollar spent on that wedding was a dollar less for their marriage.

    I figure he’d better have a really long list of synonyms for ‘beautiful’ to stoke his lady’s self esteem at least four times a day. I genuinely hope the marriage lasts longer than it takes to pay off the debt incurred.

  13. Nate says:

    First, I’m totally with you on the beer drinking. I can’t stand a cheap beer. In fact, good beer is one of the 10 things I suggest you should cheap out on (a post on my blog).

    Second, I agree with you about going completely overboard with a wedding. As someone who just got married a few months ago can attest, it’s really easy to get caught up in the excitement of creating “the perfect day.” Luckily for me though, my wife and I sat down and decided what was really important to us about our day and what wasn’t. Top on the list of important things? A good photographer, a good location, and good beer. Not so important? Expensive frilly crap like decorations, a super fancy limo, or over the top dinner. We picked what we liked, budgeted accordingly, and come out with no debt.

    Cheers to that!

  14. Pattie, RN says:

    This happy bride, still married to my handsome prince 32 years after the wedding, could not agree more!

    DH and I do marriage prep with our church and the tag line is “A wedding is a day, a MARRIAGE is a lifetime!” These over the top weddings are a result of little girls who cut their teeth on “Disney Princesses” meeting a reality TV culture, with easy credit thrown in. Too often the pricetag on the “day” is in inverse proportion to the length and happiness of the marriage!.

    And your poor buddy….wait another few years. When she gets pregnant, she will HAVE to have an SUV to keep baby safe, a house in the suburbs (I mean, who can fit a family of three into that 1600 sf condo?) and all of those cute $200 baby shoes that the kid will wear for 12 minutes…

  15. Gail says:

    I so agree with beer guy except for the beer ( I don’t waste my money on beer, I waste it on chocolate). My hubby and I managed to pull off an elegant, lovely wedding for $2000 9 years ago. My son is getting married next Sept. when he asked about if we could help out with costs, I had to be frank that we didn’t have much due to circumstances (I’m on disability) but I did agree with him that if they chose for the next year on gift giving occasions we would give them the money we would have spent on presents to put away towards the wedding. Anything we can make to help out, we will also but we sure won’t be contributing $10,000 for a wedding! Prepping for marriage and a good solid life together is much better than spending stacks of money to show off on one day.

  16. the runner says:

    I was engaged to a wonderful woman once.

    When we started making wedding plans, the bill surpassed $50,000.

    I told her there is no way we’re going into debt over this.

    She refused to back down (her AND her mother, I might add).

    I called off the engagement and ran like hell.

    Best choice I ever made!

  17. Bara says:

    I had the same dilemma last year when we had to plan our wedding. My family’s dead, so there’s no one to depend on for money. His parents are in their 70s and it’s really hard to ask them for money. Almost all of our friends are spread across different states and different countries. I was sooo unsure of what to do.

    Then we got invited to his coworker’s wedding. I have to say it was soooo beautiful. Huge cathedral (not a church) by the ocean, choirs singing, piano and string section, and the ceremony had like 450 people! The dinner was held at a private clubhouse right next to the ocean. (you walk out of the dinner room, and the beach is right there.) The food itself wasn’t as fancy as I thought it should be, but the venue was beautiful, they had a 9 person live band playing, free open bar with h’or douvres and the cake was a 5 tier affair. When I asked later how much their wedding was, they told me it cost the families (both pitched in) $150,000.00 !!!

    Yes, you read that right. $150,000.00 just to save face and show how much $$$$$ you have. Actually it was very beautiful, but to be honest, I couldn’t see where the money was spent on. Apparently their parents could afford it, kudos to them.

    Having that as an example 6 months before our wedding was a big wakeup call for me. We were lucky that we had not yet put down any deposit anywhere. This is what we paid for our wedding:

    – marriage license $50.00
    – marriage ceremony at courthouse $50.00
    – wedding invitations I created printed $40.00
    – my embroidered cream suit (on sale at Neiman Marcus) $250.00
    – hubby’s suit he got on sale $200.00
    – photos (aunt took photos as wedding gift) $0.00
    – chauffeur (brother in law drove us as his wedding gift) $0.0
    – wedding cake $120.00
    – champagne, and Martinelli’s apple cider $150.00
    – my wedding bouquet $100.00
    – thank you cards that I created & printed $40.00
    – Ferrero Rocher chocolates as party favors $70.00
    – our wedding rings (18K gold bands) & engagement ring (diamond & sapphire) $1800.00
    Final total = $2870.00

    The courthouse can’t accomodate too many people so it’s family only, then we had champagne and cake at his family’s, and our friends threw us a potluck celebration a few days later. I thought it had a lot of meaning and it was really really wonderful. I didn’t have to invite people I didn’t want to, and having our friends throw us the dinner made it more affordable for them. I didn’t want to put my friends in a financial bind of having them pay for bridesmaid dresses/shoes/doing hair & nails that they only wear once. Especially when some of them have lost jobs, have their bonuses cut, etc.

    A lot of young women these days don’t know that what they see on TV isn’t real, nor gospel. Many parents don’t want to deny their baby girl the best on her wedding day. But so many of them divorce, and then they still have to pay for years for that “glorious day”.

    Besides, when we make a ton of money, we can always have a glorious feast later at our anniversaries. The extra money that we were going to spend on our wedding went towards our house payment. House = security, moment of glory = flash in the pan. I hope this is helpful to you readers who are considering marriage.

  18. Kris says:

    I just got married this last February (out of season weddings save you lots of money, and it meant we could plan it all last minute too – fabulous because I’m such a procrastinator).

    I wanted to elope – total cost $500ish (+ lots more for a fantastic trip..)

    He wanted a wedding.. grrr. So I compromised and planned a wedding (because he wasn’t going to plan the wedding he wanted lol)

    There were a few things we cut right out (bridesmaids, rehearsal dinners, wedding invitaions (we emailed) etc. and there were a few things we splurged on. My dress (it made my mom cry when I put it on, so it must be the right one), and catering. We supported a caterer that only buys organic food locally grown – so yes it was EXPENSIVE, but my meat eating friends had lentils and LIKED them, and my cousin’s son ate GREEN vegetables for the first time :). All told our wedding costs came to 23,000$, and about 15,000$ of that was food. But since we paid for it in cash (no debt in this relationship), and have already bought our house (mortage free in 3 years), I don’t really know what else we would’ve spent that money on. I guess I learned, that at some point you can afford to splurge on what you truly value, as long as it’s done consciously and deliberately. It’s amazing to be at that point. Your hard work can and will pay off.

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