Your Wedding Doesn't Matter
Over the last several decades, the investment put into weddings has continued to rise. On average, people spend more than $30,000 on their weddings. That astounding number exceeds the median annual income in America by a few thousand dollars.
The average divorce-destined marriage ends in the eighth year. Which means that, with a 10% interest rate, many couples have to pay about $450 per month just to have their wedding paid off by the time their divorce bills start coming due.
And it's not just money that is spent.
According to The Knot, the average engagement lasts 14.5 months (63 weeks). During that time, 53% of couples spend more than 10 hours a week planning their wedding, with many spending much more time. That means that many couples (if not the majority) spend more than 630 hours planning their weddings. Paid the average American hourly wage ($24.57), the average couple has more than $15,000 worth of labor (opportunity cost) invested in their weddings.
In sum, hard costs and opportunity costs combined, the average wedding costs roughly $45,000. (And that doesn't even begin to touch on many other soft costs and the expenses incurred by the wedding guests.)
And, as an investment, it's excruciatingly terrible.
For that amount of money, you could simply run an open tab for you and your friends at the most expensive restaurant in town for a night, finance your new family for an entire year, seed what will be a $1 million dollar retirement fund, or just hand each one of your 150 would-be guests a check for $300.
Furthermore, a recent study found that spending more on a wedding may actually have an adverse effect on the subsequent marriage. One report summed it up with the statement that "spending more than $20,000 on the wedding ups the odds of divorce by 3.5 times compared with couples who keep it between $5,000 and $10,000." There's only a negative correlation between the amount you invest in your wedding and the longevity of your marriage.
The real tragedy of this waste is this simple truth: Your wedding — at any cost — doesn't matter.
The vows matter — but the actual wedding doesn't.
Your wedding is literally only a few hours. It's just a party that will come and go in a stressful blur. Weddings are irrational fantasies — people gussied up beyond their means, pretending to know how to waltz, eating cake they can't afford, wearing other people's tuxedos, and holding fake flowers. And, once the limo pulls away, you'll be left with rice in your underwear and a very real marriage.
What matters is your marriage.
Your marriage starts the moment you say "I do," and it's supposed to last a lifetime. But few people actually plan their lives accordingly. Sure, they may go through a 10-hour, pre-marital counseling program, but that's not nearly sufficient to chart a course for an entire lifetime of commitment. People spend more time preparing for their short-term jobs, kitchen renovations, summer beach vacations, and fantasy football leagues than they do preparing for their marriages.
Instead of spending $30,000 and 630 hours on your wedding, focus your pre-marital investment on building a strong marriage. Get extensive counseling. Go to seminars together. Read a ton of books. Educate yourself. Find mentors. Talk about everything in excruciating detail — God, babies, dollars, trust, healthcare, friends, vacations, sex, parents, religion, politics, investment strategies, entertainment, medical conditions, conflict resolution, boundaries, living wills, home buying, vices, dreams, hygiene, culinary preferences, etc. All the seemingly mundane, "everyday" things are exactly the things that will make or break your marriage.
Ten years from now, no one will care if the chicken piccata was dry. No one will remember your wedding colors. People won't remember the song you picked for your first dance. At the end of your life, no one will care about your whimsical and accessible gift registry, your wedding favors, or the adorable photo you included in your invitation. Even when they're watching it, no one will really care about your unity candle or the pace or order of your wedding procession.
Instead of worrying about floral arrangements and dress colors, focus your attention on purposefully studying your future spouse and the dynamics of your relationship. Focus on learning how you can best support one another and what you are uniquely able to give to one another. Build a relationship centered on honesty, transparency, and trust.
No one cares about the cake anyway.