How to Plan a $4,000 Wedding (If You Must)

Step 1: Get engaged surprisingly young (for people of your generation/education level/general background).

Make sure that you told your boyfriend/fiancé that you don’t even really understand engagement rings anyway, and that they cost way too much and are prime examples of conspicuous consumption and frivolity in a society obsessed with outward displays of female ownership and general wealth.

When he insists on an engagement ring, explain exactly how much he is allowed to spend on the ring ($400), and that if he spends more than that your marriage would be founded on financial lies and misery and probably end in divorce.

Step 2: Congratulations! Now you get to plan a wedding. Consider that you’ve never really thought about your wedding before, despite coming from an affluent background where many other young girls in your hometown had their wedding dresses picked out by age ten. Immediately suggest going to city hall as your preference.

Step 3: Remind your fiancé how much you hate spending money, and having feelings in public, and seeing other people have feelings in public, and did you mention spending money? And that really, city hall is preferable, though even then people still have to see you have feelings in public, so it’s not ideal.

Step 4: Realize that your fiancé’s family has certain expectations regarding seeing their son/grandson/nephew get married at a nice ceremony to a nice girl who isn’t emotionally dead on the inside, and agree to a moderately-sized wedding and a budget of $4,000 AND EVEN THAT IS WAY TOO MUCH BECAUSE WE HAVE GRADUATE SCHOOL TO PAY FOR.

Step 5: Begin calling venues to get a sense of what things cost. Laugh in disbelief when one person tells you that it will be $95 per person, and that doesn’t include alcohol or cake. You’re pretty sure you’ve had meals at Michelin Star-rated restaurants that didn’t cost $95 per person. Settle on a public park where you can bring in your own food and alcohol.

Step 6: Say no to everything everyone suggests, like flowers for the gazebo where your ceremony will take place, and paying someone to do your hair and makeup, and renting an antique car to get you from the ceremony to the reception. Does the car fly? Because there is no way you are paying money for something to take you a distance of 100 feet that isn’t a fancy helicopter or hovercraft.

Step 7: Pick the first and cheapest dress you can find in the bridal salon with your mother and sister, because it’s pretty enough and everything your mother is pulling out costs $2,000. When you mention gleefully that it’s the cheapest dress in the store ($750, still so much money, but not the cost of a used car), try to ignore your mother’s concerned look.

Step 8: Have an emotional breakdown in your car when your fiancé forgets to confirm the cake tasting, because that is the only thing you’ve cared about this entire process, and this baker was cheaper than the other one you tried. As your fiancé tries to calm your racking sobs in the overheating vehicle, consider whether someone who falls to pieces over cake should really be getting married.

Step 9: Hurray! Your wedding day is a week away. Continuously freak out over how far your friends have to travel for this thing that you didn’t even want anyway, and worry about whether they’re spending too much money on it. Stress-eat the cream cheese off of your bagel; re-apply cream cheese and repeat.

Step 10: It’s your rehearsal dinner! Try not to vomit out of anxiety in front of the family members taking pictures of you pretending to say your vows as the full realization of just how publicly you will be feeling things tomorrow hits you.

Step 11: Your wedding day is here! Realize that you’re actually happy to be marrying this person, and it’s not so hard to pretend that these people aren’t looking at you while you’re doing it. Be glad you kept the ceremony to ten minutes, and stayed under your original budget (try not to think these things as your sister is reading “i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)”). Eat your cake (your fiancé rearranged that cake tasting after all) and consider your overwhelming joy as a result of marrying this person, and especially at the prospect of never having to plan a wedding ever again.


Abby Dalton will always leave room for cake. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and her cat, and occasionally blogs about money. Photo credit: flickr/ewan and donabel


18 Comments / Post A Comment

“As your fiancé tries to calm your racking sobs in the overheating vehicle, consider whether someone who falls to pieces over cake should really be getting married.”

THIS. This is the best.

deepomega (#22)

The easy solution is just to spend the four grand on an assassin to kill all your family members and THEN do it at city hall. Not that I’ve fantasized this about my impending wedding our anything.

Mike Dang (#2)

@deepomega Is this like that scene from Kill Bill?

AbbyDalton (#493)

@deepomega UGH, day late and a dollar short on that idea.

Spinach Party (#253)

“explain exactly how much he is allowed to spend on the ring ($400), and that if he spends more than that your marriage would be founded on financial lies and misery and probably end in divorce.”

I feel like this would be my exact thought process, and I’d cap the ring at $250 or something outrageously low.

Cat Ballou (#231)

@Spinach Party $1 is my cap so I win.

Tuna Surprise (#118)

I had this exact wedding except I never had an engagement ring. We had matching white gold bands purchased at Filene’s for a grand total of $80. I used to be semi-embarrassed about the low budget-ness of my wedding (the world is full of poor-shaming) but after one of my friends did the full Saturday night black tie affair, she confessed to me she wanted to get divorced a month after the wedding but felt guilty because her dad spent $80k.

Sarah H. (#408)

@Tuna Surprise Yep, that happened to my sister-in-law’s brother. His lady’s family bankrolled a ridiculously expensive wedding, but they were on shaky ground to begin with and it only got worse after the wedding. However, her father heard about it, and point-blank said that if they got divorced within 5 years of the marriage, they would be paying him back the full cost of the wedding.

You’d better BELIEVE they found themselves a couples therapist. And, happy ending, they actually ended up working through those issues and came out stronger in the end, and now have a baby and all that jazz.

mishaps (#65)

@Tuna Surprise oh man – the last mega-expensive wedding I went to was such an obvious train wreck in the making, from the poor-shaming of the groom’s (retired teacher) mom in the planning to the engagement party that was more about how awesome the bride’s family all thought they were than the happy couple, we started a pool on how long till they divorced. They didn’t make it to a year. I won the pool.

I was complaining about having to contribute to this materialism-fest with a gift when a friend suggested I do a charitable contribution instead. So my whole extended family chipped in and made a donation to the Millenium Villages, a project to combat extreme poverty in sub-Saharan African communities. Possibly the only good thing to come out of that wedding, and I include the chocolate fountain at the dessert bar.

Bittersweet (#522)

@Tuna Surprise: My cousin had an incredibly lavish first wedding, and when her marriage fell apart 3 years later, her dad told her “I feel like I’ve invested in Enron.”

Of course that made her feel much better.

Cavendish (#494)

My wedding last summer was less than $4000. I never added it all up, but I think it was around $2500. We did it in my husband’s parents’ backyard, our rings are feom Etsy, I made my dress and the cake, we had food from Costco. We only had about 45 people, so it was manageable. The biggest expense was renting chairs and tables. I wish we had sprung for a professional photographer, but other than that it was perfect.

ElBlynx (#499)

How to Plan two/too much weddings (Must you?)

1. Decide to have one wedding in your partner’s home country where it is the best blend of backyard/destination/cultural blending you could possibly imagine, everything is amazingly affordable, and there is only one almost chair fight and the photographer only tries to make-out with one of your friends after accidentally deleting the ceremony pictures.

2. On the bookends of this, also attempt to plan a low budget affair in a city park in one of the most expensive cities in West Coast. Get back from previous amazing wedding and realize you are completely over planning. Wish you had just booked a private room at a restaurant so you wouldn’t have to plan anything. Send out invitations to force yourself to plan, but only buy wedding wine, which your spouse keeps drinking (can you blame him?). Wonder, now barely a month away, if “Disastrous and Slapdash” is a workable theme?

3. (Do not) Profit? Profit (in love)? Profit (in stress)?

DillyBean (#483)

The cake was really important to me, too. One place told me that they couldn’t put cream cheese frosting on a wedding carrot cake because it wouldn’t stay white enough (WHAT?) and I was profoundly disappointed and angry.

I had to compromise and have a chocolate cake in addition to the carrot cakes also, because GOD FORBID someone be forced to eat carrot cake from Flour Bakery in Boston at 5 pm in the afternoon and not have other options.

It was four years ago. I just feel really strongly about carrot cake.

AbbyDalton (#493)

@DillyBean You should have carrot cake for your anniversary, and also every single day, because carrot cake (and all cake) from Flour Bakery is heaven’s greatest gift to humankind.


I’m hoping for a $5,000 wedding, so this was just what I needed to read right now.

I got a good start with a family heirloom engagement ring, so setting down the engagement/wedding path has cost us nothing to date.

Mirch (#228)

My wedding is at the end of May. I look forward to almost vomiting at the rehearsal dinner.

I am Being A Grown Up and have started putting aside a little money every month in a savings account I have called “Let’s Get Married,” even though mr. pomegranate hasn’t technically proposed. I figure if mr. pomegranate and I both contribute $2000 each and I am clever with the dress (going to try to pull off an revamp of my mom’s 1972 dress…), we can pull off a lovely event of the courthouse/brunch/family variety. So far I have $250.01 saved up, guys!

HandmaidenOfEris (#4,816)

What a useless article. You didn’t actually give any real advice about how to save money on a wedding; you just snarked at everyone who is budget-conscious and doesn’t think a wedding has to be a massive fest of materialism that causes a huge dent in one’s finances to be a lovely, beautiful event. Very poor.

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