If you’ve watched past the commercial break on My Fair Wedding or actually been to one, you may have gathered that getting married costs a few dollars. Or tens of thousands of them! Although, as a dude, there were some costs I missed: before I got married, I was not expected to make an appointment at Kleinfeld or tell a camera crew, “The dress chose me, y’all!” There are some moments you can’t put a price on. Our parents, who work hard and live unflashy upper-middle class suburban lives, decided to splurge a bit and helped us with most of the costs but I still went pretty broke on it. Here’s where the money went:
The engagement ring: We’ve been living together for the past few years. Before I proposed, we went to Beverly Hills (hey, don’t do this!) and went to every fancy jeweler in the neighborhood. I wanted to make sure I bought the right thing and we figured we’d start with the best and work our way down, which slightly happened. We both liked a small, shimmery ring at Tiffany’s, her favorite movie is Breakfast at Tiffany’s and you can guess how this ended.
I bought it with help from an inheritance from my grandmother, who was a classy lady and would’ve approved. I did enough research to learn diamonds are priced on size, color and clarity, and as long as you’re in the upper range, you can give up a couple of notches on the latter two if you want a bigger rock. (Let’s be honest: You do.) Or you can not buy a diamond at Tiffany’s, or opt for a gem that doesn’t star in politically fraught Leonardo DiCaprio movies. (Nope.) The day I went in, I had the choice between a .42 carat stone and a .57 one in my chosen band—I went for the bigger one. Pre-#YOLO, even! Cost: ~$8,000
The proposal: I surprised her in the living room of our one-bedroom apartment after work. We went out for cake and coffee at Sweet Lady Jane’s after calling our parents. Cost: $20.
Conversations with my mother over our year-plus engagement: Hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours. Cost: Free, I think! Thanks, Verizon. (Mom pays my phone bill.)
My wedding wardrobe At 5’8”, I had a hard time finding a suit that fit properly and had one done made-to-measure at L.A.’s Thick as Thieves, who made me a beautiful, full-canvas wool-silk blend garment that would’ve been twice as much at Bloomingdale’s. Cost: $600. After buying brown pairs of Allen Edmonds dress shoes on eBay for months, I ordered a new pair in black, the Park Avenue model, for the wedding. $330. (You have to amortize serious dress shoes over the length of their use, so these are really only $15 a year. A bargain!) I bought a dress shirt and silk cuff links at Bloomingdale’s ($80, $8), wore a belt from Macy’s ($45) and socks from Uniqlo ($5, tops). Total: $1257. My parents covered the suit and shoes.
The groomsmen gift: We went a little overboard on our wedding party. I had a Best Man and six groomsmen. Instead of buying them cuff links or leather flasks or some other obvious thing they’d never use, I had wedding ties custom-made for them by L.A.’s the Windmill Club, who makes handsome short-run tie offerings every season. (Kevin Burrows, the proprietor, also co-wrote the upcoming Fuck Yeah Menswear book, so he’s kind of an expert.) We collaborated on the fabric and measurements and ended up making 10 – one for me and two for the dads. Cost: $900. Fuck.
The bachelor party: We skipped Vegas and drove from L.A. to San Diego, where we stayed at the Double Tree (cookies: free!) and went on a brewery tour. The guys covered this one and kept handing me $20s at the strip club. Total weekend costs, according to my ATM receipts: $100.
The rehearsal dinner: The night before we got married, we gathered an intimate group together at Stella Mare’s, drank a lot of wine and everybody gave speeches and cried. It was a really beautiful and cost nearly as much as the bluebook value of my car, which is a 2002 Toyota Camry. As is tradition, my parents paid for the dinner and the booze. My wardrobe for this: a Brooks Brothers jacket (on sale, $300-ish), a J. Crew dress shirt (on sale, $30), Brooks Brothers silk knit tie ($80), Uniqlo slacks ($30!), Paul Smith socks ($30, a gift) and Allen Edmonds shoes (eBay, $50). We saved on Instagram photography ($0).
The rental house Instead of a hotel, my groomsman, their plus-ones and I stayed in an enormous five-bedroom house 15 minutes from the wedding for the weekend. It included a ping-pong table, guitars and an ocean. If they ever do a Real World: Santa Barbara, they can film it here. Total cost for two nights, split 10 ways: $1350.
The wedding: Her parents graciously volunteered to cover most of the costs with my folks picking up the rest, which we mutually agreed should be kept at a reasonable, un-splurge-y rate. “Reasonable” being a word with an extremely stretchy definition after we decided to get married in her hometown of Santa Barbara, Calif., which happens to be one of the wedding capitals of the world. We struggled a bit with the “Who should pay for what” conversations: both sets of parents were trying to be generous and kind, which was a good problem to have but meant there was confusion over the levels of funding needed. We sorted this out over the phone, obviously.
We put the bulk of the money toward a caterer and the venue, a beautiful park overlooking the ocean, which we thought we’d get a bargain on since it wasn’t the Four Seasons. That was before we installed a tent with a chandelier for the reception. We both have large-ish families and didn’t want to skim on friends, which meant we wound up with about 160 people in attendance at the caterer’s per-plate rate.
After attempting to plan everything ourselves for about a year, we caved and sprung for a wedding planner, who gave us a nice last-minute rate and saved us the infinite psychological price of day-of panic attacks. Headaches aside, once we arrived, everything was perfect. The DJ surprised us with “Ni**as in Paris” after a half-hour of our snobby indie-rock, which was a highlight, and the cake would’ve made Rick Ross weep. Total cost: I’d rather not put a number on my in-law’s generosity, but let’s say it was about a year’s worth of Ivy League education, give or take a private dorm. 1
The honeymoon Her grandmother booked us two nights at San Ysidro Ranch, which costs more than our rent. We ordered champagne room service ($200), burger room service ($110), breakfast room service ($140), had a Swedish massage ($100) and listened to Rick Ross in the private hot tub (Rdio subscription: $4.99). We’re going on a longer honeymoon next spring in Europe that we’ll be paying for, which is why we’re still living in a one-bedroom apartment and eating canned tuna.
All in all, having an amazing, disaster-free wedding was worth the money and the months of planning, even if it means a lifetime of guilt/gratitude to our parents, who are now flawless saints. If we could’ve gotten paid in “We had the best time at your wedding!” we would’ve broken even, and what more could we ask for? We did manage to do it without quite spending Say Yes to the Dress dollars, which: Netflix subscription, $7.99 a month. Watch the Atlanta spin-off first, it’s the best.
David Greenwald is a Los Angeles journalist/husband.