The subject no one wants to talk about but we all have to deal with, especially when it comes to weddings. And it's no secret that weddings are expensive - even an intimate, backyard ceremony with a handful of guests can stretch the wallet fairly quickly. I wanted to get into the reasoning behind some of the common pricetags and help put some of the sticker shock at ease.
But it's just some pretty paper: Invitations
A good rule of thumb when budgeting for invitations is this: a decent (read: nice quality, but not necessarily elaborate) invitation should cost around the same price as a greeting card. While we may buy greeting cards here and there as the occasion calls for it, you normally don't purchase 150+ greeting cards all at the same time. If you want a custom invitation, you can expect to pay more because you are compensating the artist for her designs, proofs, revisions and edits, assembly and general labor.
All you're doing is pushing a button: Photography & Videography
If all you want from your wedding are pictures that look like snapshots your slightly inebriated Uncle Frank took, then there are plenty of moonlighting hobbyists-who-call-themselves-professionals to choose from. If you want art and photographs that will capture the emotion of the day, then realistically you need to expect to pay more. Photography can easily be one of the most spendy parts of the wedding and for good reason - when all is said and done, that is what you will have left (well, that and your spouse of course!). I have met many, many married women who regret going cheap with their photography. Also, the final product usually doesn't come out of the camera ready to go - a lot of behind-the-scenes editing and design goes into producing great photos. If you're having video, you can count on hours of editing, including finding the right moments to splice things in, cueing the appropriate music to match, etc.
So you're like JLo in that movie: Wedding Planners
No, I'm not like JLo and wow, did she make my job look easy! Hollywood has a knack for doing that though, don't they? The biggest thing you are paying the planner for is her time - the average wedding takes more than 250 hours to plan and there are only 52 weekends in a year. Both of these facts limit how much we can take on and commit to. It may seem like you are paying the planner for one day, but in reality 250 hours translates into more than six 40-hour work weeks. And that's just for your normal, run-of-the-mill wedding. If you want something unique and special, even more time is involved.
They are just going to die tomorrow anyway: Flowers
Even flowers from the grocery store can be pricy - that is just the nature of a live element. When purchasing flowers, you are paying for so many things - the grower's cut (planting, growing, watering, feeding, harvesting), the packaging and shipping of them in a manner that they will not wilt or die on the way to your location, and then the florist's fees (design, watering, prepping them with special concoctions that prolong their lifespan, arranging, delivering, etc). Yes, a lot goes into those pretty bouquets.
It's just some fancy chicken: Food
Hands down, food is usually the most expensive item on the budget, and again quantity plays a big role. A nice dinner for two can sometimes be a splurge and when you're feeding 150+ mouths - well, I'll let you do the math. It is also important to look at quality when you are choosing your menu, and quality costs more, just like it does in every other part of life.
There are lots of areas of weddings that I didn't cover here, but I wanted to give a quick overview of some of them. The time-tested adage "you get what you pay for" has been proven over and over again with weddings. You don't need to break the bank on your wedding or try to keep up with the Joneses - but it is important to go into the wedding planning process with an understanding of where your money is going so that you can best prioritize its use.