There are a few wedding invitations on our refrigerator this year, and it's always a joy and a relief to play the role of a guest, who can simply sit back and enjoy the dancing, drinks, and food. But wedding season always makes my husband and me think back to our own wedding day, and how we might've been savvier about our wedding expenses. The average wedding costs $32,641, according to an annual survey by wedding site The Knot. My own wedding was in that ballpark, and to this day my husband and I regret we wasted money that could've gone toward a home, our child's education, or even travel. We're pretty sure we would still be married had we spent less and done less for the big day. Here are the expenses that no longer seem worth it, along with a couple we wouldn't take back.
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Flower arrangements and other décor for the average wedding cost about $2,300 in 2015, according to The Knot. While our centerpieces were not as out-of-control as some I've seen, I realize now that many flower displays are just status statements, and guests' memories end up fading about as fast as the flowers themselves.
Like overly grand floral centerpieces, large bouquets for the wedding party also seem a waste. My bridesmaids and I probably could've carried one simple flower or a small arrangement to just as lovely an effect.
In an informal survey on Facebook, one bride, Bianca S., said she regrets spending $500 on an ice sculpture of the helicopter her husband flies for the Marine Corps, admitting it was probably unnecessary to display their love through frozen water.
My designer veil, made of intricate lace that matched my designer dress, spread out and dragged behind me on the floor. It made me look like royalty but cost a king's ransom. A few hundred dollars for an accessory I wore for about 20 minutes, plus the time it took to snap a few pictures, wasn't worth it. I should have rented a veil instead. A number of brides surveyed said they were also glad they didn't waste a lot of money on their dresses. Tatiana J. reported spending just $75 and rewearing her dress to other events.
This wedding expense is admittedly subjective. Due to high humidity on the day of my wedding, my professionally hot-rollered hair fell flat within an hour and a bridesmaid later ended up putting my hair in a bun during a bathroom break. Hiring a hairdresser is money down the drain if you have friends who are good at styling hair.
My makeup artist used a fancy airbrush foundation machine, which can cost $200 or more. However, between touchups from a photographer and some extremely good makeup products -- which can be reused for future occasions -- a makeup artist is likely an unnecessary expense, should you have friends and family who are handy with an eye pencil.
We chose to give a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation and have trees planted in honor of our guests, but numerous brides surveyed on Facebook agreed that favors such as personalized matchboxes or bubbles at each place setting are a waste of money. Fiona Y. said in her experience, half the favors end up left on the table or thrown in the trash.
My husband wanted his large family; I wanted my collection of friends. What started out as a dream of a simple, rustic backyard affair turned into a 125-person shindig at an event hall. Many don't consider that number particularly large for a wedding, but up with the number of guests went the price tag. I don't regret inviting family, but I do regret spending money on friends we haven't spoken with since. Anne S. said she'd never have a large wedding if she had it to do again, knowing the cost savings would be so significant.
We sweetly thought everyone would love their little refrigerator magnets and look at our precious wedding date daily. Not the case. Our invitations were modestly priced, but a number of former brides in my informal survey suggested that fancy wedding stationery is an unnecessary expense. Wedding invitations cost an average of $445, which seems wasteful in hindsight. Sunny M. said she saved a bundle by doing free electronic invites. Sure, it's not traditional, but it is a simpler, greener option.
For all the things that are a waste of money, there are a few prices worth paying. If you're going to do a budget-friendly wedding, most agree: Don't take it out on guests by making them pay for their own alcohol. Adele O. said she finds it off-putting to attend weddings with cash bars and mentioned one couple using the proceeds to help pay for their honeymoon. I have to agree -- if you can't afford it, don't offer it at guests' expense.
Couples spend an average of about $2,600 on wedding photography and another $1,800 on videography, according to The Knot. A number of former brides I surveyed emphasized the importance of quality videography and photography. Most said the expense was well worth it or, if they didn't pay for it, a major regret. We saved by finding a well-reviewed photographer who was early in his career and offered a package rate that included an abridged video. It was enough to relive the memories without paying for a full production.