Weddings are expensive, especially if you go all-out and incorporate everything the wedding industry tells you you “simply must have.” Hollywood has made a great many films documenting the process of booking a wedding planner and watching him/her burn through stacks of money creating a “dream wedding” that’s more about expressing the designer’s artistic vision than giving the happy couple what they want. In Lionsgate’s upcoming “The Big Wedding” (more on that later), the wedding (spoiler alert) ends up taking place in the back yard, with the important part being the loving family surrounding the bride and groom rather than the elaborate decor.
For most of us, the notion that the bride’s parents will pick up the tab is unrealistic. Maybe the bride’s parents are divorced, maybe they are struggling financially. Maybe one or both are deceased. Or maybe they just don’t want to pay for an insanely expensive wedding. (We had a neighbor once whose dad was incredibly wealthy, but didn’t want to deal with the whole wedding rigmarole; he told his daughter “I can pay for a big fancy wedding, but I’ll give you $10,000 to do with as you will if you elope instead.” I thought it was a great offer.) In any case, more and more couples are finding that it’s necessary (or simply preferable) to pay for the wedding themselves. Generally speaking, this means finding less expensive ways to do it, which is a very sensible approach. My friend Greg Hatcher put it really well. “The number one cause of divorce is fighting over money issues, so let’s go ahead and kneecap the happy couple with a great big load of debt right out of the gate!”
When we got married in 1985, we had a very much “do it yourself” wedding; Terri’s parents had both passed on, my family was not what anyone would call “well off,” and we were both pretty particular about wanting things our way. Fortunately, we each had some useful skills that could be used to keep our costs down.
I saved us a few bucks by designing our invitations. In retrospect, I kind of hate my artwork for them and wish I could do them over, but that’s to be expected and it’s why you’re not seeing it here. I also sketched out a cake topper that my mom had made by a glassblower of her acquaintance (doesn’t everybody know a glassblower?); you can see it in the photo above.
Terri designed the dresses for herself and the bridesmaids and found a seamstress to make them. We enlisted a friend to help us bake and decorate our cake. As her gift to us, Terri’s boss enlisted the help of her friend, a caterer. Together they made all the appetizers that were served at the reception saving us the cost of a caterer. Because our wedding was outdoors, in a rose garden, we spent less on the flowers.
Another dear friend wrote and performed music for the ceremony, including surprising us with a special song he wrote. Another played guitar and ran sound, another sang.
Another couple volunteered to do Terri’s hair and makeup and shoot video. Michelle also gave me a haircut and waxed my unibrow, which was one thing I hadn’t asked for. All I can say is, women are tough; I wouldn’t go through that again at gunpoint.
At the time, I worked in a small company that made, among other things, custom imprinted ceramics. I was able to make custom gifts for our groomsmen, bridesmaids. I drew a cartoon of all the special friends who couldn’t attend the wedding because they were either fictional, famous, non-human or long-dead, and we had it printed on ceramic steins, with the person’s name on the other side. One thing we didn’t take into account; each one held about half a bottle of wine, which made for a lively table for the bridal party. Most, if not all, of these steins are still around, several of them on display in friends’ homes.
Many other friends were involved in a variety of ways. All in all, by the time we were done we had spent only a few thousand dollars instead of the $20-30k we might have expected if we’d hired everything out.
The biggest expense was actually the band for the reception. We could have gotten a DJ for less, but we wanted live music, and a former co-worker of mine was singing and playing guitar in a band and gave us a great deal, about half off what they normally charge. They played for about three or four hours and made the day extra special, so it was worth every penny.
Not having a clue what we were doing, we made a lot of mistakes, forgot a lot of things, had a lot of little hiccups and hangups during the course of the day (I was a half-hour late to the site because I had to run and pick up ice; we’d forgotten about it, and in those days before cell phones, there was no way to call somebody for help), but honestly, we had to sit and think about it for a while to remember what any of them were. 27 years later, we have no regrets choosing Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run as our recessional. We can laugh at our still developing taste, dress disasters, and slightly lopsided cake and remain deeply thankful to our friends and family for their love and support on our wedding day and throughout our marriage.
The Big Wedding
With an all-star cast lead by Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried and Topher Grace, The Big Wedding is an uproarious romantic comedy about a charmingly modern family trying to survive a weekend wedding celebration that has the potential to become a full blown family fiasco. To the amusement of their adult children and friends, long divorced couple Don and Ellie Griffin (De Niro and Keaton) are once again forced to play the happy couple for the sake of their adopted son’s wedding after his ultra conservative biological mother unexpectedly decides to fly halfway across the world to attend. With all of the wedding guests looking on, the Griffins are hilariously forced to confront their past, present and future – and hopefully avoid killing each other in the process. The Big Wedding opens April 26.