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In other wedding news: the average cost is . . .

In other wedding news: the average cost is . . . May 26, 2015

Upwards of $30,000, right?

Wrong.

Slate (even the old blind sow. . .) had a quick piece this morning, which linked back to an older article of theirs, from 2013, which reports that (a) the “average cost” cited in the surveys that the news outlets cite so breathlessly, in particular, the survey from theknot.com, are self-selected from site users who are disproportionately likely to plan extensively and spend lavishly, and, (b) what’s more, are averages which are much higher than the corresponding medians, which theknot.com provided when prodded:

 In 2012, when the average wedding cost was $27,427, the median was $18,086. In 2011, when the average was $27,021, the median was $16,886.

Why does this site, and the other major source, Brides magazine, use averages?  They claim it’s because, from the perspective of wedding industry vendors, this is the relevant figure, but one suspects that it’s to their own benefit to overstate spending, and create a self-fulfilling prophesy, in which brides feel obliged to spend more than they otherwise would have.

Now, I’d always doubted these figures, though I’d assumed that they were overstated by excluding city hall weddings as “not counting” as a wedding by means of some kind of selection criteria — e.g., a marriage ceremony only counts as a wedding if there’s a reception.

And you know this matters, don’t you?

That the wedding industry has done such a good job of convincing couples that an expensive say-yes-to-the-dress type dress is obligatory, and a sit-down dinner reception, and so on, that couples think that getting married is all about the wedding:  if they can’t afford the bells and whistles, then they think the right thing to do is go on with your everyday life, saving the rings and the change in legal status for a later time, maybe, or eliminating it altogether because the spending is frivolous and wasteful.

19 years ago tomorrow, my husband and I exchanged vows.  Our total spending on the day was about $5,000 — a simple dress, a catered but buffet-style meal for a comparatively small number of guests at the parish center, a DJ.  Knowing my family is mostly fairly light drinkers, we declined the per-person per-hour alcohol charge for a per-use rate.

I suspect that many readers have similar stories to tell.  (Go ahead, tell them in the comments!)

And the next time these “cost of wedding” stories come out — or, really, any time of year — we need to get the word out.

(Oh, and the comments on that Slate piece are instructive:  people do actually consider their wedding outlay well worth the money, or shrug it off because they “earned” more in wedding presents.)


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