If coordinating one of the most memorable days of my life is not stressful enough, I am doing so with little expected financial contribution from my family and with a college student budget already weighed down with loans.
My wedding isn’t until May 2014, but my fiancé, Shannon, and I have been engaged for over a year and haven’t gotten very far saving up for the big day. Even working part time at Pier 1 Imports, making $8 an hour, I have hardly been able to save money in the bank. Shannon works full time making $13 an hour at Forest River Marine in Middlebury, but he has bills of his own.
Whenever I think we might be able to scrape up enough to put together a small but elegant wedding, something pops up to drain our savings.
I admit that we could have been more frugal, but some of the blame for our budget woes is due to the wedding industry. From the moment you say “yes” to that all-important question, the business of marriage begins to suck you dry.
Shannon and I didn’t do the fairytale proposal; it was more of a mutual agreement. Romantics may cringe at the lack of a flash mob or the classic Megatron proposal, but our engagement was special in its own right. We are basically high school sweethearts and had been dating for three years, including surviving several months apart while I attended college four hours away. We had long felt that we would eventually marry and this test of distance and time proved we were ready to make it official.
Although it is not so romantic, we picked out our engagement rings together. That’s right: my fiancé proudly sports a man-gagement ring, a very masculine black tungsten carbide, and I got my simple but unique diamond ring.
Although I had planned on picking out a less costly ring, the charismatic associate at Kay’s Jewelers was eager to talk us into an upgrade from silver to white gold and an additional fraction of a karat. The price tag was multiplied by three as a result.
A few months later Shannon lost his engagement ring. I decided we wouldn’t bother buying another set of official “wedding rings.” Our current rings would have to suffice.
Another reason for wedding day shopping: the dress. When bridal salons ask my price range I wince. I tell them $1,000 or less, and my selection is suddenly a minute fraction of the available gowns. What’s worse than wedding dresses generally costing more than $1,000 is that my budget is only half of that.
Perusing David’s Bridal’s website, it was hard to find a full length wedding gown under $400. A bride’s maid dress, equally as embellished, never cost more than $200.
Keep in mind that the price of the dress does not even include the cost of the alterations my wedding gown will need. A consultant at David’s Bridal in Mishawaka estimated that this would set me back an additional $500 at the very least. What is going on here?
I understand that between the dress and the tux, the caterer and the photographer, the traditional wedding costs a pretty penny. According to TheKnot.com, the average cost of a wedding in 2011 was $27,000 and this is only expected to rise.
They say that the divorce rate is 50 percent, and that the leading cause of divorce is money, and no wonder! I’m beginning to think that there is a conspiracy: the wedding industry charges you an arm and a leg and then your marriage is already off on the wrong foot. All that’s left to do is get divorced and do it all over again.
Don’t get me wrong. If I had the money, I probably would go for the whole package. Luckily, the people I love have come through in a big way to make the big day special. My maid of honor (my only bridesmaid, actually) loves to decorate cakes and will be making mine. My older brother, a recent Indiana University graduate who studied graphic design, will create and print my invitations. My mother, who once owned her own photography business, has enlisted a colleague to capture our wedding pro bono. A friend from high school, a licensed hair dresser, will style the perfect up-do. A member of my church who happens to be a chef has offered to help prepare the wedding feast.
These are gifts I will cherish longer than all the toasters and waffle makers in the world. Even in writing this I have decided to let go of all the frivolous material wedding “necessities.” Instead I will remember the real importance of a wedding: the union of two families and all their friends through the love of two individuals who are flat broke.
Kelley Scholfield is a junior journalism major.