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I’m Louise. Blogger. Wife. Designer of TruLu Couture Veils + Accessories.  If you’d like to know more, check out my bio.

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Bullshit Budget Weddings

I couldn't think of a better alliteration, so there you go.

I am really kinda sick of reading about these $5K, $10K, $whatever-K weddings and their budget breakdowns. You know why? Because they are bullshit. OK, OK - not all of them, but some of them for sure. I think I need to explain something to brides and wedding bloggers and wedding web sites out there for clarity. If your photographer cost $3500 and your parents, your grammy, your grampy, your sister, the groom's uncle or whomever PAID for it, then it goes into your budget. Period. Many of these budget breakdowns don't work that way. I'd link to several examples, but I'm not that big of a bitch (regardless of those of you who may think so).

I kid you not. I read a recap recently where the venue location and booze were "free" because mommy picked up the tab. Um, hello? Your "budget" $12K wedding? It just jumped up to about $18K or $20K because we all know (being the fantastically brilliant women we are) that the reception counts for approximately 40% of your budget and your mommy just paid for the majority of it.And that's okay, it really is. But count it, because....well....it counts. Otherwise, you're cheating.


Now, if you truly get something for free, then you don't have to count it. For instance, I got my fabulously fantastic chargers from a fabulously fantastic Indian vendor friend of mine. I actually paid for them (a paltry sum at that) and he never cashed the check. It was our wedding gift - one that in a real-life retail situation would have cost me close to $1500. Hard to imagine, right? It's true though. Because my friend owns the factory that makes these, the first cost of these was probably close to $100 - maybe less because he already had the white bodies (meaning the chargers already existed but were raw metal without the antique copper finish).

Jonathon Campbell Photography

Or as a better example, let's say your BFF is a photographer and gave you your wedding photography as a gift. No one was paid, therefore it was "free." Now, while it cost you zero dollars and you're friend was gracious enough to give you that gift, it does NOT mean that it doesn't have value. That's not what I'm saying, so don't get your panties all in a wad.

And what about the insanely artistic bride who just so happens to be a designer, graphic artist, pastry chef or florist? Those chicks can stuff their "budgets" where the sun doesn't shine because YOU'RE CHEATING. That's right, YOU'RE CHEATING. I read about a wedding on the Bane of My Existence where the bride was a graphic designer for a letterpress company who had a relative in the event planning business and the groom was a chef. PUH-lease! Are you kidding me (seriously, I am NOT making this up)? Of course their wedding was swoon-worthy. Of course it made it to the pages of the Bane of My Existence. Why wouldn't it? I'll bet you those weddings were for sure "budget friendly" when you've got half of the stuff you need to buy already on hand as part of your daily life. Do you think they had to purchase double sided sticky tape, corner punches, A7 envelope liner templates or a new printer because your old one decided to bonk out in the middle of printing your DIY menus (true, it happened)? I'm going to think not.


I'm just trying to keep it real, folks. If the money came out of a pocket to pay for a service but the pocket wasn't yours, it still needs to be counted.  The end.

I don't think my wedding was a budget wedding. Yes, I DIY'd a ton to save some money. Yes, I used coupons galore and took advantage of resources I had available to me, but I don't think that an $18K wedding for 77 people counts as "budget." I've got an Unfake Wedding feature coming up next week that was $28K for 450 people. To me, THAT is a budget wedding. Come back next week to see it!

Am I right here or am I off my rocker? What do you think? What counts? What doesn't? What makes a wedding a "budget" wedding?

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Reader Comments (19)

As a blogger who specializes in featuring 'budget' weddings I guess you're kinda calling me out. :-P

In all honesty, I don't have time to analyze every single budget of every single wedding that comes across my desk, but going forward I will make a point to be more conscious of this issue when choosing my features. :)

I love this! I think the exact same thing when I see budget weddings.

This is extremely timely as last night my fiance and I talked a little about our budget and who's paying for what. He told me his mom is paying for our hotel the first night (that was news to me!) so I said "Alright! I can take that off my budget!"

I am working on a 5k budget, so every piece I don't have to pay for comes off the budget I set up to manage the $5,000 I am going to spend. I budgeted $40 for his pants and last night he said "You're not paying for my pants!" so today I'll take it off my budget.

Maybe I need to keep 2 separate budgets - the money I'm spending and then an overall cost breakdown... and when I submit our wedding, I'll be sure to be clear about what went on!

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Only Louise. You are hilarious. By the way - I added you as a test on my new site and even among all of the other blogs Im testing, somehow you STILL standout:). In fact, Im reading you from my site. Finally! https://trueweddingjunkie.com/blog/all-junkie-blog-feeds.htm. Check it out.

We are due a convo. Friday is good if you want to chat.

Keep cracking me up - Please. But so true. So very true, Every penny = your budget. Even if it was bartered, given or stolen:).

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTrue Wedding Junkie

I emphatically agree. Include the cost, no matter who paid for it.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKt

While I agree that one should include non-gift monetary contributions to the wedding budget, I also disagree with you on some of your points.

For most couples, I have to believe that there is a certain sense of accomplishment in planning a wedding that is - for lack of better terminology - fiscally responsible. I applaud budget weddings because it shows a change in people's attitudes about money (and I know you do too! not the point, keep reading :-). That being said, just because you happen to work in an industry that lends itself well to planning, designing or baking doesn't mean you are cheating. It means you are lucky.

I'm sure people could say the same about your chargers. The industry you were in at the time allowed you to be friends with someone who makes chargers and gave them to you for "no charge" (pun intended.) The same can be said of me. I met you through the bridal world. and it worked out that you did the labor on my veil and hair piece. I got really really lucky. By no means do I think you or I somehow "cheated". Is it unfair that these people have such great connections? Sure, maybe ... in the grand scheme of things. But guess what, LIFE ISN'T FAIR. That's just what happens.

Again, I wholeheartedly agree that if your parents give you $10K for your wedding it should be in a budget breakdown. BUT .... but, maybe a lot of these couples view these things as gifts. I know that I consider my wedding dress my wedding gift from my parents because they couldn't afford to do anything else for us. Am I going to count that $600 in my budget? Fuck no! It was a gift. Just like your chargers.

You know I love you, girl.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLittle Spoon

I think there is a difference between a "budget" - what you are planning to pay out of pocket - and the final "cost" - a break down of what was actually spent. In these ressonisita times, it seems like spending less is getting to be a bragging right, even if it means you are counting expenditures by family members as "gifts" in your wedding budget. I think you have to take anyone's budget breakdown with a grain of salt, because frankly we all lie about money as much as we lie about our weight :) Although I will say that I get a bit irked (or more accurately, jealous) when a "budget" wedding consists of a bride (who happens to be friends with professional photographers) gets married at her gorgeous family estate to her muscian husband (who comes from a family of professional chefs) and Aunt Martha Stewart does the flowers. (I exaggerate, but you get my point). I love my friends and family but they are NOT that talented.

I agree that budget breakdowns are helpful because it helps manage expectations when planning, but when it comes down to it, who cares what someone spent as long as it was right for THEM.

P.S. Your chargers are killer. You are one lucky girl!

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKim

Agreed! That drove me nuts when I was wedding planning! I read about budget weddings hoping to get ideas and inspiration. Instead, I ended up feeling bad about myself that no one in my family was in the wedding industry/owned a restaurant/ was a florist/ etc..

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

I started my wedding blog originally as "Beer Budget Bride" simply because I'm cheap and for the most part spending all that money on one day didn't sit right with me (still doesn't). We live 20min outside of NYC (and it's a true 20min, not just an overly used expression) 3min if you count the Bronx. We're 11 blocks away from the Westchester/Bronx border. Cost of living here is off the hook ridiculous. I googled it once. We're the 2nd most expensive county in the state of NY (after Manhattan) and 7th highest in the country!!

We started out with a guest list of 180 and went up close to 300 because of our parents. I think we had a "cost-conscious" wedding, but by no means a "budget" wedding. Could we have gone smaller? Had a civil ceremony? Decided on buffet vs. sit down? Could I have purchased my gown from David's Bridal vs. the designer sample I bought? Absolutely. But we did the best we could to curb costs for a wedding of the size that we had.

For example, I think Gocco is a wonderful idea but I don't have the time or patience for it, esp since people toss out invites like Christmas cards, so I went with an invite company. I however, did print out my own table numbers, buy picture frames at the dollar store, paint them in my backyard and deliver them to the venue myself. And that's ok. For what it's worth, I think that qualifies -- cutting corners wherever you can. Sharing ideas & projects for pennies with a high-end result.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDancy

okay, i KNOW what you're saying. i feel that way every time i read about one of those "budget" weddings...or when i see a budget wedding at {freaking badass venue} Salvage One in Chicago, because I know that place alone costs $12K.

so...did you get your attire, booze, food, photography, cake, invitations, etc for free then? hm...


January 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlizzie

I think what you are saying is not that its unfair, but just misleading when it is not listed in the cost breakdown of a wedding and when that gift is factored in to the breakdown only then should it be categorized as "budget" vs. for lack of a better term "luxe". Am I right?
This just makes people looking for inspiration more aware of what things actually cost and helps with being realistic...etc.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSharon

I agree with what you are saying and it drives me nuts reading about a "budget" wedding where they throw in their mom the pastry chef made their cake, their BFF is a graphic designer and did their invitations, their aunt is a photographer and took the pictures. I say if you have the resources USE them and good for them but don't start bragging about your "budget" wedding when in reality you are just lucky to know people in useful industries. It makes the rest of the brides out there without the same resources frustrated that they can't also have a beautiful $6K wedding for 200 people.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

YES! You people are getting what I'm saying! And probably saying it better than I did. Sharon - you've said it best....misleading. I think that's the best term to use. I should have said that. Good thing I've got my peeps to help me. :)

January 13, 2011 | Registered CommenterLouise

I agree one hundred percent. Early on in my planning (or at least, what seemed early), I stumbled upon a beautiful "backyard" wedding. Crazy beautiful. It was so pretty that I think I even had a crying, tantrum-filled night of feeling completely inadequate because there was absolutely NO WAY I would ever be able to pull something together that looked that beautiful for a backyard wedding.

Then I took a closer look at the photos. The bride was Ted Dansen's daughter. Budget backyard wedding my left foot.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Hurrah! It's really hard for those of us without connections, who didn't win a free photography contents, who live in expensive cities, and who have necessarily massive guest lists to ever feel good about what we spend on our weddings. I feel inadequate enough about my wedding on a normal basis but when I start reading about what someone else did with $5000 for 200 people, I want to cry. And then I look closer at how they only spent $5000 and how the wedding services were probably worth $15,000 and they lived in Kansas and I start to feel better.

It's like our budgets are now part of the competition. But its such an unequal playing field. I cheer for everyone thrifty, connected enough, or well-supported by other family to pull of a splendiferous-yet-inexpensive wedding. But for me, I'm coming to terms with the national average and paying for it all myself.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBecca

I totally fell in love with Ted Dansen's daughter's wedding too.

The thing that gets me about budget breakdowns is how things get left out. Like, someone claiming to have spent $10k (not including the ring, or dress or...etc). We included everything in our numbers, right down to the honeymoon. Even with all our hookups(and there were lots), we still spent a lot of money, a little more than we had planned but not more than we were comfortable with. Thanks to our various connections we got to splurge on some things that we otherwise wouldn't have been able to, like amazing photography.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkc

@KC - you did have AH-mazing freakin' photography.

January 13, 2011 | Registered CommenterLouise

I think you're right, Louise, in that there's often a difference between the bride and groom's budget -- what they pay out of pocket -- and the actual cost of the wedding. In my case, my parents paid for the reception -- hors d'oeuvres, sit-down dinner, open bar (beer and wine only) -- a total of about $3800. A photographer friend of mine charged me $700 for about 500 pics (I got the negatives, too, which made it a much better deal). Friends of my mother provided the ceremony music; I paid for their hotel rooms and gave each a gift, of course, so that was another $600. My dress was $100; shoes were $30. Flowers were $225. Invitations were $75. The DJ was a friend of my husband's and did the reception for $150, and we gave him a $50 tip. Cake was $250. Favors were $125. Ten bucks for the cake cutter and champagne flutes. Add in gifts for the wedding party, another $200. The venue provided linens and centerpieces, so no extra charge there. Total: less than $6,500.

Were we lucky because we had friends or family friends who could do things like the photography and music? Of course. We also were able to keep costs down because our personal tastes weren't in line with what you see in bridal magazines or celebrity weddings. Our wedding was about us -- what we wanted, and what we were willing to spend for it. So it can be done. It involves making choices (I would never pay $5 a pop for chair covers, for example) and deciding what's most important to you. But it can be done.

Meg Schneider
Author, Budget Weddings For Dummies

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMeg Schneider

I agree that it would be helpful to differentiate between a bride and groom's budget and the cost of their wedding. If I'm trying to look at the budgets of other weddings to see what is a reasonable amount to pay for alcohol, for example, it's not helpful if the budget recap says 'my uncle generously gifted us the alcohol for the reception.' But how much did it cost?!

January 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElaine

Weddings in general are bullshit. This is putting our relationship to a real test, as I realize that I'm doing battle with 28 years of sexist, bullf***ingshit cultural impregnations that are virtually impossible to deal with rationally, because marking has so imbedded their agenda with my loved one's emotions. It speaks to the success of these financial efforts. A lifelong aversion towards blood diamonds, towards the financial imperialism of rich countries taking minerals out of poor countries, and funding violence on the way out - all out the window. You don't get her a diamond, you don't LOVE her. Forget the ethics. This line keeps coming back into my head: that Disney and porn are responsible for the most miserable expectations that men and women have of each other. Where is my insatiable slut? Where is my knight in shining armor? ...sigh....

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFCM

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