A recent conversation I had with a prospective client couldn’t have come at a better time. We’ll call her Louise. She just got engaged, was on the verge of selecting a wedding date, and wanted to get a jump on talking to photographers. She knew she’d want someone good and wasn’t going to put it off until the good ones were all booked up.
Louise and I went through some normal pleasantries, how they got together, what the proposal was like, what they were looking foreword to in their life together. Then we started talking about the wedding day plans themselves, how many guests they’d have, what they had decided about wedding parties, and what they thought the flow of the day would be like. Something seemed unusual to me in Louise’s answers though.
She didn’t seem to care.
Now, I’m not saying something is wrong if people aren’t bubbling over with excitement about every little detail of their wedding day. People have all kinds of different affects, so I’m not one to judge. But I thought Louise’s responses to my questions were peculiar. They always seemed to end with a sigh. I decided to go off script, so I put my iPad down, I let the smile subside from my face a bit, and said, “you don’t seem to be very excited about any of this”.
She paused for a moment before saying, “…well, we just can’t afford any of this”. She went on, “The venue we want is making us use their caterer, and it’s going to be at least $90 per plate” and “Both of our parents come from big families and the would be really hurt if they weren’t invited”. My mind started jumping immediately to problem solving, but I sensed that she was feeling embarrassed. She was, after all, sitting there talking to someone who as far as she knew was just some sales guy hoping to get the money she didn’t have. I reassured her that there were lots of ways to save money on a wedding day, in fact it could be done for almost nothing if she was determined and gave herself the right mindset.
By this point in our conversation, I’d resolved that I wanted to help her one way or another and it didn’t so much matter to me if she was or wasn’t going to book. I asked her what made her venue so important, she just said it was pretty. So I asked her whether she’d considered paying a visit to the courthouse and having a really big bash at home later that night. Her reply is still ringing in my ears.
“I’m sure that would be nice, but I want to have a wedding.” She said.
Though I had a couple follow up questions, I respected that she was set on their plan to have the “wedding” that was in her mind so I didn’t press on it anymore. We talked for a few more minutes, I gave her some recommendations, she thanked me for the talk and then we parted ways. Not so much to my surprise, she did not book her wedding with us. In the end, but that was okay. Of course, I do hope everything is going well with Louise and her fiancee, but her mindset about weddings offended my sense of reason. In Louise’s mind, going to the courthouse, or eloping is not the same as a wedding. It doesn’t matter who is there with you, how you personalize it, or what you do to celebrate—it’s not a “wedding”.
But she’s wrong. When you get married at an expensive venue with hundreds of people there, and when you get married at a courthouse, or in a park with your 20 closest friends and family members, either way you are ending up married and celebrated by those you love. To go to the courthouse, or hire and officiant to elope, you are still having a wedding. Albeit, a different kind of wedding, but a wedding nonetheless.
We’ve been doing quite a few elopements and courthouse weddings recently, which is something that makes me happy. Sound financial advice doesn’t usually weigh in on whether you should get married, but it beckons you think long and hard about how. It’s not that I don’t love the raucous of a long wedding day. It’s just that when couples have happily made the decision to keep their nuptials simple, I get a little glimmer of satisfaction, (even if that means we don’t get booked) knowing that people are thinking it through and not all of them feel pressured to take it beyond their means, as Louise did.
What form your wedding takes is entirely up to you. It’s not how much you spend on it that makes it matter, it’s how much of yourself you put into it. So, if you’re like Louise and are telling yourself you “want a wedding”. First realize that the definition of ‘wedding’ is so broad it’s almost meaningless. Then consider what kind of meaning you will personalize your wedding with and let that dictate what your wedding looks like.