Wedding Expense: Cost vs. Investment

Let’s face facts; weddings are expensive.  There’s no way around that little bit of truth.  I know this fact not only from being a wedding photographer/videographer for the past 17 years, but also because I got married myself this past October.  Granted this was my second wedding, my first was to my late wife in December of 1991, but I knew going in to the planning that it was going to cost us some money.  However, one of my advantages this time around was knowing the difference between a Cost item vs. an Investment item for our wedding.  So, what’s the difference?

Did you know that the average cost for a wedding in the Knoxville area is right around $26,000.  That’s the cost of a good car.  The down payment on a new home.  Yikes!    Some have a hard time wrapping their head around that number, but if you sit down and lay it all out on a spread sheet you will find the numbers add up pretty quick.  Venue, flowers, food, photos, music, dresses, tuxes for the guys, rentals, honeymoon, the list just goes on and on.  Now, $26K is an average as some spend a lot less then that and others go way past that number the fact is, it’s still a large amount.  So one question brides often ask themselves   “What’s most important?”

The answer to that question is as different as each bride is.  To some, the dress is the most important thing, yet another bride might say the venue is the key to her wedding day.  There really is no correct answer to that question.  It’s really only what’s important to you, as the bride.  With that being said, what about the rest of the items on your list?  How important are those?  Where should you spend you money?   It has been my experience over the years that every wedding item falls into two categories: Cost and Investment. Let’s look at each one and spell out the differences:

COST:

When you look at a cost item, your looking at something that you will spend money on one time, use it at or for the wedding and then it’s done.  Flowers are a great example of a cost item.  There are some amazing florist in our area and a few are very good friends of mine.  They makesome of the most unbelievable floral arrangements and center pieces I’ve ever seen.  They continue to push the envelops for their brides but the fact is, when the wedding day is over, so are the flowers.  I’ve seen a lot of flowers either thrown away at the end of an event or donated to charity depending on the wishes of the bride, but the fact remains. The flowers are done at the end of the night.  Same with the food.  The food is thrown out at the end of the night as well.  Sure, sometimes we vendors will grab a to-go box and take some home with us, but for the most part, the food is thrown away.

Other cost items include; linens, dresses (yes, your dress is a cost item.  Will you ever wear it again? Maybe your daughter, but you will wear it one day ONLY), tuxes, rentals, the DJ or band who plays at your wedding reception, the coordinator, even the guest favors you spend hours and hours on.  Here’s a little secret: save a bunch of money and don’t do the guest favors.  Most never leave the reception area and the ones that are left usually go home with us vendors.  I have a entire closet filled with mason jars, glasses, among other things that brides spent hours and hours on to give to their guest to remember the wedding day.  Most of them never take them home, AT ALL.  Save your money.   In fact, if you go to any bridal shows, 95% of what you see there are cost items.  95% of what you see and the vendors you meet will be a one time thing.  They are all cost items.

INVESTMENT:

When you make an investment, you are hoping to get something back in return.  When someone invest in a company, they are hoping that the company will do well and pay back some of the money that was invested.  This is true with your wedding,  when you pay out the money, you want to have something to show for it.

Currently there are only two areas when you can invest in your wedding and get something back; Photography and Videography or Film.  Let me make this clear right here; I’m not saying that cost items are bad and investment items are good or better.  I’m saying that because I do photography and videography that these are the only investment items, but when you sit down and look at everything, it’s how it falls.

Let me break it down this way; when you leave your reception at the end of the day, you have two things, a husband and memories.  That’s it.  Are you going to bring your DJ home with you to pay a soundtrack for your life?  Of course not, that would be silly.  But you will bring home your memories.  The sad thing with memories is they fade over time and it’s hard to get them back.

Photography will allow you to relive those memories anytime you want.  Videography will do the same, only in a slightly different way.  Photos give you a quick snapshot in time, the blink of an eye.  You get to see the moment, but you don’t get to live the moment. Video, or film, will only let you see that moment, but also hear that moment, and you get to see that moment move.  You get to see yourself walk up the aisle.  You can hear your guest cheer for you as you kiss for the first time as husband and wife.  You can hear and see your first dance.  You can hear grandma wish you well on your new journey in life. Photos and film give you all the important moments of your wedding day.  They give you those moments back to you over the years, even as your memory fades, the photos and film will always be there to give them back to you.

When your planning your wedding, look at what your cost items are and what your investment items are.  Make sure you are investing in your wedding, not just spending money.