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Weddings … are they worth it?

By Steven Bailey 8 December 2015 45

Steven and partner

From an early age, I considered weddings an archaic institution that would probably evaporate as secular societies would dust themselves from pervasive social conservatisms of yesteryear; perhaps only with the exception of royalty, the rich and famous, and the fundamentally religious … how wrong I was.

At the age of 22 my opinions began to change when, due to a shock proposal, two of my friends decided to marry after knowing one another for only six weeks. My friendship group, especially my female friends, were swept up in the theatre of romance, the traditional regalia and, of course, the rip-roaring flow of free booze and schmooze.

But there was an aftermath … a serious aftermath indeed. Many of us woke up in strange, weird, and wonderful places with a heavy head of beautiful half memories.

It was at this point I knew that the tradition of marriage would only reassert itself in different permutations within the progressions and passing of time.

But has Generation Y taken the institution of marriage from a conservative celebration to an expensive show of competitive excess replete with all manner of glitz, bling, fetish, glamour, and glut?

Bride and Groom

According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the average Australian wedding will set you back $36,200. But according to the Bride to Be magazine’s “Cost of Love survey” the average Australian wedding comes to a blow of $65,482. I’m guessing that the average cost would be about $50,000.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that the average price of a home in 2015 is now over $600,000, attracting a deposit and other upfront costs of close to $80,000.

Obviously, first home buyers purchase property less than the average house price, attracting an estimated upfront cost of $50,000 … the same as a wedding!

Never one to shy away from an audience, and being a musician, I often find myself playing a significant role at the weddings of my friends, which I always consider a great honour.

But the cost of some weddings is another kettle of fish.

When all is added up, sometimes the buck’s and hen’s weekends alone exceed the thousand-dollar mark … each!

Last night, my partner and I sat down and calculated that we attend about six weddings a year.

But destination weddings, photo booths, lolly buffets, choreographed dances, personalised websites, champagne fountains, celebrity chef-designed menus, fairy floss carts, tailor-made gifts and goodie bags, drone photography, matching attire, and most unpleasant phenomenon of all: the evolution of the bridezilla. I simply don’t understand it.

Never one for convention, and only occasional excess, I honestly didn’t expect to have a wedding of my own, but last year when the love of my life unexpectedly looked up to me kneeled on one knee and asked me to marry her, of course, I made an exception.

I’m blessed to have many friends from many different walks of life so, at first count, I wanted to invite 360 people. We wouldn’t be able to afford a wedding for that many people in a fit, and the culling process will most certainly be quite painful.

Falling in love was the easy part but planning and paying for a wedding … holy crap!


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Weddings … are they worth it?
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HenryBG 9:18 pm 17 Dec 15

I have been to many weddings. Some of the worst ones – by far – are the sit-down ones.
(One exception was a sit-down wedding I went to at a lodge at Thredbo – that one was really very good – live music by proper musicians, excellent food, and a very good wine list. Rumours reached my ears that some of the best hanky-panky ever occurred during this wedding, too.).

Mostly, the best ones – by far – are the cocktail-party ones.

Mostly, those ones involved hiring a good venue – a big guesthouse or a winery or somesuch, and then providing info well ahead of time to your guests enabling them to book local accommodation.

If you can only afford a cheap wedding, then the worst thing you can do is cram a bunch of people into a crap venue and feed them a crap menu.

I’ve been to very cheap weddings in people’s backyards that were *way* better than most weddings at (cheap) formal venues.

If you can only afford one thing, then invite everybody to your backyard, run a barbie, tell your guests to BYO and front up for the cost of some live music – the band will be very eager to please, the guests will appreciate drinking something they chose themselves, they will always remember the live music, and they will relax and actually have fun.

They won’t judge you if they have fun.

chewy14 7:36 pm 13 Dec 15

justin heywood said :

chewy14 said :

As I said, you think you know what they want and need better than they know themselves. It’s not really meant to be about you.

I’m pretty sure if they’re asking to have a wishing well, what your friends and family would really like is………money.

Well I’m pretty sure that a wedding is one day that isn’t (or shouldn’t) be about….money.

Fully agree with you, which is why the vast majority of people who have a wishing well aren’t judging or ranking their friends on how much money they gave. I’ve honestly never been to a wedding where the couple would do anything like that.

But maybe what they really want as the best gift is some help affording a romantic trip for their honeymoon or affording the fun wedding reception that they’ve always dreamed of?

Then they can look back nostalgically at the best gift that all their friends and family helped give them……..exactly what they wanted.

justin heywood 12:59 pm 12 Dec 15

chewy14 said :

As I said, you think you know what they want and need better than they know themselves. It’s not really meant to be about you.

I’m pretty sure if they’re asking to have a wishing well, what your friends and family would really like is………money.

Well I’m pretty sure that a wedding is one day that isn’t (or shouldn’t) be about….money.

We still remember and joke about some of the spectacularly awful gifts we received, as well as the touchingly thoughtful ones.
Some gave us money, but I couldn’t recall who gave us money or what we did with that money. It never made us smile or cringe anyway.

london 12:05 pm 12 Dec 15

Go for the big one and then start whinging you can’t get on the property ladder.

Or maybe you are one of the couples who have been engaged for years and have children to attend your wedding party.

Could also be already settled into a home so ask for wishing well money to pay for honeymoon.
Strange customs these days

pink little birdie 10:04 am 12 Dec 15

We had a wishing well/flight centre account to pay for the honeymoon. Everyone was pretty generous but those who were really close to us gave us physical presents instead of that. Fancy linen, champagne, wedding plush, camera (accidentally dropped in ocean on honeymoon)

What the couple really wants is for people to spend the day with them. We had a couple of friends who said they couldn’t afford a gift and it doesn’t matter. Id much rather have you at the wedding- thats why we invited you than a gift. Your gift is you at our wedding and you having a great time

chewy14 10:25 pm 11 Dec 15

madelini said :

justin heywood said :

chewy14 said :

I think whinging about “wishing wells” is some sort of generation gap thing where older people are against giving money in general because it’s “uncouth”.

Maybe, but gift giving should be a pleasure for both parties.

Wishing wells put a number and a ranking on a person’s ‘generosity’.

I’m 25 and I hate wishing wells and gifting money – not because it’s uncouth, but because I get genuine pleasure out of selecting gifts that I know my friends and family will like, and having that choice discouraged is disappointing.

As I said, you think you know what they want and need better than they know themselves. It’s not really meant to be about you.

I’m pretty sure if they’re asking to have a wishing well, what your friends and family would really like is………money.

chewy14 10:21 pm 11 Dec 15

justin heywood said :

chewy14 said :

I think whinging about “wishing wells” is some sort of generation gap thing where older people are against giving money in general because it’s “uncouth”.

Maybe, but gift giving should be a pleasure for both parties.

Wishing wells put a number and a ranking on a person’s ‘generosity’.

Only if you go to weddings where the bride and groom would “rank” their friends generosity. w Which I might add, isn’t actually that hard to do with presents that aren’t money either.

I’ve never been to a wedding where the couple would be like that and I dont intend on starting anytime soon.

Michele the Celebrant 7:13 pm 11 Dec 15

Hi Steven
Your post was serious and I loved the funny bits as well. A wedding doesn’t have to be that way. I had a meeting last night with a couple who will marry at the end of January in my beautiful romantic Heart Garden. All up cost? $500. They bring their own bubbly and I bring out the crystal glasses.

I guess however that you’ll be wanting more than small and simple. I went to a wonderful wedding last Saturday at Mystery Bay on the far south coast. There were 160 guests and many of them were camping at the wedding site. I am sure the cost to the so-happy bride and groom was nowhere near $60,000. In fact, I’ve been celebrant at well over one thousand weddings and I think very few of them would have cost that much.

We are blessed in Canberra to have so many lovely wedding venues available to us for free. Even at places where you pay, the cost is low, compared to other cities. The Margaret Whitlam Pavilion at the Arboretum for instance, is a superb venue. It can host a ceremony (with up to 140 guests, as I recall) and a reception to follow. The catering by Ginger Catering is excellent. A cocktail party is a good plan as it’s usually held around sunset when the whole place looks stunning.

I suggest you join the ‘Canberra Weddings’ group on facebook. You’ll get lots of ideas there from other couples who have found good local resources. On my blog Michele the Celebrant at http://www.celebrantcanberra.com.au, there’s a list of local venues, many of which are free.

I hope you’ll find that planning a wedding can be fun and won’t break the bank. I wish you great success. I wish you and your bride the best day ever.

madelini 1:48 pm 11 Dec 15

justin heywood said :

chewy14 said :

I think whinging about “wishing wells” is some sort of generation gap thing where older people are against giving money in general because it’s “uncouth”.

Maybe, but gift giving should be a pleasure for both parties.

Wishing wells put a number and a ranking on a person’s ‘generosity’.

I’m 25 and I hate wishing wells and gifting money – not because it’s uncouth, but because I get genuine pleasure out of selecting gifts that I know my friends and family will like, and having that choice discouraged is disappointing.

watto23 12:08 pm 11 Dec 15

chewy14 said :

watto23 said :

justin heywood said :

Alexandra Craig said :

…One thing I hate though, and refuse to do if I get married, is one of those wishing well things…

I’m with you on ‘wishing wells’. To me they epitomise the vulgarity of excess. I’d much rather get 3 casserole dishes (as we did) than than virtually tell people what to buy as a ‘gift’, thus denying people the pleasure of giving something that they chose.

Completely agree. If you happen to have everything then there are things one can do like suggest donations to a charity or just say no gifts. Then again if I got married I have everything I need, but I’m sure a few things could be upgraded. I don’t like wasting things, but if I got some nice new stuff, I could donate either the new stuff or my old stuff to charity.

If I donate to the wishing well I do so anonymously and every single time I’ve been emailed/called, asking how much I put into the wishing well or did I forget to put money in my card (I put an envelope with money in separately from a card)!!! I find it rude to ask people to give you money and then its also rude to want to know how much they gave you.

Really? People ask you if and how much you gave?

What kind of weddings are you going to and who are these types of people that would ask that? Very strange.

Apparently so they can personalise the thank you card. I basically say I’m happy to not get a thank you card. Yes its rude and some of the people surprised me when they asked!

Postalgeek 10:46 am 11 Dec 15

Good grog, good food, and comfortable chairs. Get that right and people won’t care about the rest.

We had food stations and cocktail food passed around, and everyone mingled with who they wanted to. We got to talk to everyone that way rather than being separated from guests at a bridal table, and everyone was spared the tedious I-dont-suppose-you-want-to-swap-this-fish-for-that-lamb ritual.

Steven Bailey 9:26 am 11 Dec 15

Acton said :

Oh piffle!. Don’t listen to them Steve. Go for the big one. Canberra needs a Salim and Aysha. This could be you:
https://vimeo.com/136422430

Ha! Cheers mate. Maybe I will. 🙂

curmudgery 11:26 pm 10 Dec 15

Stephen, congratulations. My two-bob’s-worth …

It’s a myth that a wedding is ‘her big day’ – it belongs to both equally.

Gifts are all about the receiver – there are some strange individuals out there that think they’re all about the giver. They need psychiatric help.

To what extent do either of you want to walk around the guests at your own wedding reception wondering ‘I wonder who the hell that is.’?

My oldest son was married a few years ago. He was 24. It was held at 10:00am in a park in Canberra with about 40 guests in total. Later there was a sit-down meal at a good restaurant – immediate families only plus best man and bride’s maid. The best thing we did for the wedding was hire a coffee-on-wheels service. That was brilliant.

My son and his wife are no less in love than had the social arrangements been more elaborate – but they are now (and have been for quite some time) living in their own house . . . and very glad of it.

My sincere best wishes to you both.

HummerBoy 4:45 pm 10 Dec 15

Forget the researched costs. I got married last month and our sub-$5000 wedding was rated by guests as the best they had been to. Be creative not expensive. We had pretty much everything a traditional wedding would have but we were creative in the way we did them. Look at each expense and find a way to do it another way with similar results.

Steven Bailey 11:40 am 10 Dec 15

I had a chat with Marcus Paul on 2CC yesterday. We talked about politics, love, and I call him a ‘donger’ about three minutes in. 🙂

Here’s the link: http://www.2cc.net.au/podcasts/4329-are-weddings-worthwhile.html

Acton 11:06 am 10 Dec 15

Oh piffle!. Don’t listen to them Steve. Go for the big one. Canberra needs a Salim and Aysha. This could be you:
https://vimeo.com/136422430

justin heywood 10:40 am 10 Dec 15

chewy14 said :

I think whinging about “wishing wells” is some sort of generation gap thing where older people are against giving money in general because it’s “uncouth”.

Maybe, but gift giving should be a pleasure for both parties.

Wishing wells put a number and a ranking on a person’s ‘generosity’.

chewy14 7:49 am 10 Dec 15

watto23 said :

justin heywood said :

Alexandra Craig said :

…One thing I hate though, and refuse to do if I get married, is one of those wishing well things…

I’m with you on ‘wishing wells’. To me they epitomise the vulgarity of excess. I’d much rather get 3 casserole dishes (as we did) than than virtually tell people what to buy as a ‘gift’, thus denying people the pleasure of giving something that they chose.

Completely agree. If you happen to have everything then there are things one can do like suggest donations to a charity or just say no gifts. Then again if I got married I have everything I need, but I’m sure a few things could be upgraded. I don’t like wasting things, but if I got some nice new stuff, I could donate either the new stuff or my old stuff to charity.

If I donate to the wishing well I do so anonymously and every single time I’ve been emailed/called, asking how much I put into the wishing well or did I forget to put money in my card (I put an envelope with money in separately from a card)!!! I find it rude to ask people to give you money and then its also rude to want to know how much they gave you.

Really? People ask you if and how much you gave?

What kind of weddings are you going to and who are these types of people that would ask that? Very strange.

farq 12:05 am 10 Dec 15

Steve,

What we did was have our wedding ceremony at a informal spot like a park at about 1pm (after lunch).

Then we spent an hour or two getting photos around Canberra with the groomsmen and bridesmaids.

Then we had an afternoon reception at the bar/nightclub/cafe that meant something to us (without an open bar-we just provided snacks).

We did out whole thing for less than $5k. Nowadays when couples live together for years and years the old fashioned wedding seems a kinda of pointless. The main thing is to enjoy the company of friends and family to formalise a commitment.

No matter what, congrats on the planned wedding.

miz 8:21 pm 09 Dec 15

Hey congrats. Steven. My big tip is don’t mention your function is a wedding. If you do it will be twice the price!
My ex and I got married in the UK while on a trip of a lifetime (backpacking), p!ssing off both families big time – but it was seriously great not having the palaver (though we later regretted not having a surfeit of kitchen appliances).

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