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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!

What’s Your opinion?

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45 Responses to
Weddings … are they worth it?
Deref 11:15 am 09 Dec 15

Expensive weddings are the epitome of conspicuous consumption – demonstrations to one’s friends and relatives of how wealthy you are. From an industrial viewpoint they’re the the propaganda equivalent of De Beers’ diamond marketing – the more you spend, the more you love her.

A great example of their total irrelevance is the wedding photographs taken at a place that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the wedding.

It’s encouraging that you don’t understand them – a clear indication that you’ll avoid having one.

A wedding should have genuine meaning to the couple; it should be an enjoyable and memorable celebration with friends and family. Food and booze should play their appropriate part, whether tinnies around the barbie or a decent nosh-up with good plonk, music and dancing. But don’t, whatever you do, fall into the trap of equating expenditure with love.

Heartiest congratulations, Steven. I’m sure your wedding will be one to remember.

Pragmatix 10:51 am 09 Dec 15

Ha! Oh Steven Bailey, you certainly strike that balance between humour and engagement in the contest of ideas. There should be more of you! Ha!

pink little birdie 9:59 am 09 Dec 15

Maya123 said :

pink little birdie, you must have a very large family if you can find sixty relatives to invite, and that you want to invite (not all relatives might get an invite). I have less than ten, if I invited every relative (including their partners) I have closer than second cousin.

Yes My husband and I are the youngest of our generations in each of our families and I’m 1 of 4 and our parents all have multiple siblings. We are on good terms with all of our families and frequently seeing them.

I might note while our wedding was expensive – it was the reception costs that were large. many of the expensive items were either gifts from guests who were professionals in that industry (photography, hair and makeup, cake- fell through and had to go last minute) we made them (bridesmaid dresses, ties, centrepieces, music, ring cushions, invites) or we got second hand (centrepieces). Most items you can get cheaper and we have many friends and family who offered either time (mainly friends who had other commitments for their money) or money – our families were extreemly generous in the preparation – my MIL in particular doesn’t have daughters so I included her in the girl stuff with my mother and she was very delighted.

I would do the large wedding again. It was very awesome and we got to include many people who are important to us.

Alexandra Craig 9:40 am 09 Dec 15

I was thinking about this the other day. I’m not getting married or anything but rather in the process of buying my first home and it has taken me forever to save up for that so I can’t wrap my head around how people manage to have $50k+ weddings, it’s insane! If I was getting married it would be crazy, I have a HUGE family (parents divorced + both remarried, both parents with lots of siblings who all have kids that I’m close to and grew up with), so if I was to invite all the family I am close to, that’d be about 60-70 people in itself.

I went to a wedding a few weeks ago and I reckon there was maybe 60 people there all up and it was just beautiful. Amazing spot (Tumbling Waters Retreat), and the food was phonomenal but it wasn’t a sit down meal. We all got like “meals” but they were served in little bowls and delivered to guests wherever they were sitting/standing – it was awesome. Really classy but not over the top fancy. Perfect combination.

One thing I hate though, and refuse to do if I get married, is one of those wishing well things. I am a pretty generous person so I’m not being stingy, I just hate not knowing what is a suitable amount to give. I suppose it depends on the couple getting married and how well you know them etc but I just find the whole thing really difficult. I’ve always said if I get married I will just request no gifts but here’s a list of 5 charities, would love for people to make a small donation to one. Or something like that 🙂

Blen_Carmichael 9:02 am 09 Dec 15

We eloped. Invited a handful of very close friends, hired a luxury homestead for a weekend, and had an absolute ball. Whole thing cost around only $5K. There were some noses out of joint in the respective families (we didn’t invite relatives) but – hey – it’s our day, not theirs. No regrets.

Kalfour 8:34 am 09 Dec 15

My friend recently got married. It was outdoors. It was also BYO picnic blanket and food. It was also one of the most fun weddings I’ve been to.
Being outdoors, there were no restrictions on the number of people.
BYO food was great for me. I have multiple dietary restrictions, and didn’t need to worry about whether they’d been understood.
It was also BYO nerf gun and we had a battle after the ceremony.
The bride and groom provided some finger foods (it’s hard for people travelling interstate or internationally to organise food), drinks and cake.
All up, including clothes, I reckon they spent about 2K.
You don’t have to be that casual.
But remember, you don’t have to be fancy either. If it’s your wedding, it’s about you. Weddings should not be a competitive business. They should be about you.

TuggLife 11:19 pm 08 Dec 15


We eloped to Las Vegas. Just us, and the whole thing was less than $5k, including our honeymoon. We started planning a ‘proper’ wedding at home, but it was too difficult to come up with a solution that would keep everyone happy. We decided it was about us (and mostly administrative anyway) and it was really lovely being able have the wedding plan as a secret between us. No one was that upset – we celebrated with casual drinks at the pub on our return, and shouted a (fairly casual) dinner for our close family on return.

It would take me nearly a year to earn $45k – having the savings instead has meant I can work part time now that our children are here. I was able to take a little more maternity leave, my husband could take a month off when our babies were born and our mortgage payments are a little less every single month because we had a bigger deposit. That’s a much better reward than some fancy canapés.

Hosinator 9:17 pm 08 Dec 15

Total waste of money. My wife had always dreamt of a sit down wedding with flash cars, big dress massive cake and a huge bill at the end. I tried to convince her to have a small or large cocktail wedding. We spent $45k on our wedding (120 guests), in the middle of a Sydney winter (saved $10k) versus a cocktail wedding at the same venue for $10k.
My wife now regrets the money we spent and agrees we should have instead placed it on our mortgage.

Whenever friends ask us for advice for their wedding, or ask if we’d do anything different we say the following. If you can, elope, if not have a cocktail wedding with no more than 40 guests (super close family and/or guests).

A few friends have taken our advice and eloped, one friend divorced 3 years after marrying and thanks us for saving him a bundle. The cocktail weddings we have attended have been the best weddings we’ve attended. No sitting next to someone I can’t stand trying to make small talk all night and music playing all night long so I can boogie whenever I please.

Some close friends were organising a wedding with over 200 guests and this was after culling 100, with a recent mortgage they decided on taking our advice and have a small intimate wedding for 30 guests, and they couldn’t be happier.

rubaiyat 9:09 pm 08 Dec 15

According to research by QI, the more expensive, the shorter the marriage.

On the other hand the more people witness a wedding the longer the marriage.

Solution, lots of people but don’t spend a motza.

Have a Macdonald’s Happy Marriage. A Crocenbush of Chicken Macnuggets.

justin heywood 7:13 pm 08 Dec 15

Well congratulations Steven.

As to the cost, after all, it only costs as much as YOU decide to spend. Some of the best weddings I have seen are in people’s back garden. You COULD go all Salim Mehajer, but I doubt that’s your style anyway.

…and what exactly are you doing in that first photo?

Southmouth 6:40 pm 08 Dec 15

An expensive wedding just makes it hard to improve upon the second time you do it, although it does mean there is less to fight over when drawing up the settlement.

MERC600 5:21 pm 08 Dec 15

I like weddings. Being an Uncle or a relly of some sort, all I have to do is turn up, try and pace my drinks, and get me picture took.

Maya123 5:02 pm 08 Dec 15

If you choose to get married you don’t need to spend a lot. I have attended a marriage with three guests, who then went out to dinner together after. Also, another wedding catered for in their back garden. Your choice to waste money, which could be spent on paying off your home loan, buying an investment property, investments and other things to set yourself up for a comfortable lifestyle and eventually retirement and maybe even an early retirement, while those who wasted thousands of dollars on unnecessary look-at-me weddings and other wastages (people on ordinary incomes who throw money away on lavish weddings are likely to throw money away elsewhere too) will struggle to retire comfortably and cry poor, when it was their badly consided lifestyle choices.
This lavish spending of money at the wedding is a very modern thing. Compare that to my mother’s wedding. My grandmother made my mother’s wedding dress (okay, my grandmother was a professional dressmaker and it was covered in French lace), but it didn’t stop there. My grandparents purchased eight turkey chickens and raised them for the wedding. The local baker baked them for them. Friends helped set up the wedding in the town hall. No professional wedding help; it was friends and the family. It wasn’t the big show off wedding of today, inviting your closest several hundred friends.

pink little birdie, you must have a very large family if you can find sixty relatives to invite, and that you want to invite (not all relatives might get an invite). I have less than ten, if I invited every relative (including their partners) I have closer than second cousin.

pink little birdie 3:49 pm 08 Dec 15

Having the 50% family and 50% of friends we have regular contact with split of 110 guests at our wedding was totally worth it.

Work out what kind of wedding you want. Pick a few things you really want/non negoitables. We had a jumping castle as my must have at our wedding. My now Husband really wanted a sitdown meal. We both wanted an outdoor ceremony.

Work out what you really want – sitdown vs cocktail, intimate vs large, formal/ casual – day vs night.
and go from there.
Large and formal is quite limiting. Large and casual is doable.

Our wedding was amazing and fabulous. We were both delighted at the day and we came out married (the important thing). Though we would do a couple things differently – like cars, speaches and making a list a photo’s we wanted. That’s ok everybody enjoyed it.

And I’m married now and so very very happy about it.

chewy14 3:20 pm 08 Dec 15

I’d suggest the first thing you should do is completely forget any industry “research” about the “average” cost of weddings in Australia.

Create a market, make people want it, then tell them how much other people are supposedly spending on your product..


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