Friday, 11 February 2011

The cost of weddings

For some reason, the topic of weddings and relationship breakdown has been in the press a lot recently. I happened to see an article in the Guardian, the sub-title of which encouraged me to read on. "My big, fat DIY wedding" shouted the headline. "The average cost of a wedding in the UK today is £21,000. Keen crafter Momtaz Begum-Hossain set out to spend nothing. How did she fare?" continued the sub-title.

Given that the article was about costs, I was expecting Ms Begum-Hossain to have spent way less than the £12,000 she revealed that she and her husband spent in total on their wedding. £12,000 doesn't sound like "spending nothing". I agree it's far less than the £21k that is supposedly the average cost of a wedding in the UK, but it's still not really "spending nothing". I also think that the £21k average figure is skewed upwards by a small number of extremely expensive weddings - I think all of the people's weddings I have been to in my life will have come in at under £20k and I suspect a lot of them substantially less. £12,000 the article stated, was the top of Ms Begum-Hossain and her husband's budget. As someone who has got married and writes about weddings and has an engaged sister, the costs of weddings do interest me. But what this article really said to me was you still have to spend a lot to have a nice wedding. Which just shouldn't be the case.

Consider the breakdown of the budget: Venue: £5,500, Catering: £3,500, Entertainment: £1,000, Drinks: £600, Decorations: £300, Extras: £200, Dress: £200, Groom's outfit: £90, Wedding cake: £100, Flowers: £0, Transport: £0, Wedding ring: £0 = Total: £11,490

Whichever way you look at that budget, I think it's misleading. It doesn't include photography (yet there are photographs - they say a friend donated the expertise of videography so perhaps that included photography) or invitations and even allowing for her making her headpiece and shrug herself, £200 is a very small figure to include all extras including her shoes.

They also spent almost £10k out of their £12,000 total on the venue and the food/drink. No matter how much your total figure is, that seems a disproportionate percentage. What it really says to me is, we had a £20k wedding but only paid just over half of the actual costs because we have a bunch of really talented friends. Which is awesome, but not much help to the readers who don't have friends who can use their professional talents in such fashion but who do want inspiration on keeping their costs low.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think there is a right or wrong way to get married. And a budget is personal to the couple - what one couple thinks is a fortune may be a pittance to another. I just think that articles which proclaim to show and inspire people to do DIT/hand crafted wedding for the sake of spending the least amount possible should be less misleading.


I've also read quite a few articles this week on relationship breakdowns and dealing with divorce. Without giving away too much about myself, I deal with these issues during my working day, and a lot of the people I see say that they had wished they had done things differently with hindsight. Which, of course, there are things that you can do differently if you do wish to protect your assets in the event of divorce or death or separation. These are conversations I have had with Husband, the higher wage earner without a student bank loan to repay. I question whether, should we buy a house, whether we should have a deed of trust in place, so he recovers the same percentage as he put in. When facing the question about what car (or rather, how much) to buy, I found myself saying "well, it's going to be mainly your money paying for it, you should have more of a decision on the cost". To which he always responds, "we're married. It's no longer your debt and my money. It's a collective team effort now and we make the decision based on our needs".

Which is what I say to my clients when they ruminate how they could have behaved differently. If you enter marriage expecting divorce, it can't be the best starting point. Yes, I think you should discuss things and yes, protect certain pre-marital assets if the circumstances are strong enough to warrant it, but in the ordinary run of things, I would hope that whatever the situation in the future, one is able to treat their spouse with enough respect to make a decision regarding the assets that allows both parties to live the best possible independent lives.


Marie said...

I completely agree with you that the wedding they were talking about seemed in no way to be a budget wedding or one which fully represents the true costs of putting on a wedding. How can you miss photography?! And the amount they spent on the venue and food seems very large for a wedding which was meant to be largely DIY... Still I also completely agree with you that it's completely up to you how you spend your money on the wedding and what you think is reasonable. A couple of people who I know are getting married and my advice to them has been start with the budget, work out how much you can spend, then look at your options and how you want to split that budget.

And on the divorce thing, yes, going into a marriage expecting divorce seems wrong to me. Being sensible yes but expecting it, hmmm. And on the finances split you were talking about I earn nothing and it has taken me 3 months to come to terms with the fact that we are a joint entity. Yes I have to be sensible with our money but it is our money.

claire said...

Completely agree - if the point of this was to showcase a cheap wedding then I'm not sure it quite worked. I've seen many cheaper! But that said, she did manage to do some quite interesting stuff with her money - like that dress. And feed quite a few guests. Still, as the premise for an article, it didn't quite deliver.

But the sad thing is that whatever she'd spent - even if it was just one or two thousand pounds -or five hundred - there would still be people in the comments below suggesting that she was a dappy woman for wasting her money.

You just can't win with these articles, Did you ever see Lucy Mangan's piece about her wedding in the Daily Mail? SUCH vitriol. Horrible.

You know I blogged about the same article today - sorry I didn't mention it before linking but the article - and moreover, the comments beneath it, just got my goat so much I found myself going off on a rant. I find it so interesting that there is such a backlash from bloggers every time one of these articles appears and yet still they run, despite the backlash. Of course they do, I guess. It's just frustrating.

But yes. 12 grand? Not really cheap. But then, it sounds like she enjoyed it which is all that matters. Good value for what mattered to her maybe. But then is any wedding ever objectively 'cheap'?

Helen said...

I read that article and I was annoyed at first, as I read it thinking it would be about how to have a really low cost wedding and £12k to me is not that. On re-reading it though, I think the standfirst is partly responsible for misleading readers about the tone of the article. And as you, and other commenters have said, what you spend on your wedding is personal and completely up to you. Some of the comments that the article attracted on line were very vitriolic and unnecessary.

What does irritate me, as someone who writes for a wedding magazine and had a vested interest due to getting married last year, is the pressure on you from the wedding industry that there are certain things you "must" have or "should" do. A wedding should be completely about what you and your partner want - and whether you spend £500 or £15k is up to you. Although, personally, I could never - and didn't - spend that much on one day. We DIYed most of our wedding and came in at a fraction of what the "average" wedding costs. (But still more than the £150 which is the minimum required to get married in the UK!)

Cate Subrosa said...

I didn't read it myself but it sounds like it was very misleading and I thought your comments were very fair. I think you might be onto something about 21k being a skewed figure... we could have had our wedding nearly 5 times over for that (and I did include everything bar the honeymoon in our total) and although we didn't splash cash about I don't think anyone would have called it budget. We got a perfectly nice venue for £500 so the idea that choosing a £5.5k venue makes a wedding budget is laughable.

And about relationship breakdown, if only it were the case that more people could treat each other with respect at such difficult times. :(

Peacock Feathers and Diamond Rings said...

When I first opened the article there were no comments underneath it. But I can imagine they were extremely competitive.

I wish the mainstream press would stop running articles which invites such vitriolic competitiveness. Instead of being misleading, it could have been simply showcasing a more unusual wedding (i.e. the dress, the craftiness).

I am hoping that blogging about weddings is showing people that the wedding industry is a load of cr*p and (beyond a few essentials - like 2 people entering into the marriage etc) there is no right or wrong or must have.

Peacock Feathers and Diamond Rings said...

I also wonder whether the upcoming Royal wedding is going to skew the average figure upwards even further... :)

Momtaz said...

Thanks for blogging about my article! I'm interested in everyone's views on it. To clear up the £200 on extras, that's exactly it, I didn't buy new shoes or new undies or any of the other extras that people have. I had 120 guests in the day and it went up to 180 in the evening - alot of the comments I've read say '£12k is so expensive, we spent 'x' 'but they only had 40 guests.

I agree the subheading was misleading (I didn't write that) but the title captured the essence - it was a 'big fat' glossy wedding on a budget and I feel privileged to have been able to share it.

Peacock Feathers and Diamond Rings said...

Momtaz - thank you for reading my post on your article. I am glad you got to showcase what was clearly a stunning wedding. I still feel it is misleading though to say it was 'on a budget' - even if you did have 180 guests - because it seems that you have fabulous friends who provided quite a few of the more expensive items (that people who don't have professional friends have to pay for) such as photography etc which allowed you to only spend your budget on the food/venue.

It would be more inspiring to see articles in the mainstream press which showed realistic ways to reduce the costs of a wedding (other than the "ask your friends to do things for free" part - which we did too, I'm not criticizing that angle per se, just that it requires one having said friends to ask - or the "invite less people angle".)