It's easy - simply plug your zip code into a website like Cost Of Wedding [dot] com and you will learn the average amount of money that couples in your area spend on their weddings. Helpful, right?
Sure, you're curious. You want to know what to expect. You want a ballpark figure. You want the thrill of feeling ____. (Fill in with: shocked, affirmed, angry, and/ or amused.) You want to know if you can get away with selling just one kidney or if you need to make it an even two.
But be forewarned: Don't pay too much attention to these websites.
Let's start with a practical reason. There is a LOT of room for inaccuracy, obviously. With so many factors involved, these web calculators are smart to play it safe and provide you with an expansive price range. Even then you might find yourself to be an outlier.
(For example: According to this website people in my area typically spend between $29k and $49k on their weddings. My husband and I spent $10k. Even when I plugged in all of the particulars of my casual wedding in the above website's wedding survey plus calculator it came up with between $14k and $23k.)
But I think websites like the one above say less about what you will probably spend and more about: (1) the cost of living in your area and (2) the cultural/ regional wedding norms and expectations of your area. Which, by the way, don't *necessarily* have anything to do with what you should expect to pay for your wedding.
Why? First, because you might have different needs and tastes as your neighbors. Second, because you and your husband may not have similar spending habits as them. And third, you might not be as influenced by regional wedding norms. (Oh, and people: wedding norms ARE regional. I just learned over at APW that in Vermont and many other states, weddings are not fancy catered events that take place in banquet halls -- they are DIY, or potluck, or cake-and-punch-style parties at the church hall or in the backyard. That ain't nothin' like what I've seen in my neck of the woods!)
Here are a few damaging things that those websites can do:
- It can bring down morale. (We should expect to pay X amount? Well, it's doable if I bank all of my paychecks throughout next year. And if I don't eat. SO worth it. Umm...right? Damn - I'm already hungry.)
- It might give you permission to spend more than you had intended, which is probably (although not necessarily) a bad thing, depending on your financial situation. (If X amount is "normal" in this city, then any risky financial sacrifices and crazy purchases I make that allow our wedding bill to fall within that range is excusable.)
- It gets you caught up in the numbers game. And once you start comparing your wedding or your budget with others it's simply a no-win situation. There will always be someone richer, someone thriftier, someone who makes you second guess good decisions you've already made, and someone who thinks your budget is ridiculous. If what's comfortable and authentic for your and your partner is dependent on others, you'll always feel just shy of complete.
- It can squash creativity. (Why bother Googling "budget weddings" or take on DIY projects when our budget falls perfectly within the normal range?)