The further people's salary was from $75k (in either direction, by the way - under or over), the "less happy" surveyed people reported to be. Those who made less than the "salary sweet spot" suffered from the stress of striving to keep their house and feed their kids, while those who made more suffered from the stress of competition and the overseeing of big investments. (Mo' money, mo' problems, as they say.)
And of course, being that I talk about weddings here, you probably already know what I'm going to ask: what if a similar phenomenon existed with wedding budgets? What amount brings couples the most emotional bang for their buck? Is there a "wedding budget sweet spot"?
Now before I start theorizing, let me be clear: no couple's budget is "better" than anyone elses. You're not classier than I am because you spent 100k on a fireworks display at your waterfront castle venue, and you're not holier than I am because you only spent $500 for your entire homemade eco-friendly sha-bang. Everyone's budget is based on a number of factors (savings, debt, salary, financial assistance from family, etc.), none of which should contribute to the couple's sense of self-worth, nor reflect their true character. The amount you spend is not as telling as how you spend it - wisely, kindly, and with integrity, I hope.
Having said that, ain't ya dying to know if there's wedding budget sweet spot, and how the price tag of YOUR wedding compares??? I know. Me, too.
I don't have a team of Princeton researchers to help me out with this study, so I'm just going to take a wild stab in the dark with this. In other words, all I can really do is speak from personal experience.
Let's look at the following 3 categories (which I've stolen from that Get Rich Slowly article), to outline a couple's financial priorities when it comes to their wedding:
- Laying a foundation. These are the essentials: attire and someone to make your marriage legal. But for those who are not eloping at the courthouse, you could put a venue and food in this category, too.
- Quality of life. This includes what we value but don't *need* in order to get married, like a cool or fancy venue, lip-smackin' good food, a guest list that could would include most of the people you want to celebrate with, alcohol, dessert, and music. You'd be unhappy without spending money these things, but you could definitely get married without them.
- Beyond the basics. If Oprah gave away dream weddings you might include the following perks: a live performance by your favorite artist, celebrity stylists for your hair and makeup, a guest list that includes everyone you love (and his/ her plus-one), a big donation to your favorite charity under each guest's name, and of course, a plane ticket and luxury accommodations for each guest who RSVP'd yes to your wedding (which is in Italy, obviously).
So my guess for the wedding budget sweet spot? Considering that our $10k budget does not include the $2,000 worth in gifts from my parents (my gown and the tent rental), the fact that I'm kicking myself for not hiring a day-of coordinator and possibly a DJ, and the fact that I didn't have a rich uncle who could lend me his beachfront property (or even just a middle class aunt with a huge backyard) so that we could scratch off the venue price tag...
I'd say $15,000.
That's enough to have given me all of the elements in the aforementioned "laying a foundation" and "quality of life" categories, which is what I believe bring people the most emotional bang for their buck. If I had $23,000 to spend (which is just about the average wedding budget in the country these days), I think I would have started to feel more stressed during the planning, yet not necessarily happier during the wedding.
Why? Because then I would have started worrying about things like favors, bridesmaids dresses, centerpieces, and limousines - things that were automatically eliminated from my to-do list when we decided on a (relatively) modest budget. I'd start stressing over trying to afford as many items as possible in the "beyond the basics" category. The focus of the wedding would go from hosting an incredible celebration of love to that PLUS "fluff"- fun stuff that would not necessarily contribute to my amount of joy.
What do you guys think? Could you have spent less on your wedding but been happier/ less stressed because of it? Could spending more than your intended budget increase the amount of joy you experienced at your wedding while decreasing your amount of stress during the planning?
*If I were a GUEST at my own wedding I think I would have had a total blast. Hosting a $10k wedding without a coordinator, however, is another story!
(PS. Did see the poll I put up yesterday? It's on the right, just above my profile picture. Cast your vote!)