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Can recession tame Bridezilla?

50% of surveyed couples would take parental cash in lieu of financial help with a wedding, but how about taking a more frugal approach?

By Teresa Mears Jan 22, 2010 5:39PM

Nothing brings out our inner curmudgeon more than tales of Bridezillas and extravagant, expensive weddings. If we ruled the world, all weddings would be simple and inexpensive affairs. Are we showing our age if we suggest getting married barefoot in a field of flowers?


Free Money Finance brought our attention to a Brides magazine survey that says more than half the respondents would take money from their parents in lieu of a contribution to the wedding. Really? Who are these young slackers who expect their parents to pay for a wedding?


Jennifer Saranow Schultz, who wrote about the survey for The New York Times Bucks Blog, said she opted for the wedding when her dad offered her the choice two years ago. She notes that couples today are seeking ways to cut down on wedding costs, sometimes applying the money they save toward a down payment on a house.


“Dreams are being modified all across the country based upon the financial circumstances,” Millie Martini Bratten, editor-in-chief of Brides, was quoted as saying.

This was the first year Brides asked their readers whether they'd take money in lieu of a parental wedding contribution, so we don’t know if the recession affected their answer or if the brides would always have opted for the cash.


We applaud any move that discourages young people from spending money they (or their parents) don’t have for a one-day party. Don’t even get us started on destination weddings, ugly bridesmaid dresses and the expectation that guests should pony up for specific (and expensive) gifts.


Let’s see if we can make some of that “dream modification” permanent.


Jonathan Clements, in an article on teaching your kids to be financially responsible, says he has told his children from the time they were tiny that each could expect $5,000 toward a wedding or as a cash payment at age 30. “Spending $30,000 on a party is not one of my values, and I've made sure my kids know it,” he wrote.

David Welliver at Money Under 30 approached the topic from the kids’ point of view, raising the question of whether young people should accept financial help from their parents once they’ve left college. He wrote:

Many parents will want to contribute financially to their children’s weddings, and if they are in a position to do so, I think it is OK for the bride and groom to accept their generosity. However, I do not think that you should get married unless you are in a position to pay for the wedding (and starting your life together) on your own. That may mean you have a wedding with 10 friends, a bonfire, and a keg, (which is so completely OK, by the way!), but don’t go expecting your parents to foot a $30k wedding bill if you don’t even have a tenth of that in the bank!

"RB," commenting at the NYT Bucks blog, says the big wedding isn’t always the couple's idea, and that family and friends can be a roadblock to staying on a budget. She wrote:

I have done 99% of the suggestions for cutting down on wedding size (we're at about the $8,000 range), and continue to be met with scandalized "traditional" family members (what, no maid of honor?!), galled reactions from co-workers (no DJ'd reception?), and, yes, the occasional all-out scuffle over the size and scope of the registry (what NYC renter couldn't use a few more sets of linens in their nonexistent closet?)

With the help and support of her family, Amy at My Daily Dollars had a fabulous wedding for $4,534, and she wrote a series of blog posts on how she did it. (She has since turned her blogging talents to writing about books, at Amy Read Good Books.)


Here are her five tips for a wonderful wedding under $5,000:

  • Decide what a wedding really means to you. She decided the most important factor was that all the people she loved would be together, and that helped her decide where to spend her money.
  • Let the theme develop from the location. She got married in a state park (almost as good as a field of flowers), where she and her husband like to hike. She didn’t try to turn it into Cinderella’s castle.
  • Ditch the “It only happens once” thinking. As she wrote, “Sure, this may be your only wedding day, but it will not be the only special day in your life.”
  • Know when to scrimp and when to splurge. Don’t throw away money on things you don’t really care about.
  • Involve your friends and family. “Once we started asking people to donate their talents rather than gifts, the whole wedding has turned into something really special,” she wrote.

What do you think? How do you think we as a society can tame the Bridezilla-industrial complex? What are your best tips for keeping wedding costs in line? Given a choice, would you take cash over a fancy wedding? Or offer your children that option, if you think parents should be paying for a wedding at all?


Related reading:

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