Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dear ESB: I want to cancel my wedding.

My fiancé and I have been engaged since last December and we are getting married next June. I can't wait to marry him. He is my best friend and just basically all around wonderful.

I have been reading various wedding blogs since before we were engaged. I love the idea of an awesome DIY wedding. So, soon after he proposed we found an awesome barn and started developing our vision for the wedding. We've also secured most of the major vendors, i.e. photographer, food, dj.

My problem is that for the past few weeks I've been re-thinking all of our plans. I love the idea of our wedding, but the cost has quickly started to add up. I know I should be better about sticking to a budget, but I'm the type of person who, once I have an idea, I want to do everything I can to execute that idea. So, I'm not the best at making cuts. Also, the planning is intense. Nothing is included with the venue or the caterers we have chosen so I have to plan for everything. Down to things like bringing salt and pepper. My fiancé and I both work crazy hours and so, even though we have a ton of time still, I'm worried about my ability to do this. Also, most of the wedding is going to be outside, including the ceremony and dance floor. And so, I'm paranoid it's going to rain. Which I know I should have thought about before I picked the venue, but again, I tend to let the vision overwhelm the practicality of things.

Finally, this brings me to my point. I'm not even sure I want to do this anymore. All that I really want is to marry my fiancé. I'm not sure if I want to spend the next year saving every penny we possibly can so that 170 people (70 of whom are the obligatory invites) can eat green salad and dance on a soggy lawn. I feel like our money would be better spent on an intimate ceremony followed by a less crazy/ involved bash (maybe something in a restaurant?) with those people we really want to celebrate with, and then going on a kick ass honeymoon.

I think if it were up to me, I'd say screw it all and cancel everything. However, my fiancé is reluctant to take such drastic measures. He doesn't disagree with my feelings that it's insane for us to spend such ridic amounts of money on one night when all we want is to be married. But, I also think he likes the idea of a giant shindig with everyone we've ever met present, because he feels like we should celebrate to the fullest extent.

So, my question: am I crazy for wanting to cancel the venue, food, etc. and try to totally scale this thing back? Am I just having a momentary freak out? (This did begin after seeing the proposal from the caterer.) 

Any advice is much appreciated!


Fuck the obligatory invites. Cross them off of the list right now.

I've heard a lot of brides express regrets about not shelling out the money for a kick-ass photographer, or not splurging on the shoes, but never once have I heard anyone say, "I wish we had a BIGGER WEDDING."

Defaced image from Margaret Howell via Kylea Borges


  1. I felt the same way, cancelled, then went to Vegas instead. We used the money we saved for a home remodel, but we still threw parties. Best decision ever.

  2. Go to city hall. Get married. See how you feel afterwards. You can still have a wedding afterwards (big or small) but I think it helps put things in perspective.

    I'm totally not saying this because that's what we did.

    At all.

  3. Step away from the budget first. Honestly, I know that I want a wedding with everyone there and I know that I'm okay with what we're spending, theoretically, but I when I look at my budget spreadsheet I almost always get a serious urge to elope. It's just a big number.

    Then think about it with the budget out of the equation - is the big wedding what you actually want? If you had an unlimited budget, is this what you would do? (Maybe not - it sounds like the planning is going to be really serious and you might not be into that, money or no)

    Then bring the budget back into it. Are you comfortable spending that much money, if this is what you really want to do? Can you do it, realistically? If not, start exploring alternatives.

    P.S. - All steps have to be completed by you and your partner. Talk it out.

  4. I just got married and i had the exact same feeling as you probabbly 5-6 months leading up to the wedding. At first i was so excited about having a wedding but then all the diy ideas add up and overwhelm (i banned myself from wedding blogs for a couple months, minus this one) because there are so many possbilities. also money overwhelmed me, it just seemed ridiclous to spend so much, i was able to stay under our budget though but it still seemed so much for one night. three-of course your fiance thinks its all worth it to have a big party, my busband felt the same way, he wanted a big party. well you know what, i say tough shit this is a wedding, not a big raging kegger (i feel some guys forget this) AND who is the one who arrnages everything and spends hours lookign at venues caterers, etc. and is a personal calender to make sure nothing is forgotten...usually the bride. in the end it was a fun night BUT from the prospective of someone who felt the way you did and went through with it, seriously, looking back on it, i wished i had eloped.

  5. ummm. hire a wedding coordinator. they can worry about the salt and pepper and you can focus on the big decisions.

  6. Hey anon, I think hiring a wedding coordinator kind of adds to that inflating budget, no?

    I agree, cut down your invites, then consider changing things up (venue/food/etc). People understand that weddings cost a lot, you don't have to feel obligated to invite anyone/everyone.

  7. Anon, it sounds like hiring a wedding coordinator isn't very practical if the budget is already a major concern.

    I say, have your wedding but actually have YOUR wedding. Have the wedding that you and your partner wants. Like ESB said, get rid of the obligatory invites. Although I can't predict how you'd feel, I would much rather have had a small wedding instead of NO wedding because I was overwhelmed by the stress of planning a wedding for 170. I think ESB is right, very few people wish they'd had a bigger wedding but it sounds like you might regret having no wedding at all. So I say do it and do it in the capacity and style that you can handle. Best of luck!

  8. I so needed to read this today. I've been having THE EXACT same thoughts. I wouldn't do the City Hall opt just to see how you feel afterward. I've put a lot of thought into that option, and it feels pretty anticlimactic, at least in my mind.

    Have you thought about a large engagement party for the obligatory invites and then the wedding for a smaller number? I've been toying with that idea, but it might be tacky? I don't know if ESB would approve...

  9. @ESB: I wish I had a bigger wedding.

  10. I feel the same way every time something goes wrong...which is a lot! But we're stuck with this (have a dw and people have already bought tickets) so I'm just going to ride this out and deal with what ever comes later.

  11. Def trim down that guest list. If you did that could you skip the tent and all fit in the barn? That way you know you are covered (literally) and everyone can play on the lawn if you get a nice day (which I bet you will!). And you realize that most of the DIY you do is for your own benefit right? Most of those little details will go unnoticed, especially if you have a million of them. So if you don't enjoy the process, skip em!

    Having an expensive wedding is INSANE if you don't even want it. But I will say, there is a reason so many people go through all the expense and hard work. Because weddings are so romantic. And magical. And all that gooshy goodness.

  12. oh lady, I am sooo in the same boat. This probably isn't very helpful, but I DO think it's possible to regret having a small wedding (I have a friend who always says she wishes she invited more friends and family to her destination-ish affair). That being said, I am planning what has turned into an expensive wedding and it is making me very panicky and feel like a complete asshole for "spending so much on one day." I guess what I'm saying is (like so many "big" decisions in wedding planning, I think it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't. I say just make a decision (gut), stick to it, and then try your hardest to stop fretting... that's my plan at least... as i stare at my budget spreadsheet for the tenth time today...

  13. When I was planning my wedding I remember coming across a post on a wedding blog about a "budget wedding" in which the message was "look at all the luxury stuff you can afford if you don't invite anyone to your wedding" and thinking that was really sad. To me, the main point of a wedding is the people there...figure out how many people you really want to have at your wedding, and then figure out what you can afford. Depending on you and your fiance, this could end up meaning that you have a 20 person wedding or a 200 person wedding.
    Another thing about wedding costs is that they don't scale linearly with people. Things like photog., venue (unless you'd get a much smaller one with fewer people), clothes, decorations, music, etc will cost about the same. You can cut down on the added cost per person if you can supply your own booze and avoid a traditional full service caterer.

  14. I'm pretty much in agreement with most voices here...

    Scale that guest list waaay back (we cut our list of anyone we worked with and only invited closest family and friends for a total of 50). If your family harasses you to invite more, invite them to pay for it (my mom did and did).

    Stop nagging yourself over trying to be perfect and have a ton of little "details"- really, the only things you need are a venue, an officiant, and your guy. Everything else is gravy, so treat it as such. I suggest you make a priority list of those things that are most important to you. I guarantee hand-lettered place cards are not it.

    Call in help; either hire a wedding coordinator to help with some tasks or ask trusted family/friends to help you out with things like scheduling deliveries of food/furniture, etc. You would be surprised what people will do if they feel they are helping someone in need!

    Finally, draw up a budget and stay within it. For example, flowers should not be more than 5% of your budget. You can flex for your priorities, but don't go broke on something that really makes no difference in the long run. Really, the only person who is going to notice all of the musical instruments hanging from the ceiling/chocolate fountain/hand-crocheted favours is you. I guarantee it.

    As long as your guests are well fed, they are generally pretty happy! Most people are just honoured to be invited to something so special.

    Don't can some of the excess.

  15. Amen to what ESB said! I wish I would have stomped my foot down and refused to let me MIL invite a million people myself nor my husband knew. Did his kindergarden teacher really care to come to the wedding and to be honest, did we care if she came? Nope. Dumb. Don't invite people and just tell them it's intimate. People don't really care to go to weddings, plus it will be summer, they will have another to go to. I promise.

  16. this is exactly why I got married at an all-inclusive venue. one big fat check and no thinking/stress required

    (but I do second what Rachel said - if it's what you want aside from the budget issue, you'll make it work. especially if you cut out people you don't even want there that badly)

  17. I see your should definitely do what feels right to you!

  18. I'm in two minds about this one - on the one hand, I acutally wish I'd invited all my cousins to my wedding, I missed them. On the other, 170 is a *shitload* of people and there's no need for old workmates and the like in m'umble (unless you're friends now of course).

    No. Fuck it. Restaurant. Fun. Dancing. Treatiness. My other big regret about my wedding was the excess amount of fretting over the DIY. You should enjoy your day not burn yourself out for it. Done. *gavel.*

  19. having had a large, outdoor DIY wedding i can tell you it was 100% worth it and the SINGLE regret that hubby and i have is inviting the obligatory folks. family can be tricky but there were other invited "friends" who we grew up with or felt that we needed to invite otherwise -- some of them didn't even show up!!! thinking back on the most glorious day ever, i remember having a blast with the people that actually wanted to be there. the rest we could have spared from sitting around politely and leaving early. we had 200 guests and i do really wish we could have cut that in half.

    also, don't be afraid to ask for help from your friends as long as the tasks are divided up really well so no one is burdened by too much to do. i asked one friend to help with coordinating the ceremony, another to do my make-up, MIL did my hair, etc -- they all did amazing jobs, we all had fun together and the "tasks" didn't last very long... it was a shared experience, our friends felt involved and it made the party that much more fun.

    take a breather and good luck!

  20. My sister had a pretty large wedding (200-ish), and barely got to see everyone, and we were all there for 8 hours. Absurd. There were perfunctory hellos to the people they didn't really know, and then they spent more time with the people they did want to be around so...why bother inviting those obligatory people in the first place?

    The best wedding I have ever attended was 40ish people--we hiked up into the redwoods, our friends got married, hiked back down to this tiny and awesome french restaurant, knocked back tons of champagne and truly delicious food, and just hung out for hours. It was great.

    And for the record--I notice the little details at the weddings/parties I go to. AND I make damn sure to let the host/bride/groom know that I loved whatever it was. And I keep my mouth shut about the shit I don't like. So if you want pretty handmade details, some people DO notice and will appreciate them. (and if you don't want to spend the time making -whatever- just don't. It's your party.)

  21. First, I was totally in the "Lets go to the courthouse, this shit sucks" camp. In the end I had the best time ever on my wedding day, so if there's the tiniest part of you that wants to celebrate with everyone, do it.

    Second, I agree with ESB et al: scale your invites down to only the most important people to you. I promise you, you won't regret it. We had a rule that we didn't want to meet anyone for the first time at our wedding, and that was the perfect barometer for us.

    Third, get less fancy, better tasting, cheaper food. It can happen. Family style service will be much cheaper because there is less labor. Also, if you're of the F*ck Flowers persuasion, skip centerpieces and have olive oil, fresh baked bread, some cheese, and maybe tapenade as your centerpieces. It looks awesome and PEOPLE CAN EAT IT. Pair that with some rustic Italian fair and you've saved yourself a few grand.

    Fourth, you don't need salt and pepper at the table.

  22. Cross off the 70 that are obligatory. And get a day-of person if you can. I didn't realize how useful she would become until the countdown started and she's contacting all the vendors and making sure the i's are dotted and t's are crossed. They don't plan it for you, they just do the crappiest parts of planning. And I find day-of contracts to be really affordable.

  23. I wish I could go back and cancel our wedding.

    I regret the money we spent most of all. Now I need a new car and we want to buy a house soon and I could just cry over how much money is gone for one party. One day that was special for 30 minutes and not very fun for myself or my groom.

    I was ridiculously stressed and cried the entire week of the event, due to DYI overload. I didn't get to have quality time with anyone who came in to town unless they came over to our house and made decorations that week. My relationship with my parents (who spent 2 weeks in our apartment, helping plan, saving our asses and making me crazy) survived but not without scars.

    If it's not too late, really consider listening to that little voice that tells you to cancel and go back to the drawing board.

  24. after getting a list from my parents of people they wanted at the wedding, i put my foot down and said 'if you want a family reunion, organise one, but i am not inviting second cousins I haven't seen in 10 years and wouldn't recognise if i saw them on the street to my wedding.' it's your wedding, you shouldn't feel obliged to invite a whole lot of people you don't really know or care about.

    i'm still planning my wedding and can relate to feeling completely freaked out by the numbers adding up on the wedding budge spreadsheet. i'm also having an outdoor wedding where i have to organise everything at the venue, nothing is included, and decided to hire a day of coordinator for a few hours just to make my life easier.
    come up with a back up plan if it rains, it will be one less thing to worry about in the lead up to the day and if it does rain, the coordinator is the person to execute that plan.
    while it adds money to the budget, i think it will be worth it in the end as you can focus on important things like having a kick ass time at your own wedding!

    i think you should commit to the decision you make (whether it's eloping or having the wedding) and then get really excited about that decision and focus only on the good bits. if you're going to spend all that money, you might as well get excited about what it's going to pay for!

  25. Three words stuck out to me- Barn. Blog. Vision. You're trying to have a blog worthy wedding. Fuck that.

    I set out to do that when I was first engaged. Checked out barns, or renting a tent to have the reception in my mom's awesome yard. I thought it would be cheap, whimsical, and beautiful. And blog worthy. Then I saw how much it cost. Barn weddings are for rich people (and farmers). It doesn't sound like you are either of those. Fuck the barn and catering and having the dance floor outside. I went with one of the cheapest all inclusive banquet places I could find, and I don't regret it one bit. They took care of everything the day of, the food was better than all of the catered-in weddings I've been to at fancy venues, and everyone got drunk and had a blast dancing on the securely dry dance floor. We took some beautiful pics outside so it didn't matter that the reception venue wasn't perfectly trendy. STOP READING BLOGS. Live within your means. Have a motherfucking awesome time. Your wedding is a party, not a photoshoot.

  26. We are having a 30 person wedding on a sail boat with dinner at a great restaurant afterward. I definitely think that restaurants are the way to go, because it all comes in one package...with one price. You don't have to worry about renting chairs, or plates and silverware, and the cost of a caterer on top of a facility fee. Also, you know the food will be good, because that's what they do, and if you already like the decor of the place, most of your work is already done.

  27. I felt the EXACT same way as we were planning. Before invites were sent out, we quickly decided, have the intimate (awesome) ceremony and wedding weekend with delicious Mexican food for dinner, and then have an afternoon reception somewhere super minimalistic and easy. It was the best decision. If you don't want the big wedding, don't have the big wedding. :)

  28. Uh, I wish we had a bigger wedding. We couldn't afford it and we didn't want to give anyone nervous breakdowns but the only invites I regret are the ones that DIDN'T go out. I don't regret anyone we DID invite. Inclusive was our mantra and we couldn't send that as wide as we would have liked, truth be told.

    Big can be awesome. Just putting that out there.

  29. here's some insight for the writer, the majority of those amazing (rustic or vintage or whatever) weddings on the blogs have wedding planners or event designers! just check the vendor/supplier list, there is usually some fab event planner listed. I'm not saying you can't plan a blog-worthy wedding yourself, by any means. I'm just saying most of the ones you are swooning over had some professional help, and that's probably why the couples look so carefree and calm.

    The point is, scale it down to something you can comfortably manage OR get some help to create your vision. (I know a wedding planner is an added expense, but often they pay for themselves when negotiating deals with other vendors.)

  30. We had a very DIY wedding and had to bring our own salt and pepper, tablecloths, etc, and ours was also outdoor with a big tent. I organised everything myself and loved it, but that's because i'm a neurotic organiser person. I also helped to organise a friend's similar-style wedding, because she's not a neurotic organiser person. Do you have a friend like me? A friend who is possibly waiting in the wings just now, dying for you to say "oh god i need help"?

    (also, our guest list was like 70 people -- cut the obligatories!)

  31. where are you getting married? i just got married and had a GREAT day of coordinator (who was really willing to work with my budget). i got married outside, under a tent, brought salt and pepper so I FEEL YOU. Delegate to good friends (my maid of honor and friend that works on tv production were AMAZING, and I got them presents for how much they did). also, cut the 70 people. do it. i was anxious about not including certain people - but 100 guests is what we had, it saved us TONS of money, and in my pictures, it really does look like a small wedding - so tell people you are having a small one.

  32. @ ESB- I didn't fill my venue and it would not have cost us any more to invite more of my friends. (we had way tons of extra food) I cut out the "high-school friends" from my guest list even though that was only 5 years ago. I'm a little sad that we didn't get that reunion and I didn't take the chance to let them know that I still value their friendship even though I haven't seen them in a while.
    There isn't anyone that I wish hadn't come. And everyone that was there was grateful for the invite and had a blast.

    Also, maybe we would have actually danced if there were more of my friends there? I don't know. The dancing didn't work. We were tired. E's crazy fun aunts had already left. E didn't want to dance.

    Don't get me wrong. I loved my wedding, but I do sorta wish I had invited more people.

  33. @julia but she said the 70 people were obligatory invites. I can see people regretting if they couldn't invite some of their friends, but no one regrets not inviting distant relatives and friends of their granparents they've never met, etc. that's the point.

  34. All of these comments are great, and I think whatever you end up deciding will also be great. It's just a netter of making a decision and working with the decision consistently and confidently! However, no one has mentioned it yet, but you say you have 70 obligatory invites, what are the other 100 invites?!? Does that mean that those are extra, or the opposite? Either way, the easiest way to cut the cost of a wedding dramatically is to cut the number of guests. That may be all you need to do to make you feel better. Much better, on all counts. Don't you think?

  35. The writer here! Just wanted to say thank you to ESB and all those who have commented. My fiance and I are going to have a nice long talk and make some decisions...I'll keep you posted!!