People have been asking me, “How’s the wedding planning going?” and until recently I had to admit that we haven’t really done any.
My 22-year-old daughter Curly Girl is getting married up in the mountains in May. I’m happy to say we found the type of outdoor venue she wanted, and it’s only costing me an arm and a leg, but that’s OK, because I’ll still have one each. I might have trouble dancing, but I will have one arm left to lift my wine glass. That’s what’s really important.
This world of weddings is all new to me, since I never got married (My kids are adopted). I have already discovered that, once you say the word “wedding,” the price of everything shoots through the roof. As a bona fide cheapskate, this is painful. But, after an exhaustive search, we finally found both a location and a wedding gown that are perfect for my girl, and that only make me slightly nauseous when I consider the cost.
It was an interesting experience tromping around to wedding venues, trying not to laugh hysterically when the coordinators would hand me the packet showing the costs. They generally start at a minimum of $20,000 for a Saturday event, before you factor in any booze or other necessities. “Oh, you want to have a ceremony? That will cost you an extra $2,000.”
I was at one public golf course looking at their facilities, where the wedding would have been in a tent and you would need to decorate the entire place yourself. They would provide the dinner and have tables for cocktail hour, though of course that doesn’t include any actual cocktails. Those are extra. Also extra would be the disc jockey, flowers, the nicer looking china, the chairs that don’t look tacky and the appetizers.
Oh, you want a dance floor? That’ll be an extra $700. Seriously. Not kidding.
Wait. You actually want to get married here? Well, then you have to pay extra for the ceremony site, which consisted of a lawn next to the tent on which they would plunk folding chairs and a gazebo. For $2,000.
Now, this golf club is right next to a public park. I thought to myself, “Gee, we could put up some chairs and have the ceremony in the park for free, then walk over to the golf club 100 feet away.” Good idea, right? Except it does require actual work.
I asked the wedding coordinator why they charged $2,000 to basically just put some chairs on the lawn, and she explained that it “includes the cocktail hour afterward.” And, no, again, it doesn’t include any cocktails. Just some tall tables you can stand around while you drink at additional cost.
I thought, “Hmm. Twenty-five grand to get married in a tent on a golf course.” Call me crazy, but that sounded like a lot to me.
I recently watched this TV show on Indian weddings, which are known for being elaborate, days-long affairs that can even include the groom arriving on an elephant. Seriously. I’m not sure where they get elephants in Cleveland, but maybe they fly them in first class.
This show was following a middle-class American family of Indian descent who wanted a Bollywood-style wedding for their daughter. In this episode, the family was meeting with their wedding planner for the first time to discuss the budget. After they told the planner everything they wanted and needed, she gave them the cost: $500,000. You could see the looks of horror spread across the parents’ faces, as they realized they either had to tone down the festivities — embarrassing themselves in front of their friends and relatives — or sell their house and move into an RV.
I remember that feeling of horror, because it’s what I got when I first heard the words “starting at $25,000.” And realized I was going to have to dip into my meager retirement savings to pay for this day. Still, I wouldn’t have to sell my house.
Some of you may remember that I wrote the Deals Diva column for years. Yes, good times. I was getting paid to look for bargains. My habit of endless searching and scrounging until I found the rock bottom price on anything paid off this time, because my relentless investigations finally revealed that the girl could get married at a beautiful outdoor venue up at Mt. Baldy for much less than in town, and it was nearly all inclusive.
I signed a contract for $11,000 which includes the ceremony, dinner for 100 people, bartender and bar, a trailer for the girls to get dressed in, disc jockey, decorations and even the wedding cake. We didn’t add on flowers, because we’ll figure that out later. We have to pay for the wine and beer that will be served, the officiant and the photographer. And we really loved the place. The moment my daughter set foot in it, she knew that was for her. I loved the fact that I have to do almost nothing, except make sure the boxes of wine now littering my living room make it up to the venue in time.
These days, I’m addressing “Save the date” cards for my friends while I watch TV at night — the bride and groom will do their own friends. And I’m pondering how much extra wine I should buy over the recommendations I found online. There wasn’t any category for “When your friends are all winos.”