Green Cheap Wedding

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Finding services for cheap December 1, 2010

When Jeremy and I decided on our budget, I thought it was pretty lavish.  It is really close to the median price that people spend on weddings.  If you read the book Bridal Bargains (which I highly recommend) you will learn why a median is a more accurate way to judge what most Americans spend on weddings than an average is.  Basically, an average can be easily thrown off by one or two big or small numbers.  So, imagine you want to figure out the average amount a group of ten couples spend on their wedding.

  • Couple 1 – $10,000
  • Couple 2 – $12,000
  • Couple 3 – $2,000
  • Couple 4 – $10,000
  • Couple 5 – $9,500
  • Couple 6 – $10,000
  • Couple 7 – $1,000,000
  • Couple 8 – $9,000
  • Couple 9 – $50
  • Couple 10 – $10,500

What would you say the average couple spent?  Well, probably around $10,000, because that’s right around what most of the couples spent.  Sure, you have two couples who spent way less, and one couple that spent way more, but on average, most spent right around 10k.

But that’s not how a mathematical average is figured out, and when you read that the average American wedding costs $24,000, you’re looking at a mathematical average.  The mathematical average that this group of couples spent on their wedding is $107,305 (this is determined by adding up all the numbers, and then dividing by the number of numbers added up, in this case, 10).  Would you say that in that group of people, the average amount they each spent on their weddings was 100k?  Of course not.  That’s why the current figures that The Knot puts out for wedding cost averages is misleading (also, The Knot surveys mostly people who tend to spend more on their weddings, so that throws their average up as well).

A more accurate way to determine what most Americans pay is to look at the median.  You determine the median by lining up what every person pays in order from least to most, then finding the number right smack dab in the middle.  In the case of my hypothetical group up there, it would work like this

  • Couple 9 – $50
  • Couple 3 – $2,000
  • Couple 8 – $9,000
  • Couple 5 – $9,500
  • Couple 1 – $10,000
  • Couple 4 – $10,000
  • Couple 6 – $10,000
  • Couple 10 – $10,500
  • Couple 2 – $12,000
  • Couple 7 – $1,000,000

And $10,000 is the median.  Ta dah!

So I thought it would be pretty safe setting the budget at what the median cost of the typical American wedding is.  Now that I am looking at vendors, I’m not quite so sure.  It seems to me that most vendors must look at The Knot’s average to determine how much they should charge.  Using The Knot’s budget calculator, there is no way I’ll ever be able to afford any kind of reception hall, professional photography, alcohol, food and a DJ, for example.  Here’s what the budget gives me

  • Reception Venue and Rentals – $800
  • Food – $3000
  • Beverages and Bartenders – $800
  • Music – $600
  • Photography (including all prints) – $700
  • Dress (including alterations) – $600

This didn’t seem so nuts to me, until I started looking into average prices for these things.  I couldn’t find a reception hall under $1,500.  I can’t find a photographer under $1,200 (and none that I actually like under $2,000).  I can’t find a DJ for less than $150 an hour.

I’m getting my food for significantly cheaper than the budget, probably around $1700, so that frees up some money.  I can probably keep my dress costs close to $600, since my grandma will be making it for me.  And since my reception hall (which costs $1800, including linens and set up of tables and chairs) lets me bring in my own alcohol, and I only plan on serving beer, wine and margaritas, that means I can keep that tab down to the budgeted price too.  But I have a feeling I’m going to go over on DJ by at least $120, over on photography by $1,600, and I know I’m going over on my reception hall by $1,000.  Not to mention all the other little things (invitations, flowers, hair styling, accessories, gifts for bridal party and parents) that I can’t see keeping within their miniscule budget either.  Even my ceremony fees at the church I grew up in are going to go over what The Knot has budgeted for me.  Thank God I’m not hiring a professional videographer (no matter how much The Knot keeps telling me I’ll regret that choice, I think they’re just trying to scam me out of money!)

Seriously?  Is a low five figure budget not enough to throw a one day party anymore?  What the hell has this world come to?  Its enough to make me want to drop a big F bomb on the whole wedding industry and elope.  I know photography is hard work (I was a photojournalist in the Army, for God’s sake), but $2400 for six hours of work is $400 an hour!  HOLY GOD!!!  Okay, fine, say they spend four hours photoshopping, that’s still $240 an hour.  Who makes that much?  Who, I ask you?!?!  Lawyers and doctors, that’s who.  And not your every day, shine a light in your mouth and tap on your knee general practitioner.  More like heart surgeons and OBs.  I’ve done photography work and I’ve attended births, it’s not worth the same pay, I promise you.  Don’t get me started on $180 an hour to play music and announce cake cutting.  Holy crap!  Can someone pay me $180 an hour to play music?  Because I do it for free every day.  Okay, fine, they have to cart all that equipment around and set it up, and it does take a lot of charisma to be a good MC, even for an event like a wedding, but I still don’t know if I really think it’s worth $180 an hour.  I’m just sayin’.

Compare this to doula work for a minute.  As a doula, I do three meetings with my clients before the birth of their baby, about 1-2 hours a piece, then I’m on call for them 24/7  for five weeks before their due date until they go into birth.  I then stay with them throughout their entire birth, on average 12-18 hours.  I do one or two post birth meetings, 1-2 hours long, on average.  This about 16 to 28 hours of work, most of which cannot be scheduled.  And it’s hard work, anyone who’s ever been a birth partner for a laboring woman (most of my clients do not use pain medication, either), knows that it’s pretty demanding work, both physically and mentally.  You know the going rate for doula services?  About $400 to $700 dollars, in the Denver area.  That’s for EVERYTHING.

A wedding photographer gets paid for an hour and a half of work taking pictures what a doula gets paid for 20 hours of strenuous work.  This just doesn’t seem right to me.  I mean, I appreciate fine art, I do, and I’m willing to pay a photographer more than what a doula charges, I am.  But that much more?  That’s just insulting, really.

So I think I’m going to look into what I can do to customize packages and barter for services.  I posted an ad on Big Day Barter that looks like this:

I’m getting married in October, 2011 and I’m looking to barter for various services and/or goods.
My fiance and I can trade:

  • raw honey and bees wax from my backyard bee hive
  • home made cheese
  • kefir grains
  • kombucha mushrooms or fresh home made kombucha
  • home made vinegar
  • home made hard cider or hard cider starter
  • doula services/child birth education
  • lawn and garden work
  • various home repair
  • help with DIY projects
  • baby sitting
  • copy editing/help with English homework
  • baby clothes
  • old Army uniforms
  • excess produce from my garden (come summer time)
  • Home chemical safety evaluation (basically, I go through your home when you are pregnant, trying to conceive, or have a new baby, and help you identify the presence of chemicals that might inhibit fertility or cause developmental or health problems for you and your family)
  • I can serve as a day of coordinator for your wedding, to help get things set up and put away
  • Photography – I was a photojournalist in the Army, and I can certainly take photos of an event. The problem is that I don’t own a very nice camera, so I’d probably be using yours. You probably don’t want me for a wedding, but a less formal event I can totally do.
  • Designated driver for parties – You provide the car, I’ll stay sober and drive you some where.

Or make me an offer

We need

  • Photography
  • DJ
  • Bartender (we’re only serving beer, wine and one signature drink)
  • Day of coordinator
  • Hair and makeup
  • Transportation

I’ve also posted ads on Craigslist for a photographer and a DJ and gotten lots of responses.  I’ve not liked 90% of the photography responses I’ve gotten (since I’ve worked as a photographer myself, and I was raised by an artist, I reserve the right to be snooty about wanting my wedding photos to be artistic), but I’ve gotten so many that a few gems have been in there.  Still outside of budget, but if they’re willing to negotiate a custom package (say, give me a few more hours of coverage instead of the custom album and prints), and maybe barter for a reduced fee, I might be able to swing this.  I’ll let you all know how it goes.

 

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6 Responses to “Finding services for cheap”

  1. jessimonster Says:

    A photographer forwarded me this blog which explains cost, http://www.jillvelicer.com/blog/2010/09/15/why-does-professional-photography-cost-more-milwaukee-childrens-photographer/.
    Okay, fair enough. And maybe doulas don’t spend nearly this kind of money on equipment, although we do have conferences, continuing education, and professional memberships. We still totally work more hours.
    Anyway, all this goes to prove is that incomes do not match the cost of living and working in this country. And we’re all probably living beyond our means. This doesn’t add up well for the couple who is paying for their wedding with money they physically have, not credit.

  2. Daphnie Says:

    you get what you pay for.

    p.s. this blog makes me vomit a little bit in my mouth. just a little.

  3. jessimonster Says:

    I’m not quite sure why you feel that way. Do you care to elaborate?

  4. […] style and quality, full day coverage by two photographers, wedding albums, prints, and a disk.  I got schooled by a professional photographer about costs of running a photography business the last time I complained about photography prices on this blog, but there are some people out […]

  5. jessimonster Says:

    Well, since Daphne is apparently not going to answer me, I want to say this.
    I am allocating fully a third of my annual income for a six hour party. I believe that I reserve the right to be a little upset that it is hard to find quality services when I’m spending a third of my annual income. I am not rich, to say “you get what you pay for” is to imply that I could afford more, but I’m choosing not to pay more because I am cheap. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I think that the vast majority of people in this world would be really offended at the notion that having a $10,000 or less wedding means we don’t deserve quality. I also think it’s kind of offensive that you are so disgusted at the concept of trying to find creative and mutually respectful way to bring costs down, such as trade or barter. I’m not trying to get something for nothing, I’m trying to offer what I have to get the highest quality service I can get.
    I know there are a lot of rich people out there who surely must think this is trashy, and that people like me, with our less than six figure salaries, don’t deserve anything nice in life. People who think that if I can’t afford a $50,000 wedding, it must be because I am a bad person, who is lazy or doesn’t work hard enough. You would appear to be one of those people.

  6. […] a photographer.  Yes, I am on a budget, but I still want something nice (despite the belief some people have that unless you are forking over 30 grand or more for your wedding, you don’t […]


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