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In this episode, Chelsea reveals some uncomfortable financial truths about the wedding industry, from how much we spend to attend weddings to the waste caused by each individual wedding.

Script written by Bree Rody:

Vendor markups:

Cost of attending a wedding:

Wedding insurance costs:

Pandemic wedding losses:

Wedding waste:

Little things add up:

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Hey, guys. It's Chelsea from The Financial Diet, and this week's video is sponsored by Skillshare. And today we are here to talk about joining together in holy matrimony. Weddings. Weddings are amazing. They're fun, they're romantic, they're beautiful. They're also really fucking expensive, both to throw and to attend. If you've been anywhere near wedding planning in your life, you've probably heard phrases like, "It's your special day," and, "Who could put a price tag on happiness?" And when it comes to things like the venue, your dress, bridal parties, basically every choice you make is an opportunity to spend way too much money, or at least way more than you planned on spending. And as the expensive choices start to compound, it becomes harder and harder to start to rein it in. But the reality is this feeling that you enter into wedding planning with one specific plan and then leave with a completely different budget than you had intended is intentional. The wedding industry is not exactly fair or practical and has, in many ways, been designed to separate people in the throes of love from their hard earned money. And there is a lot about weddings that you should frankly be willing to reconsider, from the cost, to the waste, to the pressure you may be inadvertently putting on your guests. So without further ado, let's get into them.

Number one is that you will always pay more for a wedding than for any other comparable event. According to The Knot, prior to COVID, the average wedding cost more than $33,000. And while many couples now report that they're planning on spending less post-COVID, there are still certain sneaky costs to watch out for. For example, many vendors and industry representatives have been quoted saying that they anticipate having to raise their prices in the coming years to offset what was lost, due to COVID. And, keep in mind, that that's on top of the very real wedding markup. A 2016 Consumer Reports study found that 28% of vendors markup their services specifically for weddings. And in Canada, one CBC marketplace investigation found that some of the exact same vendors charged more for the same services, when it was labeled a wedding. This is commonly for things like a caterer, a florist, a DJ, a photographer, et cetera. However, it is also worth noting that in, almost all of these cases, these prices are, to some extent, open to negotiation and are often haggled down. But one of the best pieces of advice that I could ever give for any bride-to-be is to go out of your way, at every opportunity, to not advertise the fact that it's a wedding. Keep those quotes down. They don't need to know it's a wedding. They just need to know what they need to give you.

Number two is that your wedding guests are bearing a bigger burden than ever. Do you guys remember in Bridesmaids how, probably, the most central plot point of the first half of the movie was that Annie could not afford these increasingly ridiculous expenses being put onto all of the bridesmaids? Their ridiculous designer dresses, the trips across the country, et cetera. Now Annie, in that movie, was obviously passive aggressive and didn't really go about saying, "No, it's not in my budget," in the best or most adult way. But the fact that she was put under such immense pressure to pay for things she couldn't afford, in order to be part of her friend's special day, is very far from the exception. While you and your immediate family are probably spending the most on the wedding, there's also a huge cost burden on your guests, especially those in the wedding party. According to The Balance, it costs individual members of a bridal party an average of $728 to be part of a wedding. More than half of that, $435, is for the wedding itself, which can include travel accommodations, gift, and clothing. An additional $157 goes for the bachelor or bachelorette party, while $148 goes towards the shower. For close friends and family members, the bachelor party and shower costs are almost identical, although they tend to spend less on the day itself, an average of $325. But even a distant friend or family member will spend an average of $372 between all of the parties and the wedding. This is a time when I must give a shout out to-- I have several good girlfriends getting married this year. And because your girl knows how to curate, two out of the three are not doing a bridal party at all, and I don't even think they're doing a shower. Like they're doing none of the extra foofy shit, but the one who is having a bridal party is doing the classiest thing I've ever heard, which is that every bridesmaid-- first of all, you get to pick your dress. It just has to be in a certain color. Or it doesn't even have to be a dress, could be a pantsuit or whatever. You know, Mama loves a pantsuit. But you also get a stipend. The bride gives a stipend, because she knows she doesn't want to impose on people to buy a dress independently that they wouldn't buy and are probably never going to wear again. We stan. But, unfortunately, my friend's wedding plans are more the exception than the norm, and these costs are only increasingly spiraling out of control in a social media age, where every single step of your wedding is on full public display. American Express found that even just attending a wedding is an increasingly high expense, especially for millennials, who reportedly spend an average of $893 to attend a wedding. More still if they're in the bridal party. Gifts alone are a whole can of worms where, according to The Knot, nearly half, or 47%, of Americans struggle with gift etiquette. There's an old-fashioned notion that you should spend whatever the value of your meal is, but many experts have pointed that out as outdated, especially because most couples don't say what the value per plate is. LifeHacker estimates that the average cost of a gift from a close friend or family member is about $179, while one from a co-worker is $66. If you're getting married and want to be conscious of how much people are spending, be transparent about your own costs and your own desires, because you can always say no gifts. We said no gifts, because we have taste. But also, and this is something, maybe I'm in the minority here, but I feel like people who are traveling a great distance to go to your wedding should not be expected to give you a wedding gift. Their presence is the gift. It's really expensive for people to go to weddings. Stop shaking every branch of your family tree down for like a $500 plane ticket, plus a hotel night, plus them also having to get you a fucking cutlery set. Get your boot off of grandma's neck.

Number three is that, while wedding insurance exists, it will not help you in a pandemic. You might be wondering now, after a year of weddings being postponed or canceled outright, if you should get wedding insurance, because wedding insurance itself is relatively inexpensive. Forbes found that rates for a $1 million wedding insurance policy were between $125 and $184. This type of insurance tends to cover liabilities for things like liquor or on-site injury, as well as bad weather, venues going out of business, or vendors not showing up. But most don't cover pandemics, and keep in mind that, once you sign a contract for your venue or vendors, there's a very real chance that you could never see that money again. In fact, as of October 2020, over 200,000 couples owed a collective $3.7 billion, with a "b," on weddings canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study from Loanry, an online personal lender. And you also need to make sure that you're not getting the wedding insurance to cover costs that you've already covered. For example, your wedding venue may already come with its own built-in insurance for things like alcohol or injury. And you might also be offered insurance for things like your wedding or engagement ring, but they may actually already be covered under things like your homeowners or renter's insurance, which is why you should always double check for insurance redundancies.

Number four is that weddings are crazy wasteful. I'm going to start this off with an anecdote in which I will blur all identifying details. Several years ago, I was at a wedding in America.  And it was one of those classic weddings at a big old wedding hall. It was like 200 people. There were like 75 dessert stations, and when I tell you that probably not even 2% of the amount of the desserts that were on display-- because there was like a churro station, an ice cream station, like a candy station, a cotton candy maker, like there was all of this on top of the cake, which people actually ate. They ate the wedding cake. When I say that probably not 2% of that stuff was being touched, I actually think that's probably literally true. And my husband and I were talking to one of the catering people and we were like, "What happens with all of this food that's not being eaten?" Because that was just the dessert. In the actual like pre-dinner and dinner, there was probably just as much waste. And the guy was like, "Oh, we actually, after every wedding, we donate all of the uneaten food to a local homeless shelter, and we actually transport it ourselves over there, before the wedding is even fully done." And we were like, "That's amazing." He was like, "I'm messing with you. We throw it out." And we were like, "Oh, my God." But, in all seriousness, you do not have to be a devoted environmentalist to care about your wedding not being an enormous source of waste. Because there is a truly obscene amount of single use items in any given wedding, everything from table settings, to napkins, to flowers, to all of the uneaten food. And according to GreenBride, weddings and receptions produce between 400 and 600 pounds of waste in a single night. And that's wasting money too, of course, because just think about how much wedding food gets paid for but never eaten. And wastefulness is about more than what's in a trash bag. Think bigger, because rings and diamonds have a major environmental impact. Diamond mining is associated with deforestation, soil erosion, and major human exploitation. I somewhat offset my guilt by the fact that I did get a vintage ring. The diamond is from, like, the 1930s, but one can only imagine that the diamond mining practices in the 1930s were not great. According to the US Geological Survey, a stone in an engagement ring has usually had 200 to 400 million times its volume and Earth extracted. And wedding dresses, despite how expensive they are, are usually made with materials that are terrible for the Earth. The average wedding dress emits 14.5 tons of CO2. And, of course, there's also the issue of air travel. If you have wedding guests flying in, your wedding isn't exactly green. So even if you don't identify as an environmentalist, it's probably a good idea to do an inventory of your wedding and decide how much of it you really need to justify wasting. An easy solution to this, which I will always advocate for, is simply trimming your guest list down. Not everyone's going to go the Chelsea Fagan route and have a 30 person wedding, but I do think it's worth considering whether every Tom, Dick, and Harry your parents ever worked with 10 years ago really need to be coming to your wedding, because each additional person just drastically increases the amount of waste being produced.

Lastly is that even the little things can cost big money. All of the little things that you never tend to think about in planning a wedding are often the things that will most quickly add up. Things like centerpieces, name cards, thank you cards, all the little gifts and trinkets, the party favors you leave in people's rooms. They all add up. And as this whole process becomes even more commercialized, all of the unnecessary expenses only compile. For example, 20 years ago, if you wanted to ask someone to be your Maid of Honor, you could just ask them over a glass of wine. These days, it's much trendier to put together a DIY "Be my Maid" box, or even to buy one. These can range from a simple $5 box with a card on Etsy, to luxury gift packs of bath balm, champagne, and travel mugs for $50 each. Centerpieces alone can cost close to $1,000 to have them professionally done, according to WeddingStats. And while stationery might seem negligible, a 2020 survey of 27,000 newlyweds found that the average cost of stationery and postage was $590 per wedding. And while an open bar is generally the best way to thank your guests for coming to your wedding, remember that in some places, open bars can come with extra costs. You might be required to take out extra insurance or to have a number of cabs on retainer for the night. And if they're not required, it is still a responsible idea. But let me tell you right here. If you're having a wedding, and where you opt to save money is by having a cash bar where your guests are required to pay for their drinks, which happened at one wedding I went to, and I'm not saying this is why, but that couple is now divorced, you honestly shouldn't be having a wedding and that's just my take. Now you might listen to all of this and say, "I still want my dream wedding with my DIY mac and cheese bar." And, listen, you should have everything your little heart desires. But I think it's a great exercise to really take the time to weigh the costs of each one of these decisions and truly decide, line by line, what is and isn't worth the money. And beyond that, if you do want a bigger wedding, that's something you should start a sinking fund for years in advance.

And if you're looking to spend your money on something a little more practical than centerpieces shaped like a swan, and are maybe looking to up your skills, I highly recommend checking out Skillshare. Skillshare is an online learning company with thousands of inspiring classes for creative and curious people. Explore new skills, deepen existing passions, and get lost in creativity. Skillshare offers creative classes designed for real life and all the circumstances that come with it. They can help you stay inspired, express yourself, and introduce you to a community of millions. Right now, Skillshare is offering classes in professional level smartphone photography, houseplant maintenance, defining your creative style, and more. In the class "Video for Instagram, Tell an Engaging Story in Less Than a Minute," YouTuber Hallease Narvaez will teach you the techniques to construct a story and create an engaging video to add to your Instagram presence. Skillshare is curated specifically for learning, meaning there are no ads, and they're always launching new premium classes, so you can stay focused and follow wherever your creativity takes you. And it's less than $10 a month with an annual subscription. The first 1,000 of our subscribers to click the link in the description will get 30% off an annual premium membership, so you can explore your creativity. Even if you've already had a free trial of Skillshare, you can still take advantage of this offer to get a full year of unlimited learning and creative exploration. So get snappin. As always, guys, thank you for tuning in and don't forget to hit the Subscribe button and to come back every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday for new and awesome videos. [SINGS WEDDING MARCH]  Bye.