Chelsea Clinton // Photo: Kyle CassidyBill Clinton has suggested he will cry when Chelsea Clinton walks down the aisle to marry Marc Mezvinsky in Rhinebeck, N.Y., on Saturday. Perhaps that's because he and Hillary Clinton will be thinking about the bill. Wedding planners have estimated that the nuptials could cost as much as $5 million.
That's $600,000 for air-conditioned tents, $200,000 for security, and buckets of money on every detail from designer floral arrangements to special invitations that at least one wedding planner estimates could have cost more than $150 apiece. (I didn't get my invitation yet, but I'm thinking that lots of gold leaf would have to be involved.) Spending a lot on those invitations seems especially ironic, since even the guests have been kept in the dark about details like the location of the wedding and even where their hotel rooms are. Such are the burdens of being invited to the top-secret event of the decade.
On the other hand, the Clintons can well afford the extravagance, having reportedly earned a combined $109 million between 2000 and 2007. The rest of us, however, have different burdens, like how to afford our kids' more modest marriage ceremonies. The current $24,000 cost of the average wedding is 22 percent higher than it was a year ago, according to the Wedding Report, which has posted all kinds of juicy details about what brides and grooms actually spend their (parents') money on.
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It's reassuring to remember that the cost of the wedding does not correlate to the happiness of the marriage (Charles and Diana, enough said.) So being on a budget doesn't mean that you don't care or you don't want it to be nice. It just means you don't want to go bankrupt on the way to the ceremony. Here's how to preserve the day's specialness and your solvency:
- Remember whose wedding it is. Parents may have a picture in their heads about what it all will look like, but they already had their wedding (usually). It's up to the bride and groom to decide what they want their day to be. That means parents should decide how much they can afford to spend for the wedding and then let the marrying couple decide how best to deploy those resources. Attaching strings: Not so good.
- Set priorities. For some people, it's all about the food at the reception; for others it's the killer dress. Or the open bar, or the music. Or knowing that every cousin and friend is in attendance. None of these are the right or wrong answer, but if you agree on priorities, it enables you to economize on the pieces that are not priorities.
- Surf for savings. The web is replete with budget wedding ideas, including our own Wedding Survival Guide. To save money for your priorities, you can program your own music, have friends make the centerpieces, buy (or even rent) a secondhand dress, be creative with your food choices, use flowers that are in season, wear suits instead of tuxedos, have the wedding on a Sunday morning instead of a Saturday night, and so on and so on. Oh, and skip the tooth whitening and the spa treatments. I'm sure you'll look lovely on the big day, and you also might really want to save that massage for after the wedding - when you get sore from writing thank you notes and checks.
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