Recently I’ve had conversations with several different people regarding the same wedding related topic which leads me to believe that it is time to cover a subject that most brides will feel does not apply to them, until it does. The topic that I am referring to is the ever delicate” calling off the wedding”. How do you do it, when do you know you should do it and what about the money already spent on the wedding? Not to mention, what do you do with gifts that have already been received?
Since I myself fell into the category of brides who thought they would only be engaged once, I can give you some first-hand answers and advice that I hope will help the confused brides realize that sometimes calling off the wedding can be a lot less stressful than going through with a marriage that is being questioned before you even make it down the aisle.
So how do you know when it’s right to get married? Unfortunately I do not have one clear answer for that, but I can tell you that for me, I knew the wedding was bigger than the marriage. When I took a minute to stop thinking about the wedding day and thought about the days after the wedding; you know, when the honeymoon was over and we had to live together and raise a family, I realized that I was caught up in the planning of the wedding while the planning of the marriage had clearly stopped. I realized quickly that we were moving in two different directions, and I considered myself lucky to have admitted it before we took such a serious step.
After the decision has been made, what about the vendors and the money that’s been paid? Nine times out of ten, the money that you’ve already spent on the wedding is gone never to be seen again. But in rare cases, such as mine, deposits can be used toward another event. I was very lucky in the fact that my photographer, venue and florist all put my previously paid deposits toward my actual wedding, which took place two years after I called off the first one. Often times, the sooner you tell the vendor about the cancelation the better chance they have at rebooking the date and that leaves you a better chance of either getting your deposit back or being able to use it toward a later event. In most cases though, you should assume that the money is gone and will not be used again – so be prepared for that as each vendor has their own policy and it is typically listed in the contract. Especially when it comes to the venue, read the contract because it lists interim payments and minimum guaranteed payments that you are locked into once you sign and are due whether you end up having your event there or not.
The vendors are one thing, but what’s the proper way to handle gifts that were already received from guests and family members? If they are wedding gifts, they must be returned, plain and simple. If you had an engagement party or a shower and the gift can be returned, you should return it, but obviously if you’ve already used the gift, there’s nothing you can do. For example, I had an engagement party the first time around, but I did not call off the wedding until 5 months later so a lot of the gifts had already moved into the place we would live and were being used by the should-have-been groom. The gifts that were not yet touched were given back at the time we called the wedding off.
The money lost and the awkwardness of returning a gift seem to be the only things that stick into the heads of the brides or grooms who may be second guessing their decision to get married. Trust me, it is not an easy decision to come to and the months following are filled with hurt feelings, bitter questions and empty pockets. I once heard a girl talking about her wedding saying “I just keep thinking that I’ll go thru with it without thinking, like taking medicine, and then it’s just done and I’ll be fine.” The thought of this girl going to her parents and telling them that she did not want to get married after all was too much for her to consider, and that’s usually the reason people go thru with something that they question so heavily.
One of the biggest things I’ve realized by being in this business and opening up about my own experiences is that this happens a lot more often than people like to talk about. And it also enters the mind of a bride more than she’d like to admit, but I can also attest to the fact that the brides who followed their hearts and postponed or called off the wedding all together have been more grateful for their strength than the bride who wished she would have spoken up. I was amazed by the number of girls who came to me after I called my wedding off who told me that they thought about not going thru with their wedding up until the second they walked down the aisle. Those girls were all divorced within the first five years being married. On the other hand, the vast majority of girls I know who have called off their weddings are now happily married and had beautiful weddings (and despite the fact that all of our parents swore they would not pay for another wedding – they did)!
Friday, May 6, 2011
This week’s blog is dedicated to my aunt who lost her battle with cancer two months ago. While going through her pictures in preparation for her memorial, we found her wedding album with all of her old receipts and planning details. I thought it might be fun to share the information from the past with all of you and take a look back at how pricing and details have changed when compared to today! In light of the fact that it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday and also the 1 year wedding anniversary for my cousin Traci, I thought I would compare my aunt’s retro wedding to her daughter’s more current affair.
First and foremost, just to give a reference of the difference in financial status, the average salary in 1974 was $8,030.76, according to the national average wage index. In 2009 (since 2010 has yet to be updated), the average salary was $40,711.61 – that’s 5 times the money that was being made in a 35 year span.
My aunt was married on May 18, 1974. Her invitation had a picture of a bride and a groom kissing on the front of it and the scenery appears to be a forest of some sort, which already screams “1970’s.” She was married at St. Christopher Church in Metairie and had her reception at the Champagne Room on Jefferson Highway, which was one of the most expensive reception halls at that time, according to my mother! The church, from my mother’s memory, was free as long as you paid the priest and gave “a little something” to the altar boys. My aunt had a 3 hour reception for 300 guests and the package included food, alcohol, the wedding cake, engraved napkins, coffee service and the use of palm trees, which was apparently serious back then! The service charge was 15% and the grand total - $1656.25 (which breaks down to $5.52/head)
Her daughter, Traci, was married on May 8, 2010. Her invitation was on plain ivory thicker card stock with black print which is more traditional in this millennium – no picture, no fold, just a straight forward invitation! She was married at St. Patrick’s Church in New Orleans and her reception was at the Chicory on South Peters, which was brand new at the time of Traci’s wedding. St. Patrick’s charged $2,000.00 plus a coordinator fee, plus a fee to the music director and “a little something” for the priest. She had a 3 hour reception for 275 guests, which included food, alcohol, tables, chairs and linens, but no palm trees, however the Chicory provided potted plants for Traci to use if she do desired and she did!
Service charge is now 20% and the grand total was almost $25,000 (which breaks down to $90/head tax and tip included)
My aunt purchased her invitations from Gem Printing, who is still in business and a company that I use regularly today. As a matter of fact, Traci ordered her invitations from GEM as well! For my aunt, 200 invitations and printed envelopes totaled $47.18. For Traci, 175 invitations, printed envelopes and thank you cards totaled $175. The most remarkable thing about finding the Gem Printing receipt was not the price. It was the fact that the receipt is exactly the same in 1974 as it is today – the only difference is the address!
Some other comparable prices were the photographer which was $140 for my aunt and $1800 for Traci. Something that I found interesting about the photographer’s contract back then is that you paid the photographer in full once you picked up your product, not before the wedding/on the day of your wedding, and your order was ready 6 weeks after the wedding. Today, IF the photographer has the pictures ready, the bride certainly has not picked her pictures in enough time to produce an album 6 weeks after a wedding. The only other receipt I found was for flowers. I did not find a total for my aunt’s final order, but I can tell you that her bouquet was $15.00 versus Traci’s which was $150.00.
What we can learn from this look back is that although the average salary has increased by 5 times the amount it was 35 years ago, the cost of a wedding has increased by a heck of a lot more. The reception alone is more than 10 times the amount today as it was in the 70’s. I think there are several contributing factors to why weddings have become so commercial and out of control, but one of those factors has to be the very generation that this blog goes out to: The Baby Boomers. The moms that got married when my aunt got married and grew up in the same time when times were tough, money was tight and women did not have their own money. Now, moms want to give their daughters everything they had and then some and since a lot of these women work, they can do just that. So next time you are fighting with your mother over wedding decisions, remember that they just want more for you, although how far these moms will go is a different entry all together. We can at least give them reprieve this weekend – it is Mother’s Day after all!