Recently, I looked back at the preliminary wedding budget my fiancee Joe and I had come up with it about six months ago after approximately 16 seconds of internet research. Now, I’ve realized that it was all so horrifically off-base, it might as well have been written in ancient runes. It was like when you ask a toddler how much money they think their parents make every year, and they say something sweetly stupid like, “$20!” because they have no concept of money whatsoever.

Looking back at our practice budget, I almost envy our distance from the whole circus. I was just a girl then, dutifully paying rent and my student loans and blowing the rest of my money on cocktails with pink peppercorn in them, not having any idea you literally can’t find a photographer that doesn’t make you look like someone who got pregnant at the age of 17 for less than $3500. And now, as the quotes roll in and the vague fog of our future wedding begins to take shape, I’m realizing more and more that I may never know how much my wedding will cost me until that very last dollar is dropped on the table.

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Our budget was naive and contextless, the result of some giddy googling by two people who were so excited to be engaged, they were blind to the harsh financial truths of the wedding planning world. Eight-hundred dollars for cake was pulled out of someone’s butt, along with a paltry $1,500 for dress and alterations (the latter of which actually can cost up to a stomach-churning $700, it turns out), just $1,000 for photography, and, to the hilarity of no one at all, a mere $6,000 for food and drink. That last one was a real kicker. Even if we’d gone with the polarizing pizza-truck idea, that would still only leave about $3,000 for 150 people to get recklessly drunk. Which is not at all enough, especially when one’s belly is thickly padded with all-you-can-eat pizza.

The mystery of the cost of weddings has been apparent—and annoying—to me since almost the very beginning. When I cursorily began searching for venues one day in March, and realized none of them had general pricing on their websites so I’d have to, ugh, call—it was just the beginning of a long, arduous trek of sending saccharine emails riddled with smileys into the void, calling weird voicemail boxes that I imagined were just perched alone in empty log cabins in the backwoods of Maine, and lots and lots of question marks in the budget spreadsheet. All this to get something so simple, so essential, yet so enigmatic: Some real fucking prices, so we could make a real fucking budget.

Go ahead, give it a whirl. Google your favorite wedding dress designer and see if there are prices listed under each gown the way they are under each blouse on the Gap website. Google “wedding barns” in your town and see if the info page gives a general rate estimate for the 2016 season. Google DJs, photobooths, planners, florists, rental companies, see what you find. It’ll probably be a big fat fucking nothing. I had an easier time figuring out the name of some random actor I was trying to make fun of at dinner the other night (search terms: “brunette actor creepy professor topanga boy meets world college years”) than I ever did trying to figure out what a pole tent would cost me (I still don’t know, I’ll never know—$10? $10,000? Who knows?). In the same way that a lifetime of not being engaged does nothing to prepare you for the fever-nightmare that is wedding planning, the wedding industry does nothing to make budgeting for your big disco anything close to easy or straightforward.

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Now we find ourselves on near the close of month eight of being engaged, with a smattering of actual quotes that are, well, shocking. One caterer came back at us with a $17,000 idea—I now need both an old and a young priest. (We will not be choosing them.) A dress under $1,500 proved very difficult to find outside of David’s Bridal. And did you know a fucking photobooth can run $1,200?

So, why all the mystery? Why, on top of all the other obstacles involved with wedding planning (yeah, OBSTACLES, I said it, shoot me with a Nerf gun full of battery acid and pig’s blood) like must we also have to play a ludicrous game of hide and seek with the real numbers behind our supplies and services? Theories:

1. The Element of Surprise! Wedding vendors might think that since your engagement was so fun, being gloriously caught off-guard by the insane price of 8 of their succulent boutonnieres seven weeks after you inquire how much they are will be a total laugh riot, too. Surprise! The price is $150 each, because!

2. To Edge Out Competition. Getting one quote is hard enough—but gathering several and comparing so you can ensure you’re getting the best value for your money is virtually impossible, since response rates are slow and spotty. If the pulse of responses is comatose, how can you possibly have enough quotes to make an informed, educated decision? So you end up just having to pick whoever responded last, quick, rushing with the worry that they’ll all get booked up and you’ll have to serve Stove Top and cotton balls topped with paprika at your wedding.

3. Because Life Is A Mystery And Everyone Must Stand Alone.

4. It’s Not Even A Big Deal You’re Just Making A Big Thing Out Of Nothing.

5. Because It Isn’t Polite To Talk About Money. Shhh, just write the check. Leave that part blank. Just hand it over, we’ll take care of it, dear. You shouldn’t have to worry about this, you just worry about looking pretty for your groom, you perfect future housewife, you! Give us a few more just in case. Sign here. There. Yes.

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6. Because You Can’t Put a Price On Customizing Every Detail Of The Wedding Of Your Own Dreams.

The real answer probably lies somewhere between number 5 and 4, with a dash of “throw yourself off a bridge you materialistic c-word,” and yes, there is a silver lining, which is, the longer you’ve been doing this, the more you learn, and the less wrong your budget becomes. But still, a little more price transparency wouldn’t kill nobody. I mean, if that Pnina Tornai monstrosity on every other episode of Say Yes to the Dress can have a sheer bodice that goes all the way down to the crest of the mons pubis, we should be able to clearly go online to see what it would cost us to own it if we, Randy help us, want to wear it on our wedding day.


Watch this space weekly as Lauren Rodrigue shares the victories and freakouts of planning her 2016 wedding (and the marriage that’ll follow). Tweet her at @laurenzalita.