I thought instead I’d share an adventure near and dear to my heart at the moment. It’s one that many millions of parents and offspring have shared over the years. There’s a wedding about to happen in the family. Which means we who are paying for said event and the aforementioned U.S. budget crisis have something in common. Taxpayers of America, I feel your pain.
Given the expenditures that are part and parcel of any nuptials today, from elopements to grand ballroom affairs, I’m thinking we should turn any federal deficit problems over to those in the wedding industry. They definitely know how to shake out the last remaining dollar in a wallet. And they have a way of making you smile while they do it.
The whole premise of a wedding day sets up the payers of the event for trouble. Many little girls begin planning their walk down the aisle when they first glance at the picture on the piano or bedroom dresser of mom in a fancy dress and dad in a nice-looking suit. Those who don’t start making arrangements in their heads while still toddling around the house soon get caught up in the excitement at whatever age the question is popped.
As soon as the engagement is officially announced, the mad dash starts with securing the place for the ceremony and the location for the party afterward. The former is most often a house of worship and usually quickly chosen. The latter, always referred to as a reception venue (which is code for “not cheap”), often requires a little more thought and advanced scouting.
Many first-timers in the wedding game fall into the reception venue proprietor’s hands. Very logically, you call and ask, “How much does it cost to rent your venue for a 200-person wedding?” What you should be asking is, “How much does it cost to rent your venue for Dave in Accounting’s 200-person retirement party?” The reason is, the fee for the wedding will automatically be several multiples as much as the retirement party one.
In other words, the word wedding equals dollar signs in the minds of those in the reception venue business. And it doesn’t begin and end there.
If a cost per head is any indication, catering companies evidently have all their food flown in from Europe on a daily basis. Chickens must be descended from royalty over there. Beef must only eat grass grown on ancient golf courses, and fish must come directly from Dover.
Many establishments make you purchase directly from them alcoholic refreshments you’re going to serve. Others will allow you to supply your own. However, there is still a per head charge. This is in addition to the fees required to pay the people who actually pour (and pour and pour) the refreshments. And wedding cakes can cost as much as the largest flat panel TV on the market.
Perhaps the biggest “gotcha” part of the whole wedding industry, however, is in the clothing arena. Wedding dresses, of course, are designed to be worn once. And with all eyes on her as she walks down the aisle, every bride wants to look radiant and her absolute best. Wedding gown makers know that. And they charge accordingly.
But it doesn’t end there. Unless you have the dress tailor-made from the get-go, there are such things necessary as alterations. You know how fast food restaurants sometimes practically give you a sandwich if you’ll buy a large drink and super fries? Alterations follow the same principle. That’s where the money is. Nips and tucks can cost almost as much as the dress. Women are used to such things. Men are not. We buy a suit, cuff the pants, and we’re done. Ten or 15 bucks, tops. Not so with a flowing dress.
With all that said, I do have a piece of advice: Once you realize you can’t win the game, forget about it. As for me, I’m thinking about the little girl I played make-up with and watched princess movies with. She’s about to be one herself. And I get to walk her down the aisle ... in a rented tux.
Bill Lewis is a free-lance writer in Marietta.