I Do … & I Don’t – A Feminist Guide to Weddings & Marriage: Budget Embarrassment

Applehead Photography & Design

October 3, 2023

You might be so rock ‘n roll that you couldn’t give a monkey’s about feeling embarrassed about or ashamed of your wedding budget. If you couldn’t care less about what society has tried to tell you that you ‘should’ be doing when it comes to your wedding then I have just two words for you… GO YOU.

But! There are still many nearlyweds operating under that conditioning of ‘should’. I have found there are two main sources of embarrassment when it comes to the ‘shoulds’ of a wedding budget. The first is an embarrassment which comes when we feel our budget is too small. ‘My budget should be bigger,’ some of us tell ourselves, as we look longingly at the picture of the seat cushions we’d really love to have, while clicking on the ones we can actually afford.

There are many articles out there which focus on how to create the best wedding for you on a smaller budget. Thousands of couples a year – many showcased in this magazine – prove that you can create a stunning, unique, incredible wedding day on a dime, with absolutely nothing to be ashamed of when you look back at the photos.

However, harping on that none of the physical stuff matters is so much easier said than done when you have you actually have to pull your wedding off on a small budget. The need to keep up with the Joneses can be incredibly harmful, both financially and emotionally. The shame caused by feeling you ‘should’ spend more can leave people racking up debt, and/or becoming more and more depressed.

My advice, for what it’s worth, is to delete the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary and your wedding. Work together with your partner, your friends, your family. Speak openly about the money stuff without shame. Remember the things that ACTUALLY matter, while also honouring the fact that you do really, truly, want those awesome seat cushions. Find compromises where you can, and remember – and I really mean this – if there is love, your wedding will be beautiful. It just will. You may not see it now, while you’re tearing your hair out over the shoulds of your too-small budget, but I promise… it will.

There is a second type of ‘should’ shame I want to explore too – one that far fewer articles seem to address – which comes along when we feel our budget is too big. ‘Should I be ashamed of myself for spending so much money on a party celebrating me?’, some of us tell ourselves, as we fudge the numbers when our friends start talking money. ‘Who do I think I am?’ we wonder.

But I want to tell you, as someone who felt that embarrassment keenly; as someone whose social conscience squirmed and wriggled at the idea of spending ‘too much’ on her wedding – don’t! If that’s your budget, if that’s what is available to you, then – just as I would say to a friend worrying about her budget being too small – don’t apologise for what is available to you. Don’t be ashamed of yourself for wanting to enjoy a big wedding and being able to. Obviously, in the way that no one ought to be about money, don’t be a dick about it. Don’t boast or belittle. But also, don’t feel ashamed of having the wedding you are able to have either.

When we tally up the cost of (deep breath in!): the venue, the celebrant, the flowers, the DJ, the band, the catering, the dresses, the suits, the shoes, the hair and make-up, the accommodation, the transport, the decorations, the invitations, the favours, the cake, the photographer, the videographer… and whatever else! it is very, very easy to suddenly find yourself spending enough money for a down-payment on a house.

There are no two ways about it and I don’t know how else to say it. People might scoff. People might think it’s absurd or crass or ridiculous to do so… but, when it comes to throwing a wedding in 2023, it is actually just downright easy to suddenly spend that much money. So, my advice against this sort of ‘should’ shame comes in the form of two ‘don’ts’: Don’t be a dick about it… but don’t be ashamed or embarrassed either.

No one should ever make anyone feel negatively about their wedding budget, no matter the size. It’s all too common that some Goldilocks know-it-all relative will come along and try to tell you your budget is too big or too small. Sometimes, that voice will come from our own inner-critic and our own conditioning.

I have just one final thing to say when it comes to the ‘should’ shame of a wedding budget. Anyone with anything negative to say should take their unsolicited opinions and do one. See you later, Goldilocks. Bye, Felicia. And don’t worry, Rock n Roll Bride reader. Small, big or round-about average… your budget is juuuuust right.

About Rachel

Rachel is a writer and contemporary singing teacher. Her children’s book, The Doll’s House Mouse, won the Bath Children’s Novel Award 2021. You can find her online at racheldarwin.com and on Instagram @rachelbdarwin.

This article originally appeared in issue 49 of Rock n Roll Bride magazine. You can purchase the latest copy here, or why not subscribe to never miss an issue?