Updated: Sep 14
Weddings are super special occasions, abundant with love and hope. On the practical side, weddings and significant events can be expensive. Also, there is much excitement and some peer pressure that tends to put upward pressure on event costs. To help manage costs, try to make your planning decisions by applying this single guiding principle as a decision rule.
Event Principle: How guests FEEL after the event will govern their perception of the event.
This “Feeling Principle” has 2 primary themes.
The first theme: The guests attending your event are the true arbiters of event success, not the hosts. This may seem a little strange since the hosts are paying for the event. However, it is the guests that the hosts are trying to please. Events are centered upon the community. Hosts and guests are entering into a symbiotic relationship. They are trading community validation and community connection. Alternatively and in the case of a wedding, you would just elope if you did not wish to engage your community.
The second theme: It is how someone feels and not the “things” of the event that people will remember. As an example, for my wedding, I can’t remember much detail of our clothes, the food, how much we drank, the decorations or many details of the venue. My bride will remember more. Since she ran the show, she is not as good an example of a typical guest. My wedding role was much closer to that of a guest!
What I can remember is the joy and love of our family and friends. I remember happy, smiling faces, many warm conversations, and many warm conversations between people that just met. In fact, after an event, most people don’t have a permanent memory of the event facts. (E.g., kind of food or drink served, the decorations, etc.) What they will remember is the event emotions or how they felt during the event. Event emotions are mostly “free” and can be enabled by connecting people at the event. Also, it is important to have a finish to the event that will make people feel especially good. This could be the last dance or a heartfelt toast that brings everyone together.
Our “remembering self” puts greater emphasis on:
the peak intensity of emotion during the event, and
the emotions related to the last part of an event.
As such, it is good to finish strong! By the way, this principle is well-grounded in psychological research by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and others.
If you keep joy and love at the center, you should be able to reduce the cost of other secondary things.
This is aligned with Warren Buffet’s sage advice:
“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
Your family and friends look forward to bringing love and joy. You need to provide a safe, supportive environment that will allow your guests to keep that love and joy as a memory. Anything more is likely overpaying.
As with any significant event, like a wedding, it is important to set a budget. The budget will lead you to make prioritization trade-offs. The resulting trade-offs are in the context of event facts and event emotions, as they relate to your community. As such, a budget will cause you to rank and assign utility value to each cost. As you apply your Feeling Principle, the trade-offs will become more obvious and easier to make. For example:
If people don’t really remember event facts like food and drink, work to keep those costs down. As an example, a buffet is less expensive than a plated dinner. Plus, buffets have the added benefit of mixing people and increasing interaction. In the context of the prior event symbiosis model, this “buffet for plated dinner” trade lowers the cost of “community connection” for higher value “community validation,” a worthy trade!
The day of the week matters. If you can do an event during the week, or at least have part of the event during the week, that will help.
Venues tend to drive significant event costs. Would you consider a barn wedding over a ballroom wedding? I bet your friends would not care much either way! Also, seek geographies that are less expensive. Dense urban areas like Washington DC or New York are traditionally more expensive than the suburbs or close by smaller cities (For example, Richmond, Virginia is only 90 miles from the DC area.)
Involve your friends, they want to help! Give them an avenue to participate in a way that makes sense to them. For example, some guests may wish to take and share photos. The important thing is to make this optional so they can both enjoy the wedding and be involved to the extent they wish. For the guests that opt-in, they will feel more invested in the event and the host will get the added benefit of unique picture keepsakes.
These are just a few examples, you will naturally come across many of your own as you make your Feeling Principle trade-offs and conduct your own research.
Pictured above is my son, Josh, with his betrothed, Sydney. They plan to be wed in October 2021. They are both very sensible people and are both accountants. I fully expect they have a very useful budget spreadsheet. I will seek to share it after the wedding!
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15. Event spending - Wedding and event planning guiding principle
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