Updated: May 3
Weddings are super special occasions, abundant with love and hope. On the practical side, weddings and significant events maybe expensive. Also, there is much excitement and some peer pressure tending to put upward pressure on event costs. To have an amazing event while managing costs, make your planning decisions by applying this single guiding principle as a decision rule objective.
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 the hosts wish 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. In effect, the hosts are providing community connection in return for community validation. I appreciate this transactional way of positioning an event, especially a wedding, is a little unsettling. But let’s face it, if the couple didn’t want to engage their community, they would just elope!
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 do not remember details 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 does not represent a typical guest. My wedding role was much closer to that of a guest! What I do 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.
There is significant academic research concerning event emotions and how they impact memory. 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, table arrangement, or the decorations) They are likely to remember event emotions or how they felt during the event. Event emotions are mostly “free” and are enabled by connecting people at the event. Also, it is important to have a finish to the event that will make your community 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 emotional intensity during the event, and
the emotions related to the last part of the event.
As such, it is good to finish strong! By the way, this principle is well-grounded in behavioral economics and 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 enabling your community 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 community-related context of event facts and event emotions. A budget will enable you to assign utility value to each cost. As you apply your Feeling Principle, the event decision criteria and trade-offs will become clearer. 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 increasing community 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 high value 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 less expensive geographies. Dense urban areas like Washington D.C. or New York City are traditionally more expensive than the suburbs or close by smaller cities (For example, Richmond, Virginia is only 90 miles from the D.C. 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 may both enjoy the wedding and take pics 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 your own criteria as you make your Feeling Principle trade-offs.
Further, you may decide the "Feeling Principle" is not for you. Perhaps "Go Big or Go Home!" is more your style. Certainly, that objective may work as well. The point is, being clear about your event objective is critical. This will align event criteria and event alternatives to your event objective.
With event objective alignment, the criteria will become clearer and easier to weigh. However, there are still a number of alternatives to consider. For example, once you decide on the kind of venue, you will need to decide between venue alternatives and apply your venue criteria to make a good decision. The same decisions need to be made for other event considerations like food and drink, photo and video, and even the bridal party! The decision process is very involved. It is the kind of decision where people naturally struggle. Our brains do not easily handle multi-criteria, multi-alternative decisions. Fortunately, there are event decision support solutions that do much of the analytical heavy lifting and help you make great event decisions!
Event decision support solutions
Decision support solution: Definitive Choice is a smartphone app, providing a straightforward user experience and is backed by time-tested decision science algorithms. It uses a proprietary "Decision 6(tm)" approach that organizes the criteria (what is important to us?) and alternatives (what are our choices?) in a series of bite-size ranking decisions. Since it is on your smartphone, you can use it while you are touring a venue or doing online research. It is like having an event planner in your pocket! The dashboard provides a rank ordered list of "best choices," completely tailored to your preferences!
Also, Definitive Choice comes pre-loaded with event and wedding templates. You will want to customize your own criteria, but the pre-loaded templates provide a nice starting point.
Budget solution: Pictured above is my son, Josh, with his betrothed, Sydney. They were married not long ago. They did a great job planning their wedding. They also happen to have their Masters of Accounting and their CPAs. I fully expect they have a very useful budget spreadsheet. I will seek to share it soon!
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