If you're planning a spring or summer wedding, you're probably sweating the details now.
I recently received a question from a reader, David, who is planning to be married in California and wrote:
"We have a number of guests traveling anywhere from 4 hours to 12 hours (maid of honor is from Switzerland). We are determined to keep the price down, but at the same time we want to show our guests a good time since they are investing so much money and time to attend."
David went on to write that given the distance the guests are traveling, he and his fiancee would like to have a sit-down dinner at a restaurant with a couple glasses of wine per person.
But such a reception for about 100 quickly balloons into about $7,500, he wrote.
The groom-to-be added: "Making the wedding party small is not very likely because of the size of our families. We are actually closer to just eloping at this point! How can we show respect to our guests' efforts but still keep our budget in line?"
Obviously this is a thoughtful couple. I'm far more accustomed to letters from couples asking how they can get people to give them money instead of toasters so they can pay for a wedding they can't really afford.
Fairchild Bridal InfoBank, a research service, found that the average wedding costs $22,360, most of that going for the reception.
Couples often feel obligated to treat their traveling wedding guests like royalty. Some couples planning destination weddings -- where they go to some exotic location to wed -- even offer to pay the travel expenses of some of their guests.
But is this money-wise?
Before I answered David's question, I had a few questions of my own. I asked him:
Are the people you're inviting and who have to travel able to afford to come?
Have you talked to the guests who are coming and do they feel that you need to feed and entertain them?
What's your overall budget for the wedding (wedding gifts, rehearsal dinner, reception, honeymoon)?
How do you plan on paying for the wedding (with savings, credit card, parents' contribution)?
Here's what David said: They are inviting 150 people but budgeting for 100. (Smart move. I am still steaming about paying for 25 guests who said they were coming to my wedding but never showed up).
Their total wedding budget is about $10,000, excluding the honeymoon.
The couple is confident that everyone can afford to travel to the wedding except for one friend for whom they plan on picking up the costs because he's currently unemployed.
The couple did talk to their invited guests.
"We know that the friends we care about will not be upset or angry if the wedding is very low-key," David said. "It's more that we just want to make it something memorable since it will be one of the few times our far-flung friends will be together."
And then David said what I suspected was really behind his angst about spending so much for the reception. "We're just like everyone else in that we have an idea of a 'perfect wedding.' "
My advice to David was: Don't spend what you can't afford.
If your budget is tight, you should shorten your list.
And for the few who have to travel far to your wedding, don't worry that they have spent money to come. That's their choice and such a decision does not require quid pro quo that might put you over budget.
I know many couples want as many family and friends as possible to witness their holy union. But your big day can still be memorable without a large audience. Remember this day is supposed to be about the union of just two.