I'll lay off the subject of weddings alone, but target this post towards a more generalized subject-funding of big events. What quantifies as a big event varies country to country and region to region, family to family, and person to person. Anything from a birthday of distinction (golden birthdays', sweet 16, decade birthdays), baptisms to confirmations, to graduations, to wedding showers, to weddings themselves, to anniversary's, can be a big event. Each varies in significance but for most of us, at least once we will be the recipient of or the benefactor of a large celebration. We attended my nephews graduation party on Sunday, a nice afternoon with family only, not a big open house. This was the choice of the graduate His older sister 10 years ago had a graduation bash that might be on record as the most extravagant one I have ever heard of. My own two children's were large, but casual, open house affairs with a party tent, (in case of inclement or very sunny weather) and extra tables and chairs. It was a lot of work on both accounts, but also a lot of fun. I didn't go large with decorations, and kept the food plentiful, but simple. Of course everyone feels like they hit the right balance, but I was happy with my efforts. I was pretty economical, and served each guest for under $5.00, including beer and wine. Of course, with the size of my family, and the extension of the open house to friends and neighbors, we had close to 150 eat, and others stop by for a drink or snack. They were not low budget events, easily topping $1,000.
At my nephews party I got talking with a sister in law and an aunt on the other side of the family. There is a fall wedding coming up, and I was hearing some of the details of the plans thus far. The aunt shared her views that she thinks weddings have perhaps gotten out of hand, but some have taken the route now to tone the expenses down, and rightfully so. Weddings need to be focused on things that will make the day memorable to the couple, and shouldn't be too worried about tradition, and what others have done with their own or are expected. She shared some facts about the briefness of so many marriages, and how for too many, the focus was on the wedding as the event, and not the marriage, as the life. Of course though, it is easy to say when you are to in the throws of planning the event that you don;t want everything perfect, and often that means expensive. She was so right, and this could be applied to all events. For instance, when did birthday parties for kids become the entertainment event of the year, with parent spending $25, $30, or more per child and guests list at over a dozen? I remember throwing parties for under $20, complete with lunch, cake, games, and prizes, and all the neighborhood kids in attendance. Should I have felt guilty not reciprocating the expensive events my kids were invited to? I didn't, and still don't, and I don't think other kids remember their parties any more than my children do-probably not at all.
I have two events in the next year I am planning for. My daughter gets confirmed in the fall, and after church, we will have the family over for dinner and drinks, and celebrate this milestone as a family. I'l probably have things ready in crock pots, home made, but again, plentiful, cake, and drinks. I also am planning in my head some sort of a party for DD#2's 16th in Janaury. This will be a late golden, sweet 16 together, plus it's an opportunity to just get to know her friends in a fun atmosphere, in the bleak days of winter. I'm talking music, cake, pizza, and no gifts, simple. I think kids remember the times they can just get together and be kids. Maybe it won't even be related to her birthday-just a big house full of kids, at least once during her high school years.
Are these essential splurges? Of course not, but they would be consistent with my own good memories growing up, and participating in the events others have hosted. The lesson to keep remembering is that what I spend needs to align with our overall priorities, and not be determined by some nameless faceless person with expectations I can't afford. Where I choose to cut corners, like self catering, or splurging, like having extra tables and chairs rented and delivered is not how you might do it. You may think everything I've mentioned is frivolous and a waste of money, and that's your prerogative. What about you? How do you go about planning for and celebrating the important events in your life. Do you keep the celebration private, or like me, do you like to extend who you celebrate with? What tips have you found to keep your budget in check?