Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Spending on Big Events

 

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? 


8 comments:

  1. We tend to do private celebrations as have a large family to begin with. If I lived in a smaller town when the kids were smaller likely I would have had more kids over though (we are a family of 6, hubby and I and my 4 stepkids now all adults). We had a tiny wedding as was hubby's 2nd and my first (my choice) with just us, the kids and our parents, then we went out to dinner afterwards. We have decided with the kids to give them a set amount of money should they choose to get married. Anything over that they are 100% responsible for. If they choose not to get married at age 30 we will give them the same amount. I think that is fair and we have to be fair with 4 kids.

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    1. I think the key is making our own choices, and not giving in to doing things others expect or would do for themselves, and be perfectly fine either way. While I might think the big elaborate kid parties are a silly extravagance, the event might have great meaning for someone else. They just shouldn't expect equal reciprocation. I've probably leaned more on equity than equality with my kids, and being fair. So far, I've had very little thrown up at me as comparisons, and nothing since the older kids have been true adults. I hope that remains the case.

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  2. We live not close to family, so I'm thinking we will have smaller groups for some of these bigger celebrations. We like to travel together, so my guess is we will plan to get together at our vacation house & invite everyone for a barbecue or something. We do tend to splurge on the liquor (homemade margaritas! :-)) & fish (grilled salmon, etc) but we are pretty laid back entertainers. I don't enjoy spending my money (or really, my time, importantly) on big events that are quickly over.

    We did a huge & expensive party (well, not huge by the standards you mention, but for us) for our eldest's first birthday. Other than that, it's not a thing for us. We spent $5K on our wedding/honeymoon & got married on the beach. :-)

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    1. We had a relatively simple wedding as well, though exceeded 250 in attendance, so not small, but had more to do with satisfying both mothers. I've learned a lot since 21 about managing others expectations. I'll support my kids how they want, if they want, to celebrate.

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  3. Our events are always small and private. KL's graduation in July will have 6 of us, mine had 4, K's had 5. We gave K money for her 21st birthday and will do the same for KL this summer. We don't have much money, but even if we did I don't think that we would do anything differently. We are a small family unit, as we have very little to do with extended family these days, but even when we did, events we hosted were not large. K and A are very similar - their wedding had 12 guests, but it was held in the Dominican Republic, and they only invited the people who meant the most to them.

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    1. The college graduation was a dinner out with just my family and the grandparents that went to Milwaukee for the ceremony with us. The huge graduations events for high school are kind of a midwest US thing.I love reading how different events get celebrated. I bet the wedding was a lovely for your daughter. I could see all of my kids liking that option.

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  4. My theory is as long as it's your event, it's your rules.

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    1. I'm with you, though I would also add, and leave your expectations with your own party as well.

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