Whenever couples share their wedding stories, it’s typically a highlight reel. They tend to talk about the most magical moments they experienced, focus on the items they’re glad they splurged on, reveal their favorite photos, and then conclude by saying that it was ultimately a perfect day. But, what about the regrets, especially when it comes to expenses? After all, the average 2019 wedding costs $33,900, which isn’t exactly loose change.
To explore this often unspoken aspect of the wedding day, I asked a bunch of married people about the items that, looking back, they could have done without. Was it the designer pair of shoes that ended up hidden under the gown? A certain food that seemed like a good idea at the time? A customized product that added to the wedding cost, but nothing special to the actual day?
Though weddings are always going to be beautiful, meaningful events, it turns out that there are certain purchases that might not always be worth it in the end.
“One of my wedding day expense regrets would have to be a second outfit that I never changed into. I bought an extra pair of shoes (flats, in case I wouldn’t be able to walk in heels all night) and a really nice blazer jacket (to swap with the train for the reception), but to my surprise, I ended up not needing either and kept on my main outfit with no issues. Also, the day went by so fast (too fast!) that I literally had no time to change anyway. In hindsight, it was a waste of money, but in the moment, I thought it was justifiable.” —Carol Rasaphangthong, who married Harolena Gaines-Rasaphangthong on Dec. 16, 2019
“They say you can never have too much food… but you really can. We went overboard on desserts and had to send a number of our guests home with loads of leftovers! We were still left with dessert for weeks that we just could not finish. To add to this wedding day expense regret, we purchased trays and stands to display all of the many desserts we had. We should have rented them to save on cost and dealing with transportation.” —Harolena Gaines-Rasaphangthong
“The one item we both regret was the invitations. Not that we would have completely eliminated that expense, but we could have been a bit more creative and saved a lot of money. We had about 150 guests at our wedding, but because of a formality, we had to print about 200 invitations. I was really into lace and calligraphy at the time, so I had beautiful invitations custom-made from Etsy that were about $3 each. The expense didn’t stop there, though. I had a person do the lettering to address the envelopes, which was an additional $100. Then, we had to buy the stamps to not only mail out the invitations, but to include for people to return their RSVP cards.” —Juliet Justice, who married Michael Justice on Oct. 24, 2015
4. A moveable dance floor
“[Joseph] was injured in Iraq, and when he came home on convalescent leave, we got married at a bed and breakfast in New Orleans. I had four days to plan, and my dress cost $8. It was incredibly romantic! [But] we did have a family reception later at a hotel ballroom. My husband, Joseph, said he regrets getting the moveable dance floor because his father out-danced him. We probably could have done without it because my family is Muscogee (Creek) and Baptist, so most of them don’t dance. My family still talks about how well my father-in-law danced, however!” —Stacy Pratt, who married Joseph Pratt on Oct. 24, 2003
“We opted for more extraneous decor than we felt like we needed, including these large paper flowers that were meant to cover a chain link fence. We also rented out a mantel (an empty fireplace essentially) that we decorated to serve as our ‘wedding arch,’ and we realized after the fact that we didn’t really need a wedding arch and this was an unnecessary expense. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the arch you’re married in front of looks like, or how a background fence appears. Those things are so trivial! We were so careful about spending for our wedding that it just didn’t make sense to get caught up in these minor details. The overall vibe of the day is so much more important.” —Alaina Lavoie, who married Macey Lavoie on Sept. 14, 2019
6. The rehearsal dinner
“Blame it on rose-colored glasses, but we don’t regret much of anything from our wedding. [But] if we had to jettison one element, it might have been the rehearsal dinner. It was great to spend quality time with the bridal party the day before, but it ended up feeling like an ancillary piece of an otherwise perfect weekend. We actually enjoyed the post-wedding brunch our family threw for us a lot more. It was less formal and all the nerves were gone. (We could actually enjoy eating food again.)” —Shanna Finley, who married John Finley on Dec. 7, 2018
“We were married at a hotel, so most of the expenses were rolled into our wedding package. With that in mind, my husband and I both agree that our wedding cake was the one expense we regretted. It tasted okay, but looked nothing like what we wanted, and when we ate it on our first anniversary, it was disgusting. We gave cupcakes as wedding favors, and they were a much bigger hit.” —Michael Pittman, who married John Pittman on June 2, 2019
“We overestimated our guests when it came time to let the food vendor know our count, and they weren’t able to refund us for the extra plates that we no longer needed. I wish someone would’ve told us to just give them the number of RSVPs we had at the time because our vendor would’ve happily charged us more if we ended up needing to add plates. But they didn’t want to refund us for not needing plates we’d already ordered.” —Alyssa Morin, who married Tag Simler on Apr. 6, 2018
“The flowers: Although they were beautiful, we literally had to trash them at the end of the night. I was like, ‘There goes thousands of dollars in the trash.’” —Destinee Rogers, who married Kayla Rogers on Oct. 5, 2018
“Our wedding was honestly perfect, except one thing stuck out like a sore thumb—the catering was awful. Since we are both from different cultural backgrounds, African American and Filipino, we wanted to have food at the wedding that could represent and impress our families like everything else in our wedding. Due to an unfortunate last-minute booking error with our original caterers, we were racing against the clock in a panic-inducing time crunch to find an alternative the week before the wedding. Ultimately, we settled for Greek fast food. It didn’t fit our theme, all of the food was somehow simultaneously dry and oily, and none of the guests wanted to take leftovers home. But you know what? We will take it as a win if the worst expense at our wedding was dry chicken breast.” —Tyler Martin, who married Florida Elago on Feb. 2, 2020
The Apartment Therapy Weddings vertical was written and edited independently by the Apartment Therapy editorial team and generously underwritten by Crate & Barrel.