Aah, the power of one word.

Today’s word in question is this: Only.

There’s something funny about the word “only”. When our wedding was featured on glamour.com, the headline was “Amazing! This gorgeous wedding only cost $8000!” I know that the writer was comparing it to the average cost of weddings, which is somewhere around $25,000-$30,000, and in that way, the word “only” makes sense.

A couple of instances where the word “only” might not make as much sense are:

  • $8000 is only <insert large number here>% of my annual salary!
  • I only have $8000 of credit card debt!
  • It will only take us ten years to pay off that wedding!

You get the point.

A few people commented on that post that $8000 was still a ridiculous amount to spend on a wedding.

Hey- I totally agree! Sort of. Well, do I? I thought I did, but now I’m not sure.

I started out wanting to spend $4000 on a wedding, inspired by our beloved John and Sherry. But our budget was, shall we say, flexible, and in time we decided that since we had the means, we’d rather pay more and do less work (and make our loved ones do less work- although don’t get me wrong; everyone still did a ton of work).

After the wedding we let ourselves play the “What else could we have done with $8000?” game only a couple of times before snapping each other back to reality. It’s not worth it! Sure, we could have installed an automatic sprinkler system, or built a new garage, or started finishing the basement. But our lovely parents didn’t just give us that money* and say “Here, go nuts.” They gave it to us for a wedding.

*Yes, our parents covered the cost of our wedding. I’ve seen commenters (I spent way too much time on wedding boards) say that it’s wrong to “make” your parents pay for your wedding or “expect” them to. Well, we did neither. But when they did, we gratefully accepted their offer and tried to put on an event that everyone could enjoy.

I really had to come to terms with spending that kind of money on an event that would have the same outcome with just a $50 marriage license fee. But with each “Yes, I’m coming!” I got from friends and family, I got more and more excited and realized that hey- this is what life is about. It’s about getting people together for special events, and feeding and entertaining them if you have the means. People from out of town stayed for a few days, and it was so nice to have everyone pitch in to put on the event. It was a blast. This, my friends, is quality time:

However, life is not about going into debt so that you can have the most breathtaking cake or the most stylish dress or Wilson Phillips as your band (although that would be pretty sweet). It’s not about impressing everyone with every detail or having every single hair on every single person’s head in its perfect place.

Cool, but probably not necessary.

To continue the soap box, life is not about keeping up with the Joneses, period. If you buy a new boat because the Joneses did, you are dumb. If you buy a new boat because you can afford it and it will bring you and your family lots of happiness, fun, and memories for years to come, you are awesome. It’s the same thing with elements of your wedding. If you’re trying to show someone up by buying a dress from Kleinfeld that you cannot afford, I feel sorry for you. If you buy a super expensive dress because, hey- you can, and it makes you feel like a fairy princess and the most beautiful woman on the planet and that’s important to you, then go you! (We don’t have that priority in common, but still- go you!)

I know we hear this all the time, but it’s so beyond easy to compare ourselves to each other that it’s almost comical. I’ve talked to people before and thought, “What do you do, sit around and make lists of things that other people have gotten and haven’t, and things you’ve gotten and haven’t, and then assign them scores and add them all up to see who should be/is further along in life? Come on! Live your own life already!”

It’s even easier in a way, and less fair, on the internet. When I first started reading home blogs, I hated when people would say things like “This lamp was a steal at $75!” Are you kidding me? I’d think. That’s half of my grocery budget for the month! But you know what? It’s their blog and their life, and for them, $75 is a bargain for a lamp. Get over it, Amanda. It’s like when my friend (Hi Remmy!) says something like “These jeans are only $150.” I just smile and move on to the clearance rack. Remmy always looks fabulous, by the way. That’s a priority for him, and I love having an opinion that is different from my own. And who knows- maybe one day he’ll get me to splurge on (after saving up for, of course :)) a pair of awesome, life-changing jeans.

I guess that the point of this post is that budgets are an intensely personal thing. And I don’t mean that it’s something that must never be talked about. On the contrary, I believe that you should talk about personal things with people you trust, and perhaps in a more general way, with people who read your blog. It’s a great way to grow and learn (as long as you do learn and resist the temptation to simply compare). 

But when it comes to specific amounts, only you can decide if $150 is a good deal for a duvet cover, or if $250,000 is a good deal for a starter home, or if $8000 is a good deal for a wedding.

Since there is no wedding-related debt, our parents were willing and able to help, and it turned out fantastic and we loved seeing everyone, to us $8000 for our wedding was worth every penny.

PS- If anyone is curious what we would have done without our parents’ help, here it is: We would have had a simple ceremony up in a canyon with a very small number of people, and then taken people out to dinner (a much smaller group than attended our wedding). I would have worn a cheaper dress and we wouldn’t have had any groomsmen/bridesmaid/kids’ attire, no flowers, half the invitations, no decorating, etc. It would have been less stress and really fun, but we’re really glad that we had the opportunity to put on the event that we did.

So, did anyone make it through that whole post? Do you guys struggle with comparisons like I do sometimes? How do you keep society’s “only” in perspective with your “only”?