It’s no secret that a common fight between couples during wedding planning is the budget. Not only how much should they spend overall but also how much of that budget should be allocated to each category. This can become a major headache if partners have different priorities when it comes to the overall vision of their nuptials and one wants to invest in the flowers or décor while the other prioritizes details like music or food. But when nearlyweds want to go all out on certain splurges while making financial sacrifices in other areas, they’re taking a major chance—are they making the right choice, and will that investment be worth it in the end?
Although the answer to this is dependent on each couple, hindsight is 20/20 and some of the “musts” you thought you couldn’t live without might not have been worth it in the end. On the flip side, remember certain details that your partner dug their heels in on? Looking back, they might actually have been right.
The only way to know is by living it, so we asked eight former grooms to share their thoughts on what was worth the splurge, what ended up not being worth it, and any details they regret not investing in.
What Was Worth the Splurge
“My now-wife gets cold easily and asked me if I thought heaters were a good idea. While finalizing details for our wedding over the summer months, I initially thought heaters would be overkill since the weather is pretty ideal in San Diego all year round. But when the temperature suddenly dropped 10 degrees in LA at the end of September, I was reminded it can actually get a little chilly at night, so we decided to go for it.
“Our wedding took place in October in San Diego, and although the weather was beautiful, the breeze got chilly in the evening. I’m so glad we invested in space heaters and blankets for our guests. So many female guests thanked us afterward and said they would have frozen alive had we not. Best $300 upgrade we made!” — Alex G., 30
“I was glad that my wife convinced me to buy a nicer tuxedo. Initially, I wanted to ‘cheap out’ here and buy something more or less off the rack. But after being scolded by my wife-to-be, I went and had a nice suit tailored. And now, I honestly think it was a great idea. For men, the tuxedo is a fairly standard design (as opposed to the wedding dress). So I had thought I could go down a cheaper route, or even rent one, and it wouldn’t make a difference. But, I found that there was actually a pretty big gap in quality and fit. It actually took me going to two different rental shops to admit that she was in fact correct.
“And I honestly think it was a great idea. Not only did it complement my wife in her beautiful wedding dress, and thus make the day extra special, but also it [has had] a good return on the investment. Some people wonder why you’d pay so much for something you’d wear only once, but they don’t factor in that you and others look at those photos hundreds (if not thousands) of times. So from that perspective, I think it was a good purchase.” — Neil P., 24
“Something that really paid off that I thought was frivolous at the time was excellent flowers. The reason is every time we look at those pictures of our wedding, they’re so colorful and alive. Additionally, my wife always comments on how amazing the flowers were. At the time, I thought, ‘Why are we spending all this money on flowers?’ Now, 20 years later I’m really glad we did!” — Richard H., 62
Personalized Stationery Suite
“Even though my wife is in the calligraphy and printing business, I never understood just how important proper, engraved wedding invitations would be for setting the tone and dress code upfront and getting everyone so excited to attend and book travel. At first, I was a bit stunned at the level of work required and of course, the cost. I understood paper and plate-making and printing costs, yet I did not fully understand the tedious guest list, calligraphy, hand-addressing, custom-lined envelopes, and then the physical assembly, stuffing, stamping, and organizational hours required.” — Baron H., 51
“I have owned a public relations and marketing firm for over 30 years now, so I know the value and cost of photography in a commercial sense. What I didn’t understand about wedding photographers is that they only have a finite number of weekends each month, season, and year—since most weddings are typically held on a Saturday. I knew we were paying for her ability to capture our most perfect moments, and having her at our destination wedding was worth the expense. What we were also paying for was her booking window, her editing time during the week, and her methodical way of studying the venue, landscape, sunlight, and potential shots the day before.
“One of the reasons photography is so important is that you barely remember the moments of your wedding as they fly by. I’m a former rugby player, and I had rugby players at my wedding who balled their eyes out. However, when I saw the photos for the first time, I had tears streaming down my face. It was, and still is, the proudest moment of my life, and the sight of those photos adorns our home and iPhone screens still today. Had we not booked the very best photographer who knew my wife and [me] and our wedding venue so well, they would have turned out differently. My advice to all men out there, no matter how stubborn or stunned you may be, do not scrimp.” — Baron H., 51
“This is number one in my book (now, hindsight is 20/20). It was low on my priority list but high on my wife’s. In the end, she was right and I’m grateful because the experience has lasted years after thanks to those memories being captured.
“Because it was important to her, it became important to me and I’m so glad we [hired a videographer]. I didn’t realize how hectic, busy, and quickly the moments would fly by. I wanted to hold on to every second and every moment—kind of like wanting to grab every dollar blowing inside a money phone booth during a game show. Yet as quickly as they came, they would slip my grasp. Now when we watch our wedding video, as well as our closest friends’ videos who we referred our team to, we relive each moment…and I’ll admit, I’m the first one in tears.” — Rob G., 38
“We held a destination wedding in Lisbon and wanted to ensure a truly memorable meal, worthy of the flights for our guests. Too many weddings serve lazy banquet food and we couldn’t let that happen.
“Our splurges included multiple themed stations. We knew our guests would work up their appetite dancing the night away so we also arranged late-night mac and cheese and grilled cheeses, which really hit the spot in the wee hours of the morning.” — Erik S., 40
“While I like to believe I’m the favorite uncle and love all of the kids in my immediate and extended family, we all know how kids get when they’re hungry, tired, and not entertained. Having kids can take away from the moments we were all looking forward to.
“I was originally opposed to having a kid-free wedding because I’m so close with all the kids in both of our families. I love having everyone together for celebrations and our wedding wasn’t an exception. However, after hearing my wife’s thoughts and wishes for how she pictured the day, I understood and wanted to support her in it. We ended up having less than 15 kids and at the last minute, were able to coordinate a hotel room party with a nanny. I’m so glad that came together. My advice, pay a couple of teens to host all kids in a hotel at the venue; movies, treats, a pizza party, so no one has to worry about them.” — Rob G., 38
A Professional Live-Stream Service
“Another well-worth it expense was a professional service to live stream the wedding. Between COVID and it being a destination wedding, there were many people that either could not attend or we could not invite. Having a professional live stream through a YouTube channel meant everyone could be there with us. There was great sound and multiple camera angles and cuts, not just someone holding up a camera on Zoom. We were amazed that hundreds of people tuned in to watch. It was worth the expense to share our moment with so many people.” — Erik S., 40
What Wasn’t Worth the Splurge
“Our wedding planner recommended valet service because the venue doesn’t have a ton of street parking for guests. Valet service was an expensive and wholly unnecessary investment. A smarter and less expensive option would have been to give guests an Uber or Lyft code because that’s what over 75 percent of our guests opted to do anyway. Had we given everyone a $20 credit, I’m confident that percentage would have inched close to 100 percent. It’s also cheaper than hiring a shuttle to drive all evening between the various hotels, which wouldn’t have serviced everyone anyway given how many guests stayed at Airbnbs.” — Alex G., 30
“We ended up inviting people through email. Early on during the pandemic, we realized that our plans were likely going to get pushed. When we realized that custom invitations alone would cost us somewhere between $500 and $1,000, we decided against it and decided on using email invitations instead.
“We made the decision to send out electronic invitations less than a week before we would have sent out the paper ones. We had already chosen the design. Originally being from Denmark, I would say I am very inclined to sustainable solutions, and it just seemed foolish to spend a lot of money on it, as well as the environmental impact of it. I originally came up with the idea, and when we sat down and looked at our budget, it didn’t take much convincing to get my wife on board. As we had to reschedule the wedding a couple of times, it not only saved us a headache but also a bunch of money as well by keeping everything electronic.” — Thomas J., 29
An Open Bar
“Some people don’t know their limits and take advantage. There’s nothing worse than a fumbling adult under the influence spoiling the best day of your life. However, most people will pace themselves when it’s on their own dime. We both considered the tab and the behavioral consequence. Instead, we exchanged the tab for a week trip through Argentina. The next wedding we attended definitely had an open bar…and not everyone lasted to see the new couple off.” — Rob G., 38
“I believe we had too many people on our wedding day. Being from an Indian family, wedding days are meant to be big. But for me, we paid a lot of money for some people we didn’t know. We had about 200 people at the wedding ceremony and about 300 at the reception. For an Indian wedding, this is fairly small/medium. We have big families, so it’s important to invite people. People who have had weddings that you’re invited to always get invited to yours. And my parents have a lot of friends/members in their community that they’re close to and wanted them to come to.
“If I could go back, I would have invited fewer people and used the extra money on other details, such as a live band or something unique in terms of food (maybe a dessert stand?). Or perhaps, more expensive wedding bands for myself and my wife. Otherwise, I loved the Hindu temple we got married in, the reception was incredible. We spent a lot on food and alcohol, but for me, this is worth it. I wanted people to have a good time.” — Ravi D., 33
What They Wish They Invested In
“I wish we had put more money towards flower arrangements. The florist that we ended up going with promised us the world and delivered a very underwhelming setup. We still ended up with a great day, but the flower décor is definitely a thing we both wish had been better.” — Thomas J., 29
A Live-Stream Set Up
“One thing I wished I had done was set up a live stream. Since we got married about four years ago (in a somewhat rural area), no vendors were offering these types of services. In the end, none of either my wife’s or my own grandparents could attend the wedding, along with a few other family members. Initially, I thought we could just share with them the wedding photos and videos, but I realized later that it can take weeks (or even months) to get those back. I was definitely left a bit regretful that I didn’t have a great way to include our grandparents on our wedding day.” — Neil P., 24
“I would highly advise all couples to go into some kind of premarital planning or counseling. The requirements would be that those premarital meetings be focused on communication skills, vision for the future, basic finances, genogram and discussion of the family tree, expectations about work-life balance and children, etc.
“These are things that my wife and I all worked out a little bit up front but mostly post-marriage. It would have been so much simpler to have had these discussions in advance. For example, had we both known the emotional baggage we walked into our marriage with, based on our genealogy, we would have known what to look out for. It’s not unusual for emotional traits and behaviors to be passed on generationally. It would have been much better for us to have an idea of how we were going to manage taking care of a new baby and who was going to take time off in advance instead of breaking our teeth on this question with the birth of the child. Now that I work with couples, I find that so many couples walk into marriage blind.” — Richard H., 62