Weddings are joyous occasions, but they're also infamous for their high stress levels and high price tags. As a professional bridesmaid, I’ve witnessed the fallout from both. I’ve talked brides out of middle-of-the-night anxiety attacks during which they admitted that funding their big day would set them into debt for the next five years. I’ve gone with a bride to the bank and patted her back as she tearfully begged for a loan to help pay the $15,000 it would cost to hire a band for her reception. One time, I even had a father of the bride whisper in my ear during the cake-tasting that he secretly took a weekend job working at the local grocery store to avoid having to drain his entire retirement fund to pay for his daughter’s dream wedding.
According to The Knot's annual Real Weddings Study, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is $32,641. Why are people so willing to rack up a bill that high for a party that lasts a few hours, or a weekend at most? How do we say yes to an $8,000 dress, or hand over our credit cards for a $2,500 tiered chocolate-mousse cake?
Maybe it’s time to take a step back. To help put things in perspective, we've compiled a list of eight other ways you could spend your $32,641 if you didn't have a traditional wedding.