Marriage and Lisa Marie: Spend Away . . .

Lisa Marie learns to be a bride on a budget.

If you were to talk to 100 brides-to-be, my guess is that 90 of them would tell you that determining and sticking to a budget is the hardest part of planning a wedding. I’m definitely part of that 90 percent, but I have to admit: It’s one thing I never really expected to be an issue. I’m an only child, and although my parents aren’t wealthy, I’ve always lived a comfortable lifestyle. My father is a retired schoolteacher, and my mother works for a government contractor. She serves as the main breadwinner for the family and, more important, as the gatekeeper to all family funds. My mother and I are incredibly close, so when Andrew proposed, I simply thought money would be no object when it came to our dream wedding.

In hindsight, I should’ve realized that wasn’t likely to be the case. My mother has always been a bit indulgent with me, but only to an extent that she could justify with her values. She hates to be ostentatious and is one of the few people I know who truly doesn’t care what people think of her. So spending thousands of dollars on a fancy wedding simply to impress our friends and family wasn’t something she wanted to consider.

Starting right after the engagement, my mother and I would jokingly talk about the budget, but we made the mistake of never really sitting down to discuss things seriously. She gave me what in her mind was a firm number, but I never really considered it a true budget. Looking at costs around Washington, I knew we could never work with that amount and have our desired guest count. My thinking was that once I showed her the options we had with the budget she suggested, she’d increase her number a bit.

To prove my point, I asked her to meet me during lunch at a venue that was in tune with the budget but didn’t meet my criteria for being a special place. When we left, I expected her to agree that this wasn’t right for us and to up the amount of my budget. Instead, she simply told me I’d have to make it work. After expressing my distaste, I drove off in my car and started thinking about the situation. She was right in some regards. After all, I was 25 years old and probably should be paying for the wedding myself. The money would probably be better spent on animal rescue instead of frivolous wedding stuff, and it really was just one day of my life. When I got back to my office, I had conceded in my head that I’d make the number work, and that was that.

Apparently my mother was doing some thinking on her ride home as well. She knew that I had been fantasizing about my wedding since I was little and that while it didn’t matter to her, it was really important to me. She decided that although she was already generously contributing to the wedding, she could probably afford to give a little more. As I called her to apologize and tell her that the number was fine, she interrupted me and told me I could increase it enough to get the special stuff. But she emphasized that she wanted it spent on things that were truly meaningful to us, not just something fancy to impress our guests. She told me her very firm final amount for this dream wedding, and I happily started figuring out the numbers for each budget line item. In the end, is my wedding going to be featured on Platinum Weddings? Maybe not. But to us, it will feel like it should be.


Lisa Marie, a local bride-to-be, writes every Friday about planning her wedding, which will be in Washington in July. To follow her adventures from the beginning, click here.

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