How the hell are we going to afford this?

A groom-to-be indulges the time-honored tradition of stressing over the budget

Writer Brad Bynum proposes to his fiancée, Sara Kennedy, at Silver Sadies Old Time Photos in Virginia City.

Writer Brad Bynum proposes to his fiancée, Sara Kennedy, at Silver Sadies Old Time Photos in Virginia City.

I’m getting married this summer. Here’s a question my fiancée, Sara, and I have been asking ourselves and each other repeatedly for the last few months: How the hell are we going to afford this?

All things considered, we’re not bad off. We’ve both got pretty good jobs and pretty good credit. And we have parents who want to help, but times are tough all over.

One option for partially covering wedding expenses is to ask for money from the guests in lieu of all that traditional household crap people usually give as wedding gifts. Sara and I, like many modern couples about to marry, have already been living together for a few years. We’ve already got most of the house stuff we need. As the guy who washes them, I can tell you we already have way too many dishes.

(“Well, we could really use a new vacuum cleaner …” Sara would say.)

There is a whole slew of websites devoted to honeymoon and wedding funds, like, and, where a bride and groom can register, and wedding guests can give money either to cover specific expenses, like hotel rooms, or donate to an overall fund. Most of the websites are geared toward honeymoon costs, but there’s no reason you can’t also use the money to cover wedding expenses.

Registering on a website and asking for money might seem tacky, but it’s less tacky than the “Money Dance,” popular of late, wherein wedding guests treat the bride like a stripper, stuffing cash into her clothes.

Sara and I are also considering having a potluck rather than a catered dinner. I wouldn’t mind just skipping dinner altogether. My instincts are to have a casual, down-and-dirty wedding with just the bare minimum requirements for a great party: people, booze and music.

But Sara points out that a wedding is more than just a party. She wants something smaller and nicer. To her, cutting costs is basically synonymous with cutting people. I think the more, the merrier, and we should save money by cutting frills.

In the end, we’ll have something smaller, because I’ve learned the hard way that nothing will elicit a withering look like asking your bride-to-be, “Do we really need flowers?” The most important lesson I’ve learned as a groom-to-be is that the bride is always right.

And everybody has an opinion. Some advise prudence. Our hippie boomer parents on both sides like to remind us of their simplistic, communing-with-nature weddings. Others root for extravagance. Some of our jetsetter friends have set some high Joneses for us to keep up with. Sara certainly feels some “this is supposed to be the best and most important day of your life” pressure. I keep reminding her that we need to figure out what we want and forget everybody else.

But that’s hard to keep in mind when “everybody else” includes, most prominently, our families and closest friends.

So what do we want? I have no idea. Which is better in the long run: Not creating a bunch of unnecessary debt just for one silly day? Or creating something that we can reminisce about in our autumnal years?

We might still have a big blow-out wedding and spend way too much money. We might elope. We might have a small wedding, a medium honeymoon, and then a big, dinner-less party.

But to be totally honest, I don’t really care what we do, because the bottom line, for me, is this: I’m not doing this because I want a big wedding—or any kind of wedding. I’m doing it because I want to marry Sara Kennedy.