Would you rather splurge on family or fun?

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try etc. etc.

All right, so the decisions isn’t quite as simple as the title of this post implies. The Beard and I spent what money we had on a wedding, with the knowledge that money for a fabulous Costa Rican vacation would appear later. We did not anticipate, however, that the house we planned to stay at would get leased out for two whole years. You could say that our honeymoon plans have been tabled in the long term, in part because we wanted to make sure that my huge family and his little one would be with us when we wed.

I was inspired to think about this after a friend suggested I check out an older post on his blog, Travel Plan Idea:

This is actually a homework assignment for students in my debate class, but regular readers are welcome to play. The topic is eloping and splurging on a honeymoon (this includes destination weddings) vs. spending a bunch of money on a traditional wedding and spending comparatively less money on the honeymoon. For example, I barely remember my wedding reception — it was fine but nothing special compared to my nine week honeymoon in Italy. However, my sister went for the big wedding reception because she wanted to share her wedding day with as many friends and family members as possible.


Considering that the average wedding takes about 200 hours to plan and can cost many thousands of dollars before travel is ever factored in, he may just have a point. I know a lot of brides and grooms who took minimoons because they just didn’t have a lot of money or time left over after planning their weddings. I’m still waiting on mine, and the way things are looking, the honeymoon we’ll eventually take will probably involve kids and big-headed cartoon characters and too little gin for my tastes. C’est la vie!

If you want a big wedding and a luxurious honeymoon but were not blessed with rich relatives, balance is key. However, cutting costs is hardest when you don’t want people to know you had to cut costs. For maximum impact on both fronts, splurge on the venue and the decor and trim fat in the edibles area (e.g., nix the sit down dinner and the circulating starters in favor of a hors d’oeuvres buffet), then choose a travel destination that’s centralized so you can see everything without having to hotel hop.

My friend received some interesting and varied responses when he asked this question of his readers, so I wanted to open it up to all of you. If you had a fixed pre- and post-wedding budget and you didn’t, for whatever reason, have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings, would you opt for a huge, opulent ceremony and reception or an uber-extravagant vacation? Think about the question hypothetically (and adopt me) if you had or have enough money to have the wedding and honeymoon of your dreams.

15 Responses to “Would you rather splurge on family or fun?”

  1. silverpatronus April 7, 2008 at 12:51 pm #

    Tiny wedding; long, extravagant, travel-tastic honeymoon is my vote.

  2. Melissa B. April 7, 2008 at 1:03 pm #

    Opposite response for me — I’d throw a great party for my family and friends and then hole up in a B&B somewhere for a few nights afterwards with my new husband.

    Actually this is probably exactly what we’ll end up doing, but for non-financial reasons. We’re worried about having enough time off to do both the wedding and a honeymoon properly. The plan right now is to spend a few nights in the mountains right after the wedding and save for a fabulous 1-year-anniversary trip.

  3. La Petite Acadienne April 7, 2008 at 2:23 pm #

    We eloped and had the awesome vacation. Husband is crowd-shy, and my family fights, so the decision was quite easy. Even if we hadn’t eloped, we still would have only had immediate family and best friends (no more than a dozen people.) I plan events as part of my job, so doing a big wedding would have felt like work. I know perfectly well that the day of the wedding, I would have been in “work” mode, worrying about details, handling every little crisis myself, barking requests to my staff…I mean, bridesmaids. Eloping allowed me to just focus on the two of us and what it was that we were doing.

  4. Twistie April 7, 2008 at 3:23 pm #

    Well, we sort of split it down the middle. Medium-sized, low-key pretty wedding followed by lovely but not fantasy honeymoon. Both turned out to be just perfect for us.

    We did take the dream trip to London a few years later, but I think our meandering drive up to Canada was the perfect honeymoon, and there’s no way in hell I was going to get married without family and friend on hand.

    So we got to celebrate with the people we loved, and then we took a very intimate journey with only minimal things planned and plenty of room to extemporize along the way. For us, there was no better way to begin married life.

  5. Kate April 7, 2008 at 9:51 pm #

    My parents are paying most of for my upcoming wedding – and I don’t think they’d appreciate me using their money to take a long vacation without them! I think for those whose families do pay for their weddings, this is not really a choice. My mother and father said, “We have X amount of money for your wedding,”, not “We have X amount of money for your fabulous (and parent-free) honeymoon.” My fiance and I are having a medium-sized wedding and then going to the Caribbean for ten days afterwards.

  6. JaneC April 8, 2008 at 12:24 am #

    Like Kate, I didn’t have much of a choice because my parents paid for my wedding, and I basically let my mother plan the reception. It was in the church hall, the decorations were home-made by my mom and relatives, and there was a buffet rather than a sit-down meal–but she didn’t skimp on the food and wine, and hired a live band. To me, the reception is a blur of being dragged outside for photos, sweating in my too-warm and slightly restrictive dress on the dance floor, and being interrupted every time I tried to sit still and eat. To everyone else, the reception was “wonderful!” “so fun!” and “the best time I’ve had in years!”

    We paid for our own honeymoon. We didn’t have very much time for a vacation: just four nights in a small but lovely hotel, and our first holiday (Thanksgiving) alone in our apartment before we had to go back to school and work.

    A long vacation in Italy would have been nice, but given the choice between that and the fabulous reception we had, I’d choose the reception. The compliments are still coming in six months later, and I was happy to be able to show my relatives a good time–especially some of the older ones who don’t get out much.

  7. Ladyjane April 8, 2008 at 1:41 am #

    I haven’t talked budget yet with my parents, but I think I’m going to end up like you, Kate– it’s all about the wedding for them (and me, too!). Mom has already adamantly stated that I am not to tell my future MiL and FiL that there is no wedding fund as of this moment, which to me says that they don’t want any help from my fiancee’s side.

    To be honest, though, I thought I’d heard that the groom’s side traditionally takes care of the honeymoon (FiL and MiL wanted to send us on a cruise, but we’ve already said no). Am I correct in thinking this, or are my future-in-laws just being generous?

  8. Melissa B. April 8, 2008 at 4:12 am #

    I’ve heard that too, Ladyjane — I think it is traditional for the groom’s family to pay for the rehearsal dinner and the honeymoon. Those kinds of traditions can be tricky, though. I’ve heard of some very awkward situations where brides and grooms assume money is coming from their parents only to find out that they can’t or won’t pay for their “traditional” expenses. (This doesn’t apply to you, of course, since they already offered!)

  9. Betsy April 8, 2008 at 7:14 am #

    Well, I for one, am very happy that you decided to share your day with your big family! You and ‘The beard’ were stunning. There will be plenty of time for a honeymoon! I love your blogs!!! Keep up the good work!

  10. Never teh Bride April 8, 2008 at 7:54 am #

    It is traditional, Ladyjane, but the statistics say that times are changing. Almost all of the brides and grooms who marry in the US pay for some of the wedding or honeymoon, and plenty pay for the whole shebang. Of all the couples I know intimately, only a handful received honeymoon specific money from the groom’s family. In our case, the groom’s side paid for the photographer while my mother offered us money for a honeymoon.

    I agree with Melissa B. that it’s best not to make assumptions about who is paying for what these days because many of the “who pays for what” traditions no longer seem to apply.

  11. Jin April 8, 2008 at 1:10 pm #

    I’d have to go with the big reception as well. We’re doing something similar, though it’s probably more appropriate to call it “medium sized”. It has nothing to do with not having the funds for it (we’re paying for half, and my parents the other half), it’s moreso me not having enough leave saved up at work to take more than a week for a honeymoon.

    And we’re getting no help from his parents at all, so there goes that tradition (for us).

  12. Sarah C. April 8, 2008 at 3:28 pm #

    We got married at the end of February, in an intimate ceremony (15 guests, almost all family) with a slightly larger drinks reception (50 guests). Honestly, it was darn near perfect- the later, more casual reception allowed us to actually talk to all of our guests, it didn’t cost much at all, and it was a really, really great time.

    The honeymoon? It’s two months later, and we’re getting ready to go to Paris. The weather’s better than in Feb. and I get my dream getaway.

    So I’m pretty much having it both ways- the wedding was fairly inexpensive, but it was about US and not about big, stressful plans, and the honeymoon is a dream, even though it’s not that expensive, either. Since I live in Europe, it’s the equivalent of going to New York from my home state of Virginia.

    I guess the point of this is that it is possible to do both. If I had to choose, though, I’d have kept the small wedding and gone for the amazing honeymoon.

  13. Johanna April 10, 2008 at 1:06 am #

    I must admit that in a situation where “you didn’t, for whatever reason, have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings” I wouldn’t hesitate to ditch my family and friends and opt for a long private getaway.

    Not that I wouldn’t want to share the joyous moment with loved ones but we are both simply too shy to actually enjoy being in the center of attention and entertaining a crowd of people. But as it is, most of our relatives and friends have announced they are coming to the wedding, even though we have not announced there would be one. Even the cousin from Spain said he’d book the flights as soon as there’s a date. I guess they all really want to get together and have fun.

    So there’ll be a party. I’m sure it’ll be great and that way we won’t have to wonder afterwards if we’ve missed out on something culturally and emotionally essential.

    The budget for the whole shebang wouldn’t be the deal breaker though, since my dream honeymoon would be 2 weeks together locked up at home naked with the food left over from the reception. I do love traveling but I love being alone with my spouse more. Visiting museums, shopping and sight-seeing is not in my book considered romantic. If we can’t go to Japan when the cherry trees blossom (probably can’t for some time, me being a poor student and accepting help from the relatives sounding awkwardly old-fashioned), we might just as well stay here! :D

  14. Twistie April 10, 2008 at 1:09 am #

    Johanna, I think I’m in love with your dream honeymoon.

  15. Pencils April 10, 2008 at 12:13 pm #

    We had a small budget–our budget for both the wedding and the honeymoon was about $20K–so we had a small wedding and a nice but not over-the-top honeymoon. We decided on fewer than 100 people (turned out to be about 70), and we wanted a pretty site, good food, and room for dancing. We found all that in a small catering venue in an old house on golf course–there are much plusher places for weddings in our area, but we didn’t need to be that plush. And I cut costs wherever I could. We chose a Sunday afternoon because we got a great deal. We had a DJ doing his basic service, I did the flowers with the help of family and friends, since we were married on site we didn’t need limos, and since we were leaving at 3am for the honeymoon, we just went back to our apartment and didn’t bother with a hotel room. There were benefits of that–my husband carried me over the threshold of our own home, and we got to spend our wedding night in our own bed.

    And as much as we would have loved a blow-out vacation in Tahiti or Europe, we didn’t have that much money and knew we needed to relax, so we chose St Lucia because it isn’t that many hours by plane, and Sandals because everything is taken care of for you. I would have loved the Four Seasons in Nevis, but it was too much money, and we had plans to save and then take a second honeymoon in Europe in the spring of 2008, before our first year of marriage was up. Except I’m pregnant now, and walking all over Europe is out. (High risk pregnancy.) So…we’re going back to Sandals for a babymoon in May. This time in Jamaica, where it’s cheaper. Somehow I think our “blow-out” honeymoon might end up being a second honeymoon for our 20th or 25th anniversary…