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I Spent $100K on My Wedding. Here's Why It Was Worth It.

The wedding of our dreams didn’t come cheap, but it was worth every penny.

Six months after we met, my wife took me on the most magical surprise birthday trip. All she told me was to pack like we were going to New England for the weekend, but we wound up in Mackinac Island in Michigan. On our very first night there, we went to the Grand Hotel for dinner. Before we ate, she suggested we take in the sunset on the porch, the largest in the world at 660 feet. A grand porch for a grand gesture, she figured. She asked me to spend the rest of my life with her; I said yes, and soon thereafter, the equally grand planning began.

Our first wedding planning meeting still makes me giggle. My wife told our designer, Chad Cornwall, who is also a very close friend, an overview of what she wanted. Then she told him the budget she had in mind. He smiled coyly and said, "I can absolutely do a wedding for that, but it will not in any way be the kind of wedding you just described." Her initial budget for the entire wedding was basically the cost for the venue and the open bar.

In her defense, venue prices can be deceiving. There's the price they quote you, and then there's the required security, valet, etc. on top of that. I wasn't at all surprised by any of the costs. I love watching wedding-related reality shows and reading bridal magazines. But my wife was shocked. She can't stand watching Say Yes to the Dress when I have it on, and it had been a long time since she'd thrown a major soiree.

And that was before we got to the biggest ticket item: the food. It was important to me that all of the food was individually plated and served much like what you would see at a food festival. I often write about food professionally—and every year when I attend Feast Portland, I swoon over how fabulously the chefs present each bite and how much that becomes a part of the experience. I wanted the same for our wedding guests, and our caterer, A Fare Extraordinaire, was, of course, willing to deliver, but food like that doesn't come cheap.

full ceremony view
Lisa House

Eventually, my wife got over her initial sticker shock and she simply said, "Let's do it." From that point on, I hate to say we didn't have a budget, but we didn't really.

My wife was 54 when we got married and I was 47. She often says she waited her whole life to find me, and so she intended on having the wedding of our dreams. Not to mention that she has also worked hard her entire life, saving for the things she wanted. One of those things was a fantastical wedding that friends and family would truly enjoy and no one would ever forget. And if you ask anyone who attended, it was mission accomplished, from the champagne entrance to the sparkler send-off. (I helped a teeny bit with some money I had socked away. But the lion's share was hers.)

Our wedding was the perfect blend of fancy and fun. We had a GIF booth and a flower wall. We gave out Whataburger taquitos in custom What-a-Night bags after our sparkly exit. We had a custom cocktail called the B2 —because both of our last names start with B—created by a mixologist friend. We had a giant Jenga for people to sign instead of a guest book. We had a chuppah constructed and covered with flowers by our closest friends.

Our second wedding cake—yes, second—was a Ford Edsel, the car my wife's grandfather designed, complete with our dog Walter riding in the back with his doggles on. I had the Monique Lhuillier dress of my dreams and she wore a custom tux. We rented a 1960s British Rolls Royce as our getaway car. We went on a decadent honeymoon with a private villa at Baoase on Curacao. And my very own dad performed the ceremony, which I wrote and curated.

car shaped wedding cake
Lisa House

Yes, some of those things came at a price that might've dissuaded others, but it was all of those details, big and small, that made our wedding so special.

We didn't personally receive any judgments about having an expensive wedding. But I am constantly blown away at people's attitudes in general about the cost of other people's weddings. I know there are weddings that are 100 times more expensive than ours and 100 times less expensive, but I pass no judgment on what other couples spend or how they spend it.

Sure, I don't think going into debt for a one-night event is ideal, but I do think that if you have the means and the desire, no one has any business judging those choices.

In the end, a wedding should be about love and memories and promising to take care of one another as a couple, whether there is money for all the frills or not. I kept teasing my wife through the whole planning process that as long as I could wear my dress, I would marry her in our yard, catching the Texas sun on the waves of the lake we love so much in the background. All that mattered to me was that we had finally found one another.

It wasn't about going over the top. It was about not compromising. It was about the venue we loved and the food we loved and the flowers we loved, all to share with the people we love as we committed to loving each other forever. We truly got everything we wanted and, for that, I have no regrets.

And for more on the weddings of yesteryear, check out: This Is What Weddings Looked Like 50 Years Ago.

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