How in the Hell Are People Paying for Weddings?


Since I became engaged at the end of 2017, my household has been in constant wedding-planning mode. From creating guest lists—we possibly know way too many people—to seeking out and touring venues to general discussions about budgets, one thing has constantly kept coming up in our talks: Just how in the hell do people afford to have weddings?

Admittedly, I’m not excited about spending huge amounts of hard-earned money on anything, so dropping 20 to 30 stacks on a one-day experience is a harder sell than I’d like it to be, though I’m willing to do so for my woman, somehow.


In my head, I have to contend with the fact that in this area—Washington, D.C.—that’s just what weddings are hittin’ fo’. Even with my good job that pays well in a city full of way more money than the vast majority of America, I’m still baffled that people are regularly dropping $30,000-$50,000 for ceremonies and reception. I mean, how does anybody afford a Canada Goose parka AND a wedding?

For instance, we went to check out a venue recently that I really like, especially for nostalgic purposes, and this spot COMES with a $20,000 minimum. Now, considering that its costs figure at roughly $175 per person, it’s not hard to hit that minimum. Once you add in service charges, any small extras, you get to $20,000-plus REAL easy.

Our wedding looks to have roughly 200 people—between my family, her family and all of our friends, we could get much, much higher—which means that most venues alone we’ve looked at are going to hit us for over $30,000. In this area, $175 per person isn’t even high. That might be average for a lot of the places we saw.

At this point, I’m ready to call Olive Garden and order everybody unlimited salad and breadsticks. Because I’m a generous chap, I’d even spring for unlimited raspberry lemonades.


Not to mention that you have to pay for a good wedding photographer, which is totally worth it. Your pictures are going to be the lasting memory, so it makes sense to spend dough here. But let’s say that’s going to run you around $5,000. Once you add in florals, a wedding dress, decor, a DJ and other miscellaneous things that my fiancee, who is a wedding planner, knows of, and NOT counting the venue, you get over $10,000 quick, fast and in a hurry.

When you add in venue and reception, if you see me stripping, don’t say nothing. But if you see Gemini Peters on the program, that’s me; please tip generously. I start lifting weights tomorrow.


Which, again, raises the question: How do people afford this? Is everybody going into debt? Do folks’ parents really have that much money in savings to drop on a wedding? Are there wedding GoFundMes running amok on the internet? Are more people eloping or doing the reception at Popeyes than I realize?

Granted, our guest count is high, but even if we eliminated everybody but family, we’d be over 100 folks. And what’s a wedding without the homies? As my fiancee and I try to find ways to have a wedding without taking out a second mortgage, selling organs or parting ways with one of our children, I can’t help falling back to: Where does all this money come from that people use to pay for weddings?


Last year I wrote about how expensive it was to live in the D.C. area and who the hell was affording these $2,000 and $3,000 rental apartments that keep popping up and being leased all over this city. I guess the same people who can pay $3,000 for a one-bedroom apartment are the ones who can drop $30,000 for a wedding without breaking a sweat.

I assume we’ll figure it out somehow; we have no choice. And I know that whatever we decide, we will all be jammin’ on the one all night long. It will be beautiful, and it will be what we want. And we will make it all work within a reasonable price range for us because it turns out that money does not, in fact, grow on trees. I checked.


Meanwhile, as we push through, I will definitely be wondering where the hell all of this money that folks spend on weddings comes from, and be sending letters to White Santa, Black Jesus and Oprah askin’ for a few bucks.

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About the author

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.