According to The Knot’s most recent poll – on a list of “The 25 Most Expensive Places To Get Married In The US”, Chicago ranks number three. Number THREE. In the United States. Right under Manhattan, NY and Long Island. According to their research, the average wedding in Chicago costs over $60,000.
SIXTY thousand DOLLARS. I’ve never wanted to be one of those party-pooper kind of people who feel the need mention things like reality when planning a wedding – after all, it’s the most important day of your life! You can’t put a price tag on that, now can you?
Apparently you can. And that price tag reads $60,000.
“Maybe we should just get married at city hall.” I said (which is something I never thought I’d say. Getting married at city hall, in my mind, has always been reserved for really, really old people, or those people on 90 Day Fiancé who are trying to get a visa). “I mean, we’ll still be *married*.” I pointed out, as if by paying $60,000 for a big wedding means that you are somehow more “married” than by doing it at city hall. “We just don’t have to do all of the *stuff*.”
“The stuff” is what adds up. “The stuff” includes the flowers, the music, the food, the drinks, the rental fees, the chair covers, the silverware? Did you know that a lot of places will make you pay extra for silverware? It’s not included with the food. So you can spend $12,000 on chicken and steak and expect your guests to eat it County Fair Eating Contest style unless you dish out the extra cash for some utensils. But it’s your wedding day, right? You want it be “nice”.
“We’re not getting married at city hall,” Kyle said.
“Why not? “ I asked. “Carrie Bradshaw did it!”
What was I doing? Trying to convince my fiancé to get married at city hall? Really? What’s romantic about getting married at city hall? When you get engaged – especially the way we did it, on top of a building with rose petals and Dom Perignon champagne and a professional photographer – people are expecting a wedding. With pictures. And a floor length white gown. And a cake with little rose petals on it. And NO CITY HALL.
“Look,” I told him. “City hall would be, like, free. We’d pay thirty bucks for a marriage license. And whatever the rings cost. And then we’d be married!”
‘And then we’d be married.’ It’s like running an errand. Pick up milk, schedule dentist appointment, get married.
Did I reeeeally want to get married at city hall? I mean, no. Obviously not. That’s not the big day I’d been dreaming about since I was 12. But it turns out “big days” are expensive – maybe that’s why people call them “big days”. Because putting $20,000 into a “not so big day” sounds gut-wrenching.
By this point, we had already visited four venues – the cheapest one coming in around $12,500… a venue we weren’t even *that* crazy about it. We tried to be – we wanted to be, because it was the cheapest, but it was also built in the 1800s and had the flair of “Roman Empire” meets “the cartoon version of Anastasia” – TONS of golds and browns and tapestries. I’m sure it floats somebody’s boat – just not ours.
The second one was our least favorite. We later referred to it as “The horse one”, because it had horse paintings adorning every wall. EVERY. WALL. It would have been a GREAT place to have my birthday party when I was ten, but for my wedding as a thirty year old woman…? The venue turned out to be a private country club… I think. For people who loved horses..? Or maybe it was a riding club? A stable? To this day, I still don’t really know what it was. I’m sure I could Google it and find out, but who’s got time for that? All I know is that it’s one of those places where you had to “be a member” or “know a member” if you wanted to get married there. Fortunately for us, we did not want to get married there.
The third one was the one that we looooved. We loved it so much that we almost put down a deposit on it the very same day. The venue used to be a factory that they had renovated two years prior (which sounds RIDICULOUS, but was actually very cool). It was elegant, it was classy, it was rustic, it was urban, and it had all of the fun, chic Chicago vibes that we were looking for.
It was also $20,000.
Twenty thousand dollars. To put on a pretty dress and feed our friends and family for the day. Inside of what used to be a factory that made tractors.
“I love this venue,” I told Kyle that afternoon at brunch. “Like, I *really* love it.” Not even an hour after we’d met with the catering manager and toured the venue, I was already crunching numbers in my head of how we could come up with $20,000. Surely, there must be a way, right? If other people are doing it? People get married in Chicago all of the time. And $20,000 seemed like a great price! (For Chicago.) We could figure it out. “Let’s do it.” I said. “Let’s drop off the deposit before we go home.”
We did not drop off the deposit before we went home. (Thank GOD.) Kyle insisted on looking at other venues before we “made any decisions” and I insisted on… well, actually I just kept insisting on this venue. THIS venue. This was “the one”. This was where our wedding HAD to be, it just HAD to.
“That’s a lot of money.” Kyle pointed out. “Where are we going to get that kind of money within a year?”
I had no idea. “We could save,” I suggested, assuming we could learn to shit money and start saving it. “Or take out a loan?”… and start our marriage with a pile of debt. Good thinking, Jenn. “I don’t know,” I said. “It might be time to start thinking about other options…. like, robbing a bank.”
We’re not exactly Bonnie and Clyde. Neither one of us would make very good bank robbers (we’re both too tall and easily identifiable, and I’d probably do something stupid like say “thank you” on the way out.)
“Maybe we should just get married at city hall,” I said. And thus, the “city hall” debate began. A debate in which I never thought I would be on the side of “Pro city hall”. Even as the words came tumbling out of my mouth, I couldn’t believe I was saying them. I tried to imagine wearing a simple white dress, going down to the courthouse – the same place where people go to pay their water bills and parking tickets – and saying “I do” in front of a judge. No “Here Comes The Bride”. No “Walking down the aisle with my dad”. No “tossing out the bouquet to Single Ladies”. No first dance. Just me, and Kyle, and our immediate families, and a marriage license.
“But think about what we could do if we had twenty thousand dollars,” I said (trying to convince myself more than anyone else). We could put a down payment on a house. We could take a month-long honeymoon. We could cash it into singles and just roll around on a pile of TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS.
Or we could have a “big wedding.”
To each their own. If the idea of spending a small fortune on a wedding doesn’t fill you with enough anxiety and dread that it makes you want to throw up, then by all means, go for it. I love big weddings! I just can’t afford to have one. (And even if I could, I’m not sure I’d want to. They say “the bigger the wedding, the more stressed out the bride”. And if there’s one thing I don’t want to be – especially on my wedding day – is stressed out.)
In the end, we “compromised” (if you can call it that?) – we’re NOT getting married at city hall, but we also aren’t going the $20,000 route of “big wedding”. We’ve decided to go the destination route and have a small ceremony on the cliffs of Big Sur, California – the spot we fell in love with when visiting last year. It will be small and romantic and not cost an arm and a leg (only an arm).
More details to come! Stay tuned!