"Money-saving" Ideas That Will Cost You Your Dignity

Years ago, I went to France for the first time. And while I was there, I visited the Palace at Versailles.

It was incredible. Room after room of the most mind-blowing opulence you can imagine. I was absolutely spellbound.

For about an hour.

Then I hit my saturation point and stopped being impressed, or even caring at all. I found myself shuffling from room to room, walking over priceless mosaic floors just looking for the gift shop. And I suddenly realized the original occupants must have felt the same burnout. That's why each room was more over-the-top than the last—it was the only way they'd feel anything at all.

That's the downside of luxury: At some point you reach a plateau, and it's all the same. There might be a difference between 900- and 1,000- thread-count sheets, but who can feel it?

I think this is a very real trap people fall into when they plan a wedding. You can only have so many flowers. The steak can only be so big. The linens can only be so fine. You hit a wall after a certain point, so the spending itself becomes the gesture. And ultimately, it's meaningless.

Of course, there are people on the opposite side of the spectrum. A friend of mine recently told me about a wedding invitation she'd received that said guests were welcome, but they'd have to pay $20 at the door. They were also asked to bring cash for their own food, and cash for the couple, to help fund their trip to Burning Man (naturally, family and special friends were given wristbands allowing them "access to a VIP area with seating").

Like most of you, I'm somewhere in the middle. I'm not going to fly everyone to Tahiti, but I'm also not going to make them sit at card tables and eat Hot Pockets. It's all very nice to be a bride, but to have a great wedding you also have to be a gracious host and a relaxed guest. And that's all about attitude—not a mile-long list of things you have to have.

Here's my wedding wish list:

1. A nice dress
2. A picturesque location
3. A good meal

That's it. No attendants, no separate gown for the reception, no unicorn. Just a nice, middle-of-the-road event for about 100 people. So imagine my surprise when the hotel cheerfully quoted me $600 per person.

I don't know about you, but I've never eaten a $600 meal. The most I ever paid was around $1,000, and that was for five people. With drinks. A lot of drinks.

But let's just say, for argument's sake, that the hotel can reasonably charge $200 a plate. In fact, let's say they can get it up to $300 by putting pearl earrings in the mashed potatoes. Every guest would still have to drink $300 worth of alcohol. I don't even think that's scientifically possible. In fact, I don't think you could get up to $600 apiece if you catered the whole thing out of the mini bar.

And this is when the hotel explained that the price they'd quoted didn't really reflect the food or drink as much as it did the day of the week. This same wedding on a Friday would be $20,000 less. And there's your plateau: The extra $200 per person doesn't get you anything except the privilege of writing a bigger check on a Saturday.

April Winchell
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