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Weekend reading: When Harry met a £30m wedding bill

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What caught my eye this week.

Royal Wedding day, and this week’s money and investing links will flutter by you like confetti in the wind. Before becoming confetti stuck between your teeth. After becoming confetti that snagged in your hair. And then becoming confetti that falls into your glass of bubbly before the speeches.

Or is that just me?

I like confetti at a wedding as much as the next temporary hedonist – when it’s spiraling through the air and framing the happy couple and everyone inhabits in a Disney movie for an instant, or at the very least an episode of Emmerdale.

But then the confetti falls to the ground. The newlyweds go off on honeymoon to argue about whether they should get out of bed to eat the complementary breakfast they’ve already paid for. And the guests go home to nurse their credit card bills.

Weddings are great fun. But unless you’re rich, they’re too often an extravagance.

Even if a parent is paying, that’s money they might have given you instead to go towards a home – or to invest in a pension for those long distant post-youthful years when you’ll really need a party.

I’ve been to several weddings where I’ve guiltily winced at what it cost because I knew they couldn’t afford it. Not in the sense of they wouldn’t pay the bills and we’d all end up in the kitchen doing dishes in our suits and frocks. Just that it’d be a five-figure sum dogging them for years to come.

According to the BBC, today’s event will boast 600 guests, with another 200 coming along to the evening bash. The Financial Times puts the cost at around £32m, which seems low, especially as it reckons £30m of that will go on security.

I liked the sound of Claer Barrett’s £10,000 affair, recounted in the FT [search result]:

“I would have got the number 26 bus to the wedding, but my dad insisted on a taxi.”

I’ve also given some tips on a better value wedding in the past.

True, I’ve never gotten married (and not only because I’m too tight) but the perspective of someone who has been a guest at a couple of dozen weddings could be useful if you’re trying to save a few quid.

Not a churlish guest, I stress – as I say I love weddings.

At the very least the music today will be amazing, even if you’re no royalist. The money is spent, so let’s enjoy it. And I wish Harry and Meghan the best of luck in a life you couldn’t pay me £30m to take on.

Did you get married on the cheap – or blow the budget? Was it worth it? Could you have done anything cheaper, in retrospect?

Let us all know in the comments below.

From Monevator

A retirement income from ‘Smart’ ETFs – Monevator

From the archive-ator: Will a high salary make you happy? – Monevator


Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view these enable you to click through to read the piece without being a paid subscriber.1

Number of low-paid workers falls to lowest level since 1982 – Guardian

HMRC court win sets up £30m swoop on people who used stamp duty avoidance schemes2Telegraph

Record number of savers abandon final salary pension schemes [Search result]FT

Average person will need £260,00 for retirement, says report – Guardian

Government takes aim at private contractors in tax grab worth £1.2bn a year – Telegraph

High US stock buybacks aren’t really signalling euphoria – The Macro Tourist

Products and services

Going global with bonds: The benefits of a global bond allocation [PDF]Vanguard

Bank of Cyprus UK launches savings and ISA rates just 0.01% higher than next-buy deal – ThisIsMoney

Experts warn against ‘confusing’ fund performance fee models – Telegraph

Seven low-cost energy-saving ways to make your home greener and cheaper to run – ThisIsMoney

TSB meltdown leads to eight-fold increase in customers switching accounts – Telegraph

Wealthfront’s experiment in risk parity has a rocky start [Search result]FT

New online passport application accepts phone photos, saves you £25 – ThisIsMoney

How much does it cost to run a hedge fund? [PDF for nerds]Meketa Group

Six homes in the country for sale that come with their own businesses – ThisIsMoney

Comment and opinion

Great things take time… – Of Dollars and Data

…but what if you’re in a hurry? Three potential investment miracles – Morningstar

The relationship between time, money, and happiness – Get Rich Slowly

How much do you earn? It’s not something we want to talk about – The Guardian

How Mr Money Mustache eats rich for less – Mr Money Mustache

Three years so far with the Vanguard Lifestrategy 60/40 – DIY Investor

Some areas to be wary of ahead of the next market downturn – Schwab

The US market is richly-valued. But where’s the party? – The Humble Dollar

Save for a pension? Millennials can barely afford to eat… – The Guardian

…or perhaps they can? – A Wealth of Common Sense

Britain and Broadbent’s productivity problem – Simple Living in Somerset

Can you earn extra income from dog walking? – Little Miss Fire

Is investing starting to get difficult again? [PDF]GMO Quarterly Newsletter

Why the Sainsbury/ASDA merger is necessary but not sufficient – UK Value Investor

Buying quality companies is no guarantee of investment success – Phil Oakley

Kindle book bargains

Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman: Adventures of a Curious Character – as told to Ralph Leighton – £0.99 on Kindle

Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: A Brief History of Capitalism by Yanis Varoufakis – £1.99 on Kindle

Total Competition: Lessons in Strategy from Formula One by Ross Brawn and Adam Parr – £0.99 on Kindle

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist by Kate Raworth – £1.99 on Kindle

Off our beat

You can change what words you hear by thinking about it [Try this!] – via Twitter

The curse of the open-plan home – The Atlantic

How long will investors keep subsidizing consumers? – New York Times

Researchers can send subliminal messages to your Amazon EchoNew York Times

Creepily intelligent things that pets have done – via Reddit

Why the Internet is not fun anymore (and blogs like Monevator are endangered) – New York Mag

And finally…

“Don’t tell me what you ‘think’, just tell me what’s in your portfolio.”
– Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Skin in the Game

Like these links? Subscribe to get them every Friday!

  1. Note some articles can only be accessed through the search results if you’re using PC/desktop view (from mobile/tablet view they bring up the firewall/subscription page). To circumvent, switch your mobile browser to use the desktop view. On Chrome for Android: press the menu button followed by “Request Desktop Site”. []
  2. Suspicious coincidence! Perhaps this £30m swoop is to pay for the Royal Wedding? 😉 []
{ 33 comments… add one }
  • 1 Accordi May 19, 2018, 10:51 am

    I love reading your website and I love index trackers! I’m also a violinist and I am a member of a string quartet that play for many weddings. So my view is unbiased. The wedding industry brings together many creative talents. For example, I’ve honed my skills for over 30 years now, my instruments cost a small fortune so I feel fully justified in charging what I do for weddings.

  • 2 James May 19, 2018, 11:42 am

    My wife and I considered many things about getting married and how to do it.

    In the end, we decided that the best for us was a small (32 guests) wedding in our home country, with both the ceremony and reception at the same venue.

    The wedding came to £13k, which is probably pretty expensive for such a small wedding, but we didn’t scrimp on the photographer, music (harpist for pre-ceremony drinks and entrance music; solo female vocalist for dinner and first dance, 4-piece jazz band for the evening!), food, suit or dress.

    We did scrimp on flowers and decorations and didn’t bother with a video. We didn’t spend much on the cake either.

    In the end, we received £9k from our family towards the costs, but weren’t expecting or counting on that. We were fully prepared to pay the £13k ourselves from our savings.

    We look back with zero regrets at such an expense for a single day. We had the most amazing time and have beautiful photos to look back on. We believe in a balance between YOLO and saving for the future.

  • 3 William III May 19, 2018, 12:14 pm

    We’re getting married next weekend. 50 guests on a run down farm from 1750 with a little campsite at the back for overflow. Starting Friday pm, until Monday am. It’ll cost us some €2k, including everything for the weekend, outfits, and car rental. It helps that the farm is a family asset, my best friend is a chef who will source most ingredients from my sister’s food forest project, and several family members and friends are professional musicians. That said, I’d easily spend far north of €10k on it if it would cost that much. We are lucky enough that we can pretty much crowdsource the whole thing.

  • 4 FI Warrior May 19, 2018, 12:16 pm

    I’ve seen a number of weddings now at this (mid) point in my life and they ranged across the spectrum. The best actually had little to do with the money spent, the individuals involved were intelligent and mentally strong enough to fend off the influence of the inevitable politics that tends to hijack these events. They’d worked out what was really important to them and then implemented it; whether spending big or small, they had only the people that genuinely meant something to them there and did it their way.

    Granted that that is not easy to do, because the pressure and borderline bullying (even if under the guise of passive-aggressive) can be intense, as those close enough in your life, who are also selfish, try to live out their own fantasies through the marrying couple. I eloped and had a small totally meaningful occasion, so it was beautiful to us, had almost no stress; a decision I’ll never regret. ( though the foiled, self-appointed managers will carry that grudge to their grave; so that’s even more satisfying in retrospect 🙂 )

  • 5 dearieme May 19, 2018, 2:34 pm

    I encouraged my daughter to elope. No such luck.

    I too am of the “life is long and money is short” school.

    Still, I did choose good wines for the wedding, if I do say so myself. And the weather was kind, and everything passed off well, and it was all very joyful.

  • 6 dearieme May 19, 2018, 2:47 pm

    In the comment thread on Merryn’s article there are several unmanly wee boys whining that she’s being so unfair to men. As usual, Ms S-W gives food for thought.

  • 7 Neverland May 19, 2018, 2:50 pm

    Just watched part of the royal wedding

    Never seen a wedding with six hundred guests where only one member of the brides family showed up

    If I was on twitter I would start #whitewash

  • 8 TheFIREShrink May 19, 2018, 2:56 pm

    I got married a fortnight ago. We’re still totting up final sums, but it looks to have been around £14k, with around £7k coming from family as gifts or loans. I worked overtime to cover most of it. We didn’t want an extravagant wedding, but equally we didn’t skimp.
    We rented a 40 bed stately home, and slept all our close family and friends there. Totalled 47 on the day. Music was a harpist during the day and a Spotify playlist and rented PA in the evening. Food was cooked by ourselves for the weekend, then catering for the meal by a local company. Flowers were dried and will now keep months.
    Early on we realised we didn’t want to do as many friends had and spend £20-30k on a venue with a wedding planner and full team co-ordinating for 100+ guests and all the extended family. It wouldn’t be personal, it wouldn’t be us, and there would be too much stress. Ultimately a wedding is supposed to be a celebration of a marriage. So we had a 3 day party with £1k of booze with all the people we love. Just hope the Royals enjoy theirs too!

  • 9 Malcolm Beaton May 19, 2018, 3:10 pm

    I married 3- two girls (I paid) and 1 boy (I helped)
    No more than 100 guests all the way through each time
    Around 1995 Aberdeen,Orkney Nd ST Andrews-Orkney was the most expensive!
    One girl £8000,the other £10000 and the boy £2500
    Church/Registry Office and Hotel-meal and dance
    Friends did photography
    Each one a success
    Was I lucky?

  • 10 Chris May 19, 2018, 5:13 pm

    I got married about fifteen years ago for about £500 incl. registry office fees. The missus’ dress was the biggest expense as I think that was about ninety-five quid.

  • 11 ermine May 19, 2018, 7:47 pm

    A rapacious wedding industry seems to have grown up cynically trying to wreck people’s marriages so they can double-dip. It’s not hard to qualify how much you can afford to spend on getting married:

    If you need to borrow for the conspicuous consumption you can’t afford it

    If it delays your life plans (house, kids) for more than a year you can’t afford it. Life is short enough as it is.

    Ask people who have been married ten years or more how often they have watched their wedding video and act accordingly 😉

    If you’re the house of Windsor or can afford to pay cash for all of it without putting life on hold then knock yourself out and YOLO.

    Relate says money is among the top reasons marriages fail. Spending loads of money you don’t have right off the bat isn’t a great way of loading the odds in your favour.

  • 12 YoungFIGuy May 19, 2018, 7:49 pm

    Congrats FIREShrink! As I wrote on my blog a few weeks ago (thanks for linking back then TI) the best weddings are just really good parties. As FI Warrior says, you don’t need to spend a lot to have a great day.

    There’s a lot of peer and social pressure to have ‘the perfect day’. But you don’t need to spend money to have that.

    I got the tube to my wedding (I was in an Uber to begin with, lots to carry, but it got stuck in traffic!)

    We “spent” about £8k on our wedding. £5k was hiring out a central London bar and free drinks and food for 150 people for a party the day after the wedding. It was about £250 for the registry office plus the fees, we had a house party in the evening. (annoyingly I can’t find my spreadsheet with all the costs in it, so going by memory)

    After our families chipping in and the gifts I think we turned a profit on our wedding… Wouldn’t advise it as a money making scheme though!

  • 13 Howzat May 19, 2018, 9:10 pm

    We caught the local bus together get to our wedding. It cost about £3 each and we had a lovely stroll through the city centre in our wedding gear on a sunny Saturday morning.

    The future mother-in-law was horrified. “Can’t you at least get a taxi?”

    We weren’t quite so tight with the rest of the day but getting there on the bus is one of our fondest memories!

  • 14 algernond May 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

    I used to live in East Asia, and got invited to many large weddings – mostly of colleagues who were usually not more than acquaintances.
    In that area of the world you bring an Ang Pow (red envelope) with money in. One of my western colleagues insisted on bringing gifts and not money; this was frowned upon for quite obvious reasons – it didn’t help pay for the wedding.
    So anyway, weddings there cost people practically nothing, and they’d usually make enough profit from them to pay for the honeymoon.
    Very sensible pratice I think.

  • 15 Matthew May 19, 2018, 10:26 pm

    I bet the father of the bride was glad he wouldn’t be paying for this one, otherwise he’d better hope he’d saved up

    I’m still living in sin because we bought the house first,
    Speaking of which I view the church as primarily a fund in large cap and property and the “religion” side of it is a side gig for favourable tax status, and some income. A friend of mine was today moaning about the tax the churches avoid but I pointed out the moral good that their investment does, supplying the economy

  • 16 Matthew May 20, 2018, 6:15 am

    The royal wedding actually put strain on my relationship because it’s raised my fiancees expectations

  • 17 The Borderer May 20, 2018, 6:20 am

    @Neverland. “Never seen a wedding with six hundred guests where only one member of the brides family showed up”.

    I’ve been to weddings where I wished that had happened.

  • 18 Paul Williams May 20, 2018, 8:03 am

    I certainly had deep pockets and short arms when I was younger but looking back I think I took frugality and indeed stupidity to a new level. It was a Registry Office wedding where I had to ask one of the guests to lend me a fiver for the fee as I hadn’t brought enough cash. Part way through the service I realised a point of peril was approaching as I hadn’t got round to buying my intended a ring. Fortunately I wore one myself in those days and surreptitiously slipped it off to give to her. The photographer was a friend who’d overslept and in her rush only picked up a telephoto lens so all the wedding photos are from a long, long way away. The honeymoon consisted of a night in Bowness with some of the guests, we all went for a curry. Still together 30 years later.

  • 19 hosimpson May 20, 2018, 11:20 am

    Great news about digital photos for passport renewal, I can’t stand those post office photobooths, but for the life of me I can’t see why the Home Office have decided to not extend the privilege to dual nationals. It’s the exact same passport, ffs. There’s literally no difference, none at all.
    Wtf is wrong with Home Office? Seriously. It’s almost as if they have a committee for finding new ways to piss people off, with monthly awards issued to those whose ideas annoy the largest number of the populace.

  • 20 Stefan May 20, 2018, 12:23 pm

    The Vanguard paper on Currency-Hedged Global Bonds is interesting but left me with questions. It illustrates how diverse the global bond market is and shows that significant volatility is introduced by using bonds in foreign currencies. For many people the bond portion of their portfolio is meant to be low-volatility, so I accept that there is an argument for currency-hedging.

    But is that argument purely psychological – we look to our bonds for stability when stocks fall – or is currency-hedging better for long-term returns? The paper spends very little time on the actual returns, which I found disappointing.

  • 21 Lloyd May 20, 2018, 1:07 pm

    I can see the benefits of currency hedged global bonds. The problems I see with just having gilts is that the average duration is longer, you are more affected by the interest rates of just one country and the demand is skewed by the requirements of UK DB schemes. If you want your bond allocation to help when stock markets fall then to me it makes sense, if you own global stocks, to own global bonds. I accept not everyone shares this view.

  • 22 FI Warrior May 20, 2018, 2:12 pm

    @ hosimpson. ‘Wtf is wrong with Home Office?’ ‘decided to not extend the privilege to dual nationals’ Who are they more likely to be?

    Follow the vote, what is the underlying ideology? Look to the dogwhistle message.

    ‘monthly awards issued’ Is there precedence? Paranoid suggestion? Ok, is there an official policy admitted of a hostile environment, so institutionalised cruelty through petty bureaucracy? If it looks like a duck etc.

  • 23 Jim Brown May 20, 2018, 7:17 pm

    I am planning on getting married in the next few years.

    The plan is to hire a country house or cottage and ask the guest not for gifts but for a contribution to spend the wedding day and 2 X nights at the venue.

    So for 150 pounds they will get accommodation and food . Plus 2 nights stay .

    This way we cut costs plus get our friends and family to celebrate the marriage.

    All we need is the gift of their presence. We already have our houses and furniture so no need for household items as gifts .

  • 24 Gadgetmind May 20, 2018, 10:16 pm

    We had a great wedding, with reception on a boat on the river, and I reckon in cost less than £1k all in. We then went on honeymoon in our brand new Mazda MX-5 (which had only just hit the market) that we’d bought with the money we saved.

  • 25 Croydon baby boomer May 20, 2018, 11:26 pm

    I got married to my wife after first an industrial apprenticeship and a sandwich course degree which she supported me 49 years ago.

    We had no money, 30 Guests to the wedding and a honeymoon in a Caravan in Cornwall. we were lucky we got a mortgage on a small maisonette for £3,600 at 3x salary and 0.5 for my wife.

    All our furniture was second hand or built and painted by us. We never had debt and went without until we could afford it and never went above 3x salary on future house moves.

    In hindsight we could have been more ‘property wealthy’ but I feel I was lucky to bring up a family and buy our several properties on one salary.

    I firmly believe that the changes in bank lending criteria let the genie out of the bottle that destroyed the opportunities of house ownership for our future generations.

  • 26 Malcolm Beaton May 21, 2018, 12:05 am

    Hi Stefan/Lloyd
    Been using Vanguard Global Bond Hedged for the Bond part of my Portfolio since inception-about 9 years ago
    Av performance over that time 4.2%

  • 27 Hariseldon May 21, 2018, 1:13 am

    Regarding weddings, as a photographer I have been to a fair few….

    A suggestion to save a lot of money is to book a venue for just the Service and hold the reception at a hall and arrange your own catering.

    In one wedding I covered, The cost of the very nice country estate hotel venue for the service and drinks afterward was around £400 , with the normal all in package being around £8,000+.

    The reception was at a recently built local football club, with the family doing an excellent buffet. A very low cost but ‘good’ wedding.

    I was surprised at how cheap just the service was and the wedding planner explained that it required very little staff time , provided a very busy bar on an otherwise quiet weekday, it got people into the venue and they’d expect to pick up renting half a dozen rooms as a bonus. Everyone’s a winner !

  • 28 Gadgetmind May 21, 2018, 9:32 am

    Yes, the “W Word” does tend to make people lose any appreciation for the value of money, and suppliers inflate prices accordingly. Try going to a florist and asking for “Ten times more expensive than usual flowers” and you’ll get a funny look, then ask for “Wedding Flowers” and you’ll get what you asked for the first time! (But they’ll demand six months’ notice.)

    Of course, I’m sure this doesn’t apply to photographers!

  • 29 Little Miss Fire May 21, 2018, 2:39 pm

    ha ah the royal family can easily afford the wedding bill – sespecially with our loving tax donation!

    Thanks for the mention again! x

  • 30 Ducknald Don May 22, 2018, 3:44 pm

    I’m sure I remember reading that the amount you spend on your wedding is correlated with the likelihood of getting divorced.

  • 31 L May 22, 2018, 4:31 pm

    We spent very little on our wedding because my inlaws are superstars and paid for 90% of it! We tried to aim for something sensible in return and got married in Greece with 30 or so guests, quite a few of whom had travelled from continental Europe. Similar to a previous poster, we asked guests not to give us gifts, their company was the gift. Most of them took this at face value and we had a lovely few days surrounded by family in the sun.

    Cost for the actual wedding was £5-6k all in, but I perhaps regret the fact that we spent the same again (of our own money) on the 5 star honeymoon in Greece and New York.

    We visited the hotel last week with our toddler in tow – oh how things have changed!

  • 32 The Investor May 22, 2018, 4:49 pm

    Just a quick note to say I’ve really enjoyed all the wedding reminiscences — and got a few ideas should I ever be foolish lucky enough to do the deed myself. (Hey, I bought a London flat, who knows how deep the madness goes).

    Special kudos to those who caught taxis and buses to the wedding. No wonder you’re still together. You’ve got serious game. 😉

  • 33 old_eyes May 23, 2018, 10:43 am

    A late contribution to the wedding examples.

    Married 35 years ago, but we had already been living together for 6 years and had bought a house 3 years before marrying. So it was not a big issue. We were together and committed already. Not against marriage, not for marriage, just had not been an issue.

    The reason for marrying at that point was the decision for my partner to give up work and for us to have children. Since much of the system in those days was set up for married people, it seemed much easier to get married – insurance, pensions, inheritance etc. A further driver was that partner intended to go on a 12 month round the world trip before children, and since she intended to work in a couple of countries, it turned out to be much easier to get visas if she was married (don’t ask me why!). I was going to spend a summer working at the University of Indiana, she would join me there and then proceed on her travels. We had an entertaining interview with the Australian consulate (she has relatives there), as the poor interviewer tried to understand why we were going to get married and then immediately separate for 10 months.

    Partner made own wedding dress in a beautiful royal blue watered silk, combined with a handmade lace cape (a joint project with a bunch of her craft and lacemaking friends). I bought a suit I used for the next five or six years.

    Registry wedding, reception at a local stately home/hotel. Buffet and free bar. Music from a jazz band some friends were in. Someone made the cake (can’t remember who). Good time was had by all. Highlight was game of Hypothetical Cricket played in the hall whilst we waited for the buffet to be set up (Hypothetical Cricket involves multiple players fielding, two batsmen, but an imaginary bat, ball and wickets. It is a testing task for the umpires who also commentated!). This got everyone loosened up.

    Wedding car was the best man’s Ford Escort.

    Both sets of parents got lost on the way to the registry office, and one set never made it at all, joining us at the reception.

    We didn’t need much stuff as we had a household already, so most guests made a cash contribution. The reception cost about £750, and we more or less broke even on the day.

    No honeymoon as we were off to the States a few months later. I remember spending my wedding night fairly well soused, putting the plug on a Goblin Teasmade so that we could have tea in bed the next morning (That was the most exotic gift we got. At the time it seemed the height of luxury not to have to crawl out of bed on a cold morning to put the kettle on).

    Have no idea what any of this means, except that we knew our own minds, had an aversion to spending silly amounts just to meet other people’s expectations, wanted our friends and family to have a good party, and did not let either set of parents interfere.

    There were no fights, no stand-up rows, no-one got excessively drunk, and everyone went home happy including us.

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