Planning a wedding can you take you into economic "Alice In Wonderland" world, where the Queen of Hearts makes rules that are nothing like the financial principles you'd try to follow in real life. What's so weird about wedding finance? Start with these six insane money rules that you'd never accept anywhere else.
The bride's family pays. Let's say you go out to dinner with friends. Do you survey the group for the gender of their offspring to decide who picks up the check? Probably not. But if you host a wedding, it's pretty well established that the bride's family is going to shoulder the tab. Why? It appears to date back to the olden days when brides needed a dowry to get hitched. Apparently, in the time of Jane Austin novels, women were a financial burden on their families, eating bon bons and demanding more thread for an endless pile of needlepoint pillows. Dads were more than willing to give prospective grooms a pay-off to get the freeloaders off their hands. These days, of course, women don't present quite the same economic burden. Indeed, many of us have gotten jobs and (gasp) some even earn more than their husbands. But that whole "I'll pay you good money to marry my daughter" thing lives on in wedding finance.
Paying $1,000+ for a one-use outfit: Sure, you can get a cheaper bridal gown, but it won't be easy. You'd have to troll all the discount stores, visit trunk shows, shop diligently and probably compromise on a dress that isn't quite as fabulous as you'd like. In fact, the most difficult part of all is waving off the well-coiffed matron in an Ann Taylor suit who says: "This is a once in a lifetime occasion. Don't you want the $5,000 gown that makes you look like a princess?" And some would argue that's cheap. After all, Kim Kardashian spent $2 million on her gown. And, of course, that doesn't account for the cost of additional accouterments, such as a veil and shoes, that you will also never wear again.
No returns: It's one thing to say that you can't return your wedding dress after the ceremony. It's another to say that you can't return it an hour after you signed the wedding dress contract and haven't even taken the dress out of the store. But look closely at what you're signing, girls, and you'll see a clause that you'd never consider accepting in any other setting. Specifically, most bridal gown contracts say that once you agree to buy this dress -- even before it's been altered or taken out of the bridal store -- you own it. You are contractually obligated to pay the full purchase price. If you cancel the wedding or decide you really hate that dress within hours of signing on the dotted line, you'll need to sell it second hand, which is why there are numerous web sites selling lightly or never used wedding wear such as PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com and OnceWed.
Alterations: Did we mention that the $1,000 dress probably doesn't come in your size, so you must pay to get it altered? No? Oopsy. The seamstress on the staff of your local bridal store will come out and pin and tuck the most expensive dress you've ever bought in order to make it fit you. The price of her services, which will likely add 5 percent to 20 percent to the cost of the gown, will be added to your tab. And the wedding contract likely obligates you to pay for the alterations, even if you cancel the wedding and decide not to have the gown altered after all.
Matching friends: Marriage starts a new life, so of course you'll want your closest friends to share the day with you. In matching outfits. That they, too, will cough up a fortune for and never wear again.
Party favors: It's not enough that your parents bought dinner for you and your groom's 200 closest friends. They must also spend another $1,000 or so buying cute, personalized party favors, like Mr. & Mrs. Bottle openers or John and Tammy tea lights. The wedding industry has convinced every couple that each and every one of their guests -- yes, even the "plus-ones" -- must have a keepsake from this blessed event. So your guests all go home with personalized wine glasses, wedding candles, key-to-my-heart church-keys. And then, unless they're your mother, Godmother or crazy maiden aunt, they put them in a drawer. Hidden away. You can't use them and you can't throw them out. It's the sentimental guest's Catch 22.