This week’s blog is dedicated to my aunt who lost her battle with cancer 4 years ago. While going through her pictures in preparation for her memorial, we found her wedding album with all of her old receipts and planning details. I was facinated to see the price differences and how details have changed when compared to today! In light of the fact that it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday, and also my cousin Traci’s 5 year wedding anniversary, I thought it would be fun to compare my aunt’s retro wedding to her daughter’s more current affair.
First and foremost, just to give a reference of the difference in financial status, the average salary in 1974 was $8,030.76, according to the national average wage index. In 2010, the average salary was $41,673.83 – that’s 5 times the money that was being made in a 35 year span.
My aunt was married on May 18, 1974. Her invitation had a picture of a bride and a groom kissing on the front of it and the scenery appears to be a forest of some sort, which already screams “1970’s.” She was married at St. Christopher Church in Metairie and had her reception at the Champagne Room on Jefferson Highway, which was one of the most expensive reception halls at that time, according to my mother! The church, from my mother’s memory, was free as long as you paid the priest and gave “a little extra cash” to the altar boys. My aunt had a 3 hour reception for 300 guests and the package included food, alcohol, the wedding cake, engraved napkins, coffee service and the use of palm trees, which was apparently serious back then! The service charge was 15% and the grand total – $1,656.25 (which breaks down to $5.52/head)
Her daughter, Traci, was married on May 8, 2010. Her invitation was on plain ivory thicker card stock with black print which is more traditional in this millennium – no picture, no fold, just a straight forward invitation! She was married at St. Patrick’s Church in New Orleans and her reception was at the Chicory on South Peters, which was brand new at the time of Traci’s wedding. St. Patrick’s charged $2,000.00 plus a coordinator fee, plus a fee to the music director and “a little extra cash” for the priest. She had a 3 hour reception for 275 guests, which included food, alcohol, tables, chairs and linens, but no palm trees, however the Chicory provided potted plants for Traci to use if she do desired and she did!
Service charge was now 20% and the grand total was almost $25,000 (which breaks down to $90/head tax and tip included)
My aunt purchased her invitations from Gem Printing, who is still in business and a company that I use regularly today. As a matter of fact, Traci ordered her invitations from GEM as well! For my aunt, 200 invitations and printed envelopes totaled $47.18. For Traci, 175 invitations, printed envelopes and thank you cards totaled $175. The most remarkable thing about finding the Gem Printing receipt was not the price. It was the fact that the receipt is exactly the same in 1974 as it is today – the only difference is the address!
Some other comparable prices were the photographer which was $140 for my aunt and $1800 for Traci (I can tell you that 5 years later, that same photographer’s minimum package is $2500. Something that I found interesting about the photographer’s contract back then is that you paid the photographer in full once you picked up your order, not before the wedding/on the day of your wedding, and your order was ready 6 weeks after the wedding. Today, most of the photographers take a minimum of 6 weeks to get the pictures online. The only other two receipts I found was one for flowers and one for the band. I did not find a total for my aunt’s final floral order, but I can tell you that her bouquet was $15.00 versus Traci’s which was $150.00. The band was a grand total of $275 versus Traci’s that charged $3300.
What we can learn from this look back is that although the average salary has increased by 5 times the amount it was 35 years ago, the cost of a wedding has increased by a heck of a lot more. The reception alone is more than 10 times the amount today as it was in the 70’s. I think there are several contributing factors to why weddings have become so commercial and out of control, but one of those factors has to be the very generation that this blog goes out to: The Baby Boomers. The moms that got married when my aunt got married and grew up when times were tough, money was tight and women did not have their own careers and income.
Now, moms want to give their daughters everything they had and then some and since a lot of these women work, they can do just that. So next time you are fighting with your mother over wedding decisions, remember that they just want more for you, although how far these moms will go is a different entry all together. We can at least give them a bit of a reprieve this weekend – it is Mother’s Day after all! So thank your mother for all she’s done especially as it relates to the financial luxuries because as you can see, salaries aren’t always growing as quickly as the cost of living!