Historical Wedding Costs

Kay Steiger reviews Rebecca Mead’s One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding:

Oh boy, did I have so much to learn. As Rebecca Mead documents in her book, the American wedding industry has exploded in the last few decades. What was once a relatively simple affair (though when you adjust for inflation, weddings in the 1920s or ’30s still cost around $5,000) has become a new stage in absolute consumerism.

When looking at historical expenditures, I think it’s interesting to look at them not just in inflation-adjusted terms but in income-relative terms. After all, in the 1920s and 30s per capita GDP was much lower than it is today:

Something always worth saying is that if an economy grows, that necessarily means spending on something is increasing. This is especially true because some things (electronics, e.g.) tend to get cheaper. So when you hear about health care spending or wedding spending or whatnot exploding, or about how Americans live in giant houses one natural question to ask is what is it you think people should be spending money on instead. Smaller weddings, longer honeymoons? Smaller houses, fancier expensive dinners? Cheaper health care, more expensive suits?