Wedding Ramblings

In honor of Valentine's Day, today's post addresses the true cost of a lavish wedding. In addition to the Dartmouth participants, several of K's girlfriends have recently gotten engaged, and thus she has had the opportunity to play wedding planner and dress consultant. One friend is clearly going to have a very high-end wedding, but the other three are going to have what I would call a "more reasonable" budget.

Of course, the key here is the extreme subjectivity of what is "reasonable". Popular wedding website reports that the average wedding is now about $27,800. According to Richard Markel, president of the Association for Wedding Professionals International, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. (in 2008) fell between $21,000 and $24,000. Clearly location matters as well, but let's work from a conservative value of $20k.

A friend of ours got married in a very elegant $99 dress, and last year we attended a wedding where the bride's dress was upwards of $15k. I honestly would not have known the difference, and I think that many guys would say the same. However, I'm sure that most women in attendance could tell, and most importantly the brides themselves knew the cost. The "bride-as-center-of-the-universe" is not something that I understand 100%, but from my own experience I know that I wanted my wife to be perfectly happy on her/our big day, and if happiness cost a little bit (or, honestly, a lot) of money, then I was pleased to pull out the checkbook.

First, the grinch-y perspective: the cost of a wedding is a decent start on a down payment on a house or condo. Alternatively, if the cost of your wedding were instead invested towards retirement, that $20,000 would grown into $160,000 (assume 8% APY over 35 years), and $8k-worth-of-dress would grow to $64,000.

On the other hand, who is to say that we can assume that the stock market will approach an 8% return? Multiple previous posts have highlighted my skepticism; accounting for inflation and taxes, honestly I think that 5% is more reasonable, if itself rather optimistic. If the kind/size cake doesn't matter, that can save you $1,000. Make your own invitations, or select a less elegant design, hire a younger photographer, or (here's the tricky one) invite fewer people. Want to trim some fat off the catering bill? Don't serve meat. Don't be cheap or leave your guests feeling mistreated, but thriftiness is making a comeback these days, and if you and your fiance(e) are on a tight budget, your friends and family will understand and support you.

This is my point; prioritize your expenses and try to save money on details that don't matter as much to the two of you... but don't be afraid to pay full price on the wedding elements that really matter most. Yes it's possible that every dollar you spend now could be invested and turn into $10 in 40 years, but do you really want to postpone happiness for 40 years? Moderation, people.


Shattered Illusions

Just when I'd finally accepted the fact that Tom Cruise is crazy (duh) but it's still ok to watch his movies, now I've made a horrible discovery and will never be able to watch a Jason Lee movie the same way.

Eh, it hopefully won't be a big deal, as long as Lee doesn't make it a big deal, but still... should I have been surprised? Did other people know about him/others on the list?

Biggest surprise to me: Greta Van Susteren - yes she's on Fox, and that's worth a few crazy points, but she has an education, for one, and by all accounts was a pretty good lawyer, so oh well.


The REAL rules of Idol

I confess (brag?) that I am not familiar enough with American Idol to really judge the accuracy of this list of the 20 Real Rules of Idol, but a few of them elicited chuckles and meshed with my impressions of the show.

I particularly like #11: Contestants should at all times exhibit deep religious beliefs but be careful not to name the religion that they feel deeply about, and the pairing of 18 & 19: In pre-interviews, it is important to emphasize that you are grounded, family-oriented and a down-to-earth wholesome young American and also, make it clear that your life will be ruined if you are not on the show.

It also entertains me that there are a whopping 6 comments, when I expected hundreds.


Sarah Palin not completely wrong

I'm not always a fan of Jon Friedman - usually he's a little blowhardy and/or simplistic - but in suggesting that Sarah Palin's kids have been treated differently (and unfairly) by the media as compared to the Obama girls, he's not completely off-base:

<blockquote>Sarah Palin, who frequently criticized the press corps during the presidential campaign last fall, has another gripe about the media...  This time, there is a twist. She has a leg to stand on.</blockquote>

Friedman argues, and I agree with him, that Palin has certainly given her critics and the media more than enough ammo for years of ridicule, and that <em>if reporters want to disparage Palin for what she said on the 2008 campaign trail and afterward, that's acceptable. She is fair game, as a public figure. But yes, let's leave her children (not to mention her newborn grandchild) out of it.</a>

At first glance, fair enough, I have no problem with that.  Except... Bristol Palin sold out.  And as Lindsay Lohan might tell you in a rare moment of sober introspection, when you become a celebrity then you've given the media the right to say or do whatever they want.  And when you sell the rights to your baby's first-look photos for $300,000, then you have willingly entered into celebrity-hood.  I do hope that little Tripp is able to recover from the double-whammy of being condemned to eternal hellfire and damnation born out of wedlock and having such an... awkward name, but McCain's almost VP doesn't have much of a claim of "privacy" for Bristol.


footprints in the interwebs

Except for the minor detail of being a huge security risk, there are a lot of advantages to having the same username and password for all your online services - easier to remember, friends can find you, etc. However, if you can't remember what login you set up, or if you can't even remember what sites you've patronized, then is a perhaps useful little resource.

There are a lot of advantages to using the same username for all your online services. It's easier to remember, and friends can find you more easily. If you're someone who's in this habit, you might want to take a look at Usernamecheck, a site that tells you at which sites your favorite username is registered - it scans ~ 60 "most popular" networks for a given username, returning "available" or "taken". They say that it

The sites on the list are some of the best, most useful places to have an account, so it might remind you of something you've been meaning to sign up for, or it might remind you of sites you signed up for and forgot about.

What I find interesting is that apparently somebody else out there is using my usernames at sites I'd never heard of. hmmm.

Nerdy side note on security: I have a couple core password kernels, which are then permuted at regular intervals, and with varying degrees of complexity depending on the sensitivity of the site. So, all my social-networking sites have a 6-9 character password, while my banking/brokerage passwords are generally 12-14 characters.


An odd thing on Facebook

A few years ago, I went on a kick of enfriending basically everyone that I knew from my home town in Alaska and I ended up with one friend who was one of the little kids in my church growing up. Of course, he grew up and was apparently gay and had issues with depression.

Sometime earlier this year, he ended up committing suicide.

That means that now I have a dead friend. Since Facebook doesn't seem to have a policy of purging its users of the dead or just people who don't use Facebook often, it looks like his profile will just continue on espousing "long live the flying spaghetti monster" as a religious view.

On one hand, it's kind of odd that the page will probably last for as long as facebook does. (What is the lifetime of a social networking site anyway?) On the other hand, it's a little bit comforting that the web will remember you even if the rest of the world doesn't.



APS names

Maybe the image is still too small to read. Basically APS journals now allow authors to include their names in their own languages. For now this option is offered to Chinese, Japanese and Korean authors. Hmmm, should I add this to my next paper (if there's any)? 魏群 (windows people, you probably will only see two squares....)