A Frugal Wedding: How to Get Married Without Adding Debt
Why spending $20k or more on our wedding day would have had no impact on our happiness – even with puppy party favors.
If you’re planning a wedding, then you’ve likely felt that soul-crushing moment of fear when you wonder how in the world you’re going to pay for everything. Here’s why my husband and I opted for a frugal wedding:
I was never that girl who dreamed of her wedding day.
Don’t get me wrong. I always assumed I would get married at some point. Finding a partner for life was important to me. But I’ll be the first to admit that visions of a big white dress, monogrammed cocktail napkins and my very own “princess day” just never set my heart aflutter.
When my now-husband proposed, I was – of course – ecstatic. I did the standard phone calls to friends and family. I posted that ring photo on social media.
But, after the dust settled and our engagement was old news, reality hit.
“Oh, crap,” we both thought. “Can we just skip that whole wedding planning thing?”
Nope, I wasn’t the typical bride who began paging through magazines, filling up binders, and scouring Pinterest for inspiration for rustic centerpieces.
Instead, when I was struck with the realization that I would now have to plan this extravagant affair for 300 of my closest friends and family, I was stressed, strained, and overwhelmed.
My desire to avoid wedding planning was strong, even if it was planning for a frugal wedding. The desire was so strong, in fact, that I just kept putting it off. Was there a way to enjoy the big day and have no wedding debt at all?
Six months into our engagement, we still had no plans for how or when we’d tie the knot. Friends and family became frustrated. It had taken us years to get engaged, so why were we being so slow when it came time to set a date? (I’m talking to you, mother-in-law.)
What most people don’t know is that we were spending that time debating how we wanted to get married.
We considered almost every option under the sun. We considered a ceremony on the lakeshore for just the two of us, a traditionally big shindig in a banquet hall, a destination wedding, and an intimate celebration at the courthouse.
While other factors were definitely important, our greatest consideration was always cold, hard cash.
I live in Wisconsin, where the average wedding costs $23,101 dollars. We were already saddled with student debt, car loans, and a mortgage payment. My husband and I just couldn’t stomach the idea of having to blow that sort of cash on one day.
A little over $1,400 of our monthly income is dedicated to just our vehicle and education debts — let’s not even talk about the mortgage payment. So I think our desire to keep the purse strings tightened was justified. I’ve been to some pretty amazing weddings — but absolutely none that warrant that hefty price tag. Send me home with a puppy as a wedding favor, and maybe I’ll change my tune.
Ultimately, we settled on the most frugal wedding possible: the courthouse option.
We would be keeping it incredibly small by inviting just our parents and siblings. We also decided that we’d follow up the brief ceremony with a cookout in our own backyard.
All in all, we were relieved to finally have a firm plan — and a date — in place, and we felt happy and comfortable with the route we had chosen for our very own nuptials. But when I started to share the news, I was surprised by most of the reactions.
I had expected plenty of, “Wow, you’re so smart to save the money and the stress!” and “Good for you for not giving in to pressure and just doing what you want!”
But, instead, people seemed sincerely disappointed in me.
Why would I give up my chance at that one special day? Why did the frugal wedding have to be that frugal? And, why wouldn’t I want to include them? I didn’t think that their friendship and support was worth an open bar? I couldn’t offer them a rubbery piece of chicken, and a drunken version of the Cupid Shuffle?
Apparently, by today’s standards, spending heaps of money on a wedding is way more socially acceptable than attempting to be fiscally conservative with your plans.
“You’re going to regret this,” they all said.
Well, my husband and I were married in July. So far I’m still waiting for that painful moment of remorse. And, honestly, I don’t think it’ll ever arrive.
Of course, I adore all of my loved ones, and their roles in my life are worthy of a lot more than an overcooked banquet meal. And, while there’s definitely a small part of me that wishes we could’ve had them all together under one roof to celebrate our union, $20,000 spent on one day of our lives still seemed impossible to justify.
In the end, I realized that our wedding day wasn’t about what they wanted (or even what they wanted for us) — it was about what my partner and I wanted.
Even with our bare-bones arrangement, our wedding ended up costing a little over $3,000.
It’s still more than I would’ve liked to spend on one day. After all, whether you marry in a cathedral or a courthouse, the result is the same. But, it was still way more cost effective than hosting a large celebration (especially as I would’ve insisted on the puppy wedding favors).
All in all, my husband and I are satisfied with our decisions. We loved our frugal, simple, and wonderful wedding.
We used the money we saved to pay off my husband’s car loan. Next, we’ll work on my monthly vehicle payment. From there, we’ll start chipping away at our student loans.
No, it’s not as glamorous as a photo booth or personalized champagne glasses. But enjoying new experiences without feeling overwhelmed by piles of pesky debt? Well, to me, there’s simply nothing more romantic.