I came up like most girls in the city: watching people get married on TV. I soaked all of the marketing campaigns in: the expensive diamond ring that would sit perfectly on my moisturized finger, the flawless white dress, pristine hair and makeup, and the magical location which would hold everyone I could imagine in the audience for my perfect day with my Boo. Magically, what was at least $60,000 in monopoly money later, the day would conclude with food, a beautiful cake that would remain indefinitely untouched, and a sky that was miraculously welcoming of joy and sunshine and not even a single cloud. These advertisements ensured that parents contributed to the affair– that the bride’s daddy bought her dress, and that the parents of the couple paid for most, if not all, of the affair.
But as my wedding day set in, so did reality. My dad wasn’t around to pay for my dress, and my mom didn’t have the $60,000 to pay for the affair. Not only was a $60,000 wedding unrealistic for anyone to pay for (parents or the bride and groom included), but even a bare-bones ceremony seemed not to be worth the investment for a single-day event that would span a couple of hours. If the event was about the love between my boo and myself, I didn’t quite see the need to pay that much money to express it. Instead, I thought to maintain my truth.
I didn’t want to go into debt for my wedding. I wanted to remember that, other than signing the marriage license, everything else was a choice and likely not for the two people who are getting married. Instead, I asked myself three core questions about the purpose of the day: Why are you doing this? Who is this ceremony for? What’s the real purpose?
When thinking about the ring, we looked at heirloom jewelry first and were sure not to get stuck on the idea of a diamond. We found that heirloom jewelry had more sentimental value than did something store bought. If heirloom jewelry wasn’t an option, however, we would follow the one month rule rather than the three-month rule: the ring would be worth one month of salary and not three! In order to meet this, we would fully consider (research and try on) laboratory diamonds, ethical diamonds and diamond alternatives (like moissanite and amora gems), and gemstones (like rubies, sapphires, morganite, etc), with the idea that we can upgrade at a later anniversary if we wanted to do that.
I looked at dresses but decided to spend as little buying a dress as possible by purchasing a custom white dress that wasn’t necessarily meant to be a wedding dress. In total, my dress cost me $200 on Etsy, and I never ended up wearing it (I wore jeans to my courthouse wedding!). Other cost-effective alternatives include: upcycling an inherited wedding dress (recutting one you inherit); buying one that someone else has worn on their day (after all, it was cleaned and only worn once); buying a colored dress; and buying separates. No matter what you get, buy what you like!
My courthouse wedding (even with the same-day rush fees) cost a total of $100. We had a photographer take photos (headshots) the day before, and snuck in a few couple pics, so when we woke up and decided that our day was then– that Wednesday morning– we went for it. If you’re looking to have a little more coordination in your day, though, try a small backyard, public garden, or pop-up wedding. Consider locations you can congregate for free while getting a few beautiful photos for keepsakes: can you navigate a 15-minute gathering in a local arboretum or park, or at a local library? Usually, these locations only require a permit if you have over a certain number of people in attendance. Let your day be an exclusive event with only the most critical people present. Alternatives, too, include tiny destination weddings, elopements or pop-up weddings, with a planned celebration for family and friends within a year of your magic day. To make the day that much more special, consider having a friend or family member perform the nuptials. And if the guest list is as difficult for you as it was for us, opt to have no one present– make the day fully about you and your partner, and clue everyone else in afterward. If you really want to do something with everyone present (if intimate is not your thing) look at outdoor venues (parks, etc) which will allow you to reserve the space for free.
Finally, take a small honeymoon: a very small getaway that fits a predetermined budget, and stick to your bottom line! You have the rest of your life to make and tackle your travel bucket list, but you should surely remember and enjoy this time with your new spouse.
But the biggest question is, what will you do with all the money you saved? Will you get out of debt, buy your home, or purchase an investment property? Will you do something else?
Will you get out of debt, buy your first home or an investment property? Tell us what you’d do with any savings you can muster!