Forget Tradition, The Merits of a Frugal Wedding

frugal wedding

Today is our 43rd wedding anniversary. As with all relationships there are ups and downs. We’ve had some doosy fights over the years–which happens when you’re both alphas, but we’ve also weathered some astonishing hardships with what I think is a lot of grace and acceptance.

I think part of the reason we’ve lasted so long is because we have similar core values. One of the values we share that I’m most happy about is that we’re not reckless with money. I’m sure it has a lot to do with the fact that we didn’t have a lot of it–especially in the early years.

We’re adaptable. We made do with what we had and learned early on that going into debt was the devil’s bone yard.

For me, being frugal started when I was just a kid, but it carried over into our married life, starting with the wedding.

Like all young people, we desperately wanted a honeymoon. The best we could afford was Canada. It was fun, but in order to afford it we cut the cost of the wedding to the bone.

We got married at City Hall and announced to our families that there wouldn’t be a reception. We just wanted a meal with them before we hit the road for Canada.

To our shock, my parents surprised us with a homemade reception, complete with a beautiful cake from our local bakery, and a dinner my father prepared from scratch. The menu included filet mignon, an exquisite Caesar’s salad (which still makes me salivate), and more champagne than I’ve ever seen in my life. The only guests were our combined immediate families.

My “wedding” dress cost all of $10. I got it on clearance at a local department store. It wasn’t a wedding gown, just a nice dress I thought was fitting for my big day.

Our honeymoon was the price of gas, food, and a few nights stay at a motel.

In all, I doubt we spent more than $300 for my dress and our honeymoon. My parents probably spent near that on the food and wine. These were 1975 dollars.

According to Business Insider, the price of an average wedding today is $33,391, but it varies by where you live. This does NOT count the cost of the honeymoon.

If I were to venture a guess, I imagine most people spend it on the venue, the meal, the flowers, the cake, photographer, and the gown. And for what? One day.

One day that means something to only you and your new spouse. I think that’s what people need to keep in mind when they plan a wedding. By all means celebrate, but don’t go into debt for a party.

I can honestly tell you the spread my parents threw for us was way nicer than if we had hosted a costly (fancy) reception full of drunk people and nasty looking food. There’s just no comparison.

To date, I have never been to a catered affair where the food was better than what my parents gave us. You simply can’t compare a home cooked gourmet meal to cold chicken and dry steak.

I was so proud of my niece when she too bucked tradition and opted not only to pay for their own reception, but had it at a small, local restaurant, inviting only the most important people in their lives.

Maybe I’m wrong but I think people are pressured into having these expensive parties. The moment you say wedding, people assume you’re going to go all out. The question is, why? Sometimes it’s as simple as saying no to tradition.

In the end, a wedding is just a stepping stone. I’d rather spend my money for an entire path and not just the first step.

If you’re married, how was your wedding? Where did you go on your honeymoon? Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

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  1. Sometimes, it’s really hard to say “no” to tradition, even if you would really like to. Sigh.

    I love this part – “In the end, a wedding is just a stepping stone. Iā€™d rather spend my money for an entire path and not just the first step.”

    Wishing you both a wonderful anniversary!!!

  2. I will be honest not sure how much the wedding cost but know it was so much more reasonable then today’s exorbitant “shows” that it is not amusing in the least.

    Maria our day was filled with anticipation and relief as well. My husband-to-be had started coming down with the flu the day before and it was nothing short of a gift to us both that we married the next evening.

    Simple church ceremony in the one where I had grown up going to services. Our reception meal cooked and event planned/executed by the women in congregation. The ceremony performed by a former pastor who was a friend of my parents and a 1 1/2 day honeymoon spent in New Braunfels, San Antonio and San Marcos areas where we “played tourist”.

    Looking back nothing would have been changed as those are some of the best memories of my life.

    • Jackie: ‘Show’ is the right word. I can’t imagine why else you would go through this much extravagance.

      How extraordinarily kind it was for your congregation to cook and plan your reception. That truly demonstrates the real meaning of community.

      I’m sorry Karl got sick before your wedding, but at least he had an attentive nurse afterward. šŸ™‚

  3. Hubby was on orders for Alaska, so the wedding happened kind of fast (he proposed in November and the wedding was Dec 1). We got married at the courthouse (justice of the peace). My parents, his mother, and two other couple friends were there. Our “honeymoon” consisted of driving from Arizona to Seattle (since we had to drop the cars off in Seattle for them to be shipped to Alaska).

    My parents paid for the cake and the dinner at a restaurant (oh, and my mother-in-law’s hotel room, since she was planning on staying in our trailer with us!). I think they felt they got off cheap.

  4. Angela L Brown

    Happy Anniversary, Maria!

    Although no longer married, the then-hubby and I were on the slow come-up to improving our circumstances. He proposed in February of 2003 and we’d started the process of looking for a home together so we knew we weren’t interested in going all out for a costly wedding.

    Just so happened that a friend told us about a group package for a cruise and we decided to jump on board. Then we checked and found out we could get married on the boat, at the Galveston port, and get a reception package. So we went that route to have our wedding with a few close friends and family who came to Galveston for the wedding – and their own little trip to the beach – then enjoyed the cruise for out honeymoon. That was in October of 2003.

    One of my friend’s mother was aware that my mother wasn’t alive to play her part so she stepped up and surprised me by purchasing my dress and the fixin’s to go with it, including the veil and pearl necklace.

    It wasn’t as economical as your wise choice, Maria. It was, however, a buck to family tradition. There were some family who were disappointed I didn’t want to do the whole church ceremony, big reception and all that jazz. I was glad for the choice. We paid off everything and the cost was less than $2K. Made me feel good not going into the divorce three and a half years later still paying for the wedding lol!!

  5. Happy Anniversary!

    We did the JOP thing, just the two of us. They got two courthouse employees to witness it. Then we got changed into comfortable clothes and went for a drive in the country. That night we went out to dinner. No honeymoon. I don’t remember what the whole deal cost us. The biggest expense was probably his flight to me. Add in rings, a new outfit for me, hotel for him, eating out, etc. Might’ve cost a thousand dollars all told. It was worth it.

  6. MIke: Thank you. We had a wonderful day.

    re: Eugenie
    I don’t bother speaking to the one percent. They neither need my advice nor want it. If I were that super rich, I’d be more like a Warren Buffet than a Kardashian. You never know when all that money could disappear.

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