How To Avoid Post-Wedding Poverty

August 17, 2012

Studies have yet to link the likelihood a marriage will succeed to the usage of horse-drawn carriages in the wedding.

In just seven short weeks, my fiancée and I will walk the aisle and make official one of the most cost-effective wedding ceremonies in modern history.

Let’s be clear about one thing: we are not cheap people. We are happy to spend at a premium for quality and comfort. But in planning our wedding, we have decided we’re more interested in establishing a quality, comfortable marriage instead of an opulent one-night ceremony. We hope to soon move out of our apartment and into a downtown condo, to pay down our student loans, and, with any luck, start building up our savings. So our frugality is very much about the grander scheme.

According to Reuters, the average American wedding costs about $27,000. We are expecting a total bill of $9,000, and it’s not as if we’re planning some C-rate production, either. The fact is any couple can plan an affordable wedding. The key is resisting the many temptations wrought by the marketing masterminds of the wedding industry.

Here’s how we’ve managed to make our wedding more economical:

Location, Location, Location
Our reception is being held at The Goss Opera House, a turn-of-the-century landmark with all the charm you’d expect from small-town South Dakota. (Beth is from Watertown, S.D.) There’s a direct correlation between the population of the city/town/hamlet where your wedding is taking place and the cost. In this case, we South Dakotans get the last laugh.
Cost: $600 deposit (to be applied to dinner costs)

Friends For Hire
One of our good friends is a photographer. Another isn’t exactly a deejay, but he’s perfectly capable of controlling a pre-arranged iTunes playlist through the house soundboard. Frankly, I’d be comfortable with asking our guests to take and post photos from the wedding and reception on Instagram and putting my iPhone on shuffle for the dance. In short, hire your friends. They want your wedding to be awesome, too.
Cost: About $1,000 – and prolonged friendship

You B(Etsy)
One could have earned an associate’s degree for the cost of Beth’s dream dress. So instead, she found a talented designer on Etsy who could replicate the look she wanted for fractions less. Separately, I’m using a designer found on Etsy to create silk ties with custom labels for my groomsmen. You want your wedding to feel unique? Use Etsy for its endless supply of talented and cooperative designers.
Cost: Approx. $1,000

Winner, Winner – Chicken Dinner
Ever notice how wedding invitations have a way of reading like the U.S. Census:

  • Will you be attending?
  • What is your combined household income?
  • How many guests will be joining you?
  • What type of meat (or alternative) would you prefer to consume – steak, pork, chicken, turkey, ducks, shrimp, fish, bacon or tofu?
  • How many televisions do you own?

Options are great, don’t get me wrong, but when was the last time the meal was the highlight of a wedding you attended? We have picked out an awesome chicken dinner on behalf of our guests. We have also made it a point throughout our lives to avoid befriending people who dislike chicken.
Cost: About $4,500

Here’s the thing: We’re expecting our wedding and reception to be nothing short of awesome.  We’ve kept it on the cheap by successfully avoiding unnecessary extras like engagement photos, a videography team, professionally designed save-the-dates, save-the-invitations, actual invitations and thank-you cards and various equine commissioned for bridal transportation. Our theory is that with the right mix of friends, alcohol and music, fun is unavoidable.

Unlike relentless creditors who will chase you down until every last penny of your ostentatious $50,000 wedding is paid off. They cannot be avoided.