Earlier this year CNN ran a story about how the average cost of an American wedding in 2012 was $28,400.
You still upright?
If so, I’m glad. If you’re flat on your back, hysterical with laughter or just plain passed out from shock, I totally understand.
Listen up, I get that a couple’s wedding day is a day unlike any other (until their next wedding day! Hahahaha! Just kidding, lovebirds).
But why do so many people think that the only way to do it is to do it ‘big budget? What I don’t get is how so many intelligent folks are so sucked up into the vacuum of this whole wedding industry thing that has blossomed over the past quarter century or so. According to the CNN article (which was based on TheKnot.com‘s annual couples survey) people getting married these days pay an average of:
- $13,000 for a reception hall
- $3,000 for a reception band
-$2,400 for a photographer
That’s, what?… almost 20 grand right there and basically you’re still pretty far off from plopping down a wad of mushy salmon on anybody’s plate or half-filling their wine glass, huh?
I guess what I am saying is that there are other ways to kick off your life together and save a crap load of money if you really want to. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t; that’s totally your business and I couldn’t care less if you have that burning
desire need to rent out some echo-y reception box that looks like the Tuscan village sound stage of a bad Hollywood set instead of maybe just renting out the local VFW hall for, like, a tenth of the cost.
I mean, choices: that’s what America is all about, right?
Still, if you really want to get married in a way that saves you more than $25,000 no questions asked, then maybe what you need to consider doing is exactly what my wife and I did when we decided to take the marital plunge nine years ago.
Your Aunt Edna will be pissed off you did it this way, but so what? She just wanted the free champagne.
Here’s what worked for us. Maybe it could work for you, too.
How We Saved $25,000 On Our Wedding 1 of 15
Invitations 2 of 15
We got married one October afternoon after we went up and paid about $50 for a marriage license and maybe a $100 for a judge to officiate. We didn't invite anyone really. Monica, my fiance for the afternoon was invited. And I was invited. But we didn't need invitations. According to The Knot, people spend about $350 on wedding invitations. Not us, though.
Limos 3 of 15
It would have been cool to have a limo to haul us around Salt Lake City the day of our marriage, I guess. But then again, it never even crossed our minds, so that tells you how important it was to our big day. Instead, we drove to our wedding ceremony in Monica's green '02 Dodge Durango. We giggled and listened to loud music and laughed. Then after we were officially married, we drove to our 'reception' in it, too. It was awesome.... and according to The Knot, we saved about $700. Nice.
Rings 4 of 15
Yes, I think it's very special when two people in love exchange pricey rings to signify their boundless love. But, I also think that it's pretty damn special that my wife and I bought our rings from a cart in the local mall a few hours before we exchanged our vows. We paid $18 total, I think, but these were the two most valuable rings in the world to us at that moment and from then on. Well, until we lost them in the ocean and stuff. Then we got new ones at a different cart. Anyways, The Knot reports that couples spend about $5,400 on rings. We spent less than twenty, but our vows still felt the same.
Tuxedo 5 of 15
The Knot says that most guys spend about $230 to rent a tux for their big day. I spent zero dollars. And I'll admit it, I looked a little schlubby, a little less than formal at my wedding. But I still look at that and laugh about it and smile about it and remember how excited and poor and thrilled and scared I was in my dumb H&M shirt that hardly even fit me. And after considering all that, I don't think I would ever go back in time and do the tux thing even if I could somehow.
Photographer 6 of 15
There are plenty of awesome, competent wedding photographers out there and if you decide to spring for one that's tremendous. Remember this though: sometime down the road you might not really miss the fact that you didn't spend $2,300 ( the average cost according to The Knot) for photos someone else took of your wedding at the start of your long life together. Monica and I took our own pictures using her hundred-dollar handheld digital camera. We took a lot of them and we captured each other in ways that seem raw and real to me even today. I love them as much as I could ever imagine loving any wedding shots....largely because we took them ourselves. Food for thought.
Ceremony Site 7 of 15
I guess it must cost around $1700 to procure a 'ceremony site' when you get married. At least that's the figure that The Knot gives from it's study. I wouldn't know; we paid the first county judge who answered the phone a hundred or two-hundred bucks (I can't even remember) to marry us...at his pad (that's him in the pic above). And it just so happens that judges have SWEET DIGS. At least this fellow did; his home was a breathtaking 'venue' with vines climbing the walls and lush plants and flowers everywhere you looked. Still, it could have been a dark dungeon knee-deep in dragon poop and we wouldn't have cared.
Wedding Dress 8 of 15
In 2012, The Knot found that marrying couples spent an average of about $1200 on a wedding dress for the lovely bride. I understand how important this is to so many women, so this is actually one of those things that I can understand spending the big loot on. Still, owing to the way that my wife and I ended up doing things, she didn't get a fancy dress. Instead, she wore something black and sleek and sexy that she already owned. And let me tell you something, she looked electric.
Wedding Planner 9 of 15
Wedding planners cost about $1800 on average, according to The Knot. Who cares? We saved that much money in a matter of seconds when we hired this guy. Yep, that's me. And this was my first wedding planner gig. And my only one ever. And it turned out to be the most magnificent wedding I have ever been to. And I put it together with my girlfriend, Monica, in about 12 hours. For free. So we saved $1800.
Flowers 10 of 15
The day we got married was a brightly lit, bluebird October day. The Utah foothills were all decked out in autumn leaves and I remember thinking that it was such a beautiful day in such a gorgeous part of the world to be getting married. We didn't spend the $2000 on flowers that The Knot says most wedding couples spend for their big day. In fact, we didn't spend a damn penny on that stuff. But we had a backdrop of mountains and nature staring down on us as we said our "I do's" and then drove to grab a cold beer. It was, I dare say, perfectly lovely without fifty big vases of overpriced white roses or whatever.
Videographer 11 of 15
See those people up there in the picture? They all work at Best Buy. Go there and buy yourself a half-decent video camera for a few hundred bucks if you simply have to have a movie of the whole day. Then take your footage and chop it up and edit it, a glass of wine and your better half by your side, with one of those easy-to-use photo editing programs that cost like $75. That way, you'll be spending a lot less than the $1600 that The Knot says couples spend on having their wedding filmed and put on a DVD with their favorite song playing in the background. My wife and I didn't do any video. We never miss it either; some things don't need to be recorded.
The Wedding Party 12 of 15
I didn't see an exact figure for what most couples end up spending on maid-of-honor/bridesmaids dresses and best man/groomsmen tuxes in the poll I used to estimate wedding costs. But, c'mon...it's got to be at least $2000, right? Especially when you factor in the nice penknives or engraved photo frames or whatever crazy expensive doo-dads you end up buying everyone in your wedding party, no? For Monica and me, though, our solo flight into the throes of everlasting matrimony benefited financially by us getting married without a whole bunch of people attached to our day. I have nothing against friends and relatives sharing the experience, mind you, I'm just saying that by skipping it, we probably saved almost 3 grand.
Rehearsal Dinner 13 of 15
The Knot study says that people usually spend about $1100 on a rehearsal dinner for their wedding party after they're done practicing getting married. Nothing wrong with that really, especially when you're having a big old wedding; since people have traveled from far and wide to be a part of it, you sort of owe them a steak and a few drinks. My wife and I didn't have to worry about incurring that cost though since we didn't invite a soul to our shindig. As a parallel expense though, I might as well admit to you that I did spend about six bucks on 7-11 beef jerky for our 'best man', Max the Labrador Retriever, who graciously loaned Monica his collar to wear as her garter and then waited faithfully for us back at Monica's condo. Now, that's a best man.
The Reception 14 of 15
The Knot reports that when it came to throwing a memorable wedding reception for their family and friends, newlyweds in 2012 paid an average of $13,000 for a reception venue, $3000 for a band to play/$1000 for a DJ, $600 for a cake, and about $63-per-head for catering. Add a sizable figure to that for booze and beer and you are looking at the down payment on a modest home. My wife and I exchanged our vows and then we went to Red Lobster (I had a gift card already!) and toasted our life together and had clam dip and listened to the cutting-edge music that they play there on the stereo intercom. We saved like 15 grand.
‘Priceless Memories’ 15 of 15
I recognize that weddings are meant to be one of the greatest days of your life, and who can argue with that sentiment, right? But don't believe it when folks tell you that they paid out the nose for everything just so they could carry away all those precious 'memories', okay? Because I have a hell of a lot of insanely great memories from an afternoon/evening almost a decade ago, when I married the girl of my dreams...and we did it for like $300. Love and luck to you and yours, whichever path you choose...
More on He Said/She Said