An exciting development in the personal finance space is that more and more couples are turning their back on a convention to prioritize financial independence. Previously we have interviewed couples who have chosen to live in a tiny house to save for retirement.

Today, we hear from a couple who decided to forgo an expensive wedding to focus on other financial priorities.

Why We Chose to Skip an Expensive Wedding

Picture this: You’re walking down the aisle with two flower girls holding the train on your (extravagantly overpriced) designer wedding dress (or in your tux if you’re the groom), in the venue of your choice (and the date of your choice) approaching one of the most important moments of your life.

You should be happy, but are you?

You’ve planned every second of this day down to the napkin holders and avoiding sitting your cousin next to their ex, who happens to be a friend of a friend (that you didn’t want to invite anyway, but you were invited to their wedding). There was never a price that you would place on one of the happiest days of your life – your wedding day – so you don’t bother even to track how much you and each family spent putting this together.

But you know it is WAY too much.

You might have spent $20,000 on the dress ALONE. That is not that far off from what they actually cost if you want a designer dress.

And then BAM, you have a panic attack. The panic attack is still happening as you walk down that aisle. You might have gone a little overboard.

Obviously, that picture is a little dramatic, but it’s a true story. It isn’t my story, though, and I never wanted it to be.

I never daydreamed about my wedding nor wanted a lavish one. And neither did my wife, so we didn’t have one.

And it was the best first decision we made together.

An Expensive Wedding Would Have Been Completely Unnecessary for Us.

People in the U.S. spend an average of $35,000 on their weddings. That number was pulled from CNN Money but is a number pulled from 2016 spending, so it’s probably gone up from that by now.

That is a lot of money to spend on one day. And then the honeymoon? I get stressed out thinking about it.

Well, we didn’t have an extra $35,000 lying around and weren’t about to borrow it either. But we didn’t even think that far into it. We just aren’t those types of people. But if you are, that is okay!

I am not telling you not to have an expensive wedding if you want one, but that it just wasn’t for us. I know people who wouldn’t trade their wedding day for the world no matter how much they spent on it. So if it is a priority to you, I don’t want to bring you down with why it wasn’t a priority for me.

But if you are similar to us and are looking for an alternative way to celebrate your special day, well, you’ve come to the right place.

Traditional weddings just aren’t the norm anymore, not with how today’s couple looks. People’s priorities have changed. More and more younger couples are doing courthouse marriages or eloping – which was what we picked.

It went like this: We got engaged on a beach in Florida and then agreed to get married at that same spot, one year later.

My wife booked someone to come out and officiate our wedding, and their bundle came with a photographer.

Our wedding day cost $850. Do debt and no drama.

Add on another $100 for the wedding band tattoos we got and still were able to have a wedding for under $1,000.

But if you count the plane tickets to Florida from St. Louis, MO, add on another $700.

Still, not bad. Not bad at all!

Everyone Else Wanted it, but Not Us.

As soon as we told our friends and family about our engagement, everyone wanted the details. Where were we going to get married? Church or no church? Bridesmaids? Who to invite? Dresses or no? Reception? Seating? Flowers? Music?

We kept avoiding most of the questions and putting them off. It was too much pressure. Then the traditional gender roles were obviously not going to be something we would be honoring during our ceremony.

And yet..the more we got asked, the more I wanted to actually lean into their expectations and just do it the way they wanted it done. I was so scared of what others thought that I almost did it their way! Don’t do this!

My wife and I sat down and thought about what we really wanted for that day. And we agreed – we want to elope on that same beach, away from all the expectations and pressure—just us.

Don’t care about what everyone else is thinking about YOUR day. It isn’t their decision to make, and it doesn’t matter what they think. Let them worry about themselves, and you do you.

We’d Rather Spend That Money a Different Way.

The big reason why we never wanted a big wedding or a wedding at all was that after going to several weddings together and being in them, we realized it is all just a show. Some people try way too hard to make sure the people at their wedding knows how much they went through to plan it.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it just seemed like such a waste—a waste of money and energy.

We wanted to spend that money on things that mattered to us, such as traveling and saving up to move.

Plus, I had no sort of savings built up myself at that point and still had thousands of dollars owed in student loans. We had bigger fish to fry when it came to money in our minds.

So you might also want to think twice about your current financial situation and what an expensive wedding might do to that. You don’t want to be spending the next ten years repairing a financial hole caused by one day.

Think about your future and what you could do with that money to better your future together.

What we’ve been able to do with that money instead:

Since we decided to do our wedding our way and elope in Florida on that same beach we got engaged, we have done a lot with our time and money in the last three years.

Some of the biggest things that we’ve been able to do that I don’t think would have been possible if we had an expensive wedding were:

  • I paid off my $15,000 student loan.
  • My wife paid off her credit card debt.
  • We started small side businesses from the extra money we had.
  • We’ve taken 10+ trips (with small camping and floating trips sprinkled in) since we got married. I love traveling more than anything (besides my wife, pets, and blog). I am beyond grateful we get to travel as much as we do.
  • Invested in stocks and upped our 401k and IRA contributions

But I will confess something: Our families threw us a surprise anniversary party on our first anniversary of the wedding. It was like a sort of small surprise wedding where people brought gifts, we cut the cake, took pictures, everything. It was terrific, and I am so thankful for our families and that they did that for us. If we did have a real wedding with everyone involved, it would have been just like that. Perfect, small, and fun.

They wanted to have something with both the families, and I understand that. A small get together like that was great.

If you want an alternative wedding solution to the traditional, expensive weddings, open your mind. You don’t have to have a big event and invite everyone. Instead, elope like we did and have a small celebration with your family in a charming setting as we did in their backyard.

Or get married at the courthouse and spend all the money on a kickass honeymoon. Maybe take a trip and do a heartfelt handfasting ceremony on a mountain top with just you two and a priestess (that would be awesome).

Another option: book a park pavilion, get your best friend ordained online as a minister and say the vows over some delicious bar-b-que.

It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it is something that would genuinely make both of you happy.

About the Author

Daniella

Daniella Flores is a software engineer and blogger who writes about personal finance, cheap travel, side hustles and other ways to increase income and make money work for you and your lifestyle. As a small business owner, Flores provides a unique perspective on the changing lives of Americans as we begin to embrace new ways of earning money. Flores also covers the intersection of money and LGBTQ+ issues, financial feminism, work culture, and more as she explores the many different areas of life that money touches and the different effects it has on people. Daniella lives in Missouri with her wife and writes for both of her websites iliketodabble.com and hikingandroadtrips.com.

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