This weekend, one of my closest girlfriends is getting married. She and her fiance are having a big, traditional wedding where all of their families and friends will be in attendance to celebrate their love. I’ve watched my girlfriend plan her wedding for the last year and I’ve been involved throughout the process in small ways: I went dress shopping with her, I attended her bridal shower and bachelorette party, and I’m going to help out with the music during the reception. Even though planning a wedding is stressful and expensive, watching my friend plan her big, traditional wedding has made part of me wish that Chris and I had planned a big, traditional wedding, too.
Chris and I eloped at San Francisco City Hall with only our immediate family members in attendance. After the 10 minute ceremony, we walked over to a nearby fine-dining restaurant for a lunch reception hosted by my dad. A couple weeks later, my dad hosted a casual reception at his house for my and Chris’ relatives to attend so they could celebrate our marriage, too. We didn’t have a bridal party, but thanks to my thoughtful and generous female family members and friends, I had a bridal shower and bachelorette party. (Unfortunately, Chris’ male family members and friends are not very good at planning, so Chris didn’t have a bachelor party.) Everything total, from my dress to our rings to my bridal shower to our fine-dining reception, cost about $5,000. But again, thanks to our generous friends and family, Chris and I only paid about a fifth of that out of our own pockets. To say that Chris and I saved a lot of money on our wedding is an understatement. Even though we didn’t pay for all of our wedding expenses, our total wedding cost still turned out to be less than the cost of today’s average wedding: $20,000. Priceless!
When I think about how little Chris and I spent on our wedding, I remember why we eloped in the first place: because we couldn’t afford a big wedding at the time. When we got engaged, Chris was unemployed and I was working part-time as a server in a restaurant. Chris ended up finding a job a month before our wedding, so by the time we actually got married, we were still getting back on our feet financially. Honestly, I think if Chris and I had waited longer to get married, we still wouldn’t be able to afford a big wedding! It’s been two years since we got engaged, and even though we are both employed and making good money now, we are still trying to get back on our feet financially because of our debt. Combined, we have over $50,000 in debt thanks to student loans, credit cards, and my auto loan. Could you imagine if we had decided to have a big wedding? We’d be even more in the hole than we are now, which is actually really scary and stressful to even think about.
When I attend my family and friends’ big, traditional weddings now and in the future, I will probably always be a little bummed inside that Chris and I didn’t do the same– that we didn’t have a bridal party or a big reception with a DJ or a fancy five-tier cake. But overall, I will be glad and relieved that we didn’t go into more debt by planning a big, traditional wedding. It makes sense that my girlfriend and her fiance chose to have a traditional wedding because they have no debt and they have money saved. As for me and Chris, we choose the option that was better for us financially, then and now. We don’t regret it either because, most importantly, our day turned out perfect. And not to mention, priceless!
Considering your current financial situation, would you have a big wedding, small wedding, or elope? If you’re already married, would you go back and change how much you spent on your wedding day?