It only costs $239 to get married.
I squawk you not.
To get hitched (legally) you generally only need to pay for a marriage license and the services of a marriage commissioner. In British Columbia, Canada, a marriage license plus commissioner cost just $239.
Everything else is just pomp and circumstance.
Did you hear me?
The flowers, the dress, the guests, the food, the bubble machine, and the horse drawn carriage won’t do a thing to get you hitched. Sorry to burst your wedded blissdom bubble, but it’s true. Getting married is pretty cheap. It’s all the other $hit the wedding industry sells that’ll cost ya.
Did you hear me?
The wedding industry — a massive money machine looking to part you from your cash by tying emotional strings around every purchase — will pitch wedding products you don’t actually need to tie the knot. Family and friends may also stick their noses into your wedding plans, and do their bit to inflate the cost, intentionally or not.
I should know. I just got married (to Carl). And I (well, we) managed to get hitched without a whole lotta hoopla, cost, and emotional downtime.
How did we do it?
We started with the premise that it only costs $239 to get married — everything else is extra. Yes, we threw in a bit of pomp and circumstance for fun. Here’s where we spent the biggest bucks, cut the biggest costs, and got hitched for hundreds, not thousands, of dollars.
1. The Wedding Attire.
Some women go wonky over the wedding dress. I don’t get it. But the number of reality TV programs documenting brides who scour the Earth in search of the ‘perfect wedding dress’ shows there is a market for white dress insanity. It’s JUST a white dress, people. Get over it.
My take? Skip the insanity, bridal stores, and fancy shops — there’s no such thing as perfect. Get real with your budget and check out the HUGE underground market of used wedding gowns online — perfect for those with the sense to save some big bucks.
Since many brides are desperate to sell their ‘worn only once’ wedding gowns to recoup some of the cost, it’s possible to score a designer gown for cheap. Sites like PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com, RecycledBride.com, and eBay.com boast bargain dresses in all sizes for all bust lines.
I bought my used Nicole Miller wedding dress for $100 on eBay (price included shipping and dry cleaning). Retail price for this 100% silk, fully lined, ivory dress is around $750 new. Silly.
What about tuxes, cummerbunds, and bow ties? Nope. Carl wore the one suit that’s been hanging in his closet for the last ten years. I’m not adding his suit cost to our wedding tab since it’s reused, and I’ve long lost the receipt.
Carl did buy a teal silk tie though for $50.40. He needed the tie, badly.
And that funky handmade silk flower on my head? That’s a fascinator. For $31.32 I stuck a fun hat on my noggin, covered a thinning hair spot (hair loss happens), and saved a bundle of bucks by opting out of the expensive veil action. Later in the day I wore a little teal bolero jacket that cost $10 on sale.
We wore the shoes sitting in our closets. Both the bride and groom wore Fluevogs, of course.
Bottom Line: By reusing our clothing and buying a second hand dress, we managed to spend just $191.72 on our wedding attire.
2. Cut the guest list. Be ruthless.
Nothing inflates your wedding costs more than guests. The venue, food, and decorations all need to grow bigger to accommodate a larger audience. Inviting more people also spawns the strange phenomenon of growing the size (and cost) of ‘The Wedding Dress’ — apparently, a big audience and venue require a bigger, showier gown.
Few couples can downsize a wedding guest list without worry and heartache. I hear ya. But we (Carl and I) did it without batting an eyelash. We had two simple rules for building our wedding guest list. You probably won’t like them.
Wedding Guest List Rules:
- Guests must be local.
- Guests must have invited us for dinner over the last year.
Do you hate me? Are we arguing?
The rationale for these rules is simple. Carl and I wanted a simple, afternoon wedding on the family farm. Inviting out-of-town guests meant we couldn’t fit everyone together at the kitchen table.
Also, inviting out-of-town guests requires accommodations, travel, and time. Your out-of-towners will likely have to take time off work and spend some cash to get to your nuptials. An inflated out-of-town guest list also spawns the strange phenomenon of growing the size (and cost) of your wedding — apparently, you may feel obligated to give your distant guests a bigger, showier wedding.
The second rule is fun, ’cause really, why would you invite someone to your wedding dinner if you haven’t dined with them over the course of a year?
Download my Free Wedding Budget Planner Spreadsheet — it’s an all-in-one guest list worksheet and budgeting tool.
Bottom Line: We invited four friends and four family members to our wedding. Everyone was local and had invited us over for a nosh in the previous 12 months.
3. Say ‘I Do’ with Digital Invitations.
We didn’t hire a printer, pay for acid-free paper, or write an elaborate scripty message using romantic tear-based ink. Formal invitations and postage can be pretty darn expensive, and it’s not really my style. I mean, who wants to spend the time, effort, and cost to write, proof, and edit freaking wedding invitations? I don’t.
So I invited the guests to our wedding on Facebook.
Bottom Line: A digital invitation is free on Facebook. Responses can be immediate. Just be sure invitees don’t forward the invite to everyone on the planet.
4. Get hitched at home.
Venues can cost big cash. Time of year, location, and room size absolutely play a role in price too. Plus, you may need to rent tables, chairs, linens, china, and other stuff.
I wanted to get married in front of the family barn.
Our barn is a great back-drop for photos, a warm place for a gathering, and a happy spot where I normally hang out with family and friends. Besides, getting hitched at home is free.
Bottom Line: By hosting the nuptials in our backyard we spent zero bucks on the venue. We also used our everyday tables, chairs, table cloths, and china to save money.
5. Skip the florist.
I bought all my flowers at Costco. A mixed bouquet of seasonal flowers costs between $9.99 and $15.99 at my favorite club store, so I picked up four bunches to arrange my own fall wedding centerpieces.
But that’s not all. I snipped a sunflower from one arrangement and fashioned myself a homemade bridal bouquet.
Finish the stem with a little ribbon and a clear hair elastic and you’ve got a flower bouquet that costs pennies.
Just be sure to make the bouquet the night before your wedding. Refrigerate the bouquet in water over night. The milk is optional.
Bottom Line: We shopped and Costco and spent just $51.96 on four mixed bouquets of fresh seasonal flowers. This cost includes my bridal bouquet.
But wait, there’s more! Check out Part Two: How to get married for $239 for the final wedding tab.