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.
I don’t like the “local” rule though. It’s not fair to close relatives/friends who happen to live in a different city.
When/if my kids get married, I (assuming I’m still around) want to be there. I don’t care if it’s a casual ceremony on a front lawn or at the top of Mt. Everest – I want to be there.
Kerry, I love this.
Sorry to be random, but you are first Canadian I know who doesn’t have milk in a bag.
Well done 🙂 It really doesn’t have to be something that puts you into debt, does it? I know a gal who spent $80K on her wedding and ended up getting an annulment a couple of months afterward. Simply INSANE!
@Emily I grew up in Ontario where milk in a bag is common. I’ve never seen bagged milk in British Columbia.
@Tanya 80K? Insane. That’s a down payment on a house. 😐
Well, if all you paid for was a marriage license and a minister, you got ripped off.
My marriage license was $80. My priest was free because I go to church.
My white dress was perfect and it is a big deal to 99.99% of women because the sacrament of matrimony is the biggest day of your life.
Excellent. Not that I ever intend to get married, of course, but you seem to have trimmed it down to what matters. I’ve seen too many weddings that were a colossal waste of money. At least half of which ended in divorce anyway.
I agree with Mike – everything is a great idea but the ‘local’ rule. Neither my nor my boyfriend’s families live in our city… or anywhere close to our city. It seems a bit harsh to exclude my mother and father because they live in another province =)
Fluevogs and vows in front of a log cabin? I didn’t know you were a British Columbian before but one look at the photos and I knew…
Congratulations, Kerry! Your wedding looks like it was very you – frugal, honest, cute, creative and sassy. 😀
For the other readers who are taking your advice and planning an inexpensive wedding, here are two more fantastic resources:
I’m not affiliated with either site; I’m just an appreciative married lady.
Kerry~ you are a breath of fresh air! I love all of it! (however, my family is a big deal to me and I would want them there… and with that said- if they couldn’t make it, I totally understand as a typical wedding costs the guest up to $1000.00 just to attend. I wouldn’t hold it against them.) Thanks for you frugal tips!
Wow, good for you seriously… this is hard to accomplish and stand your ground. In the end, it’s the marriage that counts and being surrounded by the people who love you.
We got a lot of gifts/help that really helped our budget – my aunt does flowers so she did ours as a gift, my uncle bottles wine for fun, so he made it for our wedding, my mom and mil are great sewers, so they sewed the girls’ dresses (less than $30/each), I’m crafty so I did the invitations for 0.33/each (without stamp) and had a party where my friends helped me put them all together, my sister helped with the decor. I did a lot of research and got things at a rock bottom price.
All in all, it’s your day – you can spend $230 or you can spend $80K and have everyone you have ever known there. It’s up to you!
Love your flowers and your shoes.
Best wedding invite ever. Period.
Amazing! Yes, it doesn’t have to break the bank. My son got married at City Hall. The bride had a $50 dress, he wore his one and only suit, she carried a few gerberas, a friend made them a cake, another friend took the photos. They told no-one about this except for the half dozen people who attended and helped them out. We found out a couple of weeks later. Not only did they save money, they also saved everyone from a whole bunch of stressing out.
Love it! We spent $10k on our wedding, but it was 15 years ago before I started reading Squawkfox and the like.
A lot of my friends have gotten married recently and have done it your way. I’ve been invited to some and not others (be ruthless on your guest list!)
One of my oldest friends (I’ve known her 19 years) married her boyfriend of 11 years by eloping to Hawaii. So yeah, not terribly cheap, but it was just them and their 4 best friends and the groom wore pants and an Hawaiian shirt. Way cheaper than a big old party.
I love it! You didn’t do “elaborate on a budget”, you did a wedding on a budget. And coming from someone who bought her wedding dressing at a big box store (it wasn’t even a wedding dress), who wore shoes from her closet, had her friends fix her hair and a local restaurant do the “catering” (read: we all went out to eat afterward), I think I probably spent no more than $300 total (and that includes the honeymoon – weekend getaway at the beach, less than an hour away). And for the naysayers who say you need all the pomp and circumstance in order to be happy – my husband and I have been together for 14 years. The nuptials are all that matter in my opinion.
I love this! You look great, and more importantly, happy! I have been with my boyfriend for almost 7 years and we are getting a lot of pressure from some family and friends to get hitched and throw a big wedding. When I complain about the ridiculous cost they throw out the “it’s the most important day of your life” BS. It is nice to see someone taking a sane approach to what is a special moment for a couple. It’s about love and happiness, not showing off for others. I can’t wait for part 2!
Kerry, you are AWESOME. If more people had your common sense, this would be a much better world. I am constantly looking for ways to be more minimalist, and just when I think I’ve found them all, you show me another! The invite was great. Love your sense of humor. Oh, and 80k? for me that’s no down payment, that’s more than my entire mortgage!
But why spend only $239 when you could spend $30,000? The amount equivalent to the downpayment on your first house. Or a yearlong honeymoon travelling around the world. Or two really fantastic lightly used cars.
My contribution…When we got married, my wife carried a bouquet down the aisle, which was a head of broccoli, with a few flowers added. Few of the guests, heck even the groom, barely noticed that she spent closer to $3.00 on flowers. Also this makes for a good story afterwards.
Spend the money on important things, the ones you like and will remember.
fabulous. thrift shopped my wedding dress (and then recycled it to another thrift shop afterwards) for $25. City hall wedding was some ridiculously cheap amount like $50 (all included). Lunch with immediate family was parents’ treat (probably came to about $400 for the family total, and then party in a friend’s backyard. We picked up baguettes and flowers at safeway on the morning of, and had picked up fruits and veggies the day before. Friend’s wedding present to us was taking photos. Another friend made a bouquet. Witnesses wore their own clothes. husband wore his own suit.
And here we are, still together, 16 years later. It’s not a fancy dress that makes a day special; it’s making a public commitment to one another. And that doesn’t need a church or a white dress or 40K.
Beautiful– well done! My wife and I have been married for 19 years. We managed to keep the cost for our wedding under about $2000 with about 100 guests. Great memories and no long-term debt following us after the wedding. And the dress was also purchased second hand. Great lesson for your readers!
interesting take on a deeply personal (and often controversial) decision, great to see a refreshing take on it. i find wedding blogs often overwhelming in the amount of time, energy, and money they expect and encourage people not to mention how hypergendered they are, and the assumption that the bride takes on the vast majority of the planning.
personally, my partner and i got married this past summer for a little over four thousand dollars. the main expense, of course, was housing and hosting our guests who came from out of town. but the thing is, part of the reason we decided to have a wedding in the first place was because most of our friends and even our fathers had never met, even though we were together for four years. it was such a central part of our wedding that the four friends and four family members simply would not have worked for us. our families live a 9 hour drive apart, and we even had friends fly in from as far west as kelowna, b.c. and as far east as addis, ethiopia to join us for our celebration. it’s part of what made the day so incredibly special. we rented out a motel for all of our guests, and the location doubled as our wedding site. even so, the cost was more than reasonable – $1,700 for the weekend, to house fifty guests.
but we cut corners where it didn’t really matter – for example, no flowers, no deejay, etc. we got married in august outdoors so it just wasn’t really necessary. friends picked wild flowers from around the island and made me the most beautiful bouquet… all for free. our musician friends played beautiful songs for us.
sorry to ramble on like this! i just wanted to say it’s great to see how people can personalize their celebration to suit their needs and their budgets.
I don’t know how I found your blog/article, but this is the most common sense and level-headed approach I’ve seen for a wedding. I like it!!
you’re a lucky man, Carl ‘cuz they don’t make them like that anymore.
Congrats on having the wedding you wanted. I think that’s the most important thing, whether it costs $200 or $20,000. It’s your special day and you can choose to spend a little or alot.
Thanks for sharing your wedding experience! I’d hoped my fiance would just want to elope and tell everyone after the fact, but your article gives me reassurance that I can have something small and private – that won’t break the bank!
[…] How to get married for $239.00. […]
I agree with the others that I would have used different rules for inviting wedding guests. (There are people in my life that I am very close to who neither live locally or have invited me for dinner in the last year. Or ever. Entertaining just isn’t their thing.)
But I think the moral of this story is that you had rules at all. By all means, create your own guidelines for guests, but make sure you have them. Because as you pointed out, the number of guests affects costs in all kinds of areas.
I applaud you because mynhusban and I didthe same thing. We held the wedding in our own backyard and invited friends and family in town which totaled about 20 including my husband and our daughter. My dress, I paid $80 because I don’t have any dresses, it was a white summer dress with a little black bolero jacket, it was that expensive only because I’m a big gal. For food we had cubed cheese, rolled deli meats, cut up fruit, cookies, veggies and dip. We got out cake for $40 at the Safeway I work at. My husband wore a dress shirt, pants and a tie that he always has owned. My bouquet was a little bundle of multi colored mini carnations and a little sprig in my hair. So in total we spent about $400 on our wedding and it was perfect <3
Yay, you two! Congratulations and happily ever after!
We got married in the Oak Bay Rose Garden at Windsor Park here in Victoria in July of 1983. The roses were in full bloom and gorgeous! I bought a white Mexican cotton wedding dress on sale for $50(which has since been used by a dear friend who had even less money than we did)and my husband had his one suit. Our Marriage Commissioner was a very sweet man who had us facing the ‘audience’ over a sundial. Afterwards we went to my mum’s house and had the best potluck ever! Everyone tried to outdo everyone else so the food was sublime. It was SO much fun. Our plans were to head to Botswana as volunteer teachers (sponsored by WUSC) within 6 months so we carefully and politely as we could asked for money, not gifts. We ended up being away for 3 years…what a honeymoon.
Thrifty, but so much fun.
Congrats on a frugal but fabulous wedding! For a great selection of pre-owned and used wedding dresses in Canada, check out SmartBrideBoutique.com.
Wow! Great post…thanks for the tips…love the added photos… I will definitely do this. What is crazy to me are the really expensive rings the couple buys (who then can’t pay for a house)…no wonder!!
[…] many people are putting off their weddings. But with some advice from Squawkfox, you can learn How to Get Married for $239.00. No […]
[…] from Squawkfox got married for $239. Do you know what would have saved $239? Not getting […]
If I ever marry, I can cut wedding costs by having a clergyman perform the ceremony. My Dad and his four brothers are all ordained ministers, as well as 3 of my cousins. Any of them would be happy to do the ceremony for free as a wedding present.
You two are a beautiful couple!
If I ever get married again, that would be my dream wedding!!
Great post! My SO and I talk about how keep people from feeling obligated to give gifts without being rude or making it sound as though we just mean we want cash. Was your “NO GIFTS” request effective?
Good for you 2 and congrats! We got married 3 years ago and we paid cash. We had our service at a Heritage Listed house and gardens for $500.
Then of course you have to pay for marriage licence and in Australia the couple must do pre-marriage counselling. Probably to better prepare couples.
It went pear shapped for us because I was hoping for a nice family and friends wedding but my husbands family has major ‘issues’ shall we say.
In the end we were out of pocket over $5,ooo cash.
We ended up with only siblings, parents and witness’ due to the dramas.
My take on the whole thing was if I knew all this before hand I would have taken my money and eloped on the honeymoon instead. 😉
So great idea your way keep it simple and enjoy the day debt free, minimum to pay.
I think a wedding like that is fabulous! Maybe I’m a buzzkill but the whole show of a wedding is mighty silly. What you did Kerry is real and touching. And for those who feel it’s not “fair” to not invite relatives or friends who live out of town (parents and siblings excluded) don’t kid yourself. No one wants to drive/fly/train 5 hours to your wedding, buy you gifts you will probably return or regift, take off of work, and buy new clothes. And I think the dinner rule is great.
The exception I would make to the in town rule are my parents and my best friend. Unfortunately my friends and family are so spread out throughout the midwest of the U.S.A. that getting very many together would be a huge expense. There must be over a hundred people in my extended family now on my father’s side. My BFL lives in Ohio and is thinking of moving further east.
This is blog is two years too late for me. Considering that the precedent set for us was elope or go all out, I think my husband and I did pretty well.
We found bargains for:
venues – 2 fun locations, so no regrets
dresses – bridesmaid dresses can also be worn to parties; I donated mine
suits – comfortable, breathable attire that could double as business clothes for the men
and we had a dry wedding. Neither of us drink, and we didn’t feel like babysitting.
However, I wish I’d had a precedent to go smaller and even simpler. We’d have received indignant sniffs from THOSE relatives (we all have them), but the rest of us would still have had a great time.
I’d also like to add that we fed our bouquets to my guinea pigs, so it was a good day for everyone!
I feel vindicated! My wedding dress was made by my mother: a floral print on a black background wouldn’t be the thing for everyone, but it worked for me, and I got to wear it on several other occasions. The bride wore black was a movie title way back when…My husband wore a new pair of tweedy pants with a V neck wool sweater and an open collar shirt. This made his mother cried: “Oh, no! no necktie!” But then, my spouse never wore a tie and didn’t care for one (now did I). I borrowed my sister’s shoes. I did my hair. We didn’t care for rings so didn’t get any. Louis is the youngest of a family of 10 kids, so we invited only those living in Montreal, by phone, about one week ahead of the wedding. My father insisted that the wedding party of 11 would eat in a restaurant: we chose a vegetarian restaurant, economic because there is no meat served. (OK, my father almost had a heart attack over it but he recovered). It was winter in MOntreal: I didn’t even think of flowers. The reception: I cook a salmon for friends and served it in my brother’s apartment with a poppy seed homemade cake for dessert. I still make this cake occasionally for our great enjoyment.
All in all, I don’t remember how much it cost, but it was minimal, absolute minimal (I had just finished my last undergrad exam 3 days before). That was on December 27, 1977. It’s been 34 years of bliss (and a few fights) since. Proof that an expensive wedding doesn’t buy happiness, but a cheap one might just do it.
[…] but so what? It’s her wedding. If she’s having trouble staying on budget, refer her to this piece (quite possibly the best thing ever written about inexpensive weddings). The hope is that the bride will adhere to a more reasonable sum if she has to pick up the tab. […]
[…] know that’s not the case. It’s not even the crazy cost of a wedding either (even though Squawk Fox showed how you can do it on the cheap). I’ve just never been interested in any of […]
Like a lot of other commenters, I agree with all your tips except the one about “ruthlessly” cutting the guest list. If you aren’t going to invite the people who mean most to you (regardless of where they live), then why throw a wedding party at all? Why not just go to City Hall and be done with it?
Also, while I agree that those who are lucky enough to have a family barn should definitely consider having their wedding hoedown in it, apartment dwellers are probably going to have to find another venue. In my case, it was a private picnic area at a state park–$50 for the rental. We had the ceremony itself under a pavilion, ate at the picnic tables, and danced on the grass. (Luckily for us, it didn’t rain–we got some drop cloths to cover the sides of the pavilion just in case, but it would have gotten rather crowded in there.)
I like your rules – I used the rule: if you had not been to my house in two years, you didn’t get invited. Of course, it took 5 years for one set of relatives to get over not be invited but they hadn’t played a part in my life anyway so I didn’t really notice.
I don’t agree about the local as there really are some people who live at a distance that would move heaven and earth to come and not even question the cost and you would truly miss if they weren’t there.
[…] It doesn’t cost much! Actual costs in BC are pretty much your marriage license, marriage commissionaire (and, later, a marriage certificate). You’re looking at about $300. See the official gov’t details here. And read how one bride got married for $239. […]
Here’s a clue for the guys…
If your bride wants to spend more than $5K on the wedding ask yourself what her motives are – is it really about hitching your wagons together for life, or is it a princess ego trip?
Of course it could be both, but there are just far too many like this from Tanya (see above) – “I know a gal who spent $80K on her wedding and ended up getting an annulment a couple of months afterward. Simply INSANE!”
Simply INSANE indeed.
How/why all of this wedding insanity started, I have no clue. My(now husband) and I knew we didn’t want any part of that either, so we stayed within our pretty frugal means also. Fortunately for us, we have some pretty incredible friends who gave us their time/talent/business venue for gifts, so we didn’t have to spend much to have an INCREDIBLY memorable wedding with approximately 100 guests! People are still talking about it almost 9 years later!
My mom bought the material and made my dress. (Hubby rented a tux.) Hubby’s best-friend/chef owned a great nightclub on wheels which is/was a 4 car train that cruised up and down the country tracks over a 4 hour period for our reception. (He wouldn’t let us pay a penny for using it.) We stopped at a great track-side pavilion about half way up for a fabulous buffet dinner, which my husbands friend catered, for free. I made and decorated my own wedding cakes. (Approx. $25) Decorations on tables were potted flowers, which guests took with them. (Paid for by my parents.) Bridal bouquet and other flowers were less than $100, done by our local grocery store. And a band that we know and are very fond of did our music for the evening for only $150.) Video was taken by professionals who are friends of my husband. Photography was taken by several gifted friends who volunteered and gave us either the negatives and/or digital copies of the pictures.
I’m pretty sure that when all was said and done, we paid out less than $400 for the event. And a great time was had by all!
Nice to see people being realistic on weddings. We believe the wedding is only the first day of a lifetime together rather than the only day that matters. We eloped in Jamaica. I wore a $60 white dress (clearance rack). He wore the suit he was wearing the day we met. The rest was included in our resort stay. So, our honeymoon and wedding was wrapped into one. My parents threw us a dinner party for extended family when we returned but that was a surprise and held on Sunday (cheaper time) at a local golf club.
I never really got the whole spending extravaganza that weddings seem to become. I understand wanting a special day to be special, wanting to celebrate with all your family and friends etc… I just don’t get why that means you have to blow an amount of money equivalent to a down payment on a house (or MORE!) on it. It’s insane.
That said, I have no desire to tell other people what to do on their wedding day, but if they are going to go into debt? I just don’t get it at all. My first wedding was a $400 potluck on a mountaintop. My dress was about $45 and very cute. There was no alcohol and no dj or dancing. It was very simple. That marriage turned out to be a mistake but the wedding was nice. My current husband and I spent $3,000 on our wedding, again potluck, a family memer DJ-ed, we bought lots of wine and beer, held the wedding in a church, the actual separate reception in a wonderful event space, our decorations and center pieces were simple, (white Christmas lights and candles) the guest-contributed food was Wonderful, our cake was lovely, 3 tiers and delicious from a local bakery for 100 guests for about $135. The day was magical and we didn’t go into debt we saved the money before and paid for everything with cash.
That’s my style, I would use this article as a reference for my wedding in the future(I don’t know when,lol). Do what really matters!
I must join in on this!
First of all, you can find the perfect dress on ebay. My dress was 150.00$ plus shipping and it looked and felt like a designer dress. My ring cost 40$ on etsy. Simple, cute and perfect. My husband bought black pants and a black shirt for 50$ and a tie for 40$. Didn’t need the suit and he looked as handsome and formal as ever. Go to ‘Micheals’ craft store and buy your own silk flowers and your bouquet/bridesmaid bouquets/boutonnieres can be highly affordable.
Check out a small town venue. Ours was a hall with space for people to camp over night, with a full kitchen. It cost 300$ for the entire weekend. Compared to in the City for 1000$ for two days.
There are so many ways to save money! My husband and I paid 3000.00 total. With family support, we only paid 400$. Check out this book if you want to find out more about what the wedding industry does NOT want you to find out: “Bridal Bargains” by Denise & Alan Fields.
The sections on the Bride’s apparel just might shock you!
We did a very similar wedding for my son and his 8 month pregnant wife. I always wanted a backyard wedding at our house but thought it wouldn’t happen because the size of weddings. I catered the luncheon after the Palais de Justicw morning wedding a beautiful hot May Saturday. 27 people attended…friends and neighbours…all family were out of town and were not invited . You are right out of towners would make it a big deal. Lucky for me I have china for 30 but did buy paper napkins. We borrowed tables and chairs from neighbours and covered in similar cloths. flower arrangements I make from local costco flowers and decorations were netting boughs and ribbon…super cheap, gorgeous , classy and sustainable as Iwill reuse the decorations. I bought 5 bottles of champaign (120$) pop, punch and our homemade wines. II made 6 quiches and two big salades, couscous and green. My joy was the wedding cake I made 5 layered carrot with fondant icing with cascading roses . My first time Using fondant and wondered why I thought it was so hard. I also made a chocolate grooms cake which was a farmyard (my son wants to own a farm) . A friend brought his guitar and played and another friend was the official photographer. It was so relaxed and everyone said it was the best wedding they have ever been to…..by the way the bride bought a beautiful stretchy long ivory lace summer dress that she can wear post pregnancy for summer date nights. The best is we now have a beautiful 8 week old grandson too! Such a great wedding and I spent approximately $300.
Wow! There’s nothing like wedding talk to get people all wound up. It is totally amazing the amount of money couples are willing to blow on the ‘big day’ when they usually haven’t even begun to make a dent in their house debt. Sadly, statistics show that 50% of all marriages end up in divorce due to financial pressure.
The white dress, of course, is an absolute must as it signifies the purity and virginity of the bride. As the groom’s family has paid the bride’s parents a large sum by way of a dowry for the loss of a pair of hands to help out at home, they want to be assured they are getting untainted goods. Nothing wonky here. White dress absolutely necessary!! (Heavy sarcasm)
The big reception is paid for by the bride’s parents. It is the indicator of what social status they command in the community. Again, another indicator of the desirability and value of the bride. Also, In earlier times, a wedding provided an important social gathering of people who otherwise would be working their behinds off from daylight to dark. Excluding anyone from this gathering would be a huge social faux pas in an era when all were dependant on each other for survival. As well, before the time of modern communication, the best way to notify everyone that you were now a married couple and therefore off-limits to others, was to make sure they were there to witness the event.
Finally, It seems to me that more and more the wedding day has become about the bride and groom. We are being trained from an early age to focus on what is best for ourselves, not for the people around us. Therefore, now, we focus on our appearance and making the day memorable for ourselves instead of focusing on our guests which is what all good hosts do. Of course, our selfishness results in our money being spent on ourselves leaving us with no funds to focus on the people around us.
When I consult with brides I always ask them to tell me what they value most at their wedding and ask what their dream invitations would look like if money wasn’t an object. Then I tell them how much that would cost; some are surprised it’s “so little” or some run away screaming.
I think the beauty of the wedding industry today is that there are people out there that will cater to either bride, the elaborate “fairytale” bride or the frugalista who just wants to get married!
I think that how you were able to save money is extremely inspiring and is a really, REALLY great reminder to anyone getting married that the most important part of the day is that you’re committing to someone for the rest of your life–not just having a big ole’ party.
This is what we did and it was wonderful! It cost us $250.00 to get married. License, Justic of the Peace and suit/dress from Value Village! We knew it was not about the day, but the commitment we were making to each other. We didn’t have the money for anything more grand and I only look back on that day with fond and beautiful memories. :))
[…] (aka Squawkfox) who had only four guests and spent $591.12 in total on her wedding to Carl. But Part 1 and Part 2 of her wedding blogs are very entertaining and contain lots of terrific frugal helpful […]
Wow – I’m so glad to read such a thoughtful article on saving costs for a weddling. My husband and I threw a wedding together with 10 days to plan it and execute it. (23 years ago) We had an evening service. I wore a street length dress. We hosted the 20 or so people at a local steak house afterwards. It cost more than what your wedding did (which is what I would do today), but we were just as married. It isn’t the most important day of your life. It is the start of the most important journey.
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I wish we can cut costs from our wedding. We are getting married in August and we’ve reached the $10K mark. I’m trying to convince the fiancee and his family to cut down on stuff (do we really need a giant party limo? which is cool mind you), but they seem to want it. My thoughts, if they want it that bad go ahead, as long as it’s not coming out of my pocket (we don’t combine income and have seperate accounts).
Congrats! I have a better idea. I got married for 150 dollars! My marriage license was 34 dollars and the Justice of the Peace was 100 dollars. I wore a dress out of my closet, but my husband had to buy a shirt and tie. We got marriage under the gaesbo in the park by the ducks.
I think it is great to keep costs down for your wedding. We often forget it is only one day! Preparing for a life time together seems like a much better thing to spend thousands of dollars on. Having said that, everyone is different and have unique situations. If you want to spend $50 and get married at town hall, I say “good for you!”. If you want to spend $100,000 I say “good for you”.
Try not to judge others by the choices they make, they are theirs to make and for them it may be exactly what they want.
Share the love people! 🙂
Prices vary by province, etc.
Quote: “Well, if all you paid for was a marriage license and a minister, you got ripped off.
My marriage license was $80. My priest was free because I go to church.”
In Ontario, at last check, a marriage licence is now $100. I was also a regular church goer when I first got married, and a member of the church I married in. They still charged us $200.
At the moment, for my second marriage, I’m trying to keep things way down in cost (not that I went crazy on the first one, thank goodness), but I can’t even find an officiant to marry us for less than $250. But I’ll keep looking…
I’m so glad I found your article! I’m going to apply your teachings to my search for a dress.
I realize the comment of the $80K wedding and annulment were comments way up the way, but that is how much we BOUGHT our house for (plus a few extra K’s). I LOVE how down to earth and blunt you are. Your wedding pictures were beautiful, the bride and groom were beautiful, and the locale was awesome. My husband (who isn’t actually my husband, but my boyfriend/baby daddy/partner in crime; whatever you want to call him) has always said, WHY spend so much money on ONE DAY?? My sister is getting married next September and I am her Maid/Matron of Honor and am trying to keep her flighty notions of excessively spending money on frivolous things that people couldn’t give a rat’s crap about. I have always said I would go to David’s Bridal (do they have those in Canada (US here :)) and shop at their $99 sale and make/grow/do as much DIY as it will cost to keep the total as close to $1-2K as possible (which is affordable for us) where as my sister’s dress is already my whole wedding budget!!! Making something look classy with super expensive things to impress a whole lot of people you aren’t close to is ridiculous in my book. You totally have a new follower in me! 🙂
My first wedding which was 32 years ago and it cost me under $250, $60 for my dress (which my friend sewed for me from a Gunne Sax pattern) and a beautiful cake that cost $150. We had a formal wedding in our place of worship (no charge), then a reception at a local Eagles hall for which we got back the deposit since my friends cleaned it up when it was over. We had REAL food at the reception because all of my friends wanted to help. We planned a menu and asked them to bring the food which they were glad to do. That marriage lasted only seven years.
Fast forward 25 years to my second wedding which cost us a whopping $50 for the marriage license and nothing for the judge. We wore our own street clothes and went out to eat afterwards with our “witnesses” (friends). No formal wedding, no guests, no FUSS! My mother was happy even though she didn’t get to attend. The rest of my family was offended but I had told them for years that if I ever married again that I was eloping….so I did.
Advice to all future brides: skip the expense, use it for something REAL later on in your life.
Had a $460 wedding 13 years ago. Stood on the porch where my parents were married and found the perfect dress at Cato for $30!! We had barbecue cooked overnight by my dad and his friends, his mom made our cake, and we all ate every bit of it because it was good and not covered in nasty crap, I mean fondant, and it was a byob (such a bad idea, the byob, in the end, you’ll see) and I’m a florist so I made my bouquet, halo, and his boutonnière, put a few flowers on my cake and that was it. We did the local only invite among friends, family did come from out of town but they were coming to visit anyway, and stayed at my parents house. Here’s what went all wrong….. Hubby’s family, some I’d never met in the 4 years we dated, nor have seen after the wedding, decided they wanted to come. They heard from the family that was invited it was a casual event and byob. They ate all the BBQ we had DURING our ceremony and my groom and I were left eating hotdogs my dad ran to the corner store and bought since the food was now gone. Before our night could end we had to wake and/or drag passed out drunks to their cars, drive them home, we took turns who drove the drunks and who followed to drive the driver back, and we did this until the sun came up. My point here….. Cutting costs on a wedding is one of the best decisions a new couple can make for their future. One thing that we might have spent money on though should have been a light form of security of some sorts. Maybe keep the uninvited away, and stop the binge drinkers before the pass out in the yard and destroy the wedding night plans for the bride and groom who want them all to be gone, but also to be safely driven back to the woodwork they crawled out of.
These are good ideas, but if I want a nicer dress to cherish and pass on to my kids, I will spend that extra $500 for the dress and have it altered later for my daughter/daughter-in-law.
Same goes for the flowers. If I want a 2 dozen rose bouquet. I’m BUYING IT. Weddings are special and some nicer things are needed for special occasions.
I know these are meant for people who just want to be minimal, but this is just plain ridiculous. At least go to your local church and ask to use the un-used sanctuary on a Saturday! Or go to Wal-Mart and buy white cake mix and buttercream icing for your wedding cake (or just have the Wally World bakery make a sheet cake).
I like the idea of staying “local,” but SOME people, whether they were invited for dinner or not, NEED to come or you may have a lifetime war on your hands as to why you didn’t invite them to the wedding – case in point: your parents live in England, but you live in Germany, and you’re extremely close to each other. That wouldn’t be too good…
I also like the idea of the digital invites. Heck, I’ve used FaceBook invitations before and those are really nice to have! Not only are they always readily available to you in case you lose the hard copy, but you can also edit the invitation if necessary.
[…] wedding with way WAY less than this (Check out Kerry’s inspiring wedding costs on Squawk Fox here and here!). Then again, some weddings have much more than this. Tea ceremonies, reception […]
I got married in Colorado Springs, Colorado ten years ago for only $70. That was the price of the marriage license and judge who married us. I wore a dress I already owned and my mom gave me so flowers as a gift. My husband also wore what he already had. My mother wasn’t local, but she vowed to disown me if I didn’t let her come. We also had two local friends join us. It was so small, it was perfect for us. No fuss, no hassle.
We’ve been happily married for ten years now, and we can’t wait for the next ten. I know some couples who spent thousands of dollars on their wedding only to divorce a few years later. People need to spend more time planning for the marriage and less time planning the wedding that only lasts one day.
Forty-eight years ago, my husband and I married while still in college. My mother made my dress out of some gorgeous drapery fabric in the “Jackie Kennedy” style. She also made the 3 bridesmaids’ simple sheath dresses. My husband bought a new suit since he would need one for interviews. My brother purchased two boxes of long stemmed mums for the altar. My father, who cut Christmas trees every fall and winter, found two beautifully matched fir trees for the front of the church. Back then, a wedding was simply the sacrament with punch and cake afterwards. The entire wedding cost my parents a total of $175.00. It was perfect- just what we wanted- and we are still together after many years.
Yes I’ll agree we pay way too much for weddings but most girls have dreamed about this day their whole lives. I’m currently planning remarry my first husband passed over four years ago. You have good ideas on how to cut expenses but your rule about the guest list does not work for me. If I did that it would eliminate my parents and one set of grandparents on my fiance’s side both live in other states. Plus I went with rule two we may as well get married at the courthouse because their wouldn’t be a guest list. Except for two family reunions each year I never see my relatives and my friends have their own lives. We’re also a very unconventional couple and getting married at home seems rather boring to me. Okay so you cut expenses good for you but in the end did you have a day to remember. My first wedding didn’t quite go the way I wanted it to so I’m trying to not only have a very cheap wedding but something for people to talk about. We want to may an impression. One of these days we plan to have a renewal at Disney World. It maybe expensive but we’ll cherish it.
In BC, we had milk in a bag back in the late 80’s early 90’s, haven’t seen it since. I appreciate your cutting of the list, last week my fiancee and I went from 180 to 40 (I have 7 siblings so…) but the in-laws and my mom are squawking about you have to invite so and so. I say, Its my wedding I can invite whomever I please, kindly butt-out.” I admit I splurged on my dress, I tried on one waaay over budget $3300 and of course I fell in love with it, I bought it used from the UK for 1400. Other than that, we are getting married at my mom’s vacation house in the Okanagan and we are doing the food ourselves (by ourselves I mean my 7 siblings and my aunts have been volunteered muhahaha). We aren’t having a cake and we are using the china my grandmother bought for her monster 80th birthday bash. I am all about the savings! It is just one day, yes a very very special day, but just one day, I’m not spending more than $5500 total!
Thanks for the great article 🙂
It is a great guideline which others can then tweak or change to suit their own sensibilities (as some readers said, they would spend less but invite out of town guests that mean a lot to them; or one might not and put a little more effort toward food and entertaining)
Either way, even though being thrifty can mean slightly different things to different people, the premise is there. I think it is great to trade ideas and create that awareness…so thanks!
ps. for my husband and I, thrift meant inviting only our immediate family (moms, sisters and their spouses, and my step children)-we spent about $3000 on the day..most of it went to some décor on our table and the food!
pss-although I loved my dress and it wasn’t second hand-I think that’s a great idea! I will be selling my wedding dress and hopefully helping someone else to make their wedding more ‘thrifty’ 🙂
I just found your site and I’m really excited to read all your posts!!!
My husband of 8 years and I DID get married in BC for $239! (actually I think it was even a little cheeper 8 years ago but the point is we ONLY payed for the licence and commissionaire)
Our wedding went like this: We told only close friends and family and we did that by calling them on the phone. We told them when it would be and that it was at our (unbelievably tiny) apartment. We told the guests to stop by any time that day to hang out and not to bring any gifts, only beer or snack foods (if they wished) for everyone to share potluck style. There was never too big a crowd and people came and went all day on their own schedule. I wore a nice dress I had owned for years, my husband wore his own clothes too. My husband’s best friend brought a bouquet of flowers as a surprise and I turned on some music. My sister in law took the pictures on her phone. Everyone was happy that day and I had zero (ZERO) stress. Wedding jitters, yeah of course! but no bridezilla moments or panic attacks that things weren’t going according to plan. It was a day I will always remember very fondly and we celebrate it every year without any fanfare or expensive gifts, just being together. While it might not seem like I put in any effort at all, it really represented who I am and who we are as a couple too: Unfussy and minimalist. We were young and quite broke at the time of our marriage, yes, but by not going into debt for a big wedding then, we have a substantial savings and no debt now. I loved my 239 dollar wedding!!!!
Hello there I am so happy I found your sight. I have been trying to figer it out now that I read. All the comments on how to get married with only 200.00 in hand.I have been married twice be for and spent to over 5.000.00 and ended in divorce and didn’t last but 4yrs first time and 5 yrs 2nd. I never really had a big wedding i just let other people do everything and i give out the money this time is going to be different. Thankyou for all the ideas and in about 1 month I will let everyone know how it went.
We’re very like minded! We (Louis and I) got married at my Uncle’s cottage. A sibling with a cottage across the bay provided space for the groom’s family (they travelled for the event). My Dad brewed the wine, the event was ‘catered’ by my sisters and my Aunt (lovely, I know), fresh Atlantic salmon on the BBQ, enjoyed outdoors, and I was gifted a beautiful bouquet, which was a wonderful surprise to say the least. It was like a dream!
How do I get married I don’t want to have a wedding