61 comments

Royal Wedding, Shloyal Fledding

It’s time for Mr. Money Mustache to attack another one of America’s most sacred traditions. Marriage. Well, not marriage specifically, but those fantastic and fancy parties we call weddings.

Now, in case you hadn’t figured it out, from an American perspective, I might as well be from another planet. I grew up in a small town in Canada, in a frugal and somewhat bizarre family where love, rather than manufactured products, was the chief currency. We also missed out on any concept of tradition, religion, and even most of polite society’s Social Norms. We are generally a clan of nerds, reading many books and practicing as Spock-like engineers and armchair scientists, but not often seen on Celeb magazine covers in the grocery store.

So when I came into adult life, I got to learn quite a few new things just like Starman or The Terminator did when they first came to Earth. I learned (or am still learning) that people love to be made to feel special on their birthday, a tradition I heartily accept. I also learned about some very bizarre traditions, like those practiced by the world’s various competing religions, and most significantly for this article, what people do when they get married.

What I learned is that it is entirely common for you humans to spend months preparing for a wedding, including renting special buildings, hiring various contractors to provide exotic services, buying clothes that will only be used once, inviting guests that are not people you speak with every day or even every month, and even trying to create “appropriate” appearances to various branches of the extended family.

Fellow aliens might read that paragraph, and say, “Well, yeah, you’re talking about the wedding ceremonies of the very rich, right? Like the Royal Wedding that happened in England this summer? Don’t try to understand Old Money, they have their own crazy Power Dynasty thing going.”

But no, it’s more interesting than that. Royal weddings started out in the domain of kings and queens, but they have trickled down into the realm of the middle class, such that it is now common for ordinary nonmillionaires to spend an average of $24,000 on their weddings.

As some icing on that wedding cake, I also learned the social norm is for a Man to spend “two months’ salary” for the engagement ring ($10,000 or so!?), and then immediately after the wedding, take off for an international honeymoon at an all-inclusive resort.

Some of these brides and grooms are the same people who have borrowed to pay for their cars, put less than 20% down on their houses, and claim to Mr. Money Mustache that retirement before 65 is impossible.

Like the first person to burp after a serious speech, it’s time for Mr. Money Mustache to be the first to say it: It’s Okay to break this tradition. These Ultraweddings are so ingrained (surely in part by the efforts of the profitable wedding industry itself) that people think they are having a “low-key” wedding if they only have 100 guests or only spend $5,000.

I’ll tell you how to have a wedding.

When my wife and I decided we were adult enough to get married (just before age 30, after 10 years of togetherness), we put on our best sandals and walked downtown. We went to the county clerk’s office, where they record important events like property transactions, births, deaths, and marriages, and we said we wanted to get married. “Congratulations!” said the nice lady there, and gave us a pretty diploma-like document to fill out, with a golden seal in the corner. A marriage license. We filled it out and submitted it.

The total cost was $10.

One of the paragraphs you have to initial says something like “I hereby agree to have a ceremony to declare this marriage effective”. So we hiked to the top of a mountain at the edge of Boulder, Colorado and under a towering arch of rock, declared, “We are married!”

Later we invited all the local friends over for drinks and nicely made food at our house. And the following summer, we repeated the party in Canada for friends and family who happen to live there.

The whole experience shines on as a golden memory, just like the marriage itself. Nobody had any less fun, or got any less married, despite the fact that we spent at least 98% less than the average. Even though we could have technically afforded to pay for even a rather fancy wedding without borrowing at that point in our lives.

In fact, not spending excessive money on a wedding provides a life-changing boost to a new couple’s financial situation. Quite a large portion of divorces are caused by financial problems. So it could be reasonably stated that it is far more romantic to have a low-cost wedding.

So here’s my prescription for marital bliss: Plan your wedding party just like you would plan any other phenomenal bash you would host at your house. That’s right, it will be at your house, or your parents’ house, or at a local mountain, forest, or other natural area. Don’t allow your friends to bring gifts – just as your friends should not ask for gifts from you when they get married. The photographer will be whichever of your friends has the nicest camera. The caterer will be your parents, or a large take-out order from your favorite local restaurant if you can afford it. You can buy beer and wine for everyone, and your heaviest-drinking friend or family member can be the unofficial bartender. Make sure everyone has a great time, and spend your energy talking and laughing with the people most dear to you rather than rehearsing elaborate walking patterns and selecting floral arrangements.

As you say your vows, Mr. Money Mustache himself will be blessing your union.

 

*Amusing Updates!

– Some kind person published a link to this article on Reddit. The ensuing comments reinforced my suspicion that even though this idea of “don’t spend twenty grand on a party until you are at least a multimillionaire” seems very reasonable to me, the rest of the world still thinks my idea is crazy. Either they don’t like the idea having the option of early retirement, or they have not yet made the connection between firehose spending and financial independence ;-)

– Today’s automatically generated ads at the side of the article are all for Royal Wedding type services. “Engagement Diamonds!, Bridal Registry! Macy’s! Tiffany! Limousine service!”. Very amusing and ironic, but just reading them makes my Money Mustache ache.

– Because of this article, Mr. Money Mustache is now the world’s #1-ranking search result for the word “Shloyal”. Now that is status.

  • Anonymous August 17, 2011, 9:37 am

    Would you mind sharing the source for the average wedding costing $24K, please? Thanks, I’m just curious.

    Reply
    • MMM August 17, 2011, 9:04 pm

      Why, my source was The Internet, of course! I just typed “average cost of US wedding” and as usual, there was a nice Wikipedia article on the subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedding_industry_in_the_United_States

      Between Google, Wikipedia, and Mr. Money Mustache, soon Americans will have all the information they need on all possible topics ;-)

      Reply
  • Jason August 17, 2011, 9:57 am

    As a 21 year old, and planning to marry my sweetheart in the next 5 years, this was an awesome read. Luckily my significant other and I both agree that crazy over the top weddings are a waste in more ways than one and we’d both be happier with a cozy, honest, close-knit shebang. We both have our goals in life and neither of us fantasize of spending thousands on showing our commitment; we’re already committed!

    Reply
  • M August 17, 2011, 10:03 am

    Some of the nicest weddings I’ve been to have been limited attendance, small-scale affairs. One of them featured no bridesmaids or groomsmen, and the reception was held at a downtown coffee shop, which I thought was pretty cool.

    On a seperate note, the best financial move I made in preparation for my marriage was paying off my car. If you know you’re getting married several months in advance, there’s nothing better that you can do for yourself and your future spouse than getting rid of debt. Takes a lot of stress out of the situation.

    Reply
  • LH August 17, 2011, 10:13 am

    THANK YOU MMM!

    This is exactly what I did 3 years ago. My wife and I were both 24 at the time. We had a low-key celebration at our rented apartment for about 20-25 friends. We even shared the celebration with another newly wed couple (my wife’s friends) who were getting married as well. That night we signed each other’s marriage forms (as witness whereof). I was the photographer. We made our own cake with cream and icing, from a sponge base. There was some champagne but nothing extravagant. Even our wedding bands (Tiffany Pt950) were refurbished / second hand. Forget two months, just one week of my after-tax income at that time covered all the expenses, including the rings. Thanks to our shared mustachian ways we are well on our way to financial independence, for us and our kids!

    Reply
  • Oskar August 17, 2011, 10:30 am

    We have a little different story, we did spend a lot of money (not $24 000) but still a lot of money on our wedding, we saved for it over 18 months and managed not only to save the money for the wedding but also paid of our car and saved for the honeymoon. It was a great day (week), very relaxed and fun loads of music, food and drinks until 7 in the morning with family and friends from all over the world. I think it was worth every penny, it also in a backwards way was what got us started on the road to a more financially balanced life as we realised how much money we could save in just one and a half years and what effect that could have on the future.

    My point being, some people want to have a big wedding…OK fine…but make sure you can pay for it!

    Reply
  • Marcia August 17, 2011, 11:39 am

    Ah, a man after my own heart. I’m not into big ceremonies. My spouse did not spend 2 months salary on my ring (he was technically unemployed when he proposed). I really wanted to make it a small, quickie wedding. We were in Las Vegas on a cross-country move, and I thought I could talk him into it. But nope.

    In the end, we had a slightly-less-than-average wedding (at the time, about $10k). But he paid for it out of savings because he wanted the wedding (I was still paying off college loans). Our honeymoon was nice, but not lavish.

    If I had to do it over again, I’d commandeer a stretch of So Cal beach and invite a few friends.

    It is so easy to get wrapped up in what a wedding “should” be. My family members are Catholic, so I got married by a priest to keep my mom off my back. But what was expected was a huge bash at the church with a reception at the Fire Hall (it’s not what they got).

    When my good friend got married a few years ago (I was a bridesmaid, and it cost me about $600), she got pretty wrapped up. Her family traditional weddings (Mexican) were HUGE. Extended families invited, big old BBQ in the park. That was not what she wanted. So she got the traditional wedding, closer to $30k, about 100 to 150 people. For a day. Plus the $10k honeymoon, the $10k ring, and the $5k trip on which they got engaged. Saying that you want to trim the budget when you get married is very difficult. That’s easily a year’s salary. You have to be willing to forego things, not just make them cheaper. There’s only so much you can save when you still plan to have a Limo, open bar, catered dinner, outdoor wedding, indoor reception, dancing, cake, appetizers… it’s a total racket for sure!

    Reply
  • poko August 17, 2011, 11:55 am

    How timely! I’m going to the courthouse tomorrow morning to get married. Though, our marriage license cost us $71! And another $50 for the Justice of the Peace. We’ll probably have some sort of party when we eventually tell people that we got married!

    P.S. My first comment on your blog, I’ve been lurking since your guest post on ERE — love your writing!

    Reply
  • Madison August 17, 2011, 12:27 pm

    You are totally my hero. My BF and I are planning on getting married in Dec, and our plan looks similiar to yours. I just hope my parents don’t kill me – they are mormon, and I think they are expecting a big mormon wedding, like my sister is doing Saturday! I’m a bridesmaid, and I’ve already spent over $200 getting the dress, and shoes, not to mention plane tickets to fly out there. I don’t want to have to make anyone else go through that

    Reply
  • Bakari August 17, 2011, 1:40 pm

    I got married at county hall, but we had the party at a local park.
    It wasn’t quite free, as we rented out the public pool for the afternoon.

    Total cost: $120

    Reply
  • Ann H August 17, 2011, 2:17 pm

    Can’t remember how much our wedding cost now as it was 19 years ago – we got married in the back garden under a marquee we hired and we still have great memories of the day and remember the contributions friends and family made to make things great. I think one of the things people enjoyed the most was how easy for them it was to attend. No driving all over the city from wedding venue to reception venue and things dragging on for hours. They all had drinks in the back garden while DH’s uncle took photo’s for us in the front garden. Then we all sat down for lunch and they were free to leave when they were ready. No dramas and no great cost! And we’re still married as opposed to one friend who married around the same time and hadn’t finished paying it all off before they divorced.

    Reply
  • DT August 17, 2011, 11:05 pm

    My wife and I married when we were on the path of recovery from the “normal” North American lifestyle of borrow and spend. Instead of major wedding all our friends had, we took one day, visited 3 locations, picked cool Art Galery location ($150 room rental), super-cool restaurant to cater (only 15 guests, so $30 per head was $450 for food, no booze due to Noon wedding), brought a friend to take pics, invited only immediate family to attend, bought flowers at the grocery store, booked day wedding in February after Valentine day (cheap flowers)…

    Had all of it planned in one day, NO STRESS whatsoever and entire thing was under $1000. Dress was $300 but MIL paid for that and we only went with dress/tux due to a promise to a little girl who dreamt for years of being flower girl for our wedding (otherwise it would have been jeans)… Thanks to family tradition and a non-snob wife, we went with gold bands only (maybe $100 each)…

    We told everyone that gifts will be donated to Salvation Army, so if they felt that they want to gift us something, they can donate money to their favorite charity in our name. We even got full refund from the officiant as she screwed up paperwork so bad that we almost had to repeat the process…

    Then, we waited and took 3 weeks honeymoon by driving across entire USA from Michigan to Pacific visiting all our friends and family (as well as half dozen national parks, tons of cool places and had time of our life)… Entire trip was less than $2K and we did more than average person does in 5 years worth of vacations.

    Best part – when we tell people about our wedding, those who are yet to get married think we missed on something – yet those who did get married, with NO exception say “I wish we did the same”… Many of my friends are still paying for their weddings, with interest and all they have is a memory of stressful day.

    My wife and I had a son last year, and while we only got smart 5 years ago and it took good 4 years just to dig ourselves out of the hole, my wife was able to quit full time job as she wanted to stay home with the baby and I was able to improve my working conditions due to financial security (at this point, I could sweep floors and make enough money to live and even save some as we have no bills or debt). Our friends who paid 20K + for their weddings are now working full time while their little kids are being raised in daycares.

    When you think about it, $20K borrowed to pay for wedding, $10K spent on a ring and paid back in say 3 years could end up costing them $40K. $40K compounded over 20 years could have provided them with ability to retire or travel for couple of years. All for one day and a piece of coal on the finger.

    Reply
    • Merissa October 22, 2013, 2:34 pm

      Nice! I’ve never been a fan of marriage, but I’ve always wanted to go on a “meet my lover” tour in which my boyfriend and I travel and introduce each other to friends and family all over the world. Thanks for reinforcing the idea!

      Reply
  • Sheldon August 18, 2011, 3:29 am

    The Royal Wedding was actually conducted on rather frugal principles using family assets and heirlooms accumlated over a 1000 year history rather than a big cash outlay.

    The reception was held, as MMM suggests, at Mom & Pops place (ie Buckingham Palace) already set up with inhouse catering staff, china, glassware, plate etc. The Abbey is a royal chapel – the royals don’t pay to use it. It comes with its own choir.

    Trees and flowers – free from the country place (Windsor castle). The engagement ring was inherited from Diana. William does not wear a wedding ring and got married in his military uniform. Carter tiara – borrowed from the Queen. The carriages, horses, military guards are standard bits of royal kit and as a public event the Government paid for security and policing.

    The only major things Will and Kate probably paid for out of their own pockets were the dresses, the cake and food/drink for the reception plus a few incidentals (invitations etc).

    It was certainly a far smaller percentage of their total wealth than $24,000 is for the average person. People want the fantasy though and forget that their own family hasn’t been stashing away houses, land, artwork and jewellery for 1000 years.

    Reply
    • Oskar August 18, 2011, 8:05 am

      Good point Sheldon, there is no problem having a royal wedding if you ar in fact royal:-) Also it is a good point that the royals (and other very rich people for that matter) usually do not overspend on their weddings. I think it is only the upper middle class (pretend to be rich) that really overspend in order to keep up the apperance of being rich.

      Reply
      • MMM August 18, 2011, 10:23 am

        Very true.. having a Royal Wedding for that family (estimated cost: $32 million US, not counting security costs), is similar to Mrs. M and I going out for breakfast today – a spendy indulgence, but one we can afford given our long history of saving.

        I hear the UK royal family is actually quite active in doing social good – overall making good use of their ridiculous wealth.

        Still, if I were in a position of extreme riches and public attention, I would enjoy setting an example of down-to-earth living, knowing that my example would influence millions of others. Live in a 2000SF home that gets all of its energy from the surrounding environment, have your wedding in Mustachian simplicity with no expensive clothing.. even go so far as to have all the attending celebrities and heads-of-state take public transportation or walk/bike to the event. Now THAT would get some publicity ;-)

        Reply
        • CheerfulAdventurer August 18, 2014, 7:03 am

          “Still, if I were in a position of extreme riches and public attention”

          Man, I think you are not far from either :-) (acknowledging that we’re exactly 3 years after the original comment).

          Reply
        • CheerfulAdventurer August 19, 2014, 12:09 am

          And if so, I recommend the activity of Pope Francis to your attention. Unlike many of his predecessors, he uses fame for something close to the idea you explained.

          Reply
  • Jackson August 23, 2011, 1:35 pm

    Mr. Mustache, why did you feel the need to even spend the $10 for a piece of paper? Is there some sort of financial benefit for married couples?

    Reply
    • anonymous June 22, 2012, 6:31 am

      In the US, yes, quite a bit. “Married filing jointly” works out much better on taxes than two “single” filings. Various other useful benefits exist as well; it also significantly reduces friction in various other situations, some of which you might not even think about normally. The classic example: if your spouse needs to go to the hospital, you’ll have an easier time staying with them (rather than waiting outside) as a spouse than as a non-married significant other. Hundreds more examples like that exist. Various quirks and bugs make our society highly optimized to recognize spouses and not non-spouses.

      Reply
  • Jasmine September 13, 2011, 9:21 am

    I have been a lurker here for awhile since Lifehacker linked to one of your articles (I don’t remember which one though :p)

    I think that spending more than a thousand bucks on a wedding is over the top unless your parents are paying for it. And if they are they should just take that money and throw it into your retirement fund instead – better return that way. I have been engaged for about a year and half at this point and when marriage happens, it happens. There is no stress, no perfect princess moment… because that isn’t what this is about. It is about making a longer commitment to my other half… not some day dressed up in a poofy white barge trying not to tear my hair out because something is not absolutely perfect.

    My engagement ring is handmade and cost 400 dollars. I am going to design my wedding ring to work with that. I want a simple dress and a small cake – and more importantly I want my friends and loved ones there. Total cost of getting a Mrs ? $550 tops.

    Reply
  • Bob October 29, 2011, 12:44 am

    Once you get a marriage license, don’t you have to have a public official perform a ceremony? Doesn’t that cost money? In BC you have to spend $100 on the license and $100 on the official and I can’t imagine spending more than that!

    Reply
    • MMM October 29, 2011, 7:08 am

      Indeed! I think the situation was similar in my homeland of Ontario. Just one of the many advantages of Colorado: the $10 marriage license and the choose-your-own-adventure ceremony.

      Reply
  • Nancy December 27, 2011, 9:28 am

    I know I’m late to comment on this, but I agree with you 100%. People think I am nuts because I think marriages are generic money-sucking events. My husband and I were married this year. The total cost was $130 ($35 for the license; $75 for the JP at city hall; $20 for a copy of the license). It was awesome! (Although, we still sometimes remark on how expensive the JP was at city hall ;). We have exchanged vows on beaches, atop glaciers, in rain forests; I feel like we get married again every day. We went on a four-week vacation, travelling to the opposite side of the globe, and we still didn’t even spend half of the average wedding cost. I had a telling exchange with a co-worker when I mentioned that I had gotten married. He said, “Oh, so you had a wedding.” I replied no and he said “You got married, but you didn’t have a wedding? Why get married?” Yikes!

    Reply
  • Sweta January 11, 2012, 7:11 pm

    I’m Indian American (parents are from India, I was born here) and it is not uncommon at all for Indian weddings here in the US to cost upwards of 100K. The typical Indian wedding has about 300 people and is usually held in some fancy hotel ballroom.

    Reply
    • MMM January 11, 2012, 7:21 pm

      Indeed! Indian weddings make for great movies and music videos. And they are fine if the parents insist on paying the entire bill.

      On the other hand, my wife is half Indian as well, yet we managed to escape with the $10 wedding described in this article :-)

      Reply
  • msclydefrog February 27, 2012, 8:14 pm

    I think if I get married, I’d just get eloped at the courthouse and then have a BBQ and bonfire with family and friends.

    Reply
  • KO March 30, 2012, 11:24 am

    Sorry for the late post, I am slowly working my way through to the present day :)

    Anyhow, I just had to share this story which highlights for me the ridiculousness of showy weddings. A friend of mine was married a couple of years ago in THE royal wedding of our group of friends. No expense was spared and everything had to be perfect for her big day. (I should note that the bride and groom have below average earnings and plenty of debt.) What made matters worse was her parents’ belief that it had to be HUGE as well. They footed a lot of the bill which they couldn’t afford and expected the in-laws to do the same. This wedding caused a lot of grief, fighting, and ruined relationships as the in-laws didn’t believe this was a good way to spend their money. Relations are still strained to this day. Shortly before the wedding, the perfect property became available, but of course the soon-to-be-married couple could not afford a down payment. They turned to her showy parents who of course couldn’t afford to help because they were too busy wasting money. And in the end, the in-laws who refused the extravagant wedding swooped in and saved the day by giving them the down payment required. The part that gets to me the most is that I still hear about how little the in-laws did to help with the wedding and I just feel like delivering a MMM-style punch in the face.

    Reply
  • Mr Llama May 2, 2012, 2:01 am

    I live in Taiwan where there is just as much or even more pressure to spend money on weddings, but you might be interested to know that we have a very different way of financing them.

    Nobody ever brings gifts to weddings, but at the engagement banquet it’s mandatory to bring a red envelope with an amount of money depending on how well you know the couple and your status (about US$50-100 is common).

    Many people from western countries are shocked at what they see as crude and tacky while they have no problem with wedding registries asking for $1000 dinner sets and other overpriced gifts.

    Now of course in a perfect world nobody would spend huge amounts of money on wedding banquets, but this is the world we live in and the Taiwanese way is actually pretty smart.

    About once a year one of our friends or family members get married and we dutifully bring a red envelope with around $100 to the banquet. The money is all counted and everyone’s name is recorded along with their contribution.

    When my wife and I got married our friends and family gave us back the same amounts we had given them at their weddings and the money we received was more than enough to pay for the wedding banquet and had we needed it a down payment on a starter home.

    So it might still be a bit too consumerist for your taste but I think it’s a fun twist on a community credit union and better than going on ridiculous honeymoons – you pay a little money in occasionally and then when you get married you get your ‘investment’ back and enough extra to start you on a good financial footing for married life.

    PS – I think you would really enjoy visiting Taiwan and I would enjoy seeing you baffled by the combination of extreme frugality, strong savings ethic and dumb spending.

    Reply
    • Oh Yonghao May 5, 2014, 7:29 pm

      On top of all of that the dresses are rented. I have never understood why the groom rents a tux but the bride spends $2000 on a wedding dress they wear once. In Taiwan the bride will often change 3 to 4 times during the reception/ceremony. Pictures are also done a month or so in advance also. We still have our wedding book that we show people with me having three different tux’s and she had 4 or 5 dresses in different settings.

      We still haven’t been on a honeymoon yet, we might have one sometime, but it’s been nearly 5 years and we’ve been to so many different places in between we could just pick one of them and call that our honeymoon.

      It can get scary in Taiwan when you are of that age where everyone you know is getting married. If you were very social in high school and college then you may be going to weddings every month (only on the auspicious days as set by whatever fortune teller people end up going to). Another name for the red envelopes is the red bomb. Prices seem to be inflating due to the system of paying either the amount you received or more. Despite my best attempts to explain to people that 1300 is just as even a number as 1200 or 1400 nobody would listen to me.

      Grandit I’ve never attended weddings in the States except a Mormon reception (you don’t attend the ceremony unless you have a temple recommend) so I have never had the experience of paying $600 to attend a wedding (read an article recently that guests on average spend that much), so I was a little opposed to giving money at weddings in Taiwan, but now when I compare it it’s not that bad of a system. It still goes for a lot of waste and can sometimes put the newly wed couple into debt because their guests didn’t give as much as they spent, or imbibed too much on the free booze. My own wedding we came out ahead enough to buy a refrigerator for our apartment.

      Reply
  • Uncephalized June 9, 2012, 5:34 pm

    My wife and I were just married a few months ago. We’re pretty young (24 and 23), and we spent a fair amount of money, about $17k, though $12k of that was very generously provided as a gift by her parents. That money got us a beautiful and memorable ceremony and reception in a gorgeous park in Santa Cruz, CA. We had a few dozen of our oldest friends and family members we don’t get to see that often, as well as a couple of days hanging out and preparing beforehand, during which time I had an awesome game of Ultimate in the same park with my best friend since middle school, who is about to move permanently to Wisconsin and who I will probably not see again for quite a while.

    If we had not been given so much money we would have had a much lower-key production but as it stands I don’t regret spending the money at all.

    My wife and MIL did a lot of the decorations themselves, and she procured her dress second-hand for $40 plus a bit for alterations. She did pay fairly standard but reasonable prices for hair and makeup and so on. I already had a very sharp Italian suit to wear (courtesy of my then-fiancee’s skill at spotting high-quality stuff amid a sea of mediocrity at Goodwill and on EBay).

    Anyway, rambling, but I don’t miss the $5k we spent our of pocket or the $12k we could have kept for ourselves if we had just had a $100 garden party. Truth is, we hate where we live–it’s ugly and hot and we’re stuck here for a while, so it was worth the money to go make the memory somewhere beautiful that we really love instead, even if it set financial independence plans back 6 months. It’s not something we’re going to get the chance to do again.

    Reply
  • lolly June 28, 2012, 12:10 pm

    Here is the projected breakdown for my wedding (being held next week)
    Wedding Expenses :
    Marriage License 35
    Justice of the Peace 75
    clothes for her 60
    accessories 60
    her ring 150
    his ring 250
    sub-total 630
    Dinner ( w parents (hopefully parents will pay) 300
    total with dinner 930

    Reply
  • Allie H July 24, 2012, 8:02 pm

    Had to share my wedding story, because so many people think we’re “weird”, but we had a blast, and I’m convinced we did the right thing!

    My (now) husband met me at the Courthouse after work (one of our friends was nice enough to give me a lift and act as our witness/photographer). Got hitched. Went home, changed. Went out and bought a grill. It wouldn’t fit in our car, and a good intentioned citizen saw our trouble and kindly loaded it into her SUV and took it to our house (no pre planning required, and she didn’t just drive home with a new grill. faith in humanity restored). Went out for a lovely dinner at Cheesecake Factory. The next day, all of our friends and family came over for a wedding bash. Everyone brought a dish and their beverage of choice. My mother made an out of this world cake (layered carrot cake and cheesecake with a white chocolate ganache frosting in case you’re wondering…no there wasn’t any left). My father was nice enough to spring for burgers, hot dogs, and buns ($40?). We had an amazing time and everyone left full. We had so many leftovers we sent people home with food, ate on it all week, and had the immediate family over the following week for a more intimate get to know each other and please finish these leftovers type gathering. My honeymoon is called the house we had just purchased a couple months before. I had zero stress, spent no money on a reception, and had a great time celebrating with family and friends. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
    Wedding gifts: washer and dryer from his folks, and enough cashy money that we could go buy the most amazing mattress in the world ($900). Thanks everyone to contributing to our clean clothes and amazing nights of sleeping.

    Reply
  • Celia.Gri July 29, 2012, 1:23 pm

    Unfortunately, not everyone has as much control over how big or small their wedding gets to be. My desired guest list was 15-30 people. After my father had his say we had 120 people.
    I had 4 months to get married before our best man got deployed and I was determined that no matter how large my wedding was, that one month after my wedding date, I’d be “wedding debt” free.
    Thanks to many people owing favors and some hard work, and some financial assistance by my parents (since they insisted on inviting the whole family) I achieved my goal.
    The best part is 5 years later, people are still telling me it was the best wedding they’ve been to and that I’ve set the gold standard.
    NOBODY noticed the corners I cut. All they saw was the elegant simplicity of the whole event.
    If anybody is curious, the major corners that I cut were DJ, Photographer, Videographer, Hairstylist, Make-up and Limo/Transport were all done by friends and family. The reception hall bid for my business, and gave me the lowest bid. My sister and I did the invitations, centerpieces, party gifts, programs and menus ourselves. I chose the minimal amount of flowers I could buy and the florist gave me extra “just because”. I think the only thing I paid full price for was the priest and that’s because I felt guilty trying to bargain with a priest.
    So many people in the wedding industry told me I couldn’t pull a full blown wedding off in 4 months. I did it. I did it frugally, and I did it with style!
    I should add, during the wedding, I saw why my father insisted on inviting the whole family. It was a wedding of melding two different families and cultures and it was beautiful.

    Reply
  • e November 16, 2012, 3:02 pm

    My husband and I were married in a Catholic Church 13 years ago. We had roughly 150 people (big families) for wedding and reception. We were not interested in spending a lot on a one day affair and family wanted to help (we’re pretty close). SO…. My godmother made the wedding and grooms’ cakes, one uncle DJ’d, another uncle photographed, my parents cooked a one-pot meal and various aunts/uncles/cousins brought finger foods, the hall was discounted because we were cousins, alterations done by aunt and mother (I could go on, but you get the picture). We bought supplies but the talents of others brought it all together. Total was about $2000 and that’s because I splurged a bit on a dress and a limo to go from the church to the hall (my one regret! but I was 19 so I forgive myself lol) Everyone had a great time visiting with family and there was no bill waiting when it was all over.

    Reply
  • Jess February 27, 2013, 6:40 pm

    I will never, NEVER understand the big wedding thing. I was at one this summer that cost about $100,000 – the dress alone was $10,000. (Granted the groom was from a culture that gives shitloads of cash at weddings, so I think they actually broke even, but STILL)

    It isn’t even the thought of the money that makes me feel ill – its the DECISIONS! Brides get themselves so worked up over every single element that I can’t imagine how you could possibly arrive at The Big Day Itself without a stomach ulcer, never even mind actually enjoy it. Also, if you want to have any chance of keeping costs down you have to DIY it…now I love DIY, but I like DIY that’s permanent, i.e. tiling my backsplash, not DIY on flowers or centerpieces or wedding favours that will be *poof* gone tomorrow.

    I also can’t see myself wanting a big expensive ring. I’m a little bit absent minded and I would be terrified of losing it. Also, even with the whole “his money is your money” deal that sort of comes along…it seems really unfair to expect the guy to cough up a few grand while I prance around picking floral arrangements. Lol.

    In the end, if I get married at all, I want a simple officiant deal (as I am also a rabid atheist), some good friends and family and a BBQ serve-yourself in the backyard.

    Reply
  • Michele March 27, 2013, 7:14 am

    Unlike some of the other posters here and MMM, it was really important to me to have a nice wedding with all the traditional trappings when my husband and I got married a few years ago. I had a traditional dress, got married at a church, had a reception for 150 people and a professional photographer. However, including our week-long honeymoon, we were able to keep the costs under the $5000 budget that my parents gave me to work with. Also, I’ve had many family members tell us since then that they thought our wedding was much classier than my brother-in-law’s which I know they spent around $20k on. Just making the point that you don’t have to go non-traditional wedding to still have it be affordable. (Of course not quite as affordable as $10.)

    Reply
  • eric July 30, 2013, 6:03 pm

    hey I know this article has been out for a while but I have just gotten around to it and it struck home with me. I could not convince my future wife to just stop by the courthouse and have a cookout in the back yard so we started looking around and being that we live close to the smoky mountians we found a package deal for $850 that included the wedding and reception ( mind you this is just for the groom and bride plus a couple of witnesses so basically an upscale courthouse wedding) with a professional photographer and a weekend honeymoon in a log cabin up in the mountians. I would just advise to shop around because there are some really cool options out there.

    Reply
  • Mrs. Y August 13, 2013, 2:23 pm

    I had what I like to call an “accidentally” cheap wedding. I was the girl that had been planning her wedding since she was eight. I bought wedding magazines and stashed them under my bed, looking at them with my mom whenever I had the chance. I always imagined my wedding would be extravagant and expensive.

    Well, life is funny, and after three years of dating my (now) hubby received a job offer across the country. We got engaged within a few days, married the following weekend, and moved across the country together a week later to start married life.

    He proposed with my grandmother’s ring. We had the wedding at my parent’s house. My mom and her best friend made decorations and bouquets out of flowers bought at the Farmer’s Market. A dear friend baked us an amazing (and free!) three tiered cake. We hired another friend just starting his photography business to take photos. We invited basically any friends/family that happened to be available to attend a wedding on a week’s notice. I bought a white sundress at Nordstrom Rack and yellow shoes from Target. I think the total cost for the wedding was $800 (which both sets of parents generously offered to split).

    The best part is I don’t regret it at all or wish I had gone the $24,000 wedding route. My husband and I love sharing the story of how we planned a wedding in a week. We laugh at the fact that neither of us can ever remember our anniversary date (because, you know, we weren’t planning and booking around that date for months and months ahead of time).

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 13, 2013, 2:56 pm

      Great Story, Mrs. Y! It means that much more coming from someone originally planning their own royalty-style wedding.

      Reply
  • Janeen September 26, 2013, 3:51 am

    I know his article has been around for a while but I just wanted to thank you for this!! We had quite a “cheap” wedding with potluck, homemade everything, cheap rings… And I always felt like I had been missing out on something. Now I can FINALLY appreciate our wedding and I’m soo glad that we didn’t borrow any money or get some super fancy rings. Your article just made my day :-)

    Reply
  • Eldred October 23, 2013, 1:24 pm

    So what if your lady(it’s usually the lady) WANTS the big, fancy wedding? Many women dream of their big day ever since they were little girls. So for the guy to say, “Let’s get married at the Justice of the Peace and bypass all that spending”, she thinks, “Don’t you LOVE me???”
    I don’t know too many guys who really care about a big wedding. I’m not married, but I’d be cool with it being a picnic at the local park with friends and family. Most women I know would NOT.

    Reply
    • Andra May 18, 2014, 4:42 pm

      I am a woman and that is EXACTLY the kind of wedding I dream of! No fuss, no ulcers, just food, fun and great memories with the people you love.:) The thought of a big wedding practically makes me break out in hives!

      Reply
  • JenetteFish October 25, 2013, 12:39 pm

    We’re pulling out all the stops on our wedding this upcoming June. Coveted reception venue, traditional dress, photographer, florist, open bar, the whole bit.

    Not very Mustachian of me, I know.

    BUT a fancy wedding is something I’ve wanted for a pretty long time, and I think it’s important to consider which “wants” are personally important to you (for me, cool wedding with a fun, fancy party for my friends) and which aren’t (Fancy house, for instance. We could find the mortgage payment in our couch cushions, and it’s not because we’re carrying Benjamins as spare change in our pockets).

    We did do two things to cut the costs — (1) negotiated prices with almost all the vendors, especially those with which we felt we could go somewhere else just as easily (hotel, for example) and (2) cut out as much family as possible (we are NOT close) to keep the guest list between 50 and 60.

    We’re also passing on the Mustachian love to our wedding party, who will not be expected to throw us pre-wedding showers or parties, and who are responsible for finding their own dresses and suit pieces, which, so long as they fit into our very wide-reaching color scheme, can come from the back of the closet, as far as I’m concerned. No presents, no hair/makeup requirements, no matching heels… just show up, look spiffy, and have a great time.

    Moreover, we’ve got a great plan in place so that even though it’s going to come in around the $15K mark, we’ll still be paying cash.

    Extravagant? Sure. A little silly? Definitely. But it’s gonna be a rockin’ good time, and every now and then, I think that’s OK, so long as you’re sure that’s what you want, and you understand the sacrifice involved.

    Reply
  • Travis January 21, 2014, 1:56 pm

    I was away for several weeks of military exercises during the wedding planning, but thankfully my wife is as frugal as I am. Her father set a $10k budget for the whole thing. We did the ceremony and reception at the local church, most of the decorations were hand made, the honeymoon was at the family timeshare, and while I never knew the total bill, I remember her saying her father had enough left over to buy a new computer and a car. The idea of spending two months salary on a ring is horrific to ponder. Most of my wife’s jewelry is fake (her preference) and as a college student at the time the engagement ring and both wedding bands were about a month’s salary tops.

    Reply
  • Matthew March 29, 2014, 6:14 am

    We came close to fitting into this category… I spent $6k on an engagement ring, and then we spent a total of about $22k on the wedding and honeymoon combined. However, we saved up and paid cash for the entire thing. It was an amazing feeling to say we made it through our wedding with no extra money from family and no crippling debt. If you’re going to spend a lot on a wedding, I’m a firm believer that it must be 100% paid for in cash!

    Reply
  • Rollie June 28, 2014, 3:03 pm

    I spent $200 on a fancy dinner for 7 people (us, the two witnesses, and the kids). It felt like a good thing to do, and it felt fancy like a big $24,000 wedding but the key is that number 7.

    Reply
  • Cameron August 18, 2014, 3:25 pm

    My wife and I are both 25, and we got married at a courthouse a little over a year ago. This was not our dream, but more of a reality-sinking-in decision. She has been suffering the daily ups and downs of a chronic illness (that specialized doctors cannot figure out, by the way). So rather than add a mountain of debt and stress in planning we just went for it. We didn’t even tell family until afterward. That was an interesting aspect. :-) We just knew everyone and their dog would have tried to change our minds, but wouldn’t have contributed with the costs or planning.

    That is all. First comment on MMM complete. Thanks for all the articles! Hoping to turn my one salary and our medical debt into opportunity! I might make a good reader case study if you were interested, by the way.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • CheerfulAdventurer August 21, 2014, 5:47 am

    Amazing instructions & wedding story of the MMMs. But…

    First, I think few women would be content with this “level” of wedding. You as a man had the privilege of finding one.

    Second, you need to consider if this saving (and strictly following the off-track principles of your heart) is worth offending a lot of relatives. Again, you had the special state of already having lived VERY far from them for a while. Although I’d love to follow your example and demonstrate that marrying is not about all that shiny stuff but joyful and willing commitment for a life, I think it’s an act of questionable utility to provoke your family when your life is just being under such a change.

    (I’ve been at one such wedding so far at the parents’ house, but there the point was to get as many people drunk as possible, so a bit of bad memories also stick to this mode for me.)

    One couple among my friends, who have a multitude of friends and relatives, found a reasonable compromise. They got a very special offer from a place to rent (school building I think) in the far suburbs of our capital. So they announced the wedding party for a whole weekend. Come when you arrive, stay until you want, some very simple sleeping places provided if needed. The guests were welcomed, they BBQ-ed (bacon and so, no extra super meat), played, talked, laughed together and at some point of the weekend there was a wedding ceremony. I hadn’t been there because we became friends later, but I guess it could be less stressful for everyone than a finish-everything-perfectly-within-one-afternoon wedding and a formal scenario.

    Reply
    • Eldred August 21, 2014, 6:14 am

      I don’t know – I can’t *imagine* spending $24,000 on a one day celebration. And isn’t the wedding supposed to be for the COUPLE? If your family would get mad that you didn’t spend a metric assload of money on a wedding, they wouldn’t be supportive of your financial plan anyway. In that case, it might HELP to piss them off, so they stay away and don’t drag you down…

      Reply
      • CheerfulAdventurer August 22, 2014, 1:53 am

        “And isn’t the wedding supposed to be for the COUPLE?”

        Please, record this sentence now and take it up and seriously at the weddings of your children (nieces, nephews, grandchildren etc.). Most people do change their opinion by the time they progress from engaged to parents . :-)

        Reply
        • Eldred August 22, 2014, 6:54 am

          Nope – considering what I’ve learned about finances over the last 7 years, I’d try to talk them OUT of an expensive wedding. In fact, I wouldn’t be upset if my kids got married at a neighborhood park with only ice cream sandwiches as the edible treats… :-)

          Reply
    • NatPatBen September 8, 2014, 11:47 am

      Perhaps I know different women. Of my parents, my father wanted the large ceremony (which they had). Of my husband and myself, my husband wanted a larger ceremony (but we did JoP). Several of my female friends got married in small ceremonies – bigger than MMM’s, but WAY less than $24k.

      Reply
  • CheerfulAdventurer August 22, 2014, 2:04 am

    “I also learned the social norm is for a Man to spend “two months’ salary” for the engagement ring [link] ($10,000 or so!?)”

    MMM, I flipped through the linked article about diamonds, and it seems to be banal common conspiracy theory (to find well-sounding excuses for skipping a custom felt inconvenient by the author). I don’t say it couldn’t be true from the first word to the last, or even worth considering (although there’s no evidence), but I think it just doesn’t reach the level to be a reference in your blog – I really don’t understand how it found its way there. OK, the post is very old, so this has little significance, but would you mind changing this source for a more research-based and unbiased writing, or removing it?

    Reply
  • NatPatBen September 8, 2014, 11:42 am

    Yay! An article on MMM where I can say “We did that!”
    My husband and I got married by the Justice of the Peace. I want to say the marriage license and ceremony together cost maybe $50. A few days later, we rented the clubhouse of our apartment complex ($100 paid by my aunt) and had about 50 family & friends over. The food was catered by a restaurant (paid for by my parents, probably close to $25/person, no alcohol). My stereo was the “DJ” and digital pictures from all of the guests contributed to our beautiful wedding album (purchased on Shutterfly with a coupon code). The two cakes came from a grocery store (a splurge @ about $120 for both). My husband’s outfit was rented for the day; I bought a bridgesmaid dress to wear that was <$100 AND wore it to multiple other work functions. Total cost was somewhere around $2000.

    The next year, we went to my husband's home country (Jamaica) and had a party for his family/friends to celebrate with us in his parents' community. That one had a bunch of alcohol, but WAY less money spent on food.

    My brother & his wife got married by a family friend in my parents' house. The celebration afterward was a dinner (home-cooked at my parents' house) with 10 people total. That was probably less than $100.

    Reply
  • Lisa Olsen October 11, 2014, 10:07 am

    Ha, this is one I can actually chime in on mastering! Our wedding 23 years ago cost a grand total of $11!

    We got married in our living room (it was supposed to be out in the common area of the apartment complex, but it started to rain), by a family friend who is also a pastor. We had eight people attend, including the pastor. My dress was a simple white one my mother bought for the occasion for less than $100, but free to me. My new MIL picked up a small bouquet of flowers for me for about $10 (free to me). The cake was made by my husband’s boss’ wife, who also makes professional wedding cakes on the side, so it was small and simple but fantastic (and also free to us). A friend took pictures and another held the camcorder to record our wedded bliss. Afterwards they took us out to lunch at a local restaurant where everyone split the bill and we weren’t allowed to chip in, as their treat. Somebody brought a bottle of champagne that we used to toast with while cutting the cake. Okay, I think we ended up providing a few beverages when people came back to hang out and eat the cake while we opened presents, but not more than I’d spend for people to come over and hang out anyway.

    Our rings, by the way, were a total of $300. That included the engagement ring and both wedding rings out of white and yellow gold from JC Penney’s. It has a tiny chip of a diamond in it, but I didn’t care – I was engaged!

    At the time, people called us crazy for not having a big wedding, but we never saw the point in wasting all that cash when we didn’t have a lot to spend at the time. 23 years later, I still love to look at the pictures and remember the day.

    Reply
  • Rupert October 13, 2014, 5:33 pm

    Welllll…… you might be able to go ahead and attack marriage itself too — or at least evaluate it, in terms of its rate of return (money saved on housing, taxes, other expenses that are cheaper per person when shared) vs. its risk profile (how statistically likely it is, for example, to end in an expensive lawyer-riddled divorce). I know I know, how very unromantic. If nothing else, a person might be a bit more careful about whom they choose to marry after that kind of analysis. Your 10-year “waiting period” probably sorted out a lot of the potential problems!

    Reply
  • Tigerlilly's mom November 7, 2014, 3:02 pm

    I am catching up reading the blog, as I just found it a month ago. We did our own wedding in our back yard, so the dogs could be there, with a rented tent, dishes, silver and pretty tables. We went to a good local store and sampled (fun)
    and ordered a delivery for the morning of the wedding. Also hired servers so we wouldn’t have to put out more food, or deal with plates etc. Just family and good friends. We wore decent slacks and asked people to come casual, and one of
    the brother in laws did pictures. We had a big potluck for the family the night before. We also sampled cakes from various places and got a good carrot cake from one bakery and a German chocolate from another. I can’t see getting a fancy cake that is bland and not really what you like anyway. There was enough food for the next week and everyone
    had a great time. Even with a few splurges like the food, it came to less than $2000.00. Everyone had a great time and so did we with no drama at all.

    Reply
  • Chris Pyke November 11, 2014, 3:22 pm

    My wife and I are wedding photographers so we make more money when people spend more on their weddings. Of all the weddings that I have been to, the smaller they are, the more fun I have. Plus I get better pictures because everyone is having so much fun. Big weddings are stressful for everyone involved. There is so much invested that everything MUST go to plan (but it never does). Our Wedding cost us about $4000, and it was a blast, but if I were to go back and do it again we would just find a quiet place in the mountains with some close family and friends and have a small, stress free wedding. We are also trying to push the small weddings for our photography as well. I would much rather photograph a wedding of 20 in the beautiful mountains that we have here in the northwest than in some hotel or poorly lit church.

    Reply

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