By Kim Robson
With the cost of the average wedding in the U.S. at a whopping $28,000, many young or financially strapped couples find themselves putting off marriage. I believe that if you and your partner are in love, then marriage is the logical next step. Money should never stand in the way of love and marriage. My husband and I put on our lovely wedding for approximately $1,700, and I will tell you how we did it.
First, let’s discuss the dress because they cost around $1,200 on average. While it’s always fun to see creative ladies make a dress out of some cheap, readily available material such as duct tape, toilet paper, bread bag clips, condoms, chocolate, puff pastries, etc., we’ll assume that you want to wear something a bit more traditional. A popular option is to repurpose a vintage wedding dress. Let’s face it: they’ve been worn only once. If it belonged to your mother or grandmother, it will probably need some altering. Be VERY careful when choosing your alterations person. The process takes weeks, and you may end up scrambling for a new dress at the last second if it doesn’t work out. Brides Against Breast Cancer holds sales of clean, donated gowns all around the country to benefit breast cancer patients. Wedding gown stores regularly hold clearance sales to move out old inventory. I got my gorgeous off-the-rack gown for just $179, and it fit perfectly. Unless you have an unusual body shape, consider forgoing expensive and unnecessary custom fittings.
Going into heavy debt before the “I do”s are even said begins with the engagement ring. It alone can be bank-breaking, with an average cost of $2,000 to $4,000. (The diamond industry recommends a groom spend five percent of his annual salary just on the ring.) Instead, consider a vintage family heirloom or non-diamond alternatives. Ruby and tanzanite are very popular, as are eco-friendly lab-created gems. Today’s synthetic stones are chemically identical to mined stones and have a higher refractive index, giving them unparalleled sparkle and flash. The bonus is not raping the earth to get them and not having to worry about “blood diamonds.” Rich fell in love with the first ring he looked at, a simple cushion-cut garnet with two small side diamonds. The band is an heirloom. I got his band from my jeweler at wholesale rates.
For a venue, we chose Scripps Park in La Jolla, right by the ocean, which required an inexpensive permit. Apply for your permit as soon as you have a date set, as the best sites can book up months in advance. We did have to rent a couple of folding tables and a number of chairs, but a friend with a truck picked them up for us. We decorated with vintage tablecloths and lots of potted ferns wrapped in white ribbon. Another friend picked up party trays, which were ordered from Albertsons in advance. On the way to the park, we picked up our cake from Costco, a half-sheet buried under mounds of white flowers. It was surprisingly elegant, if not tiered, and with a $500 price tag. A case of Andre champagne came from BevMo.
Invitations were made by my favorite affordable printer, VistaPrint.com. My gorgeous rose bouquet was handmade by a co-worker and guest. Favors were little heart-shaped boxes with a tulle-wrapped package o
f Jordan Almonds inside. Professional photographs were taken by another friend and co-worker; it was her gift to us. We hired two young ladies from a music conservatory to play violin. For a dressing room and staging area, we rented a room in a hotel across the street from the park. The ceremony and reception both took place at the park.
Someone had to perform the ceremony. We didn’t like the idea of hiring ($200-$300 on average) some total stranger to marry us. Did you know that in San Diegoand many other cities anyone of your choosing can become a Marriage Commissioner For a Day? It costs only $80, and the person has to fulfill minimal criteria, mostly making sure the marriage certificate is properly signed, witnessed and mailed back to the clerk.
After the festivities wrapped up, we wandered over to the nearby historic La Valencia Hotel for complimentary drinks and desserts. Our honeymoon was spent at a friend’s borrowed A-frame cabin in Idyllwild, high up in the San Jacinto Mountains. That was where we decided the future course of our marriage, where we decided to live in the mountains ourselves.
So if you crazy kids are truly in love and want to get married, just do it! Don’t let finances stand in the way of love. The marriage license and permit fees are about the only costs that are non-negotiable! With some planning, creativity and a little help from your friends, you too can pull off a wonderful, memorable wedding day without going into debt.