Why We Chose a Small Wedding and Big Savings

This bride knew the value of a dollar.

Wedding resource The Knot recently released the results of its annual Real Weddings Survey, which polled more than 13,000 brides and grooms to find out how much they spent on their big day. Perhaps it’s more accurate to call it their “big spending day.” That’s because the average spent on a wedding in 2017 was $33,391.

That pales in comparison with what high spenders shelled out for weddings — an average of $105,130. I can’t even wrap my head around paying that much for a wedding.

Click to read more about 20 outrageously expensive celebrity weddings.

Don’t get me wrong, a wedding is a special event — hopefully, a once-in-a-lifetime event. But you won’t be any less married if you opt for an inexpensive wedding. I should know. My husband and I spent less than $3,000 on our wedding, reception and honeymoon in 2000. We’re still married, 18 years later.

Why We Opted for a Small, Inexpensive Wedding

Like many young girls, I fantasized in high school about what my future wedding would be like. I didn’t go so far as to pick out what colors the flowers would be or what sort of cake I would have, but I envisioned myself walking down the grand staircase in my family’s 100-plus-year-old home and saying my vows in the large front hall.

That vision disappeared when my parents divorced while I was in college and my mom sold our house. Several years later, when I did get engaged, my parents still were sorting out financial matters. I didn’t want to add to their money dispute by asking them to pay for my wedding. But my husband (then fiancé) and I were living paycheck to paycheck because I was just starting out in my career as a journalist and he was in graduate school. A big, expensive wedding was out of the question.

Instead, my husband and I decided to keep it simple. We wanted our wedding to be low-key so that the stress and debt that would’ve come with paying for a big wedding wouldn’t diminish any of the joy of getting married. We wanted it to be about us, not an ultimate guest experience for friends and family.

More on Wedding Costs: 10 Surprising Costs for Bridesmaids and Groomsmen 

How We Kept Costs Down

My husband and I got engaged in November 1999 and married in February 2000. We didn’t need a long engagement because not much planning went into our wedding.

We chose to get married in Key West, Fla., because it would be warm in February and it allowed us to roll the wedding and honeymoon into one trip. We told family members they were welcome to come if they wanted to. However, we also made a plan to have a reception later that year in my hometown to celebrate our marriage with more friends and family.

My dad, stepmom, stepbrother, mom and the man she was dating hopped on flights to Key West to watch us as we said our vows on the beach in a state park as the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, my husband’s family wasn’t able to make the trip from Ukraine, where they live. But the wedding was pretty close to perfect: simple, stress-free and not the blur that so many of my friends recounted after having large weddings.

It’s been nearly two decades since my husband and I got married, but here’s my best recollection of our wedding costs.

Plane tickets: About $350 each (purchased by my dad)
Accommodations: About $600 (four nights, roughly $150 per night)
Dress: About $300
Bouquet: About $50
Venue: $0
Officiant: About $100
Dinner for seven: About $250 to $300 (purchased by my parents)
Cake: About $30
Total: About $2,080

After our budget wedding, we had a reception in August 2000 with about 100 guests at the home of my parents’ friends in Kentucky. My parents brought barbecue and their friends contributed side dishes. We filled inexpensive mason jars with wildflowers bought from a farmer who grew a variety in her fields. We spent the evening making toasts and dancing to music. The cost of the reception, including invitations, was well below $1,000.

Like our wedding, the reception was stress-free and so much fun. Best of all, my husband and I didn’t start our lives together deep in debt from a big wedding. We already had enough student loan debt to deal with (but that’s another story).

Click through to read more about how much Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding will cost.