In 2015, couples spent an average of $32,641 on their wedding.
I don’t know about you, but a price tag like this gives me anxiety. This is one of several reasons we eloped.
Yes, we eloped. It was a lovely, teeny-tiny ceremony in October 2013 in Woodinville, WA.
When it comes up, I get a lot of questions. There are several reasons we made this choice, and I don’t regret it.
If your dream is to have a huge ceremony, that’s fine. However, I bring this up because I’ve had conversations with brides-to-be admitting they never wanted a huge ceremony and feel completely overwhelmed.
I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way.
So why did we elope?
My husband Adam and I talked about wedding expenses, and decided we didn’t want to spend the money. Frankly, it was money we didn’t have. Going into debt for one day just didn’t make sense, and wasn’t going to help me sleep at night. That price tag felt like so much more than a wedding. To us, it was a down payment on a house, many fabulous vacations or an investment in our retirement.
We understood it was our decision to make, and ours only.
I completely understand if people have family or religious obligations, or if it’s something they just truly want. For us, it was a matter of staying true to ourselves and being firm with our decision. At the time, we were footing the bill, so family members understood that. It’s also easy to fall prey to societal expectations of how a wedding should be, so it helped that my husband and I were on the same page.
Keeping it simple
I am not a planner. My Pinterest page has one board called “Foods I Want to Eat.” That’s about the extent of my planning prowess. Because I skew towards anxiety and I’m easily overwhelmed, planning is not my forte. I did briefly attempt to plan a wedding for about three days, but I gave up. I say this because a bit of soul searching is required to figure out what you want, along with a little courage to go against the grain and do it.
We have smaller families, but they are all over the place. We live in Seattle, Adam’s family is scattered from Canada to South Florida, and mine are in Michigan. There were certain family members I knew couldn’t easily be there, and without them, I didn’t want to have a large ceremony. I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I understand this is a unique issue we had that many people don’t have to think about, but certain personal logistics were a problem.
I love a good wedding. I really do. I love the fanfare and the beautiful bride. I love the dancing, the cake, and of course the open bar. But somewhere between the wedding reality shows and YouTube wedding flash mobs, it became more of a show than a show of love. For us, I wanted to slow down and celebrate one thing: us. Some readers may think that’s selfish to not include others, but this was a priority for me. We wrote our own vows, spoke from the depths of our hearts, and those are personal, intimate moments I will cherish forever.
My husband and I have another unique situation: our jobs. They are in very public positions. I’m on air 5 hours a day, 25 hours a week, 1300 hours a year. We love what we do, but we certainly don’t need anymore spotlight! We wanted a little bit of privacy, so we honored that.
How did we do it?
First, we decided what we wanted, and what we didn’t want.
We knew we didn’t want a big wedding. We knew we didn’t want to spend a lot of money. We also knew this was our experience to personalize and create as we imagined it. Luckily, we reached an agreement easily about elopement. That’s not always the case with couples. Our idea was to pick what we wanted, and leave out the rest.
Here were the basics: We wanted an actual ceremony past going down the courthouse. I wanted a pretty dress, to get my hair done and eat some cake. We wanted a couple photos to remember, but we didn’t need 500. We wanted a honeymoon. After that, the rule was “keep it simple.”
Then, we talked to family.
This was the scariest part of the process. When all your family and friends are expecting a wedding, it’s easy to feel like you’ve let them down. For us, it worked best to tell close family and friends only. Despite being pretty nervous about it, everyone understood. The hardest part of this was starting the actual conversation, and getting the ball rolling.
We found cheaper alternatives.
For the three or four days I subjected myself to the horror that is wedding planning, I was stunned at how expensive everything is. Even worse, the price hike when you simply mention the word “wedding.” I set out to find cheaper alternatives to the things I wanted to include.
I found a discount, secondhand dress and veil through “Brides for a Cause.”
It cost me about $200. If you’re unfamiliar, this organization works to raise money with Wish Upon A Wedding, a non-profit organization dedicated to granting weddings and vow renewals for couples facing serious illness or a life-altering circumstance. My dress felt extra special, because of this meaning behind it.
We got a great deals on a venue, flowers, photos and a cake.
We found the perfect wedding venue at Willows Lodge, in Woodinville, WA. They had an elopement package for about $400. They also gave us ability to roam the property for pictures and a ceremony.
I didn’t care if I had a traditional “wedding cake” so I didn’t say anything when ordering regarding a wedding. I ordered a $30 6-inch whisper cake for Macrina bakery and bought this little cake topper which symbolized the intimacy of our wedding day.
We also saved by hiring a wonderful young photographer who was the daughter of a co-worker. We avoided the $5,000 wedding packages I was finding everywhere and paid about $500 for her time and all of our photos.
Total for everything? About $1,130.
And the day? Priceless.
In the end, I still feel like we actually splurged, yet we got EVERYTHING we wanted.
Finally, we planned a perfect honeymoon…
…and spent a week in Cabo relaxing. The honeymoon was a must.
Bottom line: Eloping is not for everyone. But big weddings aren’t either.
If you’re considering an elopement, here are tips I would give anyone before planning any type of wedding ceremony:
- Do some soul searching. Really figure out what you want, and how to stay true to yourself. This is your relationship and this is your day. Recognize that and honor that.
- Filter out societal expectations and make it your own. Forget about the wedding shows and extravagant websites that TELL you what they think YOU need. You and your partner know what you need.
- Talk to your family about your wedding dreams. Be kind, have courage and stand firm. I second this if you are paying for your own ceremony.
- Look for venues with elopement packages if you’re not into planning. Many times, these are all-inclusive, making them easy to book and be done with it.
- Make a list with your partner of everything you want and don’t want in a wedding, and how to make it fit into your budget. Get creative with how to find lower cost options around town. Once you make those choices, commit to stick with it.
- Understand people will get over it. This is the best advice I was given when I was feeling bad for making this choice. I was afraid of alienating family or friends. A friend reminded me that this is mine and my partner’s day. I have to live with my choices because it’s my wedding, but most likely those who truly love you will forget and move on with their own lives. That’s what matters.
Most importantly, follow your heart.
Let me know how you created your big day. I would love to hear from you in the comments.