Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Frugal Wedding Tip #2: Have a Planned Elopement

According to The Knot.com, the average American wedding costs between $25,000 and $30,000; a.k.a a 10 percent down payment on a contemporary home. Yes, you can hear my disdain already. My wedding, honeymoon included, cost approximately $3,000. When we said "I do" on June 21, 2006, we did so without going into wedding debt. How? We had a planned elopement.

What is a planned elopement? Well, upon getting engagement we told our family, friends, and anyone who'd listen that we were getting married. And we had a date, June 21, 2006. It was not a secret, but it was exclusive. No guests, not one. No parents, siblings, friends or family? They knew were were getting married on that date and that we'd selected Bayfield, Wisconsin to be the location.

Why a planned elopement? First, neither one of us is a "party planner" person. The idea of having 100 to 300 guests caused us great stress and discomfort. Second, we didn't want to spend money on an event we would likely not enjoy. Third, we wanted to share our news about building a life together, but did not see the need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to underscore the commitment. Instead we sent out announcements with a photo.

Yes, people were mad. My mother-in-law still seems to have a memory lapse on the summer solstice -- never recognizing our anniversary. The "marriage proceeding" is easy for her to overlook, she was not present. Harsh on her part? Perhaps. But in her defense, she is from the South, Virginia to be exact, and large weddings are something they live for down there. But, as I pointed out in only the way a legal bride would do, she had had her wedding, this was mine. And as she had said to my husband the moment she heard our announcement, "Melinda should have what Melinda wants". Only she did not know that I was more anti-wedding than her son, more frugal than she ever imagined.

My husband proposed on the Winter Solstice, asking me to marry him on the Summer Solstice. Very romantic, and also a Wednesday. We decided to have a "destination wedding" -- but one not too far away. With the stress and energy associated with merging two lives we opted to stay in the States; international travel would have been difficult for us -- we were focused on getting married, not on seeing the sites. We wanted some relaxing time, and if we spent the time and money to leave the country, we'd want to maximize our time, which is not relaxing. Instead we decided to return to Bayfield, Wisconsin. We'd traveled there the previous summer and fell in love with the location. What a perfect place to spend the longest day of the year; we rented a cabin for one week.

With a location determined we turned our attention to the proceeding. We opted for a judge to do the honors. We were technically married in Wasburn, Wisconsin, the county seat. The wedding was scheduled for the courtroom, but on a whim, the judge said "it's a lovely summer day -- want to get married on the courthouse lawn?" We loved the idea and said our "I dos" with a bailiff and court reporter as our witnesses. Simple, short, and ideal. No distractions about where to sit Uncle John. No worries about feeding the vegan with nut allergies. Just the two of us, focused on starting life together. A photographer capture the proceeding on film. We ate lunch at a lovely cafe. For dinner we dined at the Rittenhouse. And we crashed a solstice party at a pottery store. Random and relaxed.

This isn't for every couple, but if a wedding is in your future, I recommend you give it some thought. Recently an aunt of mine who is helping two children plan traditional weddings within a year of each other said "you know, what you did seems kind of appealing right now!".

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