There’s been lots of action happening on the wedding planning front. Turns out, even a small wedding is a lot of work!
Neither Josh nor I are really into weddings. We both think the idea of walking down an aisle in front of a bunch of people, flubbing some awkward/personal vows, giving speeches, having a “first dance”, etc., etc. is all just about the worst thing you could ask either one of us to do.
We knew before we got engaged that the traditional wedding was not for us.
In the beginning, I felt pretty strongly about eloping, or – at least – getting married, just us, alone. But, Josh (more reasonably, perhaps) felt strongly about having his family there to see us get married. Not an outlandish request by any means, but it did open the door to having some form of wedding, beyond just a simple, private ceremony.
We spent a few weeks deliberating possible ideas, all intended to be low key and low budget:
- could we have a backyard BBQ? (turns out, a tent rental alone would run us $2k, not to mention tables, chairs, catering, porta-potty rentals, etc. – hey, you can’t plan an outdoor wedding in NS without a tent!)
- could we have a simple dessert-only reception at the house? (But… our house really isn’t big enough to host any more than 20-30 people).
What do we want in a wedding?
At the very beginning, we set a few goals to keep us focused on planning a day that was truly about us, and one that would make us happy. At the end of the day, we want:
- To get married
- To be true to ourselves & be happy with whatever plans transpire
- To have a low-stress, easy-to-plan celebration
- To celebrate with a few close friends and a few close family members
- To have a celebration that we can afford without much additional saving (i.e., something that is well within our means so we aren’t altering spending habits, or getting stressed over money)
We eventually landed on a format we are both happy with:
Our ceremony is taking place in a Dartmouth city park this summer, in the company of our parents & siblings only, followed by some family photos taken on the waterfront. We’ll then join a larger group of family and friends for a happy hour and buffet dinner at a nearby restaurant on the waterfront to celebrate our marriage.
The plans came together pretty quickly, and we’re both pretty happy with the outcome. It’s a day that is truly ‘us’ – we get to have a ceremony that we’re comfortable with, followed by a simple dinner afterward with a small group of our nearest and dearest.
The past few weeks have been a little bit trying, and I’ve struggled to not let what other people think affect me. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to marry Josh. I can, however, do without the associated drama. I definitely go through ups and downs, switching from being super happy about the day we’ve planned and can’t wait for it to happen, to feeling like I really just want to cancel it all and go get married in secret tomorrow.
(I *know* the day of will be fantastic and we’ll enjoy ourselves tremendously and will look back on it all so fondly – it’s just the process of getting there that I’m not really enjoying).
I think most family and friends have been relatively understanding about our wishes, but, not all have, and hearing about it is such a drag. I think many people truly don’t understand the industry that surrounds getting married, and the debt people take on to make it all happen. The latest stats show that last year, the average wedding in Canada was expected to cost over $30,000 (including a honeymoon).
We both have great incomes, but we’re not hella rich, so the idea of this is simply ABSURD in my books. There are so many things I’d rather do with $30k. I can’t even fathom such a thing. (But hey, that’s just me!)
But still, there are relatives who are (vocally) disappointed not to be invited, and friends who don’t understand why they can’t actually see us get married, or why they can’t bring their brand new boyfriend/girlfriend. Everyone wants to be more involved, which is so, so generous, and so lovely! But, it’s just not us. We don’t want a big wedding; we don’t want a fuss.
I totally get that our wedding may be a bit of an anomaly, and that we’re breaking most of the traditions. But why follow tradition unless it’s something that’s really meaningful to you?
I keep getting so many questions/comments from the people I wouldn’t expect them from. So many assumptions about how we’ll do things, like:
- During your rehearsal dinner… (We’re not having a rehearsal dinner)
- How many people are in your bridal party? (We don’t have a bridal party)
- When you’re at the head table… (We don’t have a head table)
- Me and my (brand spanking new) partner will be there! (Your partner wasn’t invited…)
I try not to, but sometimes I can’t help but feel a little hurt when my answers to these questions are met with disappointment. Let’s think about this realistically – why does anyone care that we won’t have a head table?!
At the outset, we asked ourselves how much money we would comfortably and happily spend on our wedding:
- My number: $5,000
- Josh’s number: $5,000 – $6,000
I’m a person who (to a fault, probably) loves lists and budgets and basically anything in Excel. So, naturally, I have a budget breakdown for the big day. Here’s where we’re at:
|Dress + appropriate underwear||800|
|Makeup, Hair & Nails||250|
|Flowers – bouquet||50|
|Flowers (for tables)||120|
|Decorations & jars for flowers, guestbook, etc.||310|
|City park rental||110|
Some of these numbers are actuals, and some are estimates. But it’s clear that either way, we’re over budget! We’re not stressing over it too much (I willingly spent double my initial dress budget, for example), but it’s crazy how it all adds up so fast, even with so few items on a list.
Oh, and I get that this looks like a “cheap” wedding – but seriously, when’s the last time you dropped nearly $8k on something?! It’s a lot of money!
(Plus, the cost of the engagement ring, and a honeymoon – which we are doing, but have not finalized. It’ll be whatever we can manage with a couple thousand dollars).
We came up with some ways to keep our costs down, and also nixed many of the expensive traditions:
- Hired a friend as our photographer.
- Ditched the wedding cake (our 3-course meal comes with dessert, anyway).
- Getting flowers from a local farmer. The florists in town wanted about $100 per centerpiece (and we’re looking for 15 centerpieces!), so I hooked up with a local farm who is going to grow a selection of wildflowers for us, and I will arrange them in jars myself.
- I found a local rental company for decorations, so instead of having to buy the 45 candle holders I’d like, I can rent them for a dollar a piece. I’m also getting a Just Married banner, signage, a polaroid camera, and a few other odds and ends. All on rent, and all super cute!
- Ditched the bridal party – which is a huge expense, either for the bride & groom, or that cost gets passed on to the party, which I don’t like the idea of. It cost me the better part of $2,000 to be my sister’s maid of honour last summer. I wasn’t comfortable asking someone to do that, and I also couldn’t afford to do it myself. So, we’re not!
- Our JoP discounted her rate to perform our ceremony, given there isn’t a rehearsal dinner or a lengthy ceremony.
- Kept dinner numbers to 50 guests, a number the restaurant is happy with (lots of business for them, and therefore aren’t charging us to use the private function rooms or the balcony overlooking the water).
- Guests did not get automatic +ones.
- We’re sending email Save the Dates and invitations, pointing to a website, instead of having to buy materials, design, print, and mail hard copies.
- Nixed the dance/DJ.
Fifty guests doesn’t sound that small, but trust me, IT IS. Right off the bat, after immediate family members are accounted for, we’re down to 35 guests, or, 17 guests each. There are over 40 people on my dad’s side of the family alone, if I account for all of their spouses, children, etc. Not a fun task to whittle that down!
This is why our guests did not get automatic +ones (something not everyone is happy with, so if you’re going to enforce that rule, be ready for some flack!).
Ultimately, we tried hard to stick to our guns and invite only the people nearest and dearest to us – people that, as a couple, we both have strong, personal relationships with. This does exclude a lot of friends, and a lot of family members, who are without a doubt also very close to us. If you’re going to stick to a budget, you have to slice and dice somehow.
What I’ve learned.
I suppose that no matter what you do, how you plan it, or who is invited, there will always be someone who is unhappy. The name of the game is to keep it all in perspective, and remind yourself that it’s just a party!
At the end of the day, Josh and I will be married – and on our own terms! – and that’s really the only goal.