Having attended two weddings in April, it’s only natural that it made me nostalgic for my own wedding.
Long before I had heard of minimalism, I have been living the philosophy in my own life and planning a wedding was no exception.
The Knot reports that the national average wedding cost for 2016 was $35,329. When we had our wedding in 2013, the country had significantly recovered from the recession and the wedding industry was no exception. Wedding spending was at the highest level since 2008, and hovered just under $30,000. These averages take into account the highest-spending markets like Manhattan, where the average is closer to $80,000, and the lower-spending markets that average under $20,000. We got married near where we live, which is a tourist destination, so the average in our area is slightly higher than the national average, hovering just below $40,000 for 2016. We didn’t give into the pressure and spent much MUCH less than that.
This is not to say that those who spend closer to the average or even more did anything wrong–if you’ve been saving up for years and want to splurge on this event and pull out all the stops, by all means do so. It truly is the experience of a lifetime. Personally, there are lots of other things I could think of to spend the money on. If, on the other hand, you haven’t been saving up and instead take on $40,000 of debt for this one day, I question why you feel it’s necessary.
It can be very tempting to overspend when planning a wedding, especially when we hear the statistics about “average” wedding costs. Also, there is evidence that many vendors will charge more for a “wedding” than a “family party” scheduled for the same date, so costs can easily spiral out of control.
Weddings come with lots of expectations: lots of décor, multiple-course catered meal, professional DJ, lighting, multi-tiered cake, and more. Disregarding the expectations and doing what you and your partner want and what is meaningful for you both is essential to having a minimalist wedding.
The most important thing is to set priorities. What is the most important thing to you? Swoon-worthy photos? Best, most fun reception ever? The princess dress of your dreams? Wedding food worth waiting through the ceremony for? Keep those priorities in sight as you set your budget and make sure to allocate most of the budget to those items.
One of the benefits of this minimalist approach to wedding planning is that it is eco-friendly. Some level of excess is unavoidable with these types of events, but minimizing it as much as possible is easy. Everything we bought for the wedding, we either kept, re-sold or donated — or it was rented in the first place.
We had none of the extras people convince try to convince us that we “must have.” There was no wedding planner, no altar, no aisle runner, no chair covers. In lieu of save-the-dates, we notified guests of our wedding date online and sent our invitations out earlier than usual. My wedding dress was a David’s Bridal $99 sale rack dress that required no alterations, which I sold on eBay to recoup some of the money.
Where we did spend extra money, we did so intentionally. I chose to have professional hair and makeup, which was nice, but obviously not necessary. I don’t usually wear makeup and have unruly hair, so I wanted professional help on my big day! I did not, however, pay extra money for “trials” with these vendors. I trusted them to be able to do it to my liking or be able to fix it the day of. Instead, we spent money on dance lessons and had a choreographed first dance that wowed our guests—our first dance was one of my favorite things about the day. My mom came over to me afterwards and hugged me, joyfully sobbing. It’s a cherished memory. We also spent money on a butterfly release, as butterflies are a very important symbol to me and I thought it would be a lovely after-ceremony surprise for the guests. Much more special and meaningful things than extra décor.
One of the main challenges of a minimalist philosophy is eschewing the expectations society tends to put on us. In a society where an engagement ring is viewed by many as a measure of success and going into debt for a piece of jewelry is expected, choosing a modest ring is almost revolutionary. The average size and cost of an engagement ring in the United States is about twice the size (and about triple the cost!) of most other countries.
Infographic from beyond4cs.com
To be honest, I have had my engagement ring for quite a few years now, and have considered “upgrading” the setting from a simple solitaire set in plain yellow gold to a setting with some extra diamonds recently. Minimalism made me stop and ask myself why I want to upgrade and what I would have to give up in order to upgrade. I actually really like my ring, but, like so many people, insecurity made me feel like I need to upgrade a perfectly beautiful ring I love (and helped pick out myself!) so people don’t think I’m unsuccessful because of my modest ring. I would have to give up things like the vacation to Los Angeles this year, and the trip to Europe we plan to take in the next few years. It would take me that much longer to pay back my student loans. Like so many other things I have chosen not to buy since embracing minimalism, it’s just not worth it in the long run.