Who would have thought that a couple could have not only put together a really fun wedding but also have it all paid for and even part of the honeymoon? Certainly not my husband and I and that was our wedding. Prior to our wedding, my then fiancée and I had just moved to a new town for his job. I had my own business that was location based so when we moved my income did not move with me. I had to start all over again and we had no family or friends nearby. Needless to say we were living on a tight budget and had a wedding to plan and fund. Knowing that the average wedding costs around $35,000 we had to find a way to drastically reduce the bill, either that or just elope. Since Vegas and a hip shaking Elvis was not my idea of a dream wedding, we had to come up with ideas that would give us the wedding we wanted despite our limited resources. In addition, when we got engaged we made a pledge to each other not to get ourselves into the debt that we had accumulated and worked hard to pay off from our former lives. We wanted our union to start out as debt free as possible but still wanted to be proud of the wedding we put together not only for our family and friends but for ourselves.
When we started planning for our wedding we had our date set but that was about it. Everything else was a big unknown. We were lucky enough to live in a place that most people have as vacation destination so we decided to have our wedding in our new hometown – a small island town off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in south Texas. It was a gorgeous beach town and by having our wedding there we had managed to develop some friends and contacts in the area so it made planning a wedding easier on us as we decided that we couldn’t afford to hire our own wedding planner. As I explain in our book I regret this decision now but hindsight is 20-20. As we were planning our wedding, we decided that the added expense of a professional planner was just one we couldn’t afford. So with a date and a location the rest of the planning direction was set.
Living in a beach town you’d think we’d have the ceremony on the beach. After having seen a few beach weddings the summer prior to our wedding, which was in November, we had decided that we’d rather get married on a boat in the bay. The island was windy just about every other day and as I didn’t want sand blasting my guests in the face coupled with the fact that we’d seen many a beach wedding photobombed, the boat cruise sounded like heaven. As it happened when we announced our wedding, one of my clients offered to give us a 2 hour dolphin cruise as a wedding present. He had purchased the cruise which would hold about 50 people at a local charity event. So we had to take advantage of that generosity. The only question now was, did we use that as an activity for our guests, make it the ceremony location or part of the reception? As we discussed it, my husband and I thought it would make the perfect ceremony location. It held about 50 people comfortably with benches on the 2nd deck and had enough room to fit our solo singing artist and her guitar. We were able to bring onboard our own alcohol and it didn’t need decorating as the scenery was enough. We got married as the sunset on the bay and even had a school of dolphins along for the ride. It was magical. And the only cost for the ceremony was the alcohol for our guests, the musician, and the amateur photographer.
The reception location was just a few minutes down the street from the boat dock and again the location was free as we had it at an outdoor bar on the bay. We knew the manager and he allowed us to close off the space for our reception. We had a local restaurant cater the food and guests had a built-in cash bar. We paid for the band for the next few hours and after they left the bar itself had its own band come out for the ‘after-hours’ party.
What turned our low-cost wedding into a profitable wedding was how we directed our guests from day one. We had a goal of telling people not to bring actual gifts but to donate money. We already had an apartment complete with a toaster and plastic spoons so we really didn’t need physical things and wanted to pay for the expenses that we did have, including our honeymoon to an island off the coast of South America. We started with our wedding website which I put together. Yes me, the low-tech one of the two of us. My husband is in information technology but he was working on a project that took most of his time so that left me to handle the website. I was shocked at how easy and inexpensive it was to put it together. In addition to the beauty of the website itself it was amazing all of the advantages we had by using it. It had an invitation tool so we didn’t have to buy and mail paper invitations. As it was a website it had real time updates and we could easily send notices to our guests when changes or updates to the site and wedding had occurred. Also, and just as exciting, it had a link for people to donate to our wedding. Again, from day one we told people as politely as we could that we did not need or want physical gifts but preferred cash donations. We found a gift registry that basically had items that we could choose that helped folks get over the mental stigma of giving someone a cash gift instead of a physical one with a bow on top. Since we were going to a tropical island we picked honeymoon ‘gifts’ such as hotel nights, airline tickets, scuba lessons, dinners, etc. and we were able to make suggested monetary amounts per gift item and limit the number of each particular gift item. People would donate what they could and would select an ‘item’ that they had purchased for us. It made them feel good that they were buying us something as decadent as flowers in our honeymoon suite and in the end we had enough donations to cover the costs of our wedding and some for our honeymoon.
All in all we started our life together with minimal debt and had an awesome wedding, complete with a 10 day honeymoon on a tropical island in South America for the cost of one airline ticket. I was amazed at how much we had accomplished, how much money we had saved, and how beautiful our wedding and honeymoon actually were. To this day we still have people tell us how fun the wedding was and they are equally shocked when we tell them that we made money from it and how little it actually cost. The guests didn’t feel cheated or that it was a cheap event and we are proud of what we put together. Our only goal now is to spread the word and help others to realize that you too can have a profitable wedding!