Our unconventional (and cheap) wedding

We are at the time in our lives when our friends invite us to their (increasingly overpriced) weddings. It is not uncommon to see weddings that are £30,000 or £40,000 – two twenty-somethings without a house but will spend that kind of money. Sometimes, it’s even more than that – like the viral article from the BBC a few weeks ago – “I regret spending £50,000 on my wedding”

When you saying “wedding” the prices mysteriously go up

Mrs YFG and I originally approached our wedding assuming we would have the “traditional wedding”; white dress, ceremony, reception, all that shizz. A couple of weeks into the planning, once we started adding up the costs and getting back the outrageous quotes, we said “balls” – we went back to the drawing board.

As a mathematician/economist (geek) I went back to first principles:

  • Why are you making a decision on something for your wedding? – why are you spending the money? Is it because you genuinely believe that item will make you happier or add to your day, or is it because people expect it?
  • What makes a good wedding? What were the best weddings we had been to?
  • What is most important to you? What is the thing you want to remember about the day?

Thinking these things through with Mrs YFG-to-be we realised we had been putting the (wedding) cart before the horse. We thought we’d have to do all the wedding planning a certain way, forgetting that we don’t live in communist Russia, we could decide exactly how our day and what we wanted.

The things we realised were:

  • Wedding ceremonies are boring for us (and I think 99% people) – there’s only so many times you can hear the same Corinthians bible verse (“Love is patient. Love is…blah blah blah”).
  • The best weddings were where there was great food, free drink and fun (good music, dancing, good crowd).
  • The worst weddings were stuffy, where you’re trapped at a table next to Great Aunt Dorothy talking about her thimbles for 3 hours, and the food sucks.
  • The most important thing for us was that we had fun and enjoyed the day.

Our wedding day(s)

So we did things a bit unconventional. We got married at a registry office, in a beautiful old town-hall, in a beautiful oak panelled room with huge comfy leather chairs. If you want a fancy outfit, spend money on a dress/suit you really like and want to wear again. Mrs YFG refused to wear a white dress. She bought an evening dress from a high street shop and checked it fit, then wore it. She’s worn it since as it’s one of her nicest dresses and has a special meaning to her. Mrs YFG bought me a new work suit, which I continue to wear (occasionally). I refused to wear a tie as I hate ties.

For the ceremony itself, we had no vows – in fact we asked for the shortest ceremony possible (we wanted to go drink and celebrate as soon as possible). We invited only the people who really wanted to be there (close family) – a wedding party of 8. We then went and had a private dinner at one of our favourite venues in Central London – where we had unlimited wine and a beautiful room (I can’t even remember how good the food was though…)

Later that evening, being quite drunk and tired, we then had a house party in the evening where we invited about 30 friends over for a celebration. Mrs YFG wore her pyjamas and drank a lot of wine (her favourite type of evening). We decided to split our wedding day over two – that way we got to have more parties and also not be utterly exhausted after cramming everything into one long day.

Our wedding reception was the next day, so we had time to rest and recover. We booked a restaurant out for the reception in the evening and set up a tab, ordering food and drink on the tab – everyone drank and ate for free. We didn’t pay for set meals which were overpriced and pre-prepared. No hire fees just a minimum spend. We bought a nice pre-made wedding cake from a supermarket and decorated it with some flowers. The flowers we got from a friend of a friend who is an amateur florist, who did this stuff in her spare time. We reused the wedding bouquets as the table centrepieces. We didn’t buy any fancy decorations and other paraphernalia – we picked up half a dozen disposable polaroid cameras for people to take pictures and got those huge sweet shop jars of penny sweets. Mrs YFG got one of her professional DJ friends to do the music and he did a great job for a decent price.

We didn’t go on a honeymoon after – we spent the time together doing up our house. And enjoyed our first Christmas together.

We aren’t cheapskates, I swear!

Don’t get me wrong – we could have spent much more on our wedding. And maybe we might have had a (marginally) “better” time (or maybe not…) But we spent the money we saved on our house, which we get to enjoy every day. The concept of the ‘perfect day’ is particularly troubling – when is anything in life perfect? Demanding perfection is only likely to leave you disappointed. We had a great time – and to be honest, much of it is hazy blur lost in a whirlwind of drink and talking to hundreds of people and being pulled from place to place.

A final tip – wear comfortable shoes.

12 thoughts on “Our unconventional (and cheap) wedding

  1. It sounds like you had a wedding similar in spirit to in the godfather which was ceremony, then back to the house for a family meal. I dont know if this is standard italian folk tradition. Obviously you didn’t have the large sicilian estate to go back to. But the principle remains, love and marriage is a simple concept and it’s about you two and the life you are about to have together, but for some bridezillas it has to be a show of status and bigger and better than everyone elses. We shaved on items where we could and I insisted that everyone got wrecked (if they wanted to) for as cheap as possible. Everyone seems to remember our day with fondness. A party doesn’t get better the more you spend…
    Great post thanks

  2. That’s awesome, hats off. I’d say fewer than half of the women I’ve dated would have been up for it though. (They’d invariably blame “not wanting to disappoint their mothers” if nothing else.)

    (Then again they are exes, so all is not lost… 😉 )

    1. Thanks TI – and I’m also so pleased to see you commenting. Mrs YFG and I are very lucky in that we share the same values (and dislike of big weddings!) We’ve seen a few of our friends break up over weddings – having realised they wanted different things. It’s an important topic so discussing it honestly and openly is important. Mrs YFG has already disappointed her mother enough by being with me – so she couldn’t disappoint her any more.

      1. Wow! If couples split over something as silly as how they think a wedding should be then they obviously weren’t meant to be together in the first place so I guess that is kind of a silver lining on that one?!
        People never cease to amaze me.

  3. This is a massive minefield in relationships, the expectations of everyone but the couple they’re supposed to be honouring are often so obviously selfish, so secretly I bet weddings are as dreaded as the forced ‘hilarious, outrageous jollity’ that’s pressured onto you in stag/hen nights. I had a great time because we sort of eloped, telling nobody, we did the registry office thing and then announced it only a year later so it was such a fait accomplit that it minimised the inevitable recriminations. Had both families actually cared more than fighting for territory in a glorified pissing contest, we’d have included them; of course they’ll never see that as long as they live.

    A friend with similar problems pleasing the unpleasable simply had a wild party with their own friends on a tropical beach after a quiet registry affair to take care of the legals. Only family with a supportive attitude turned up given the ready-made excuse of it being really inconvenient to get to at short notice, it clarified who actually cared, like a facebook friend filter.

    1. Had both families actually cared more than fighting for territory in a glorified pissing contest, we’d have included them; of course they’ll never see that as long as they live.

      It’s funny how many weddings we go to where it feels like the bride and groom’s mother’s idea of a perfect wedding… I think a lot of pressure is put on couples by their parents and family. I’m quite fortunate that my family was very laid back and just wanted us to do what we wanted. My mother-in-law is not so laid-back. Mrs YFG was quite firm, she made it clear she was doing what she wanted. A good tip – if you have got pesky family trying to get involved, dish them out a minor task that they can obsess over (Mrs YFG gave the cake duty to her mother, who did proceed to fuss all over it).

  4. Registry office for us two, plus the two witnesses (it cost less for the smallest room, which can only hold four.)
    Then we took the witnesses for lunch, followed by being joined by a few others for a few drinks in the pub (folk paid for their own drinks like any other night at the pub.)

  5. Hats off to you YoungFIGuy for not following the herd on this one!

    Although I did notice you didn’t tell what you *actually* spent? 😉

    We kind of did the “big day” thing but scrimped and saved where possible (made our own invites etc). I think the whole thing cost 10-12K for a ballpark which is fairly reasonable when you consider what you can go up to (this was only 5 years ago so sure wedding inflation hasn’t been too much in that time?). The big cost which really hurt and I didn’t really think was worth it was the photographer which was over a grand. He was great and took some good photos, but I just don’t think the cost was worth it and we could have got someone just as good for maybe half the price. Oh well!

    Another factor is that we had financial input from both sets of parents, so it was only fair enough that they had a fair bit of input on what happened on the day and who got invited. If there is pressure like that, for a reason, you can’t really argue too much, but if parents expect *you* to fork out 20K+ just so they can have their perfect day, well I just don’t know why anyone would do that!?

    I think many people just use the whole “pressure/expectations” thing as an excuse. Look at some of the lines in the article you linked to: “Coming from a large family of equally large weddings, there was a part of me that wanted to impress everyone.” and “I wish society didn’t keep encouraging brides (and grooms) to do the same.”
    I mean C’mon!!??! How about thinking for yourself for a change? Or at least just admit *you* wanted to do that and that is why you did it?! Blame society, yea… great one 🙂

    Honestly… I’d have been happy with the registry office and a big piss up, but also I’m really glad we were fortunate enough to be able to get the help to have a “big day” because looking back it was pretty awesome (not saying that a smaller and/or cheaper day wouldn’t have been). Also we spent about 5K on the honeymoon (Thailand for 3 weeks, totally worth it!!!*) but got about 2K+ in “wedding presents” (i.e. money) so out of pocket expenses for the whole lot including honeymoon for us was only about 7K from memory, so once again not that bad!!! In other circumstances though, I would totally opt for the more frugal affair, no doubt about it.

    *We did it *in style* or in other words far more expensive than necessary. But we’d done the whole budget travelling thing before and figured it was worth spending a bit extra on the honeymoon to make sure it went 100% smooth, and it was kind of worth it. However I still am not much of a fan of 5* hotels it has to be said… make me feel out of place. We have since reverted back to Eurocamp holidays and “budget” hotels when we do go long haul (only once since then which was in 2013) or city breaks, and I am much more comfortable with that both financially and actually physically staying in them.

    Sorry about long comment. Had a few beers and got carried away 🙂
    Cheers again for another interesting post!

  6. Needn’t apologise TFS! Really interesting comment and I enjoyed your mini rant.

    I think Mrs YFG and I spent maybe £1k of our own money in total. As our parents and grandparents paid for most of it. I couldn’t find the spreadsheet on the computer when I wrote the post. I’m not sure where it is. I changed computers a while back as my old one conked it. Mrs YFG and I are going to investigate.

    Roughly speaking the total was around £8k. £5k for our reception/party. We had about 150 party goers and paid for all the drinks and food (well our parents did!) It was worth every penny.

    The private dining was, I think, about £1k. It was a bit pricey. But we had an absolutely great time spending several hours (and many bottles of wine).

    The registry office was about £250 for everything. I was in an Uber to get to the wedding but got stuck in traffic. So I ended up getting the tube and walking.

    My suit was about £100 and the same for my wife’s dresses. We hired a photography student who confusingly had the same name as me! I think that was about £100 too. The only expensive sundry item was the flowers and decorations which were about £700. Mrs YFG wanted really nice flowers. Which we kept in our house for a few weeks afterwards.

    We didn’t have a honeymoon. We ended up going on our first marital holiday 18 months later… to the Costa del Sol.

    We didn’t ask for gifts, in fact we said no gifts. But people were very generous. We had loads of.John Lewis vouchers which was a great help in setting up our new home at the time (along with lots of champagne). So, we probably made a “profit” out of our wedding…. Hmmm….

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