Our $1000 Wedding, Five Years Later

There are a some things in life you’ll never regret: deleting Facebook, lifting weights, and getting married at City Hall are among them.

Five years ago Sally and I decided to get married at City Hall. The wedding cost us $1000 and the story went viral at the time.

There were a number of reasons we had a small wedding; the main one, of course, being lower cost. If my memory serves me correctly we had about $30,000 saved up at the time. Not bad considering we lived in Korea as teachers and Australia as baristas the previous few years!

However, $30,000 is the cost of an average wedding these days and we preferred to use that money as an emergency fund or down payment on a house.

Another reason for our small wedding: laziness. It’s really frustrating planning a large wedding. Some couples are engaged for two or more years while they plan every detail! Two years to plan for one day seems insane to me. I don’t think the reward is worth it as I would have hated every moment of the planning.

Then there is pressure on who you invite. Family members you barely speak with? Long lost friends? And who makes the cut to be a groomsman? Also, who wants to be a groomsman? If I have to wear one more $300 ill-fitting polyester suit rental, I will lose it.

Many couples seem to worry more about their wedding day and less about their lives as a married couple. The wedding day is just one day. Get a few good pictures and get on with your lives.

Having a small wedding is also a test of loyalty. Does your spouse want you or do they want a big ceremony? When I mentioned the possibility of a small wedding; Sally jumped at the chance.

Now we are five years in and there have been no regrets. It was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made!

We got married at San Francisco City Hall and then got on with our lives together. And life has been mostly great! Here on some tips on how we’ve been relatively stress-free in our relationship the past five years:

  1. Joint spreadsheet, not joint accounts. We share a Personal Capital account but all of our investments and bank accounts are separate. We’re a team and are working towards a common goal: financial independence. That doesn’t mean all of our accounts need to be connected. My money is her money and her money is my money. We discuss large purchases but for the most part, we buy what we want. Luckily, we don’t want much.
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. This is the title of a bestseller and a cliché but it’s also a good reminder. We are healthy, we have good jobs, and we live in the USA. Life isn’t that hard. There are few reasons to be upset. We spent the past five years building up our portfolio and while we’re not financially independent, we will never be hungry or homeless. We’ve worked hard and stopped worrying about small things!
  3. Share responsibilities. We both do dishes and wash laundry. Sometimes I go grocery shopping, sometimes Sally goes grocery shopping. It’s not a contest and it’s not 50-50. We both work 40+ hour weeks and do our best to help each other. No need to keep score, this is a relationship, not a competition.
  4. Say sorry. We aren’t politicians so it’s ok to admit when you’re wrong! I’ve said and done things I shouldn’t have. Nothing has been relationship altering but I’m not perfect. You shouldn’t hold grudges with your spouse; that’s not how healthy relationships work.
  5. Always try to improve. Couples get complacent (and fat) when they get too comfortable. Make goals and put systems into place to improve yourself and the relationship. I don’t enjoy working out but I try to lift weights at least three times per week because it improves my body and my mood. Wives don’t want to come home lazy husbands watching football and drinking beer all day. Don’t take your spouse (or yourself) for granted.
  6. Plan fun adventures. Being married can get boring if you let it. Going to the movies, a new coffee shop, an inexpensive dinner, or a hike can improve your relationship significantly while costing very little. We’ve built a sizeable nest egg so we’re able to plan domestic and international trips which always gives us something to look forward to. We just came back from Florida and have trips to Las Vegas and Colombia on the calendar for later in the year. We’re trying to reach financial independence as quickly as possible but you need to enjoy the journey as well.

This article has 6 comments

  1. Josh

    I totally agree on a cheap wedding. Ours was $500 total. $36 for license, $200 dress, $200 BBQ, and the rest for flowers. We had a family friend officiate and used my parents small ranch for the setting.

    We then went all inclusive to Jamaica for 7 nights for $2,000. Got to have adventures and save our small $15k savings. Great write up!

  2. RootofGood

    We celebrated 14 years in March and I think our wedding cost about the same. I wore a suit I bought during law school and she wore a dress she already had. We got married in the Justice Center downtown (basically the courthouse) and randomly bumped into a magistrate that knew me growing up! He did a nice ceremony for us and then we had a big Asian house party at my sister in law’s house. Total cost was probably a thousand or so.

    Since my parents didn’t have to pay a dime for the wedding, they generously paid for a 1 week Caribbean cruise and plane tickets for our honeymoon! Our honeymoon cost way more than our actual wedding, which is how it should be if you (or your parents, in my case) have the cash for it.

  3. MillionaireBefore50

    You made the right decision. We spent $400 on our wedding, 15 years ago. The ceremony was held in my apartment and we just went to the local Macaroni Grill for the reception. Our only guests were the pastor and his wife. We had more than $50,000 saved at the time. Most end up as a down payment for the house. No regrets 🙂

  4. SLM (@SLM1970)

    Been married for 23 years! Best decision I ever made was marrying my husband…worst decision…the actual wedding. Looking back, I ask myself why did I do all that and put myself through that? I don’t think I really knew any better not to. It’s just what was expected.

    Why did I register for china and fine stemware? Because my mom told me to.

    Why did we invite so many people we didn’t know? Because our parents told us to.

    Why so much anxiety and stress during the planning process that spanned 18 months!? Because everyone wanted to be involved and it became more about everyone else and not my husband and I.

    In sum, I have become very anti-wedding. My nephew just got married to the tune of $30k plus the honeymoon to Hawaii. Same thing happened to him. It became about what others else wanted. (Note…I just gave him my fine china and stemware.)

    To anyone who asks, I would really discourage the big wedding thing especially if you have family members and friends who just can’t stay out of your business and don’t respect your wishes.

    Keep it small and inexpensive if you really want it to be about you and your spouse.

    Focus your energy and efforts on the marriage not the wedding day.

    Be each others’ cheerleader.

    Protect your marriage at all cost.

    Be a living example of your wedding vows for each other and for others who look up to you.

  5. SLM (@SLM1970)

    Okay Steveonomics…because you asked…

    I’ve been very happily married for 23 years to an amazing man. The smartest decision I ever made was marrying my husband. The dumbest? Having the big, traditional wedding to the tune of about $13k in 1995.

    Why did I do it? I don’t think I knew any better. I did it because that’s what I thought I was suppose to do. I registered for china and fine stemware because my mom said so. And I recently just boxed up that unused china and stemware and gave it to my nephew who just got married to the tune of $30k. But I digress…

    Nearly every detail of my wedding planning was because someone told me that was how it was suppose to be done…because…well that’s how they did it. And then there’s the issue of family giving you money with strings attached. That complicates the planning process even more. And the drama…so much drama.

    Would I do the wedding thing again? No way! One thing I learned from the wedding planning was that we absolutely would have to have boundaries to protect our marriage from unwanted, outside influence. And we have done just that for the past 23 years much to the dismay of some family members.

    My advice…

    Focus on the marriage, not the wedding day.

    Be a cheerleader for your spouse.

    Protect your marriage at all cost.