In Defense of Frugal Weddings (And Our Own Simple Wedding Story)

I'm writing this on our FOURTH wedding anniversary. On July 5, 2014, I officially tied the knot and was taken off the market. While many people dream of having a royal wedding, frugal weddings can be just as memorable and enjoyable. We had a simple wedding and have very few regrets about having our wedding on a shoestring.

According to Value Penguin, the average wedding costs between $20,000 and $30,000. The cheapest state was Mississippi at $12,800. The largest wedding expense for most is renting a venue!

Including our rings, wedding decorations, and paying the pastor, we might have paid about $1,500 total for our wedding. Yes, we got married for less than 2,000 bucks…and it was still classy (unlike getting married in a drive-thru chapel or a Taco Bell restaurant in Vegas).

Our Simple Wedding Story

Before I tell you WHY it's okay to have a frugal wedding that's still ornate and enjoyable, I'll share my wedding story. Or at least the highlights.

I met my future wife in August of 2013. We dated and were engaged 10 months later on June 10. Our original plan was to marry three months later on Labor Day weekend.

A week later, my district manager at my previous employer called and said I had been “promoted” and would need to immediately move three hours away. This happened on a Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning I packed a suitcase and drove to my new assignment. My wife and I were still working on our “exit plan” and I ended up quitting a year later after the pieces all came together.

Let's just say the next few days were crazy as we were both blindsided by the move. So, we moved the wedding up to July 4th weekend and we literally had three weeks to plan the shindig.

We Both Wanted a Simple Wedding

Even before I got the news about the transfer, we were planning a small wedding in the backyard of my wife's parents house where family and close friends would gather. Thankfully, we hadn't sent invites out yet or we would have stuck with the original Labor Day wedding date.

What Our Frugal Wedding Looked Like

While I was working three hours away, my fiancee stayed behind and got the ball rolling with her family pitching in. I came down two evenings for marriage counseling with our pastor and didn't get drive down until the night before the wedding.

We didn't have a rehearsal dinner and our simple ceremony looked as follows:

  • Married in my in-laws' backyard
  • Only grandparents, parents, siblings, brothers/sisters, aunts/uncles were invited (Maybe 50 people total)
  • No wedding party (no best man, maid of honor, etc.)
  • We grilled hamburgers and hotdogs for lunch in the backyard
  • My wife's family baked cupcakes instead of buying a cake
  • A family friend who's a photographer took our pictures
  • Opened gifts and rented a mountain cabin for the weekend (we took our weeklong honeymoon later after the madness settled)
Frugal Weddings Are Great!
Walking down “the aisle” as Mr. and Mrs. Money Buffalo.

What We Liked About Our Simple Wedding

I haven't been to many weddings, but ours is the simplest of weddings I've ever been too. This is primarily because we tied the knot so quickly (no, this wasn't a “shotgun wedding”) and we didn't have a lot of time to prepare. My theory is that the longer the engagement period, the longer the guest list grows and the more lavish the decorations and dress.

Even though we still had a low-key wedding, the planning process was stressful. Sure, we were moving to a different state simultaneously, but weddings still need lots of planning. I'll be honest, we still half-joke that we wish could have just gone to the courthouse for simplicity. We don't envy planning for “regular” weddings at all.

In a nutshell, here are a few reasons why we liked our simple wedding:

  • Minimal planning=minimal stress
  • We didn't pay thousands of dollars for a single day (secret #1 to living happily on $35,000 a year)
  • Still got to celebrate our big day with our closest friends
  • Had more money to spend on the honeymoon

Our Regrets

There were a few downsides to our small wedding:

  • Not all of our family or friends got to attend
  • No ideal alternate venue (we had access to a local church if necessary)

Our biggest regret of pushing the wedding date up at the last minute was that some of my close family members couldn't come because they had another wedding to attend. Several friends were disappointed that they weren't invited because we kept the invite list to immediate family only and very close friends. You have the stop the invite list at some point, so eventually, you have to tell somebody “No” but it's harder with an intimate wedding.

How Our Frugal Wedding Ideas Can Save You Money

I might go into frugal weirdo zone here and that's okay. Our own families razz us sometimes with how frugal we are, and we're okay with it.

We spent less than $1,000 on our wedding ceremony using the following tricks.

We Got Married In Our Backyard

Not having to rent a wedding or reception venue saved us thousands of dollars. We enjoy attending weddings, but the price tag that comes with it wasn't our cup of tea. Simply put, we didn't want to spend or borrow that much money for one day. Yes, it's our only wedding, but we like the simplicity.

My father-in-law went to Lowe's and bought three 4×4 posts to make a basic arbor with twill to rest on. And, they had some beach-themed decorations for where we ate lunch.

We Bought Our Rings on Sale

Another place we saved money was on our wedding rings.

For me, my wife found a simple gold wedding band online that was on clearance for $50 at Kohl's. This was after any discount coupons and the Ebates cashback rewards.

We saved money on my wife's engagement and wedding rings too. I don't want it to sound like we are cheap and chinsy with my wife's rings. She found something that looked beautiful and we happened to be at the right place at the right time.

Firstly, we got cubic zirconia instead of diamonds for my wife's engagement and wedding rings. To us, they look just as good and you're not as worried about scratching them up or losing the rings. It was her preference, but her rings are made of white gold and her engagement ring has a sapphire stone (instead of diamonds).

I ordered my wife's engagement ring online for about $300. We found a used wedding ring at a local jewelry store for about the same price, but should have been closer to $1,000. In all, we paid more for her rings than anything else wedding-related.

We Cooked Our Own Food

My wife's parents used to cater so they still had all the catering equipment for large events. This was a huge blessing because we didn't have to rent chafing dishes, etc.

We didn't pay for food, but our parent's contributed the meat and our guests each brought a side dish to pass. Our reception was a potluck!

So, we had grilled hamburgers and a few side dishes. For dessert, my wife and her family made handmade cupcakes. To some extent, the cupcakes were done out of necessity, but we still would have baked our own cake and cooked our own food. That's the advantage of having a small wedding, no catering required!

Frugal Wedding Tips
Our handmade wedding cupcakes

We Dressed Simply

One advantage of having a simple wedding is that you can save money on wedding clothing. Not having to dress bridesmaids and groomsmen was a financial blessing too.

Since we were getting married in July, we didn't want to swelter with a regular wedding dress or tuxedo. Plus, it just didn't feel right having such fancy outfits for a casual setting.

Not everybody will go this casual but it worked for us. If we did get married in a church, we would have been more traditional.


My wife and I loved our simple and frugal wedding. If you want to do something similar, don't be ashamed and follow this credo:

  • Simple weddings=Less stress
  • Frugal wedding=Spending less for a quality ceremony (at the end of the day, you're married either way)

Did you have a frugal or expensive wedding? What would you do differently?






Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.