A Dream Wedding without the Financial Nightmare


A bride and groom dressed to perfection, surrounded by a hundred or more of their loved ones, partying the night away after a ceremony fraught with flowers and live musicians. Photos and video, DJ and live musician, food, booze, and atmosphere – a storybook wedding. It’s every girl’s dream, and for me, the idea of having to cut corners, give up luxuries, and limit my guest list seemed like torture. So I got serious, and made a plan to finance my dream wedding, make it happen in less than 12 months, and throw the kind of wedding you see in magazines and romantic movies. The plan only works if you stick to it, and really mean business!

I started when we got engaged, picking up a second job. My husband was making decent money in his career, while I worked at two different restaurants as a manager and bartender. The extra income served 2 purposes. I saved the excess to help eliminate the need for debt, and it boosted our year’s income into a higher category for acceptance of loans and credit cards.

Our engagement was one that came at a difficult time. Shortly after becoming engaged, my husband’s grandparents both began to slip into deep dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. They had been married almost 70 years, and before our eyes, they lost their memories of those happy times. His grandmother did something beautiful, and offered her engagement ring, which was made by her groom’s own brother for their engagement in the 1930’s. Married shortly thereafter, she wore that ring for her entire life, and then asked that my husband present it to me. Tears ensued, and of course, I said yes, and hit the ground running. I was determined to make sure that we could include them in the wedding, and make it the best day of our lives before they could no longer remember and enjoy it.

So plans changed. Twelve months became six, and I was suddenly planning and paying for a wedding and receptions in two states. The plan was to make it a DIY wedding to amaze the masses, accommodating over 200 people, and spanning 2000 miles in under a week. I started by booking our flights immediately, and did a lot of research about flight prices, optimal purchase times, and eventually, decided to finance our tickets with the airline. This allowed for more immediate needs to be met, like a wedding dress. My dress was circa 1978, and when I found it, someone may have mistaken it for a Victorian Disney princess costume. Robins egg blue with white lace, draped with an off-the-shoulder fringe of ruffles. I took my thrifty find, which cost less than $200.00 and had it altered by a creative tailor, who also cleaned the dress for a total of $65.00. Her work was so good that we brought the designer suit my husband bought second-hand to her, and he looked like a million dollars. We flew into Niagara Falls, where my in-laws and their families live. Married at the edge of the falls by a local justice of the peace for just 40.00, we had a spectacular backdrop and with the help of some family members, incredible wedding photos. We even hiked through Three-Sisters Island in our wedding clothes to get some shots among the trees and whitewater.

Family hosted our New York reception, ordering in pizza, wings, and cannoli’s, and we hired a Sinatra impersonator for just over $100.00 who kept the party-goers dancing and swooning all afternoon as we enjoyed the labor-day sunshine in Buffalo. We stayed one night in the honeymoon suite at our favorite 5-star hotel, which cost about $350.00. The owner even threw in a $100.00 voucher for their restaurant because we are loyal customers. The flight back to Miami the next evening was just an intermission. As soon as we arrived home, I was in full swing, preparing the decor and finalizing details for our reception here with family and friends. This part was a tough financial maneuver. I had never intended to have two wedding receptions, but thanks to the help of friends and family, we were able to make decor, rent a clubhouse from a family member’s HOA, and found ourselves with about $2000.00 in expenses when all was said and done. That included a DJ, catering, and rental of tablewares. This money came from our savings, and we paid the difference immediately using money we had received during our reception in New York. While to some, spending gifted money to pay for the wedding may seem like a redundant move, but the stress we would have suffered paying off a party for months and months was now a non-issue. We could start our marriage without additional worries and debts to pay, and the reception in Florida helped to give us a foundation to start a new savings account and create a home that was filled with gifts and love. When all was said and done, two parties, one dream location wedding ceremony, and all the frills that comes with it. The photos look like they came from a fairy tale, and no one believes me when I tell them it cost under $5,000.00 to pull it all off, and with no debt! Talk about a great start for a happy life!