“The Frugal Wedding” by Martha Wild King, M.Ed.–May 2015



Years ago, while attending a charming wedding of a daughter of one of my high school friends, I remarked to another high school friend, Laura, that someday I wanted to stage “a frugal wedding” for my offspring. Laura was horrified at that thought for she knew me well enough to know what I meant by “frugal.” I just couldn’t justify in my mind that the family of the bride (my best friend Kathy) would have to shell out $25,200 and upwards for the average American wedding. Well November of 2014, I finally got my chance and staged a wedding for my first born son and his wife for $953. And you can do the same at probably an even lower cost.

This year my husband and I have been married for 35 years, and we reaffirmed our marriage five years ago within the Church when we both became Catholic. Thus, as we have seen over these 35 years, marriage is what God intended to help couples grow in faith, love, and fidelity; and of course, it is one of the Seven Sacraments within our Catholic Church for good reason. In a speech Pope Francis made to young Italians on October 4, 2013 in Assisi Italy, The Holy Father stated, “Don’t be afraid to take definitive steps such as that of marriage; deepen your love, respecting the times and expressions, pray, prepare yourselves well, but then trust that the Lord doesn’t leave you alone! Make him come into your home as one of the family. He will always support you.”

He also added, “Two Christians who marry have recognized in their history of love the call of the Lord, the vocation of two, male and female, to become only one flesh, only one life. And the Sacrament of Matrimony envelopes this love with the Grace of God, it roots it in God himself. With this gift, with the certainty of this call, one can begin with certainty, there is no fear of anything, and everything can be faced together.”

Another interesting point I discovered about a Catholic marriage statistically confirms what Pope Francis so beautifully stated:

According to a study by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research, Catholics have a lower divorce rate than couples of other faiths. Mixed faith marriages are more prone to failure. Catholics who marry Protestants or non-religious spouses have a divorce rate of 49% and 48% respectively. Catholics who marry someone of the Jewish faith have a 35% divorce rate, while Catholics who marry other Catholics have a 27% divorce rate.



 My expedition into wedding planning began four days before the actual ceremony. Although our planning period was exceptionally brief, I believe that length made decisions definitive and kept down all the costs. The journey began when my daughter-in-law to be, Caroline, called on Wednesday night to say that she and David, who were engaged, had found an open day in their work schedules to get married–Sunday 23 November 2014. Since neither are Catholics, they needed to find an official to marry them. After locating one in Seattle  who was willing to marry them on the ferry to Bainbridge Island where they had met a year before called shotgunweddings.com , and after clearing it through the ferry system, Caroline and I started preparing. Well, we had the place, but we just needed the guests. So I composed an email, cleared it with Caroline, and then sent it to all of our friends and family and Caroline did the same. Thus within two days, we had about 40 guests reply that they would be attending. That major step in motion made it time to start on some of the finer details.



 It was now time to start a list of first things first. To begin, I asked, “What would the bride wear?” Well she had a dress which she had purchased from a vintage thrift store which fit the bill. I went and purchased a veil from Bargain Boutique (a local thrift store) on our Island for $10. Next I found a blue garter since a bride must have “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a penny for her shoe,” according to American tradition. We covered that custom with her old veil, her “new” dress, a borrowed antique handkerchief, a blue garter, and a 2014 penny for her shoe.



 Next the guests had to be considered. The reception would be held in our home which would cost nothing for the venue. I had found two wedding crystal goblets when I had purchased the veil. We needed, however, some simple wedding decorations which I purchased from the The Dollar Store: heart candles, purple ribbons, purple napkins, purple paper plates, plastic silverware, and a bride and groom ceramic decoration. I then took the ribbons and some battery powered lights and made a centerpiece in a glass vase thus negating the need for flowers which would have added to the expense.

As it turned out, Caroline’s Mom flew in from out of state and also provided a bouquet for her daughter as well as a lovely floral arrangement, two corsages the Mom’s, and boutonnieres for the groom and best man. For their guest book, I simply used a family one we use whenever people come over for dinner. Photographs would be taken by attendees with cameras and then compiled into a photo manual at Walmart. The rings were purchased from another local thrift store for two dollars each. And shortly after their engagement, I had found a $12 lavender long dress for myself, the mother of the groom, from Goodwill with its original $89 tags so I was set for a fancy dress. Now it was time for the food considerations.

Since Caroline and David live in another city in Washington State, I went to Costco and shopped for the reception food. They had decided on pulled pork, rolls, baked beans, chopped salad, wine, beer, sodas, and sparking apple cider for the wedding toast. With that procured, I began to prepare the meal totally in a Crock-Pot. The pork shoulder went into a Crock-Pot on Friday night, and on Saturday morning I shredded it and added barbeque sauce. Michael and I went to Mass on Saturday evening to observe the Sabbath.

And then on Sunday, their wedding day, before all of the wedding party and guests got on the 12:20 PM ferry to Seattle for the 1:10 PM ceremony heading back towards Bainbridge, I simply put the cooked BBQ in one Crock-Pot, the canned baked beans in another, and the rolls in a low temperature oven. The salad was already prepared so we tossed it together after the reception. Caroline had picked up donuts for the wedding cake, and I had purchased ferry post cards at her request to hand out to the guests along with bird seed to throw at the bride and groom as they left. The drinks were chilled, and we were ready.



 We got so many compliments on The Frugal Wedding. Everyone enjoyed the simplicity and the lovely ferry ride. My sister, Becky, and her husband summed it up best when she said:

“We loved their wedding. We have shared their wedding details with a lot of people. It was quirky and original. Very expressive of the two of them. The norm these days is over the top. A wedding planner walking around the wedding site talking on her ear bud. Staged gag-me quality photographs. And how many of those weddings that you attend really stand out? I was impressed by how quickly they (with your help) threw it together. When David proudly told me that they did it for around 700 dollars, I thought they deserved a medal. I took a great photo of the two of them on the deck of the ferry with Mount Rainier and Puget Sound as the backdrop. There are very few venues where that kind of view is possible. The donut cake, however, was the piece de resistance. It summed it all up. ‘ Keep it simple and within your means and by all means put your mark on it.’

The price break down is as follows:    


Official who married them————————————————————————-$275

Two wedding picture books, 279 developed photos, and 35 postcards for thank you notes all from Walmart——————————————————————————$55

Postcards of the Bainbridge Island ferry to hand out to the guests as a favor——-$30

2 ferry Christmas ornaments to use on the donut wedding cake————————$9

Boxed wine, beer, sodas, and sparkling cider————————————————$95

Veil, toasting glasses, and blue garter———————————————————-$15

The brides dress ————————————————————————————-$40

Mother-In-Law’s dress——————————————————————————$12

Donuts for wedding cake—————————————————————————$56

Flowers, (an estimate,) which her mother contributed————————————–$120

Dollar Store decorations—————————————————————————-$18

Paper plates, napkins, plastic cups, silverware———————————————–$19

Two two dollar wedding rings which fell apart soon afterwards—————————$4

Replacement costs of both two dollar wedding rings which fell apart——————-$80

Cost of food from Costco—————————————————————————$125

Cost of where to hold the reception————————————————————–$0

Cost of holding the marriage ceremony on the ferry—————————————–$0

Cost of invitations by sending out an email—————————————————–$0

Cost of their honeymoon (we let them use our time share in Canada)——————$0

Total cost of David and Caroline King’s Frugal Wedding—————————–$953



 As stated, we did not have Caroline and David’s wedding in a Catholic Church which would have cost nothing have cost nothing for the priest or deacon (or for the venue. (-$275) We also had a ton of food and drink left over so I could have made about half of the food and purchased about half of the beverages; but I felt better to be safe than sorry. (-$50) Thus those two changes would have brought the total cost down (-$325) or around $630 to put on a beautiful ceremony.



According to my Catholic daughter-in-law, Emily King, who married my second son in 2009, “The average American wedding is driven by societal standards and not by the couple’s desires. Emily added, “If the two of them don’t want to spend that much money, they simply don’t have to.” Emily knows what she is talking about for their gorgeous Catholic nuptials cost about $1000. Now that’s keeping frugal thinking soundly in our Catholic family!!

Martha Wild King, M. Ed., Author

The Frugal Catholic: Learn to live on less