Years ago, while attending a lavish wedding for the daughter of a high school B.F.F., I turned to another friend, Laura, and announced, "I want to stage FRUGAL weddings for my kids!" Laura looked horrified, for she knew me well enough to know what I meant by "frugal." Spending $25,200 and upwards for the average American wedding seemed like a lot to contribute towards a nuptial. A lot that most of us don't have on hand. Well, in November of 2014, I got my chance and staged a wedding for $953 for my first-born son and his wife. And you can do the same at probably an even lower cost by applying your creativity.
WHY FRUGAL AND WHY CATHOLIC?
Now planning a wedding that costs $1000 versus one which runs $25,000 is a completely different animal, but to choose which meets the frugal criteria, well, that is obvious. But why Catholic? Because if you are Catholic, you have a much better chance of your marriage succeeding.
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 a 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.”
Our Holy Father 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 envelops 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.”
I discovered that 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. That is why a frugal Catholic marriage is so great: Catholic faith and frugality are unbeatable gifts to pass on to our children. And as Catholic author and speaker Scott Hahn confirms, "Be frugal and multiply."
HOW TO START PLANNING A FRUGAL WEDDING
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, 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 ( www.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.
WHAT THE BRIDE NEEDED
It was now time to begin a list of first things first. To commence, I asked, “What would the bride wear?” Well, she had a dress that fit the bill, which she had purchased from a vintage thrift store. Then I found a veil from Bargain Boutique (a local thrift store) on our Island for $10. Next, I located 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.
WHAT THE GUESTS NEEDED
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 found at 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 provided a bouquet for her daughter and a lovely floral arrangement, two corsages for the Moms, and boutonnieres for the groom and best man. I used a family guest book--one we normally use whenever people come over for dinner. Photographs would be taken by attendees with cameras and then compiled into a Walmart photo manual. They purchased their rings 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 sparkling apple cider for the wedding toast. I began to prepare the meal totally in a Crock-Pot with that procured food. 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 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 premade, so we tossed it together when we got home after the marriage ceremony. Caroline had picked up donuts for the wedding cake, and I had purchased ferry postcards at her request to hand out to the guests along with birdseed to throw at the bride and groom as they left. The drinks were chilled, and we were ready. I got on the ferry, and they got married!
WHAT THE ATTENDEES THOUGHT
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 earbud. 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 ferry deck 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:
The 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
Donuts for the 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 afterward—————————$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 timeshare in Canada)——————$0
The total cost of David and Caroline King’s Frugal Wedding—————————–$953
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 to give and save more.