Frugal ways to get married – Part 1

Weddings, the reunion of two people, is one of the biggest celebrations and happiest days in our lives. This is why a lot of people justify spending a ton of money on their wedding day. Are there frugal ways to get married?

According to Wedding Bells the average cost of a wedding in Canada excluding the honeymoon is $31,685 in 2014.


Holy *%^&%^$%^$!!!

Whichever way you put it, that’s a big chunk of money. And that’s just the average cost. Some people actually spend more than this amount! Since I’m a part time wedding photographer, I can tell you that a lot of my clients spend a heck lot more money than $31,685. Quite a few fancy venues here in town have a minimum charge of $20,000. When you use these venues, you have your hands tied. You’re forced to use their catering company and buy things like alcohol and wedding cakes through them. Some venues even charge you a wedding cake cutting fee per guest! Recently a friend of mine held their reception at a fancy 5 star hotel. The couple invited over 200 people and from the inside scope that I received, they spent close to $45,000 on the wedding reception alone! That doesn’t even include all the extra costs like wedding photography & cinematography, wedding attire, and other wedding related items. Coming from a frugal background, I’m always shocked to see how much money is being spent at weddings. Don’t get me wrong through, as a wedding photographer I’m glad that people are willing to pay me THAT much money for my service. 🙂

When you take a step back, spending over $30 grand can and will put a big dent in your new lives together. Do you really want to spend that much money on one single day and start your new lives together in a mountain of debt? If that’s the case, that’s a rough start to your marriage. Just imagining how many arguments you and your spouse might have about money.

Not a good idea. Not a good idea at all.

Kerry at Squakfox wrote a very interesting article on how to get married for $239.

To quote Kerry:

“It only costs $239 to get married.
I squawk you not.
To get hitched (legally) you generally only need to pay for a marriage license and the services of a marriage commissioner. In British Columbia, Canada, a marriage license plus commissioner cost just $239.
That’s it.
Everything else is just pomp and circumstance.
Did you hear me?”

Kerry is absolutely right! Getting married legally, all you need is a piece of paper and a wedding commissioner. Everything else is extra.

Think back to any weddings that you’ve attended, do you still remember what the centre pieces looked like? Do you still remember how fancy the decorations or the cakes were? When it comes to a celebration, as long as you have good companies and good food, everything else is secondary.

Because Mrs. T is not from Canada, the whole wedding idea gave us a bit of a challenge. How do we get married while still celebrate our special day with all of our friends and family?

Pretty simple actually…. we got married multiple times at different locations!

We decided to have 3 weddings in total – a real wedding to get all the paperwork done, a second wedding with a reception in our city of residence so our friends and families could celebrate with us, then a third wedding with a reception at Ms. T’s home town so her friends and families could celebrate with us.

The goal is to keep things easy and simple while keeping the costs down. We did not want to spend thousands of dollars like the average couples just so we can spend the next 10 years paying off our wedding costs. Since both Mrs. T and I are very handy (OK mostly Mrs. T), we decided to do a lot of things ourselves. DIY all the way!

Frugal ways to get married – How to plan a frugal wedding

Home-made item #1 – Wedding dress
Wedding dress is probably one of the biggest expenses in a wedding. So many brides will look all over the places to find her perfect dress. Crazy enough, there’s even a show on TLC that’s dedicated to wedding dresses (Unfortunately, sometimes I’m forced to watch this show at the gym at work). Because Mrs. T has some background in making dresses and clothes, she decided to make her own wedding dress. She looked around online and found a dress pattern that she liked, bought the pattern and the necessary fabric, and off she went. We didn’t have a sewing machine at that time so she borrowed one from one of our friends. Since the dress will be used a total of 3 times, Mrs. T decided to alter her dress a little bit at each wedding.

wedding pic

Home-made item #2 – Wedding Cakes
Outside of wedding dress, wedding cake is another big expense at weddings. Mrs. T has always been good with baking and cooking so she decided to tackle another big project – making our own wedding cakes. Since we were having multiple weddings, she ended up making 2 cakes, one for the first wedding, one for the second wedding.

Home-made item #3 – Flower Bouquets
Before our first wedding Mrs. T went to a few flower shops to ask about wedding bouquets. The conversation always went something like this:

“How much would a bouquet of roses and sprigs of rosemary cost for a wedding?”
“ That will be about $200, depending on the size and type of roses?”

Going into the same flower store a week later and ask this way:

“I would like to buy a bouquet of 12 roses and some sprigs of rosemary, how much would that be?”
“About $30-40.”

So the word “wedding” costs $160-170!!

Talk about getting ripped off and getting taken advantage of. So just because you need a bouquet for a wedding, the price more than quadruples. No wonder the wedding business is doing well.

In the end we decided to make flower bouquets on our own. For our first wedding Mrs. T bought some sunflowers for the both of us.

First Wedding
Our first wedding and the real wedding consisted of Ms. T and I (of course), my parents and my brother, the wedding commissioner, and a good friend of ours to take pictures. The first wedding was simple and perfect. We drove to the wedding commissioner’s house, got married in a park nearby, then celebrated with wedding cake and champagne. The entire family then went for a nice Groupon dinner in town at a fancy restaurant.

Frugal Wedding #1  – Cost Breakdown

Wedding license – $100
Wedding commissioner – $84 ($75 + HST)
Dress material & pattern – $150
Tips to the commissioner for using her place – $40 (yeah I’m a cheap tipper)
Wedding photography – Free (courtesy of our friend, I then did all the editing)
A bottle of champagne – Free (courtesy of my parents)
Wedding cake – $35 (tough to calculate exactly because we already had flour, eggs etc. for baking the cake)
Flowers bouquets – $20
Mrs. T’s makeup & hair – $80 (used a student hairdressing salon)
Mrs. T & Tawcan’s shoes – $180
Tawcan’s dress shirt & tie – $75
Tawcan’s suit – Free (already had it)
Wedding dinner for the family – Free (My parents paid, and we used a Groupon!)

Total Cost: $764. That’s only 2.4% of the average wedding spending in 2014!

Note: According to this article. The average wedding cost in 2011, when Mrs. T and I got married, was $23,330. That means we only spent 3.3% compared to the 2011 average.

Note: All images were taken by Peter E, edited by Tawcan.

You can read Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

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21 thoughts on “Frugal ways to get married – Part 1”

  1. 🙂 sorry I still can’t find it. I see that you mention she bought a pattern and the needed material but down at the bottom where the costs are itemized I don’t see a line for her dress. I see dress shirt, make up . and so forth. I was just curious.

  2. Your first wedding sounds perfect! I loved hearing about all the DIY touches. I can’t wait to see your other two weddings and hopefully how the wedding dress was altered!

    We kept our wedding for 50 around $12,000 for everything but the honeymoon. The gifts basically covered the cost of the wedding anyways, but we wanted to stick to a budget that we could afford anyways.

    • Hi Cheap Mom,

      Thanks for your kind words. I’ll make sure to include some pictures of how the wedding dress was altered in part 2 and part 3. 🙂

  3. First time reader and commenter here.

    My wife and I consider ourselves frugal and we still ended up spending a lot on our wedding, although it was still under the 2014 average. Like you guys, we did a lot of the decorations ourselves, or else it would have pushed it a few thousand dollars higher.

    Looking forward to parts 2&3!

    • Hi Brian,

      Thanks for dropping by! I truly believe that you can save a lot of money by doing the DIY approach. Will post part 2 & 3 later. 🙂


    • Hi Barry,

      At least you didn’t have to put anything on credit so you didn’t start off the marriage in debt. Thanks for dropping by.


  4. I think my total wedding cost was about the same as Steve’s. Now most of the weddings I goto aren’t too extravagant, BUT I had two cousins that had very extravagant weddings… Like 5 course meals + pizza ordered later during the dancing. Both had shuttles from the hotel to the reception, BUT one had a limo for a shuttle. Just alot of money spent in general!

  5. We didn’t save on our wedding. We ended up spending about $25,000 on our wedding last year with 250 guests. It actually cost about $55,000 (including all the photography, rings, gifts for bridesmaid and groomsmen) but after all the gift money we received from our family and friends, the bill came out to be around $25,000.

    I got to pick out my own right, so I just picked out a simple small diamond solitaire that I can wear everyday without snagging on anything.

    • Hi Money Pincher,

      When you’re inviting that many guests, it makes sense to spend that much. Good to know that you recovered some money though. 🙂


  6. Tawcan,

    I cannot believe what some people spend on weddings. That’s nuts. But I suppose if that makes them happy…

    I haven’t married yet, but if I were to I can guarantee you it’ll be on the cheap. I’d be okay with just going down to the courthouse and getting a marriage license. That’s usually a few hundred bucks. But, depending on my SO, that idea might not fly over real well. Either way, I’d be very uneasy with spending over $1,000 on it.

    Great job keeping the costs down. And it sounds like you married the right one if she’s also okay with keeping it low key. 🙂

    Best regards!

  7. I think all in our wedding was ~$8000-$9000. Not the most frugal, but we enjoyed what we got! I can’t believe some of the average NA wedding costs that are thrown around all the time – I understand how one can spend so much but WHY would anyone want to spend in the tens of thousands of dollars!?

  8. If I get married, I’m going to buy a very nice ring from Costco, since I’m a shareholder, and put it in a Tiffany’s blue box. Costco’s jewelry provides amazing value and quality for the price. You can’t tell the difference!

    • I haven’t looked at rings from Costco yet. All I have to say is that there’s no point following the general trend of buying an engagement ring that’s worth ~3 months of your salary. That’s just diamond companies trying to get money from you. 🙂

      Another way to save money is not to get a wedding band for the bride. Mrs. T didn’t get one and that saved some money.


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