October 1, 2019
Or is it? You want to have it all, but is having a wedding celebration really worth all the cost? After all, the average cost for a traditional wedding in the U.S. is $36,000. Yes. THIRTY. SIX. THOUSAND. Holy smokes. Having a traditional wedding can be insane… and the pressure from society (not to mention family and friends) to “do it big” is so, so real. Can you even consider eloping and go to the courthouse and have a low-key party instead of a traditional wedding ceremony and reception? Can you have your cake and eat it too, and without going into debt?
I strongly believe you can, 9 times out of 10, have your cake and eat it too. We just have to think out of the box a little! I totally understand all too well the (nearly debilitating) dilemma of trying to plan a budget-friendly-yet-beautiful wedding. If you’re anything like me, you want all the pretty parts of the wedding, and a big party, but want to limit costs.
With our own wedding, I looked into just getting married at the court house and then having a low-key party afterwards. But the court house wasn’t “special” enough (especially for my husband, who leaned more towards tradition). So we fell into the trap. We had a traditional wedding that cost us more than I care to admit… but I will say, it was below average, believe it or not! And it was beautiful! We made a few intentional decisions that ultimately saved us thousands. And, in retrospect, a few things I wish we’d done differently that would have saved us even more.
I wish we’d had a private ceremony, not at a court house, but an “adventure elopement.”
What’s that, you might ask? I may be partial… but it’s the best idea anyone ever had. You can still have all the pretty things of a traditional wedding, without the performance, without the stress, and without the guest list. Pick an intimate, dreamy location and say your vows, just you and the person you want to spend forever with (and probably a photographer, because let’s be honest, it’s going to be E.P.I.C.).
And then have a super fun party afterwards! I’ve given a lot of thought to this after-party, and that’s what this blog post is all about.
Here are a few ideas of how to celebrate after a private elopement, having a party instead of a traditional wedding reception:
We were very fortunate that my parents have a gorgeous piece of property out in the country we were able to have BOTH our reception and ceremony at. Not having to pay for a venue was literally what made our wedding day dreams. If you don’t happen to be related to or know anyone with a place large enough for something like that, have no fear, I’ve got ideas:
Tip number one, AND a side tip: if you choose a location that has natural beauty, you don’t feel the need to spend money on decorations! So look into a park or maybe a barn that will rent out a space. Most parks have pavilions or screened buildings you can rent for parties. This may limit you to certain seasons, as it’d be outside, but that’s a positive if you ask me!
Renting a large home on Airbnb is another option. There are so many amazing places if you do some digging, you’re bound to find a gem that’s perfect for your amazing post wedding party. Bonus, you can probably get folks to chip in for a room instead of a hotel, save more, and party more. That’s what I call a win-win. Click HERE to view a list I put together with some great options to consider if you’re thinking of eloping in Texas Hill Country!
What about a local brewery? Have everyone get together for a post-wedding bash and give out drink tickets to stay on a certain budget, but guests can purchase more if they like. Most breweries will let you rent out a portion or sometimes even the whole place with enough notice.
Last but not least, you can totally throw a house party for your wedding reception. I give you permission. Who doesn’t love a good house party? Not only that, but when was the last time YOU went to a house party? Maybe I’m in a different season of life, but I’d be totally 100% freaking STOKED to go to a house party. No lie. Let’s do it!
Catering is the largest cost for most weddings. So that $36,000 average wedding cost I mentioned, roughly 30% of that is food/drinks for your guests (that’s pushing $11k!!). Catering averages at $50 per person for food. Now, if I’m paying $50 per person, I’d want ALL of my guests to remember that meal for weeks. Personally, I can’t remember a wedding where I thought “DAMN, that’s a $50 meal right there!” Can you?
If you’re having a smaller wedding, you could totally set up a potluck! How fun and unique is that? It is the joining of two families after all, right? Create a sign-up sheet on a Google Doc and spread the work, fun, and cost!
Do you have a Costco/Sam’s Club membership? If not, someone in your wedding party is bound to. Pick up a few party platters and make it easy.
There are so many other catering options that won’t add up so quickly. Subway, Chick-fil-a, and my personal favorite, CHIPOTLE ($7-10/pp, now that’s smart). If I had all the say in the day, we would have had Chipotle cater our wedding (we had El Rey cater and spent about $13/pp). You could even look into a food truck, most of them have minimum orders, so would depend on your guest count if that makes sense for you or not! Side-note, if you choose a brewery, check to see if they have food trucks that are usually there.
A note about drinks: you can purchase wine by the box and beer by the keg and save… and unless your friends are wine/beer experts, I’m not sure they’d care or notice 😉
Are there other questions or concerns you have about throwing a party instead of a wedding reception for your friends and family? Drop a comment and let me know, I’d love to help if I can. I think we all deserve to have our cake and eat it too!