I've got a new hero. It's Abigail Martin. You've probably never heard of her. After this article, you probably will never hear of her again. That's okay, because it's her story that I want to share.
Mrs. Martin planned (and executed!) her dream wedding for under $500. Yes, under $500.
The other day I was flipping through the Fall edition of USAA Magazine. I usually don't find too many articles that interest me. However, this article caught my eye. (Sorry that you have to settle for a less than perfect scan of the article. Hopefully your browser autosizes the large image and makes it readable. I wish I could have linked you to a version on USAA's website, but I couldn't find it there.)
It's a very well written article, especially from someone who is just a couple of years out of high school. Maybe the USAA Magazine editors helped, because I'm not sure I'm at that level after 7 years of blogging my behind off.
Maybe it's me, but it seem rare for people to make this mature decision, "We started our life together on the right foot: with no debt or stress that comes with it." Contrast that with the personal finance blogger frivolously throwing his money away on a wedding (I'm kidding Kevin, just an interesting contrast that I had to point out).
Enough with the brown-nosing of Mrs. Martin here. How did she manage to have her dream wedding for under $500? The short answer is that she enlisted (military pun intended) the help of people she knew and put to use some sweat equity. All the decorations were made by her with help from family and friends. Cheaper artificial flowers substitute the real thing. They were married by a friend. The lunch was prepared by her parents (this is stretching the $500 price I think) and her friend made the cake. Martin found that the "personal touches that went into every detail were part of what made it so memorable."
My wife and I spent around $23,000 on our wedding. (See Kevin, I'm with you.) That may sound like an outrageous number, it took a lot of creativity to get it that low for 175 people. We had it on a military base where we saved on taxes. We made our own centerpieces as well. We used a military florist and had minimal flowers, which kept that aspect to around $200 (which I hear is really, really good). We splurged in a few other places (open bar of course).
Wedding expenditures are a complicated topic and it is hard to say what's right and wrong, because people have very different financial situation and family dynamics. I think the important thing is that you work within those boundaries and try to get the most for your money at every point rather than buying into the "You Only Live Once" (YOLO) trap.
I'm reminded of a great quote from the HBO documentary Weight of the Nation:
"I'm just an ordinary person, who does a bunch of tiny, ordinary things, that together are extraordinary."
Abigail Martin in planning her wedding was just an ordinary person, who did a bunch of tiny, ordinary things, that together added up to something extraordinary.
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