Why A Courthouse Wedding Is Not For Me

Last week, I wrote a post about all of the things that I want to do with my money in the next couple of years. These things included everything large enough to make a dent in my wallet, excluding buying a home (which - surprise! We also want to do in the near future).

We have a lot of goals and one of those things that we would like to spend some money on in the next year or so is a wedding.

My boyfriend and I have been together for 5 and a half years, and have lived together for four and a half of those. Now that I'm out of school and we are fiscally on our feet (for the most part) we would like to tie the knot sooner rather than later.

We thought that our wedding would run around about $8,000. We plan on skipping a few of the extras (professionally made invitations, live music, tons of flowers) and only include what is important to us (food, family, and fun). A few commenters suggested either a courthouse wedding, a tiny wedding, or no wedding at all to save money.

I know a lot of people, particularly in the PF community, skip out on the wedding to save some cash, but that's just not for us.

We have several reasons why aren't considering that.

Big Families

My immediate family is not large, but my extended family is quite big. The boyfriend's mom is one of three, and his father is one of four. Most of his aunts and uncles have kids.

My mom is one of five, and I have a ton of cousins that come along with that. I'll have to invite my dad's side of the family as well, and he has three sisters. I have cousins from that side as well.

About half of my mom's side

That's not even counting my second cousins who my family was close with, who both have children. And their parents, and spouses.

Did I mention that I have step-families as well?

My mom and I counted up the members of our extended family that would be invited to our wedding and there is overย fortyย people. That's not including the boyfriend's family, which is probably around 20-30.

I think it would be fabulous to have almost everybody in one place and see them all and celebrate them all.

Saving Money Isn't Everything

Sure, I have a lot of expensive goals that I'd like to achieve in the next few years, and finding ways to cut back is certainly going to be part of my action plan to reach those goals, but to me, saving money isn't everything.

A wedding is going to be expensive, yes. But it's worth it to us.

The thing that I think lots of people get lost in when it comes to their money, is the notion that spending money is always bad. ย And that's not the case. When the boy and I get married, I hope that we will be married forever. And the memory of our wedding, both in our minds and our guests' minds, will never go away.

That day, those memories, and that celebration is worth more than the $8,000 that I thought it would cost.

Possible Regrets

My final point for not considering a courthouse wedding, or one with only our parents, is that we may regret it.

And I know, deep down, that I would regret it. The boyfriend might not regret it as much, but I know I would kick myself down the line for not celebrating our love traditionally.

The boyfriend's grandmother is still alive, as is my own, and we would regret that they would have missed out on our wedding. It would be sad not to be able to relay the story of our wedding - a real story, not just "we went down to the courthouse, signed some papers, and we were done with it" - to our children.

I think we would really regret it when our own children are grown up and getting married. Relaying our experience to our children wouldn't be the same if our experience wasn't of a wedding.

And also, I would regret not being able to tie my family into a special day, and celebrate with them. No matter how many times somebody says that weddings are only about the couple, that's not the case. They are about the couple, yes, but they are also about celebrating with family and friends. Or that's how we want our wedding to be, anyway.


Courthouse weddings work great for some people and are the perfect way to celebrate the day, but they certainly aren't for us. How about you - did you have a courthouse wedding? If you're not married yet, would you consider one?



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49 thoughts on “Why A Courthouse Wedding Is Not For Me

  1. Good for you, while it is important to save money, it's also important to enjoy life and experience the things you have always dreamed of.

    What's the point of saving money if you never get to do anything fun with it?

    Having said that - I wish we spent a little less on our wedding than we did, as the day went so quickly and I spent the majority of it keeping to a schedule rather than enjoying myself.

    I hope that when you do get married, you have a wonderful day and that it provides you with many happy memories for years to come ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Good for you Daisy! I think that you are right: many of us in the PF community forget that spending money is not wrong. The reason we save is to spend it on things that are important to us. Your wedding obviously is one of the most important days of your life. You should spend it how you wish. (Of course, I say that with the caveat that you should also try to pay it with cash, have no/very little debt, and hopefully already have a down payment for a house:))

    We spent very little on our wedding and it was still a wonderful day. The service itself was very private. We only invited our immediate family. We then had a reception to which all of our friends were invited. We held a second reception in my home town because I live across the country. All said, we spent under $5,000. It was worth the money, but it also goes by in a huge hurry.

    Good luck, and keep us updated! Tell that boy to pop the question already:)

  3. I tend to see a lot of posts justifying spending money as though its a prison-worthy offense. That's cheap. Frugal just means not wasting money on things you don't actually want in the first place. You only have one chance to have a wedding, make it be the day you've dreamed of!!

    Everyone's different. I absolutely want to elope but would be okay with a more traditional reception soon after. The usual reaction to this idea is, "but the reception is the most expensive part!" Do you think I care?! I don't want to elope to save money! I want to elope (bearing my fiancรฉ being okay with this of course) because the idea of a wedding day sounds horrible to me! Some women want their day to be a princess and some don't ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Our wedding was incredibly cheap, but incredibly meaningful and hardly a "we signed some papers so that's that" kind of event. For less than $250, we chartered a boat while we were on vacation and the boat captain married us then we dove in and snorkeled with sting rays before literally sailing into the sunset.
    The lack of family involvement was more about how we like doing things than for the money and to "make it up to people" we had a housewarming party after we got the house ready a few months later that also served as a belated wedding reception. That cost about $800 since we got it catered. Dealing with that was more of a headache and it is certainly not a day I'll cherish in my memory. I'm so glad we didn't do a traditional wedding as I'm pretty sure the day would be nothing but an awful memory instead of the beautiful one it is now.
    I guess what I'm saying is that cheap doesn't have to be meaningless - maybe our route isn't for everyone, but it was perfect for us.

  5. I got married in a church (which we had to pay for because we weren't registered parishioners at this particular church) and had a proper reception with over 100 people for about 8k (my father in law is one of 7). IT IS POSSIBLE! If there was an area to save money I found it. I had flowers,DJ, dress, food everything. I'm planning on doing a few posts about what/how I saved the money, but you can do it without having to do a 'courthouse' wedding if you don't mind a little effort! I have no regrets about spending money on our wedding-it's a memory we'll have forever.

  6. Edward Antrobus

    I did have a courthouse wedding. It came to just under $200, although I also paid for my parents to fly out. My wife and I are both from very large extended families (between the two of us, we have 50 aunts, uncles, and first cousins -- one level out, my great aunt has 52 grandchildren!) But they are all still back east and we are in Colorado now. To have a more traditional wedding, we would have had to fly back to NJ which would have cost more than our wedding and reception out here did.

    Besides, I have a theory that almost nobody is actually interested in the wedding ceremony itself. They are interested in the reception afterward.

  7. I know exactly how you feel! The boy is from a really LARGE family (each of his parents are 1 of NINE) and I have an extremely small family. I guess the main reason I want a large wedding is so that I can truly feel what it's like to be part of a huge celebration and I also love family gatherings, which I never once had as a kid.

  8. We are also getting married within a year, and it looks like we'll be doing both, unfortunately.

    My grandfather is very sick and declining quickly, but I really want him to be at our wedding. It looks like we'll be doing a courthouse-type wedding where he is (he's too sick to travel at this point) and then our big church and reception bash in the summer.

  9. My wife and I had a courthouse wedding becuase we didn't want anyone to know or try to stop us. But now that we've been married 11 years, last year we decided to do a 10 year vow renewal and have the wedding party thing that the family missed last time around. Since the stress of the actual wedding was gone, we coudl put the money we had towards making the ceremoney and party afterwards awesome. I think if you want a freaking wedding that you should have it! Cut expenses on things you don't give two s*its about and put the rest towards the things you want/like! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. 8K sounds totally reasonable (especially if you skip a lot of the professional extras). We had a large low-budget wedding for around 2K twelve years ago (we were 22 and my parents paid), so I imagine 8K could buy something not too shabby.

    I haven't really enjoyed any of the fussy expensive weddings I've been to as a guest. Mid-range is a great way to go.

  11. Emily @ evolvingPF

    I feel the same way you do. We never even brought up having a courthouse wedding - in fact, I like to say we had two weddings (second reception)! It was very important to us that our family and friends witness and celebrate with us the start of our marriage.

  12. Although at times during the wedding planning I *wished* for a courthouse wedding, we didn't really seriously consider one, and I haven't regretted that for a second. We had around 100 people at our wedding and the cost was right around $8,000. I could have brought it down, too, but I compromised and let my mom spend money on some things I didn't care about that she did (chair covers, a "real" wedding dress). There's a lot to be said for not falling for what the Wedding Industrial Complex says you "must do", but you don't need to go cheap just to go cheap.

    Has anyone pointed you to A Practical Wedding yet? It's not just for wedding planning - I still read it two years later and I wish I'd found it years and years before I was engaged.

  13. We ended up with the same guest list issue. Just family that would be invited was about 70 people. My little bro had an even worse time, his spouse has 200 some first cousins! Thankfully she's never met some of them, but it was still difficult to draw lines around who was invited!
    I completely get your desire to not have a court house wedding. Have a good day ๐Ÿ™‚ Do what you need to do to make the budget work for you. There are tons of ways to make things affordable and fun, it all depends how creative you're willing to be. Maybe ask Mo' money mo'houses to make you some cake pops, haha!

  14. We've been married going on 2 years now and I absolutely do not regret spending what we spent on our wedding. Sure we could have used that money to put into our house, but I have the pictures, video, and memories that come with that day. I loved our wedding and I'm so glad we did what we did. We spent a lot on our wedding and didn't go into debt over it. I know the big fancy wedding isn't for everyone, but to each their own---if you want a wedding and can afford it, do what makes you happy!

  15. We did have a courthouse wedding but our family was there to witness it. My family and his family. It was quite a gathering. Then after the ceremony, we went out to dinner with everyone at a nice restaurant. The next day we had a huge party at a relative's house to celebrate. People that were unable to make it to the ceremony were still able to celebrate with us at the party. It was perfect and very us. I still got my wedding and my father still got to walk me down the aisle.

    At the end of the day, do what works for you ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. I get where you're coming from, I come from a big family too. I always liked the idea of what we call around here, scotch weddings. Find a big shed, community hall, invite the community and ask that instead of a gift, everyone brings a dish for supper like a potluck. I've been to a couple, and I thought it was a great idea, saved the couple oodles in money and they were great parties.

  17. I agree that being budget friendly does not always mean taking the cheapest option every single time. Being budget conscious means you prioritize the things you really want to do with your money and make sure you have a way to pay for it. A big wedding to celebrate with all your family and make a lifetime's worth of memories seems like a wonderful way to spend your money.

  18. Brian

    My family was 6 people (no really only 6) and my wife's family was HUGE. We ended up having a fairly large wedding (250+ people showed up) but we kept costs low by doing it on a Friday night in the off season.

    My father-in-law had said he would just write me a check for $5K if we just eloped... My wife and I were on board with that, but then he changed his mind and decided he would rather have a party, so I guess we called his bluff!

  19. I definitely would prefer a courthouse wedding but my girlfriend would never go for that. Instead we will have a small wedding with only very close family likely. I hate being the center of attention...

  20. I don't think you should have to justify your desire to have a wedding to anyone! It's your freakin wedding--enjoy it! Life is not just about saving money so you have some when you die, or are old and retired.
    We had a courthouse wedding, but our story was less traditional. Dated three months, got engaged, and married three weeks later. We actually rented an old historic courthouse for our wedding and people are always shocked when they see pictures because they say how beautiful the courthouse is (they actually film movies in there because it looks like an old style courthouse). Then we had a small reception at my parent's backyard. There were linens, flowers, live music, LOTS of food and I knew everyone at our wedding--which was important to me. I didn't want to have to invite people just out of obligation, so we settled on close family and friends. I do sometimes get sad that I didn't have a large wedding, but I always say that when we make it to ten years, we can throw ourselves a huge party if we want--because THAT's definitely something worth celebrating!

  21. K.K.

    Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!!!
    I just got married over the week-end ๐Ÿ™‚ Our wedding was very intimate with a few select guests including our mothers and we held the ceremony in Central Park instead of the courthouse. My husband and I wanted to be surrounded by the beauty of nature and we got that and so much more! Our wedding cost about $7500.00 but we wanted to spoil ourselves even though our wedding was small and we don't regret a penny because we paid for it ourselves and in cash - no debt!
    The amount of strangers that were walking the streets while we took photos gave us their well wishes was incredible! There was so much positive energy sent to us on our day that we couldn't help but feel special.
    I agree that you shouldn't let money be the only deciding factor in how you want your union to happen. My thing is, as long as you don't go in debt to accomplish your ideal wedding, do what makes both you and your future husband happy!

  22. The bf and I have talked about getting married and I suspect that we might get engaged in the next 6 months or so. We've talked about how expensive weddings are and since we're both pretty frugal we'd like to keep our costs low. That being said we plan on having good food and drinks and aren't willing to scrimp on those aspects of the big day. The dress, flowers etc. aren't important to me, but throwing a big party to celebrate our union is. 8k doesn't sound extravagant to me. Do whatever makes you happy. You only get married once.

  23. When we got married we didn't have the traditional huge wedding since our families were divided up half way across the world. It's not that we didn't want to but it was a struggle. We ran into the problem where family couldn't get time off from work so that put a dent in it.There was no sense having a big wedding if some of the key people couldn't make it. Our wedding was small but it was perfect for us! Mr.CBB

  24. Yeah I agree in not going to such extremes if you don't have to. I mean you don't have to go bat shit crazy with extravagant things, but it's totally fair to want what you want. I'm somewhere in the middle. While I don't want a big wedding with a lot of people, I would want a small pretty wedding, hopefully on a beach somewhere. Not a lot to do with cost, but because I just never dreamed of that big wedding type thing, and hate being the center of attention.

  25. Great post! My wife and I were considering a courthouse wedding but I did realize that (1) it's a great memory to have, (2) it can be a great day for much of your family (especially parents and grandparents), and (3) it's not always about being cheap/frugal.

    We had a very nice wedding and went to an upscale restaurant for our reception, but we simply limited the guest list (I think we only had 100 people), and excluded flowers, fancy table settings, and live music as well. It turned out great and we spent around $11k.

  26. Totally agree. Sure it looks like a lot of money, but it's your frickin' wedding! You'll never spend that much on a party again, and it's supposed to be one of the most special days of your life, a day you'll look back on for years to come, so I say do it the way you want!

  27. I did have a courthouse wedding because I wanted to get married ASAP and didn't want to wait. It was the right decision for us and we don't regret it. We did have a small reception back home that our close friends and family were invited to. You shouldn't have to justify wanting so spend money on your own wedding.

  28. I'm not married but I already know I'm the EXACT opposite of you. In fact, I may never want to marry... But if I do, I've already decided it'd be a small courthouse wedding. At most, a backyard reception of 10-20 people. I think everyone has to do what's right for them. ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. I think you should do what you guys want to do. I don't think I would have wanted a courthouse wedding and I was really happy with how ours turned out. I think overall we spent $4-5k on it and after all the gifts were tallied up we came out ahead. The wife found a dress that she fell in love with for less than $500 after alterations. One thing that we were able to keep cheap was the food. We elected to go with a potluck style reception instead of going the catered route. In all honesty I can't stand catered food that gives you like two choices of what to eat. Going with the potluck was awesome and we got some sweet recipes (if they brought a dish they had to bring the recipe) out of it that we still use to this day. We probably had about 250 people show up throughout the night and still had leftovers.

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  31. You only get married once (hopefully), and there is nothing wrong with planning to make it something special.. Michelle and I got married outside and I have a ton of great memories of that day.. I can't imagine that people that *do* a courthouse wedding look back on it the same way..

    Just remember, when the day does come, it is about you and your husband, don't get too hung up on that big family and making everyone happy.. Do it your way, and let everyone else follow ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. I think being smart with your money means spending it on things that are meaningful to you. I can see why you wouldn't want to have a courthouse wedding. It's one of the most important days in your life and you should plan it they way you'd like.

    I've never been into weddings much and have always shuddered at the thought of having to plan it. My boyfriend hates the idea of a wedding and since it doesn't matter much to me, a courthouse wedding with a dinner for our closest family and friends is ideal.

  33. I come from a family with a history of having large weddings. One I attended had over 700 people.

    My first wedding was around 300. My father paid and it mostly consisted of his and my mother's relatives. Lots of them. We actually got married on Halloween.

    My second wedding took place at the Wedding Chapel at the MGM Hotel in Las Vegas. My husband and I paid for everything. Their wedding coordinator did an amazingly beautiful job. We had 11 guests, family and friends. Still to this day everyone that was there talks about how much fun it was.

  34. I didn't have a courthouse wedding. I had about 100 people in total - and it was important to me to have friends and family there. I don't regret the money - I do regret the year of arguing with my mother!

  35. I'm getting married next summer, and I wouldn't have a courthouse wedding for the same reason as you. Too many family and friends to exclude! That said, our wedding is very much going to be focused on celebrating with family and friends, making memories, and having fun. I think $8,000 is a great number for a great wedding, and you definitely shouldn't feel guilty about spending that money.

  36. We got married in Thailand back in January of this year. Your wedding is definitely one area you don't want to scrimp on! You will live to regret it... it's one very important day that you can never change.

  37. I've been to a few weddings on both ends of the spectrum(5k - 100k+) and I can honestly say the 5k wedding was pretty crappy. I don't think you have to necessarily spend a ton, but if you're going to do a wedding, I'd do a nice big wedding. If not, just get married at the courthouse and then have an awesome party at someone's house, that's the most fun part imo.

  38. Eddie

    I wouldn't do a court wedding either, but I always said, I'd want to get married in LV if I ever decide to settle down ๐Ÿ™‚

  39. Vangile Makwakwa

    I have toyed with the idea of a court marriage but only for the vows and because I'm Buddhist and don't want church but afterwards there would have to be a real serious celebration because like you said you only hope to do this once. Why else are you being frugal if it's not to spend on the things that are really important?

  40. You can have whatever wedding you want. It's your special day and as long as you set a budget for it and stick to it, you're golden. 8K is definitely a reasonable amount. I know of people who have spend $40-60k on weddings. Yikes. I know they can afford it, but that number was a bit much in my opinion. I am not married yet, since the bf and I just bought a house, a wedding is not in the picture. We're both not really wedding type people, if anything, I would prefer a courthouse wedding or destination wedding. But that's just me.

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