Haley Jersey loves thinking back on her wedding day. She and her husband, Richard, said their vows inside a small chapel at beautiful Rock Ledge Ranch in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
In many ways, their ceremony resembled a typical wedding. “We were traditional with things like a white wedding dress, vows and a ‘church’ wedding,” Haley says. But the couple’s wedding departed from “typical” in one major way — only nine guests were present.
“We wanted it to be intimate and simple,” Haley says of the ceremony that included immediate family members only. After a low-key ceremony where her father officiated and Richard led their guests in a time of worship with his guitar, wedding guests moved on to the restaurant where the couple had shared their first date for a celebration dinner.
Faith Macauley shares a similar story of her recent nuptials to husband, Ryan. “We felt our ceremony was an extremely intimate moment where we were sealing our covenant before God and others,” she says. “I walked down the aisle, we said a few vows, our family came to pray over us and we were done!” The couple had only 15 wedding guests — their parents, siblings and grandparents. A friend took photos, and Faith carried a $12 bouquet purchased at the grocery store the day before.
While simple weddings aren’t necessarily on the radar as a trend, anecdotal evidence suggests that many couples are choosing the minimalist route. Some are doing it to save money, others to cut down on stress, and still others to focus on what matters most to them as a couple. The Jerseys and Macauleys noted a combination of these factors went into their wedding-planning decisions.
As more couples opt for a bare-bones approach to their weddings, they are benefiting in three main areas.
Weddings are big business. The Brides American Wedding Study notes that the average cost of a wedding skyrocketed in 2018 to $44,000. (Keep in mind, this is an average number, and many couples spend much less and many spend much more!) Planning a wedding without going into debt can be daunting. Whether parents are footing the bill or the bride and groom are paying for it themselves, finances are a primary reason some couples are forgoing frills so they can start their lives together on firm financial footing. Many couples would rather put a large sum of money toward a down payment on a home or into savings rather than spending it on an extravagant event.
Haley notes this was a primary motivation for her and Richard to choose a simple celebration, which they paid cash for. “I didn’t have to worry about save-the-date cards, wedding invitations, favors, catering or bridal-party flowers,” she says. “I was able to focus on the things that were important to us, like having our family there, my dress, and hiring a good photographer and videographer.”
We’ve all heard tales of bridezilla. Planning a wedding can cause a lot of stress for a couple who is also trying to create a healthy foundation for spending a lifetime together. My fiancé (now husband) and I had a major fight as we attempted to complete a wedding registry together at a large home goods store. The number of decisions we were forced to make together during that one, two-hour period pushed me to my emotional limits.
Haley says she felt relief when she and Richard opted for a simple wedding. “Figuring out who to invite and how to use our limited money had become extremely stressful,” she says. “My fiancé watched as I tried to figure out how to make everyone happy.” One day, Richard grabbed her hand and told her they would include immediate family only. “I’m really glad he took charge,” Haley says. “Immediately loads of stress disappeared, and I was able to enjoy the planning and the excitement of our wedding day from that point forward.”
Faith also notes stress relief as a major benefit of a simple wedding. She and Ryan chose an all-inclusive venue to host a reception for 60 close friends and family members following their intimate ceremony. “When I walked into the room after the wedding, I had no idea what the table settings or centerpieces would look like,” she says. “Someone did all of that for me.”
For Christian couples, preparing their hearts to commit to a lifetime covenant with their future spouse needs to be a primary focus during the engagement period. In the article “Are You Planning for a Marriage or Just a Wedding,” Erin Smalley writes: “Although the wedding day is special, the entire event is over in a few short hours. … It’s far too easy to get so engulfed in wedding details that you lose sight of the lifetime you will be spending together.”
For this reason, many couples receive premarital counseling and look for intentional ways to grow as a couple during their engagement. Planning an elaborate wedding can become a major distraction and even something that weakens their bond.
“Ryan and I wanted to focus on areas of life that really mattered,” Faith says, “and not stress over things that didn’t. Our focus throughout our engagement was to have fun together and prepare ourselves for marriage, not a wedding.”
Haley says the focus of her wedding was to create family memories. “We weren’t sure when our entire immediate family would ever all be together again,” she says. “I loved being able to sit and talk with my parents at our wedding dinner and not feel rushed or worried about keeping everyone entertained.”
Best day ever
Neither the Jerseys nor Macauleys have any regrets about going low-frills. Each experience was marked by meaningful details and lots of love.
“The overall outcome was a joyful, peaceful, memorable day,” Haley says. “I don’t have any regrets about the simplicity of our wedding. It was the uniting of two families before God, and really good food. My husband and I both think it was the best day ever.”
Faith concurs: “Having the people who have raised us and have been in our lives throughout their entirety was so meaningful.”
Would these brides suggest the simple route to other engaged couples? “Do it!” Faith says. “The simpler, the better! There’s no need to stress over one day of your life. Enjoy your engagement and focus on your fiancé, not your napkins!”
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Expectant Parents: Preparing together for the journey of parenthood and the co-author of Grit and Grace: Devotions for warrior moms . She lives in California with her husband, Kevin, and four young children.
Tips for Your Simple, Small Wedding
Would you like to forgo a traditional wedding so you can concentrate on the important things surrounding the big day? It’s your wedding, and you can choose how you’d like to say, “I do.” Here are some suggestions for how to do it:
- If you want to keep the guest list small but are worried about offending some friends or family members, gently explain to anyone who might be hurt that you’re keeping the wedding intimate, but that you look forward to catching up afterward when you’ll have time to engage at a more personal level.
- Grocery stores often have great inexpensive flowers. Talk to the floral department about ordering a few of your favorite blooms ahead of time. You can even learn to tie your own bouquet.
- Want to skip the expensive cake? Serve ice cream, pie or cookies! One bride’s family was known for their homemade pies and baked pies for the wedding; this personal touch added something special to the day. Other brides have asked guests to bring homemade cookies or cakes.
- Looking for decorations or wedding attire? Try Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or even garage sales. Simply searching the internet for “wedding décor,” “wedding centerpieces” or “bridesmaid dress” can help you keep to a small budget yet host a fabulously beautiful wedding.
- Are traditional venues just too pricey? Choose a nearby public park or a field of wildflowers as your small wedding venue. Many public parks rent pavilions for a small fee. Or ask family friends with a nice backyard if they’d let you host the wedding there. Many times they will be flattered.