The Best Wedding I’ve Ever Been To Was Also The Cheapest

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affordable weddingThis post originally appeared on The Billfold.

When I gave birth to boy-girl twins over 27 years ago, I didn’t think about the double cost of the miraculous event.

My immediate feelings as I held these two beautiful beings were of complete joy and all-encompassing love. It was the kind of love that would persuade a mother to do anything for her kids—step in front of a moving vehicle, run into a burning building, donate a kidney, or spend lots of hard-earned money to keep them happy and healthy.

The twins challenged our family economically because they required double the amount of diapers, clothes, and toys, and then as they grew older, double the cell phones, laptops, college tuition, and cars. Having these now grown-up children in my life was—and still is—worth every penny we spent on them. Being a mother and friend to my children has been priceless.

When my grown daughter announced she was engaged, I immediately pictured her in a beautiful white gown smiling at her new husband. I imagined her dancing with her dad during the traditional father-daughter dance. My vision included all our extended families dancing and sending congratulatory proclamations to my daughter and her new husband, and we were prepared to help make her wedding dreams come true. Teary-eyed, I put the thought aside, and waited to hear what the newly engaged couple wanted for their wedding day.

Soon after her announcement, I received an e-mail invitation to a “Barbecue Wedding.” What? No official wedding invitations? The dress is casual, the invitation said. Casual? I read on. Please bring a dish? No filet mignon, or stuffed chicken? I don’t get to stress over shopping for a mother of the bride dress, or my hair? There would be no bridesmaids, no maid of honor, no walk down an aisle, and no father-daughter dance. I was stunned. Why was my sweet baby girl breaking all the traditions? I became teary-eyed with the realization that I would never go shopping with my daughter to find “the dress,” and I wouldn’t see her dance with her father in that dress before she took off for her honeymoon with her new husband.

Just to give you some background, my husband and I have a history of being fiscally conservative. We know the importance of keeping enough money in a savings account in case of a sudden illness or job loss. Our family experienced the challenge of both, and gratefully got through them without too many scars. We pay off our credit cards every month, have been on just a few vacations and are dedicated hard working employees. Simply, we are not filthy rich but we are not poor. We were prepared to make our daughter’s wedding day dreams come true.

As our conversations continued over the next few months, I learned that the goal of the barbecue would be to focus the day on food, family and friends, and to hang out and enjoy each other’s company, while the ceremony would be secondary. I learned that my daughter and her future husband would be returning to the old-fashioned way of simply letting everyone know that they decided to commit themselves to each other. The party would be held in her fiancé’s small city backyard, and there would not be enough room to invite all of our extended family. My daughter and son-in-law said that they didn’t want anyone to stress out, or for anyone to spend a lot of money to travel from a distance for “just a backyard barbecue.” I came to the conclusion that my child’s mind was taken over by an alien force.

To read about the wedding inspired by an “alien force,” continue reading at The Billfold.

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  • Saw1208

    Wow, this story is great!
    I have been in four weddings in the last year and, despite how amazing they each were, I can see how stressful spending all of that $ can be!
    I don’t want to start my marriage in debt, and I don’t want to drain my parents’ retirement accounts for a day of extravagance. This is a great alternative! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Mathildacooks

    Haha! I was actually AT this very wedding…which was very fun and totally reflected the couple in every way! It was wonderful and a great alternative to the big fancy wedding!