Big Weddings Aren’t for Everyone

Big Weddings Aren't For EveryoneIt seems like most couples getting married these days choose to have a big wedding with a white dress, elaborate ceremony, sit-down dinner, DJ and dancing; not to mention pre-wedding activities like bridal showers, stag and doe parties, bachelor(ette) parties and rehearsal dinners.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching couples exchange their vows.  I also love eating the tasty dinner they serve and then burning it off on the dance floor later.

This is me at a friend’s wedding last fall – do I look like a hater?  Also, yes I am wearing my own wedding dress at someone else’s wedding :)

Big Weddings Are Not For Everyone - Exploring Alternatives

Photo Credit: Christian Lee Photography

Despite my demonstrated enthusiasm for other people’s weddings, Mat and I just weren’t interested in doing the same.  We didn’t have the time, patience or money to organize a big wedding and to be honest, it wasn’t how we wanted to declare our love for one another anyway.  Here are the details about the cost and planning of our own minimalist wedding in case you’re wondering if/how it can be done:

We called to our parents and siblings to let them know that we were getting married the next week.  In total, we had 8 people at the wedding, plus Mat and I = 10.  We paid for my brother to fly to Ottawa which cost about $200.

Exploring Alternatives - Big Weddings Are Not for Everyone

The whole gang (except for Mat’s sister, Julie)

We both wore clothes we already owned, except for the new shoes I picked up on impulse the night before (looking back, I should’ve worn what I already had).  They cost about $50.

My mom brought a pretty bouquet from home, made by a florist friend of the family.  It was gorgeous and made me feel really special :)

We had our engagement rings (plain silver bands) engraved with something special instead of buying new ones.  The engraving probably cost us about $20.

We hired an officiant to do an “elopement” ceremony for $300 and we wrote our own vows.

We asked Mat’s dad to take a few pics during and after the ceremony.  Everyone had a digital camera or phone on them so we have some other nice candid shots from them, too.

We looked up parks in Ottawa that had gazebos (in case it rained), chose the one closest to our apartment and showed up on the morning of, hoping there wasn’t another event happening there.

Exploring Alternatives - Minimalist Wedding Venue

The pretty (and free) gazebo where we got married

We asked for no gifts or money but our close family and friends still spoiled us with thoughtful presents.

We got married at 9 in the morning so dinner, drinks and dancing were out of the question.  Instead, we had breakfast at a cafe across the street and my parents sneakily paid for everyone’s meal even though we had planned to treat everyone.

We took an 8-hour train ride to Rimouski, QC to spend a week at Mat’s family cottage; and, to visit his uncle, aunt and grandparents.  The tickets cost us about $500.

Exploring Alternatives - Minimalist Wedding

Sunset + Cottage + Water = Romance

Total Cost

We spent a total of $1,000 on our wedding and honeymoon combined.

There are a few things we would change about our wedding if we could do it over: we would have given our families more time to make travel arrangements, we would have paid for everyone’s travel & accommodations, and we probably would have had breakfast at Mat’s mom’s house instead of the cafe because it would have been more cozy and relaxed (and she makes really good food!).

Overall, we are both really happy with how we tied the knot and feel like it was the perfect way for us to start our “forever” together: stress-free, debt-free and happily in love.

Take care,


PS let us know what you like/don’t like about weddings (big or small) in the comments!

55 thoughts on “Big Weddings Aren’t for Everyone

  1. Jocelyne Langis

    Small is beautiful from our point of view. Remember our wedding….as long as your happy doing what you do this is the major point.
    These days whe have to think about simplicity and try to put values at the right place.

  2. Kim

    Love this! Our wedding was bigger than yours, but smaller than the norm. Held at a friend’s B&B, 40 people, spent the morning backcountry skiing on site, BBQ lunch, then out for a nice dinner. I did go for a real-deal wedding dress. Also had centerpieces and a cake but, again, middle of the road. Had fun with it, didn’t go crazy with it.

    I think the best weddings reflect the people getting married. For some this is small and simple, for others it is large and lavish, for others it involves skis ;). The key is not having a wedding that is just ‘for show,’ or about impressing people, or going all out because ‘that’s what a wedding is.’

    p.s. When we drove to supper in Conor’s little red truck I was wearing a fleece jacket and rugged North Face boots. I wore the boots for the rest of the night. My dress was long, who knew? Haha.

    1. Danielle Post author

      This is such a good point, Kim! And it’s exactly why I don’t think everyone should have a small wedding. People should do what they want and what reflects their personality. Your wedding sounds like it was the best! I remember seeing a pic of you in your dress with your boots on – that’s hardcore!!

  3. Greg

    Great post! We had a smallish wedding…maybe cost us about $1500. Lots of people and lots of food provided by those lots of people :) We had a desert reception and will be remembered by all :) thanks for sharing!

    1. Danielle Post author

      Wow! Greg, your wedding + dessert reception sound amazing! I wish I had thought of that. I would have had an all brownies breakfast haha! :)

  4. Julie Gouin

    First time around, I had a relatively big event, but still managed to keep costs under 5,000$. My partner and I today sometimes talk about what a mariage would look like for us. Simple is what comes to mind. You have shared some great ideas. My favourite is the morning event, followed by breakfast with the family. (Oh, and I also want to wear my wedding dress more than once!!)

    1. Danielle Post author

      Julie, it sounds like you’re good at keeping things simple if you were able to have a big wedding for under 5,000$ the first time! A big breakfast/brunch with family is so intimate and yes, wearing your wedding dress more than once is a lot of fun! Especially if it’s super comfortable and makes you feel special. I remember the lady at the store where I bought my dress told me that it was for “girls who like to read books.” Sold! haha!

  5. Debbie

    We also had a small wedding, invited less than 20 people and asked them to wear anything they had that was red, black and/or white, and to be comfortable. We did buy 2 bouquets of flowers. I bought a simple dress and my husband wore black pants, white shirt and red suspenders that he had. We went to the city park and had the wedding there and the pictures were taken by my brother in law. After we celebrated at a restaurant and treated everyone. It was really nice and we love the fact that all who attended were dressed in our wedding colors, although, that was not our intention. It has been 19 years since then and I don’t remember the cost, but is was worth every penny and I have never thought I wished my wedding was any different.

    1. Danielle Post author

      Aw, Debbie your wedding sounds so lovely and I’m so happy it turned out exactly as you hoped it would. Like Kim mentioned in another comment – I think the most important thing is to do what feels right to you! xo

  6. Gemma

    Oh how perfect. This is what I wish we could be having.

    Sadly other people’s desires seem to have taken over and, instead of eloping, we’re having a sit-down meal for 50 people. Why is it that other people seem to feel so strongly about something that isn’t really about them?

    Ah well, at least we’re getting to have a low-key honeymoon on the moors in Devon. That bit I’m really looking forward to!

    1. Danielle Post author

      Hey Gemma, I’m sorry to hear that people are taking over your big day! I guess you can either fight it or accept it but a honeymoon in Devon will definitely be an excellent way to unwind after the big day! Have fun and congratulations :)

  7. Nina

    I was one of the lucky ones who got to attend this beautiful wedding and you guys definitely inspired us to keep our own wedding small. It was such an intimate and beautiful ceremony. We have been at two small weddings so far and at several huge ones and I did love the small ones a lot better. I barely got to see the bride and groom at the big ones and they seemed a lot more stressed out. Love the idea of keeping it simple. Also, the amount of money people are spending on their weddings nowadays is outrageous. I mean, you really do wear that dress only once!

    1. Danielle Post author

      Aw, thanks Nina! I’m glad you liked the wedding! We wish we could have spent more time with you guys and if we feel like that, imagine how people feel when they have to say hi to 200 people! Completely crazy!

      I can’t wait to see you guys get married (if you do/when you do/if we’re invited haha)! <3

  8. vicky

    This marriage (my second) at mom’s house, she made the wedding cake for us with edible flowers on top (our personalities). Just us, mom, my sister, john’s brother, and my son, and a Justice of the Peace. It was perfect for us.

    1. Danielle Post author

      Hi Vicky, your wedding sounds absolutely lovely! Especially with the small intimate group and the edible flowers on your cake (I’m a sucker for edible flowers). Congratulations <3

  9. Elise

    I’m so impressed with your wedding! When my husband and I got married, we had a MUCH larger wedding than yours (approximately 250 people!), but we still kept it under $5,000, including the honeymoon. My extended family is large and we’re very close, and while my husband’s family is smaller, he has a large group of friends who are like family. We toyed with going small or even eloping, but in the end we knew we would rather have the big wedding than the hurt feelings.

    Like you, we got married in the morning and had our reception in the barn at our farm. For the biggest expense, we self-catered the wedding by choosing buffet items and cupcakes we could make in advance, and then we made a donation to a group we know and support to do the day-of prep and organization. Again, like you, we made our choices based on our values, and I believe that helped our choices fall into place in inexpensive and meaningful ways.

    Really, in the end, if no one dies at your wedding and you end up married, your day has been a success!

    1. Danielle Post author

      Elise – your wedding sounds amazing! I love the idea of having everyone you love around. It also seems like it would be so nice to have people involved in the prep instead of just the day of. Then everyone feels like they were a part of it :)

      I completely agree that we all need to do what we feel is right for us, and not what we feel like we should do. Congratulations! <3 <3 <3

  10. Abby R

    I thought your idea of inscribing something special in your engagement bands was truly beautiful and meaningfuI. I love that you both had simple, elegant silver bands.

    1. Danielle Post author

      Hi Abby – thank you for reading this post! I’m glad you liked our idea to engrave each other’s names in the engagement bands. We agonized over what to put, but in the end, keeping it simple was the best idea <3

  11. Marka Peace

    I love weddings. I love the cake, the dancing, putting your feet up and letting your hair down, seeing folks you haven’t seen for years, the conversations….you name it, it’s great. That said, it is basically a short commitment ceremony followed by a great party. I love what you did. As a non ( or at least a not-yet) nomad, I had always planned to have an pot luck (yep, I said pot luck) wedding in someones big backyard with room to dance and with my brother who has a great music collection acting as DJ. Cheap and loads of fun dancing under the stars surrounded by family and friends. Think summer barbecue meets family reunion for the vibe. I could never see the sense of spending 5 figures and going into debt for a party. Great blog.

    1. Danielle Post author

      Hi Marka – I’m right there with you! Big weddings are fun when it’s someone else’s party but small can be beautiful and special too :) If you end up having a potluck wedding with dancing under the stars then we’d love to see pics (I’m a big fan of love)! <3

  12. Paul

    Wow, and I thought my Wife and I were the only ones! My Wife and her mother took a trip to a nearby town to look at wedding dresses but my Wife refused to pay $600, this was in 1996, for a dress. On the way home, they stopped at a yard sale that was getting ready to close. When the proprietor asked if they were looking for anything special, my now MIL joking said “yeah, a wedding dress.” I mean, who buys a wedding dress at a yard sale, right? The lady said to hold on for a moment and came back out with a used but still in like new condition wedding gown. It fit my Wife great and she wore it at the wedding. Total dress cost? $35. Total wedding cost for us? About $650. Our parents each put in another $500 apiece for a total of $1650. In comparison, my Wife’s cousins family spent over $18,000 on their son’s wedding. Nearly 20 years have passed now. My Wife and I are still married. Her cousin divorced about 10 years ago. I guess my point is this: if you share values with the other person things have a way of working out.

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Paul, I can’t believe your wife found the perfect dress at a yard sale for $35! What a great story! I’m glad you guys are still going strong and totally agree – it’s all about sharing the same values (and a lot of love, and a lot of work). Congratulations and thanks for checking out the blog :)

  13. Kim

    Such a rational way to go about it. We were married in a courthouse on a Friday afternoon with 4 guests. It wasn’t free because we tipped the judge. 32 years later we are still together so our method must have worked!

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Thank you for sharing your story, Kim! I love that your only wedding expense was a tip for the judge <3

  14. Michelle

    I had always dreamed of a wedding where everyone fit around one table, so we had eighteen people, including the pastor who married us and ourselves and a handful of family and friends. We wrote individual invitation letters to each couple/friend, saying why we loved them and wanted them to be there. Everyone had a special role in the ceremony. We got married in New York City, spending the night before at a small Italian restaurant and ice skating at Rockefeller Center. I loved the intimacy of my wedding. No awkward polite conversations with people I hardly knew, no exhausting details… just people I love in a city I love having a fabulous weekend celebration together. I also love that no one went into debt over our wedding. By avoiding the wedding industry, we cut costs tremendously. No bridesmaids/groomsmen. No fancy flowers. My wedding dress was a white dress from a favorite store, on sale for $70. A simple carrot cake. And dinner around one single table with some fabulous toasts! A day I will never forget! PS I also never wanted an engagement ring, so while my wedding ring wasn’t cheap, I had simply the one.

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi Michelle,

      Your wedding sounds like a dream! I love your idea of writing individual invitation letters – that is so thoughtful and sweet. I wish I’d thought of that!


  15. JustinTha

    Thanks for sharing,

    I just don’t get people who spend huge amounts of money on their weddings. Marriage is an important step on your life journey and paying off a single nights adventure for years doesn’t make sense.

    My wedding cost about $4000 in total and we had no regrets, our honeymoon was buying a van and driving about western Canada for a couple of weeks. My grandma made the cake, my parents hosted in their backyard, rings and stuff was maybe a grand. It felt much more “us” than anything conventional.

    PS: I loved your idea of a morning wedding…wish more people would have done that.

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi Justin,

      Your wedding sounds awesome! I’m glad you guys enjoyed your big day and that you had such an awesome honeymoon in Western Canada :)

      Happy Exploring!


  16. Nancy Leske

    Just started following you on YouTube and am into reducing and reorganizing-an on going process! Your wedding was beautiful, as are you both. Congratulations guys!

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Thank you for the lovely words, Nancy! We really appreciate you taking the time to check out our videos & blog posts. Have fun with your downsizing process and enjoying the new space it opens up for you <3

  17. Kurt

    Good decision to have an inexpensive wedding. I think it’s ridiculous how much money people spend on weddings, especially with the rate of divorce. That money could be put to much better use.

  18. Nicole Panesso

    Beautiful, I’m not into wedding either, I love that you posted this because I plan to do a similar wedding. Thanks for sharing.

  19. adeline

    Bonjour Danielle !
    I’ve discovered your blog and way of life yesterday and it totally resonates with me.
    Love your wedding story.
    Mine was pretty simple too. We were 14, just family and friends. My weeding dress was a branded one but was ” on sale”. I hired a professionnal photographer because it counted. We ate in a romantic restaurant, and danced in a night club.
    We visited Egypt for our Honeymoon.
    Can’t remember how much we spent, it was 17 years ago, but it was simple and debt free.
    Adeline from France

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Bonjour Adeline!

      Thank you for sharing your wedding story – it sounds romantic, and simple, and fun! Egypt must have been an incredible trip for you, too!

      Happy Exploring :)

  20. Ann

    When we got married (second time for both of us), we kept the guest list to 40 friends and family. Wedding was in a beautiful, small rented church during peak foliage season in VT. Reception was at our home and a friend kept the music going on the CD player. We asked for food for the reception instead of gifts, and that worked out great! We ended up with some our family’s favorite foods for supper. My cousin brought flowers from her garden for my bouquet and the decorations, including the fresh roses on the cake. We hired a caterer just to serve, bring dishes and clean up, and a local baker to make the carrot cake. My husband needed a new suit anyway, so we splurged on that. Total cost for the big day was around $2500. It was lovely!

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Wow, Ann! That sounds absolutely lovely. Especially the fresh roses on the cake and the family’s favourite foods. I’m so glad you had such a wonderful wedding day :)

      Thanks for sharing and happy exploring!


  21. ruth

    I really enjoyed reading about your wedding. (and your other posts!) 23 years ago, when all my friends were spending tons, and I mean tons of money on weddings, I got a few eyebrows raised about mine. But, after the ceremony, people could not stop talking about it.
    My wedding:
    Guests: 32 very, very close lifelong friends and family (all local, except my brother, who paid his own way)
    Location: My parents backyard (free)
    Time: 7 AM in the morning
    Minister: my father (free: he is a minister)
    Music: organist from the church (free: her gift to me)
    Special Music: flute (sister: free)
    Chairs, etc.: (borrowed from church)
    Flowers: florist who attends same church (free: her gift to me)
    Bows: Teacher friends from mother made big beautiful bows!!!!!
    Birds singing the entire time—-priceless—-and free
    Sit down breakfast: inside my parent’s house, mom/dad made and bought everything, especially the fresh squeezed oj my brother so lovingly hand squeezed one by one!
    Actually, MY total cost was about $300 which including a video–before the smart phones, lol
    Honeymoon: Flight to LV ($200 rt) to backpack in the Grand Canyon for a week!

    I actually was going to have an extremely small wedding in my parent’s backyard, but one by one all these lovely people wanted to do something.

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi Ruth – your wedding sounds lovely and it’s so nice that your whole family and community pitched in to make it happen. I feel like that kind of support is great not just for planning the wedding itself, but for helping newlyweds on their life journey! I’m so happy for you!!!

      Take care and thanks for sharing your story! Danielle xo

  22. Ery

    I loved the story of your wedding! The picture of your wedding shows how beautiful your day was! We got married last year. We decided to have an intimate wedding with the ones who were really close and dear to us.Both of us believed that our wedding would be more romantic when we have it with only dear ones, without the luxury of wedding industry and without getting involved with pointless details that make you forget the real reason of the celebration! Big weddings sometimes feel like a show to me and we never wanted a show. So We had 30 guests in my parents’ home. I decorated the place with flowers and wore a pretty simple dress and put flowers in my hair:)we ordered different foods for dinner and a beautiful cake decorated with flowers.We hired a professional photographer to record the beautiful moments.We danced and had good dinner and cake.In the end,the guests accompanied us to our new home where we were to start our married life together:) then everyone made a wish for us and said goodbye. It was the best and the most right wedding for my husband and I.With every part of it meaningful and real and memorable:)

  23. Jenna

    Wow! I have been watching your videos for quite some time and had a feeling you two were Canadian but I’m just realizing you might actually be from Ottawa originally, which makes me love your channel/blog that much more. I am also living in Ottawa and currently planning a 12-month RTW. Thank you for the inspiration and I’ll be using your material for helpful info!

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi Jenna, thanks for checking out our videos! We are from Ottawa and we come back every once in awhile to visit our friends and family :) Have fun planning your RTW trip — it’s going to be epic I’m sure :D

  24. Jorge

    We had a similar ceremony to make it official with our closest relatives. It was great because with all of our money saved, we traveled around the world for 11 months so it was completely worth it.
    I prefer small, private events with your closest ones. It becomes more personal and relaxing.

  25. Tiffany De Lacy

    I have to say, we adore the two of you and have watched and read all of your content.

    My husband and I eloped to the Cook Islands (we’re Australian) in 2008. Just the two of us, a German backpacker we’d met the day before as our witness and photographer, and the celebrant. Total wedding cost around $800 – but the flights and the 4 week trip in the Cooks and New Zealand cost us a small fortune. We had been planning and saving for a conventional wedding for 2 years, and decided under stress to spend that cash on a trip of a lifetime. No regrets!

    We are in the process of selling off 12 years of accumulated stuff, including our house that we built together and 5 years of supplies from my jewellery business, as we too feel the soul crushing despair of too much debt and responsibility holding us back from our dreams. After several health scares in as many years, we simply cannot ignore the fact that this life isn’t suitable for us. We are child-free by choice, but have 2 dogs, and are super excited to take a giant leap into a new adventurous life.

    Thank you for letting us all come along on your journey, we are so grateful to have found you!

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi Tiffany — wow, your wedding and your honeymoon sound like they were wonderful and exactly what you wanted! I would also prefer to spend a small fortune on an adventure rather than a one-day party but I do enjoy when other people throw big weddings haha. It’s good to have multiple kinds of weddings so we get a little of everything :)

      Best of luck downsizing and adventuring into new lifestyles!

      Take care and happy exploring,

      Danielle (& Mat)

  26. Bethany

    Thanks so much for this inspirational story of your wedding! We have been so torn on what to do for ours, we have a big family that all live close, many extended members who would be invited if we had a wedding around here, we wanted to do destination but my fiance’s mother’s health makes her scared to fly. It wasn’t even such a money issue more than we wanted something super casual and not fancy or stuffy, but we also really wanted to have a party with our close family and all of our friends, have a DJ playing our 90s music all night–so we were torn. Then I read this post, and I was like, yes, we could just hold a super casual ceremony outside in a public/free place (sooo many in Gloucester MA) and we could even rent out a room on a Sunday morning that serves breakfast buffets (mostly for smaller baby showers) and invite everyone back after.

    Then I am like, but I want to have my party, my 90s music, dancing… I’VE GOT IT!

    A Jack and Jill Bachelor/Bachelorette Party held the Saturday before the wedding, at this bar that rents out a private room form 8-12am on the cheap, provides a bar tender free, hire a DJ (My cousin owns a DJ company so this comes cheap to me, but if you couldn’t afford that someone’s spotify playlist and decent speakers would do the trick) have some snacks. Cheese/crackers and such. And I will get the wedding reception i really wanted, with the friends and close family i would want to party with, none of the ones I would feel awkward around. And I won’t have to wear the dress and can dance better ;)

    Thank you so much for your inspiration.

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