minimalism

Creating A Minimalist Wedding: Determining What Really Matters.

So here’s something that I haven’t seen much discussion about yet: minimalist weddings.

Jeanie Witcraft recently asked on Twitter, “Oh, minimalists, how would you plan a wedding?”

The question grabbed my attention because I had this post about minimalist weddings sitting around for a couple months. I’m planning my own wedding. and wanted to share my thoughts.

On page 140-141 of The Commitment, Dan Savage makes fun of the wedding industry:

“People won’t take your commitment seriously if you just run down to city hall or fly off to Vegas. If you want people to take your relationship seriously, if you want them to believe you’re really in love, then you need to marry in the presence of God, friends, family, ministers, caters, waiters, banquet hall managers, bakers, bartenders, disc jockeys, jewelers, florists, wedding consultants, limo drivers, photographers, videographers, and Web designers. Oh, and ice sculptors–don’t forget the ice sculptors.”

With all theย stuff that comes with weddings these days, it’s easy to forget what the day is really about — the love and commitment between two people. It’s not about staging a huge production. It’s not about picking and displaying your best friends. It’s not about the four-tiered cake. It’s about two people. Simple.

When you hear the words, “minimalist wedding,” what comes to mind?

Do you envision tables covered in white with simple candles in the middle? Perhaps white square plates with small portions of food? Large or small gatherings? A ceremony in the woods or on a mountain? Perhaps the ultimate minimalist wedding would just have a couple, an officiant, and witnesses. Maybe there would be no officiant or witness: in Colorado, couples can marry themselves!

Let’s review the idea of minimalism. It’s not just about getting rid of stuff, it’s about eliminating the unessential things from your life and focusing on what truly matters to you. Basically, you get rid of what you can to make room for the things you really want. Can the concept be applied to a wedding? Of course!

The great thing about applying minimalism to a wedding is that every wedding will be uniquely different based on what you truly value. Some people may just want to elope, some want to celebrate with 500 friends, some will have a bare bones reception where everything is draped in white, others want the 3′ tall centerpieces, and some people want a BBQ at the beach. Weddings can be designed any way you want it! It doesn’t matter what anyone else says. Who decided that every wedding had to have 300 guests and thousand-dollar designer dresses? Who decided the dresses had to make brides look like overdecorated vanilla cupcakes? Who made it a rule that we needed to send out save-the-dates? No one.

With that thinking in mind, I spent time perusing alternate wedding websites. Then a few months ago, I unsubscribed from all the wedding blogs I was reading. They were all great (Green Wedding Shoes, A Practical Wedding, Offbeat Bride, and a few others) but I finally had enough inspiration and was feeling overwhelmed. Even indie and green blogs are still wedding porn. In the end, after spending hours looking at these photos, I always felt like my wedding would never measure up. What kind of idea is that!? Who wants to feel like their wedding needs to be a performance? Not this girl. And probably not you.

Above all, it is very important to pay attention to what the day is about — the marriage. Too many people focus on the wedding and forget to pay attention to the marriage. Personally, my soon-to-be husband and I have spent many more hours taking classes and doing counseling/mentoring with older couples to help us build a solid foundation for our marriage. I highly recommend that every couple goes through a similar process before tying the knot.

So what’s my ideal wedding? My dream wedding is going deep in the woods on a picturesque lake and getting married to the love of my life with our parents and immediate family standing around us. This would then be followed with a vegan luncheon/BBQ where we played games and flew kites. Is this happening? No. But that’s OK.

When we sat down and started planning, we thought about what really matters to us:

  • Each other. We just want to focus on each other.
  • Being with our immediate families and closest friends.
  • Eating good food.
  • Excellent drinks – alcoholic & non-alcoholic.
  • Not spending too much money on anything.
  • Having a great time!

With these values in mind, it is easier to decide what unessential costs can be eliminated. A lot of the stuff that usually comes with weddings doesn’t really matter. That said, we are still keeping a few things traditional. Some things really work for us, and some things don’t. Some things are great for other couples, and not for us. That is what gives each wedding the potential to be beautifully unique — no two couples are the same.

Here’s what we are doing:

  • Keeping the guest list at 80. Many things can change in the months leading up to a wedding, so the guest list can change (friends fall apart, people pass away, new people come into our lives), but we aimed for a specific number under 100 and kept it that way.
  • N0 engagement parties. We had some glasses of champagne with some friends and that was all we needed.
  • Skipping Save-the-Dates. With all the life-changing events that have been going on in my personal life over the past few months, Save the Dates were the last thing on my mind. While there are some really neat Save the Dates ideas out there, most of the ones I’ve seen are magnets or pictures – they get tacked up on the fridge and then tossed out after the wedding. So let’s spare my wallet the cost and spare your garbage of the eventual waste. Since only small handful of guests are from out of town and would need advance notice, I sent out a few e-mails and wrote some notes.
  • No floral decor. Flowers are ridiculously expensive. Plus, where do they all go after the wedding is over? While I enjoy receiving flowers occasionally, I’m not a flower person and could care less about any silly arrangement on the tables. I don’t think anyone else would really care either. And no, I’m not carrying a flower bouquet either.
  • Very small bridal party. My sister is my maid-of-honor, his sister is a bridesmaid, his good friend is his best man, and his brother is a groomsman. That’s all. While I do have some close friends that I would consider for a role in the bridal party, I wanted these friends to enjoy the party as guests and spare the chance of any issues arising from hurt feelings and politics. Your true friends will understand and be a little relieved that they won’t be expected to spend an obscene amount of money on a dress they’ll only wear once. And those people who have nine people in the wedding party? Ridiculous! It’s almost as if they’re trying to prove how many friends they have. No one has nine best friends. If you disagree, let me know!
  • Seasonal, natural decor and food. We’re getting married in the fall, so expect lots of pumpkins and apples!
  • Eliminating favors. I don’t care about personalized m&ms and little plastic tokens, so I won’t have them. (And if you’re seriously considering personalized m&ms or plastic toys, re-evaluate whether it’s worth the money to spend on expensive candy that will eaten in minutes or tokens no one really wants). If you really want favors, think outside the box. Some of my favorites have been charitable donations, recipe jars, plants, or nothing. Of all the weddings I’ve gone to, I don’t have the favors anymore. And I’m OK with that. Chances are, your guests will be OK with it too.
  • Ceremony and reception in the same location. Saves on transportation costs.
  • No limousines. We don’t need it. Our bridal party is small, and the reception is at the same location as the ceremony.
  • Buffet dinner. Offers people flexibility in food options and saves on costs of dishes and catering staff.
  • DIY decorations. Remember I said I didn’t want flowers? I’m using candles and fall accents to decorate the place. It will be amazing. The best part? The only thing I had to pay for were some craft supplies! I collected everything else from family and friends. I’m also making sure that almost every piece of decor can be reused as decor in our own home or placed outdoors without harm to the environment.
  • No need to lavishly primp ourselves. No tanning, no nail salon, no teeth whitening. Why bother? We’re marrying each other with all of our faults and we look just beautiful the way we are!
  • No honeymoon. This might be difficult for some people to grasp, but we are getting married in the fall – right in the beginning of the school year. I’m not going to take off work for a week in the beginning of a new job. We will do a couple weekend getaways over the winter holiday season and are considering international travel next year.
  • Experiences registry. We’re not asking for china. We’re not asking for linens. We have everything we need already and the last thing I want is more stuff. So, we originally created a registry over at Deposit A Gift where friends and relatives can contribute to experiences. These could be ballroom dancing lessons, weekend getaways, classes, hot-air balloon rides, and whatever else we want to do! However, since the registry was established, it has changed into a tiny house registry! I can’t think of anything more exciting than building a home together in our first year of marriage.

In two days, I’ll be walking down an aisle through the forest towards the love of my life.

What are your opinions on weddings and minimalism in weddings? What have you done differently? What values did you incorporate in your wedding, and what kind of things did you eliminate? I’d love to hear what you have to say!

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27 thoughts on “Creating A Minimalist Wedding: Determining What Really Matters.

  1. I need to send my gf over here. She is always talking about the insanity that weddings have become. You’re right about it all. It’s crazy how over the top they’ve become and we’ve all bought it up.

    I say do away with conventions. Oh, and congrats!

    1. That was my goal, as well! We went a little over the 5K mark but it was still cheap compared to so many other weddings. I feel like a lot more people (at least in my own circle of friends) are starting to realize that weddings aren’t worth all the hype and are simplifying it a lot more now.

  2. We had to have a minimalist wedding – once you’ve decided to have a wedding in a lighthouse that pretty much makes the decision for you because you’re only allowed 10 people at a time up top for safety reasons. And forget about doing the wedding march up all those steps in a big meringue of a dress!

  3. I was planning to write an article on wedding planning. Initially the content was about creating all the checklist for a perfect wedding. I changed my mind, minimalist is the way to go.

    My idea of guest list is to write down the first 50 to 75 friends and family that I can write down continuously. If I recall their names after thinking very hard.. it’s a sign I should leave them out from my wedding :).

    Thanks for an refreshing piece of work.

    1. “If I recall their names after thinking very hard… it’s a sign I should leave them out from my wedding.” — Great tip!! Thanks for dropping by, I’m glad you enjoyed this. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I loved this blog I just got engaged and am a full time musician touring globally in our band The Bergamot ( check us out at http://www.thebergamot.com) any ways I love this life of voluntary simplicity I have been walking a transforming into this unconventional style of living since I was 19 years old I am 24 now and love this life I lead so much I am so grateful towards God and the incite God has granted me. Plus, your blog rocks I intend to spend 8K or less on our wedding hopefully lots less. ๐Ÿ™‚ Your a Shimmering gem.

    1. Jillian — congratulations on your recent engagement!!!! So cool that you found this article & website. I just took a look over at yours — looks like you were just in the Chicago area last month! Anyway, I applaud the journey that you’re on towards unconventional living and gratitude towards God. Good luck with the wedding planning!!! Do come back and update me if you can. (PS: I’ve now moved to a different location if you want to stick around: http://www.thisluminouslife.com.)

  5. Hi, I am about to get married and I really wanted to keep it minimal because I don’t believe in spending lavishly on wedding and forgetting the marriage part of it. I had similar thoughts just like you and hoping to put them in practice for my wedding because in my country (INDIA) we have what we call ‘The big fat Indian wedding’ and I want to break this norm and give importance to sanctity of our relationship.

  6. Holy monkies you’ve just read my mind!! I can’t wait for my minimal wedding. I made a pinterest account and it has about 5 things in it. That is all. Plus having my wedding an 8 hour plain ride away will help me keep it minimal and in budget! (no beaches for me… think rainy, moody, foggy Atlantic ocean wedding ) Thanks for these great ideas!

  7. thank you for this!! in the very beginning stages of planning my wedding and the pressure is on but I want this to be an enjoyable experience for all involved!

  8. Well said. I am currently planning my wedding for March 2016 in Alaska where our weather will be rainy and cold … so we decided on what we thought was important for us to have. I sent out to friends and family an engagement announcement with a tentative marriage time for March. We took a couples picture this summer, printed a very formal announcement up on silver card stock on my computer printer.
    We want to marry in our church with our favorite pastor, two matrons of honor, my best friend and my new Mother-in -law (she’s great), one Best Man (his step father). Flowers are silk bouquets for the Matrons, one for me (The Bride) and in a small flower vase one with our unity candle. All of this these flowers will transfer to a local restaurant where we for free (no rental space fee) have 10 people for dinner (4 in the audience, my best friends husband, the pastor’s husband and two of the grooms best friends) and will be the decorations set on an empty table in our long row of tables. Our dinners will be ordered off the restaurant’s menu and we will have a couple of bottles of wine, and a couple of pitchers of beer as that’s what we like to drink. Our pastor and her spouse are invited as well to the dinner.
    No decorations at the church are necessary as it is the start of advent and things are plain and simple during that time. I made the bouquets and boutineers (DIY online where perfect). The Groom and Best man get new shirts and ties that match, wearing whatever suits they have. The Matrons of honor bouquets are white and they wear any dress that that is not brightly colored or black, neutrals.

    I really wanted a wedding dress with a train and found a lovely strapless tulle gown with a little lace online at a site that lets brides recycle their dress so that someone else can share its happiness. The price was right and fit into my budget with extra left over. My dress arrived with a dry cleaners receipt attached, and need no altering. I borrowed shoes from my best friend, my mother-in-law to be gave me a blue wedding garter.
    The restaurant allows us to bring in a commercially made wedding cake (since they don’t make cakes) so I contacted a local one woman operation baker that is commercially license to sell, and ordered a 10 x 10 chocolate cake with mango filling, whip cream icing scattered with coconut and a small grooms cake for our first year. That was the big splurge!
    The only other tradition that we wanted to keep was hiring a photographer to take pictures during our service, then I gave her a lists of specific pictures I wanted ( Bridge and Groom with in-laws, Bride with Matrons, Groom with Best Man, etc, She gave us a very reasonable price as two photos will be actually printed and the rest will be on a jump drive that I supplied. It took about a month for it all to come together. Now I just wait until March, enjoy our time with friends from town and letting others know that we are getting married as we see them this winter.
    Enjoying being engaged in Alaska!

  9. Exactly my thoughts! Weddings are overrated these days. I want ours to be simple no fuss needed. I’d love to build a tiny house too. I’d love to adapt a minimalist lifestyle also. I love your article! โค

  10. The wedding industry can eat you alive. All I want is me, my guy, and my photographer (also good friend) to drive to San Francisco City Hall, do a ceremony, and spend the day in the city where we fell in love. You want to go get coffee in wedding attire? Why not? We’re just going to wing the day and book a hotel room or Airbnb for the night. I still will wear a dress, he something nice, have rings, a bouquet/boutineer that I will most likely make, and photos. Maybe a tiny lunch the day after with 10 family members.

  11. As someone who got so caught up and disgusted by the amount of money spent on a wedding, I absolutely LOVE this article! Thank you.

  12. Wow, thank you for a wonderful article! It is almost uncanny how similar our plans are this coming fall (er…fall wedding, pumpkins, 80 people, everything at the same location), etc…

  13. I am getting married at age 57, my fiancรฉ is 55. We’ve both been married before and each have 3 grown-up kids. All I want is to have is a very simple ceremony surrounded by family. Our best friend went online and became an officiant. We will have wedding rings and vows and a short simple ceremony, with all 6 kids standing by us, their significant others and my future parents-in-law attending. It’ll be at the gazebo in a near-by neighborhood park. If that’s occupied or busy, the fall-back plan Is our house; the deck if it’s nice. No decorations regardless. After the ceremony we’ll go out to eat at a quaint BYOB Italian restaurant.
    The next day we are having a big party/picnic at a park for family and friends (100 to 200 people?) where we have a pavilion rented. We’ll have beer, wine, soda and water, pizza, munchies and maybe some BBQ from a caterer if we want to splurge. Dress code is “sports casual”, and I expect lots of volleyball games, kickball, horse shoes, water balloon toss games, and maybe an impromptu soccer game. NO presents allowed (although we wouldn’t turn away a bottle…).
    I did buy a new white-and-tan dress but it’s just a short nice simple dress. Our kids can wear whatever they want to. We’ll get boutonnieres for the guys and simple bouquets for the girls.
    I don’t know yet the total cost but if you don’t count the rings, I’m guessing total cost to be around $2,500. Maybe even less. And it will be exactly what we want.

    I’m glad to see younger people opting for simplicity and concentrating on what’s important to them. Weddings have become too much of a big business.

  14. Lovely article I must say.
    I think most folks get so caught up in planning the elaborate, ostentatious gig that they want their wedding to be, that they forget that the marriage really begins after the trousseau has been put away.

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