Did you regret having a private city hall wedding or elopement?

by DIY wedding planner on June 2, 2012

We have started researching weddings to figure out how much to save. Weddings are expensive and we both think it’s a racket. It’s not that we can’t save for a $10,000 wedding, we just don’t know that we want to spend that much on one day! Even setting our budget at $5,000 seems like so much for a party…and trying to do it DIY or less expensive seems to be more work and planning that I just don’t think I am that interested in doing (I don’t give an eff about wedding favors, centerpieces and bridesmaid dresses!) I have researched doing a City Hall wedding and then a dinner for about 50 people (just family and a few close friends each) and that seems like it will still cost about as much as the cheapest park/garden DIY wedding, around $6,000, probably not including the modest honeymoon we would like to take, a week in a cabin in Yosemite.

We are considering bailing on this and either spending that money for a duel elopement/honeymoon to Hawaii or New Zealand (we have miles saved up so free flights) or just doing the City Hall thing and a smaller “celebration” party/BBQ thing. I am not trying to have a princess for a day wedding, but I do wonder if I will regret getting married in front of Strangers. I have stressed over and over that the paper means less to me than a public comittment in front of our closest friends and family. That’s what really makes me married, in my eyes. I wish I could just do a ceremony with everyone, that is not the problem. It’s that I know etiquette recquires some kind of reception and we can’t seem to find a way to do it all (wedding, venue, dress/suit, photography AND honeymoon in Yosemite) for under $5,000 which is our ideal budget.
Did anyone elope and live to regret it? Do you still feel married if your friends and family aren’t there to see it? For those that had a wedding, did you wish you had eloped? I might just have to bite the bullet, suck it up and do the darn planning and reception shenanigans in order to be able to have my family and friends there to see me get married. Aaaah! Help!

Thank you MessyKat. I didn’t mention a backyard wedding because we live in an apartment and my Dad lives in a condo. Not practical to do it at his parent’s house, they live over 6 hours away. My parents are “supportive” but they’re not the type that are going to be involved and super helpful. I am pretty much on my own. We are looking to rent a bigger place come summer when our lease ends. We are keeping an eye out for small cottages that have a decent sized yard, but we’ll see.
@I love weddings. I live in California, near the Coast, so everything is more expensive here. Plus, that isn’t just the cost of the food, it includes beer/wine, a simple cake, photography, our suit, dress, officiant or courthouse fees. Our city hall is small, and I don’t believe they actually have a room for everyone to come in and watch you, it’s literally an office where you marry privately with the clerk. I have researched nearby city halls and they basically charge you a rental fee to have any sort of guests. Restaurants around here won’t host 50 people for a banquet for free, they have food/bev minimums and some even have rental fees. This is just what I have gathered in the last couple weeks looking online only. I still want to ask around some local restaurants that don’t traditionally host weddings to see if they would host a small event for us at an affordable price, maybe off season.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

eyedontknow June 2, 2012 at 5:16 am

Nope. In fact, after the wedding,we went to a favorite restaurant to celebrate. It was with my mother-in-law,stepson & sister-in-law.The restaurant surprisingly picked up the tab.We didn’t even bother having a honeymoon.I was in slacks & dress shirt.Wife was in her favorite sun dress. We didn’t have wedding rings. The marriage license was all the proof needed for the marriage.


Avis B June 2, 2012 at 6:03 am

Yahoo Answers is fulling of wedding REGRETS, and the top two regrets are . .

(a) We got married too young.

(b) We got married by a Judge/Justice of the Peace or in a Court House setting.

Real wedding . . This Bride and Groom could have had any type of wedding they wanted but they chose to have something “short and simple.” The couple rented a gazebo in a community park for four hours. The 1030AM ceremony took place on a Saturday morning in May just as the trees and bushes were coming into bloom. The Bride did not wear a gown and the Groom did not wear a tuxedo. There were no wedding attendants, two of the guests were the official witnesses. Over 150 guests stood outside of the gazebo as the Bride and Groom stated their vows inside the gazebo. When the fifteen minute ceremony was over the Bride and Groom walked to their car and drove away. By 8PM that evening the newlyweds were sipping tropical drinks at their honeymoon destination.

This couple got exactly what they wanted . . a simple ceremony in a lovely setting with friends and family members (no printed invitations, no theme colors, no wedding attendants, no disc jockey, no wedding cake, and no roast chicken dinner) and a great honeymoon.

Answered by: A Certified wedding specialist / A Professional bridal consultant / A Wedding ceremony officiant


Sweet_Di June 2, 2012 at 6:26 am

nope I am glad we got married my the county clerk. later that night we had a nice cookout with a few friends and family members . that way we were able to go on a honeymoon we drove to Lovers Key Resort in Florida. I would love to go back there. beautiful place


Varghese John June 2, 2012 at 6:56 am

Here is help.Get married in the City hall with your and her families and siblings in attendance.Count the numbers and add a few uncles and aunts if you can afford it.As for those you could not invite they will take it in their strides,if the are your well wishers.

God bless.Wish you a blissful married life.


TheOne June 2, 2012 at 7:29 am

it is worth it to me.



Messykatt June 2, 2012 at 7:38 am

I didn’t do this, but one option you didn’t mention is probably the best. Get an officiant (they’re everywhere – yellow pages, craigslist, etc) and have the officiant perform your ceremony. It’s probably cheaper than city hall – in fact, in some states any notary public can do it.

Then invite the people who matter most and do it all (ceremony/reception) at your home, or your parents’ home, or whoever has the nicest backyard! Catering is very reasonable, and what my sister did was get some “meat” from a barbecue place (she had pulled pork and chicken, I believe) and also their cole slaw, which is totally yummy. Then she and a couple relatives made all the side dishes for this. Barbecue side dishes are tasty and notoriously cheap – baked beans, potato salad, corn and/or corn bread, etc. She also had a nice make your own salad bar.

The group was manageable (around 50) and she had disposable cameras laying around for us to take photos. There was music in the backyard and we even danced.

You’re correct that etiquette does require a reception, but you could put this one together for well under $1000, and that would include whatever cake you want. Just make sure the people who matter most are there and you won’t regret it. My sister’s wedding was really nice. I’m not sure what it cost total, but she had beer, wine and margaritas to drink, in addition to sodas and water.

PS – Avis, you cannot invite 150 people to a ceremony and not serve them something. That looks like a total gift grab (not to mention violating etiquette).


deborah g June 2, 2012 at 8:15 am

My step-sister had a backyard wedding for $600 with about 30 people. She set up a tarp (rented) along with a couple rented tables and folding chairs. The ceremony was over in about 5-10 minutes and then we had a bbq. She ordered some items and others brought food. We danced to songs on an ipod and I made them a CD which they played too. It was beautiful and they were happy and that it what its all about.

For my wedding, we live in Massachusetts but have a lot of family in the nieghboring state of NH. We are spending $20 per person for a simple wedding in NH (plus 9% tax and gratuity) which will be around $3,000 and way less expensive than anything I could find for that size in the Boston area. I found a dress (Maggie Sottero) for only $300 and am only have my 2 sisters are my MOH/bridesmaid. My mother is making the centerpieces/favors and my dad agreed to pay for the meals.

My point is: if you are willing to do the work and the research (it’s your wedding day!!!) you will find much more affordable options than what you mentioned above. I would even be willing to help you!!

Add: I just read your worry about a photographer. I am only paying $300 for my sister’s friend to do the photography. She minored in photography in college and I have seen her portfolio which I love. You should look for college students/recent grads who are looking to put a portfolio together and will do your wedding for very cheap. (try craigslist or contact a local university)


iloveweddings June 2, 2012 at 8:31 am

OK….hmmm…How in the world will a small city hall wedding and dinner for 50 people cost you $6K?? Even if you have a dinner for $50/per person….that is only $2500….certainly not $6K.

I would still opt for the city hall wedding and a private dinner reception. I think you could do this for much less than $6K.


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