Alternative Weddings Boom in Poor EconomyThe current economic recession has put a damper on the traditional wedding ceremony, with its lavish reception, catering, décor, and wedding favors, forcing many couples to seek creatively frugal alternatives to tying the knot. And it does not end with modern wedding vows. In a recent blog entry we discussed the growing popularity of retail weddings, in which couples choose their favorite store or retail outlet for the big event, allowing them to take advantage of free, store-supplied decorations that also create a unique, meaningful context for the ceremony. Increasingly, weddings are being performed in the most unlikely of settings.

As an example of the innovative ways in which couples are shaving dollars off their wedding expenses, Rachel Sifuientes and her groom held their contemporary wedding ceremony in a bowling alley, where they danced down one of the aisles to say their vows. The event did not turn out to be as tacky as Sifuentes feared, however. The bride and groom had an elegant Italian buffet set up for their seventy wedding guests they invited only their closest friends and family members. In addition, rather than carry expensive bouquets, the women waved long streamers to usher the couple onward, and rather than hire a DJ to play music, they relied on an iPod hooked up to a set of speakers. Normally brides spend around $3000 for the wedding gown of their dreams, but Sifuentes purchased a chic, deep-blue silk gown at discount. Altogether, the price-tag came to $5,000.

According to wedding planners and wedding experts, there are myriad ways in which young couples can cut costs for this (ideally) once-in-a-lifetime event. Some of these include reducing the number of wedding guests as Sifuentes did to friends and relatives who are closest to the bride and groom. Couples can also save money by holding their ceremony in public venues, such as museums, libraries, and city parks, rather than booking lavish banquet halls or hotel ballrooms. Simplifying the wedding feast also helps rather than serve a traditional five-course meal replete with fine china, one bride in Maine had a baked potato bar set up. Others save money on wedding supplies by substituting Rice Krispies treats and chocolate chip cookies for gourmet wedding cakes. Some items can be omitted entirely for example, why give away fine china vases as wedding favours, or any wedding favours at all? The net effect, interestingly, is a simpler, more intimate reception focussed on the celebration itself rather than the material trappings which characterize more profligate weddings.

Inexpensive weddings need not be seen at all as "cheap" in fact, wise planning and a focus on quality over quantity may simply enhance the overall elegance of the occasion. Jennifer Crawford of Huntington Beach, California, managed to incorporate the chic and fashionable into her ceremony by hiring a seamstress to re-create a $2,800 designer wedding gown; Crawford's replica cost her only $650. Ironically, not only was it cheaper it was cheaper and hand-crafted. Of course, it always saves to have friends and family officiate a wedding for a lower fee than the traditionally ordained minister, priest, or rabbi, and yet it is friends and family who make a truly special contribution to the ceremony. (And churches such as Universal Life Church Monastery offer free online ordination.) So, perhaps the "poor man's wedding" proves to be a more elegant, "boutique-style" affair than its more frivolous counterpart.

Have you ever performed or attended an alternative modern wedding ceremony which reflected a quirky, creative use of resources? Or do you have some creative wedding ideas of your own which you believe would be great innovations on traditional marriage? Feel free to share your stories and ideas about how to make this special occasion both wallet-friendly and elegantly refined.




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