How to have the perfect wedding for under $1000


Now that celebrities like reality TV host RuPaul, actress Alison Brie and sitcom star Ilana Glazer have all gotten married in discreet, unfussy ceremonies in the early part of 2017, the trend is clear: Fancy weddings are out. Frugality is in.

At a time when the average wedding costs over $25,000 and couples typically spend between $20,000 and $33,000, rebellions are breaking out across the country from New York and Hollywood to Utah. Couples' strategies include forgoing flowers (who remembers your roses anyway?), streamlining guest-lists and using venues, usually the biggest ticket wedding item, that are already available and free.

Celebs as well as civilians like Emily Hardman, who wrote in The New York Times about planning her wedding in under a week, are demonstrating that you don't need to break the bank to enjoy your special day. Hardman writes that she had decided long before that "modern weddings were unnecessarily burdensome," and she decided to keep the cost of hers under $5,000.

Two men that CNBC spoke to managed to do her one better: Both CNBC Senior Video Producer Brandon Ancil of New York, NY, and Public Defender Joshua Michtom of Hartford, Conn., managed to get married in the past six months for less than $1,000 each. Both are thrilled with the results.

Ancil, who married his long-time partner Eric at the end of 2016, set a spending goal of $150. He ended up spending closer to $500. His biggest obstacle: "I forgot transportation costs. But, yay, mass transit!" He and his then-boyfriend rode the subway downtown and made it to the courthouse on time.

Beyond train fare, their costs included $35 for a license, $25 for the marriage fee and under $50 for the rings, which they bought online.

Looking back at his frugal wedding, Ancil says, "I feel great. I couldn't have imagined a more perfect scenario. The splurge I was most happy about: The food." After tying the knot, he and his husband hosted a post-ceremony lunch for their wedding party at a restaurant for $106.

Wedding lunch in Chinatown

"I was raised with a simple principle about planning events," he says. "Give everyone a task: Make something, bring something or perform something. The core principle being that everyone needs to feel like if they didn't attend, this event would not have been the same. I definitely believe that. And, bonus, it keeps it cheap!"

Although he didn't go in for a grand reception, this June, Ancil and his new husband will have a celebratory pool party. "Our friends in Nashville are throwing a get-together at their house," he says. "Price: free. Flight there: $544.40. That's it!"

People reveal to their partners how much they'd spend on a wedding
People reveal to their partners how much they'd spend on a wedding

Michtom also kept his spending under four figures, in large part by eschewing a traditional venue, and has no regrets. His total, he tells CNBC, comes to about $600: $200 for the rings and, for the rest, "about $400, including the cost of the marriage license, but excluding the cost of a new dress shirt for me and a new dress for Constanza [his now wife] since those are things we'll use again." The shirt cost him $15 and the dress cost her $100.

"We weren't really focused on hitting a particular number so much as making the wedding feel a certain way," he says. "We were both married before and in both instances, had larger parties — somewhat larger in her case, a lot larger in my case. This time, we wanted to get married at home, to have only a few close friends and family members, and generally not to have to worry about a lot of logistics so we could just enjoy each other and the people closest to us."

For the ceremony, Michtom says, "We have a good friend who's a Justice of the Peace and insisted on doing the ceremony for free [though] we offered to pay him."

And for the reception afterwards back in his Hartford apartment, Michtom says, they "ordered a big tray of jerk chicken from a Jamaican spot and a big tray of brisket from a barbecue spot, got a free keg as a gift from friends who own a brewery, bought some wine, and told guests to bring booze and sides."

Afterwards the newlyweds visited family overseas for their honeymoon. Other than airfare, Michtom says, "everything was free!" And, reflecting on the whole experience, he says he's glad he went the minimalist route.

"It was really fun, and we actually ended up with so much extra food and booze that after most of the guests went home, we posted on Facebook that whoever was in the neighborhood should come over for an after-party," he says. "Even after that, I ended up eating jerk chicken for lunch every day for two weeks."

Three couples reveal their financial plans for the future
Three couples reveal their financial plans for the future