Kierstin said "I Do" over seven years ago in front of her local judge. It was actually pretty romantic.
When I got engaged after a whirlwind romance a decade ago, my mom was like, "Who were you even dating? Have I met him?" Everyone I worked with used the same voice to approach me that you would use on a kindergartner who steps out of the bathroom to proudly reveal her new DIY haircut.
Despite the weirdness we'd brought on ourselves, my future husband and I tried to plan our wedding, but after we each took turns freaking out and dropped out of pre-marital counseling, we did the only thing that made sense—no, we didn't break up; we pranced on down to the county courthouse and got ourselves some legal paperwork to sign! Voila, with no money to our name, no home to call our own, and a hand-me-down Impala that slid through icy intersections, we were married!
That first year was just one long learning curve, but six years later, it's actually working out pretty well. We got rid of that Impala, so things are basically perfect now. I have no regrets, including the decision to forego the big wedding and just get married so we could start our life together.
That's not to say that each time a wedding invite lands in our mailbox these days I don't gaze at the dates, the details, and the pretty calligraphy and feel a brief moment of longing for what I never had—I do . . . but then I remember all that I avoided.
Indeed, weddings are wonderful things if they're your thing. But for those of us on the fence about such ordeals, here are ten good reasons not to have a wedding.
10 Reasons Not to Have a Traditional Wedding (and Elope Instead!)
- They're super expensive!
- You're still getting to know each other's families, and planning a wedding together might be awkward.
- Likewise, you might know each other's families a little too well and don't want to go through the stress of planning a wedding with them.
- You're in a rush to get married.
- You have a big life event coming up or you're really busy with another obligation that takes precedence over planning a wedding.
- You get overwhelmed easily.
- You're in college or about to buy a house (two really expensive things!)
- You don't want to put your friends through the financial/time suck of being in your wedding party.
- You hate the idea of planning a wedding and would just rather head to the courthouse.
- Your dream wedding is so far out of reach, it just isn't even worth it.
1. They're Crazy Expensive
It turns out that getting married in a barn and sipping wine out of mason jars is getting pretty darn costly these days with the national average coming in just under a whopping $34,000—and that doesn't even include the honeymoon.
I'll admit, there are legit ways to cut costs on your big day, like planning the wedding yourself, hiring a friend to take your photos for a discount and skipping that per-plate cost with an after-dinner soiree and cash bar. But what do you do when even the most frugally planned wedding budget starts to balloon out of control? Ditch the to-do and run down to your local courthouse, of course!
Because even with the cheapest, smallest get-together, at the bare minimum you're still going to have to find (and likely pay for) seating for the ceremony and reception, tables, something to feed your guests, beverages, tableware, glassware and linens, some form of climate control, outfits and an officiator. And that stuff adds up. Choose to DIY the whole thing and you'll save money sure, but your sanity and that of all of the friends and family who graciously extol their services and time will be on the line.
2. You Don't Know Each Other's Families Very Well
I'll venture to guess that for most couples heading to the altar, their families, for better or for worse, are an intricate and familiar facet in their day-to-day. But if you're me and you decide to run off with that guy you met in the basement of a church and dated for only three months before deciding that your mutual affliction of deep neurosis and love for all things nature-y (as long as it doesn't involve hiking) is enough to commit to a lifetime together, then there's not a whole ton of time to meet the parents, you know?
I'm not condoning this type of spontaneous betrothal but I'm saying it happens and planning a wedding that includes families you barely know is super weird. I tried. It didn't work. It might be enough to drive you to the courthouse too.
3. You Know Each Other's Families a Little Too Well
Then there's the alternative. If you two have been trading love notes since the ninth grade and spent every single weekend of each summer since partying at yet another family reunion, getting hitched at a government office desk may just be your happy ending.
You won't have to deal with his mom's love for all things taffeta just because she's footing the bill and you won't have to invite your cousin Jimmy who spent an entire Christmas dinner mercilessly picking apart your beloved's political ideals.
Win, win, win!
4. You're in a Rush
I know the old adage goes something like "Don't be an idiot and rush into marriage" but sometimes there's some really good reasons to get to the other side of that marriage certificate as quickly as possible, especially when it's with someone you already know you want to commit to.
Getting hitched quicker (when you already planned on it anyway) to receive employer-sponsored benefits like health insurance is one reason some couples skip the time it takes to plan a wedding and head straight to the courthouse.
5. You Have a Big Life Event Approaching or Big Obligations at Home
In the perfect Hallmark-style wedding-planning-fantasy, you'd have all the time and money in the world to take dainty bites out of a dozen berry-stuffed cake samples, travel to NYC to try on gowns with your nearest and dearest and take two weeks off to explore ideal venues.
As you probably already know, life doesn't happen in neat little 90 second montages and some of us already have kids at home to care for, a baby on the way, a cross-country move on the horizon or the last year of grad school to wrap up. If skipping out on the wedding and just getting married won't cause either of you to resent one of these responsibilities, and will actually cause you a huge amount of relief, then not having a wedding might be the right path for you.
6. One or Both of You Gets Overwhelmed Easily
Raise your hand if large crowds of people, your birthday and getting your picture taken overwhelm you.
As beautiful as a lush country wedding seemed from the pictures on Pinterest, the reality of planning those details, coming up with the money and then having to stand in front of a church full of people I only half know really freaked me out. Even typing it raises my blood pressure a bit.
If you or your partner or both of you are similarly overstimulated by big events or having all eyes on you and even a tiny get-together feels like too much, there's nothing more chill than walking into the courthouse, signing your names a few times and walking out with an official marriage certificate (because believe it or not that's the only legally binding aspect of a wedding ceremony - the part where you sign a piece of paper, everything else is just for fun). Whoohooo!
7. You're in College or About to Buy a House
Two things in my own life that I've found require a lot of resources, especially finances and time are getting an education and purchasing a home. If you're in the middle of either of these long-term investments and you're cringing at the thought of adding a wedding on top of it all, then stop!
Weddings aren't synonymous with marriage and while getting married is an investment in your future, the wedding isn't. It actually could shove you into debt and make getting your degree and buying a house take longer.
8. You Value Your Friendships
When you select your bridal party, you do so with the intention of honoring those closest to you with the very special role of fawning over you and spending a lot of money on you for the months leading up to your wedding. However, as amazing as this privilege may seem at first, it can cause a lot of stress on you, your friends and your subsequent friendships.
If you can't see having a wedding without a bridal party and you also can't see putting your friends through the stress of being in your bridal party then maybe you should skip the traditional wedding.
9. You Hate Planning Stuff
I actually love planning stuff - from my own baby shower to my kids' little family-only birthday parties, right down to what we're eating for dinner each night, planning is my thing. My husband, on the other hand, would rather eat spiders, I'm pretty sure.
If you too are over there eyeing creepy crawlies over seating arrangements and you can't afford a wedding planner, why make yourself miserable?
10. Your Dream Wedding Is Unattainable
Truth be told, if I'd had like fifty grand to drop on an intimate yet extravagant wedding I probably would have done it. I would've sacrificed some sanity to wear that floor-length gown, dance to a live band and eat fancy food with my favorite people all while being photographed editorial style. The thing is, at the time I was ready to get married I couldn't afford that. That was so, so (and still is) out of my reach and anything less just didn't seem worth the effort to me.
Maybe that seems bratty but I don't see it that way. Committing to this person who I just desperately wanted to start my life with was more important to me than settling for a wedding that wasn't really my style just because that's what you're supposed to do to avoid getting the side-eye from society.
And you know, maybe it's that attitude that helped me pick the perfect partner for my life and that gave me the confidence to go forth with him in an unconventional way. As the years have gone by and our family has grown I wouldn't take back the way we got married.
So with that, I'll say - weddings can be fun, and there's certainly value in celebrating life's biggest moments, but if you've found the one that makes your heart sing and through all of the noise you know that what you really want is just to be theirs until the end of time, a wedding, or not having a wedding at all isn't going to change that.
Do You Want to Get Married at the Courthouse?
Have I totally sold you on the idea of skipping the big to-do and heading to the courthouse instead? Here's how to do it!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Kierstin Gunsberg
Jess B from United States on June 01, 2019:
Oh, and I did a courthouse wedding too.....best $100 (for the license) I ever spent! Lol! ;)
Jess B from United States on June 01, 2019:
An article after my own heart Kiersten! I wrote about this very thing as well and I was terrified I may get backlash because weddings are SO popular and SO much importance is place on them. The comments have been nothing by encouraging (phew!). I would love to include a link to this article in mine https://holidappy.com/party-planning/Why-You-Shoul... . Keep up the great work, I love your stuff!
Kierstin Gunsberg (author) from Traverse City, Michigan on June 10, 2018:
Oh, congratulations to you, Poppy! Yes, I agree, you need to have the wedding that fits your budget and your own vision, whether that's skipping a wedding altogether or having one but not letting others influence how you go about it. Either way, I hope you have a magical wedding day!
Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on June 09, 2018:
I recently got engaged. I like and appreciate all the truths in this article. I think meeting halfway is good - a small wedding somewhere not too expensive. I've got my eye on Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye, Scotland - at only £3,000 for a wedding, it's a steal compared to the $30,000 you mentioned.
In the end, what matters is the marriage, not the wedding itself. Good article, well done!