13 Ideas to Keep Your Wedding As Simple As Possible

“My fiance and I are having a little disagreement. What I want is a big church wedding with bridesmaids and flowers and a no-expense-spared reception; what he wants is to break off our engagement.” – Sally Poplin

By Leo Babauta

I’m getting married at the end of this week! Actually, I’m getting re-married — my wife and I have been married for awhile now, but the first time was a super small civil wedding with no reception (we just went to a restaurant). This time we’re getting married in our church, with a bigger reception (300 people).

And while it’s a fairly large wedding, my wife and I have tried our best to keep this wedding as simple as possible. I’d like to share some of the things I’ve been learning for those of you who might be getting married in the future, and who don’t want a big complicated affair.

But I need to start by saying this: if you want a fairly traditional wedding, with the wedding dress and bridesmaids and a reception and all of that, there’s no such thing as a really simple wedding. A wedding can be simple, but only if you and your bride and a few friends go to the court and get married and go to dinner afterward (that’s what we did the first time, essentially). What we’re talking about in this post is the more complicated, traditional wedding, but with some traditions thrown out to keep things a bit simpler.

Even with our wedding plans a bit simplified, we’re still feeling the pressures of the wedding preparations, although things are definitely much easier than they could have been. Here are some ideas to take some of the stress off your wedding:

  1. Keep the guest list small. If you can pull this one step off, the cost for just about everything else will go down, and everything will be fairly simple in comparison. My wife and I weren’t able to pull it off. Well, in a way, we were — we both have extensive families, and on Guam, it’s custom to invite everyone (not only cousins but second and third and fourth cousins, and all the aunts and uncles and grandparents and children at each level). But we limited the guest list to just the first cousins of our parents, and that was an accomplishment. We added just a few close friends, when we could have invited dozens and dozens more. So we ended up with a list of 300 instead of 600, when I would have liked it to be closer to 150.
  2. Keep the menu simple. The biggest cost for us has been food, but we were able to keep it to a reasonable level because we didn’t go for an extravagant, fancy dinner. We didn’t choose a large amount of dishes and desserts either. We chose a few key dishes, all of them simple, and left it at that. While we would like people to enjoy the food, they are not coming there to have a fancy meal — they’ll be there simply to celebrate our marriage and enjoy our company. If that’s not enough for them, it’s not my problem.
  3. Have it catered. When it comes to food, you can go two ways — simple in terms of how much trouble it’ll be (go with a caterer) or simple in terms of costs (have family prepare food). On Guam, it’s customary for family to prepare the food, and we have lots of family that was willing to help. It would have saved us money. But we didn’t want to go through all that trouble — it’s a major hassle — so we went with simple, and we’re happy with that. This way, family can just get dressed and show up and enjoy the celebration.
  4. Get help, and delegate. While we saved our family from having to cook, we are asking for help from a few friends and family. Instead of trying to do all the preparations on our own, others are being enlisted. And trust me, they love to help. There are a lot of little details that need to be taken care of, and if you try to do everything yourself, you’ll be running around like crazy. Instead, allow others to help out, delegate certain tasks, and when they do them, check them off your list. It makes life a lot easier.
  5. Go with the easiest attire. For me and the other guys in our wedding party (my three sons, the father of the bride, and my best man), we chose the simplest attire in terms of how much work it’ll take, and that’s a rented tuxedo. Sure, we could have gone simpler, but we would have had to buy the suits, and that’s a lot of trouble trying to shop for attire that’ll fit all of us. Tuxedos are hassle free. For the girls, we had a cheap dressmaker (from a hole-in-the-wall shop) create some simple dresses for the little girls, then bought some very simple dresses (I mean really simple – like beach dresses) for the bridesmaids. The bride, of course, had a nice dress, but it was fairly inexpensive, with a pretty and classic look.
  6. Forget fancy invitations. Traditional wedding invitations have a couple different envelopes, tissue paper, some other paper, and that’s all before you even get to the invitation itself. It’s way too much trouble and too expensive for my tastes. So we printed our invitations ourselves, on our printer, on stock stationary we got at an office supply store. We didn’t even put them in envelopes or address them. We just printed two invitations per 8.5×11″ sheet of paper, cut the paper in half, and passed out the invitations like that. And instead of mailing them, we had family pass them out — we live on a small island, so there’s not a lot of driving involved.
  7. Don’t try to impress. This is key — if you try to impress people with your fancy wedding, you’ll go to a lot of trouble and expense. It’s really not worth it. Everyone has been to fancy weddings, and while they’re nice, they last for one day and they put you deeply in debt. We decided we’d rather stay out of debt, minimize our stress levels, and spend some of the money on our honeymoon. It really doesn’t matter to the guests anyway — like I said, they’re just there to celebrate your wedding, and don’t really care if you don’t go all out. If they do, that’s their problem.
  8. Keep the decorations simple. We’re going to have a few floral arrangements, some candles, and that’s it. Very minimal, very little trouble, very little expense.
  9. Simple favors. We’re going to have some traditional Guam-style candy (coconut candy), put in little inexpensive favor boxes. And that’s all.
  10. Simple entertainment. We’ll have some traditional island-style cultural dancers, an acoustic musical group, and that’s all.
  11. Have a coordinator. This doesn’t have to be a fancy wedding coordinator, but can simply be a family member who you trust to run things according to your plan. If you have someone else taking care of all the details on the day of the wedding yourself, you don’t have to worry about it, and can relax and enjoy the festivities.
  12. Hold it early in the day. Our church ceremony will take place at 9:00 a.m., and the reception will start at 11:00 a.m., so it’s a lunch buffet. This minimizes costs, and allows us to finish early and go to our hotel room afterward before we’re completely exhausted. Plus, it’s on a weekday (Friday), so many people will have to go back to work after lunch, meaning the party won’t last that long and there won’t be any drinking. That keeps things even simpler.

I’d like to hear from the rest of you — what are your ideas to keep a wedding simple?

“I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.” – Rita Rudner