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How we saved with a courthouse wedding – recommendations & regrets

How we saved with a courthouse wedding - recommendations & regrets

I wanted a rustic wedding. You know the ones you see outdoors with the mismatched wooden chairs? We planned to have a drink station with a selected range of infused fruit waters for our 80 guests. The vegan buffet at the reception would be offered on platters down the middle of two long timber tables. Instead of one wedding cake, we wanted a smaller cake for the two of us and a dessert table for the guests.

I had eagerly put together my own scrapbook of dresses and invitation designs. Needless to say, the Pinterest pinning was in overdrive and I was getting excited.

Carlos and I started dating back in 2009. We were engaged early 2015 and aimed to wed November 2016. We had contacted a caterer to organise our buffet menu and started discussing quotes with photographers and florists, in early January. I had waited for this moment for what seemed like forever. But how our wedding turned out, was far from what we had initially imagined.

2016 was an unfortunate year for us financially and emotionally. A series of terrible events began when Carlos lost his mother at the end of January. Soon after I was hospitalised and diagnosed with autoimmune disease. You can read the details of my autoimmune journey here.

With funeral costs and my own hospitalisation/specialist expenses, we no longer had enough money saved to cover the wedding. We were at a crossroads. Do we go ahead and wed inexpensively or do we wait until we can save enough to have that dream wedding?

At the time my employment was unstable due to my health issues. My doctors informed me of the complications that may arise when trying to conceive because of my autoimmune diseases. It was then, that we decided we wanted to be able to save money for IVF if required down the track. And that was how we arrived at our ultimate decision. We would go ahead with a registry/courthouse marriage, having only a handful of close family attend. We decided not to financially burden ourselves earlier in the marriage and instead have any remaining savings go toward building our future.

Just recently we celebrated our first wedding anniversary. In hindsight, I have only a few regrets. If you are looking at organising a civil ceremony marriage, here are a few regrets and recommendations I’d like to share with you.



Regret #1 – Hire a photographer. Or at least have a friend come along with a camera to take decent photos. The only wedding photos I have were taken by my father, who, bless him, doesn’t have the steadiest hand. They were captured on a mobile phone and most of them turned out blurry, out of focus or were irrelevant. It’s my biggest regret because I have nothing to show for the actual wedding day. After the wedding, we decided that we would have a few professional photos taken once we could afford it.
 Here are some of the “nicer” photos of the day. You can see why we regret not having someone allocated to taking photos of the ceremony.

How we saved with a courthouse wedding - recommendations & regrets3

Regret #2 – Capture your wedding on video. If you don’t have a camcorder this can be taken on a cell phone. My father, once again, was the only one to capture our wedding on video. The quality wasn’t the best and he wasn’t able to capture the entire ceremony but I was just glad that we had something to watch/share with others in future. Even if you do not have a designated person to capture the moment, I would suggest bringing along a tripod for your cell phone and setting it up at the start of the ceremony.

Regret #3 – Have an explanation ready for those that were not invited. When we finally told the rest of our family and friends that we were married, not everyone was pleased. And we weren’t ready to give them an explanation as to why they weren’t invited. It’s difficult to explain they were not invited simply because we could not afford to spend too much on having them join us. When deciding on your attendees don’t be worried about upsetting anyone. There will always be that one person who is overly offended that they didn’t get to come! It’s your wedding day. Just have a general explanation as to why you could not invite everyone you wanted.



Recommendation #1 – You can still feel amazing. On the morning of our wedding, Carlos, my sister and brother (as our bridesmaid/groomsman) and I enjoyed a breakfast together. After this, my sister and I visited a salon to have our hair curled. Let the hairdresser know you’re attending a wedding but don’t tell them it’s your wedding. I’ve heard countless stories of people being overcharged with “wedding rates”. Also, make sure to book an appointment ahead of time. Luckily, the hairdresser we visited was able to fit us in last minute.
To save money, I decided to do my own makeup on the day, but there are beauticians that offer hair and makeup packages. Check out their portfolio (if they have one online) beforehand and bring in a photo of your ideal makeup to show them as a guide.

Recommendation #2 – Book a restaurant. Instead of having a reception, we travelled to a local Thai restaurant. We ordered appetisers for the table and then everyone ordered an individual meal. We selected this location as it was sentimental to us. When Carlos and I first became engaged, we went out to celebrate at that exact Thai restaurant. On our first anniversary, we went back and enjoyed another meal together.

Recommendation #3 – Order a cake to celebrate. We purchased a mango mouse sponge cake for $50. It was more than enough for the 9 of us. When we arrived, we asked the restaurant to place it in their fridge until the end of the meal. They assumed we were celebrating a birthday and when they brought it out, had placed sparklers on top. We had a great laugh and went along with it. Just be sure to check there are no extra costs associated with the restaurant holding/serving your cake.

Recommendation #4 – Have fun dressing up. You may not be able to have your dream dress, but that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a less expensive alternative and still feel great. Having just purchased a suit for the funeral, Carlos decided to reuse this and only buy a new shirt for $50. I went ahead and purchased a white lace dress online for $80 and splurged on a pair of $75 heels. I purchased both from The Iconic and they can be seen below.

In total, we spent the following on our courthouse ceremony and wedding celebration.

How we saved with a courthouse wedding - recommendations & regrets4

Compared to most weddings these days, I’d say that was a bargain!

The whole wedding experience matters. It’s something you’ll remember forever – so make sure you’re able to find inexpensive ways to make the day special (like we did with visiting the same restaurant we celebrated our engagement).

There are times when I scroll through my social media feed and find myself briefly lingering on a friend’s wedding photos. The thought crosses my mind that I wished I could have experienced that too but it doesn’t last long.

At the end of the day, I really just wanted to spend the rest of my life with Carlos and I’m happy that we went ahead with the inexpensive alternative. The size of the wedding does not predict the longevity of the marriage.

I hope these recommendations help you plan your wedding. How are you planning to make your registry/courthouse wedding day special?


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