Wedding bells: Saving money on the big day

Remembering his own wedding from ten years ago, Hamm says the little details — how expensive the cake was, or how much food you had catered — didn't matter. The people did. Hamm offers his perspective on saving money when you're planning a wedding.

Andy Clark/Reuters
Newlyweds Juanita and Neil Ross pose for wedding photos near the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta on June 22, 2013. Looking back on his own wedding, Hamm says he remembers the people he enjoyed the day with — parents, close friends, distant cousins — more than how much he spent.

Sarah and I have been married for ten years. As our tenth anniversary has passed by, we’ve had a few conversations where we’ve reminisced about our wedding day.

Mostly, our memories seem to revolve around people. We remembered the unexpected old friend who showed up out of the blue even though we hadn’t seen him in years. We remembered the mixing of our extended families. We remembered the tears of our mothers and the wonderful toasts of our friends. We remembered the aunts and uncles and cousins who quietly took care of lots of little details. We even remembered one of my old family friends who had a bit too much to drink and made a few loud passes at various women in the room.

What things haven’t come up in our remembrances? We haven’t talked about the relative quality of the wedding hall. We haven’t talked about whether or not we got the right photographer. We haven’t talked about whether we should have spent more on the food.

At the time of our wedding, we were pretty stressed out about these details. We wanted the perfect wedding and the perfect reception and the perfect food and so on.

Looking back on it now, all that really mattered then and all that really mattered now were the people. We had a couple hundred people we care about all gathered together in one place.

The place for the reception really didn’t matter. Is it big enough for all of the people who were coming? Is it clean? Aside from that, it’s just a room to gather the people you love.

The food we served really didn’t matter, either. It was good food, but we certainly didn’t need catering. Most of the food there was made by friends and family and it was perfectly good.

The photographer? We had one that was recommended by a friend, but we ended up with so many different digital shots and paper snapshots from friends and family that we honestly didn’t need one. That was ten years ago. Now? Ask a friend to do it.

The music? We had a DJ. Honestly, we could have just picked a four hour mix of songs out of our music collection, attached some speakers to a computer, and put up some lights and we would have been fine. Have one of your outgoing friends MC a few pieces if needed – in fact, that will likely be more memorable than having a random DJ do it.

The cake? Our cake was actually made by a family friend. It was cake. It was perfectly fine.

Over and over again, our memories come back to the people. All of those other elements? We scarcely remember them.

If you want a wedding and a wedding reception that’s going to provide you with a lifetime of lasting memories, make it all about the people you’ve invited. Ask them to help with the setup. Ask them to help with all kinds of little tasks.

The vast majority of them will be glad to do it. You can spend the day beforehand with all of those people setting up your big day. In fact, we did something akin to that, as we spent the day beforehand with lots of family and friends, putting up decorations and making food and setting up tables and chairs. What do I remember about that day? I remember being a bit stressed, but I mostly remember all of the people.

Don’t worry about the right food or the right cake or the right room or the right photographer or the right dress. If you’re going to worry about anything, just worry about getting everyone you know and love together in one place. If you have that, you can get married in a t-shirt and serve sandwiches for a meal.

In ten years, those little details won’t matter. What will matter are the memories of people and the relationships with them that you have that have lasted.

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