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  • How about,

    How about, "My big fat, cheap wedding."

    Laurie Campbell

    As I write these words, a glorious golden sun is setting over Ontario’s horizon. The brilliant orb is slipping into a pale orange mist beneath big, baby blue skies that are fading into the beautiful navy of night. A slight breeze brings whispers from nearby trees and a flower garden where a few birds chatter earnestly among glowing violet-blue irises.

    It’s 24 degrees Centigrade (about 75 degrees Fahrenheit) in my hometown of Toronto this late holiday weekend in May, and I’m thinking it’s the perfect time of year for a wedding.

    Well, as a matter of fact, during an outing this afternoon, I caught a glimpse of just such an event - a lavish affair in one of Toronto’s well-heeled suburbs. I saw a yard full of stunning dresses and tuxedos, truckloads of flowers, gleaming stretch limos, and scores of guests lapping up pricey champagne beneath yellow tents on lawns that seemed to reach all the way to Bay Street.

    How lovely, I thought, until as usual my mind turned to the question of what a pretty penny the whole affair must have cost.

    Not that I’m against lavish weddings, you understand. In no way will I ever badmouth a big, beautiful, expensive wedding – unless, of course, the folks who are holding it are breaking the bank to do so, going deeply into debt for a celebration that will be remembered not only for its splendour, but for the anxiety that results from the big bills hidden behind all those bottles of Dom Pérignon.

    Should one day of pleasure cost anyone months or even years of financial misery? I think not.

    I never hesitate to tell young couples that if they and/or their parents can not comfortably fund a lavish wedding, then don’t do it. With a little help from Mother Nature, you can stage a big, fat cheap wedding that can be just as lovely and wonderful as anything, say, a successful hedge fund manager can afford to stage for his spoiled daughter.

    Consider my above description of this most glorious day in May. That’s where any big, fat cheap ceremony can start when wedding season gets up and running and keeps going full throttle through to early autumn.

    An economical wedding starts with the glorious outdoors and a simple, natural location that can cost you nothing, or next to nothing, and yet make for a terrific ceremony given all the lovely settings in Toronto – from the City’s many parks and waterfront areas, to the lush grounds of institutions like the University of Toronto. The setting could even easily be a flowery, well-treed backyard belonging to a friend or relative.

    The same holds true for any city, town or rural location. Just take a look around you. Nature is rich and generous. Some of the best things in life truly are free.

    If holding a lavish wedding is a status thing with you – a matter of impressing others and keeping up with the Joneses even when you can’t afford it – then I strongly suggest you call me and my staff for some counselling. You need an attitude adjustment about money and debt. Getting married is not a time for showing off wealth and possessions; it’s a time for showing off your love and showering friends and family with good cheer – none of which necessarily costs a cent. Besides, the Joneses, contrary to appearances, are going broke these days.

    Here are a few pointers for staging a big, fat cheap wedding that can be both fun and memorable.

    • BUDGET

    Start with a realistic budget and work from there. What can you afford? What can you do without? Above all, take what steps are necessary to avoid going into debt that you can not easily and quickly pay back. 

    • DRESS

    To avoid costs associated with expensive clothes, consider semi-formal or even informal dress for the ceremony. If you insist on going formal, think rentals, of course. For brides to be, check out vintage store offerings. One of the loveliest wedding dresses I have ever seen came from a vintage store, and cost only around $100.

    • FOOD

    Look at alternatives to the big evening, sit-down dinner. Think about more cost-friendly catering for an afternoon reception immediately following the ceremony, or a homemade buffet, or even a barbecue, depending on the location. Get family and friends to pitch in on the food. It’s what families and communities used to do as a matter of course not too many decades ago. Too bad we’ve lost touch with these great traditions. Also, do you really need a wedding cake costing $500 to $1,000? How about economical, home-made cup cakes?  One special one could feature a little bride and groom on the icing (go on, use your imagination and have some fun).


    Got a talented friend or a member of the family who’s into photography or videography? Get one of them to document the event.


    Booze wise, ask the reception venue if you can provide your own alcohol. Or try to make arrangements for a cash bar on the hard stuff and you provide only the beer and wine. Even better, make it BYOB in a beautiful backyard belonging to a friend or relative. You can decamp from the location of the ceremony to the yard - or hold the whole affair in the backyard if its pretty and large enough to comfortably accommodate all the guests.

    • DÉCOR

    For décor, be creative. Instead of a bunch of expensive flowers, how about just a few tasty flowers arranged beautifully among photos and memorabilia relating to the bride and groom to be? Anyway, my earlier point is to take advantage of a nice natural setting so that flowers are not a chief requisite.


    For entertainment, invite the participation of friends and family who are good musically, or engage somebody you know who can do a reasonable job as a DJ. Surely you can pull together a reasonably good sound system and song list by pooling resources with friends and family.

    Okay, so these are just a few pointers for a big, fat cheap wedding.

    Now, you curmudgeons out there might say to me: but Laurie, what if you make big plans for a wedding ceremony outside and the weather turns foul? Well, to that I can only say: you choose your location, kid, and you take your chances. Life is uncertain. But I’ll tell you something, I know of rained out weddings that ended up being some of the most fun-filled ceremonies ever.

    In the end, as always, the joy and pleasure we experience at a wedding just comes down to the people who attend it  – and to what the event symbolizes, a lifelong bond of love and friendship. It’s we who make or break the ceremony. The money and all the associated baubles are secondary.

    On that point I hope you agree. In fact, can you say it? “I do.”

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