As the U.S. prepared for shutdowns due to the coronavirus outbreak, I was preparing for my May 16 wedding. Ultimately, we decided to postpone (more on that below), but we were still determined to do something special on our original date, which meant another dress, bouquet, and other expenses.
With our wedding day quickly approaching, our wedding budget was all dried up. We knew exactly what we owed to our vendors for our final payments, and we had a dollar amount set for remaining purchases. We factored in some wiggle room, but not a second wedding’s worth.
Planning Two Weddings While Sticking to a Budget
Here’s how we approached our postponement, impromptu minimony (mini ceremony), and the associated costs.
Step 1: Deciding to postpone
In early March, when the coronavirus had just been declared a pandemic, I was still hopeful that we’d see our 175-person wedding come to life.
Then on March 16, exactly two months before the big day, we had a call with our venue to discuss our options. A week later, we made the official decision to postpone.
It wasn’t an easy decision, nor is it for any of the thousands of other couples postponing or canceling their nuptials this year, but it was a necessary one. I remember saying to my fiance early on, “We can’t let this take away any more than it already has for us; we need to see this as an opportunity to celebrate even more.”
With that, we decided no matter what, we would still get legally married on our original date.
Step 2: Planning our minimony
A minimony, as defined by The Knot, is a commitment ceremony between you and your partner, and it can include up to 10 people — as long as you adhere to social distancing measures.
One of the most difficult parts of planning anything in a coronavirus world is uncertainty. How long will we be ordered to stay at home? When will life start returning to normal? What will that new normal look like?
For this reason, we began planning our minimony one step at a time. We started with the budget because more celebration means more spending. Especially with this postponement being sudden and outside our control, I had to make a concerted effort to avoid emotional spending because, honestly, I was feeling bad for us. We set a $500 budget to keep spending under control.
The next step was securing our marriage license. Court closures made this difficult, but a neighboring county in Pennsylvania created a pilot program for issuing marriage licenses remotely. We were able to get a self-uniting marriage license (not offered in all states), which meant we wouldn’t need an officiant — our signatures and those of two witnesses would be enough. It was the same price as a marriage license performed by an officiant: $80.
Now that we knew we could legally get married on our original date, we had to figure out where to have our minimony. It didn’t look like courthouses would reopen, so we decided to keep it simple yet meaningful — we would set up in our backyard. We bought our house together just a little more than a year ago, and all of my fiance’s yard work would finally get its showing. Only our immediate families would be invited, and our yard would allow everyone to keep a 6-foot distance.
Step 3: Decor — and accepting help
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed wedding planning and haven’t minded doing most of it on my own. But I knew it was time to accept any help offered and go out of my way to ask for it as well.
Our friends who got married last year offered us the arbor they used for their ceremony. My crafty sister wanted to make us a macrame backdrop. I also asked her to make cupcakes, as individual servings are very on-theme when your theme is social distancing. My grandma ordered me bridal gloves. My best friend (a nurse) ordered gloves and masks for our guests.
It was all hands on deck, and I’m thankful because it ended up saving us a lot on potential costs.
Here’s what we did buy:
- A dress: $100
- Flowers: $90
- 187-milliliter champagne bottles for a social distancing toast: $75
- Thank-you gift bags with hand sanitizer and a water bottle for each guest: $50
- A rug for us to stand on in front of the arbor: $50
- Zoom Pro account: $15
- Total (plus marriage license): $460
We paid for these expenses using credit cards, as we had done with as many of our wedding expenses as possible. Unless vendors charged a credit card processing fee, we used our rewards credit cards, which ultimately led to us getting our honeymoon flights for free (we’ll make it to Bali one day!). We paid off our credit card balances using money from our wedding savings account as we spent.
Although it was initially disappointing, a positive surprise came out of our unexpected postponement — we now had an additional four months to save. We decided to keep the recurring transfers to our wedding savings account scheduled until our new big day in September so we could make up for this $460 withdrawal and then some.
Ultimately, more time until your wedding day means you’ll be tempted to spend more money. Set a budget, stick to it, and keep your savings going if you can. That way, you can cover the costs of any added decor, special touches, wedding party gifts, or other details ahead of your new big day.
Step 4: Get married!
Without leaving our home, we got married, celebrated with our immediate families (and other family and friends virtually), took hundreds of beautiful photos, and had an absolutely perfect day. Although it’s not what we originally planned for, I can’t imagine starting married life any other way.
Editor’s note: Due to the pandemic, some of the general wedding planning advice we share may not be applicable or possible due to restrictions on events. Please adhere to all current regulations and stay safe and healthy! Get more pandemic wedding resources here.