COVID-19 has forced couples to reevaluate their priorities and for many, has affected how they're spending their money—particularly regarding their wedding. Many couples scratched plans for elaborate weddings to host micro-ceremonies in someone's backyard or an elopement in a park. While it wasn't what they originally wanted to do, there was an unexpected benefit: Many saved thousands of dollars even once cancellation fees were paid.
We wanted to find out what couples who canceled their large weddings are doing with the funds they saved. Are they paying off debt or giving themselves a financial cushion for the future? Are they splurging on a dream vacation or using it as a down payment on their first home?
We talked to five brides about how they made their decisions and how their priorities have changed during COVID. They also provided much-needed advice for couples contemplating similar decisions. Here is what they had to say.
"We now have a beautiful home."
Name: Cheyenne Padgett
The original plan: "My wedding was supposed to be in Boca Raton at The Addison, a historic estate, with over 100 guests in May 2020. We were planning to spend around $40,000."
What happened instead: "We had a small wedding at an Airbnb in Virginia with our closest family last July. We were super lucky that some of our vendors including our florist and photographer were able to work with us to provide services all the way in Virginia when they are based in Boca. Still, it was less than half the cost of our original wedding."
How did you spend your savings? "We ended up spending the money on a downpayment for our new home in Raleigh, North Carolina as well as a one-year anniversary party coming up this year where we can celebrate with those who were unable to attend our big day."
How did you make your decision? "For so long I refused to move it until I was forced. Then things kept getting worse, and we knew our wedding would need to be completely scaled back. Completely canceling and postponing for another year was not an option for us as we had already been engaged for two years, and we were done waiting."
We had a beautiful intimate event I never knew I wanted.
Any advice for other couples? "Honestly, the wedding we ended up pulling off was even better than the big one would have been and was less than half the cost. We had a beautiful intimate event I never knew I wanted. We now own a beautiful home and still get to celebrate with friends and family. My only regret is that I didn't decide to do things this way from the get-go."
"We don't have that debt looming over our head."
Name: Jessica Green
The original plan: "We were supposed to have a big wedding on June 14, 2020, at a downtown courtyard venue in Wilmington, North Carolina. It was very pretty and very pricey! We were going to spend $25,000 to $30,000."
What happened instead: "We ended up eloping in Charleston and doing formal wedding pictures in Pawley's Island. The upside to eloping and then having a formal photoshoot was definitely the cost of it all! Between the two events, we ended up spending around $3000 which was an officiant, two different photographers, our formal wedding attire, a night in the fanciest of hotels, and a big-budget meal between the two of us."
How did you make your decision? "The constantly changing dates and the anxiety that came with it were what ultimately led to the cancellation of the wedding. With the pandemic, the vision of my wedding day slipped away and was unrecognizable. Waiting just became stress so canceling was best for us."
How did you spend your savings? "We would likely have been in debt for the money or my parents would have footed most of the bill for it. Thankfully, not spending the money on the wedding allowed for us to not have that debt looming over our head during our first year of marriage so we can get straight to some of our life goals like starting a family."
Any advice? "Weddings are beautiful, but couples can still have something equally as magical whether just a photoshoot in their formal attire, an elopement, or a micro wedding. At the end of the day, the marriage is more important."
"We went to town on making a little love nest."
Name: Emily Eden
The original plan: "We were supposed to get married at Danesfield House in the United Kingdom where George Clooney got married. We had a budget of $40,000."
What happened instead: "We had a nine-person wedding in Central Park in September. It was followed by a little reception on a Park Avenue terrace."
How did you make your decision? "We realized we were putting unnecessary stress on ourselves waiting for things to play out. We also knew that if we postponed the celebration we could use some of this money to upgrade our standard of living."
How did you spend your savings? "We moved to a stunning two-bedroom, way bigger than our small one-bed walk-up on the Upper West Side, and really went to town on making a little love nest. For me, that meant having fun playing interior designer. For him, it was a big TV to watch sports on. We have saved the rest of the money for our future. We want to have an amazing travel adventure probably to the Galapagos."
All that really matters is being married to the person you love.
Any advice for couples? "All that really matters is being married to the person you love. You can always celebrate again when the time is right and the world is safe. And even if that celebration doesn't happen I still wake up married to the man I love."
"We saved a ton of money."
Name: Leslie Uresti
The original plan: "My original wedding was supposed to be on January 15, 2021, on the top of a barbecue restaurant in downtown San Antonio. We were planning on spending around $20,000."
What happened instead: "Our wedding venue closed down in the middle of August, so we ended up having a 20-person wedding at another restaurant on the river walk. We had a photographer, officiant, violinist, photographer, and decorations, and we still saved about $12,000."
How did you spend your savings? "We saved a ton of money. Right now it is in our savings, but we hope to buy a new house in San Antonio. We want a house with a larger backyard that is closer to work."
Do you have any regrets? "I am so glad that we downgraded to a 20 person wedding. It was such a relaxing day. It was intimate and only our nearest and dearest were there. My family and friends who were not invited came to Zoom, and they loved it."
"We splurged on a family photoshoot."
Name: Sara Santos
The original plan: "Our original wedding was supposed to be on October 13, 2020, in my hometown of Mystic, CT. It was originally expected to be just under $20,000, and we were planning on a year-long engagement to spread out the costs."
What happened instead: "We ended up eloping on August 6, 2020, in Congaree National Park, an old forest in South Carolina. We had a photographer/videographer capture our special day, and we got an 8-inch cake from our local bakery."
How did you spend your savings? "A portion of our money is unfortunately locked up in the contracts that we signed for our original wedding, including the venue and our photographer. Instead of seeing that as a sunk cost, we will be having a very small family party this year at our venue and having the photographer take family pictures to utilize those deposits. We are also looking to close on a house that is absolutely perfect for us this summer. It has a big garden, an airy wraparound porch, and lots of room for a future family. We have moved so many times, we are just so excited to have some stability and put down some roots. Eloping brought this dream a little bit closer for us."
How did you make your decision? "Doug and I had been together for 7 years and we didn’t want to wait any longer. Life is just too short, and big events like a pandemic certainly underscore that."
Any advice? "I would encourage other couples contemplating the same thing to step back and contemplate what you really want to look back on your wedding and remember, and do not compromise on that vision. Sometimes you don’t realize the large portion of wedding planning that centers around accommodating the expectations of others."