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Why After A Year Of Wedding Planning I Am Opting For A City Hall Wedding

The first wedding venue I visited was 7 hours and 425 miles away from where I live. At the time, I was picturing a simple (but expensive) wedding on a beautiful but not kitschy ranch with 150 guests. The nearest hotel was 10 miles away, there was no cell service, and no Ubers. Oh, and it cost $20,000 to rent the venue.

I spent the following days visiting other wedding venues in Northern California, each one more beautiful and more expensive than the last. The tipping point was the $80,000 venue, with the average cost of a wedding there being $150,000. I think it was then that I realized I wasn’t going to enjoy wedding planning. While some parts are fun and exciting, most of it makes you painfully aware that the wedding industry is a billion-dollar business and it shows.

2021 was full of me coming up with wedding plans that never came to fruition. Either the venues were way out of our budget, they were booked until 2023, they were too far away, the list goes on. I had spreadsheets, my maid of honor had spreadsheets, and we each looked at hundreds of possible wedding locations until our eyes bled. At the end of 2021, we landed on a venue that was well within our budget. I should have been relieved–even excited. Instead, I was exhausted and hated wedding planning but part of me felt like “this is what you’re supposed to do”.

Our initial wedding plan was going to cost us around $25,000 and to keep that number low, we were sacrificing a lot on aesthetics. The venue we chose was a community center in Danville, CA that costs $1,500 to rent (a huge saving!). We liked it because it is surrounded by trees and the lawn would be the perfect place for a ceremony. The inside, however, was just a typical rec center with fluorescent lights, shiny hardwood floors, and maroon moulding. It reminded me of a basketball court but I tried to look past it. What it lacked in aesthetics we would have to make up with florals, drapery, and rented furniture. I was even considering renting indoor trees to distract from the interior. So all the money we saved with the venue was going to make it up with the cost of decorations. It felt like we couldn’t win and the worst part was I wasn’t even excited about my own wedding.

Pretty quickly I realized the type of wedding I was planning wasn’t what I really wanted. I wanted my wedding to be closer to home, less extravagant, more us, and I didn’t want us to spend the amount of money that it was going to cost. I had a feeling my fiancé Rocky was feeling similar. So I looked at him one day and asked, “Do you want to just get married at the courthouse?” We both sort of laughed, then immediately realized. Oh, that is what we want.

image source

So, Why Are We Having A City Hall Wedding?

To us, it is perfectly romantic, intimate, and has a similar spontaneity to eloping. For months, I would tell Rocky (sometimes with tears in my eyes from wedding planning fatigue) “I just want to marry you.” It feels true, simple, and earnest for us to do it this way.

Trying to plan around close family and friends who are also planning to get married in 2022 was frustrating and hard. I wanted to accommodate everyone so badly that I actually was making things really inconvenient for myself and Rocky. I was making a lot of decisions based on other people which felt wrong. Now, we are getting married the way we actually want to.

HOT TIP: Check in with yourself and your partner often. A lot of the plans I was making in the beginning were based off things I was told we should do. It’s easy to get caught up in the Pinterest-perfect wedding, but that’s not for everyone.

We want the most important moment of our lives to be with the people who mean the most to us. The max amount of people allowed at a city hall ceremony in LA is 25 – and that info is likely pre-Covid. We are choosing to spend this part of our nuptials with the people closest to us so we can be really present when we commit to each other.

After we are legally husband and wife, we don’t have any immediate obligations to other people. We don’t have to go around and thank every guest for coming or act any certain way. We just get to soak in the commitment we made to each other for a whole day. We will go out to dinner in lieu of a rehearsal dinner with our best friends and family. This is honestly my favorite detail and it’s something we came up with it because it sounds fun. We know it’s not traditional but it feels right to us.

Aesthetically speaking, we think it’s cool. I will still wear a wedding dress and Rocky will wear a tuxedo even though our marriage will be made official in a government building in Downtown LA. It feels perfectly stripped down and puts more focus on our style as a couple.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: ryann’s moto reveal

The future Trombetti’s (that’s us) will cordially invite friends and family to a small reception the following day. We are not completely opting out of a fun party because I am an enneagram 7 after all. We will be having a backyard reception at my parent’s house and at the end of the night, my wish is for everyone to jump into the pool.

At our reception, we will have our first dance and father-daughter dance. Also at the reception, we will recite our own written vows to each other in front of everyone we love (because you can’t recite your own vows at city hall). I will cry hysterically and Rocky will keep his cool. We will dance, eat, and laugh a lot and then when the night is over I’ll be married to the love of my life.

So How Much Will Our Wedding Cost?

With the average cost of an LA wedding in 2022 being $36,890, I’d be lying if I said part of this plan isn’t about saving money. When we realized we didn’t want a big wedding, it made the decision to have a very small one pretty easy. For two introverted folks like us, a small wedding makes sense and saving money is just another perk.

So, how much will our wedding reception cost? I know this is the question on everyone’s brains (and trust me, it’s on mine too). Our vendors aren’t solidified yet, but these are estimates based on average costs in my area.
City Hall Ceremony ~ $25
Catering ~ 1,000
Alcohol ~ 2,500
DJ ~ 1,000
Photographer ~ 2,000
Florals ~ 1,500
Lighting ~ 1,300
TOTAL ~ 9,525

If you think it is insane that a small reception like this still costs that much, you are not wrong. We could completely opt-out of a reception, making our grand total $25. But we do want a reception, and that’s truthfully all that matters. This is our wedding plan and it is one we are actually excited about. Isn’t that something?

And that is truly it. Now I want to know, what made your wedding day special? What do you remember most? Any wedding industry folks out there have any insider tips to share? Tell me everything. xx

Opening Image Credits: Design by Ryann Miller | Styling by Emily Bowser | Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Ryann’s MOTO Reveal: A Moody Multi-Functional Living And Dining Room With A Lot Of Soul

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Diane
9 months ago

Ryann, this is beautiful. Covid has been a vicious beast in many ways, but she has helped us learn how to cut out some of the excesses in our lives and aim straight for what is important and true. Which seems to be exactly what you and Rocky are doing in this highly edited and deeply meaningful plan for your wedding, and I read considerable relief and joy in your words. Congratulations!

Karen
9 months ago
Reply to  Diane

Kudos to this comment about Covid inherently changing for the better how we feel about some things/events/etc. As the Governor of CA rolls out our state’s “endemic” plan for Covid (meaning, it ain’t going away, it’s time to back off the 911-Emergency response and start living with/around it), it made me realize I should think about the good that’s come out of the past two years. Because those good bits are there, for sure.

Our wedding was in a Catholic Church; I’m not Catholic but my husband is (lapsed but carrying some traditions still?), so I let him lead the way on that part of the ceremony b/c I didn’t feel any place I could choose could possibly have more meaning than his choice). The ceremony was followed by a party at my parents’ house. We spent $5k, which meant my parents gave us $50k for a home down payment. That was 9 years ago, and when we moved out of that home to our next home, we kept the first home. That first home is now worth almost $800k. I’ll take that ROH (return on investment) over a one-day expensive wedding any day.

Emma
9 months ago
Reply to  Karen

ROI?

Deena Pannu
9 months ago
Reply to  Emma

Return on Investment

Lisa
9 months ago
Reply to  Diane

We paid for accommodations for a professional photographer friend of my husband’s that traveled to come for the wedding. My husband pushed that trade and I regret not hiring an outside photographer. She didn’t know who was important (on my side) to document and basically did only did the fussy group shots and wanted to take photos of me getting ready- but I didn’t feel comfortable. There are no shots from the ceremony that I like- one from walking up the aisle after is good. A few total that are fine and she stopped taking photos at the reception. I have a few from friends that are amateur photographers and my bridesmaids MIL. I wish there were more photos of my Dad and other loved ones together- he’s gone now.
If you think of the reception photos as catching excellent photos of family and friends gathered to celebrate- its worth it to have someone who knows what matters to you- an amateur friend or a professional.

Michelle
9 months ago
Reply to  Lisa

As an amateur twice asked to photograph a wedding and formerly married not a professional wedding photographer I endorse your advice 100%. Only add is that even professionals don’t know who matters to you. Taking planning time to make a photo list is critical. List out the formal groupings and schedule time to do it. Also list out the key people for candids. Reception photos generally are hard to get, especially if you are in tough lighting conditions. No one looks good dancing (mostly) and photographers can make everyone uncomfortable trying to insert themselves. It sounds like you didn’t have clear expectations up front and or a good conversation with your photographer, and now regrets. For others reading this, hiring a professional doesn’t guarantees your expectations are known or met. But you should get professional level communication.

Barb McSpadden
9 months ago
Reply to  Lisa

Our photographer- professional – had all ready done family photos for my husband and his family(both previously married)- so she knew his kids, his sister and friends etc….and lots of photos of them.
My kids, granddaughter, sister- very few. It makes me sad when I do look back on them.

Kristin
9 months ago

I had the full blown wedding for my first, short-lived marriage, and an immediate family-only backyard ceremony + parents’ backyard bash a few weeks later for my second (and hopefully forever) wedding. The former route was crazy expensive and one of the more stressful experiences of my life. The latter route was SO much more fun, intimate, relaxing, easygoing, and all at a fraction of the cost. We catered tacos for the wedding and a BBQ truck, keg, and cooler of ice cream bars for the friends + family bash. The best surprise was my old dog joining me for the walk down the “aisle” (across the patio) – a memory I’ll cherish forever. So easy, so perfect! I hope yours is just as wonderful! You won’t regret it!

AJ
9 months ago
Reply to  Kristin

You married a different person a few weeks after you got married for the first time? I bet that’s an amazing story! You must’ve got an annulment? I’m so intrigued!

Alison
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ

I’m reading it as a backyard ceremony … then a few weeks later, a backyard party. Two separate backyard bashes, not a wedding a few weeks after the first. 🙂

Michelle
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ

Annulments are religious. Marriages and divorces are legal procedures. And it’s possible to have a wedding without executing or filing a signed marriage license. Which is a nerdier way of saying yeah this story sounds worthy of a bottle of wine (or two). Not that it’s any of our business. Cheers to second marriages!

C C
9 months ago

I love this, and don’t think you’ll ever regret doing things this way. I’ve been married nearly 18 years (yikes) and never ever think “gosh, if only I’d spent more money on that day”.

This might sound crazy, but my only aesthetic advice would be – think very hard about that photography budget. It’s a HUGE chunk of your overall spend. If the one thing you want more than anything else is those photos then yep, go for it. But I’d bet serious money that you have a talented friend (or friends) who would do your photography as a wedding present and you wouldn’t love the results any less. My perspective after all these years would be to spend more of the ‘pretty money’ on rings rather than photography or a dress – you wear the dress briefly, you look at the photos occasionally, but that ring will be on your finger every day for your whole life.

Good luck! It’s going to be wonderful.

Kj
9 months ago
Reply to  C C

I disagree about the photography. Get the absolute best photographer AND videographer you can afford. You will never be able to recapture that time and those images. You deserve the absolute best ones and will regret subpar results.

C C
9 months ago
Reply to  Kj

Fair enough, but you can make that argument for absolutely every element of a wedding. It’s about finding out which of these wonderful, expensive, once-in-a-lifetime options are important to you.

Emma
9 months ago
Reply to  C C

Agreed. Are you going to get the photos framed in your home and rewatch your wedding video every anniversary? Then sure, splurge on the documentation. I have friends who hired multiple photographers and a videographer but had the backyard reception “catered” by a taco truck and DJ’ed by a crowdsourced Spotify playlist. I have other friends who had the reception in an upscale tea house with a multiple course meal but only really documented by iphone pics, polaroids and a photo booth. Both weddings were incredibly fun and both couples are very happy with both their marriages and how the weddings turned out. We all have different priorities!

Kara
9 months ago
Reply to  Kj

Agreed. I hired a friend for cheap who did AMAZING portraits but had never done a wedding before. She didn’t catch all of the moments, and we don’t have a single photo of us that is frameable (the very best shots were taken on guest’s Blackberrys and very early iphones and can’t be blown up any bigger than 3 inches by 3 inches (2010 technology LOL). We had a more simple afternoon brunch type of wedding to keep costs down and have zero regrets about that part.

Eve
9 months ago
Reply to  Kj

I agree on the photos and/or videographer being a good must-you will want to watch it again (and again) and having the photos is really nice as you can also make like a cocktail table book for those you love or for those who couldn’t be there. 🙂 I so WISH I had hired a videographer as I couldn’t be everywhere at once for the reception and it helps you both see everything and everyone! Also rec picking a location close to home in case you have to check on anything-so good on you that you are doing that !

McKenzie
9 months ago
Reply to  C C

As someone who used to frequently be asked (as a musician), to perform for free at friend’s weddings and events, I think it’s pretty disrespectful to ask talented friends to do things for free.

9 months ago
Reply to  McKenzie

Agreed.

Whitney
9 months ago
Reply to  McKenzie

100% agree with this. As a musician, being asked to play for free for a friend’s wedding is insulting to me. It makes me feel as though neither my skills nor our friendship is of much value to the person asking. If you have friends who are “talented photographers” please pay them exactly what you’d pay a photographer you don’t know. The benefit of having friends involved in your wedding is that you get to be surrounded on your special day by friends who are also professionals, not that you get something valuable for free.

C C
9 months ago
Reply to  McKenzie

TOTALLY agree that it’s disrespectful to expect professionals to do things for free. However, I’ve three times done wedding photos for friends as a wedding gift. Do any of them realise how much that gift was worth in dollar terms? Nope. I offered, and was really glad to do it. Agree that expecting it is not cool.

Tina
9 months ago
Reply to  C C

When I got married 20+ years ago, a friend who was an amateur photographer offered to take some pictures for us. At the time, the style of wedding photography was so intrusive and posed — I went to many weddings where the photographer ran the show and everything was done for the photos. I knew I wanted my wedding to be more in the moment. So, I was happy to take my friend’s offer. Many older relatives were shocked since that was not “the way” to do things. Years later we are fine with not having more than a handful of great snaps of the wedding day. Flash forward to my niece’s COVID wedding in 2020 of fewer than 20 people. I brought my nice camera just in case. Turned out no one had planned for photography, so I snapped pics and tried to make sure to set up some of the standard pictures (i.e., bride’s family, groom’s family, pictures of the rings by some flowers:). I told her, I’m less than an amateur photographer even, but if there is one thing I learned from my wedding it is that 20+ years later, you really only need a few photos.… Read more »

Barb McSpadden
9 months ago
Reply to  Tina

the only framed photos in our home are the snaps my daughter in love took and had printed and framed at CVS,then placed on the tables -a complete surprise to me- while we were mingling. The best gift ever!

Allen
9 months ago
Reply to  C C

I agree. Whenever I see vintage photos pop up on Pinterest, I love the fact some people just popped into a public photo booth to capture their day or just had a few snaps taken outside of the venue.
In this current age of narcissism, we really do have enough photos of ourselves and just getting one or two shots means more.
Pre-digital, people accepted what they got and sometimes laughed about them if they turned out funky.
These days, so many engagement and wedding pics are bland, generic ‘perfection’.
Even the way people knowingly gaze into the camera gives me chills – rarely do I scroll past real, genuine smiles on IG as everyone is so practised and posed.

Emily N
9 months ago
Reply to  C C

Absolutely disagree re: photography. Photography is the one thing I think you should really splurge on. We had a COVID wedding and spent $2K on our wedding. My step-mother-in-law used to be a wedding photographer; she offered to take pictures and we accepted, in part to save money and in part to reduce the # of people. I did not like our photos! I’ve cried about it, multiple times! I absolutely wish I had doubled our budget just to spend $2K on a photographer.

Alison
9 months ago
Reply to  C C

This whole chain is proof that you need to do what’s best for you – because EVERYONE has different opinions! My husband and I each picked the one thing that meant a lot to us. His was food, mine was photography. That’s where we spent our money and let the rest be where we cut costs, went with the easiest choice, or just plain didn’t do certain things. YOU know what’s right for you!

SB
9 months ago
Reply to  C C

My husband and I first got married at a courthouse, and then two years later, we held a vow renewal at a beach with family and friends. It was all very casual- both times!- but in hindsight, we wish we had hired a photographer for the vow renewal. It’s good to have an objective eye capturing the moment and that leaves guests free to actually enjoy the occasion. As for the rings, my husband’s first ring got flushed down the toilet by our toddler son, then he lost the replacement when it flew off his finger chopping wood, and so finally, I got him a very inexpensive titanium ring that neither of us has to feel bad about replacing. He’s had the cheap ring for so long now, I just recently asked him to get me one of the same so we can match. Ha! I wish we had gone the simple ring version from the beginning. The diamonds and gold must have seemed important as symbols of commitment at the time but, 18 years and many rings later, it turns out honoring who we are as individuals and in partnership is what’s kept us together.

Eve
9 months ago
Reply to  C C

I think the complete opposite, the one thing I always say to friends and family opting for smaller weddings is to prioritise photography (and potentially videography) budget . Because you spend so much time thinking about all the little aesthetic details and they are so quickly forgotten, but beautiful images keep the memories stronger. We went with the cheaper of two photographers and I’ve always regretted it. I honestly couldn’t care less about my wedding ring (it already felt like a waste of money for such a tiny piece of jewellery that I hardly ever wear) but I’m forever sad that I don’t have the images that I pictured us having. We didn’t have any videography, but my uncle recorded part but not all of my father’s speech and that’s another regret I have. I would have loved video of all the speeches especially knowing the special people who gave them won’t be with us forever. I’m sure you have friends and family who can take a million snapshots and you’ll be able to pull out a few great shots from that, but definitely a skilled photographer for a couples shoot and to capture the moments with your close family… Read more »

Edith
9 months ago

You are a smart human! Trust yourself & go have a fantastic wedding in any damn way you choose! 15 years ago I had a gigantic, expensive, stressful wedding. Still married, but see in hindsight how unnecessary (and wasteful) it was. Congratulations to you & Rocky!

Jessvii
9 months ago

IMHO, the best weddings have the best food. It arrives on time/efficiently, doesn’t run out, and tastes good. If I could do my own wedding over again, I’d have spent slightly more on my dress (which was cheap but hideous), less on flowers (turns out I didn’t actually care), and less on photography. I thought having the photos done well would be something I’d love having, but I never look at them. I’m far more likely to enjoy a photo of us on a vacation than our wedding photos. We spent quite a bit of time posing for photos – I wish I could go back and spend more time mingling with guests instead.

Kate
9 months ago

I love this plan! When my husband and I got married, I kept thinking about how weddings once were, when a couple would say their vows and then the village would parade after them with ribbons and flower wreaths to a long harvest table in the town square for a feast. No trolleys or favors or signage or wedding organizers. Just a cake, borrowed tablecloths and china, and well wishes. So, as I planned, I tried to cut out anything that wouldn’t have been included 200 years ago and it really helped.
Oh, and my older sister told, “you don’t want to begin a marriage stressed out by money.”
SO true!
Congratulations!

Emily
9 months ago

Great choice! We got married at City Hall and we loved it! It’s extra special because you’re surrounded by newlyweds, or soon to be newlyweds, and it feels like one big celebration.

The man who performed our ceremony told us before it began to listen up and be in the moment because the ceremony goes by quick, and I’m so glad he did because a minute later we were kissing and signing our names.

I’ve never regretted how little we spent, but if you were to splurge on something I’d suggest a photographer.

I wish you both the happiest of city hall weddings!!!

maria
9 months ago

my wedding cost around $6k and it was amazing!!! you will be happy you followed your heart.

Dd tiz
9 months ago

Our venue was a trout club! Limit 100 in the building with the restaurant/club catering. Fake bouquets from Joanns that they asked if we wanted water for them. I was most worried people wouldn’t dance. But oh they danced! We just had a play list set up, had a friend MC and at some point people started playing their favorites. There was a glass wall so the oldest or more reserved folks could see all the dancers on the patio but still be sitting in a quiet air-conditioned space to chat. Loved everything about the day!

Brenda
9 months ago

I think this is a beautiful, perfect plan!

Kim
9 months ago

My husband and I married at the City Hall almost 37 years ago with immediate family present and we did not miss having a grand expensive wedding celebration. We had a wonderful honeymoon. Later we married in the Catholic Church with my parents and our two little girls attending. Most of my old girlfriends’ marriages ended in divorce after their parents threw them extravagant weddings. I think you are doing it just right!

Melody
9 months ago

Your article comforted me! I am planning my wedding in California for 25 people. Many beautiful venues said that we don’t meet their minimum number of party. The bare minimum cost to have a church ceremony is $7k with all expenses included. I, too, want a tasteful intimate wedding but soon realized this process becomes stressful and painful. After seeing the numbers in the spreadsheet— we joyfully decided on a church ceremony and a dinner at a semi-private area on a beautiful rooftop lounge. Renting artificial floral aisle runners & centerpieces helps with our budget too. One of few things I truly treasure in this journey — the discussions with my mother on wedding details has brought us closer than ever. To me, the process is just as important as the end goal. Congratulations Ryann, you will have a lovely celebration!

Karen Patton
9 months ago

My modest “traditional” wedding 40 years ago was such a stress event that I wanted to be sure my daughters knew to focus on their ideas & to have FUN and concentrate on what was important to THEM!

Looking back a few years later we all decided that money was best spent on photography, (same ones for my daughters and nieces weddings-they have become close friends by now) and the DJ/music. One daughter knew dancing was important for her and wisely bought a short, cute dress for the reception. My niece who’s not into cake had Krispie Kreme donuts delivered during the reception along with the paper hats. Music was important for another daughter so money was invested in a live band. The two youngest girls loved singing to “Paradise by the Dashboard Light when they were little & had no idea what it was about, so 7 minute of over the top singing during the reception is a great memory of both their weddings. And all these special moments are documented in the great photos which we look at far more than a video.

Susan
9 months ago

Starting a life together by wasting piles of money on a one day forgettable event (for the guests-they won’t remember or care about all the specifics you stressed over) is a hard way to usher in married life. The point is the marriage itself which to me often seems to get lost in the shuffle. I had friends get married during our regular church service and then hosted an apple crisp and ice cream social in the church hall. It was simple and sweet, everyone was there, and the point of it all wasn’t buried in the details. Not one person minded that we didn’t get a meal or that there wasn’t a dj. It was a hall filled with talking and laughter and love. We have turned weddings into an unnecessary spectacle. I don’t even enjoy most wedding receptions. Loud, full of cliche activities and you get 5 seconds to talk to the bride and groom who are often tired and distracted and not even enjoying it.

Susan
9 months ago
Reply to  Susan

YOUR plan sounds sensible and sweet. Glad you figured it out and went with your hearts

Summer
9 months ago

This is great! My spouse and I were starting to plan a wedding and decided to elope instead. We loved the day and wouldn’t do anything different. It was amazing. I hope you have the best time celebrating your way! Congratulations.

Lia
9 months ago
Reply to  Summer

Yes! Eloped almost 11 years ago…married on the shore of a bay in Alaska with the bare minimum of people to witness. Then we hiked a glacier and went camping. It was great!! Highly recommend, and we are still married. A fancy wedding just did not appeal to us.

Melissa
9 months ago

Great decision! I don’t understand why more people don’t go this route. Brides think they want something “special” when all they are doing is copying someone else’s idea of special. Congrats! I hope it is everything you want.

Caitlin
9 months ago

We are a bicoastal couple and opted for a courthouse wedding. It was a small disappointment when we realized the beautiful Oakland courthouse is not the building where weddings are done, it’s the boring one next door. A couple of friends were our witnesses, and we went out for a nice meal afterward.

We had three parties to celebrate! The first was an intimate dinner party with just our immediate family. We dressed in our wedding attire and had a photographer. Next was a garden party at my inlaws’ country property in Sonoma for our California friends and family. I got sunflowers from the farmers market and put them in jars and those were our florals. The last party was in my small hometown in Maryland. We did a crab feed in the fire hall that was very fun.

It may sound like a lot of work but I think because each event was low key and the only professionals we hired were caterers (and the photographer who is a friend), it was pretty smooth sailing. And we got to stretch out our wedding for a couple of months as all of the events happened!

9 months ago

Enjoyed reading this and the comments. One of my daughters is getting married in Nov. and the other shortly after that (we think!). As a mom, I want to be there for the vows as that’s the most important part–parties optional. My own mother suggested I get a good photographer, as she didn’t have one at all and regretted it. I did. Guess what? On one of our cross country moves, the wedding album was lost somewhere, as in never made it to our new location, along with some baby photos. I have a few professional photos that my mother had made for herself…

Amy Elizabeth Jones
9 months ago

I had a double wedding with my sister! We each spent like $4000 and had a beautiful and memorable wedding at a vineyard. We didn’t argue once because we each did jobs that played to our strengths. Many people have told us over the years that it was the best wedding they’ve been to. A fun time was had by all, and family from back east only had to fly out once that year to attend our wedding.

Julie S
9 months ago

I’m not sure how so many people have gotten caught up in the huge/fancy wedding idea but I cheer whenever someone realizes they are better off focusing on the marriage instead of the wedding day. We spent $4k on our wedding 11 years ago – 80 people at a pretty county park with a little historical hall for the reception, saving a lot between friends willing to do low cost (but good!) photography, my husband called in a big favor for at-cost BBQ catering, dress from Nordstrom Rack, I did my own flowers (grocery store), borrowed nice folding chairs from my church for the day, that kind of thing. Our engagement was only 2 months long so it didn’t drag on with the planning. I wish you guys the best on your wonderful day and it sounds like you are making it right for YOU!

Marian
9 months ago

I love this and huge huge congratulations! My husband and I did something very similar, though instead of City Hall we rented an Airbnb a block away from our house and got married in their backyard. We invited 30 people, got married by our best friend, and hired a TaskRabbit to grab a bunch of takeout for us and deliver it after the ceremony. My wedding dress was used, and gorgeous. The most expensive thing was our photographer, who was $4000. That made up the bulk of our expenses. But I am so so glad we went with someone incredible because the photos of that day or the one tangible thing I have to remember it by. I think all up our wedding cost six grand. No regrets!!

Marian
9 months ago
Reply to  Marian

Actually, one more thing. I notice a lot of people in the comments disparaging wedding photography, which I totally totally get. Most if it is trash. That said, if you can find a wedding photographer who does documentary style rather than the typical stiff and forced stuff were used to seeing, I think you WILL treasure it forever. I actually wrote a blog post about my cheapo wedding planning that includes photos if you’re curious: https://offbeatbride.com/san-francisco-backyard-wedding/

Julie
9 months ago

Two of the best weddings I’ve attended where City Hall weddings. My parents, which was almost exactly what you want to do; it was small, but everyone they loved was there and we had a great time. There was even some jumping in the pool. My friend had her reception in her small apartment, in winter (freezing day!) and supper was an organized pot-luck. But we had champagne in her backyard, transformed into a ice bar with fairy lights, the food and wine were plentiful and delicious, there was dancing in the livingroom, and there was lots of laughter.
The people and the joy are what is the most important in a wedding, after that it’s just icing on the cake.

Krista
9 months ago

I can relate! When I was planning my wedding in ‘98 I realized standing in front of hundreds of people in a church sounded horrible to me. And waiting a year to do it sounded even worse. So we called our family (mine’s from MI) and told them we were having a ceremony in three weeks and we hoped they all could come. We got married in a small park overlooking the ocean in Dana Point and it was perfect. I didn’t even reserve the park — I figured if it was full we would just go down to the beach. All the lol’s! It helped that my husband‘s dad is a pastor and my mom was making my dress, so we only had to buy some flowers and hire a photographer. It was so special and beautiful and chill and I wouldn’t change a thing!

anon
9 months ago
Reply to  Krista

That must have been awesome. I attended a wedding that overlooked the Dana Point harbor and I know it cost a lot of money! But the view of the ocean from Dana Point is so incredible!

What park was it? I imagine if one tried to hold a wedding there now without a permit there would be arrests made. 🙁 But I am so curious.

Krista
9 months ago
Reply to  anon

It was at Louise Leyden park, a small park tucked away in a neighborhood. They have since taken down the pretty arbor and it’s not quite as picturesque anymore.

Alison
9 months ago
Reply to  Krista

We did the same thing with our own wedding and just showed up somewhere on a Friday to get married 🙂 no permits! No booking! We figured for a tiny group of people it was basically a flash mob in and out – who would have time to stop us. So glad we aren’t the only ones who took this approach!

Rachel C
9 months ago

Love this post. Me and my partner of 11+ years aren’t itching to get married (maybe ever) but if / when we do it will be courthouse style, possibly in a different city (I love the idea of getting hitched in NOLA). I love the inspo pictures you chose!

erin
9 months ago

It is hard to hear a different person every meeting say “THIS is where you should spend $$” and you have likely never done it before yourself so how do you know? Checking in with yourself, your partner, and your co-party planners often- that’s the good advice.
And it IS fun to have a big party with all the fixins. 🙂 It’s even more fun to go to a wedding like that after your own- you recognize all the details and you enjoy them all!

Stacia
9 months ago
Reply to  erin

… it is fun for some people… not for all though…! Some of us prefer smaller, more intimate gatherings where we are able to have fun AND meaningful conversations. To each their own…!

Pinny
9 months ago

Congratulations on prioritizing what you value! I think a lot of wedding details are designed to impress guests, and other details are selected to respect that guests have travelled/committed a whole day to be with you. (If aunt jenny came all the way from Texas, you had better provide dinner to her……). Limiting the guests to your closest people removes the temptation to impress others, and allows you to focus on what is important to you. Do try to savor the courthouse experience. Other comments have indicated it is FAST.

Aimee
9 months ago

Yes to all this! Someone close to me had a big dollar wedding. I was a bridesmaid and I remember watching her say her vows and honestly, she looked dead inside. All her energy went to a glamorous wedding, and she had nothing left in her tank once the day arrived. When I planned my own wedding years later, I kept saying “how can I be emotionally present on my wedding day?” I wanted to show up as myself and feel connected. This meant I cut out anything that felt like an obligation and swapped it for anything that felt grounding. I love flowers and flower arranging, so we wholesale ordered flower stems. My 2 bridesmaids and I spent a relaxed casual morning arranging our own bouquets, which was so fun and also so affordable. I tried to figure out what the essence was needed to enjoy myself and be present. For me, it was pretty but inexpensive simple flower bud vases, a comfy dress, and food that was satisfying. Friends and family brought appetizers and we had a pizza food truck for dinner. Over all, I was not distracted by details on my wedding day and could keep to… Read more »

9 months ago

My husband and I got married in a county courthouse with just ourselves and a justice of the peace. That was 18 years ago, and it’s still the best choice we could have made. Our families (both Catholic) wanted a cathedral wedding with 500+ guests, and we were not interested in that at all. We are now planning our 20th anniversary party and looking back, a courthouse wedding was exactly right for where we were in our lives. Felicidades!

9 months ago

My spouse and I got married at City Hall in Manhattan, with just our immediate family and two close friends present. We did our vows in Washington Square Park and then took everyone out to lunch. The total cost was around $1k since we paid for lunch. That day is one of my happiest memories. It was so relaxed and I was overjoyed to be spending it with those closest to my spouse and I. Taking the route that feels right to both of you, instead of what you’re “supposed to do” is a powerful choice. And it saves you so much money 🙂

Carrie
9 months ago

Totally support a City Hall wedding, but if anyone in LA is looking for an affordable and GORGEOUS location, check out the Los Angeles Arboretum in Arcadia. It’s a county park, so rates are shockingly cheap, and if you use their caterer, you can use the retro cool Peacock Cafe for free, which has its own wrought iron table and chairs. The whole thing cost less than $15k for 130 people, including the cost of my dress/his suit and our honeymoon!

Elise
9 months ago

Congratulations, Ryann, on your decision for a City Hall wedding. Who needs the stress (and expenditure) of a big wedding! My husband and I got married in 2010, the ceremony was at a synagogue, followed by a meal (mid-afternoon) at one of our favorite Italian restaurants. There were 16 people in attendance, it was planned in a few weeks (after agonizing for months about having a beach wedding with a big reception). The one thing that I wish we had spent money on was a professional photographer. We had friends take pictures but they didn’t capture everything that was important to us. So you are making a wise decision to get a professional photographer. Enjoy the day!

Suz
9 months ago

Good for you!

Jenny
9 months ago

Love this and HUGE CONGRATS! My husband and I got married at the courthouse with just our immediate family present and had such a personal, sweet celebration. Aside from the financial upsides, there were so many emotional upsides: I didn’t have to have any fights with my in-laws about how many of their fancy out-of-town friends they could invite. My very shy father was able to make a speech just in front of 8 family members, rather than forcing him to get up in front of 200 guests. My brother had just gone through an awful break-up and going to a huge wedding might have made him feel even more alone. My mom took great pride in cooking our wedding dinner. I have zero regrets about going to small and personal with the celebration — and I felt zero stress and pure joy all day! I hope you feel the same on your big day — it sounds like it will be so lovely!

Cynthia
9 months ago

My husband-to-be and I had lived together already for four years in California, far from our midwest roots. He was still finishing up his schooling in Berkeley. I was a working professional but money was very tight. We knew we couldn’t afford to host a wedding and it seemed ridiculous to ask my parents to pay for any of it. So we planned our own little elopement. Got married at the beautiful city hall in San Francisco the day before Thanksgiving with my sister and his best friend. I wore a muslin dress that I found for $30. We had simple golden bands. No flowers, no photography other than my sister snapping a few pics on her instamatic. The four of us enjoyed a vegetarian lunch at Greens on the waterfront in the private room. Then we went to my sister’s apartment and drank champagne and ate her homemade zucchini cake. Went to a beautiful inn in Sausilito for our 4 day honeymoon. Called our parents on Thanksgiving to tell them the news. We had planned to be back in the midwest for Christmas that year so my parents organized a family dinner for about 30 people at a favorite… Read more »

Ann
9 months ago

My daughter had a brunch reception in a historic house after a morning church wedding. Everyone thought it was great, including the bride. The focus was on family and friends, who didn’t necessarily know each other, so we paid a lot of attention to the seating plan. Each table had cards with conversation starters: Who toured Egypt all by herself? Who wrote a cookbook? Who can juggle? Who rode a bicycle 100 miles last week? Etc. 22 years later, people still tell me how great a wedding it was.

CJ
9 months ago

My wedding was just as you are planning! We were lucky enough to find an amazing photographer who specialized in city hall weddings and knew all the best light, backgrounds, places to get group shots. The candid shots of our family as well as friends who crashed our wedding are priceless to us.
And by 3 pm on our wedding day, we were all alone since Friday city traffic had everyone heading home early.
Good Luck with your plans!

Andrea
9 months ago

This is so smart! It is ridiculous how much weddings cost. Unless you are rolling in money and don’t have debt, it is crazy how much people spend on a wedding day that lasts what, 12 hours? Use the extra money instead for an amazing honeymoon, towards a down payment on a house, etc. It sounds like your wedding is going to be amazing and so enjoyable, with the bonus of saving a ton of money!

emily jane
9 months ago

I am tearing up that you two have settled on what resonates for YOU, The soon-to-be Trombetti’s… and not just because if I were ever to make it official again, it is almost exactly what I would choose ; ) but rather because beginning your married life together by choosing to honor Your true desires for the events, imbues your future with that same vibrational energy signature of honesty and respect for yourselves & each other. Beautiful.
Congratulations to you both!

Stacia
9 months ago
Reply to  emily jane

Yes to all of this!

AAPI reader
9 months ago

This is what Asian Americans have done for a while! Other tip is to do nice photos at a studio with a rented dress, it’s cheaper. Read Ali Wong in Dear Daughters, Chinatown banquet halls are pretty and have good food.

9 months ago

I used to do flowers for weddings professionally. The two places I’ve always recommended spending the most of your budget are the photographer and the flowers. The photographer will capture pictures of the memories you will cherish forever and the flowers will add so much to the atmosphere in those pictures. Everything else you can find ways to save and have just as great a wedding. (Also, to those saying have friends do the photos/flowers/food for free/lower rates, please only do this if the friend offers it to you when you tell them you are getting married. Friends are the people we should support most, and asking them to donate their professional time/supplies/talents isn’t a great way to be a friend… If they offer, then absolutely accept, and then pay them something if you can. I’ve done wedding flowers for friends/family as a wedding gift at cost of supplies or even free, but I was the one who offered it.)

Lane
9 months ago

This sounds perfect. And beautiful. I hope you show pictures. I had a small wedding too. One way to save is to do own decor and lights that can be used permanently. Do some updates to backyard and greenery. And you can buy your own linens. If you buy two coordinating sets of napkins it will look beautiful and you can use that in your dining room, or you can sell everything afterward. My neighbor built a small gazebo for his son’s wedding ceremony and used two backyards to have a larger party. It looked nice.

Mandy
9 months ago

You’re making the right choice. My husband and I did things a bit differently in that we eloped on a beach at sunset with a justice of the peace and only our closest friends as witnesses. I picked out a simple dress that I loved (that was actually black with little chintz flowers), plain gold bands, and then we went to a local restaurant for nachos and drinks. Hands down, it was so much better than the more formal “wedding” we planned for our families. We still went cheap on our wedding (I think we topped out at $7500), but in hindsight, it was so stressful and pointless and not what we think back on when reminiscing about our commitment to each other. Do what’s right for you and your fiance. Now, I am a photographer so it sounds sacrilegious to say this, but I would spend money on a couples or engagement shoot rather than the wedding. Those images are far more intimate and true to the love you share over the put on performance for family and friends, if that makes sense. Do NOT ask a friend to do photography as a wedding gift…been there, done that, and… Read more »

Kate
9 months ago

At our wedding my best friends snuck in a piñata and hung it up outside. It was the highlight of the reception and the photos are hilarious. When the next of us got married, we did the same and it’s been the tradition ever since! We even got a piñata to Sicily, even if most of the Italian guests didn’t quite see the appeal…

You never know – one of the best things about your wedding may be nothing that you planned for!

Rachel
9 months ago

I remember the joy and peace I felt, the happiness at so many people I love being in the same room at the same time to celebrate our love. I remember our friends and family surrounding us in a circle at the end of the night holding hands and singing while we danced in the middle. Wishing you the most joy filled and love explosion of a wedding, however you do it!

Sunny
9 months ago

My oldest son and dil were married at City Hall in San Francisco on the Mayor’s Balcony on a Friday at 1pm. Cost $1000 to rent for 2 hours and we paid extra for some chairs for the grandparents. We hired a local photographer who specialized in City Hall photos and they are gorgeous! We then took a break and had dinner in a restaurant on the Embarcadero where we rented out the lounge and bar area. Wonderful and magical evening with the lights of the Bay Bridge in the background. Not without any stress but pretty darn easy.
Younger son and dil had a full wedding at a local venue. Stress!! I spent about the same on both (I paid for all the immediate family costs for the long weekend in SF–hotel, food etc) but it was so stressful even tho local. My lovely dil, was stressed for months with the pressure of Insta and Pin to get all the stuff into the evening. It was beautiful but expensive for everyone.

Karyn Meadows
9 months ago

When my husband and I got married, we just wanted to get married…no interest in a big wedding production at all. We got married at the church my family attended and then went to La Jolla for a fabulous early winter dinner on the top floor all to ourselves and our guests at Sunset. Panoramic windows looked out to the ocean (the place was on top of a beachfront hotel) and had an enormous fireplace. Then since we all mostly stayed overnite there, so went to our rooms, changed clothes and went to the jazz bar until 3 am! It was fantastic and just what we wanted!!

Ingrid
9 months ago

I got married in one of the most beautiful wedding venues in the world—San Francisco City Hall, with ca. 10 immediate family members and friends. San Francisco is truly an amazing place to have a classy wedding on a shoestring budget. We treated everyone to a fancy lunch at a French brasserie nearby, went sightseeing with my parents, whom we were able to fly in from Europe, stayed at a historical hotel where Mark Twain once resided, then spent some quality time with both of our families (whom we so rarely see, having moved too far away from home) at a cabin in Yosemite. My cousin, who happened to be visiting from the other side of the world for another wedding and is a photographer, took beautiful photos as a gift to us. Every time I attend a ‘real’ wedding it still makes me sad that we couldn’t pull off a celebration with more of our loved ones (how I wish my grandparents and siblings could’ve been with us!). But it was just not possible, and I’m convinced we had the most beautiful celebration the <$5000 in our bank accounts at the time could buy. Your wedding plans sound wonderful,… Read more »

Lizzie
9 months ago

For our wedding we rented a house in Maine that housed 15 (one of those big cottages) and we spent about a week there with all our friends, their lodging paid :). It was off season so the price was very reasonable and we convinced the owner to allow us to have the wedding there. My grandmother, mom, and family friends spent a day or two making all the food using my grandmother’s recipes while my friends and I pitched in, got the decor ready, and spent time together. My mom’s friend who is like a great aunt to me did all the flowers at cost. It turned out gorgeous, not horribly expensive, and everyone enjoyed participating in making a big party with all their loved ones. I was worried people would feel like we put them to work but most of them came up with the idea in the first place and sooooooo many people involved have said that it was so meaningful to them to get to spend time with friends and family and have pride over their contribution. I can’t tell you how many people who were there have told me it was their favorite wedding/vacation. I… Read more »

Stacia
9 months ago
Reply to  Lizzie

🥰 I live in Maine and can attest to the beauty of the setting being an important factor (and bonus!) to having a wedding here…!

9 months ago

I love all these comments of people who got the weddings they wanted! I just wanted to chime in to say that I had a “bigger” (125 people) wedding with all the fixings and I loved it! I loved planning it, loved finding ways to add meaningful details, and loved the day of with all the traditions and pomp. So if that’s what you want and you can afford it, go for it! I’m solidly Team do-what-makes-you-happy!

Brenna
9 months ago

I spent my summers in college working for a country club, waiting tables at rich people’s weddings. Probably about 100 of them over the years. They were all the same. Lots of money and stress behind the scenes, and the same cliché music, food, etc. If I never hear “Brown Eyed Girl” or “Come on Eileen” again, it will be too soon.

My husband and I were married by my brother in the backyard of the house where I grew up, where my parents still live. The flowers came from my mom’s 30 years of effort in her flower gardens. The food was homemade and from local shops, and the photos were snapshots taken by our guests, which were just our immediate families and my best friend and her family. I spent $40 on a not-white Nordstrom Rack dress that I still wear all the time. Five years later, we don’t regret a thing, and we’re just as happily married as if we had spent a lot.

Brenna
9 months ago
Reply to  Brenna

Just adding… Ryann, I hope you have a beautiful day that’s exactly what you want. And even more importantly, a lifetime of happiness together. Good for you for realizing what you really want and going for it!

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