Monday, September 27, 2010

How to get married

This is going to strike at the heart of many of my readers, but there's a right way to get married and a less than ideal way, at least according to The Minimalist. Let me first and foremost state that I have the privilege of presiding over three marriage ceremonies, and am thankful for each experience. So the first lesson is:

1.) Don't get married in a church, by a priest.

Why? Lots of reasons. Most importantly, marriage is a secular institution perpetuated by states. I find it weird that many people let someone they've never met teach them the rhythm method of birth control as a prerequisite to get married in front of a statue of a 1 CE execution. This secular paganist thinks that's just plain off the bizarro chart.

Also, it's really, really cheap.

2.) Get married by your friend or local magistrate.

City Hall rocks. Show up, raise your right hand, and boom, you're ready to move on to nuptials. Just put your name on the roster and the next available slot is yours. Really, do you need months to plan out flowers and decorations and cummerbunds for the friggin' chairs (!!!) just to say that yes, this other person is pretty cool and I can live with a legal contract that binds our fortunes and descendants (should we have any) together in a rather trite way, then sure, by all means, blow it on Mission San Diego with a get-away with a ballpark stop-over to watch the Angels lose and spend way to much on alcohol you don't even like. By the way, the wedding hasn't even begun.

I think I was off on a normal there, hang on, yes, ah, I see where we're at now. Friends are nice, too. They're fully capable of reciting lines, and may even provide quaint anecdotes. Plus, they're super cheap. My rate to be deputized for a day (less relevant county expenses): one dinner at a nice restaurant; the wine should be red. And I'm retired, so don't ask.

3.) The Wedding Industry hates you.

It has to be said. There's no way around it. David's Bridal personally hates you, the bride. The Men's Warehouse personally hates you, the groom. The are, however, in love with your credit card, and will graciously put you into high interest debt if you let them anywhere near said card. They want your money, not your happiness. It's an insane waste of money just to rent a tux.

4.) It's an insane waste of money, and your friends won't forgive you.

Talk to anyone whose had a "BIG WEDDING" and they will tell you how hard it was to keep their mother happy, their maid-of-honor happy, their groom happy, their in-laws happy (for non-white American weddings, add family lineages for which we have no adequate translation in English). F that. $50,000 in debt so you can feel bad about yourself? No way. I've paid off student loans bigger than that that didn't belong to me and at least I didn't feel like a cheap date.

Here's the financial run-down of a wedding done right. The rates are for Santa Clara County (where I live) and are a bit high relative to other counties. It includes a nice dinner after getting married at the couple's favorite fancy restaurant. Invitee's to the ceremony include close relatives (parents, siblings). After the ceremony, proceed to a nice park for pictures, then to the restaurant. Send the family home, and start the party at the couple's place of residence.

New suit $300.00
New dress $500.00
Marriage license $79.00
Marriage ceremony $80.00
Fancy post-nuptial dinner $100.00
Pictures by a competent relative $0.00 (Digital age is so cool)
Evite for party $0.00
Beer and wine for party $200.00
Food for party $100.00
Excederin $2.00
Total $1,361.00

That's the upper bound. Feel free to be even cheaper on whatever you want to skimp on. $1,300 vs $50,000.00 plus the loss of your best friend (for abusing her as the maid of honor). Your choice.


  1. I'm guessing you're more familiar with the Catholic church than Protestant ones. We use *real* birth control. :-)

    My husband and I were married by his mom, who is a minister, on the beautiful alumni lawn of our university (for free, I think). We had fewer than 100 guests. A friend made our cake for free, but we did spring for real flowers and a photographer. I think we spent around $5k or less on the wedding, paid for it ourselves and didn't go into debt.

    I agree that it's never good to start a marriage with insane debt!

  2. I forgot to mention that my grandmother (who used to be a seamstress) made my wedding dress. Far less expensive and far more special than a store-bought dress.

  3. Now the *real* minimalist approach is *not* to get married... ;-)

  4. I'm posting more controversial posts. I get great replies!

    To eirewolf: you're a rockstar minimalist. Keep lowering the bar! The way Tammy and I got married is almost identical to the way I described, and it was 2001, so things were cheaper then. I thing the major expense we had was giving up the deposit on the Brasil House in Berkeley. Best $400 I never used. City hall was waaaaay better.

    To Estelle: not getting married is OK too (and really cheap). The cheat in me things the tax benefits of being married outweigh the cost of a marriage license and a ceremony. Turbobax will either prove me right or wrong on this one. This calls for a follow-up post: Whether to get married.

  5. Good point about the cost of not being married (but idealism always has a cost, right?)... That said, we've asked our financial adviser, and to him there's no clear financial advantage to being married. As for taxes, we run both scenarios in Turbotax every year and so far it's been better for us to file separately. Go figure!

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Next post needs to be "How to have kids and still be able to afford health insurance, telephone, and water"