It may be the best wedding gift of all.
When Scott Oeth was thinking about proposing to his girlfriend, Linda Hardin, he knew the stats. The average wedding costs in 2014, according to popular website The Knot, were a whopping $31,213.
That’s when the Minneapolis financial planner thought, No way.
Lucky for him, his bride-to-be was thinking exactly the same thing. So last year the couple arranged for a courthouse wedding, a celebratory dinner at their favorite steak house, covered as a gift by his new in-laws, and a backyard BBQ reception later in the summer for 100 guests.
Total cost: A paltry $1,250.
Oeth, 43, says he wouldn’t change a thing. “It was all wonderful, and we had such a great time,” he says. “I don’t think that most people who spend tens of thousands on traditional weddings could say the same.”
More newlyweds seem to be thinking like Scott Oeth and Linda Hardin. Courthouse and city hall ceremonies now account for between 3 and 4 percent of marriages, up from 2-3 percent a couple of years ago, according to industry resource The Wedding Report.
Financially speaking, toned-down weddings make a ton of sense. After all, think of all the other places newlyweds could spend that money to get their marriage started on the right financial foot, Oeth says.
Fully funding IRAs for both spouses. Paying off high-interest credit cards. Getting rid of student debt. Starting a 529 college-savings plan for young children. Saving up for a down payment on a first home.
“Expensive weddings are like a subprime mortgage crisis of the heart,” says Laurie Essig, associate professor at Vermont’s Middlebury College and “Love, Inc.” columnist for the magazine Psychology Today.
Noting that most young people have student loans, Essig says, “It just doesn’t make financial sense to be taking out even more debt to have a lavish wedding.”
Those typical expenses, according to The Knot, include $14,006 for venue rental, $2,556 for the photographer, $3,587 for the band, and $555 for the cake.
In many urban centers, costs can be much higher than those national averages. In Manhattan, for instance, the typical wedding bill comes to a wallet-punishing $76,328.
Of course, it is no mystery why people are so willing to pay through the nose for their Big Day. Marriage is seen as a once-in-a-lifetime moment that couples want to memorialize with one spectacular day.
When you think of financial alternatives to a fancy wedding, it is hard not to see the logic of forgoing the extravagance.
“Of course, it doesn’t make sense to spend all that money,” says Essig. “But marriage is a magic ritual, and magic will always outweigh more pragmatic stuff, like going down to city hall and filling out forms.”
Many spouses-to-be are afraid to bring up the idea of shaving wedding costs, for fear of appearing like a cheapskate, hurting their partner’s feelings, or angering in-laws at a highly emotional moment.
Get over that reticence and have a money conversation, experts say.
The so-called wedding-industrial complex may not like it, but there is no law against buying a used dress from a thrift store, or getting a vintage ring, or having the ceremony in a park instead of a grand ballroom, Essig suggests.
Even if your wedding is a quick and simple affair, always check local regulations beforehand, advises Christen Moynihan, editorial manager of the website Broke-Ass Bride. There might be waiting periods after acquiring a marriage license, or specific ID requirements for getting all the necessary approvals, and you do not want to be caught off-guard.
A ceremony in front of a justice of the peace might only run a couple of hundred bucks. “There was a time when low-cost weddings and courthouse ‘I Dos’ were scandalized, but in recent years there has been much higher acceptance for weddings to take place in whatever way the couple envisions,” Moynihan says.
Scott Oeth and Linda Hardin redirected some of their wedding savings toward a fabulous honeymoon on Kauai. Since they are cost-conscious, they bought a travel package through Costco and got free first-class flight upgrades because of Scott’s Delta Medallion status.
Total cost for the fairytale honeymoon? Around $3,000.
The pair was married on May 21, 1945
Married, read the heading before the brief write-up in TIME: “Humphrey Bogart, 45, cinema’s surly, frog-voiced bad man; and Cinemactress Lauren Bacall, 20; he for the fourth time, she for the first; in Mansfield, Ohio.”
The wedding, which took place 70 years ago, on May 21, 1945, made official one of the 20th century’s best-loved on- and off-screen romances—despite a four-and-a-half-decade age gap.
But, while news outlets didn’t obsess about the age difference in the way they probably would today—TIME didn’t editorialize at all about their ages, unless you count a 1969 essay titled “In Praise of May-December Marriages”—it didn’t pass unnoticed. According to A. M. Sperber and Eric Lax’s biography Bogart, Bogart’s wife at the time he began his affair with Bacall, the actress Mayo Methot, referred to Bacall as “your daughter” when talking with her estranged husband.
Bogart was also consumed by the age difference. As Bacall recounted in her autobiography By Myself, it was “never out of [Bogart’s] thoughts” while they courted. Bacall, however, paid it no worry, telling Vanity Fair “that 25-year difference was the most fantastic thing for me to have in my life.”
Indeed, the couple was together until Bogart’s death in 1957.
MONEY's George Mannes asks people on the streets of New York City how much they spend on wedding gifts.
Warning: Contains a major spoiler about Sunday’s Game of Thrones+ READ ARTICLE
Sansa Stark was brutally attacked on Sunday night’s Game of Thrones by her sadistic new husband, Ramsay Bolton, who finally showed her his true colors in the bedroom on their wedding night—all the while forcing Sansa’s former childhood friend Theon to watch. We talked to Sophie Turner back in October about the Ramsay storyline and Sunday’s instantly controversial scene—which the actress had not yet filmed but definitely had opinions about.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your reaction when you got the scripts and realized what was going to happen this season?
SOPHIE TURNER: Last season [Thrones director] Alex Graves decided to give me hints. He was saying, “You get a love interest next season.” And I was all, “I actually get a love interest!” So I get the scripts and I was so excited and I was flicking through and then I was like, “Aw, are you kidding me!?” I thought the love interest was going to be like Jaime Lannister or somebody who would take care of me. But then I found out it was Ramsay and I’m back at Winterfell. I love the fact she’s back home reclaiming what’s hers. But at the same time she’s being held prisoner in her own home. When I got the scripts, it was bit like, dude, I felt so bad for her. But I also felt excited because it was so sick, and being reunited with Theon too, and seeing how their relationship plays out. Theon’s a member of the Stark clan but she thinks he totally betrayed and killed her brothers. It’s a messed-up relationship between them
You’re sort of stuck with the two of the most messed-up characters in the show.
Theon’s just mental. I think it’s going to be the most challenging season for me so far just because it’s so emotional for her. It’s not just crying all the time, like seasons 2 or 3, it’s super messed up.
And then there is the scene described in the production breakdown as “romance dies.” Sansa’s wedding night in episode 6.
When I read that scene, I kinda loved it. I love the way Ramsay had Theon watching. It was all so messed up. It’s also so daunting for me to do it. I’ve been making [producer Bryan Cogman] feel so bad for writing that scene: “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me!” But I secretly loved it.
Nothing else will come even remotely close
All that glitters may not be gold, but when it’s all made of gold, everything glitters. And there was definitely no shortage of gold at the wedding of Brunei’s crown prince, Abdul Malik, on Sunday — including on him and his bride.
According to a report in the International Business Times, the 31-year-old heir and his wife-to-be — 22-year-old former systems-data analyst Dayangku Raabi’atul ‘Adawiyyah Pengiran Haji Bolkiah — wore matching gold outfits adorned with precious stones. The valuable metal was also woven into the lace of the bride’s veil, and the tiara on her head was made of diamonds and studded with six emeralds.
There were three more emeralds on the main pendant of her diamond necklace, with several more on either side, and the Christian Louboutin shoes below her solid gold ankle bracelet were studded with Swarovski crystals as well. Even the bouquet she carried was made of gemstones instead of flowers.
But the sheer extravagance of the 10-day wedding ceremony that began on April 5 is not surprising when you consider that Malik’s father, the Sultan of Brunei, is one of the richest men in the world. Malik is the sixth of the Sultan’s children with his current wife and second in line for the throne.
Read next: The Fug Girls on a Century of Royal Weddings
Joel Burger and Ashley King are getting married for free, thanks to...you guessed it...Burger King
Sometimes separate accounts make for happier couples
A joint bank account can be the ultimate form of financial intimacy.
So say Derek and Carrie Olson, co-authors of the new book, One Bed, One Bank Account. “Sharing a bank account gives couples another opportunity to connect with each other and build up their relationship,” says Derek. “The oneness that a couple will experience through combining bank accounts can’t be achieved any other way.”
That sounds great. But in my experience, it doesn’t work for everyone.
If one or both of you has money drama, co-mingling could backfire. A separate but equal approach to managing money in your marriage—at least until you each sort through your finances—may prove wiser.
A Case Study
Take newly married couple “Brian” and “Theresa” (who prefer to remain anonymous).
They knew just six months into dating that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. “We also realized we didn’t want to merge our finances,” says Brian, 33, a school principal. “We each had independent financial baggage, but we had systems in place to deal with that baggage.” Merging their accounts would only make things more complicated, they explained.
Brian was paying—and continues to pay—for a doctorate program out of his own pocket.
Meanwhile, 27-year-old Theresa, an engineer, has been focusing on paying off student loans. There’s about $65,000 remaining, she says. Her auto debt repayment system is a tad “convoluted,” she explains, with multiple checking accounts tied to various student loan balances.
“It’s complex because of the number of accounts I have and number of transactions I have to keep things moving smoothly,” she says.
How to Manage Money Separately Together
If you plan to split costs evenly, you’ll want to jot down your monthly expenses somewhere that’s accessible to the both of you. You can either both slap down cash or credit when shopping or eating out, or designate one person as the household “spender” and the other as the “payer backer.”
Brian and Theresa adhere to a “modified roommate system,” where they record all shared expenses from rent to dining out on a spreadsheet. Brian usually pays for everything throughout the month and Theresa reviews the itemized list, checks for any errors and cuts Brian a check or transfers money to his account to cover her portion.
“Our agreement is, unless one of us has expressed wanting to treat the other, we split it,” says Brian.
It helps that they each earn roughly the same amount of money; they can evenly afford all their joints costs.
They also communicate a lot. Brian and Theresa hold weekly business meetings to talk about everything from large expenses coming up to the groceries they’ll need to buy for the current week’s meals.
Communication is important in any relationship no matter how you choose to manage the money, but it can be extra important if there’s no bank joint account representing joint goals.
If you’re both going to manage money on your own, you’ll want to check in more frequently to make sure that your saving and spending is measuring up to the goals you want to afford—both big and small.
Now two years into marriage both Brian and Theresa are en route to completing their financial obligations by summertime: Brian will be done paying for his grad program and Theresa will be debt-free. And once they hit those milestones, when “life will be simpler,” they plan to start sharing accounts with the goal to invest in real estate together.
But for now, they’re happy going Dutch. The couple admits that the arrangement isn’t super romantic—“but it’s what’s good for us,” says Theresa.
Every day, MONEY contributing editor Farnoosh Torabi interviews entrepreneurs, authors and financial luminaries about their money philosophies, successes, failures and habits for her podcast, So Money—which is a “New and Noteworthy” podcast on iTunes.
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They wore matching dresses too
It’s not every day you see three brides walk down the same aisle in the same dress and same hair style.
And yet, that was the case for Rafaela, Rochele and Tagiane Bini, who all got married at the same time at the Nossa Senhora Aparecida Catholic cathedral in their hometown of Passo Fundo, Brazil on Saturday, according to a BBC video.
The 29-year-old brides didn’t plan to match hairstyles or makeup. In fact, they went to their appointments with the intention of not matching.
“We tried a number of styles, but we all liked the same one,” Rochele told the Daily Mail. “It’s not even worth trying, it always ends up like that.”
The female guests were pleased to have three opportunities to catch the bouquets, which matched the color of each of the 18 bridesmaid’s dresses to the corresponding bride.
The only thing that helped their guests and grooms – Rafael, Gabriel and Eduardo – distinguish between them was their different colored bouquets.
The brides admit to sometimes deliberately confusing their fiancés, said Rafael, who married Rafaela.
But on their wedding day, they didn’t have a problem spotting their true loves.
“Oh yes, I knew which one was mine, for sure. I knew as soon as she entered the church, she was the most beautiful,” Eduardo, who married Tagiane, told the news outlet.
Rafaela met Rafael 10 years ago in college, and a year later Rochele met her future husband Gabriel. After Tagiane and Eduardo got engaged, their parents, Pedro and Salete, suggested that the girls get married together.
When it came time to decide how Pedro was going to walk all three daughters down the aisle at once, it was settled that he would walk halfway down the aisle with all three and then take one at a time to the altar.
Pedro walked Tagiane, the first born, down the aisle first.
“I tried to hold back my emotion, but I couldn’t,” Tagiane admitted. “To see my dad there, at that moment, was a feeling I can’t explain.”
He failed to add 15+6, and she wasn't having it
Here’s an easy math problem: two lovebirds, minus one bride, is one lonely groom. That’s what happened after an Indian bride ditched her soon-to-be groom at their wedding ceremony for failing to answer a simple arithmetic problem.
At her wedding ceremony in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh Wednesday, the bride posed the following math problem to the man she was due to wed: 15 + 6 = ?
The groom answered 17, and the bride fled. The groom’s family tried to get her back, but she refused to marry someone who couldn’t add.
“The groom’s family kept us in the dark about his poor education,” Mohar Singh, the bride’s father, told the Associated Press. “Even a first grader can answer this.” The two families returned all the gifts that had been exchanged before the wedding, and the bride is presumably now looking for someone who knows all their multiplication tables.
According to Indian tradition, most marriages are arranged by the families of the bride and groom, and the pair rarely get to actually meet before the wedding. So the fact that the bride and groom had just met wasn’t that unusual — but the math quiz certainly was.