This Couple Pulled Off a $500 Wedding to Prioritize Paying Down $5,000 in Debt. Here’s How They Did It

A photo to accompany a story about saving money on a wedding Courtesy of Kiara and Joel Brokenbrough
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Weddings are expensive; in fact, the average wedding costs $28,000. But Kiara and Joel Brokenbrough want you to know there’s another way. 

With $5,000 in consumer debt, a wedding as expensive as a car wasn’t an option. Along with her now-husband Joel, 30, Kiara, a 28-year-old content creator from southern California was determined to slash that sizable price tag. 

In the end, they spent just $500 on their now-viral wedding. That includes the price of the ceremony, reception, and even Brokenbrough’s wedding dress (which she bought for just $47). 

“Our goal was: Let’s not spend money that we don’t have to [spend],” says Brokenbrough. “Especially because they say money is the number one reason for divorce.” 

The couple put the money they saved on their big day toward their outstanding debt, which they say put them in a better place financially as newlyweds — a win for both their wallets and their relationship.

Here’s how they pulled it off, and how the Brokenbroughs are using their savings to set themselves up for financial success today: 

Taking Steps Toward a Financial Union 

Kiara and Joel got married five weeks after getting engaged. 

Initially, the couple wanted to wait until they could pay off some of their debts before tying the knot. But they had plans to save money under one household and move in together as a married couple. 

That freed up more money to apply to their credit card and auto loan debts, as well as other living expenses. And they got good at budgeting their money, regularly shopping for the best deals to stretch the budget as far as possible. Financial stability was their first priority, Brokenbrough says. 

“We wanted to live together to help save money on rent, so that we can put that money toward other things,” says Brokenbrough. “We’re now going to join together to help attack our goals because . . . we can reach them faster.” 

Breaking Down the Wedding Costs 

At first, the Brokenbroughs didn’t have a budget for their wedding. But they knew they wanted to spend as little as possible. 

The couple decided on a small, low-cost wedding with 40 guests in a public park, inspired by a post Brokenbrough saw on social media. Her father-in-law officiated the ceremony and her godmother gifted the flowers. They played music from a preselected playlist, borrowing speakers from her father and sister. A friend took the wedding photos with a camera Brokenbrough already owned. After the ceremony, everyone gathered at a local lounge for the reception. 

Pro Tip

To cut the cost of a wedding venue, the couple suggests checking any laws or restrictions to have your ceremony in a public place that’s free to reserve or charges only a small fee, such as a park or garden.

The only costs included $67 for chairs and $230 for an arbor for the ceremony, as well as the dress and suit the bride and groom wore — which they bought from affordable online sites they already shop with regularly, instead of costly wedding boutiques or rental stores.

By forgoing costly wedding expenses, like a DJ, open bar, and food, the Brokenbroughs were able to keep their total cost to around $500.

The goal, Brokenbrough says, was to spend only what was necessary. “We were able to keep that budget by utilizing our resources.” 

Focusing on Long-Term Goals 

Thanks to the low-cost wedding, the Brokenbroughs put the money they were now saving on rent and everyday expenses toward their debts. 

They paid off $5,000 within five months of living together, which they say may not have been possible if they had a more expensive wedding. 

“The main goal [was] marriage, and it is so liberating entering into a marriage and not having to pay off the ceremony that you had two to three months ago, or two to three years ago,” Brokenbrough says. 

Now, they’re using the knowledge they gained from the experience in their pursuit of other financial goals.

Kiara and Joel paid off the $5,000, but they’re still tackling other outstanding balances. They’re still finding ways to save as they combine their finances and prepare for the future. And even though they’re still renting, they have aspirations of becoming homeowners and their next goal is saving for a bigger home as they manage their shared expenses. 

“We were proud of the fact that we put together something to achieve a goal,” says Brokenbrough, and that they’re now in a place to continue working toward future goals.