Ditching the Big Wedding, or “A Guide to Crushing Your Mom’s Dreams”

May 14, 2021 | Finances, Prenuptial Agreements, Second Marriages

Millennials are a different breed of brides and grooms. They’re getting married later in life, giving themselves time to become better educated and more successful before tying the knot, especially compared to earlier generations. With this change in demographic comes a change in wedding preferences and traditions, leaving mothers of the brides everywhere clutching their pearls with worry.

Many brides (and grooms) feel the pressure to please their parents on their big day. With many millennials financing their own weddings it’s become more important than ever to create an experience for yourselves. It’s worth considering something more intimate that you’ll both actually enjoy. 

You’re Engaged, Now What?

He’s finally popped the question, and now you’re officially engaged. Like, ring selfie on your Insta official. You were ready for him to ask. (I mean, honestly you’ve been checking out rings for the past two years and talking about what you’ll name your kids). What you weren’t ready for was the million questions that come once you go public with your new status.

  • Do you have a date yet?!
  • Summer or fall?
  • How many bridesmaids are you going to have?
  • Are you going to have a church wedding?!
  • The dress! What about the dress??

And your mother hasn’t even started with her questions (and maybe demands) yet. It’s enough to make any bride-to-be want to run for the hills. Before you have a total meltdown, take a breath, pour a glass of wine, and sit down for a conversation with your fiancé – yes, he’s your fiancé now!

Time to Talk Finances

It’s the part of wedding planning that no one really wants to address, but it’s probably the most important. Who is going to pay for your wedding? Chances are, if you’re like most of your peers, you’ve at least started a discussion about wedding planning before you were engaged.

So many young people are financing their own weddings today that it begs the question of how you’re going to foot the bill. Even if you’ve established a career and are doing well financially, it doesn’t change the fact that the average cost of a wedding in 2019 (pre-pandemic) was $33,900.

To put that number into perspective, it’s almost enough to put a 15% down payment on an average-priced home during the month of August.

So, before you begin planning the big day it’s important to make sure that you and your hubby-to-be are on the same page with where the money is going to come from and where it’s going to go.

If you’ve never talked about finances before, now is a great time to start. There are so many things that you probably don’t know about each other that you can discover just by talking about money habits and spending.

Budget Alternatives

Unfortunately, many millennials are taking on significant debt to pay for their weddings. This is another discussion that you and your partner must have. Debt is a financial issue that can cause a lot of problems for couples, so it’s important to understand each other’s attitudes about credit.

More young couples than ever are concerned about student loans and other debt that they’re bringing into the marriage. Adding to existing debt to pay for a big wedding is no way to start your new life together.

Why You Should Skip the Huge Wedding

Even if financing the wedding isn’t an issue, there are other reasons that you might want to not have 400 of your parents’ closest friends at your wedding. The biggest reason being that it’s your day! And, let’s not forget about the groom. It’s his day, too!

  1. It’s less headache and hassle. Planning a wedding is a lot of work. It takes time and energy that you might not have, especially if you’re juggling a career and still have a social life. Smaller wedding means less of everything – less planning, less money, less time, less food choices, all of it.
  2. More personalization. When you have a smaller, more intimate wedding, or even a nontraditional wedding, you can make sure that it’s all about you and your partner. Many couples are ditching the traditional churches and reception halls for small gatherings, food trucks, backyards, or even eloping for the big day.
  3. The guest list. When you’re filling a venue with 200 guests, you’re going to have people there that you either (a) don’t know, (b) don’t care about, or (c) maybe don’t even like. When you have a small wedding, it’s easy to tell your mom (or your future mother-in-law) that her friend from spin class can’t get an invite.
  4. You can get married sooner. Who doesn’t want to start their new life even sooner? Wedding venues often have to be booked a year or more in advance, which means you’ll be waiting quite a while to become Mr. and Mrs. A smaller wedding can mean you can start planning and get it done as fast as you want.

It’s All About the Honeymoon

Really, the honeymoon is the reason we all want to get married, right? Picture it: you’re laying on a remote beach somewhere with your husband, someone bringing drinks to your beach chair, no work calls or emails, just you and him spending every day and night soaking up every moment together.

Alright, daydream time is over. But, really, every dollar that you spend putting on a big production of a wedding is a dollar that you won’t have to spend on your honeymoon.

This is a lesson that I learned from experience. When I got married (the second time), we had a small ceremony and dinner with just about 10 of our closest friends and family. No DJ or dancing, just time spent with those most important to us. It was AMAZING. Then, we went on an incredible honeymoon to Costa Rica that we wouldn’t have been able to afford if we spent thousands and thousands of dollars on the wedding.

Breaking the News

If you opt out of the big, traditional wedding, you’re going to have to break the news to your friends and family. There might be some disappointed responses, but don’t let that deter you.

If you and your soon-to-be spouse have big families, this is going to be even more difficult because it means that some people are going to feel left out. Keep these things in mind when telling your family that you’re not going to have the wedding they always dreamed of.

  1. Be a united front. You and your spouse have to be on the same page for this, otherwise one of you will end up being blamed. Unless you want your future MIL thinking that you stole her son’s wedding day from her, it’s really important that you make sure you’re both 100% committed to the idea.
  2. Don’t wait. If you’ve decided that a small wedding is for you, you should try to communicate that to your close family and friends as soon as possible. Otherwise, your mom is going to be planning your wedding before you even finish telling her you said “yes!” Treat it like ripping off a bandaid so everyone can manage their expectations.
  3. Set the guest list and stick to it. Spend an evening (or two or three) with your partner deciding who you want to be there to support you on the big day. Or, if you’re eloping, then decide if anyone is going to come along. Once you’ve made your choices, you need to stick to them, at least when you’re talking with your family. If it seems like you might let more people come, there’s a good chance you’ll get pressure to add to the list.
  4. Be prepared for disappointment. There’s almost a 100% chance that someone is going to get their feelings hurt. There might be a relative that thinks it’s inappropriate to deviate from traditions, or a friend that thought they were higher on the list. You should acknowledge these feelings and have some empathy for their reaction. Don’t engage in a debate to justify your choices, you don’t have to! Just let them express their feelings and show them that you still care even if they aren’t on the guest list.
  5. Show your excitement. If you start the conversation in a very solemn tone where you’re apologizing right away, it’s going to be a much more negative conversation. You should always lead with how happy and excited you are as a couple to be starting your new lives together, and focus on how what you’re doing makes you both happy. These people love you and care about you, so it will be hard to argue with doing what makes you happy.
  6. Consider a gathering afterward. If it’s really important to your family to have a gathering to celebrate your wedding, consider a family breakfast or dinner, or even a backyard BBQ after you’re hitched. Then, you still get your small wedding and Nana gets to see the happy couple.

Final Thoughts

No matter the size, venue, or cost, your wedding is an important day for you and your spouse. Wedding planning is very much tied to financial planning for your future, so it’s important to get on the same page from the start. As long as you make decisions that work best for both of you and make you both happy, you’ll be starting off on the right foot for the future. The best thing to do to prepare for your big day planning is to start talking about financial matters early, so that your goals and expectations are in line with one another.


You are writing your life story. Get on the same page with a prenup. For love that lasts a lifetime, preparation is key. Safeguard your shared tomorrows, starting today.
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