Planning a Non-Traditional Wedding

When my now-fiancé and I decided to become engaged, we had been seriously committed for several years and already owned a home together.  One of the reasons we had put off this step in our relationship was our resistance to some of the traditions of weddings that we felt weren’t inclusive to couples that were not straight or cis-gender.  We also wanted to make sure our wedding reflected our relationship values of equality and freedom from gender roles and created a welcoming environment for the diverse group of people we would want to invite.

For me, the concept of the man asking the woman to marry him created an uncomfortable power dynamic.  So, one day as I was talking to a friend about this, she suggested I look into ways members of the LGBT+ community have creatively crafted engagement weekends as an alternative to traditional gendered proposals. An option that appealed to us was designating an “engagement weekend” with each partner planning a day of surprises to enjoy together.  Our plans, which were coincidentally cancelled because of COVID-19 in April, included a night at the Greystone Inn at Lake Toxaway (my idea), and a couples massage and soak in the hot tubs at Shoji Spa (Pete’s idea).  We kept the weekend plans secret from friends and family. Although the weekend turned out to be more of a pandemic staycation, we followed through with our plan to call our friends and family with the announcement on that Saturday night.  I read other ideas online including a same-sex couple getting manicures together ahead of their planned engagement to be ready for their ring pictures.

We are still making plans for our wedding next fall, but some of the big decisions we have made already include how to handle funding the wedding expenses.  First of all, we designed my engagement ring together with a local custom jeweler, and factored costs for it and wedding bands into our total wedding budget.  Then, rather than have one set of parents fund the wedding and the other the rehearsal dinner, we decided to pool all of the money together.  Fortunately, both sets of parents are willing and able to pitch in some money for the wedding budget, and we are contributing some of our own funds as well.  This works well with our plan to have a small, informal rehearsal dinner and focus the majority of the funds on the wedding day itself.

There are so many expectations and traditions tied up with weddings. As a financial planner and a frugal person, I have been shocked at how much even a simple wedding can cost.  I encourage anyone getting married to consider your priorities and make sure your wedding budget and the day itself aligns with them.  This is a mantra I’ll keep repeating to myself in the months to come as we continue our wedding planning journey. For some people, values-based budgeting may mean a small mountaintop elopement (which, coincidentally, lots of people have been doing during the pandemic!).  For us, it’s important to be surrounded by our community of friends and family, so we will cut back and get creative in other ways to make our medium-sized guest list work within our budget.

-Kathryn Beach