"Can I actually afford to get married?" It's a question every lovestruck young person has asked themselves, and after crunching the numbers, it doesn't seem likely. According to TheKnot.com, the average cost of a wedding rose to $32,641 in 2015—for perspective's sake, the average amount of student-loan debt hit is expected to hit a colossal $37,172 in 2016.
And yet, your mailbox is still bombarded by weekly invites to the nuptials of your equally broke friends. How the fuck are they doing it? We talked to some recently engaged (and married) 20-somethings to find out.
SHINE BRIGHT LIKE A MOISSANITE
My fiancée and I are both ladies, and we both wanted engagement rings, so we had to be thrifty. Diamonds are pretty, but it's also hard to know for sure whether they were at the center of a bloody struggle before making it to your ring finger. When we first started talking about getting married, I did some research and preferred the look and history of moissanites to the traditional rock. They're cheap, they're good for the environment, a lot of talented local jewelers sell them. We got two custom-made rings with rare moissanite stones for about half the price that most couples spend on one ring. Etsy also has a lot of cute shit for a fraction of the cost of what you'd pay at Zales—and none of the pressure to spend more. - Sakura, 26
DIY YOUR INVITES
Be honest: How many of your friends' wedding invitations have you actually saved, and how many of them went in the trash? Why spend $600 on printing hundreds of beautiful little cards that are doomed to the landfill? I spent $183 total on "Save the Date" invites, information cards, RSVP cards, and envelopes by designing my own stuff on Photoshop and using Cat Print to print it out. It's not fancy, but it gets the job done. - Courtney, 29
RENT YOUR WEDDING DRESS
Spending thousands of dollars on something you only wear for a few hours has always seemed to me like a poor choice. When I got engaged, my mom took me to all the major bridal salons in our area, and even though I found some cute stuff, I couldn't justify dropping a month's rent on a giant poofy party dress that's designed to make me look like a virgin. Instead, I opted to spend $70 on an Allison Parris dress from Rent the Runway, which I sent back the day after my wedding and never thought about again. I got tons of compliments on it, too. - Shayla, 28
FIND YOUR VENUE ON AIRBNB
The venue is the most expensive part of having a wedding. The places we looked at were in the $15 to $20,000 range, which was out of the question since we're both public-school teachers. So we decided to rent a house with a nice backyard designed for big events on Airbnb. It's on a lake and has room for up to 16 people to stay the night, which means our wedding party won't have to book hotel rooms. If you want to browse for stuff in your area, pick your dates and "16-plus Guests," then filter for "Entire home/apt" and "Suitable for Events." Our venue has great reviews and only costs $1,000 for the night. - Jay, 27
HAVE A POTLUCK WEDDING
We got married on my uncle's farm, and our wedding was one of those DIY Instagram monstrosities with mason jars, string lights, and flower crowns galore. I loved every minute of it. The best part was our decision to make the wedding a potluck. It was a gamble, and I'm sure a lot of people talked a lot of shit about this behind our backs, but we ended up with a random assortment of delicious food and we were able to fund an open bar with the money we saved on dinner. - Sarah, 25
USE YOUR WEDDING REGISTRY WISELY
My mom was horrified when we asked for a cash donation in lieu of a gift on our invitations, but if people think it's tacky, that's their problem. You don't need a traditional wedding registry if you don't need a bunch of new household items. Use the money to fund your honeymoon, pay off the wedding, or go on a 10-day bender. It's your life. - Liam, 29
VEGAS ISN'T THE ONLY OPTION
You don't need to go to Vegas to have a quickie wedding: You can get married at a courthouse in most towns and cities for under $100. If you're devoted to your partner, don't have a ton of money to spend, and want those sweet tax breaks sooner rather than later, a courthouse wedding is a great option. Throw a reception at your favorite bar afterward and watch those free drinks roll in. - Meghan, 26