Happy Bride: How I Dumped the Wedding Industry
Sarah Schacht

I’ve often wondered if our wedding was a relic of a past era, so I’m glad to know it can still be done. We married in 1997, when it was still socially acceptable to have a small cake-and-punch reception after a service held in a church. As members of the congregation, our fees to use the space weren’t terribly high. The church’s wedding hostess (her job is to keep all the balls in the air and handle all the details, so the bride isn’t having to run herself crazy with that on the big day) was a friend, so her gift to us was that she waived her fee. We had a small (chocolate!) cake to the tune of maybe $150. I made my dress, using a pattern I had used before, and sent it to my mom to embroider. The dress, including fabric (natural Irish linen), ribbons for the embroidery, and postage to send it to my mom, cost under $200. Mike wore a sports jacket and Dockers. We had to get him new shoes and suspenders, and I had gotten him a tie for Christmas that year. We had one attendant each, and told them what our colors were and then to wear what they wanted, and for heaven’s sake don’t buy some expensive outfit you’ll never be able to wear again. A friend wanted to do the video, so we let him. Another friend, who had worked as a professional photographer but wasn’t employed at that time, offered to take the pictures. He charged $75, got us a set of prints, and gave us the negatives so we could make whatever enlargements we wanted. I designed the invitations myself and had them printed by a local company that offered “free ink days” where you could add a second color without paying a set-up charge for it. We didn’t get printed napkins for the reception, because that seemed like a waste; instead, we bought colored cocktail napkins.

Our big splurges were flowers — We were getting married in Portland on the first of March, so we wanted lots of color inside to counteract the weather outside — and a party for out-of-town family and wedding party at a German restaurant that specialized in private gatherings like ours. Mike’s mom’s wedding gift to us was train tickets to Seattle for our honeymoon; we stayed in a nifty little hotel and did the Underground tour and a few other amusing little things within walking distance of our hotel. Still the whole thing set us back not more than around $3000. We ended up with no looming debt and a wedding that was far more unique and memorable than a lot of the ones I’ve been involved in since (I’m a pastor).

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