The story of a couple who put their wedding on a payment plan.

They call it the 'wedding industrial complex' for a reason.

People told us our wedding would be a day we’d always remember.

Though cliché, they were right — we will always remember that day. But the question that nagged and motivated us for eight months beforehand was whether we’d remember it for the right reasons.

Photos by Jacob Murphy/Love and Wolves used with permission.

As much stock as we place in the Beatles truism, “all you need is love,” when it came to planning a wedding, love had obvious limitations. Namely, financial ones. There we were though, endeavoring to build a life together, starting with one big and expensive party with 150 loved ones and plus ones.

While our hearts had led us up to that point, planning a wedding, we found, would demand much more of our minds.

Vendors vying for our business offered another numbing cliché: “This day is all about you.”

If that were true, a courthouse or a drive-thru chapel would have done just fine. But to us, this event was also about creating something special for all the amazing people who shaped usfrom our parents, without whose extraordinary sacrifices immigrating to the U.S. we never would have met, to our loving communities, spanning the country and even the globe.

The question then, of course, was, "Can we afford this wedding?"

Here's how we avoided the traps and navigated our way down the aisle — without marrying into money problems.

1. Remembering why we were doing this.

Weddings didn't become a multibillion-dollar industry by helping people save money. Pressures have built over the decades for celebrations to mimic those of the wealthy class — no matter how modest a couple's means. We avoided lavish up-sells by grounding ourselves with a simple reminder: That’s not who we are. Our guests may know and love us for a lot of things, but envy has never been one of them.

2. Embracing the side hustle.

Having recently started new jobs, we didn’t want to risk stretching ourselves too thin with second jobs. But odd jobs, we thought, could work. I picked up one-off freelance gigs for a little extra cash until a breakthrough came, ironically, in a no-fee rendering of service. Our friends needed a dog-sitter while they were on vacation, and we happen to be fanatical about pups. That opportunity blossomed into a full-on pet-sitting side hustle with our calendars booked up to the eve of our wedding. In the end, the extra income funded more than a third of our total costs.

3. Rolling up our sleeves.

Photo by Maz Ali.

Creative touches were important to us. We saw them as reflections of our identities and our story. But as we learned how quickly outsourcing those details could run up our tab, we realized they were some of our best savings opportunities. Save-the-dates and invitations, flowers and decor, you name it, we rolled up our sleeves, pulled out our tools, and embraced our DIY spirit. Though it was at times a headache — paint fumes will do that — we got them done in our own unique style and at a fraction of what vendors would have charged.

4. Giving ourselves a little credit.

Knowing we wouldn’t have cash on-hand for every big expense, we decided to give the credit card promos constantly filling our mailbox a look. We applied for a card with benefits we liked that was offering 0% interest for 18 months and made it our primary payment method for the wedding. By sticking to our budget, we were able to clear our balance with time to spare and give our credit scores a boost — without major changes to our general spending habits.

5. Making it a joint venture.

We knew how common financial issues can be in marriage, but we hadn’t yet opened up about our own money philosophies. Although the joy of our wedding sparked the conversation, it wasn’t easy. While I lean toward transparency, Nicole subscribes to a more restrained approach to money talk. As weeks passed, arguments evolved into compromise and discussions of combining finances with a joint account for all things wedding and, eventually, all things us.

In the end, those exhausting months, those days that were at once too long and not long enough, were worth it.

Not only was our wedding exactly as we dreamed, hiccups and all, it also taught us that while love may be all we need, being smart, flexible, and creative can help us reach our goals.

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