The ROI of a non-traditional wedding

goats mountain
a captive audience for the elopers


I’m going to keep this real short.  How much would having a non-traditional wedding save the average American couple?  Answer: At least $30,000.

Anybody that has ever seriously thought about getting married has probably weighed the pro’s and con’s of some sort of non-traditional celebration, such as eloping, going to the courthouse, having a small intimate ceremony, a family destination / vacation wedding, etc, and for good reason.  The average American spends over $25,000 on a wedding these days.

My wife and I had a small/medium traditional ceremony ourselves and were really really trying to hold costs down, but we still probably fell right at about the average ourselves.  We loved the ceremony and having our closest family and friends be part of that special day with us, but, having planned so much of it ourselves, I can definitely understand the temptation to do it differently.

happy couple
we were that basic couple and don’t regret it in the least…

One of the coolest non-traditional wedding stories I have ever heard was from a Marine’s wife.  She said that on one of her husband’s breaks, they went on a beach trip.  They were pretty serious by this point, so she wasn’t surprised when he proposed to her a little before dusk on a walk down the beach.

What did, however, really catch her off guard was when they continued walking down the beach and both of their immediate families were there waiting for them, along with a minister to marry them right on the spot.  Obviously the Marine knew what he was doing, and they went through with it right there.  Done and Done.

So that is what this post is about, either eloping or going to the courthouse instead of having a normal wedding (not that there is anything wrong with a normal wedding).

The numbers

The calculations here are pretty simple, and to make things even easier, I didn’t include any time costs.  I’m assuming that a traditional wedding costs $25,000eloping costs $3,500, and going to the courthouse plus a hotel and nice dinner costs about $500 (personal estimate). So subtract $3,500 or $500 from $25,000 and then sprinkle in some interest revenue (because the truly smart couple will invest the difference if possible), and here’s the result…


  • 10-Year NPV: $31,825
  • 10-Year ROI: 909%
  • 10-Year Payback: 0.1 years

Courthouse Wedding:

  • 10-Year NPV: $36,266
  • 10-Year ROI: 7,253%
  • 10-Year Payback: 0.0 years

What a nice gift to give each other to start the marriage, especially in light of recent research showing that people who spend less money on their wedding have lower rates of divorce 

champagne wedding
YOLO … veuve clicquot!


For something as personal and important as a wedding, there is no one-size fits all answer, but, from a purely financial perspective, non-traditional weddings are worth more than just a second thought.

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