My Fun, Frugal Wedding

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My husband and I eloped.

People are often surprised by this, however, we’d been engaged for about six months when the September 11th attacks occurred. After the horrific events of that day, we decided that there was no point in waiting any longer. We were deeply in love, so we decided to just go for it. We eloped because we wanted to get married right away, and we had no interest in an expensive, stressful, overdone affair. We wanted our wedding to reflect our interests, to be relaxing, fun, and unique.

My husband loves trains. He’s in the process of building a model train layout in his basement office. Rail travel is distinctly romantic, so we decided that we would get married aboard Amtrak. However, when I called them with this proposal, they said “OK. How are you going to do that?”

No one had ever been married on Amtrak before. We are the first (and to my knowledge, the only) couple to be married aboard an Amtrak train. We had to bring our own minister, because there’s no one on Amtrak who’s qualified to marry people (we thought there would be, but it’s not like a cruise ship). After marrying us, the minister stayed on the train long enough to sign the marriage certificate, and eat some cake. His wife was waiting at the next stop to take him home, but we stayed on the train and traveled to the Grand Canyon for our honeymoon.

We were married on September 26, 2001 aboard the Amtrak Southwest Chief. Here we are, saying our vows on the train:

The only expenses associated with our wedding were:

-Ticket for the minister-$45
-Small, 2 layer cake-$25
-My dress and shoes-$101 (clearance specials)
-Flowers-$65
-Marriage license-$25
-Amtrak trip-$1500
This included:
-Two tickets to Grand Canyon (both ways)
-Food and sleeping accommodations on the train
-3 nights at hotel in Flagstaff, AZ
-Bus tour of Grand Canyon
-Champagne, meals out in Flagstaff, misc. expenses: $285
Total: $2046

According to costofwedding.com, the average couple in my city spends $27,070 on their wedding. This does not include the cost of the honeymoon. We spent less than a tenth of that, including our honeymoon, and we had an awesome time too!

Here we are on our honeymoon:

A beautiful view of the Grand Canyon:

We had so much fun! The train was filled with well-wishers, who applauded and cheered for us. We had our wedding supper in the dining car, and complete strangers congratulated us and bought us drinks. Amtrak was very generous-they gave us an Amtrak blanket, T-shirts, wine and a huge fresh fruit and cheese tray. A couple on our Grand Canyon tour bus bought us a souvenir bottle of wine. It was the most memorable day of our lives.

Before we left the train station to head home, my husband wrote this on the back window of our car:

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Heather is a minimalist in love with a recovering packrat. 7 years ago, she and her husband sold pretty much anything that wasn't nailed down in order to pay off their mortgage, and they've been living happily debt-free ever since. They have 3 hilarious little kids who were conceived with the help of in vitro fertilization, and they haven't had a good night's sleep in the last decade. Heather is an anglophile who loves all things British, and spends her free time looking at real estate listings in Cornwall. Every day, she and her family work toward a simpler, more meaningful life. Some days are awesome, some are disastrous, and you can read about all of them here.

Have a question? Need a listening ear? Contact Heather, or visit Want What You Have on Facebook.

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3 comments… add one

  1. Jen December 7, 2011, 9:14 pm

    How unique and romantic!

    Reply
  2. SocalMolly April 30, 2012, 11:15 pm

    What a wonderful story.  We’re thinking of doing the same thing — except we’ll also rent a Pullman car for 40 guests, meet everyone at Los Angeles Union Station and then take the train to our local station before everyone disembarks and we fly to Europe.  What fun!

    Reply
  3. Liz June 26, 2012, 4:48 am

    What a beautiful story! I had a pretty frugal wedding…imo…about 50 people, buffet, middle of the day..everything including my dress was less than $5000. For California….that’s usualy the price of the wedding dress.

    Reply

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