Shaila and Matt got married on November 22 in Charlotte for only $360. How did they do it?
The couple (who prefers not to use their last names in this piece) says the grand total includes court fees, a marriage certificate, and dinner with friends at Dilworth Tasting Room to celebrate after their courthouse wedding Uptown.
After dinner, the newlyweds and their close friends headed across the street to Tyber Creek Pub, one of the first spots the couple visited after moving to Charlotte. At Tyber Creek, the couple had a makeshift ceremony in the courtyard and friends gave toasts. “(It was) the best wedding reception I could have asked for,” Shaila says.
Shaila and Matt originally wanted to get legally married to aid their home buying process, with the intention of eloping in Spain later this year. But Shaila explains, “As the day continued, it felt more and more like, ‘OK this is our wedding day. This is what we’re doing.’ And we were very happy with it. We couldn’t have wanted anything better.”
A trip to Tokyo shortly after served as a perfect “accidental honeymoon.”
A traditional wedding was never something the couple entertained. Shaila says that the cost of the guest list necessary to accommodate her large family, combined with their desire to put money toward a house instead, made the idea unappealing.
“Plus, the planning. We watched one of our best friends get married in June, and she was absolutely stressed at her reception,” she notes.
Shaila and Matt wanted a wedding that felt carefree. “There was no pressure to have a first dance, which sounds terrifying to me,” Shaila says. “Our friends made small toasts and no one got left out because they weren’t the best man or maid of honor. It was a full-circle moment for us.”
According to a survey from The Knot in 2018, the average U.S. wedding costs $33,931. Shaila and Matt’s wedding, however, cost about the same as the average wedding’s invitations.
Charity Parrish, owner of Charlotte-based company The Elopement Co., caters specifically to couples who want to tie the knot without caterers and 100-person guest lists. (Parrish did not work with Shaila and Matt, however.)
She explains that her client base is not necessarily strapped for cash and eloping because it’s the only option. Instead, these couples would rather take the money they’ve saved on a smaller wedding and move these funds toward buying a home or taking a bucket list trip, as Shaila and Matt did.
Parrish offers elopement and micro-wedding (with a guest list of 15 or fewer people) packages, where couples can hire her to handle everything from the photography to ordering a bouquet and cupcakes.
“For a lot of couples, there’s all this expectation of what your wedding should be like,” Parrish says.
“It should be this magical day and every single thing is perfect. But in reality, (it’s) a very large, very complicated, very expensive event. And there’s a lot of pressure.”
Parrish notes that for some people, the planning required is worth it. A wedding is an important milestone many have dreamt about for years.
The interest in her business is growing, Parrish says. She’s already 50 percent more booked this year than she was at this time last year.
In 2019, she planned 42 weddings. This year, she already has 21 weddings booked, with several more in process.
For those wondering if a wedding like Shaila and Matt’s might be their preferred route, Parrish offers this advice: “You have to know yourself and put aside what you think you’re supposed to do. This is the one day you truly get to be selfish, right? And to actually focus on what you want out of that day. Try to imagine that from beginning to end.
“‘How do I want to feel?'”