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8 Tips For a No-Frills Wedding

Whether you've decided to get hitched in Vegas, take it down to city hall for a civil ceremony, keep your guest list family-only, elope without anyone knowing, have a last-minute surprise wedding, or renew your vows — you've kicked over-the-top tradition to the curb and you're keeping it simple. But without all the pomp and circumstance, how do you make sure the ceremony is still special?

I've gathered eight tips on putting together a wedding that takes a less-is-more approach, but is still big on the important things that can get shoved aside in the wedding-planning process — like that whole spending the rest of your life with the person you love part.

See them when you

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  1. Do a destination. With the money you're saving not throwing a big bash, you can spend a little more tying the knot somewhere far from home, maybe a locale that has personal significance? This is especially special if it's just the two of you (e.g. Jim and Pam's Niagara nuptials).
  2. Have a potluck. If you decide to do a small reception after a private ceremony, have the guests bring the grub.
  3. Throw a happy-hour reception. Skip the formal reception altogether and have everyone meet up after at your fave dive bar to celebrate.
  4. Forgo gifts for services. Friends and family are sure to jump at the chance to help out taking photos, doing your makeup, and other wedding duties in lieu of pricey gifts.
  5. Take a chance. Along the same lines as no. 1, without 200+ guests to worry about, you can really make this a special moment for you and your betrothed, so don't be afraid to go out on a limb — or up in a hot air balloon! Grab your close friends and family, and turn it into an adventurous outing.
  6. Skip the ballgown. For less stress, less money, and no fittings, find a creative outfit for the occasion instead of a traditional wedding gown. For her last-minute wedding, I love Corri Sheff's vintagy ensemble (pictured), especially her precious pink knit skirt, which she made herself!
  7. Be courteous. Take a cue from Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher, who had a tiny, no-fuss wedding in Paris and sent out a sentimental email to absentee family and friends immediately after. I would even take it a step further, and say sending out sweet handwritten notes would keep your loved ones from feeling left out.
  8. Be spontaneous. One of my favorite wedding stories, hands down, is this surprise wedding. The engaged couple decided a week before their engagement party to throw a surprise wedding that night instead. By being willing to change their plans on a whim, they had a memorable, sweet, and all-around awesome day, without the months of planning and stressing.

Have you attended or thrown a low-key wedding? Share your tips and experiences below!

If you are planning a wedding, already happily wed, or still looking for Mr. Right, start sharing your big day with our community. Don't forget to check the wedding content box on your post.

Photo courtesy of The Concrete Catwalk

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paulhar333 paulhar333 6 years
My family and his family made all the food for the reception--a party/finger food buffet with punch, mini sandwiches, veggies, fruit, homemade fudge, potato salad, etc. Free Wedding Hawaii
mallorycurtis mallorycurtis 6 years
I would LOVE to do something like this. I'd probably do a destination wedding with just our families and a little restaurant reception or something afterward. I just hate that everyone expects big fancy weddings nowadays - I'd rather have it be special than just throwing a huge expensive party for people I barely know.
missmari missmari 6 years
My husband and I sort of did this a few years ago. 1. I didn't get a gown. I wore a white lacy summer dress ($30). (Though I have to admit that since spring 2007, white summer dresses have exploded and I've found about 30 other dresses I like better than the dress I wore. Oh well). 2. He wore a gray button down and black slacks with a red tie. The four groomsmen wore the same but with a different shade of red tie.3. My bridesmaids wore red and white floral print summer dresses ($25 each!) 4. I carried red and white flowers that my mom found at a garage sale from someone else's wedding. We added our personal touch by tying the bouquet together with silver/red ribbon that had come from my senior prom bouquet (yes, we went to prom together, too). 5. We rented a tent and borrowed chairs and banquet hall tables from my dad's friend who supplies them for a church picnic every year, and we had the wedding in my parents' large yard where my dad recently built a cabin. 6. We did the legal part at city hall but had a friend perform the ceremony for us.7. My family and his family made all the food for the reception--a party/finger food buffet with punch, mini sandwiches, veggies, fruit, homemade fudge, potato salad, etc. 8. The cake was made by a pro, but we knew her so it was a 3 tier cake for $110--a steal. 9. My mom decorated the yard with red and white flowers, real and fake. She put white candles with red flowers on all the tables. 10. My mom borrowed a trellis from a friend, and my sister-in-law decorated it with chiffon and red rose garland. 11. We had two friends play guitar and sing songs we chose. The whole ceremony lasted about 10-15 minutes but we had a 2 hour party there. It was cheap and fun and my husband and I both agree it was one of the best days of our lives.
missmari missmari 6 years
My husband and I sort of did this a few years ago. 1. I didn't get a gown. I wore a white lacy summer dress ($30). (Though I have to admit that since spring 2007, white summer dresses have exploded and I've found about 30 other dresses I like better than the dress I wore. Oh well). 2. He wore a gray button down and black slacks with a red tie. The four groomsmen wore the same but with a different shade of red tie. 3. My bridesmaids wore red and white floral print summer dresses ($25 each!) 4. I carried red and white flowers that my mom found at a garage sale from someone else's wedding. We added our personal touch by tying the bouquet together with silver/red ribbon that had come from my senior prom bouquet (yes, we went to prom together, too). 5. We rented a tent and borrowed chairs and banquet hall tables from my dad's friend who supplies them for a church picnic every year, and we had the wedding in my parents' large yard where my dad recently built a cabin. 6. We did the legal part at city hall but had a friend perform the ceremony for us. 7. My family and his family made all the food for the reception--a party/finger food buffet with punch, mini sandwiches, veggies, fruit, homemade fudge, potato salad, etc. 8. The cake was made by a pro, but we knew her so it was a 3 tier cake for $110--a steal. 9. My mom decorated the yard with red and white flowers, real and fake. She put white candles with red flowers on all the tables. 10. My mom borrowed a trellis from a friend, and my sister-in-law decorated it with chiffon and red rose garland. 11. We had two friends play guitar and sing songs we chose. The whole ceremony lasted about 10-15 minutes but we had a 2 hour party there. It was cheap and fun and my husband and I both agree it was one of the best days of our lives.
skigurl skigurl 6 years
i thought it was SJP too, weird...is that just a random picture?
xgreenfairyx xgreenfairyx 6 years
"Eight tips"? Why so many? I only needed one; sign the paper.
postmodernsleaze postmodernsleaze 6 years
I seriously thought that was SJP in that picture! I was thinking, "What is going on here!?" Love that outfit though. And these wedding ideas :) Sometimes I think the stress people put on their wedding makes the big day more of a relief that it's over than a sentimental moment.
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