Carolina Wedding Confessionals: Couple gets married for under $1,000 with $100 dress and Costco catering

Carolina Wedding Confessionals: Couple gets married for under $1,000 with $100 dress and Costco catering
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Karla Fischbach-Daly and Ben Daly met on Tinder Passport at the start of the pandemic in 2020. She lived in Ohio; he lived in Dublin, Ireland.

“I wasn’t expecting anything. But then I matched with my now husband,” said Karla, who traveled to Ireland to meet Ben in September 2020. 

Context: Tinder Passport is a paid feature on the popular dating app that allows you to change your location to swipe on people from anywhere in the world, not just your city. 

Flashback: Karla and Ben navigated a long-distance relationship during the pandemic. “There was a whole year we didn’t see each other,” said Karla, who moved to Charlotte while she and Ben were dating.

  • In June 2021, they submitted the paperwork for a K-1 visa (also known as a fiancé visa) and waited 15 months for the application to be approved.
  • Fast forward to June 2023, Ben moved from Dublin to Aiken, S.C., and married Karla the same week. The couple now lives in Aiken.
  • Of note: Once in the U.S., you have to get married within 90 days on a K-1 visa.

The two spent thousands on the immigration process. That meant a low-budget wedding was their only option.

By the numbers: The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. in 2023 is around $29,000, according to the wedding planning website Zola. 

  • By comparison, weddings in the Carolinas are on par with Zola’s numbers, with North Carolina at $28,170 and South Carolina slightly more at $28,456.

Karla joked to me that their scenario is comparable to the popular television series, 90 Day Fiancé. Photo: Courtesy of Karla Fischbach-Daly.

Here’s a look at the cost breakdown of Karla and Ben’s wedding for 40 guests.

Of note: Karla’s responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Venue: $350 

We got married at Grace Church of Aiken for free since my family is a member of the church. But we made an offering to the pastor to marry us, and paid an audio visual tech to live stream the wedding so Ben’s family in Ireland could watch.

  • We paid around $350 for that combined.
  • The ceremony itself was super quick. No music or anything extravagant — just some prayers and exchange of vows.

Dress: $100

I got my dress from Express for around $100.

  • It was more of a midi cocktail dress, but it was satin and ivory and I thought, “Hey, I’d wear this again.”

Karla and Ben with family on their wedding day, featuring the $100 Express dress. Wedding photos: Courtesy of Anne Nesser.

Reception food and wedding cake: $200

The reception was super cheap. I use that term loosely because it was more of a gathering. My mom bought a bunch of frozen appetizers and our wedding cake from Costco for around $200 combined.

  • We couldn’t have alcohol at the church, but afterwards we went to my stepmom’s for wine and charcuterie.

The Costco spread and a Chick-fil-A nugget tray, which Karla says one of her friends used her points to get for free. Photos: Courtesy of Karla Fischbach-Daly.

Decor: $0 

My mom and her friends decorated the communion hall at the church with simple decorations. They even brought some of the decor, like candles, from their homes.

Photography: $0 

We didn’t hire a photographer. Instead, one of my friends who does photography as a hobby took all the photos with her professional camera.

Overall wedding cost: $650

Looking back, would you have splurged on anything or budgeted differently?

I would’ve liked more of a party, and I would’ve budgeted more for a nice venue and music. But Ireland has some really pretty venues. A recommitment ceremony there one day is the goal.

What advice do you have for couples looking to get married on a budget?

If you want to elope or have a microwedding, go for it. I’m a huge advocate for that. Also, DIY where you can, especially with decorations and food — there are a lot of ideas on Pinterest.

  • Don’t be afraid of only inviting your closest friends and family because every extra head adds money.
  • People who really love you will either be there or they’ll understand if they can’t be there.

Calling all Carolina newlyweds! Want to be interviewed for our wedding budget series? Fill out this survey to be considered.

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