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Flash Weddings: How To Plan Quickie ‘I Dos’ On The Cheap

A flash wedding is a trendy, thrilling, and thrifty alternative to a formal marriage ceremony.Be prepared: The next wedding invitation in your mailbox might ask you to break the law.

It may describe the stuff of spy movies: Sneaking into a museum and gathering around a popular painting without rousing suspicion of the guards. All in the name of celebrating a wedding in a ways that’s trendy, thrilling, and totally thrifty.

It’s called a flash wedding (or guerilla wedding) and it’s a twist on the quirky flash mob performances that have been popping up in public squares, shopping malls, and YouTube channels around the world for the past few years. In a flash wedding, the bride, groom, officiant, wedding party (optional) and guests gather quietly in a public place to perform a quick wedding ceremony before dispersing to a reception or after-party.

Why Flash Weddings Make Sense

Flash weddings are unique, fun and quick, but, most importantly, they can save the bride and groom BIG money.

The “average” American wedding costs nearly $30,000, making a public wedding is an attractive alternative. You can say goodbye to the big costs associated with the the venue, décor, and ceremony music while still having a memorable and beautiful day in a free public space.

Another perk of a flash wedding is that location possibilities are endless, you can hold your wedding someplace that’s potentially more meaningful to you and your betrothed than the average church or rented ceremony space.

Where Can You Have a Flash Wedding?

If you want a sweet, intimate and quiet ceremony, you could look into a private park, garden or other outdoor area.

If you want to be the center of attention of a major crowd, plan your event a mall, airport, business, or a major park or public place (a la this cute YouTube couple—the wedding starts around 3:15).

Museums are another popular flash wedding location. They’re already decorated with exquisite art; many couples choose their favorite piece of art ahead of time and let their guests know to meet there.

How Flash Weddings Cut Costs In a Big Way

With a flash wedding, the major costs—the wedding venue and all its trappings—are free.

And let’s be honest: a public wedding is hardly formal. This gives you the liberty to make everything about the wedding more casual, too.

For example, you can send a fun e-mail, post card or even a Facebook event for the invitations.

The popular blog A Practical Wedding, even shows you how to inexpensively create an aisle out of construction paper that you can use almost anywhere.

Choose DIY attire and flowers for a unique touch; a non-conventional wedding dress might make it easier to make a getaway in the event security rains on your parade.

With a flash wedding: Planning is the name of the game.

You cannot plan enough. Scout out various areas of your venue once you’ve decided on a spot. Pick a non-peak time for the ceremony. Check an event calendar for other events to make sure you’ll have the space to yourself. You may be breaking some rules, but you can still pull the thing off in style if you create an unbreakable plan.

The Downsides

The biggest downside to a flash wedding? The law.

As most couples who choose a flash wedding want their “I Dos” to be a beautiful location, sometimes those spots are, in fact, bookable wedding venues…that charge a hefty fee.

Botanical gardens, museums, parks, and many other public venues usually charge a pretty penny for getting married there. So if security guards happen to crash your wedding, be prepared to get kicked out before you have time for the kiss.

There are ways around this, of course, but you’ll have to get all your guests in on the deal. SmartMoney magazine offers these flash wedding tips:

  • Have the bride, groom, wedding party and officiant wear long coats or cover-ups to conceal their wedding attire so security doesn’t take note
  • Buy tickets (if you have to) in small groups so employees don’t get suspicious
  • Have guests form a circle around you
  • Make it quick and snappy; then get outta there
  • Take pictures outside or at another location

Of course, some public places probably won’t mind if you hold your quick wedding on their premises. Politeness could get you a long way in certain locations that aren’t monitored by security. And, in the case of lots of flash wedding bride and grooms, crowds and employees ended up applauding and enjoying the ceremony instead of breaking it up.

What do you think? You guys had vocal opinions about the average costs of weddings, but does this appeal to you? Would you consider a flash wedding? Been to one? Had one? Let us know.

Photo used under Creative Commons license thanks to prettyemmy.

Published or updated on July 2, 2012

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About Amber Gilstrap

Amber is a twenty-something CPA from Kansas City, Missouri who loves writing, working out, and---of course---finding fresh ideas for saving money. Follow her on twitter @amberinks.


We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30.

  1. The cost of a wedding is something to be responsible about, no doubt…. but some families actually like each other and actually want to celebrate together. A wedding is not just for the couple but a way to bring generations together. I think hosting a reasonable family event of any kind sure beats having people you care about running from the cops. Flash wedding are not a good idea. (Makes me think of streaking in the 70’s… sure, funny if you did it, but a cheap trend at best.)

  2. Eva says:

    Maybe this will work in certain cities, but I doubt it will work in the DC area or NYC area where a lot of public places have prime security, and you may be on Federal land. It sounds romantic, but if I lived in a high profile city where law enforcement don’t consider these things charming, I would advised consulting with a professional planner (or even a lawyer).

  3. One question: Can a marriage be legal if it was performed illegally?

    • Michael says:

      Since weddings are not a mandatory part of getting married. No. Sign some documents and you’re pretty much done!

      • Michael says:

        Unless you’re gay and in a state that doesn’t recognize it. We still live in such barbaric times…the U.S. looks pretty silly to the rest of the world because of several things and this is one of them.

  4. Eric says:

    I run a flash mob company (DenverFlashMob.com), and we have done proposals and videos for weddings, but never a wedding itself. We could totally pull it off though if someone wanted it.

    We usually work with the venue unless it is a public outdoor area to make sure we have the right permission to pull of the mob without any interference or trouble.

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