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Knotty problem: Whether to wed midweek

Hear, hear! The week of the royal wedding is finally upon us, and Wills and Kate will be getting married on ... a Friday.

It may seem like a small detail, but it hasn’t been lost on wedding planners and frugal brides- and grooms-to-be on this side of the Atlantic. In a country that’s obsessed with throwing weddings on Saturday nights, the idea of weeknight weddings is slowly catching on — no matter how much wedding guests grumble about it.

When the question “How terrible is it to have a wedding on a weeknight?” was posed on one online message board, some respondents lashed out and called the practice “selfish” and “incredibly inconvenient.” One person posted a plaintive question: “WHYYYY?”

Josh Rosenberg, 29, of Columbia, Md., still remembers what a struggle it was for him and his sister to get time off work and travel to his mother’s Tuesday night wedding in Massachusetts in 2009.

“I was happy to be there, but for months beforehand I was arguing that this was a reaaaaaaaaally bad idea,” Rosenberg said. “It was a shame that neither my sister nor I could bring our significant others along. It was just impossible given the timing.”

And yet ... when you hear from couples who have tied the knot midweek — and even from some of the guests who showed up and celebrated with them — off-peak wedding times can start to sound oddly awesome. That especially holds true for smaller, intimate weddings where most of the guests live locally and don’t have to travel, and for destination weddings where groups of people escape to gorgeous spots and turn the nuptials into an excuse for a mini-vacation. A number of guests may not be able to come, but the most important people tend to make it.

“I think a lot of time the guests are pleasantly surprised by the events that happen on nontraditional days,” said Tracy DiNunzio, founder of Recycled Bride, a site that allows people to buy and sell gently used dresses and other wedding items. “It’s part of a big trend for personalization in general. ... People are playing with traditions and deciding to make their weddings a little bit more unique.”

Fairy-tale wedding for less
For Lucy and Charles Ashworth, the decision to wed on a Thursday night came down to the most practical consideration of all: money. The Vacaville, Calif., couple had been together for more than a decade when they got married last November, and they wanted their day to be special. Really special.

“I wanted a top-notch, beautiful, fairy-tale wedding,” said Lucy Ashworth, 38. “I didn’t want to have to compromise. ... I just decided that I’d rather have a really awesome Thursday wedding than a so-so Saturday wedding. Even though a few of our family members probably thought it was kind of weird, once they got there and saw the heart and soul that went into it, they had to understand.”

The couple got married at Nestldown, a beautiful retreat surrounded by redwoods — and saved at least $8,000 on the venue because they booked it midweek, they said. Lucy negotiated shrewdly with every vendor she approached, stressing that the wedding was happening on a night when they otherwise wouldn’t be working. She also offered to pay cash — in full and up front — for all services.

The upshot: The Ashworths spent between $25,000 and $30,000 on a full-service, upscale wedding and reception that easily could have cost double that amount if it had taken place on a Saturday.

“I really do think that’s an insane amount to spend on a single day of your life,” Lucy Ashworth said. “I get that that’s nuts. But it was beautiful and gorgeous and it’s never, ever going to happen again. ... Because we planned for it, we came back from our honeymoon and we had no wedding debt at all.”

While many of the Ashworths’ 55 guests were perplexed by the choice of a Thursday night — and some found it challenging to line up baby-sitting on an off night — they ultimately had a blast.

“Lucy and Charles’ wedding was intimate and relaxing,” said Evelyn Shapiro, a friend of the groom. “The day seemed magical.”

Nicole Lisanne, a wedding consultant and designer based in the San Francisco Bay area, helped the Ashworths plan their wedding. Lisanne said midweek weddings like theirs can work out well when couples give guests plenty of notice about the date. She also noted that guests at midweek weddings often enjoy reduced rates on hotels and flights, less traffic and less crowded restaurants at rehearsal dinners — plus they don’t have to sacrifice their entire weekend for a wedding.

“You just see much less stressed-out people,” she said.

In recent years, Lisanne has seen a sharp increase in the number of Thursday night rehearsal dinners followed by Friday night weddings.

“Fridays are kind of the new Saturday,” Lisanne said. “That might have been an effect of the economy. ...

Andrew Kung H. H.

“I kind of hope that the prince and princess’ wedding makes people understand that it’s OK to get married on a Friday. It actually offers you cost savings, and you have a whole weekend with your guests before you go off on your honeymoon. It also gives guests a chance to play hooky from work for a day.”

Nice day for a — cave wedding?
If avoiding a Saturday night wedding saves money, here’s another trick for slashing spending: Skip a nighttime wedding altogether. DiNunzio of Recycled Bride said she’s seen couples save major cash by throwing lunch, brunch and even breakfast receptions following morning wedding ceremonies.

Marie-Gael and Michael Gray of Athens, Ohio, spent less than $100 on their sunrise wedding ceremony and reception, which took place outdoors in a cave — yes, a cave! — in Hocking Hills State Park. (That amount didn’t include their clothes and rings.)

Coffee, hot chocolate, orange juice and breakfast pastries — all homemade by friends and family — were served along the pathway before the wedding to give guests the chance to mingle with one another and warm up. Guests were especially grateful for the hot drinks since it was plenty cold outside during the November 2009 event.

Andrew Kung H. H.

“I fell in love with the idea of how beautiful the sun rising though a foggy forest would be,” said Marie-Gael Gray, an artist who just turned 30. “Who needs decorations with lighting like that?! We had a friend playing an Irish fiddle from within the cave so you heard it echoing all through the forest, and one of my good friends said with the music, the fog, the sun rising and all the moss she felt like she was in Ireland. So, you can save the time and expense of decorations if you think outside of the norm.”

About 100 people attended the Grays’ wedding, and some had a rough time making it to the state park by 8:30 in the morning. The area had limited GPS service and no cell-phone signal.

Jennifer Bailey, a friend of the bride, lives in Columbus, Ohio — about two hours away from the wedding site.

“I had to get up at 5!” Bailey said. “I am NOT a morning person. ... Of course, a November morning in Ohio is rather chilly. After our hike to the cave — which, let me tell you, was fun in a dress, particularly for those who did not wear practical shoes — we waited in the cave and huddled together for warmth. ...

“That being said, the setting was beautiful. By the time Marie-Gael made her way up the path, the light had just begun to filter through the fall trees.”

Bailey said the wedding was pretty much perfect for Marie-Gael and Michael.

“It was unusual and memorable,” she said, “and thoroughly personalized.”

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