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How I Saved Money Getting Married in Las Vegas

by J. Money on Thursday, November 21, 2013

elvis vegas

[Guest author today, Andy Prescott, from ArtofBeingCheap.com. Who certainly proves it today ;)]

Once in a while I hear a statistic about how the average wedding in America costs $25,000 and I cringe. I also read headlines about how to “plan a wedding on a budget,” and I always read them just so I can laugh that the writers think getting married for $5,000 or $10,000 is a “great deal.”

I got married in Las Vegas for $500, and if I had to do it all over again I would do it exactly the same. I understand it’s not for everybody, but for the right people it’s a great way to save thousands of dollars.

Should you get married in Las Vegas?

Have you or your future spouse been happily dreaming about your big wedding with hundreds of people since elementary school? Don’t get married in Las Vegas.

Have you or your future spouse always imagined coming down the aisle in a beautiful dress while everybody you know oohs and ahhs? You probably shouldn’t get married in Las Vegas.

Would you getting married in Las Vegas be a big disappointment to your family or your future in-laws, because they are just as excited about your big day as you are? ou definitely shouldn’t get married in Las Vegas.

But for us it was the right choice.  My wife grew up with an interesting background.  She is from an ultra-conservative religious group that doesn’t take very kindly to their women marrying outsiders. Most of her family disowned her when they found out she was dating me, and that I refused to convert to their religion. That is a story for another day, but the important point here is that almost none of my wife’s family would have attended a regular wedding, and seeing a church with one side completely empty would have been very disappointing to her.

As for my family, they are all wonderful, supportive people who would have all come to see me get married. On the other hand, they probably weren’t too disappointed that they couldn’t go. They knew it wasn’t going to be that great of a party, anyway. A quick ceremony at the cheapest available venue, followed by sandwiches in my parent’s basement is how I like to roll.

I know of one other couple that thought getting married in Las Vegas was for them. One of them is very shy and the thought of being the center of attention in front of hundreds of people was horrifying.

I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons you may not want a big wedding, but whatever they are, just keep in mind that a cheap wedding in Las Vegas is always an option.

Planning the Vegas Wedding

A wedding in Las Vegas can be whatever you want it to be. A quick simple wedding could cost as little as $55. For a little more you could have your wedding officiated by an Elvis impersonator or whatever other silly theme you want to have.

My wife and I chose to have a very plain and simple wedding for about $300 at the Golden Nugget, which is considered to be the nicest hotel in the downtown area.

The wedding was very nice. It was in a small chapel that looked a lot like a church, and was conducted by a genuine Roman Catholic priest who was dressed like a genuine Roman Catholic priest. My wife wore a very simple wedding dress that she looked amazing in and I wore dress pants and a dress shirt. There ceremony was pretty normal, with normal vows, and a normal speech from the Priest of which I recall not a word.

There wasn’t anything silly about our ceremony.

The best part about paying a little extra for the package was how easy everything was. The $300 we paid included a wedding planner and a photographer. The wedding planner told us how to pre-register for a marriage license to save us time, arranged for the priest and photographer, got my wife a bouquet, and took care of more little details than I know.

selfieAfter the wedding she even suggested the nicest restaurant to go to in the downtown area to celebrate. Our package included a couple of wedding pictures, but my wife’s favorite picture was the selfie we took in our hotel room right before the ceremony started.

Here is how easy everything was:  I was at a conference which got out at 1pm. Our wedding was at 4pm, which gave us plenty of time to go get the marriage license, meet with our wedding planner to make sure everything was going to go smooth like a rhapsody, and get ready. I even had time to go play a little blackjack while my wife got her makeup on.

The only disagreement my wife and I have had about our wedding is the issue of a honeymoon. She says I still owe her one, but I say that getting married in Las Vegas counts as a honeymoon. I pointed out that in Las Vegas you can see New York City, Venice, Paris, ancient Rome, and the pyramids all in one place, which sounds like the greatest honeymoon of all time. She points out that the miniature versions don’t count as a real honeymoon.

I guess not everything about getting married in Las Vegas is perfect.

——–
Andy Prescott is a CPA who writes artofbeingcheap.com, which he describes as an instruction manual to saving money. He has been happily married for 2 years.

EDITOR’S NOTE: My aunt once celebrated her 10 year anniversary in Vegas where they renew their vows in front of all their family. And, of course, an Elvis impersonator. So if getting married there the first time isn’t up your ally, perhaps a fun 2nd time might be? :)

Photo cred: Moyan_Brenn


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{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Clarisse @MakeMoney Your Way November 21, 2013 at 7:08 am

Wow you got married in Las Vegas for $500? That was very impressive! Being practical is the best thing to do especially for the newly weds.

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2 Holly@ClubThrifty November 21, 2013 at 7:56 am

I think getting married in Vegas is a great idea if everyone’s on board. We had a cheap wedding too and we’re still happily married. I’m glad we didn’t pay tens of thousands of dollars just for the privilege!

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3 John S @ Frugal Rules November 21, 2013 at 8:23 am

That’s awesome Andy! I say if everyone is on board and you don’t have any grand visions of a costly wedding then why not? We had a relatively cheap wedding ourselves and have no regrets at all whatsoever. Though, I think I might be on your wife’s side of the honeymoon argument. ;)

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4 Andy@artofbeingcheap November 21, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Ok, so the concensus seems to be that I should take my wife on a honeymoon. You’re all probably right, so I will save up and see if we can go somewhere next summer.

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5 Well Heeled Blog November 21, 2013 at 8:25 am

All I have to say is… seriously, your wife is right! Go on a honeymoon.

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6 Andy@artofbeingcheap November 21, 2013 at 6:25 pm

I might be going on a business trip to NYC in a few months. If I take my wife does that count as a honeymoon?

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7 J. Money November 21, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Haha… you are bad ;)

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8 Well Heeled Blog November 21, 2013 at 8:29 am

Also, I keep getting this feeling that having an inexpensive wedding has somehow turned into a competition among PF bloggers. It’s not! There’s no prize for having a $300 wedding and there’s no prize for having a $30,000 or even $300,000 wedding. All it matter is that you spend according to your abilities and your priorities.

I got married for $7,000 and it was a great deal – because it was the wedding we wanted, with the people we wanted, in the place we wanted, for the budget that made sense with our financial plan. It sounds like you had the same thing for $500, which made your wedding a great deal as well.

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9 Andy@artofbeingcheap November 21, 2013 at 6:26 pm

$7,000 isn’t bad. I have heard of spending a lot more than $7,000.

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10 Ben @ The Wealth Gospel November 21, 2013 at 8:33 am

Haha I like the Vegas honeymoon comment: You can see New York City, Venice, Paris, ancient Rome, and the pyramids all in one place! But anyway, I think it’s a great idea if that’s what you want. That ceremony is really only about the both of you anyway. Why the need to spend thousands of dollars to impress other people or to just make you feel like you’re special? You should feel special enough that someone is choosing to spend the rest of their life with you.

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11 Andy@artofbeingcheap November 21, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Well said. At the time I remember thinking that sharing the ceremony only with my wife made it more special, not less. I’m not sure if she felt the same way.

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12 J. Money November 21, 2013 at 7:55 pm

I can kinda see that. There’s definitely something magical about sharing that one and only occasion together like that :) My parents would have killed me though as they all wanted to enjoy and share in the happiness too. Though I’ve heard of a lot of people getting married in smaller groups, and then having a party later to celebrate with everyone. And since it’s not a “wedding” party it’s usually much cheaper too.

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13 Kathy November 21, 2013 at 8:36 am

I can beat you on the cost. Our wedding cost us $100. We got married by a judge at the court house for $0 over 36 years ago. My dress cost $28. Hubby wore a suit he already had. Cake, soda, plates cups etc. didn’t cost too much for a small reception we had at his apartment for family. Then we went to a local buffet restaurant and planned to feed 20 family members., but both sets of parents gave us $50 for a wedding present which we used to pay the bill. I have absolutely no regret about how we married.

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14 Andy@artofbeingcheap November 21, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Well done. I’m jealous.

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15 Brian@ Debt Discipline November 21, 2013 at 8:44 am

With all the money you saved on the wedding, sounds like a honeymoon is in order. :)

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16 The Warrior November 21, 2013 at 8:51 am

We decided to have a small wedding with just family and friends. Not Vegas, but still small so that we could save for our first house.

I wish we would have eloped in Hawaii, but had to compromise with the small family and friends wedding more local.

Weddings are a lot of fun….when I’m not footing the bill.

The Warrior
NetWorthWarrior.com

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17 Kylie Ofiu November 21, 2013 at 9:03 am

I really wanted to elope. Instead my parents paid about 2/3 of the wedding costs and my now ex husband and I paid the rest. We spent way less than average, had well over 100people but I really would have preferred to elope.

If, and that is a really big IF, I were to remarry, I would elope. If I lived near Vegas, I would totally do it. I live in Australia though and would happily just do the court house thing should I ever decide to remarry. My daughters have other plans and keep planning my wedding. They are 4 and 6 and have grand ideas of me getting remarried.

I think the focus should be the marriage and your wedding sounds wonderful!

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18 Andy@artofbeingcheap November 21, 2013 at 6:30 pm

If your 4 and 6 year old daughters are already planning weddings you might be in big trouble in the future. Better start saving now!

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19 J. Money November 21, 2013 at 7:56 pm

(Or marry another pf blogger :) We’re worth coming stateside for!)

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20 Wunderwriter November 21, 2013 at 10:13 am

My first marriage was a major big deal, expensive dress with long train, seven attendants each, over 300 guests, sit down dinner (granted, it was buffet style, all the rage at the time). It cost my parents a king’s ransom (I was eighteen at the time), and lasted seven turbulent years I would never want to relive.

My second marriage, hubby and I were heading back from Oregon and saw Reno was a nice, four hour detour on some very lovely roads, went there on a whim July 4, 1982 (yes, Independence Day, or Dependents Day as we like to call it due to the three kids). Everything was open (even City Hall), got the license and the ceremony for $46 I believe.

31 plus years later, we’re still happily married. What would I do differently? Probably go the extra fifty miles to Tahoe for better scenery, but the last time we were in Tahoe we both commented that Reno is on the upswing with lots of nice casinos and Tahoe is looking a little ratty, so maybe we were right all along!

Don’t know if this helps anyone, but frankly, it’s not the wedding that matters, it’s the marriage. Save your money for something really important, you won’t regret it.

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21 Mel November 21, 2013 at 10:17 am

I totally agree – it’s the marriage that matters. My little sister is getting married this weekend and we’ve tried to get that through to her, but she’s got her dream and no one’s taking her down. Hopefully it runs smoother than the planning has… :)

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22 J. Money November 21, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Awww, haha… big dreams and fancy weddings are okay too if that’s what makes you/her happy :) Especially if it’s only a one-time shot!

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23 Mel November 21, 2013 at 10:13 am

We got married in Vegas too for some similar reasons. I had been married before and didn’t care for anything big, and my husband started adding things up (to the tune of $20k!), so we eloped – 364 days before our planned wedding. We stopped at the first place that offered an Elvis impersonator because we figured, “Hey, we’re in Vegas – go big or go home.” The whole weekend cost us $700 for the wedding, room, video, and “honeymoon” fun. I always encourage people to do exactly what they truly want and to buck whatever system they think is dictating their path. Good on you and your bride for doing it YOUR way – and congratulations!

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24 Andy@artofbeingcheap November 21, 2013 at 6:31 pm

LOL, you actually went with the Elvis impersonator? I’ll bet your pictures were way better than mine.

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25 Mel November 21, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Nah – he wasn’t that great of an impersonator. To top it off? We walked down the aisle while he serenaded us with (a pretty decent version of) “Fools Rush In”… oops. The video’s great though – all 4 minutes and 24 seconds of it. LOL. One of our vows was to promise not to leave each other’s blue suede shoes in the rain.

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26 Paul November 21, 2013 at 11:29 am

When my wife and I got married, I was in the Air Force, stationed in Tucson, AZ. My wife is a Type I diabetic and a Canadian citizen. We were living together and she had a bad episode with her diabetes, ending up in the hospital. She had no insurance, and it cost us about $1200. This was in June, 2002, and we decided to get married in Vegas on the 4th of July weekend. The 4th was on Thursday that year, and I got Friday off as well. We drove to Vegas on the 4th, got the license on the 5th, and got married on the 6th. We invited our immediate families. None of my wife’s relatives could make it, but my mother, two of my sisters, one of my brothers, and a niece and nephew attended. We got married at The Little Chapel of the West and had dinner at an Italian restaurant at Circus Circus. That’s where we stayed. After dinner we ran around Circus Circus with the kids. My wife had been married previously and did not really want a big wedding. I really don’t care much about those things. She wore a nice dress and I wore my Air Force Mess Dress uniform.

The next Monday we got her on my medical insurance and introduced her to military medicine. By October, she had an insulin pump and we have had to call an ambulance only a few times since. Prior to getting the insulin pump, I had been calling 911 at least once per month to deal with her low blood sugar episodes. I don’t remember how much we spent, but it was probably in the $500-600 range, including transportation.

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27 Andy@artofbeingcheap November 21, 2013 at 6:34 pm

I though Canada was supposed to have great health care?

I live near a military base and the rumor is that marriages of convenience are fairly common. The wife gets insurance and apparently the soldier gets a larger housing allowance for being married. Anyway, I’m glad it worked out for you, and thank you for your service.

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28 Paul November 21, 2013 at 9:31 pm

I won’t lie, marriages of convenience do happen. I have seen it mostly when folks have finished basic training and are doing follow-on training. In this situation, you are still not really treated as an adult, but if you are married, you do get a better place to live and don’t normally have people coming to your house at all hours. It’s especially true in my former career field, where the follow-on training lasts for over a year. Most follow-on training experiences are a few weeks to a few months, and it is much less common in those career fields.

In my case we were going to get married anyways, this just sped up the timeline. Also, my wife’s Canadian health care did not cover anything in the US.

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29 J. Money November 21, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Circus Circus is the BEST for kids too – used to love running around there myself on family trips!

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30 Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life November 21, 2013 at 11:35 am

I think a great honeymoon or a downpayment on a house is a better use of funds, but I would be willing to splurge on a quality photographer. Pictures have always meant a lot to me, and as much as I love a good “selfie”, I’d like something a bit more artistic to remember the big day.

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31 Andy@artofbeingcheap November 21, 2013 at 6:36 pm

My wife would agree with you. When I was writing this article I let her read it and she said the one thing she would change was to spend a little money on a good photographer.

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32 Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) November 21, 2013 at 11:42 am

Love this! Weddings are so out of control these days. We had a pretty big one and there were a few moments during the planning process that I just wanted to run to vegas!!

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33 Andy@artofbeingcheap November 21, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Maybe everybody thinks this at least once during the planning process.

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34 Michelle November 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Wow that is awesome! We are planning a large wedding, but luckily we won’t be spending more than $10K. I have negotiated pricing and exchanged services which has really helped lower the prices!

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35 Em November 21, 2013 at 1:48 pm

I didn’t get married in Vegas but I did elope and spent maybe $300. We got our marriage license and 3 days later went to a little chapel in MD. Just my husband and the 2 employees at the chapel! I would have hated anything that required more prep than that and my husband wouldn’t have cared either way.

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36 Julia November 21, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Be careful with a Vegas Wedding. My friends got married in Vegas because they did not want the big hupla. Unfortunately, they made the mistake of announcing their intentions at Christmas for a spring break wedding (they were in graduate school)

Family and friends thought this sounded like a great idea for a mini-vacations. They ended up with 300 people following to Vegas. This is more than they would have invited if they had planned a wedding.

Their parents ended up paying for a reception dinner in Vegas. So their wedding did not cost them any more than they had planned.

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37 Andy@artofbeingcheap November 21, 2013 at 6:41 pm

LOL. Thats pretty funny. We were only engaged for about 6 weeks, so there wasn’t really any time for people to make plans to get to Las Vegas.

Here is something I forgot to mention in the article: You can pay a little extra money to have your wedding streamed over a webcam to anybody who you want to see it. That way your family can see your wedding even if they can’t be there.

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38 J. Money November 21, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Hahaha…. wow. You can really do anything these days.

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39 kathleen Prescott November 21, 2013 at 4:25 pm

I’m the wife of the man who wrote this article. And I’ve never regretted getting married in Vegas. I agree that the marriage is what’s important, not the wedding itself. I love my cheap husband who thanks to his cheap ways has provided us with a beautiful home, dependable cars and cheap cell phone plans! Lol …. But I really wouldn’t mind a honeymoon…. hint hint.

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40 J. Money November 21, 2013 at 8:02 pm

HAH! Well if your cheap husband did indeed read all these comments here, I’m pretty sure you’ll be getting that honeymoon soon ;) Though don’t be surprised if he does it on your birthday or Xmas to make it an all-in-one deal, haha…

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41 Janine @ MoneySmartGuides November 21, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Definitely want to do something along those lines…perhaps not Vegas, but definitely not spending $20,000 on one day!! Such a waste!!

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42 Broke Millennial November 21, 2013 at 11:00 pm

As what feels like one of the few unmarried PF bloggers, I’ll say I’ve spent $0!

Vegas wouldn’t be the right option for me, but respect to those who feel it fits their budget and lifestyle.

Also, as an NYC resident — the Vegas version doesn’t count! Take her on a honeymoon (and no, not on a business trip here either).

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43 Chelly November 21, 2013 at 11:07 pm

My husband and I got married in Vegas 2 yrs ago. We did have more of a traditional style hotel wedding rather than a Vegas chapel, so we didn’t save much over doing it at home. I definitely regret how much we spent on the wedding, I just go too caught up in the idea of having the perfect day. Now 2 yrs later I’d much rather have the extra 12k in my bank account. One awesome thing that came from it though was us learning how to save. We paid for everything ourselves, so during our year long engagement we really had to be strict on saving to make our budget work. Before that we weren’t good at putting anything away, other than our 401k. Now we still have the same percentages taken out of our pay checks each week and put in a seperate account, which has now become our emergency fund.

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44 J. Money November 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Well that’s good! Over time that will net you WAYYYY more than the $12k anyways – so it’s def. good you went this route ;)

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45 D November 22, 2013 at 12:44 am

We got married in vegas in June. There are ordained ministers that will do the ceremony anywhere you want! For $150 bucks we got married right in front of the bellagio with fountains going off after. The lady was AWESOME and not cheesy at all. We had about 15 of our friends and family at the ceremony around us and then met anyone else that wanted to show up at a bar. Probably had around 70 showed up.

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46 Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen November 22, 2013 at 1:36 am

That sounds amazing!!! I never could have gotten away with something so simple. I’m Chinese and so is my husband so that’s something that’s unheard of! Weddings are not just for ones getting married, it’s honestly for the parents and the family too. We did it as simply as possible…but not really.

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47 Kristie November 22, 2013 at 12:45 pm

I married my high school sweetheart in Vegas at The Chapel of the Flowers in the ’80s–it was a nice (and cheap!) little ceremony. And then I got married again in Vegas in the 90s, though that particular time my nerves got the best of me (even copious amounts of alcohol couldn’t relax me), so we opted for the drive-thru. Now if they’d only served burgers the ceremony would have been perfect. And THEN (just as in the deaths of famous people, Vegas marriages often happen in three’s!), I married my wonderful husband at the Bellagio almost a decade ago now (knock on wood), and it was a beautiful ceremony, but far from cheap. My trifecta of marriages were easily cheaper than a traditional church wedding and reception. For people like me, Vegas is the answer….I mean people who are budget minded like me. lol

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48 J. Money November 22, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Did you get married to three separate people, or just re-married to the same one like to renew your vows or something? If it’s the former, Vegas is unlucky!! ;)

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49 Kristie November 22, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I was lucky in love in Vegas three different times, and the third time indeed was a charm. Some people think they have only one soulmate. I’m an optimist; I believe in abundance. Money and love. ; )

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50 J. Money November 22, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Haha… that works :)

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51 SuburbanFinance November 23, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I love the idea of pretty much eloping! Why not, right? My mother would throw a fit if I did it, though.

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52 KK @ Student Debt Survivor November 24, 2013 at 11:38 pm

I love it! I’d totally get married in Vegas if bf were on board. He’s a little too traditional for a Vegas wedding, but is fine with small cheap wedding/ceremony if we decide to have a wedding. Otherwise maybe I can drag him to city hall ;-)

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53 Truth September 26, 2014 at 5:48 pm

By getting married you are putting all your assets in jeopardy in effect nullifying all your saving tips…

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