Want to say ‘I do’ on a budget? As the country rebounds, city halls reopen for weddings

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There’s some good news for those looking to get married on a budget: City and town halls are back in the nuptials business.

Wedding bells will be ringing again, for example, at the New York City Marriage Bureau. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that the city will again book appointments beginning on Monday and will start handing out marriage licenses Friday.

City hall and town hall weddings are a popular way to have a low-key marriage ceremony without spending a lot of money. In New York, for example, the cost for a marriage license is just $35. To get married on site, expect to fork over an additional $25.

New York-based wedding planner Amy Shey Jacobs, founder of Chandelier Events, expects couples to be running to the Big Apple’s city hall.

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“There are going to be a lot of couples who are ready to make it official,” she said. “They will perhaps have a city hall wedding and an amazing boozy brunch.

“They have been waiting this long and want to get on with their lives.”

New York’s move comes after several other cities, including Chicago and San Francisco, also reopened their marriage bureaus.

The timing couldn’t be better. Many couples postponed their weddings during the pandemic, and the marriage industry is now booming.

The Knot Worldwide CEO Timothy Chi predicts a 20% to 25% increase in weddings late this year and in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic levels.

While the cost of weddings was down in 2020, averaging $19,000, couples who delayed their wedding last year now anticipate their reception budget to be an average of $22,500, the wedding planning website found.

“Couples are ready to go all out again,” Chi recently said on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” “There is not really a better way to re-enter post-Covid times than with a huge celebration.”

If you want to have a reception that doesn’t blow your budget, first look at your guest count.

“Before you get out and start planning and looking, have a sense of the number of people you want to entertain, so you don’t get surprised later,” Jacobs said.

The cost is more than just food and beverage. It can also mean additional tables, servers and invitations.

Kelvin Murray | DigitalVision | Getty Images

Do your research on vendors, as well. Three-quarters of couples recently surveyed by WeddingWire, in partnership with Acorn’s Grow, said they set a budget before talking to vendors. That can cause a disconnect in expectations vs. reality. In fact, about 2 out of 3 saw their budget increase, the survey found.

To save money, try to plan your celebration in advance since last-minute bookings tend to cost more. Being flexible can also help with your budget. That could mean being open to a Thursday or Sunday wedding instead of a Saturday one or looking at more readily available flowers than more pricey options.

“Ask your vendor for intel: Where can I splurge? Where can I save and get the same look for less?” Jacobs suggested.

However you decide to tie the knot, the industry is ready, she said.

“People are ready to gather and celebrate the good moments,” Jacobs said. “We are going to see weddings of every shape and size.”

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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