Local Peace Economy

How Newlyweds Are Recouping Wedding Expenses—in the Real World

Instead of filling up the landfill with your gently used wedding décor, sell it to the next couple.

Photo Credit: Nomad_Soul / Shutterstock

Weddings are wasteful by design. From the tiaras and the bridesmaids' shoes to the card boxes and the candleholders, practically every component of a wedding is used just a single time.

With the average cost of an American wedding at over $35,000—not including the honeymoon—that’s a lot of money to spend, even on a fantasy day, with thousands spent on décor and attire alone.

After the event, some brides and grooms take to the internet to try to recoup their expenses, selling what they can on eBay or specialty sites like Bridal Garage Sales and Wedding Recycle, where brides-to-be troll to find the perfect items that match their Pinterest boards. But even if the items match, isn’t it better to see them in the real world?

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Enter the After I Do sale, a one-day sale where newlyweds can sell all of their wedding leftovers to prospective brides and grooms, who then return the following year to sell what they can. It’s next-level recycling for those on a budget, and a lifesaver for people looking for a place to sell an extra bolt of ribbon, perfectly good glassware, and all the bridesmaid, groomsman, flower girl, and ringbearer gear you could possibly need. It’s kind of like a high-end vintage market, except everything is like new (and sometimes new), and wedding-specific.

Elizabeth Rairigh, co-founder of the After I Do sale and administrative director of Parkway Place, a full-service catering and events center just outside Toledo, Ohio, says the sale has “a little bit of everything” including centerpieces, glassware, signs and chalkboards, shoes, dresses, and jewelry, full silk flower arrangements and wedding gowns.

The cost of items is solely determined by the seller, Rairigh says, adding that most sellers have a "garage sale mindset” so prices are surprisingly affordable.

“We’re giving newlyweds one place where they can bring their [leftover wedding] stuff and get rid of as much as possible,” Rairigh says, saying this way brides can one-stop shop for all the different components of their wedding.

When Laurie Limes’ daughter got married in 2015, she purchased new items with the intention of reselling them, and sold them at the first After I Do sale in 2016. Limes is “absolutely happy” with the return on her investment, and happy to know someone else is benefiting from those items.  

“The whole recycling of the product, and not having to store it,” is also a benefit, she says, as is “being able to do a little extra knowing you can sell later.” It “made it easier knowing we could recycle things down the road. The goal is not to fill up a landfill with stuff from your wedding.”

“The more you can do yourself, the better,” says Limes, who went back to the sale to purchase items for her second daughter’s wedding, and plans to return to sell again. “I just think it’s a great way to repurpose items.”

Kendra Bills, owner at In Bloom Flowers and Gifts, sells vases and glassware her shop might have rented out at past events, or when she doesn’t have enough for a full set. Last year, she sold everything she brought to the event, and had to go back to her shop to get more items to sell.

She also offers advice to prospective brides and grooms: “Whether they used my services or not, they’ll be better prepared.” A bride might have a Pinterest board filled with coral peonies, but if her wedding is in September, those flowers probably aren’t realistic.

The sale is sponsored by local wedding professionals like Bills, who are on hand to offer free one-on-one advice or workshops on the big day do’s and don’ts. After all, it can take some professional help to manage expectations and stay within budget.

After I Do isn’t the only real-world, after-wedding sale. There’s also Fancy Flip, and dozens of charities that will happily take your gently used wedding items, including Brides Across America and Brides for a Cause. All those (family-friendly) wedding favors might be enjoyed by local churches or summer camp arts-and-crafts programs, and assisted living facilities might just take your leftover flowers and décor to brighten up their residents’ day. A food pantry might take your leftover food.

In other words, after your wedding, there are plenty of ways to recoup some money, or make sure what you've purchased continues to bring joy into other peoples’ lives.

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Valerie Vande Panne is an Independent Media Institute writing fellow who contributes to Columbia Journalism Review and Reuters news service, among other outlets. She is the former editor-in-chief of Detroit's alt-weekly, the Metro Times, and the former news editor of High Times magazine. She is the founder of Blackbird Literacy, an organization providing books to residents and literacy programs in Detroit. Connect with her on Twitter @asktheduchess.