Absolutely amazing....the wedding, the detailed account of the celebration by 
Cleona, and the couple themselves, of course!! (personally known for many 
years). The only regret...I missed out on this one of a kind celebration!  
Where was I?? 😄

Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android 
  On Fri, Mar 9, 2018 at 11:03 PM, Frederick 
Noronha<fredericknoro...@gmail.com> wrote:   
Wedding on a budget: A 250 guest wedding for less than £100

 3rd January 2017 By Cleona 7 Comments

Muriel and Mario – M&M – two serious activists who lived in my village, 
Saligao, in Goa (India) dramatically inspired and informed my views on wedding 
budgets. Understanding their values-based spending also gave me true insight, 
very early on, into a conscious relationship with money, the focus of many of 
my blogs.

Although I was only a child, 9 years old or so, I remember it vividly both from 
inside the small chapel and later, at the reception.  The weddings I had 
attended until then had the usual run of the mill offerings; unlimited soft 
drinks, a huge food buffet, a wedding hall that could host a football game, a 
live band, hundreds of people and in Goa, the wedding couple arriving at least 
2 hours late. *Yawn*.

This one was unique. Years later, talking to the couple, as an adult, I learned 
other details about this unusual wedding and want to share how M&M planned it – 
keeping in mind their values, their work as social activists and the community 
that was important to them.

Dress local

The happy couple

Their attire was simple. The bride wore a plain, cotton saree, with ethnic, 
hand dyed, bandhani – tie-and-dye – motifs in red and green: traditional 
wedding colours in Goa.  The groom wore a cream, traditional Indian 
kurta-churidar, made from khadi, a local fabric hand woven from hand spun, 
cotton thread.

At the time, the usual custom in Goa was to wear Western outfits – a weighty, 
lacy, flowing, gown-styled white wedding dress for the woman; for the man, a 
dark suit was standard. This western influence was due to the Portuguese 
colonial presence in Goa, and of course, such costuming was wholly 
inappropriate for the weather. A hot and humid summer wedding, left the bride 
‘glowing’ profusely, while the long sleeved groom sweated silently under his 
often double-breasted jacket and trousers, always tailored from heavy polyester 
or nylon blended fabrics.

M&M’s outfits were different. They dressed local. There was no fancy service or 
orchestrated Mass. They invited everyone they knew: family and all friends, as 
well as the people from an entire hutment colony, with whom they worked.  Most 
of the hutment dwellers had never witnessed a Catholic wedding before. There 
was no scarcity mindset with the guest list – like I said, they invited 
everyonethey knew.

Inclusive and Warm

The small chapel was packed and heaving with people from all sections of 
society. I really enjoyed seeing how inclusive M&M were; and the warmth and 
diversity in the room.

As is conventionally done, M&M did not sit directly in front of the altar.  
Instead, to emphasise that this was a community celebration, they sat on the 
side, close to their family.

Many of the hutment dwellers entered the chapel late.  They were embarrassed to 
enter a church full of ‘well-dressed’ invitees and so, stood at the doors and 
windows, peering inside, curiously.  Seeing this, the bridal couple did the 
unthinkable: they stopped the service! The groom went to the door and ushered 
the crowd in, right up to the front.  There was no place for them to sit, so 
most of them crowded near the communion rails, just in front of the altar.  
Others sat in the pews that some of the couple’s friends thoughtfully vacated 
for the new guests.

During the ceremony, the hutment dwellers walked up to the couple and tried to 
give gifts.  The bridal couple seemed to handle all of this with ease; I 
remember feeling very amused, never having witnessed these sorts of 
interruptions in a church or chapel (be solemn!) ever before.

The congregation watched this crazy move in hushed amazement, some in utter 
disbelief.  This poor (financially only), apparently non-Christian group, 
sporting home clothes, worn daily in their hutment colony, now occupied seats 
with the best view in the chapel.

Chai and biscuits for all

After the ceremony, the guests were invited to an empty space behind the chapel 
where tea (chai) and coconut flavoured biscuits were served. There was no 
seating so people huddled together in small groups, thus encouraging 
interacting with the bridal couple and between families.

The couple’s more middle-class friends did the serving while their hutment 
friends made themselves comfortable. The older folk from among the poor, 
squatted on the bare, stony ground, and their children ran around and played 

It was so simple. I had never seen anything like it! I could also eat as many 
biscuits as I wanted guilt- free – and I know now, it didn’t hurt their pockets 
too much. They also encouraged a ‘no gift’ policy which was unusual for that 
time. Weddings and parties were definitely about receiving gifts back then.


A 250 guest wedding for less than £100!

No elaborately decorated Mercedes Benz

The wedding budget and spend for the entire event was as ordinary and simple as 
the ceremony: the couple spent not a paisa (like a penny but in Indian Rupees) 
more than Rs. 1,000/- on everything. Inflation and currency adjusted, this 
would be £97.38 in today’s money (or less than Rs. 8,000/-). This is still 
unbelievable for the cost of a wedding!

So, lets breakdown this wedding budget. While Muriel’s saree cost Rs. 125/-, 
Mario’s full outfit was considerably less at Rs. 80/-.  The mangala sutra – a 
traditional necklace worn by Indian women, after marriage,the 2 wedding rings 
and the bride’s 4 bangles were intentionally made of silver.  Gold was 
symbolically shunned.  And because the white metal came from silverware that 
the family already owned, only making costs were paid for.

To match her saree colours, the bride wore common, red and green glass bangles 
with the silver ones bordering them.  The leather slippers they wore, were old 
pairs used on occasions.  And the trademark, shoulder bag the groom carried, 
was made from waste pieces of leather, hand stitched by himself.

Invitations were basic, they were typed out in red on yellow paper and posted.  
Likewise, instead of the fancy wedding limousine, the couple pillion-rode 
themselves to church on their trusty little, 50 cc, scooter.

Shop local, helps wedding budget

The tea for the reception was ordered from a roadside tea-stall opposite the 
chapel and served by the couple’s friends in the ordinary, small, ribbed glass 
tumblers that tea is traditionally served in, at all roadside tea shops.  
‘Coconut Crunchee’ biscuits – a slightly tastier variety, for the special 
occasion – were bought at wholesale rates in bulk packs, so that everyone could 
have as many as they wanted.  M&M were thrilled to see the hutment children eat 
as much as they could and stuff their pockets to take back to their siblings 
and friends left at home!

Their major expense was photography.  The couple decided that photo 
documentation was important, so they ‘splurged’ on the 4 rolls of film that a 
priest friend covered the event with.  The film, development and printing cost 
nearly 50% of the whole budget!

Cringe! Matching outfits:)

And oh yes, the couple had a bouquet of fresh flowers.  No artificial, plastic 
flowers for them.  But as tradition would have it, the flowers did not come at 
the beginning of the ceremony.  In M&M’s own words,  “3 little angels” (my 
younger sisters and I ), dressed in pretty lemon dresses with red sashes and 
socks to match, presented them with an assortment of freshly picked, 
wildflowers and bougainvillea from the chapel compound.  It was the perfect, 
heart-warming way to end a wedding ceremony, they confessed 30 years later.

Enlist the help of family and friends

As you have seen, a couple planned a cost-efficient wedding and with the help 
of family and friends, executed it perfectly.  So for me, this invitation to a 
simple wedding, celebrated love, simplicity, community and inclusion – the 
experience of it informed my own values and opinions on wedding budgets. So 
much so, that I planned my own wedding keeping this simplicity in mind. When I 
emailed Muriel and Mario recently and might I add 29 years later, writing to 
them about my idea for a blog and everything I remembered, they happily agreed 
to cooperate. Also, their main intention is to spread their idea of spending 
consciously, including on weddings. Although they shun publicity, they were 
willing to share even private wedding pictures with the world – fuelled by this 
beautiful longing to contribute. For this, I am so grateful to them again.

“Really the only security is to be found in community: the gratitude, 
connections, and support of the people around you. If you have wealth now, I 
recommend, as your investment adviser, that you use it to enrich the people 
around you in lasting ways” – Charles Eisenstein

My own wedding budget

I walked down this sandy aisle…

In turn, when I got married, in 2012, it was a simple affair and a simple 
wedding budget. All in, I spent less than £1,200 on the actual event. It was a 
beach wedding in Goa – a casual affair just like I dreamed. My family and 
friends helped me execute the details. Family members helped to make a little 
sand shaped heart, from the abundant beach sand, in which we stood to make our 
vows in the evening sunset. We didn’t pay for the venue – the restaurant just 
gave a section of it to us after my aunt managed to sweet talk the owner into 
this. Although I was happy to pay more for the food, she kicked me under the 
table when negotiating, so I decided to keep out of it.


My cousin baked this beauty!

I bought a second-hand dress on Ebay by Forever Unique, a luxury fashion brand. 
Post wedding, I sold it for the same price I bought it for (all of £50). I 
invited 35 guests which is unusual for an Indian wedding. My mother was 
instructed not to invite anybody – she found this incredibly hard and yet, for 
the most part, obeyed instructions. And a friend of mine who has a successful 
alcohol business provided the cocktails; I later found out when I tried to pay 
for it, this was a gift! I had one bouquet of flowers which were bought from 
the local flower market by my sister. And the delicious cake was baked with 
love by Alisha, my cousin, friend and cake goddess. It didn’t break the bank. 
Not one bit. And from the great feedback from the guests, they all had fun. Fun 
was important to me.

Extravagant weddings – not a fan

Often, I get asked, “Ah, you are Indian – so did you have a 3-day wedding?”. 
Well, not all of us do, although we love celebrating for sure. Some weddings 
are grander than others including a £15 million wedding by Sanjay Hinduja, 
complete with Jennifer Lopez performing and no expense spared.  Wedding 
trousseau’s, traditions, spending to keep up with the Joneses or well, 
D’Souza’s in this case and inviting people (because they invited us or what 
would they say) does not feel authentic to me. And yet, everyone is entitled to 
spend and celebrate as they wish, in line with their own values. My only wish 
is for people to really be conscious and spend with financial integrity; 
choosing to spend based on what is important to them, not what society dictates 
or to keep up with ‘looking good’.

When I read about extravagant weddings, like the Hinduja £15 million wedding, 
my thoughts go to how that money could have been better utilised. A quick 
search on Google reveals that the average English wedding costs about £24,000. 
I would rather save that towards something more useful. I worked with a 
colleague who was heavily in debt and yet took a large personal loan to give 
his girlfriend the marriage of her dreams – I thought it was most unromantic to 
start a marriage in debt!

Thank you, M&M

I chose a modest wedding budget when I dreamed up my own wedding and the joy in 
organising this with some creativity and the help of family and community was 
worth it. Warmth and fun weren’t compromised; money was spent with care. Thank 
you to Muriel and Mario for this early inspiration to me, on this journey of 
being conscious with money. And for hopefully inspiring many, many others with 
the beautiful story of your wedding.

Happy 30th Wedding Anniversary, M&M. Here’s to the next 30!


- "Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability." - Edsger W. Dijkstra

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