The average cost of a wedding seems to hover between $27,000 and $32,000, depending on who crunches the numbers. And while a more accurate median cost is a lot lower, it’s still about $18,000. That’s enough for an extended trip!
And that’s what Kayci and Joe are doing. Like everybody else, they saved up before their wedding, but then they allocated most of that money for a year-long, round-the-world honeymoon. Read on for my chat with Kayci about saving, budgeting and planning to work on the road.
Where are you going and how long is your trip?
We are currently in the second month of five months in South America. Our trip is projected to last for approximately a year, perhaps more if we work a little along the way.
So far, we have been to Peru and Ecuador. And once we leave the Ecuadorian Amazon, we will continue onto Bolivia, Chile, Brazil and Columbia. In July, we head to northern Italy, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia, followed then by Spain and Portugal. We are hoping to then make it to Nepal by November, continuing on to India and parts of Southeast Asia.
We basically are looking to do a round-the-word trip, but everything is so loosely planned that it is easy to be flexible and change the itinerary on a moment’s notice.
Could you tell me more about your jobs back home?
We were both recently working at a two-star Michelin restaurants in San Francisco, although this wasn’t where we met. It was a high-end restaurant that serves many influential movers and shakers in the city. It was quite usual to see higher-ups from Twitter, Apple, etc. that came in to dine and hold private events.
We did actually meet working in a restaurant together in 2008 though, more specifically during the interview process for a new restaurant that was opening up in San Diego. Joe was interviewing me for my first job as a cocktail server and, since I was completely green with no experience, he recommended to the general manager that I not be hired.
Luckily for me, the hiring manager was huge into hiking and extreme sports and I had won him over with a tale of a month-long road trip I had just taken from San Diego to Seattle. I ended up getting hired against Joe’s recommendation and marked him as my enemy from the start.
As the saying goes, there’s a thin line between love and hate, and we eventually ended up dating in secret until the restaurant closed in 2009, almost exactly a year later.
How much did you save for your round-the-world trip?
We saved about 50% of our combined income — which was toward the higher end of the pay scale of what you might expect to make as a server in San Francisco.
The restaurant was a pooled house — every night, everyone put their tips together and then divided them based on how many people of what rank were working. What this means, in the long run, is that you can basically always expect a steady paycheck that never varies more than a couple of hundred dollars. It made it much easier to save.
Saving money is more psychological than anything. How did you motivate yourselves?
Joe has always been a great saver; I was always the one who struggled. So when we decided we were serious about the trip, we opened a joint bank account, where we were both held accountable for every dollar spent. Having someone else look at your spending and asking questions like “you spent how much at Whole Foods on groceries?” really motivates you to think twice before swiping a credit card.
Just becoming conscious of our actions really made a difference. A $50 dinner suddenly became one less day of travel.
What expenses did you save on the most?
Probably food and dining. We have a soft spot for treating ourselves to lovely meals out.
Working in a restaurant leaves you with a desire to go out and see how everyone else is doing it. You want to go visit all of your friends where they work, or at the new spot that just opened up that’s getting rave reviews.
Sundays were our Achilles’ heel. After a long week working six nights, we would tend to go bananas on Sundays, starting with a fabulous brunch with friends, and then continuing on to dinner and drinks later in the evening.
We started to spend Sundays at home, ordering in and watching movies on Netflix. In the process, we were able to curb our frivolous spending a lot.
How did you budget for the wedding and honeymoon?
We planned on doing a courthouse wedding, with no family or friends, specifically to save money. However, when our families found out they pitched a fit, so we ended up compromising on a bare-bones affair with a limit of 10 guests.
Our wedding ended up being approximately 5% of our budget, with the trip getting 95%. Since the trip was already number one for us, the wedding was more of an afterthought. We really didn’t want to shorten our trip for it. I realize how antisocial it sounds, but our dream wasn’t the wedding — it was the adventure afterwards.
How did you plan a wedding on a tight budget?
We kept it very small — that was the most important part. So even though we had dinner at a nice restaurant afterwards, the bill was nothing to write home about. We brought all of our own wine to dinner as well, avoiding mark-ups on the bottles and negotiating to have our corkage fees waived.
We did a ceremony on the beach. And since it was so small, we didn’t need a permit (if we did, no one could tell what was happening and didn’t give us any problems).
I wore a Ted Baker dress that was just over $300. It wasn’t a wedding dress, just a whimsical floor-length green dress with a muted floral pattern. Joe found a great suit on sale from a local boutique.
Our biggest wedding expense was the jewelry. We spent about $2,000 on both rings. They are non-traditional oxidized chrome rings made by a local designer who specializes in nature-inspired jewelry. They are super funky and unique, and — considering what we might have spent — were a great deal.
Joe had a lovely diamond from his grandmother that we were able put into my band. If we had needed to purchase a stone, that would have definitely made the expense even higher.
Did you ask your guests for cash gifts or air miles instead of doing a regular registry?
We actually didn’t ask for anything since it wasn’t a huge affair. Everyone knew we were leaving, so it sort of worked out pretty well. We did get one pan, which was pretty funny. We ended up giving it to a good friend since we had no use for it. We received cash gifts, which were amazing. It’s really cool to have loved ones throwing in their support of such a crazy adventure.
At the end of the day, we weren’t too worried about presents. It was just fun to have everyone get together and celebrate our craziness with us and create a beautiful memory to look back on.
You mentioned possibly working along the way. What kind of work and where?
We plan on doing something called “staging” in the restaurant industry. Essentially, you go to a restaurant and work for a night or maybe two or three. It’s usually not paid, but maybe you can find a place to stay for free or they might feed you when you work. It’s a way to get more experience, and at the same time save on costs.
For the first part of the trip we are moving around a lot, so getting a regular job might be difficult, although I’m applying to some paid internships that involve writing and can be done remotely.
We will end up near Australia and have heard that it’s a wonderful place to find work as a restaurant worker. So maybe at the end we will spend some time there recouping some funds and deciding whether or not to go home.
Otherwise we don’t have any specific plans, but hope that we can make ourselves useful during our travels. We were hosted by a scallop farmer a few weeks ago, and are going to visit a coffee farm in Bolivia next month. These are wonderful opportunities to get some new and different experiences in exchange for lodging. It’s also neat to see the processes behind items we take for granted.