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Pop-up weddings: Local vendors offer $3,000 full-service wedding package

Samantha Walters of West Fargo, who has been officiating weddings for eight years, has started a business offering inclusive weddings for $3,000 called Ceremonies by Samantha Pop Up Weddings 2015. She is pictured here officiating the wedding of Lilian and Jamie Varholdt. Special to The Forum

FARGO - As a wedding planner for three years and an officiant for eight, Samantha Walters has seen couples put themselves into debt for a wedding.

The national average cost of a wedding is more than $29,000, according to a recent survey of nearly 13,000 U.S. brides who married last year by XO Group Inc., a global media and technology company and creator of, a wedding planning website.

The average wedding cost in North Dakota and South Dakota was $17,737, according to the survey, and in Minnesota, that number was $24,400.

Wedding budgets are at an all-time high and couples are spending more on their weddings than ever, but Walters wants to lower stress and expense by offering something she calls pop-up weddings.

Ceremonies by Samantha Pop Up Weddings 2015 are wedding packages for the couple and 12 guests for $3,000. The price, she said, does not have to be paid all at once.

“The goal is not to go into debt for your wedding and not to have to charge all of this on a credit card,” Walters said.

The wedding includes a 2-night stay at the Radisson in downtown Fargo, a 20-minute ceremony at the Avalon Downtown with Walters officiating, a catered reception at the Avalon Downtown, hairstyling and makeup application by Katie Schiller and Heather Hovland of Bucci Salon, photography by Josh Koth of Rock Star Weddings, DJ services by Sean Rumble of Double A DJ, wedding favors by Mary Bjerke of Fancy Favors, as well as personalized stationary for save-the-date cards, invitations and thank-you cards; a welcome gift basket at the hotel; Sandy’s Donuts the morning of the wedding; a chauffeur for the wedding date, flowers and cake.

“I charge $3,200 to plan a wedding,” Walters said. With pop-up weddings, “you’re getting a personal wedding planner, you’re getting the venue, the catering, photography, floral, hair, makeup, cake, everything you’d expect from a big, grand wedding you’re getting here, just simpler.”

When it comes to things like flowers and cake, couples will have three options to choose from, she said.

“You’re definitely going to have a say,” she said. “It’s not just pre-made flowers that everyone is going to use.”

Koth of Rock Star Weddings said Ceremonies by Samantha Pop Up Weddings fills a niche that isn’t being served.

“It’s a great option to give people who for one reason or another don’t want to spend the amount associated with a full-on wedding,” he said.

As a photographer and one of the vendors, he said it’s a fun idea and nice to have the dates established in advance.

In addition to the pre-ceremony photo session, Koth said he will also be shooting candid photos as the day progresses, “to give them a complete story of their day.”

The dress and tux are not included, but Walters will be referring couples to Nicole Gruchow of Your Day by Nicole bridal boutique in downtown Fargo. The store offers wedding, bridesmaid and mother-of-the-bride dresses as well as men’s tuxedos and suits for sale or rent.

Your Day has gowns starting at $300 to $500, Gruchow said, as well as off-the-rack dresses ready to go in various sizes.

Gruchow said she loves the idea of pop-up weddings because it takes the pressure off of couples.

“It alleviates the stress and focuses on what’s important, which is them and them getting married,” she said. “So many times people can get wrapped up in the other things.”

Walters has six days scheduled for pop-up weddings next summer. Her goal is to hold five ceremonies on the same day, with the times staggered throughout the day.

The first couple, for example, will have hair and makeup done at 11:45 a.m. followed by a 30-minute pre-ceremony photo session at 12:45. The 20-minute ceremony starts at 1:15, followed by a one-hour reception, which includes appetizers, wine, and cake.

The couple and 12 guests (either the same guests who were at the ceremony or different guests) will have an end-of-the-night celebration with the other four couples and their guests from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. The celebration includes food, a cash bar, and dancing with music by Double A DJ.

There are no extra fees, but Walters said if couples want extra services, like a videographer, they can set that up and pay for it separately. She does not have options for adding additional guests because she said she wanted to keep it simple.

Walters, who lives in West Fargo, finished putting the vendors together in April and May.

People who have asked about the service are really excited about the price, she said. She’s also gotten some inquiries from sisters who want to have their own ceremonies, but celebrate together.

“To hear the relief in their voice when it comes to price, that’s my favorite part,” Walters said.

Walters will perform religious or nonreligious ceremonies, she said.

She became ordained to officiate weddings online when her sister was getting married and the preacher wasn’t sure he could make it to the wedding. Then family members started asking her to do it and she started offering her services as a wedding officiant publicly and said it has really taken off.

“I was really shocked at how many people did not want to get married in a church,” she said.

May through November, she said she’ll officiate four to five weddings a weekend.

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Tracy Frank

Tracy Frank is a SheSays, Variety, and Farmer's Forum reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to

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