A Frugal “I do” and Family Tradition from the “UU”

For one Madison couple, creating frugal family traditions started with “I do” and the “UU.”



Charles Gervasi proposed to Melinda Gustafson (Gervasi) on the Winter Solstice, December 21 in 2005. The couple quickly decided on a planned elopement because neither wanted to enter into their married life in debt due to the wedding ceremony.

“Financial problems are one of the biggest reasons people split-up,” Melinda said. “We didn’t want to start off with this big mountain of debt.”

Initially, the couple thought they might go to Costa Rica, however after careful consideration of their personalities they decided that Bayfield would be more appropriate.

“We wanted to relax on our honeymoon,” Melinda recalled. “If we had gone to Costa Rica, we would have felt too obligated to see everything.”

The couple was married at the Bayfield County Courthouse on the Summer Solstice—June 21—in 2006 and spent an entire week in Bayfield celebrating their vows. “The proceeding,” as the couple likes to call it, took place on the lawn at noon. Melinda recalls that the weather was perfect and after they exchanged their “I do’s,” people started cheering out of the second story window of the courthouse.


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“We didn’t even know that people were watching,” Melinda said.

Melinda was married in a two-piece white suit and held a small bouquet of flowers from the Washburn IGA, while Charles donned a simple suit.

“It’s a beautiful backdrop no matter where you are up there,” Melinda
noted. “We didn’t need fancy decorations or anything. It was nice.”

Melinda said overall, “the proceeding” was exactly what she hoped for: simple, stress-free and a day she will always remember.

“I’ve known women who say they cannot even remember exchanging their vows—they get so stressed out,” Melinda recalled. “We did exactly what we wanted to do. It was a very relaxing and not frenzied at all.”

For several years after the wedding, the couple celebrated their anniversary in ways that fit in with their changing lifestyles. The couple gave birth to their son in 2008 and their daughter in 2010.

In 2011, the couple entered a drawing at their Unitarian Universalist church for a weekend vacation in Bayfield. Melinda said they didn’t initially win the drawing, but were selected as a backup.





Several weeks before the vacation, the winning couple backed out—leaving the Gervasi family with a free weekend’s stay in Bayfield. The family enjoyed their vacation so much—and reminded them of their planned elopement and life they’ve created together— they decided to make it a yearly tradition.

“The family loves Bayfield. We always stay at the Ada O’Day condos. The kids know exactly where the ice cream store is. The town is small and beautiful,” Melinda explained. “We really see this as a nice tradition now. It’s our centering place, the place that grounds us.”

Melinda believes people oftentimes overlook a planned elopement, but she suggests that brides and grooms to-be reconsider it as a time, money and sanity-saving wedding option.