For some couples, their wedding day means saying, “I do” to crazy budgets and hidden costs. But with a few insider tips, it doesn’t have to.
It’s no secret that the cost of a wedding could, in some cases, buy you a small island. So we got together with two newlywed couples to discuss their big day, and their big day budgets.
Our couples’ answers stacked up differently, showing their different wedding styles and approaches. We had Georgia and Troy, with 142 wedding guests, and Dennis and Carli with a sizeable 170 wedding guests. Here’s what they had to say.
So first off, how did you approach the planning of the day? Were you a bride/groomzilla or were you pretty relaxed about the whole thing?
There were stressful moments when I was planning. There were moments, where just like everyday work, people were throwing spanners at you. I could have a little bit of a meltdown one day, and then the next day it would be totally fine.
I wasn’t relaxed. I started planning early, a year and a half before the wedding day. But because we thought we had so much time, we started, and then we stopped. Then we didn’t do anything for seven months… and the wedding crept up on us and we were stressed.
When it came to get everything sorted, did you hire a planner or follow a more DIY approach?
We hired a stylist; although there were a few things I did myself. But it was predominately all paid for through the stylist.
I believe in planning it yourself. I think, “You are getting married, you should plan it because it’s your experience.” I think planning it yourself makes it interesting; you really experience yourselves in a different way; you get angry, you don’t get angry; you find this weird balance of what your partner wants.
Did you estimate a budget before planning, or did you add costs up along the way?
We added up costs along the way. We sat down with my parents and asked them if they wanted to chip in, and if they had a particular number they wanted us to work with. But they said no [to a particular number] and if it got too much they’d help us cut back on costs.
We also had the same conversation with Troy’s parents. They were very different in their approach: they gave us a figure to work towards and we had to show them a breakdown of what the money was going towards. Then they gave us a lump sum and we designated it to different things, like the photographer and the cake.
I estimated a budget and it ended up being double.
Did you do anything yourselves to cut down on costs? If so, how much do you think you saved?
Yes, we made our bonbonnieres - soy-scented candles for the girls, and chutneys for the boys. We even bought mason jars and had embossed stickers printed for the top of them. I think we saved up $1,200 doing it ourselves.
We did the invites; I got a friend of mine to design it then I organised the printing. I also found the venue and hired everything I thought we needed for the venue because it was outdoors. Think generators, marquee, chairs, caterers, the cake – every aspect of the wedding was organised by myself and Carli.
Was there anything that snuck up on you, cost-wise?
The venue snuck in a few extra costs that we thought would have been included in the package. We knew drinks wouldn’t be included, but later discovered that if they had to hire an extra member of staff to help set up etc, we would be charged.
Yes, there are things. If you hire a marquee you have to pay for liability insurance. You get a quote and you’re like, “That’s six grand, not so bad”. But that’s rubbish, it ends up being more like seven and half.
Where do you think couples should splurge on the wedding?
I think the photographer and videographer are very important – you’ll always look back on the photos and video.
Food. I think food is the most important thing at a wedding. If you have bad food, then forget about it! People will complain for the rest of their lives.
Do you have any tips and tricks on where to save money?
Hiring a stylist was a very expensive exercise, so if you have the time to DIY, go for it. But with my working hours, I just didn’t have the time to do everything myself.
In saying that, my wedding was absolutely beautiful, and I wouldn’t change my mind about hiring help.
If you can get your stationery printed or designed through a friend, that can help you save as well. But iIf you send your designs to a printer, they’ll likely charge you a download fee, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for that.
There are a lot of online resources that allow you to design things yourself. We designed all of our own stuff, the invites, the look and feel, our theme.
Pinterest is a great tool. You can type in anything about a wedding and things other people have done will just pop up – great for inspiration.
Also, consult a professional about drinks. You’re able to find cheap wine that’s so drinkable these days. If you go through Dan Murphy’s, whatever you don’t drink, you can return, and get your money back.
If you could plan it again, what would you do differently? What would your advice be for future couples?
I would have pushed harder for my parents to give me a figure to work towards, because it got to a point where mum and dad thought it was too much – and if I had known a figure early, I could’ve chosen cheaper options, such as a cheaper printer.
If I could give you one piece of advice, it’s don’t leave it to the last minute. We left everything to the last minute and we were so stressed out. Give yourself room to breathe, so the week before the wedding you can relax and hang out.
Finally, were you under, bang on, or did you go over your budget?
We went way over what I expected, but my parents were expecting it to cost the amount it did… weddings are very expensive.
Definitely over budget. I did get a loan for the wedding and I found it really useful. It’s like getting a car loan, except you’re paying for an experience – and it’s your experience.
Getting a loan is actually a really good thing because it can set your budget. So we set our loan to a certain limit and made that our budget.
So it seems drinks and food are something you shouldn’t skimp on, but our newlyweds show that it’s important to plan, consult and then plan again. But with a little research, clever planning and the right financial advice, you can have your wedding cake and eat it too.