By Allison Tait
MSN NZ Money writer
There are three sureties when it comes to organising a wedding. Firstly, it will cost more than you think. Secondly, you will spend more than you thought possible. Thirdly, you will wish at some point that you'd eschewed the whole thing in favour of eloping in Vegas.
According to New Zealand Weddings the average wedding today costs about $30,000. (Yep, not quite a 10 per cent deposit on an average home, given that the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand reported the median house price was $349,000 in March 2008).
Before you start thinking "no way, not me", write a list of all the things you've imagined would be part of your dream day: great dress, fab hair, classy make-up, glamorous photographs, atmospheric church, beautiful reception space (preferably with views), swinging band, first-class champagne, amazing cake… Even without the elephants, you can see how things add up. The other problem is that even whispering the word "wedding" seems to triple the price of everything. It's not called an industry for nothing, you know.
So what's the solution? Well, short of booking those flights to Elvis's Little White Chapel, there are lots of ways to save cash when you're planning the big day. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Do you have to get married on Saturday night? Not only will availability be better for Friday or Sunday or, what the heck, Tuesday, but you may find you get a more acceptable rate for the reception space.
- Finger food, stand-up affairs can be cheaper than a full-blown three-course meal. Not only do they usually require less time (saving hiring costs), but you won't be able to fit in as many speeches (what a shame!)
- Keep invitations simple the more layers and accessories they have, the heavier they are to mail. If you're inviting less than 50 people, handwrite your invitations.
- Start looking for your dress early. Have a budget in mind and stick to it. Look in unusual places nobody said you had to wear the strapless-with-large-skirt frock that everyone else wears. You may find a bridesmaid's dress in white that's perfect. Remember, embellishment usually equals expense, so try to go easy on the crystals/lace/beads.
- Choose flowers for your bouquet that are in-season. Yes, I know that rare roses imported from Iceland were your childhood dream, but the standard Iceberg variety will be just as effective.
- Have a small, beautifully-decorated cake to cut and ask for a sheet cake that can be cut behind the scenes and served to guests. Serve the cake as dessert, if you are having a sit-down dinner, to save money. (Hint: having a family friend make the cake might seem like a great money saver, but unless she or he is experienced, it may cause heartache all round.)
- If possible, buy the alcohol yourselves. This allows you to not only control quantity and quality, but you may be able to return unopened cases for a refund.
- Do you really need a 10-piece band? Scaling back on size can reduce costs. Perhaps you can do without all together if your venue is appropriate, use a DJ or even a jukebox instead.
- Be very clear in your negotiations with your photographer. Find out upfront exactly what is included in your package, how many hours they need to be there (do you really need them to cover Aunt Marge's dirty dancing at midnight?), how many assistants they really require to work. Ask a friend with a clear eye and a steady hand to take shots at the reception and send the photographer home after the ceremony and formal pics are done.
- Borrow the bridal car if someone you know has something that suits. If not, try to keep the limo waiting for a limited time does the driver really need to wait around until the end of the reception to drive you home? Get someone else to do it.
When asked, most brides will say that they want their weddings to be a fairytale. Of course, everybody's idea of what this means is different just ask Katie Price, aka Jordan, whose humungous pink-and-white affair was hailed in the media as a prime example of bad taste.
One way to a happy ending, however, is keeping an eye on the budget. Nobody needs a hangover of the financial kind.