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The wedding, without the circus

Sunday, April 13, 2008
Wedding without blowing the budget
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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 cakeā€¦ 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.

User comments
Weddings ought to be simple affairs.I personally feel that the main thing about weddings should be the food.Decorations and music are important,but so is the food.I would stress more on the food.After all a happy guest is the one who has eaten well.
Budget wedding photography does not always mean bad photos. Be sure to see proof from the photographer, that they are experienced & have a portfolio to prove it. Often photographers have various packages to suit the individuals. Our funds were limited, so we booked a professional photographer for an hour after the wedding. For the ceremony etc, all the guests had disposable cameras, then having a professional photographer for the bridal party after the wedding, enabled us to have the pro photos also, but without huge expenses. We hired local photographer, Tabitha Woods Photography, & are delighted with our photos. Often there are talented cake bakers & decorators happy to make & decorate a cake for less than a cake shop, I suggest advertising locally for somebody. Lucky for us, my sister is creative & loves to decorate cakes, so we purchased the cake & she decorated it. Delish!
Wedding photographers today, are competitive in their prices & have variable packages available. Don't be embarrassed to tell the photographer your on a budget, after all these days, times are tough! Another option is to hire the photographer, for a photo shoot only, after the ceremony. That way you may be looking at only an hour of the photographers time. Importantly, choose a photographer that has had experience, & proof to back it up. After all wether it be cheap or not, if they don't get it right on the day, you would still have to pay them. I have heard of stories, couple's choosing extremely cheap, then being extremely disappointed!
I got my dress made for me off ebay, brand new. Cost just over $250, was about $1250 in the shops and just the other night found a site to get my bridesmaid dresses from - www.sweetywedding.com
Hi - I am organising a wedding too. Does anyone have 17 candlabras for the centrepieces that they want to sell or any other exciting centrepieces? MOB - mother of the bride
I find it hard to believe this "The other interesting statistic is that couple get between $25-35,000 worth of wedding presents" How much are people spending on wedding presents, I would only spend like $50-100 on a wedding present and that would depend on who the person was lol and I wouldn't expect anything more than that from people at my wedding. Who are these lucky sods getting that much spent on them, I might invite their guets to my wedding haha. Or are they huge weddings with 500 guests or something??
Now a days lets face it. You go to a party you take your own alcohol. You may even take a plate as well. No one should expect something for nothing. When we got married we had already been together far 5 years so we had alot of household stuff. We asked people to pay a certain amount towards their meal instead of a gift. Out of 108 people invited, only one person could not come and that was because they were overseas! We did send out our invites a couple of weeks earlier than you normally would to give people time to save. So dont be afraid to ask people to contribute. No point being in debt for a couple of years after your wedding!! We also got a student photographer in her last year of a 4 year degree. We looked at her work and liked what we saw. She only cost us $600. For everything! Also go to a flower wholesaler for your boquets. Was quoted $300 for mine, at florist wholesaler $85!! So think outside the square and talk to heaps of people !!
Got married earilier this year and even though we didn't have the cheapest managed to save $$ by shopping around - also for those living in christchurch book a restruant like annies or a golf club for your recpetion - heaps cheaper than the all in one venues like elizabeth house. Also the best venue in christchurch has to be the provincial chambers in town - it has a great outside lawn where you can have an afternoon tea in lieu of a recpetion and all the facilities to store drink etc. you can hire it for 180 for 3 hours and the staff are fantastic for rehersals etc. Also looks like an old church with out the religious side - we had over 120 people in there to !! Also highly reccommend - don't laugh to hard - Pagani for bridesmaids dresses - past the tack there is some great stuff and black looks stunning in photos Last piece of advice watch CTV for local photographers florists etc like lynda skinner $980 for 4 hours and over 300 photos
When did you try and get a home loan with a $30K deposit?
i myself was married in march 2008, my now husband and i have been together for 10 years so we didnt need 22 more bath towels and and tableclothes. we couldnt really afford to get married so we did it as cheap as possible. we were married at the beach and hired a hall for the reception. dont be ashamed to ask friends for help. we made all our invitations, got a $3000 dress made for $600, the men wore dress shorts and shirts with jandals, got friends of friends to cater and fed 220 people for under $1100. we prepared the food the night before so that all the caterers had to do was make sure the buffett tables were kept full. a friend did the photography at half price (which was $1000) but at the end of the day thats pretty much all you have left. if you spend alot on anything i would recommend photos and rings. another friend made childrens birthday cakes as a hobby so she helped to make our cake. we asked for cash as gifts and got $4000, that paid for the honeymoon.