Your wedding will (hopefully) be a once-in-a-lifetime event, a day when you and your partner are formally joined in holy matrimony, surrounded by your family and friends as you publicly express your love for one another. All very romantic – and usually quite expensive by the time you tot up the costs for clothing, accommodation, food and drink for the guests, music, wedding décor and plenty more beside.
A wedding is often the second-most expensive outlay in one’s life after a house – the average budget for a wedding (including the honeymoon) is in the region of €29,000 – but there are ways you can trim and snip and make the financial burden a little easier to bear. Here’s a few ideas to help get you started on a budget-conscious big day!
Make a budget
It can be as simple as a basic Excel spreadsheet or a pen and notebook – but one of your first tasks when planning a wedding should be to make a budget (and stick to it as much as possible) – otherwise the costs may very well spiral out of control. Don’t forget to include a contingency for what can and will go wrong – Irish wedding website One Fab Day suggests a figure of 12.5%.
If you’re trying to work out the various costs, consult family members or friends to see what they paid for at their weddings, or seek answers through online forums. One Fab Day has some good advice around creating a wedding budget – check it out at onefabday.com/work-out-wedding-budget/. And WeddingsOnline has a downloadable wedding budget calculator (in Excel format) to help keep track of costs – see www.weddingsonline.ie/blog/mrs2be-wedding-budget-calculator/.
Starting a new life together with a whole heap of debt to contend with isn’t the most ideal of scenarios, particularly if you’re thinking about buying a property in the not-so-distant future. Once you’ve got a budget for your wedding, you can figure out how you’re going to save as much money as possible to bring it to fruition. Give yourselves some time and you could be surprised at how much you could build up – saving €800 per month over two years would net €19,200, for example, a very sizeable amount that could provide for everything you need.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has a handy online spending calculator (www.ccpc.ie/consumers/money-tools/spending-calculator/) that will help you figure out what you’re spending every month and identify areas where you could cut back and thus increase your saving capacity. Commit to cutting back on things like online impulse buys or regularly eating out, or see if you can save on costs like insurance or utilities by switching to another provider.
If you do have to take out a loan to help with the costs, make sure you’re getting the best rates and that you can afford the repayments. Again, the CCPC can come to your aid – check out www.ccpc.ie/consumers/money-tools/loan-comparison/ for a personal loan comparison tool that allows you to enter the amount you want to borrow and the term of your loan, then find out the monthly repayments and the total cost of credit on available loans.
If you take a flexible approach to the wedding planning process, if could very well benefit your bottom line. For instance, when you’re picking a venue there may be a substantial difference in price between off-peak and peak dates, so chat to several venues and check out their pricing arrangements before setting your heart on a particular month and day.
If you do end up with a peak date, there could be savings to be made by opting for a mid-week day rather than the weekend. Don’t be afraid to negotiate on the price or seek to add value to your package by having something extra included for free. One piece of advice – pay for the best meal you can afford, as it’s a big part of the day and one of the things guests will likely remember along with the band!
Trim the fat and DIY where you can
Once you’ve finalised your list of wedding essentials, take some time to figure out where you can make savings by doing it yourself. Something that immediately jumps to mind is invitations, which can absorb quite a chunk of your budget. If you’re rather creative (or can enlist the help of someone who is) and have access to a computer and some simple software programmes, you can (speaking from personal experience) create your own wedding stationery that looks the business. A wide variety of online templates are available or you can simply use your own imagination. For a more professional effect, you could match your own design with some quality cardstock or pre-made surrounds.
Ditch the RSVP cards and stamps for a phone number and email address and, if invitations don’t mean all that much to you or your future spouse, you could always send them by email and spend the money elsewhere.
Speaking of the guestlist, the question of how many people are invited will have to be addressed (and hopefully won’t be dictated by public health advice for much longer). Some couples may feel pressure to invite out of courtesy the second cousins you’ve met twice in your life, or the neighbour down the road you’ve barely said a word to in ten years. At the end of the day, it’s your special day and your money, so it should be your choice and yours alone.
When it comes to the wedding car, you don’t need to fork out on a high-end Rolls-Royce or fancy limousine – any car can be a worthy wedding vehicle with a wash, polish and the addition of a ribbon (you can pick up a roll of white wedding car ribbon for €6.49 from favourlane.ie).
And for your wedding cake, you could opt for one or two real layers for your guests to enjoy and use decorated styrofoam for the remainder.
Photography – you get what you pay for
It’s tempting to seek out that family member or friend who’s ‘good with a camera’ for your big day, but having them double-job as guest and photographer (unless they’re only invited to take photos, which might open up another can of worms) could lead to disappointment when it comes to your record of the occasion. One of the bigger expenditures in my own wedding was the photographer but it was well worth it – the experienced husband-and-wife team came to our separate homes in the morning and were with us until the early evening, capturing the big and little moments for what turned out to be a fantastic wedding album we’ll treasure for the rest of our lives.
If you’re unsure about what to look for when choosing a photographer, One Fab Day has some useful advice – see onefabday.com/choosing-wedding-photographer-tips/. And don’t forget to ask friends and family in the days and weeks after the celebrations to share any snaps they might have taken over the course of the day.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the thrill of planning a wedding and spend needlessly on things that you’ll look back on in years to come and wonder why you bothered with them. However, with a little careful planning throughout the process you can ensure you have a wonderful and memorable day, surrounded by family and friends, that won’t cost the earth.