Weddings on a Budget

Weddings on a Budget

There’s no doubt about it – weddings can be expensive events!
But they don’t have to be!
The secret is in deciding what’s really important
– what really matters to you – what can not or should not be compromised.
Do what you can yourself, but be careful not to get bogged down or overwhelmed.
Find a way to cut costs without cutting corners.
‘Cheap and cheerful’ is probably not the description you want for your wedding!
'Tasteful and respectful' is much sweeter!
Decide on the important things and don’t compromise on them.

Here’s how the financial experts break down a wedding budget:
Reception 35%
Clothing/hair/makeup 20%
Photography 15%
Celebrant, licence & rings 8%
Invitations & Stationery 5%
Flowers 5%
Gifts 5%
Transport 3%
Miscellaneous 4%

Here are a few dollar-saving suggestions for each of those categories:


*     Most venues will offer incentives or discounts for ‘off-season’ or non-Saturday weddings - don't be too shy to ask!

*     Having both your ceremony and your reception at the same venue (such as The Playhouse or The Boathouse) will save on venue hire and also transport.

*    Consider a venue that allows BYO alcohol, but ask about corkage fees.  
Keep your eye on local supermarkets for wine specials in the months before your wedding.

*    Check if your venue requires a minimum number of guests and discuss what happens if you have a bunch of late apologies. 
If you commit to 100 guests but only 80 can make it, request upgrades to your menu or room styling in lieu of the extra guests.

*    Be ruthless with your head-count.
Invite only those who will still be in your life in five years' time.
Consider having just your closest family for dinner and your wider circle of friends for the dance?

*    Would it be acceptable to host a stunning afternoon tea, rather than provide a traditional sit-down meal?
What about a standing reception?  It’s more fun to mix and mingle,
and you don’t have to worry about seating arrangements, table decorations or chair covers.
Would a Hangi, Spit-roast or BBQ work for you?

*    Don’t automatically assume that hiring a community hall or pitching a marquee on a friend's farm
will be cheaper than a ‘ready made’ venue. By the time you hire tables, chairs, linen, crockery & cutlery,
and then decorate the place, you may find it’s false economy, costing you more than a local restaurant.

*   Consider having your official portraits before your wedding, allowing you to have a later ceremony
and then move with your guests into reception.  This can save you up to several thousand dollars on your bar bill!
Do your own calculations:
Number of guests    times    cost of standard drink (times 2 - the average number of drinks per hour)
              times    number of hours away at your photoshoot.
eg:  100 guests   x   ($7 x 2)   x   2 hours   =  $2800 potentially saved by having your photos first.

Clothing, hair and makeup:

*    Keep the bridesmaid’s dresses simple.
If you choose something that they’ll genuinely wear later (like a little black dress),
they’re much more likely to be happy to purchase their own outfit.

*    Be careful with second hand dresses – sometimes they’re absolutely perfect,
but often they need to be remade to fit you correctly,
which may work out to be more expensive than buying one made to order.

*    Only the bride needs to have a hair and makeup trial.

*    Having your hair and makeup done at the same store may provide some savings.

*    Avoid blisters and sore feet on your wedding day by transforming your favourite,
already broken-in shoes from your wardrobe.
Embellish the back and/or the toe of the shoe with diamantes,
ask your dressmaker for a spare piece of lace and carefully glue it across the front or down the heel of your shoe,
or investigate spraying your old shoes the colour of your wedding dress.

*    For a beach wedding, buy some cheap, white/cream jandals. 
Using fabric scraps from your dress, wrap the thong and attach a diamante or small brooch to the top of the V.


*    Decide what’s most important to you – do you need those ‘girls getting ready’ shots done professionally
or can your photographer arrive when you're all dressed and ready for some beautiful bridal photos
that you'll actually use in your album - this could save you up to two hour's coverage.

*    How much of the reception do you need covered? 
Reception speeches, guests, sunset shots and the dancing do make for great images and round off your album,
but you can save money by focusing on just the Ceremony and Portraits sections of your day if your budget is really tight.

*    Ask if your photographer offers gift vouchers.
If so, treat your photography as a gift registry, encouraging your guests to purchase vouchers
towards the cost of your precious photos.

*    Ask if you photographer offers incentives for mid-week weddings.
There are only so many Fridays and Saturdays we can schedule, so we’re usually pretty keen to book alternative days!

*    Thankfully, the 1990’s trend of providing disposable cameras at reception is finally dying!
These are expensive and tacky. Between the cost of the camera and the developing,
they can cost you more than hiring a professional to cover reception.
It’s a better alternative to bring a laptop, buy a multi card reader (around $20),
and ask guests to copy their digital photos before they leave reception.
I can also provide pre-printed, cased, discs you can give to your guests, asking them to post you a copy of their photos. 
(Please ask for current pricing - typically around $5/disc)

*    A quote from New Zealand Bride and Groom  magazine: 
“It’s best not to skimp on your wedding photographer or you may regret it.  Good photography is priceless.”
Or as Gucci put it:
 "The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price has faded from memory."

Celebrant, licence & rings:

Don’t scrimp on your celebrant. They’re vital in setting the tone for the day.
A good celebrant will help prepare you not just your wedding day, but also for your marriage.
A great celebrant is worth every cent.

This is one area where, with just a little bit of effort, you can shave off some costs.

*    Craft your own unique invitations. Google ideas or find a local stamping class.

*    Check out for cheap printing.

*    Email, rather than post, your invitations. Although post is much more special, it can become quite costly.
At the very least, email your overseas invites.


*    Wrist corsages for the bridesmaids have become increasingly popular and are an affordable alternative to a bouquet.

*    Choose larger buds (such as lilies or gerberas) and you’ll need fewer stems.

*    Choose flowers in season and talk to your florist about creative but inexpensive flower choice and arrangement options.

*     Choose a few key, stand-out flowers, then bulk with greenery.  This looks great, often falls nicely, and is very 'New Zealand'!

*    Silk flowers are cheaper than fresh blooms and look incredibly realistic!
They're lighter to carry all day; they don't wilt, droop or stain your dress; and they're a lovely keepsake that will last for years.

*    As an alternative to a bridal bouquet, ask each guest to bring either their favourite flower or a long stemmed flower from their garden.  
Have your chief bridesmaid walk down the isle before you, slowly collecting them from each guest.
At the front of the isle, have your mum or grand-mum wrap a big sash or organza bow around them,
and then present you with them as you walk down the isle.

*    Collect old brooches, attach them to wire stems, to make a lasting, unique and affordable bouquet!


*    If the reception meal and your heartfelt spoken thanks is not enough,
get your girlfriends together to make your party favours.  Google will offer you tons of ideas!

*    Make your wedding favours part of your table decorations, to save on sprucing up the tables.

*    Use the name cards on your wedding favours as your place cards.

*    Instead of trinkets that will end up in your guest’s bottom drawer, make a small donation to your favourite charity.
Have your MC announce this during reception and watch your guests applaud!

*    Gifts for your attendants should be meaningful, but not necessarily expensive.
Maybe giving something used on your day will be well received.
For example, the Parker Pen you bought to sign your licence may be a great gift for your best man.

*    If your attendants are settled in their own home, a native tree with a note about the strength
and longevity of your friendship is a nice touch.


*    Will you be making a grand entrance, or is your ceremony placed where actually no one will see you arrive?

*    Ask around and see if you can match some nice cars from amongst your family and friends.


*    Marrying outdoors at the beach or a local park, or having your ceremony at your reception location, 
will save extra venue fees.

*    For large weddings, a wedding consultant or planner will take on much of the wedding stress, plus save you money.
They know the local vendors and all the right questions to ask.  Just be firm about your budget and expectations.

*    Respect and honour your family and their traditions, but don’t saddle yourself with debt just to please them.
Be honest about what you can and can not afford, and ask for their blessing.

*    Hire a Wedding Planner.  Yes! That's right!  Due to their industry contacts and their great ideas,
a good Wedding Planner very often saves you more than they cost.   

Remember that while your wedding day is ‘the first day of the rest of your life’,
it’s really about your MARRIAGE.
Try hard to keep that perspective if things start to get a little crazy!

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