WOW - this is really happening, you have started to plan your dream wedding, you might have stated looking a locations or venues, open some Pintrest boards of inspiration or thinking about your bridal party and guest lists… STOP! If you haven’t already read my blog 5 SIMPLE STEPS TO START PLANNING YOUR DREAM WEDDING check it out NOW! Building on those strong foundations of what’s really important to you and your partner and the things you collectively want to prioritise will help you be clear and focused on every choice and decision you make.
Knowing ahead of time what you are willing to cut back on or do without (what’s truly important and non negotiable and what you can sacrifice if you need to) can be really helpful when the crunch comes - and the crunch is usually to do with finances.
Not many of us have the totally luxury to not worry about the costs of things, so making a budget early on in the wedding planning process is very important. In terms of managing stress levels or arguments down the track as quotes come in and costs run over, it’s the most important thing you can do right now.
Here are five ways to get you started with putting a dollar sign on your dream wedding day that may help you still have a dream day to remember, but keep costs down and not send you spiralling into debt and regret.
1. Start by working our how much money you can or a willing to spend.
It might come as as bit of a shock to you, but recent studies show that on average couples in Australia spent between $32,000 and $53,000 on their weddings! If this is what you were thinking fine, if its a big shock you might need some time to digest it - so things don’t come as a nasty surprise later.
Obviously, having even a rough estimate is better than having no idea at all, but developing your own specific budget for the day will allow you the freedom to prioritise the things that are the most important to you as the various quotes and pricing options come in and you decide on what is truly important and what can be cut back on or left out.
1) Have the uncomfortable money conversation with both your families.Whilst it was previously traditional for the Bride’s parents to pay for many aspects of the wedding (the reception and wedding dress) and the Groom’s to pay for others (usually the rings, ceremony and honeymoon) this has mostly been replaced by couples covering their wedding costs between themselves. You wont know what your parents are thinking about contributing or not to your wedding, if you don’t ask. If they are planning to contribute as them to commit to a specific amount or to pay for a particular aspect of the wedding. That way out can fit it into shaping your overall budget.
2) Work out how much money you can commit to yourselves
Depending on your own situation you will at the very least have an idea of how much you and your partner earn, have already saved (or can save by six weeks before the wedding when usually all costs need to be paid in full) and can afford to comfortably commit to or be willing to spend as disposable cash.
3) When looking at this don’t forget to consider other goals after the wedding like buying a house, as these are important goals to for you in your new married life and factor that in to your weddings savings plan.Some couples set up a special wedding account and arrange a pay deduction directly into it each payday.
2. Now you have an idea of a realistic and affordable budget you need to look at what will have the largest financial draw on it.
Here are the BIGGIES!
300, 150 or 25 …. The difference between these numbers is magnified by the cost of the food and beverage offerings at your reception (eg $150 per head is $45,000, $ 22,500 or $3750) the difference can end up HUGE! If that difference in price is within your budget and your priority is having a big party with friends and family, then stick with the larger number. But if the difference might break the bank then think about narrowing the guest list.
Some couple invite lots of guest to the ceremony, but limit the number invited to the reception. This is not for everyone, but it is an option some people use.
Another option is to request in leu of wedding gifts that guests pay for part of all of their reception drinks and food. Again not for everyone, but another option to lower the cost and still invite everyone.
Of course you want to be married somewhere amazing but sometimes that amazingness does come with a hefty price tag - so make certain that you are your partner are on the same page about how important the venue location is to your wedding motivation, values, beliefs and aesthetic ambiance you want.
THE WEDDING STYLE & FEEL
Again, know your priorities for your wedding - styles such as classic, black-tie, elegant, and traditional are all wedding styles that can send your overall wedding costs higher. Generally they mean wait staff, seated meals and drink package and live music - all of which can quickly escalate your costs and possibly blow your budget. The average cost for per plate is at least $150 in most luxury Perth hotels so be aware that you done plan a lavish event where you can’t afford to feed your guests appropriately.
Summer and Fall are prime wedding season with high competition for weekend dates, so they are always more expense that the off-season in the winter or spring when some vendors will have less work and offer discounts or extra incentives for couples.
Another option is to consider a weekday wedding - most recently we had one on a Wed and one on a Friday. Again since demand is generally low during these times vendors and venues may be more open to negotiating a better deal.
Depending on your priorities for your ceremony and photography you most likely will be planning and afternoon/evening wedding and reception, as this provides the best natural light. But having your wedding in the evening usually means alcohol will be served with dinner, rather than a “wedding breakfast” or lunch, which can save you money on your alcohol bill.That said some venues will allow you to provide your own alcohol which can be a saving if you organise a bulk buy from somewhere like Dan Murphys.
3. Start a spreadsheet to track all your expenses and quotes.
HAVE A COLUMN THAT SAYS ESTIMATED! You could argue is it the chicken or the egg - how can you budge when you haven’t got all the quotes in yet or decided on which vendors you want to go with. But making an educated guesstimate about what it is likely to cost or what you are prepared to spend, is a great way to start
Start by simply listing the common, and essential to a wedding - to get you started here are a few basics…..
Who will marry you? - Celebrant or Officiant
Where will you get married? - Wedding Ceremony Venue - is there a cost?
What will you wear? - Brides Gown (borrow, hire, make, buy) and accessories including flowers, Grooms Suit (borrow, hire, make, buy) and accessories - including flowers. Will you need hair and make-up done?
Wedding Rings - what kind and from where?
Witnesses - Numbers in your wedding party (you need at least two witnesses for it to be legal in Australia). Will you or they be paying for their wedding attire? Cost in the flowers and any gifts you wish to give them as thanks
Will there be a Reception? - What type (cocktail, buffet, sit down) and at which Reception Venue? Do you need to employ outside caterers? Will there be a cake?
Guest List - Save the Date, Wedding invitations, Thank You’s and Catering numbers (can the venues accommodate the numbers you need?)
Will transport be needed to and from the various venues and locations? If so what kind would you like and who for?
Will there be music - when (ceremony and/or reception) and what kind?
Wedding night - Where will you stay after the reception finishes? Sometimes the reception venue will give you and your guests special rate to stay the night or give a complimentary wedding suite.
Photography - how much of your wedding day story you want coverage of? After it’s all over what things should you be seeing in your wedding album? Only having a professional photographer for the important parts of the day you want captured in your wedding album (ceremony and formal portraits) rather than full coverage can save some money, but remember long after the sparkle of your day is over, all you will have left to capture those memories are you photographs and/or video film! At West Coast Weddings we offer combined packages with photography and videography which can not only save you money but also ensure it all goes smoothly as we know how to work with each other and not get in each others way on the day.
Videography - will you be wanting a video record of the day - how much of the story of your wedding day do you want coverage of?
This local research will help to start to craft your own wedding budget within what your finances will allow. ALWAYS overestimate and include a contingency amount for any unexpected costs or increases (as prices can increase between your planning time and the actual wedding date). If you can try to use vendors who will guarantee no price increases for you - you might have to pay a larger deposit or all up front to ensure this, but it will mean you won’t have any nasty surprises down the track.
NOW ADD A COLUMN THAT SAYS MODIFED!
Now you can do some research against these items for venues and vendors whose services you’d like to have and fit your unique style, taste and vision. Sometimes you can find prices directly on the websites or from information at wedding expos etc, other times you will need to reach out directly to the vendors or venues themselves.
Add the quotes or pricing to your new column. On a separate spreadsheet tab keep all the details of the various vendors quotes so you can compare later. Just be sure you are actually comparing the same against same, ie not all photographers and videographers are the same, and simply looking at pricing alone can give you a false sense of what you are actually getting and the quality and service you will receive. Just remember in most things in life you get what you pay for! You also want to be sure that the vendor is meeting your wedding priorities - for example if you want a wedding album and they only give digitals this can be a huge expense for you later and may never actually happen or you might end up with very poor quality. Our collections all include a beautiful handcrafted bespoke professional wedding album (upgrades available) that I design just for you to meet your style taste and budget - I do all the hard work for you - that’s why you hired a professional!
Don’t forget to include GST if its not shown on the quotes as this may be extra cost for you.
Make sure you read the fine print of any quotes, contracts or agreements, eg some photographers may charge you thousands of dollars to be able to access photos for online galleries, social media or sharing - we include it in all our collections.
NOW ADD A COLUMN THAT SAYS ACTUAL!
This is where, after reaching out, deciding who is the best fit for your and your wedding priorities and you book their services. You will add the price you have paid or are planning to pay.
FINALLY AN EXTRAS COLUMN
You need to include a little breathing space or wriggle room in your budget, most people allow around 15-20% of the total budget as a bit of a buffer - you might not need it but better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!
4. Blowing out your budget - what to look for.
Things that can badly affect your budget are:
- Not having the uncomfortable budget talk with both your parents or your partner.
- Forgetting to or falling behind and not tracking your budget during the wedding planning process
- As tempting as it might be to pull out the fantastic plastic and worry about it later - DON’T! Putting things on your credit card that you can pay off in 30 days and avoid the high interest fees just instant worth it.
The same goes for getting a personal loan - you don’t want to start your marriage life in debt regretting what you spend on one day in your life - no matter how special it was.
If you want to boost your overall budget request cash wedding gifts in the form of a wishing well or similar or create a savings plan and do a bit of extra work if you can.
5. What can you do if your budget does blow out?
It’s often hard to save by just doing one thing or cutting one big thing out - this can also be false economy as you might regret that decision later wishing you had included that thing, eg wedding cars, the gown you really loved and felt special in, or that photographer who was more expensive but who’s images you absolutely loved. Borrowing or hiring some things instead of buying can also be ways to save on your wedding budget.
You can however, cut back a little across a range of areas that in combination can help you reach you target budget.
1. There’s Always Room for Negotiation
On your list of estimated wedding expenses the prices shown on the internet or quotes you receive from different vendors can sometimes have a little wriggle room in their pricing. If you don’t ask you don’t get - so try and negotiate (within reason you don’t want to insult people) with each vendor and see if they can shave a little bit off - especially if you can pay cash - this little bit over each bill can add up to big savings. Don’t be offended if they say no, they may already be offering you their best deal.
2. Give Yourself Enough Time
Many couples realises their budget is spiralling out of control too late. The earlier you start to plan your wedding; the easier it is to get bargains and lock those prices in. With more time on your hands, you can do more research and get vendors that are the least expensive without sacrificing quality or who will give you the best deal on their services. Many vendors will often have special offers at Wedding Expos - so be sure to check those out!
3. Catering - Buffet or Cocktail Style
Catering is almost always one of the biggest ticket items on the average wedding expenses breakdown. Reducing the food and alcohol bill, even by a little can take off a significant amount of your total wedding budget. One way to do this is to serve your meal buffet or cocktail style. This ensures that you will not need a big complement of staff to wait on tables and there’s less waste than a sit-down meal. Some wedding venues let you supply your own alcohol which can make things much cheaper, or you might ask guests to pay for their own drinks at the reception in leu of wedding gifts.
4. Consider Non-Traditional Flowers.
Fresh wedding flowers can cost a lot - especially if you have lots of attendants or want to have arrangements/arbours at the church/ceremony venue or as table centre pieces at the reception. Instead of using traditional flowers such as roses and tulips, you could opt for more non-traditional flowers such as lilies, carnation or natives. Silk or dried arrangements are also a cheaper option to consider. For centrepieces simple chrysanthemums, in recycled jam-jars or bottles with lots of greenery on the tables can give a more rustic feel to the reception and save lots of money. Some brides are also opting for a brooch, button or ornament bouquet (see Etsy) instead of flowers.
5. Be Creative
Having your ceremony and reception in one place will reduce transport costs and can often get you a better deal on things. Enlist family and friends with special talents or skills who can do some elements for you eg table decorations, simple flower arranging, making up party favours, cake decorating etc. If you have someone crafty in your network, ask them if they could make your wedding invitations, place cards, seating plans and thank you cards even if you offer to cover material costs.
Asking your attendants to pay for their dresses or suit hire can save you heaps.
Choosing a wedding venue that doesn’t need a lot of decorations will also save lots.
Some couples use "dummy cakes" just for the photographs and have a commercial slab cake cut up in the kitchen and served, or have a “Sweet Option” table with glass jars of all sorts of little lollies and goodies instead.
You can try making your own photo booth at the reception where people take their own selfies on their phones or get a friend to DJ.
Just be careful what you decide to cut back on so you don't regret things later.
IF THINGS ARE REALLY TRICKY PULL OUT THE BIG GUNS!
1. Change the venue - although you may loose your deposit so this needs to be factored in
2. Edit the guest list so it becomes smaller or only invite some people to the reception, or ask people to pay for their dinner/drinks in leu of gifts.
3. Move your wedding in the off-peak season or on weekdays when there might be better deals. Again check on any deposits you might have paid that are non refundable or moveable.
4. Postpone your wedding until a later time when your finances have recovered or sufficiently grown so you can have the wedding you dream of.
5. Planning your wedding yourself can save you thousands rather than using a wedding coordinator or day-of coordinator.
6. Have the ceremony and reception in the same place to save on transportation for yourself, and or guests, and can sometimes get you a better overall deal.
7. Instead of a live band, use a DJ or small duo, this can same you thousands.
8. Don’t let yourself be upsold by vendors - that’s not to say they shouldn’t inspire you and show you what they have on offer, just don’t let them pressure you into something you don’t want, need or doesn’t fit your wedding priorities. If you can use the same vendor for multiple items that you need they may be able to give you a better deal (eg your caterer might also provide party favours for guests or organise the wedding cake)
9. Consider eloping -They are much much cheaper, easier to plan en offer an unique and intimate experience where you can focus on each other and still include those meaningful touches to your day.
Let’s get real - I know creating a budget is not very romantic, and sticking to it can be really difficult, but if you want the wedding of your dreams with no buyers regret afterwards, or a long time paying off your credit card, you really need to do the logical thing and make one! It will save you many headaches and lack of sleep down the line. Enjoy planning your wedding - I hope this helps.