Weddings. A social ritual with origins in Mesopotamia was originally more of an economic contract between two families. Weddings in the Western world slowly evolved into a more religious undertaking, with a deep-rooted belief that the relationship of a husband and wife is akin to that between Christ and the church. Nowadays, the majority of weddings resemble a more ‘Hallmark’ orchestrated, over-commercialised event (colour me an optimist).
Firstly, I have nothing against weddings, I love to attend them but I just wanted to address the ideals surrounding weddings, sold to us by the wedding industry and many a Hollywood movie – so that we can separate ourselves from fantasy and get those wedding budgets down!
MoneySmart puts the average cost of an Australian wedding to be around $36,000 but surveys by Bride to Be magazine and more direct-to-consumer companies say their audience responses average more towards $65,000. According to a Moneysmart survey, 82% of couples dipped into their savings, 60% took out a loan and 18% used a credit card to cover wedding expenses. Starting a marriage can be one thing but starting a marriage with a load of unnecessary debt seems like a burden…
Regardless of your wedding wish list, everyone just wants to create a great celebration for all their family and friends but there can be many ways to go about this. It’s common practice for venues and proprietors to add a 20% premium to the cost of products or services, just purely for the fact that it’s a wedding. If there’s any way around explicitly saying “it’s for a wedding” when you’re looking for quotes, withholding that sentence right there could save you thousands.
In the pursuit of not adding debt to your bridal party, some savvy wedded couples recommended ‘setting a reasonable budget, and sticking to it.’ Sticking to your guns when there are images of Fijian sunsets and flower-covered archways popping into your Instagram feed might be a hard task but the feeling of walking away from the wedding, not up to your elbows in credit card debt will be well worth it.
It’s all about thinking outside the box. Figure out what is really important to you for your wedding: maybe you’re sticklers for gourmet food or you’re more interested in professional photography. You could pick out the 2-3 key areas of your wedding that you might want to splurge a bit on and then take a more frugal mindset on the other items.
A lot of venues can negotiate their function room fees to be free, if you agree to a minimum food and beverage spend. Venues are usually rented at cheaper rates on Fridays or weekdays as well. Or if you choose an outdoor or town hall option, food trucks with a few hours on-site could save you loads. If someone in your circle is an excellent baker, maybe you could convince them to help you make that three-tier monstrosity?
IbisWorld, a market researcher, puts the Australian bridal store industry alone at a value of $434 million. So, you can imagine how many bridal gowns are being purchased, brand new, every year… But post-wedding, one of the most common things you find is brides trying to sell off all these pieces, furniture, decorations and dresses that they only had a one-time use for. Especially because they need to recoup some of their costs to cover their debt! So get digging on Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace or Facebook groups dedicated to wedding dress reselling. An alteration costs much less than a Vera Wang!
Heading to a national registry to officiate the marriage can set you back between $50-$450 depending on your state or territory. But those fees are much less in contrast to a wedding celebrant, who can often charge upwards of $1,000. If you had your registration done before the wedding day, you could simply ask a friend or a good MC-style person to be the makeshift celebrant as you exchange your vows on the wedding day. Or take a look on AirTasker.
There is also now a website called ‘Crowded Wedding’ that instead of the traditional wishing well, people contribute to crowdfund your wedding. This might help to create a little more cash flow before the actual day… or your guests could crowd fund your honeymoon!
We all know that a wedding is usually just one day. Great memories can definitely sustain you for a lifetime but memories definitely won’t service that debt you’ve built up. So don’t believe the wedding hype and lose sight of your financial realities when planning a wedding… we’ll all get our moment in the spotlight, wedding or no wedding.
Important: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. Consider the appropriateness of the information in regard to your circumstances.