19 February 2020
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All my friends are getting married

The way societies celebrate a marriage varies: most of us are familiar with the wearing of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” and a gala day that ends with a bouquet tossed to unwed guests in the hope that one day they’ll walk down the aisle too.  Other cultures have their traditions and superstitions. According to the website www.brides.com: “Some are sweet (female guests in Sweden kiss the groom when his new wife leaves the room), while others are perplexing (couples in Congo are forbidden to smile on their wedding day!). And some are downright strange (engaged pairs in Mongolia must kill and butcher a chicken to find a healthy liver before being allowed to wed). 

Apart from the joy when someone ties the knot (hopefully for life), the big day can quickly rack up a nightmare bill. Since the film Father of the Bride, wedding expenses for the average person have gone through the roof, with wedding planners (like OTT Franck Eggelhoffer in this Steven Martin/Diane Keaton comedy) brought in at huge expense to turn the happy day into a Hollywood blockbuster. 

According to a survey run by Bride to Be magazine, the average cost of a wedding in Australia is now $65,482. That sounds ridiculous and could be a deposit on a house! 

Be a disruptor, buck the trend and consider going for something fun but lean.  

If you’d like to start your married life with less pomp and pageantry, here are 7 ways to save on wedding costs.

1. Mamma mia, you can save with a budget

Sit down with your partner and work out exactly how much you can afford to spend, and how much you actually want to spend. There’s a trend these days for the happy couple to pay their own way, so budgeting is important. Do you really need five courses or would you rather spend more on drinks? Could you skip the live band for a solo artist and get a better photography package? Budgeting is about prioritising what’s important to you. You don't have to have it all on one day.

2. Use the paddock out the back

If it’s OK for Peter Switzer, Brad and Ang, it’s OK for you! Look into hiring a house on Airbnb or have it in your own backyard. This way you get total control of the day and make the experience much more intimate. And you don’t just cut down on the venue hire, with total design control you can minimise other costs such as music, food and drinks.

3. Any day of the week is fine

If you give invitees enough notice, they probably won’t mind taking leave from work for the day. Booking your venue well ahead can save thousands. 

4. Ditch Franck!

Do you really need a Franck in your life to control your show? Do your own event. Make it a ‘you & him” day, not some extravaganza. A young friend of mine said to her Mum during her wedding speech: “Thank you Mum for giving me the wedding I never wanted.” This girl had been used to riches all her life and simply wanted to have a low-key day, relaxing with her nearest and dearest. But Mum had watched too many episodes of Father of the Bride and the wedding was high society and high cost. 

5. Nobody told me the flowers cost this much!

Weddings are full of hidden costs. Some venues stipulate you must use their suppliers rather than your own. It’s not uncommon for packages to include clauses for using their DJ, bartender, florist, caterer or wait staff and probably all pricier than your own. Remember, e-bay and op shops have great recycled clothes for the entire wedding party. Do it different: you don’t have to look all glitter and glam. No-one ever went broke buying second hand. It’s hip to recycle. 

6. Something’s gotta give

With enough time and planning, you may find there are plenty of things you can do yourself –invitations, table decorations, the spectacular dress you’ll probably never wear again. Having family and friends help out can also be a good way to keep down costs. My Mum had all her friends cook food for our home wedding and they were the waiters too. That way they got to come to our wedding and enjoy the night. Try an unusual venue: a shearing shed could be fabulous. And food can be costly. Meal courses can be replaced with canapes. Not a fan of cake? Who says you need one? Why not try something entirely different: don’t bring a present, bring a plate! Support the notion: let’s share food and fun together to celebrate our union, without having to spend a bomb to impress guests you may not even see in 10 years’ time. 

7. The Elopement

Friends of mine ran away when they were young and had a cowboy/cowgirl wedding in a chapel on Las Vegas Boulevard. On their return, they made sure they signed the appropriate legal documents to legitimise their union but it was their kind of fun. The photos are great, their kids think they’re uber cool and they had their honeymoon paid for at the same time! And by the way, they’re still together and going strong. 

Weddings can be expensive. Get a high points credit card for all those big purchases and get something back – use the points for your honeymoon flight. 

Now let’s say all up you save $5,000 to $10,000. Peter Switzer says you should put this money straight into your super, so when you’re old and grey and still in love, you can use the money to renew your marriage vows in style!  “Here’s my take on a couple both aged 30 and planning to spend $60,000 on a wedding. If they halved it and say got married with their family in an intimate church ceremony and then threw a party at home and saved $30,000 and they threw the saving into their super fund, that $30,000 rolling over at 7% doubles every 10 years. It’s $60,000 by the time they’re 40. It’s a $120,000 by age 50 and $240,000 by age 70 and $480,000 by the eventual retirement age of 70!,

“Go for a financial planner rather than a wedding planner,” Switzer concludes!

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