We’re here to tell you that you can have a dream wedding day without breaking the bank. But to make this happen, you must do your research into how much everything costs, keep an eye on expenses during the planning process, and build in a buffer to take care of any surprise extras.
Weddings come in all shapes and sizes. Research indicates the average cost of a wedding is $32,333 and around 9 percent of couples will spend more than $60,000 on their wedding. But it’s more than possible to have a sublimely happy day for a lot less.
Lucy is one bride who put an almost-forensic focus on her wedding spreadsheet. Her advice is to work backwards in the early stages of planning to arrive at a reasonable budget, and to ask friends how much they spent to get a feel for what different things cost.
“We started with the guest list to work out estimated numbers. Then we did research into what everything cost,” say Lucy.
Lucy’s budget was $50,000 and she wanted to ensure she and her fiancé could pay for everything by themselves. “Of course, we went over budget, but we accounted for that by having a buffer.”
The total price included the ceremony and reception, decor, flowers, wedding rings, the honeymoon, bridesmaids’ and groomsmen’s outfits, shoes, hair and make-up, gifts, food for getting ready, a coffee van for the morning after, groom’s outfit, wedding dress, veil and shoes.
Lucy suggests spending money on the things that matter. “I budgeted $3,000 for my dress, which I went over, as you only get one. I spent just under $4,000 on the photographer, as the photos are your lasting memories,” she says.
“The videographer cost $2,000 for a five-minute highlight film and raw footage of the full day, which was worth every cent. My grandpa read a poem and gave speech. His health declined afterwards, so I can’t express how precious that video is.”
Let’s take a look at what most major wedding expenses cost, so you can factor them into your budget.
If you’re thinking about getting married one of the early expenses to consider is the bride’s engagement ring, and couples spend an average of $5,000 on the ring. A diamond solitaire is a traditional choice, but there are many less costly alternatives, including synthetic diamonds that look exactly like the real thing, or semiprecious stones, such as aquamarines, that are equally as beautiful.
Most brides have a dream wedding dress in mind, with $2,649 the average cost for a wedding gown. Choosing a second-hand frock or a dress that’s not sold as a wedding dress is a way to keep this cost manageable. Picking a dress you can wear again or have altered is another great budgeting tip.
Your wedding venue is another big-ticket item. The average cost per guest is $157, with the average total cost just over $15,000. Again, there are lots of ways to manage this. Having a smaller number of guests or a beautiful backyard wedding are budget-savvy ways to reduce costs.
You can also expect to pay around $9,500 for wedding catering. To manage this cost, you could also consider serving guests finger food and drinks rather than having a sit-down reception, or even getting a quote from a local, favourite restaurant.
Wedding photography will set you back around $3,000, while the average cost for wedding videography is $2,700. Booking a student photographer or videographer, or a friend with good camera skills are budget-friendly alternatives.
Wedding flowers can average $1,600. Asking friends and family to help is one way to keep this cost down.
While you can always ask someone you know with a flash car to borrow their wheels for the day, using a specialist wedding car company will cost $1,300 for the average wedding.
Every wedding is different and not all of these costs will apply to you. What’s important is to ensure you account for every expense in your budget, so you’re not left with post-wedding budget shock.
Once you have a feel for how much everything costs, you can start to put together a budget. Not only will your budget help to keep you on track, but—as research by Deakin University for the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index shows—financial control is a key factor in your overall wellbeing, meaning that it’ll probably help you feel a bit less stressed.
To start, work out a reasonable figure you’d like to spend, taking into consideration any financial help you may be fortunate enough to receive from friends and family, as well as how much you are personally prepared to contribute. Next, allocate funds to each category of cost, based on your earlier research.
For peace of mind, it’s a good idea to set aside a certain amount as a buffer for contingencies—10 percent of your budget is a suggested guide.
To avoid going astray, it’s important to have a system for keeping track of your expected and actual costs. Says Lucy: “I created a spreadsheet that listed each item, the budgeted cost, the supplier, actual cost, deposit amount and payment dates. It helped us stay on track.”
A final tip: you don’t always need to disclose that you’re getting married when you’re ordering items for your wedding. Some suppliers charge a wedding premium, so think about making the order without letting them know what it’s for.
Your wedding day is often the best—but also the most costly—day of your life. While a proper budget may not be the most exciting item on your wedding to-do list, it’ll help you know what you’re spending, and make sure you don’t spend more than you intend to. And that’s a perfect start to your happily ever after.