Well, you've recently become engaged (yay!) and now it's time for the fun (and not so fun) stuff, i.e., planning (& budgeting) for your big day.
Weddings these days are anything but cheap. From the manicure to the dress, the venue to the open bar, the place cards to the floral arrangements, weddings are a lot to plan for & a lot to pay for.
While the average cost of a wedding is steadily increasing & is nearing $30,000 in North America, you needn't align yourself with the statistics (that is IF you don't want to). Your wedding is exactly that—your wedding—if the highest price tag is within your means & it is what you want, go for it! However, for the majority of us brides out there, the "planning stage" might as well be called the "budgeting stage."
So if you are a budgeting-bride, don't be discouraged! As you move forward, whatever your budget, keep in mind that a wedding is whatever you make of it. Whether your budget is $5000 or $500,000, you will love it. You've just got to decide which wedding expenses are worth your money and which are not.
1. THE DRESS
The dress is often considered the one expense worth breaking the bank for. However, there are two ways of looking at this one.
First, yes. Absolutely, you want to look as good as you feel on your wedding day. After all, you only get one & for most of us it is the ONLY day in our entire lives that we can justify the price tag of wearing Vera Wang. Likewise, if you're going to drop $30,000 on a party, maybe making it $32,000 for that perfect dress is worthwhile. Maybe? Or maybe not.
Let's paint a picture. You try on a hundred dresses. You love three of them. You LOVE one of them. The price difference? A jump from $2000 to $6500. Yikes. Again, if you've decided that this is where you are happy to splurge, then guuuurl do it! However, if you're like the majority of brides, you are probably dying a little inside every time you look at that $6500 price tag AND every time you think about having to leave it behind.
Well, let's put it in a little (hopefully helpful!) perspective. The idea of the "perfect dress" is a little misleading, much like the idea of the "perfect pair of denim." There is no "perfect one"—there are MANY perfect ones. Whether you walk down that aisle in dress choice #1, dress choice #2, or dress choice #7, everyone will still think you look unbelievable and will be talking about how the dress was "made for you."
You definitely got to go with your heart on this one, buuuut don't count the budget out.
2. THE HAIR & MAKEUP
The hair & makeup is an easily justifiable expense, as well as an easy place to save money. If you are a bride who wants to look as natural as possible, then doing your own hair & makeup or having a friend do your hair & makeup might be the obvious, money-saving answer.
For the rest of y'all, who want that glam look and are terrible at doing their own hair & makeup—this is an area to spend. Keep in mind, their are always budget-friendly options. You don't have to book the most expensive stylist in town!
3. THE PHOTOGRAPHER
The photographer might be the most splurge-worthy wedding day expense. Your photos are basically all you will have to solidify those wedding day memories that move so swiftly past you in a whirlwind of excitement, adrenaline, and small talk. Though, with wedding photographers averaging between $2000-5000 for the day, we would advise you to shop around. Look for a deal, but take our advice: don't settle.
Again, this is also a great area to save $1500-5000. If you happen to have a friend or family member who is willing to take photos—fantastic! Just keep in mind that they are likely someone very special to you, and maybe you'd rather they enjoy just being a guest.
4. THE VENUE
The venue is everything! Or it isn't. Depending on the bride & groom, this expense may or may not be worth the high ticket that the best venues go for. When searching for the "perfect venue," consider the price, the location, the aesthetic, the amenities, what's included, and what is important to you.
If you are lucky enough, you have a family member with a yard or space larger enough to throw a beautiful wedding, free of venue charge. If you are like the majority of brides, you will have to research for hours & spend weekends visiting local venues.
When deciding between renting a hall & caterer or booking a restaurant, here are a few thoughts worth considering. Though restaurant weddings are often more expensive, consider what is included. Often restaurant venue rentals will include many things that you would otherwise have to book & organise yourself for your hall rental, e.g. tables, linens, glassware, flatware, catering, alcohol, servers, bartenders, cleaners, wedding planner, sounds system, and staff to setup & take-down the basics. As well, the convenience & quality of a restaurant venue is often quite high, as the restaurant's reputation depends on it.
5. THE FOOD & THE BOOZE
Again, this one depends on the bride & the groom—but it is definitely worth the splurge! Your guests have travelled far and wide to spend a night celebrating with you both. Treat them well with decadent foods and, if you can afford it, an open bar. Nothing says "thank you for celebrating with us" better than a good party. Ditch the favours & buy a few more bottles of wine instead.
6. THE WEDDING PLANNER
The wedding planner is one of the easiest places to save money. If you absolutely cannot afford one or you would rather do it yourself—perfect!
However, if you have ever planned a wedding without one, you can understand why couples opt in for this service. The amount of time, stress, and pre-martial discord that a wedding planner will save you from during those months leading up to your wedding is invaluable—but far from priceless.
If you can afford a wedding planner or know you need one in order to make it to your wedding day in one, emotionally-well piece, then get one! You will not regret it.
At the very least, consider a week-of or day-of wedding coordinator to help make things run smoothly when all you want to focus on is looking beautiful, saying "I do," and celebrating with loved ones.
And finally, a few more easy areas to save a few dollars...
1. THE FAVOURS
The wedding favours are the easiest things to ditch. Often costing couples upwards of $500+, these gifts are often quickly tossed out by the guests (if they even remember to take them home!). Take the advice of past-brides everywhere: if you need to cut corners, start with the favours.
2. THE CAKE
Often weddings include a variety of desserts, the wedding cake being one of many. The majority of your wedding guest will likely head over to the dessert table for the carrot cake or macarons, rather than the 5-tiered wedding cake that you paid $500+ for. Need to save a few dollars? Opt in for the (still professionally-done & gorgeous!) regular 8" cake for the photo-op.
3. THE CHAMPAGNE
Not everyone is a fan of champagne. Open-bar, toonie-bar, or otherwise, let you guests decide what to drink while they toast to your happiness. Karma says you'll save $300+ on wasted champagne.
4. THE SAVE-THE-DATES, THE INVITES, THE MENUS, THE PROGRAMS, & ANYTHING PAPER
Depending on your wedding, this one is an easy way to save $500-2000. If you are able, design your paper-everything! This is a great way to save on paper-related costs. Other considerations include: avoiding the necessity of save-the-dates, the programs, and the menus. If you can send out your invites early enough, save-the-dates are not necessary. If you have a pre-determined or set menu, menus at each place setting are not necessary. If you don't think programs are essential, then don't make them!
All things considered, weddings are a personal affair & you've got to sit down and decide what matters most to you & spend your money accordingly. As much as we'd like to say "follow your heart," we can't ignore the brass tax. Sit down, make a plan, and drink a few glasses of wine along the way.