Glamorous needn't break the bank

LAURA WALTERS
Last updated 07:52 09/12/2013

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Your wedding is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life. And while the day is about love, friends and family, it's also about money.

According to New Zealand Weddings magazine, 21,000 Kiwi couples spend an average $30,000 each on their wedding. That's $630 million each year.

Editor Melissa Gardi says it's inevitable that couples are going to go over budget - "it's one of the most special days of your life" - but no-one wants to get into debt on their big day.

Sanders Weddings director Jennifer Sanders has organised everything from a basic $10,000 beach wedding to affairs costing about $70,000.

She says catering will usually cost between $60 and $100 a head, photographers between $3000 and $5000 (not including an album), cakes upwards of $500 and a wedding dress anywhere from $1000 to $7000.

However, there are ways to cut costs without a "budget" look. For a start, the experts suggest keeping the engagement short and sweet, or you could see your mortgage and savings eaten up as wedding expenses "consume" you.

THE ESSENTIALS

So what makes a good wedding, and what can couples do without?

Danielle and Richard Haldane wed in October, with their three girls present.

At five years, their engagement was a long one, but the real planning started about 11 months before the big day.

Haldane had hoped to spend about $10,000 but the wedding ended up costing more than $25,000.

Good food and music were top priorities, with the catering for about 80 people costing about $5000. She also spent about $2000 on a photographer and $1000 on her dress.

To save money she took a photo of a $3500 dress and had it remade by an online boutique, but the drycleaning cost was $600.

It's the small costs that add up, rather than the big-ticket items, she says.

Sanders says each couple's priorities are different. Buying a cheap dress online then being disappointed or spending thousands on alterations is worse than spending a bit more at the get-go, she says.

However, bridesmaids' dresses can be bought online rather than made for $600 a pop. And groomsmen's suits should always be hired.

On the flipside there are a lot of things couples can do without in order to save a little for the honeymoon.

Some venues charge half-price rates during off-peak times (perhaps winter or a weekday) and a brunch or lunch is cheaper than a dinner.

Sanders also suggests drawing on the expertise of friends and family; getting bridesmaids to make centrepieces will save money and is a nice bonding experience. If you know a baker, ask them to make the cake instead of giving you a present - or don't have a cake at all. Also, buy alcohol from a supermarket rather than at the venue.

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Gardi says that if you get married in the winter, it is important to buy flowers in season to avoid horrendous importing costs. Having the ceremony and venue in one place will save on transport. And favours, or small gifts for guests, are no longer on the to-buy list. The bride and groom already spend a lot for guests to be at the wedding, so they do not need to buy them a gift as well, Gardi says.

IS DIY CHEAPER?

Haldane threw a personalised do-it- yourself wedding, making the table cloths, draping, decorations and flower girl dresses herself.

"If you want that touch where it's your own, you don't get that by buying store-bought stuff."

But, she cautions, a DIY wedding is a big responsibility.

Sanders says couples constantly fall into the trap of thinking DIY will be a better deal - but it isn't necessarily cheaper and is often more stressful.

Gardi says there are a lot of hidden costs associated with DIY, and people often forget things like portable toilets and ovens.

To keep track of costs, use wedding planning tools. New Zealand Weddings has a directory of vendors, while vision boards, Pinterest and a good old spreadsheet go a long way to reining in decisions. Also set up a bank account solely for wedding expenses.

WHEN SHOULD YOU PAY?

Gardi says there has been a shift towards paying vendors and suppliers later in the piece due to economic uncertainty and the lack of job security.

"Couples are making sure that they have the money to spend."

If you book last-minute, be prepared to pay a little bit more or be aware that you might miss out on some things, Gardi says.

A lot of vendors also require a deposit when their services and a date are secured.

Haldane paid things off as she went, so it wasn't such a financial shock at the end.

WHEN THINGS GO WRONG

The Haldanes held their wedding at the French Bay Yacht Club in Titirangi.

Part of the venue's appeal was a glass wall with picturesque views across the water, but about two weeks before the wedding a storm forced a boat into the wall. The club erected a temporary wall with a curtain and fairy lights, which "was beautiful - but it wasn't what I wanted".

The club did not give the Haldanes a discount because the incident was classed as an "act of god".

Sanders says the couple's rights in these situations come down to the individual contract. Always get a contract - even a basic one - from suppliers, and make sure it lays out prices, payment dates, back-up plans and expectations, she says.

About a month before the wedding, send out a run-sheet to all suppliers double-checking that everything is ready to roll.

Insurance broker Marsh Brokers says wedding insurance is big overseas but it hasn't taken off in New Zealand. However, you can still cover your wedding dress, rings and gifts under your contents insurance if they are worth enough.

Businesses can take out event cancellation or postponement insurance, but individuals can't, Marsh says.

Gardi says it is worth getting insurance if you are spending a lot of money on your wedding, but it depends on you and how devastated you will be if something goes wrong.

DO YOU NEED A PLANNER?

Funnily enough, Sanders recommends hiring a wedding planner.

A planner costs between $1200 and $6000 depending on the level of service, with packages ranging from a pre-wedding consultation or events management on the day to a full service.

Some planners charge an hourly rate, others ask for a percentage of the total cost, and still others work out their fee on a case-by-case basis.

Sanders says the expense is worth it for the time, stress and money saved. A planner has detailed industry knowledge, knows suppliers, and can help pick vendors that suit a budget. Also, a wedding planner can help you save thousands of dollars through industry discounts and negotiations - but be aware that not all planners pass on the discounts.

Gardi says that if you are on a tight budget, you should consider hiring a planner just for the day to act as a co- ordinator to deal with any unexpected hassles.

Planners will also help you look over the fine print in contracts and agreements.

The experts advise you to get quotes from three different vendors - any more can be overwhelming. Always check feedback, and meeting suppliers before the day is a must.

WHAT ABOUT GUESTS?

Costs for guests add up very quickly: travel, accommodation, food, gifts and clothing all take a toll, and Sanders says it's important to factor in the costs to guests. "People come from all over the world to come to the wedding."

Gardi suggests putting on a few events during the weekend if guests will have travelled some way to attend the wedding.

A breakfast or BBQ the next day is a nice way to unwind and take care of some of their meal costs.

Welcome baskets, maps and group accommodation rates will also help guests who have taken time away from work and home to be at the wedding, she says.

And although these are extra expenses for your account, it's worth remembering that "your guests are your 'dearly beloved' ".

- Fairfax Media

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