Wedding DIY: Beating nightmare costs

Last updated 05:00 13/06/2013

NEWLYWEDS: Robert and Tarajane Rattray share their first dance.

Wedding 1
The wedding was a family day for Robert and Tarajane.
DIY Wedding
Shelley Frith Zoom
The bride with her bouquet.

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Less than two years after Robert and I started our relationship we had a child and were married. Some might think that was quick, but, and this might sound soppy, it was meant to be.

We had grown up 50km away from each other in England, we visited the same holiday spots in the same years, loved the same interests, his sister now lives and works in my hometown and his niece lived in a converted mill that a lot of my family had worked in over the years.

There were so many coincidences in our lives, but it took moving to New Zealand to find each other. Even when we lived in NZ we kept missing each other for four years, working and living so close to each other.

Then, one day, we both decided to attend university as adult students and met in our very first lecture.

Even when we met, the timing was not right, we became friends first and six years later, after not seeing each other for a while, we bumped into each other and have been inseperable ever since.

The one thing about getting married so quickly was that we had not saved. We had also just had a child and I had not worked for seven months - so we had to do our best to keep costs down.

For the venue we hired a rural villa from a holiday homes website. The villa accommodated 15 people and as we had a lot of family from the UK over, this place meant they could stay with us.

There was also plenty of room for campervans for those who could not fit in the villa and who had plans to travel around.

We hired the villa for eight days, allowing us to relax and decorate it as we wanted to. The cost of hiring the holiday home for eight days was less than hiring a wedding venue for a day.

I made our wedding cake. The cake stand cost me $80, but I figured that I would either use it again or sell it off afterwards.

I had never done anything like this before, but Robert really wanted me to try; we also didn't want to spend $100s on a cake.

So I did a few practice runs with the icing then finally made two cakes with a Christmas cake recipe I found online.

The third tier of my cake was made with a polystyrene cake dummy I bought from spotlight for $12. I also bought the icing for the flowers from Spotlight as it had a gum paste in it to make it go hard after shaping. The main cake icing was from the supermarket. I looked on YouTube to see how to make flowers, and off I went.

It was perfect; I got a beautiful three tier wedding cake which was very personal to us and I will be able to tell our children and grandchildren about. We will even be able to show them as we used the bottom tier of the cake as a guest book also.

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We bought icing pens, which our guests used to sign the bottom tier of the cake. We then sprayed it with a glue and have placed it in a glass cake stand which we have sealed shut.

It makes a great decorative ornament in our home and a fantastic talking point; we also get to see our friends' and families' notes and signatures every day to remind us of our perfect day.

We also used the leftover sugar flowers from the cake as a centrepiece for the children's table. We put each flower in a cupcake cup and put them on a cardboard cupcake stand we got from the $2 shop. The children loved them.

My maid of honour did all of our flower arrangements. She made bouquets for my bridesmaids and me and also the buttonholes for all of the groom's party and our parents.

Two days before the wedding I went to Pak 'n Save and spent $70 on some flowers; ones that I thought I liked the colour of.

The rest of the flowers were collected from friends' gardens and an empty paddock near the venue. This was perfect as the paddock had lots of clover and thistles, which worked well with our Celtic roots that we were both very keen to show in our wedding.

We used the flowers, along with big glass vases for candles as centrepieces. The vases for the flowers cost $3.90 each from a coinmax type shop. The candle vases, $10 from the warehouse. All of which now get used at our home or by friends.

My flower girl baskets came from the $2 shop; they are little pink cans that say 'love' on them. Both flower girls loved them along with their $3 princess tiaras I bought them.

I wanted a dream wedding dress, but was realistic and was not going to spend thousands on a dress, especially if it got dirty and damaged throughout the day.

In the end I took my chances and ordered online. I had asked around and although I was sceptical I did it anyway.

My dress cost less than $600 including postage and packaging. It was made to order and with the exception of the shoulders needing tacking slightly, it was perfect.

I also ordered two bridesmaids and two flower girl dresses, again with only small adjustments to one dress which was more for my bridesmaid's preference rather than it not fitting.

The alterations for both dresses cost me $120. Still that's less than $700 for a wedding dress that was perfect for me compared to the cheapest off the rack dress of $1200 in a bridal shop, which would have needed altering anyway and I was not in love with. And just over $200 for four bridesmaid/flower girl dresses.

Robert wanted to wear his family tartan, we knew he would never wear a kilt again so decided to order some tartan from the UK and had four waistcoats made by a local dressmaker.

The rest of the men's outfits were bought from the sales racks at Hallensteins and Pumpkin Patch. The men's shorts cost $10 each in the sale and the shirts were $20 each or two for $30. That's a total of $80 for Robert, two groomsmen and $15 for our ring bearer who wore a white shirt he already owned. They all matched and looked so smart.

Again my wonderful maid of honour did both my hair and makeup (there was a reason why I chose her). With the exception of buying a photo ready foundation and hairpins (these were my one big indulgence, handmade crystal shamrocks and thistles), everything else was my everyday make up. Who wants to look completely different on their wedding day? I wanted to be me.

We hired a spit roast company for the food. They came out and cooked, served and cleared away afterwards.

They also supplied platters of food throughout the afternoon. They catered to everyone's needs, even the vegetarians.

There was so much food afterwards I ended up giving away two whole deserts and so much meat and veges the next day to friends who had stayed around.

We bought wine and bubbles from an online wine shop. I worked it out as one bottle of bubbles per guest, then added the extras.

I ordered a couple of cases for my hen party to trial it first. Family bought some duty free, we chose a select few spirits that the majority would drink and also that we could use in most cocktails.

All-in-all for all the drink we paid about $600 for 50 guests and still had plenty left over. We just bought soft drinks and water from the supermarket.

I bought wine coolers and wheelie bins for the drinks. I picked them up in the sales and we now use them at home.

In addition to the flowers my maid of honour arranged, we used floating candles and made paper pom poms for decoration. We also used our Christmas lights from home as decorations around the venue.

As wedding favours we had jandals, which I mainly bought from the Number One Shoe Warehouse. I bought them in winter.

I walked in one day and they were $2 each and they had one of their buy-one-get-one-half-price offers, so I walked away with 30 pairs.

We topped up the rest when we saw them on special. It was perfect as the setting was all on grass so the ladies weren't getting stuck in the grass and everyone could relax. It worked out cheaper than buying favours and our guests actually used them.

We put the jandals in nappy boxes that had perforated castle shapes, we cut them out and painted them ourselves. The kids loved them.

We didn't arrange a DJ. We loaded all of our favourite songs onto an iPod and set up playlists to play throughout the day.

It is possible to have a dream wedding and not pay a fortune. The only thing I would advise anyone though, is if you're doing it yourself, make sure you have someone you can delegate to and don't be doing things on the actual day.

I was being shouted at two hours before the ceremony as I still had not gotten in the shower. I didn't get time to relax on the day until after the ceremony and even then I was being told off for doing things.

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