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Why you shouldn’t spend a fortune on your big day

19 May 2015
4 minute read

don't spend fortune on wedding

You’re excited about planning your wedding, but after you’ve made a few calls to planners, caterers and venues you start feeling a little ill. Welcome to the great wedding money trap: a party by any other name would cost half the price, but if it’s a wedding, bring out the big bucks. And couples just cough up. Until they choke.

It is estimated that the cost of a wedding in South Africa starts at around R70 000 and goes up quickly from there depending on the number of guests, the venue and the requirements of the bride and groom and their families.

But R70 000 is no small amount of money for a young couple starting out in life. Unless you can come up with that kind of money without going into debt or sacrificing your savings (tsha!), you should look at ways to reduce your great big wedding budget.

The true cost of a R70 000 weddingIf you borrow R70 000 at an 18% interest rate and pay it back over five years, at the end of the term you will have paid back R106 652 – which is R36 652 more than you borrowed. That’s a lot of money (R1 700 a month) that could have gone into building your future.

And if you have R70 000 saved up, there are many better things you could be doing with it. For example, if you were to invest the money in a fund that offers 10% annual returns, you’d double your money in seven years and by the end of ten years you’d have over R189 000.

If you used the money as a deposit on a R1 million house, you’d save yourself over R80 000 in interest payments over the 20-year term of the bond. And R70 000 is a lovely little nest egg to start an education fund for any children you might one day have. All these things will become financial realities faster than you can imagine.

Deciding what’s importantOf course, we’re not suggesting that you don’t celebrate the coming together of two people and two families in a way that does the union justice. But sometimes, spending a fortune on a cookie-cutter wedding at an established venue with mediocre food isn’t the best way to do that.

Before you begin to budget for your wedding, sit down and have a discussion with your partner about what’s most important to you. Is it having a great party with your friends? Is it respecting the traditions of your families? Or is it just about the two of you privately formalising your relationship?

Let that answer guide all the decisions you make from then on and don’t confuse the issue by paying for things that satisfy some other goal. Make a conscious decision that your wedding will give you a good financial start as a couple, rather than breaking your new joint bank account.

Do a budgetBefore you even start looking into costs, decide how much you think is a reasonable amount to spend on your wedding. Whatever that is, that’s your budget. You could throw a bring-and-braai in your back garden for less than R1 000. While that’s hardly the most romantic way to pledge your undying love to your partner (although, why not?), bear in mind that you can do something special no matter how much money you spend.

Then, make a pre-marriage commitment that you won’t spend a cent more than you budgeted for. It will be a good test of your commitment and ability to work together for the future.

Avoid the wedding industryIf you really want to keep your wedding costs down, don’t have your wedding at a wedding venue with a wedding planner, a wedding caterer and a wedding photographer during wedding season. All of these specialised services come pre-loaded with a double-your-money ka-ching.

Wedding planners often say that they’ll save you money through supplier discounts, but this is often money saved on stuff you wouldn’t have wanted anyway – like bunting.

Buy a dress off the rack or have it made by a tailor rather than going to a bridal boutique. Get a friend to help you do your make-up rather than getting a make-up artist to do you a “face” that isn’t you at all. Buy yourself a gorgeous pair of shoes that you’ll love every other day of the year. Find someone to cook your favourite kind of food rather than going for the standard smoked salmon starters and a carvery buffet. Get a friend’s mum to make your cake (it doesn’t have to be a fruit cake), and deck the halls with your favourite flowers.

Try something differentThe weddings that people most people (the couple and the guests) enjoy are the ones that are memorable because they are different from all the rest. Let your wedding be an expression of who you are, not of who the wedding industry wants you to be.

Have a “weekend away” wedding, or have a celebration on the roof of a downtown building or elope to a small town and have a huge dance party when you get back.

Keep reminding yourselfFamily pressure and the expectations of your friends and community might start to wear down your resolve to control your wedding costs. You and your partner should keep reminding each other of all the reasons that you wanted to stick to a budget in the first place.

This is just one day out of your whole life. While it may be the biggest celebration you’ll ever have, remember that the most important thing will be that the two of you are together on the day after your wedding, and the day after that, and hopefully for the rest of your lives. So let your wedding be about the enduring strength of your union, rather than about how much money you can spend on one big bash.

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