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How to have the wedding of your dreams - on a budget

30 March 2020
6 minute read

Couple sitting on couch looking at tablet

Love is worth celebrating in style – a style you can afford! A wedding is a special day, marking a new stage of life with your spouse. Start that future on a positive note with a beautiful, romantic wedding that leaves your finances in good shape.

If you’re newly engaged or thinking about getting married, you’re probably thinking about your wedding and what it might cost. We chatted to experts and came up with ideas on where to save money so that your wedding day is both memorable and affordable.

Have a wedding budgetWhen you start planning your wedding, understand the state of your finances and who is willing to contribute to a wedding kitty, then set an overall limit of how much you can spend and stick to it.

Get everyone involved in your wedding to agree on that limit and appoint one family member to be the budget controller to keep track of all the expenses. Make sure everyone knows what you can and can’t afford. Keep the expectations realistic! Weddings aren’t the time to be shy about money – if something is unaffordable say so.

Remember there is no set cost to a wedding – it all depends on your budget, and budgets can be stretched.

Avoid debtStart married life with your finances intact. So, don’t go into debt to pay for the day. Similarly, you don’t want to dip into savings you have for a specific purpose such as a new house.

Know what things costNow start your research. Make a very detailed list that includes the venue, food, décor and drinks, down to nails and hair for the big day. Decide what you would like and find out how much these things cost. The more detail you put in, the better you can budget and plan, and see where you can save or cut.

Save on the big costsWe chatted to Tshego Moloabi of Meletlo Celebrations to find out the biggest wedding costs so you can find ways to save. She says three expensive items are the venue, décor and videography. Another potential big cost is the wedding dress, and wedding party outfits.

When you look at a venue’s cost, pay attention to what is included and what is not, such as waitresses and waiters, tables and chairs, and overtime. Tshego says you can ask if the venue is flexible on some of these items. Also check if the venue charges per head, or for the space.

There are many ways you can save on venue costs. You may have a friend with a great garden or yard who is willing to let you have their space for free, or for a small fee. You may also decide to use a community hall. Remember that these venues may not come with décor, furniture or food, which you would then have to budget for.

“These costs can add up,” Tshego says. And of course, the more people you invite the bigger the bill.

This can also be a big expense. Some decor, like tablecloths and table settings, might be included in the venue cost, but you will probably have to budget for certain items, like flowers.

If your wedding is in a few months’ time, why not do some of the décor yourself in advance, which will save you money from sourcing it from the venue or a wedding planner. Where this is not possible, with things like the flowers, delegate this to a reliable friend or florist – you don’t want to worry about this on your wedding day.

When you are deciding on décor, Tshego says you must be realistic. The Instagram and TV weddings are outside most people’s budget, so manage your expectations in line with your budget and rather look for ways to add your own touch, making it personal.

Video and photos
The third big cost Tshego identifies is videography and photography. We checked prices from a few sources and found that filming a wedding can cost over R12 000. Try negotiating these costs and perhaps pay for just a few hours, or you can find a friend or relative who is camera ready and tech savvy. Phones are always an option – but the results might not be as professional as you would like.

Wedding dress
You might struggle to find a wedding dress for under R1 000, and designer wedding dresses can cost over R20 000. We found a few online sites where you can get a wedding dress for under R3 000. Remember if you buy online make sure it is a reputable site and that the wedding dress can be returned if it is not as shown in the pictures.

If you have a dressmaker in the family, ask what they will charge to make a dress, or alter a second-hand dress. Tshego says most brides choose to keep their wedding dress. However, there are second-hand dresses available and they are often quite reasonably priced. You might be able to pick up a dress for around R1 000. Or, ask your family members, your mom or grandmother for example, for their dress.

Decide where you will compromiseWhen you’ve set up your budget, made a list of what you want and what it costs, you need to decide where you are going to spend your budget. Consider what will make your wedding memorable and special. This will be a good starting point for deciding where you should spend most of your budget. Unless you have unlimited funds, you will probably need to compromise on some things.

If you have a large family, you may need to find a cheaper venue and ask guests to pay for their drinks. Or you may want that professional wedding film, which means you pay for the videographer and spend less on food or flowers. Remember you can always take photos at a separate venue, so your venue doesn’t have to be the only one in the film or photos.

Top tipA daytime wedding is usually less expensive than a night-time one. You save on some costs such as a full dinner, and a high drinks bill.

Get help!“Planning a wedding should be fun,” Tshego says. You don’t want to be stressed on your wedding day, so enlist help. It could be a professional, if your budget allows (wedding planners can be costly, but they also know where to save money), or a friend or family member. It’s also a good idea to have someone who will take control on the wedding day, so you don’t have to worry about any last-minute problems.

Keep controlHave regular wedding meetings with those you have enlisted to help, so that you know who is doing what, how plans are going and that you are on budget. If you are not within budget, relook the plans and be ready to make some decisions to cut your costs.

You can also include a “slush fund” or cushion in your budget upfront so that if something important does cost more than expected, you can cater for it.

Look back in happiness and forward in loveWhen you’ve done all the planning and stuck to your budget, all that’s left to do is enjoy your wedding day with your loved ones!

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