So I haven’t posted in a while because I have been overcome with the madness that is planning a wedding.
Two weeks ago, Mr Millennial and I finally got married after nearly 9 years together. We had a wonderful day and everyone we spoke to said it was one of the best weddings they had ever been to. And best of all, we managed to stay under budget!
When we started planning, Mr Millennial and I decided that we would budget $20,000 for our wedding. We live in Sydney and we had a lot of non-negotiables that we wanted to include in our big day. A year into planning, after looking into what things cost, we revised our budget to be $17,00. However, after running the numbers, the total cost of our wedding was just under $15,000. For some people, this doesn’t sound super frugal, but considering that the average wedding in Australia is over $65,000, I think we did very well.
So, how did we do it? The trick to planning a budget wedding (whatever your budget may be) is to ask yourself five main question.
Question one: What are our top three priorities?
This may be an exercise that the two of you do individually or something you come up with together. What are the things that are essential for you and that you value spending the money on? Is it the dress? Live music? Breath-taking photos?
For Mr Millennial and I, we came up with the following priorities:
- Location. This was mainly Mr Millennial’s priority. He wanted to be married outdoors, somewhere near water and next to plants, preferably flowering plants. He had similar priorities for the reception venue. We ended up getting married in a park and having the reception at a club on the beach. This was the biggest expense for us. We paid over $100/head for the reception and had to hire the park space as well as chairs for people to sit at, a table to sign the marriage certificate, and some basic decorations.
- Family. I wanted to have all my family present, including close friends of my parents. I also wanted to invite work colleagues. This pushed our guest list out to over 70 people which also increased the cost. However, I’m glad we made this choice and I couldn’t imagine having our wedding any other way.
- Good food. Mr Millennial and I are both fussy eaters. We are flexitarian and pescatarian which really limits what we will eat. He also really likes simple foods – if we can’t pronounce it, we probably won’t eat it. A lot of wedding venues had ridiculously fancy food that looked terrible to us. We wanted to have food we enjoyed and we also wanted to have a buffet so people could choose their own food. This ended up being a driving factor in choosing our reception venue.
Question two: What can we live without?
The wedding industry, largely driven by Pinterest, will have you believing that you need to have a personalised welcome sign, custom made robes for every bridesmaid, and a photo booth for guests to take photos, in order for anyone to enjoy your wedding. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Take some time to think about which traditional things you can live without. Sometimes these are big ticket items and sometimes they’re small, but they all add up.
Mr Millennial and I decided to leave out the following items from our wedding:
- Hire cars. So many people asked me what cars we were taking to the wedding. I hadn’t really thought about it until the week before, when I asked dad if he could drive me and my sister there (Mr Millennial would be driving our shared car). He said yes and he even got the car cleaned for me and put a white ribbon on the front!
- Videographer. Many people want a video to remember their wedding day for years to come. This was not a priority for me. It’s not something I would watch. Instead, we had a photographer and I asked the people who gave speeches to email me their speech so I could have a copy of their kind words. My sister took a video of my father-daughter dance on her phone.
- Large bridal party. By having only one bridesmaid and one groomsman, we didn’t have to match as many things between people. The groomsman wore his own shirt and shoes. We bought his suit and tie. The bridesmaid wore her own shoes and jewellery, styled her hair however she wanted and chose her own dress (I picked the colour). We didn’t have personalised robes for the bridal party, I asked my bridesmaid to bring a robe with her to wear when she got ready. With a larger bridal party, the costs can add up quickly.
- Stationery. We didn’t have save-the-dates, place cards, ceremony programs or menus. We made a seating chart the day before and printed it on standard A4 paper. Instead of place cards, we wrote peoples’ names on their wedding favours. All of this stationery costs a lot of money and can give you some real savings if you avoid it.
- An expensive hens party. Although the bride doesn’t often pay for the hens, some brides expect guests to spend up to $1800 for a night out (or worse, weekend away). I don’t know a lot of people who are the position to pay such extraordinary amounts. Instead, I had a high tea and used a coupon to get it half price. For $25 each, we had a wonderful afternoon of sandwiches, cakes, tea and pleasant conversation. And people had the night free if they wanted to make other plans.
Question three: What can we do ourselves?
You often don’t realise what skills you have or can build that will help you in your wedding. You probably also have friends or family who can help out – ask around and see how they can assist. Here are some suggestions of things you can DIY:
- Cake. Everyone knows someone who loves to bake. My friend and I are both passionate bakes, so I asked my friend to bake cupcakes for my guest and I baked a tiny cake and bought a cupcake tower online. We made a beautiful cake tower and put matching ribbons on the cake and cupcakes to tie it all together. Everyone was super impressed with how delicious the cupcakes were (they taste better when they’re made with love).
- Invitations. Invitations are the only piece of stationery that is essential – unless you think an e-vite will do. Mr Millennial and I used Microsoft Publisher to make an invitation design we were happy with. Then we went to officeworks and bought pretty coloured paper and cardboard in our wedding theme colours. We printed the invitations on the paper and mounted it on the cardboard with glue dots. We bought plain envelopes at Officeworks and added a little heart sticker to make them look special. It cost us about $50 to make our 50 invitations and they were exactly what we wanted. We also handed them out in person when we could to save on postage costs.
- Hair and makeup. Some women love to get their makeup done by a professional. I find that I never end up looking like myself and that I know best what suits my face. So, one year out, I started practising doing my own makeup. I bought makeup at half price sales when there were things I’d never used before (like eyebrow pencils, contour and ca full coverage foundation). I probably spent about $50 on makeup in total and did about 30 trials, getting better each time. I asked my mum to do my hair for me and we followed a Youtube tutorial. We did three or four trials before the big day and everything went perfectly.
- Little details. We made our own wishing well using a plain cardboard box from the reject shop that my mum painted our names on. My dad made us a cake topper with laser cut wooden names we gave him. My mum made my hair pieces using spare flowers from the lady who made my bouquets. Don’t spend big on small details, spend big on the big picture.
Question four: What can we borrow from family or friends?
You will be surprised how much you can borrow if you actually ask around. You might be able to borrow a veil, shoes, jewellery, or even a dress (I’ve already offered mine to a friend who’s getting married soon). Even better, if you know someone with a holiday house, see if you can borrow it for your honeymoon. We had our honeymoon gifted to us. We also managed to borrow:
- Shoes. From my sister who wears the same size shoe as me.
- Necklace. From my best friend. I was mentioning that I was thinking of wearing a pearl necklace so she brought one out to show me that was perfect.
- Robe. My sister-in-law lent me a robe to get ready in that she already had at home.
Question five: What’s left?
For the things that are left, see how you can get them cheaper. Shop around, take your time, maybe even check out wedding expos to see what’s out there. Here is everything that was left for us:
- Dress. After not finding my perfect dress in stores, I bought one secondhand from Still White. It was absolutely perfect and only $300 plus alterations and cleaning.
- Suits. We bought our suits from Connor when they were having a sale. That’s also where Mr Millennial got his shoes (half price), vest (30% off), shirt and tie.
- Celebrant. We looked on the Australian Marriage Celebrant website for a celebrant near us. We didn’t realise how much celebrants cost, but we’re glad we went with the one we chose, she was super helpful in the lead up to the wedding.
- Photographer. We found our photographer at a wedding expo. We chose a package that had 8 hours coverage (to include getting ready, ceremony, photos afterwards, and most of the reception) but mostly digital photos. We don’t need a wedding album.
- Wedding favours. Originally we were thinking of skipping this, but we ended up making a donation to the cancer council on behalf of our guests. This came with a little card thanking people for attending our wedding, so we wrote each guest’s name on this and used it as a place card.
- Flowers. I bought my flowers from someone recommended to me who makes silk flowers. My mum still remembers her flowers dying halfway through her wedding day and I didn’t want that to happen. My faux flowers were perfect! And it cost only $200 for all my flowers.
- Rings. I wanted a plain band so I bought my ring through Blue Nile online. I didn’t get my size quite right but they took it back and adjusted it free of charge. Mr Millennial bought his at a store but negotiated the price with them.
Do you have any tips for a frugal wedding? Share them in the comments below.