Wedding season is most definitely upon us, and if you’re one of the love birds planning to tie the knot, I’m sure you are starting to feel the pinch of the crazy prices the wedding industry charges. It seems like they just double the price as soon as they hear the word “holy matrimony”! Been there, done that girlfriend and I feel your pain!
When Dan and I got married two and a half years ago (you can read how that almost didn’t happen here) we couldn’t believe the exorbitant prices! We were very lucky that my dad paid for majority of our wedding, but just because he had given us a very generous amount of money to spend, I didn’t want to blow it on things that were completely over-priced, I wanted to be responsible with the money. I picked up a lot of good advice during my 6 months of wedding planning and thought, hey, let me spread the love.
Disclaimer: This might be quite a lengthy post and a bit image heavy, sorry!
- Like I said with my baby on a budget post last week (read it here), the first thing Dan and I did was sit down and work out how much money we had to play with – there’s no point in rushing out to try on a dress from Pronovias when it’s actually out of your budget.
- Again, same as with baby on a budget, we split the money up. We decided on three things that were the most important to us and what we were willing to spend the most money on. Our top three were photographs (they last a lifetime), music (can make or break a wedding) and the food (who wants gross food). Yes, I know, my wedding dress was not one of the top three, but that was just my personal choice.
- The last preparation thing that I would suggest is to make a spreadsheet. In the first column, list every single thing that you need to buy/pay for, then in the second column, list all the different quotes that you have received for each item, in the third column state who will be paying for that specific thing (you and your partner, dad, grandparent, etc) and in the forth column you can put a big red PAID stamp when it has indeed been paid (if we paid a deposit, I just made a note here of how much). Update this spreadsheet often and I promise you, it will save you many headaches. Because my parents were not in the country while I was planning the wedding, they really appreciated this spreadsheet as a regular update and to see where all the money was going.
- We were very cut throat with guest list, especially because we both have large families that we are close to. We only invited friends that we had an active relationship with, people that had really walked the road with us. In terms of partners, they were only invited if they were a husband/wife/fiancé or had been dating for more than 6 months. We didn’t see the need to pay for someones flavour of the month. Told ya, we were hardcore. We had 90 people in total at our wedding and it was the perfect number.
- Our save the dates went out via email about 3 months before and we actually asked people to RSVP to that. This way, we only paid to have invitations printed and posted to those people who were actually coming to the wedding.
- Wedding venue hunting can be exhausting and frustrating. I remember we visited a very popular wedding venue in Newlands, Cape Town and they said that if we wanted to turn the fairy lights on, they charged R2000. Um, thanks but no thanks. We found that getting married out of season (especially in Cape Town) really made a difference to the price tag. Hotels are usually quieter then and are more willing to negotiate on prices because they are in need of business. Dan and I had our wedding reception at The One & Only in Cape Town and it was absolutely perfect, I literally cannot fault them and I am one of the most nit-picky people around. I was very hesitant to even entertain the idea of going there, surely they would be charging an arm and a leg? But their value for money was unbeatable (and I think we looked at about 10 venues). Most people tend to have their wedding ceremony and reception at the same venue which definitely saves money but one of our non-negotiables was that we wanted to get married in a church. Well, when I started phoning around, I couldn’t believe what churches wanted to charge – R10 000 or more! I was determined to get married in a church and so I started to enquire at schools that had chapels on site. Now, this can get a bit tricky and often you can’t use the property unless you’re an old boy or have some sort of tie to the school, but somehow I managed to wrangle my way in and we got married in the beautiful chapel at Bishops High School for a muuuuuch better price.
- Oh how I wish I could give you advice on your wedding dress but I was very lucky to have my ridiculously talented aunt make my dress. In 3 weeks mind you, my first dress was an absolute disaster. If you are going to use a dressmaker, make sure that you have seen her work and if you don’t like something – speak up, you are paying them for a service. Dan found an amazing suit in Zara and we were happy to spend some money on it as he has since been using it for work.
- Music is so important at a wedding, it sets the mood and encourages fun for when its time to start partying the night away. We only had a DJ for our wedding reception, for our ceremony, we made a playlist on an iPod and plugged that into one of Dan’s amps. One of our friends controlled it for us (it was only 3 songs really) and that was that. A nice touch is to have some music playing while guests are arriving, it creates a welcoming atmosphere. DJs can get pricey, especially when you start bringing in all the lights, we used a relatively unheard of DJ (my cousin recommended him to us) and he was brilliant and half the price of the more larney guys. Chat to people and see if they know anyone who does Dj-ing on the side or is still trying to get into the industry, chances are, they will be more affordable. A great thing that we did was meet with our DJ a month before – we discussed the type of music we wanted during the meals and actually gave him a play list of the types of songs we liked, so he had something to work off and wouldn’t start playing The Chicken Dance.
- If there was one thing we didn’t want to skimp on, it was our photographs, but we also weren’t prepared to pay someone R20 000 (yes, really, we got a lot of quotes with that price tag). Luckily we found someone through family who did a great job for so much less! If you are really battling to find someone to do your photographs at a reasonable price, why not call on a final year photography student? They are always happy to make a few extra bucks. Two things I didn’t realise about photographers: they often charge more if they need to stay after 12am so be prepared for that. Secondly, you need to feed your phototgrapher (and DJ mind you) so see if you can work something out with your venue. I think we gave them a R300 voucher each so they could order what they liked off the menu and something to drink.
- Alcohol gets expensive! The wedding planner at The One & Only had a great tip for us – instead of putting the bottles of wine on the table, keep them in the back and only open them as you need them (this only really works if you have waiters). So often at weddings, there are so many half drunk bottles of wine on the tables and it really is a huge waste of money. So we paid for 4 bottles of wine per table but kept them in the back, as people needed more wine, the waiters topped up their glasses. This way there was no wastage. We actually finished all of our wine (suprise, suprise) but if we didn’t, the hotel would have refunded us that money. Another thing we did was not put a bottle of champagne on each table or have lots of bottles out while people were waiting for us to take photographs (don’t forget to have some nibbles while they wait… empty stomachs and alcohol isn’t a good combination), we worked out how many bottles we would need for each person to have 2 glasses of champers while waiting for us and then 1 glass for the toasts and paid for that amount of bottles. Again, the waiters topped up peoples glasses as they needed so it wasn’t like a complete free for all.
- Buffets are more affordable than plated meals but I didn’t like the idea of a buffet so we opted for the latter. Again, its all about personal preference.
- What’s a wedding without flowers? I went to a few florists and most of them sort of charged the same price (I knew what kind of flowers I wanted and didn’t want, that helped a lot) but I was shocked at how much they wanted to charge for bridesmaid and bridal bouquets and I wasn’t willing to spend R1500 on my bouquet alone and so we made another plan. We went to a huge flower retailer and ordered the flowers we wanted ahead of time, bought some florist tape and strings of pearls. We collected the flowers the day before the wedding and used the florist tape to secure them into bouquets and then wrapped the strings of pearls around them. I think we paid about R300 for all of our flowers and they looked lovely, what a bargain!
And there you have it, my two cents on how we managed to save some money while planning our wedding day. It’s such a special and sacred day, it’s important to make it as memorable as possible but without bankrupting yourself and making yourself sick with worry on how to pay for everything. Hope this helps a few of you out!