More Aussies to tie the knot

4 Minute Read | Author: Nhan Chiem

Siobhan and Lutfi may be better prepared to organise a wedding than most couples. Siobhan works in the conference industry and organises large-scale events with more than 5,000 attendees. Lutfi has many trades, including a wedding photography business. But, even they struggled with the amount of work and administration that a wedding involves.

“It’s difficult not to fall down the Alice in Wonderland rabbit warren of options and permutations,” Siobhan said. “Weddings are such an unusual type of event. You’re unlikely to have been responsible for a wedding before and, hopefully, will be unlikely to be responsible for one again. There’s such a huge amount of work involved, and you’re learning as you go.”

Siobhan and Lutfi are joining the 120,000 couples who are married in Australia each year. In 2018, it could be even higher now that same-sex marriage is legal.

Estimates for the average cost of weddings in Australia range from $36,000 to $50,000. In one survey, ASIC found that over half the wedding budget was spent on venues, food and alcohol. Eight in 10 people dipped into their savings to pay. Six in 10 took out a loan, and over half relied on contributions from their parents. Despite the best of plans, 35% of people blew their budget. 

While Siobhan and Lutfi had a thoroughly planned budget, they were still surprised by the final cost. “There wasn’t really any single expense that surprised us,” Siobhan said. “It was the cumulative cost that provided the sticker shock.”

They do warn couples of one hidden cost. “Be prepared for the additional expense of socialising around the wedding date itself. You’re likely to have out of town guests, and they’ll want to see you for meals and other activities. This can really add up.”

Creative director and event specialist, Benjamin Lester, is from New York and now based in Sydney. He has worked on events for individuals and companies including AOL, Burberry, Chanel, Condé Nast and Westfield.

Benjamin’s biggest tip is to plan ahead. “Last minute planning is the worst kind of planning,” Benjamin says. “You’ll be at the mercy of vendors, who’ll have an advantage in negotiations. Costs, then, tend to increase in nearly every way.

“Early planning allows you to pick a date that is off-season. This will get you the best value for your wedding spend, from accommodation and venue hire to your other suppliers. For example, January, February, June, and July will tend to be less expensive months in Australia. Friday evenings and Sundays can also offer better value.”

Booking a wedding over a public holiday should be avoided as this can almost double the cost.

Benjamin also suggests couples consider destination weddings: “Most resorts and many regional hotels have amazing all-inclusive deals for weddings.”

If you are planning the wedding yourself, starting early will allow you to thoroughly research options and understand the range of prices in the marketplace. “This way, you’re making an educated choice and will have reasonable and realistic expectations,” Benjamin says. 

If you are planning the wedding yourself, starting early also allows you to accept more people’s offers of help. “Assign responsibilities to your family and closest friends. You’ll be surprised how many big, and little, things there are to do.” 

Benjamin also recommends asking vendors for a better price, and asking if they have ideas on how to save more money. “Suppliers will typically aim high on their initial quotation, and they often have tricks that will save you money. For example, if you’re hiring glassware for a seated dinner, you may not require a formal setting of red, white, champagne, and water glass. One all-purpose wine glass and a water glass may be enough; and this will save you on hiring costs.”

Benjamin also offers the following wedding tips:

Seek expert help: Many couples seek the assistance of a coordinator or wedding planner to manage the entire wedding process. Benjamin suggests that, if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, consider a planner for the weeks leading up to the wedding or just the day itself. “When researching potential wedding planners, don’t be shy about asking directly how much money they can save you. A good planner knows the fair costs for every component of a wedding, can access industry discounts, and will be worth every cent.” 

Ask one vendor or a wedding coordinator to manage all (or most) of your other vendors. This will minimise stress and reduce the costs from multiple deliveries and labour. Benjamin says, “Any seasoned professional will know how to group orders, avoid peak times, and benefit from existing relationships.”

Save on the wedding gown: Many brides now purchase second-hand gowns or rent them. If you really want a new gown, you can also consider selling it after the wedding. “One of my clients purchased an Oscar de la Renta gown while traveling in New York. She had dreamt of this type of gown since she was a girl, and her dream dress wasn’t available to buy in Australia. After the wedding, she sold the gown. After dry-cleaning costs, she recouped 70% of the cost.” But Benjamin warns: “Of course, there’s no guarantee that another bride will share your taste, dress size and budget.”

Double up: If you can coordinate with another wedding or event so they run on consecutive days, you’re likely to save on rental, labour and delivery costs for things including marquees, audio-visual equipment and decor. An event planner may be helpful for this purpose.

Fake it: Wedding cakes can be extremely expensive. Decorated ‘presentation’ cakes made from foam are now common, and will save a lot of money. Genuine ‘sheet’ cakes are then cut in the kitchen and served to guests. Similarly, floral displays can prove exorbitant - consider mixing in good quality silk flowers with in-season fresh flowers and foliage. “You’d be surprised by the number of high-end weddings that use silk flowers,” Benjamin says. “No one will know.”

While a wedding can require significant effort - and expense - it will also be one of the most memorable days of your life. “Take the time to really enjoy the festivities without worrying about the small details,” Benjamin says. “It’ll be over in a flash.”