“Just a simple wedding” – sometimes it can start out like that. That’s the plan; get married, spend only on what’s necessary, and then get working on the nitty gritties of living together, spending your lives together, working, saving, planning for a family and enjoying your time together.
“It’s got to be my dream wedding” – and it can start out like that as well. The bride and groom can be optimistic about the cost, planning it out beforehand deciding that yes, they can afford a beautifully designed wedding that is unique and perfect for them.
But in both of these scenarios, the final cost of the wedding can come as an enormous shock.
Little Things add up to Big Things
The problem often arises when “little extras” are added – often without incorporating the cost of those extras into the running total. Brides and grooms can say yes to those extras because they seem so inexpensive, just a few dollars more than the total (particularly in context of the total!).
But many of those little extras have to be thought of in terms of multiplying them by the total number of guests.
Then another little extra will be added because it looks so gorgeous, or adds just the right touch.
And then another little extra because the bridesmaids and groomsmen really do need to be thanked properly.
Then another extra because it matches this or that so well.
And then another, and then another – and before you know it, those little extras have exploded the original expenditure to the point that it’s become financially difficult to manage the whole thing.
Looking Beautiful – the personal expense that can escalate out of control
Tradition has it that the bride’s family (although these days it’s usually the bride herself) pays for the bridal gown. While some brides are opting for the least expensive options, many are not – and of course every bride wants to feel at her most beautiful on her wedding day.
If the bridal gown is going to be a major expense, the bride needs to sit down and think calmly about all the expenses involved in her appearance. Will she wear a veil? What jewellery will she wear? (Will this be an additional expense or will she wear jewellery she already owns?) What shoes? What underwear? What makeup? (Will this be done professionally?) What hairstyle? (Again, will this be done professionally?)
What about her attendants’ headdresses and makeup? (It is usual that either the bride or the bride’s family pays for that, although the bridesmaids are traditionally expected to purchase their own dresses.) What about gifts to the bridesmaids, and gifts to the groom?
The bride should decide on the budget before she spends so much as a single cent on any of these. It’s absolutely fatal to the budget to start “impulse-buying” anything in relation to the wedding.
Carding costs, Photography, Reception and more
That’s not even mentioning the stationery (cards – invitations to the engagement party, invitations to the wedding, thank you letters, name cards, order of ceremony or order of service), the newspaper announcements, the trousseau, the bouquets for the bridesmaids, the hens’ night or equivalent, any musicians’ fees, any additional entertainers’ fees, any costs involved in decorating the venue for the wedding, the wedding venue hire, the photographs (and video if that’s also chosen), a wedding ring for the groom if he will be wearing one, the wedding transportation (to and from the ceremony and reception), and the big one – the reception (venue, food and drink). These are all traditionally paid for by the bride’s family or the bride herself.
That’s not to say the groom has no expenses – on the contrary.
From Bouquets to Honeymoons
The groom or groom’s family will traditionally be expected to pay for the groom’s attire, accessories for the best men (boutonnieres, ties, gloves, etc.), gifts for the best men (and also for the ushers), the fee for the Registered Marriage Celebrant, gifts for the parents of both bride and groom, flowers for the Mother of the Bride and Mother of the Groom, flowers for the bride (corsage, bouquet, etc.), the engagement ring (of course), the bride’s wedding ring, the cost of the engagement party, and the cost of the honeymoon.
Deciding what’s necessary
It makes sense to stop and think before ANY money has been spent – just what is really necessary? And who is going to pay for what?
Remember that the above costs are traditional: it is not unusual to find both families of the bride and groom agreeing to split costs down the middle, or for one family more able to bear the cost to pay for more than the other family. If both bride and groom have been working for a considerable time, again it’s not unusual for them both to be able to afford the costs between them rather than having their families pay.
However the costs are to be paid, nothing – not so much as a single invitation card – should be purchased without planning out the budget beforehand. Some things can be dispensed with. Some things can be made rather than purchased. Some things can be splurged on; some things can be saved on. Some things, although lovely, are simply not necessary if it means cutting corners on other more essential things.
What’s the Most Important Thing in a Wedding?
Speaking as a Marriage Celebrant, it should come as no surprise that I very strongly believe that by far the most important thing is the ceremony itself – its structure, the vows, the wording of the ceremony, the creation and sculpture of the various elements (music, readings, other ceremonial aspects) of the ceremony to create something unique and perfect for the couple. Anyone who’s a celebrant can just turn up, smile, say the necessary legal words, and then pronounce the couple man and wife. For a simple ceremony that is primarily focused on just simply getting married, there are inexpensive options such as what I call “Simple Standard Ceremonies” – the basic ceremony booked at the Marriage Celebrant’s office with short but meaningful vows.
For a ceremony that aims to exemplify the importance and beauty of the vows through sight and sound as well as legality, a first-class Marriage Celebrant is more important than any other aspect.
No two celebrants will ever create the same ceremony, conduct it in the same way, leave the same memories for the couple. That’s why it’s important for couples with this sort of ceremony in mind to do their research with Registered Marriage Celebrants – to look for the quality and style and creativity that will best suit them.
The venue is also important – the dress is important – the performers or music chosen… all important. But how it’s all woven together in respect of the VOWS is by far the most important thing.
In ten years’ time, when you think back upon your wedding, do you think you’re going to remember most vividly the colour of the bridesmaid’s bouquets? Or the taste of the dessert at the reception? Or the style of the invitations? Will the memory of the horse and carriage taking you to the wedding venue be what keeps that day alive in your hearts?
Of course it won’t be… It will be the vows, how you looked into each other’s eyes and made those promises to each other, how the vows were part of a ceremony that was presented with warmth and smoothness and meaningfulness, how every word added to the glow of that day’s promise, how the whole of it – from the music to the poetry to the moment you heard the words, “You may kiss the bride” – was woven into one wonderful memory of love and commitment.
Where can you cut corners?
If your total budget for your dream wedding has you groaning with despair, start with the things that you’d really love to have but don’t absolutely need to have. You might find it most helpful to identify what is NOT optional first, and identify whether or not you can justify cutting corners on those essential costs. Will it affect the most important thing if you do, or won’t it? Circle the five things that matter most to you, and work your way down from there.
You’ll find it works wonders on keeping your wedding ceremony within a reasonable, workable budget, so that you don’t start off your marriage with an unmanageable debt putting strain on your relationship. Remember, if you spend TOO much on making it look pretty, you’re in danger of forgetting that the heart of any wedding hasn’t anything to do with what colour ribbons are decorating the aisles or the chairs – it’s all about the words and the promise and the love.
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