Avoid a wedding debt hangover

WEDDING number three done and dusted for the Koch family after our son married his Mexican fiancé last weekend. Another Mexican wedding will happen next year, appropriately, if you know them both, in the town of Tequila.

We love weddings. There is so much love, joy and fun. But most weddings place a huge amount of financial pressure on the couple, and often their family, which isn't surprising given the average wedding costs over $40,000.

Don't get us wrong, we know it's important to make your wedding a once in a lifetime special event, but you don't want it becoming a bone of contention between you and your new dearly beloved. Sure, you want things to run smoothly and everything to be perfect for your big day, but there are ways of reducing the cost and easing the financial pain.

With two married daughters as well, we know as well as anyone just how easily spending can get out of hand.

Our number one tip is to tell as few suppliers as possible that it's a wedding. We get furious when cake and car hire prices go up simply because you mention the magic word "wedding".

Wedding finances don’t have to be stressful. Artwork: John Tiedemann
Wedding finances don’t have to be stressful. Artwork: John Tiedemann

It means "sucker" to some suppliers and makes our blood boil.

Another great idea comes from a mate of ours who worked out a wedding budget with his daughter and fiancé and then put the amount in a wedding bank account with the proviso that what they didn't spend they could keep. It was amazing how well they budgeted and what a nice little windfall they had to start their marriage.

Here are some of our other tips to reduce the stress on your hip pocket.

SET A BUDGET

Sit down with your partner and talk about how much you want to spend on the wedding, or what you can afford, and create a budget.

A general rule of thumb is to allocate 75 per cent of your budget to the reception. Then split the rest evenly between music, photography, flowers, the bride's dress and extras like invitations and the groom's suit.

If you value some things more than others, choose to cut back in one area and spend more on another.

TRIM THE GUEST LIST

If you have 150 or 200 people on your current list, sit down with your other half and work out who are your closest friends and family members.

Set a few rules such as you have had to see everyone on the list within the last year, or friends have to be living with someone, or in a long-term relationship, before their partner is invited.

If you are holding the wedding in a large church, or park, you could invite all guests on your original invitation list to the ceremony followed by a simple afternoon tea where you may even cut the cake. Then ask your select list of people to the full blown reception.

Our latest wedding started out as a small gathering for 60 and ended up at 120. Without trying to sound grumpy, we reminded the happy couple whether they'd be happy to spend $300 on a friend and their partner if it wasn't a wedding. It proved to be a handy filter.

CHOOSE THE RECEPTION VENUE WISELY

It is the single biggest wedding expense, so make sure you shop around. 

It is also worth asking the venue whether they have cheaper rates for certain days and times of the week or during off-peak periods. For instance, look at having a lunchtime reception on a Friday or Sunday night. Many reception venues also offer big discounts for weddings in winter months.

Cut down the per head costs by holding a cocktail reception and only serve finger food or offer two courses, instead of three, and cut up the wedding cake as desert. Also pick a reception venue which allows you to bring your own alcohol rather than select a pricey beverage package.

This time around we had the wedding at home with a celebrant, stand-up cocktail food provided by a local caterer and we bought the wines and sparkling online using www.nakedwines.com.au where we've been a member since it inception. The beer we bought in bulk from a discount liquor chain.

When I took the empty bottles to the recycling centre the next day I was greeted with "sh#t Kochie that's one helluva party... 140kgs" by the guy on the weighbridge.

It worked so well and we saved an enormous amount of money.

BUY A PRE-LOVED DRESS

You can get wedding gowns for less than half price if you buy second-hand. The dress has only been worn once and then expertly cleaned by a specialist dry cleaner.

Nobody would ever know. Many designers, discount bridal shops and websites such as idogowns.com.au, smartbride.com.au and brideonlinecom.au offer great comparative information on pre-loved and new gowns.

CUT BACK ON EXTRAS

All the little extras really add up. You can cut back by borrowing nice "wedding" cars from friends, printing your own wedding invitations or asking a talented friend to take your photos.

Flowers are another big expense. Our eldest daughter saved by asking the church ladies to do the flowers for her ceremony and choosing candles for her reception table centrepieces rather than expensive floral arrangements.



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