Wedding costs & how to avoid overspending

Co-author: Christine Thelander 

There’s a good chance your wedding will be the biggest – and best – event you’ll ever host. But, even so, would you be comfortable shelling out $35,000 for the occasion?

According to multiple sites, including website My Kiwi Wedding, the average cost of a wedding in New Zealand is around $35,000. That’s an awful lot of money!

So, we at Canstar wanted to take a look at what is eating up so much of that wedding dough – and if there is anywhere to trim off the fat from the wedding expenses.

Wedding budget: 10 ways to make one without being a cheapskate

Be realistic when setting a wedding budget

Weddings come with their own sets of pressures – maybe even from loved ones – so it’s important to think about what you would really like your big day to be, then cost it out and make your decisions from there. Also, consider what you really want from life after you get married. If buying a home or having a family are priorities for you, why blow more than you can afford on a wedding? And, avoid paying for your wedding on credit – at least not without a repayment plan. Interest on credit cards or a personal loan can add hundreds, even thousands of dollars to your bill, starting your married life off in the red.

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1. Don’t go overboard on partying before the wedding

As soon as your friends get a whiff of a wedding in the air, they’re likely to go mad on organizing pre-wedding parties. You might decide to have an engagement party, but that’s often just the start. Then there’s the hen’s party, the buck’s do and maybe a pre-wedding brunch, post-wedding brunch… the list goes on and so does the expense you hadn’t budgeted for. Be careful, or you could be drained emotionally and financially.

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2. Think outside the wedding venue box

There are heaps of savings to be made if you swap expensive wedding venues for alternatives – such as having the function at your home/a friend’s coastal home/parents’ country property/favourite pub or restaurant. A place that holds special meaning for you and the type of party that is “you” (think backyard BBQ) is always lots of fun and guests could just love the informality. An added advantage is that you can probably invite more friends than you could afford to cater for at a wedding venue.

3. Full bar, full bill hangover

We’re not saying you shouldn’t provide any beverages at your wedding; we’re suggesting you skip the full bar that features every kind of spirit, wine and beer imaginable. Instead, pick one red, one white, a couple of beers, and maybe a signature cocktail or toasting champagne. Or just buy a couple of different spirits and mixers along with the beer and wine and save yourself a few bucks.

Bar Service

4. Start clock-watching: avoid going over-time

If you do decide to use a wedding venue, be mindful that most of these are contracted for a specific amount of time. If you go over that limit, you’ll pay an additional fee, usually at a higher rate. This can easily happen if you have a full bar open (see para above) and guests are really getting into the dancing. Keep it going for another hour and it will cost you. This is something you normally don’t have to worry about if you have the wedding reception at home or a friend’s place.

5. Use family and friends’ skills

As well as supplying the venue, family and friends may also be able to take care of lots of other necessities. You may know someone who works in the alcohol industry, a florist, cooks/chefs, a fancy cake maker, a talented craft person who can easily whip up the most beautiful invitations, a beautician who can do the makeup thing on the day. Ask around. You’ll find that everyone will be only too glad to help in any way they can. And it will save you big bucks.


6. Go online for your wedding dress

You can spend a small fortune on a dress you will wear once (and probably spill champagne on). Buying your dress online for a fraction of what it costs here is an alternative lots of ladies are having great success with. Just be careful to do with enough time before the big day, just so you can be sure it arrives – and that it’s what you expected from the website pictures.

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7. Keep your shoe fetish under control

You might have a taste for the finer shoes in life:  Manolo Blahniks, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin and other crazy-expensive shoes, but, guess what? You don’t have to mimic the lifestyles of the rich and the famous. You’ll feel just as special, tall and glamourous in a pair of shoes that didn’t cost you $1,000.

Wedding Shoes

8. Forget the hipster photography sessions

The more offbeat your wedding is, the more you’ll have to fork out for photography/videography services to capture the occasion.  These days, people are spending less on photography by taking advantage of cheaper, digital technologies. You may even have a friend who is a photographer and could do the honours. A word of warning, though: Beware of leaving this job entirely to guests using iPhones. You can sometimes be disappointed with the end results.

Bride photography

9. Programmes and menu cards

If you love pretty paper and there is room in your budget, go for it! But there are a few reasons we think these bits of stationery are OK to leave out. First, the order of events at a wedding is pretty standard: Ceremony, cocktail hour, reception. Your guests don’t need to have everything spelled out for them. If you need to point people in the right direction, post up one big sign that all guests can refer to. As far as menu cards go, they are useful only if you’re serving a family-style meal and it could be hard to know what’s in a dish. Otherwise, your guests can ask servers at the buffet or see what’s on the plate when it arrives.

Wedding Invitation

10. Limo rental

Travelling from the ceremony to the reception venue is, of course, a necessity, but a hired limo feels just like a normal car ride after about 30 seconds. Ask a friend or relative with a nice car to be in charge of getting you from point A to point B – it will cost you hundreds less.

Wedding Arrival

There are stacks of smart ways to configure your wedding budget without going overboard. Small savings here and there add up big time and remember that what you save in one particular area should not necessarily be simply shifted into other parts of the wedding budget.

Good luck with your planning and never lose sight of what you are actually doing – starting a marriage.

Your relationship with money

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