Getting married is big business these days. The average price of a wedding in Canada today is almost $30,000, according to Wedding Wire.* But that number doesn't tell the whole story. Those on a tight budget can push that number down if they choose a non-traditional venue and limit the guest list. On the other hand, those who live in bigger cities and have large extended families will be hard pressed to throw a party for under $100,000.
Saving money on a wedding mostly depends on your expectations of what a wedding should look like, how committed you are to your budget and how well you're able to push back on pressure from friends and family.
We'll show you how to plan your wedding day without breaking your budget.
Set a budget
The first thing you need to do is figure out how much you want to spend on your wedding. This isn't easy because you probably don't know how much things cost. Ask your friends who've already tied the knot and call a few vendors to come up with an estimate. Then figure out if that matches how much you can comfortably spend. If not, then you're going to have to figure out what to cut out or if you can, put aside more money.
Figuring out a budget for your wedding can be overwhelming, but your financial advisor can help map it out with you.
“Wedding planning is like any life event that needs planning, the challenge is that most don’t have a long-term plan to save for the event. When couples get engaged, usually they have one year until the big day,” says Scotiabank Investment Specialist and Financial Planner Ava Zarrion. “It’s important to know their vision for the wedding including their budget and how they are planning to pay for it.”
Talk to your future spouse about what is most important to both of you to include in your wedding.
You want to focus on what is important to you. This is a big day and you can be selfish, especially if you’re paying for your own wedding,” says Henri Miller, Scotiabank Investment Specialist and Retirement Planner, who’s planning his own fall wedding.
“Is venue, food, music, photography, cake and/or dress most important? Go all in on the most special items and limit the others. Think about where you can save on costs.”
How are you paying for your big day?
You want to make sure you aren’t going into debt for your wedding or that it moves you away from your other savings goals, like buying your first home.
When you are budgeting for your wedding, you want to also have a clear plan on how you are paying for it, whether you are getting help from family, using your savings or considering borrowing from a line of credit.
“As a financial planner, I make sure that if people are borrowing for their big day, they understand how the interest works on different borrowing options. Many times, when a couple calculate the interest costs, they find a way to cut unnecessary expenses,” says Ava. “You want to plan for your monthly payments. For example, if you’re borrowing $30,000 and the monthly payment is going to be $300, why not start saving the $300 per month now and see if you are comfortable with this amount of monthly payment plan.”
One way you can start saving for your wedding is by opening a joint chequing and/or savings account to focus on working together to save for the wedding, suggests Henri.
Discuss with your partner who wants to focus on saving for what? Will you buy each other’s rings? Each other’s suit or dress for the day? Track progress and celebrate when you have saved for an item,” says Henri.
He also suggests setting up pre-authorized contributions that will automatically transfer money from your chequing account to your savings account to save each month and earn some interest.
How to find a cheaper wedding venue
Any traditional wedding venue can cost you a big chunk of your wedding budget. Try to think outside the box.
Fun weddings can happen anywhere, from community centres, to outside on the high school baseball field in the summer, to the family cottage. Restaurants are also becoming a popular option as they're far less expensive than a hall or event venue that have a wedding on their roster every weekend. If you're worried about your budget stay away from hotels, dedicated event spaces and golf courses.
Think about your timing – look to book your big day at venues off season (like winter or spring) vs. summer as cost is lower with less demand. This is also true when picking a day. Saturday tends to be the most expensive so consider a different day of the week if it works for you.
Search for low-cost alternatives
Where can you cut back on expenses? One way is to get creative! It’s a great way to still incorporate the little things you want to include without over extending your budget.
Newlywed Jessica Wong suggests, “If you have the luxury of time to plan the wedding, the best thing to do is DIY as much as you can, so start early, leave room for mistakes and do-overs. As soon as you put the word “wedding” in front of anything, the prices jack up.”
Jessica and her fiancé skipped a traditional 3-tiered wedding cake and went to their bakery for two large cakes, which they then decorated themselves, going from potentially spending over $500 to spending $90.
Also consider these low-cost alternatives for the items on your wedding to-do list.
Flowers – Make sure you are getting what you want for a price you can afford. Compare at least three different vendors and only go with the one who is willing to stick to your budget. They will often say that flowers should cost 10% of your total budget, but you can likely get that down to 5% without sacrificing too much. Try to pick flowers that are in season to cut down your costs (ex. avoid trying to get peonies in August – next to impossible and the price will add up).
Invitations – How important is a physical invite to your guestlist? Consider going electronic. You can spend $3500 on letterpress invitations on heavy cardstock or $400 on printed ones on linen paper or $50 (or less) on evites.
Music – DJs will (almost) always be far cheaper than a band and a Spotify playlist and a speaker are even thriftier.
Dress and suit – Even if you want the big dramatic gown, there are ways to find it for cheaper. Check out sites that sell pre-owned wedding dresses and hunt through online classified ads and Facebook marketplace. The deals are amazing compared to buying a dress brand-new. If you live in a city there's probably a whole host of stores that sell pre-owned dresses. You can also find great dresses for less by checking out bridal shows and outlets.
Also factor in alterations. In-house bridal store alterations can easily cost double what an independent tailor charges. Shop around for a tailor that you trust that works within your budget.
If you are looking for suits, you might already have something hanging in your closet that might work for the big day (this is also true if you are looking for dresses – see what you have and what you envision yourself in). It all depends on how formal or casual you want your big day.
Thinking beyond your wedding day
What are you planning to do with monetary gifts you might receive? Ava says that is an important part of her conversations with engaged couples. She says you can talk to your financial planner about how you can put that money towards whatever goal is most important to the two of you, like a first home.
Enjoy your day
While it may seem overwhelming at first, there are many ways to save on a wedding if you're willing to think outside the box. Ultimately you should choose to spend the most on what's important to you and save on the items that you don't really care about. Whatever you choose, make sure to enjoy this joyful and special day.
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