Big-day budgeting: 50 ways to save

In the lead-up to the big day, it can feel you're on a steady stream of one big spend after another. Look to these 50 simple ideas to help save some serious cash on your way to the altar

  • Story by Words Rebekah White

In the lead-up to the big day, it can feel you're on a steady stream of one big spend after another. Look to these 50 simple ideas that will help save some serious cash on your way to the altar

1.   Once your budget is set, prioritise the wedding elements. Decide what you're willing to splash out on and where you'll choose less-expensive options.

2.   Plan a long engagement – ideally one to two years. Giving yourself plenty of time means you won't be pressured into expensive, last-minute decisions.

3.   Shop around for suppliers and service providers. Don't be afraid to negotiate – ask for three quotes (any more can get overwhelming) and always get estimates in writing.

4.   Avoid 'just looking' at things that are over your price range – it's an easy way to blow your budget.

5.   Let 'simplicity' be your buzzword. Keep traditions alive, but avoid adding extra events, locations, dinner courses or Champagne toasts.

6.   Decide where you're willing to DIY. Invitations, guest favours and decorations are popular choices.

7.   Where would friends and family be keen to help? Do you know a graphic artist, musician or baker? Ask for their assistance in lieu of a wedding gift.

8.   Book a photographer for a few hours rather than a whole day. Ask your family and friends to snap plenty of candid shots throughout the day.

9.   Choose a simple photography package with few add-ons, and spend what you save on a top photographer.

10.   Contact a local film school to hire a promising student as a videographer – they'll probably have access to top equipment.

11.   Timing is everything – don't marry on the most popular days of the week, Friday and Saturday, or on dates like February 14. Avoid peak season from January to March.

12.   Find a location to hold both your ceremony and reception to save on venue hire charges.

13.   If you have two venues, cut costs by transporting decorations from the ceremony to the reception.

14.   Marrying out-of-town means extra transport charges. Avoid these by choosing local suppliers.

15.   Display a ceremony programme, seating chart or menu on a chalkboard or framed poster instead of printing copies for each guest.

16.   Is your ceremony venue hosting another wedding on the same day? Share decoration costs such as flowers or candles with the other couple.

17.   A venue that doesn't require extensive decorating will save you time and money. Think restaurants, museums or gardens. Make sure the cost of tables, chairs and seat covers is included in the fee.

18.   Keep things simple. Personalised nuptials trump those full of showy embellishments.

19.   Go over budget on your dream dress? Borrow a friend or family member's veil or jewellery.

20.   If you've inherited a gown, have a dressmaker update it to suit you. Seek the previous owner's approval first to avoid hurt feelings.

21.   If you're wearing a full-length gown, choose inexpensive shoes. Your feet won't be visible under long, layered skirts.

22.   Shop for bridesmaid dresses during end-of-season sales.

23.   Visit a makeup artist at the counter of your local department store to learn how to apply your own bridal look.

24.   Instead of having a large bridal party, appoint only a best man and a maid of honour.

25.   Restrict guest numbers. Don't invite work colleagues, acquaintances or anyone you haven't spoken to in the past five years.

26.   Rather than suggesting single guests bring a date, seat them beside people they know or who have similar interests.

27.   Choose a guest favour with a difference: rent a photo booth or make a donation to charity. Alternatively, write heart-felt thank you notes to each guest.

28.   Select flowers that are in season and use only one or two varietals. Choose larger blooms rather than smaller ones for a luxurious-looking bouquet without the hefty expense.

29.   Table centrepieces can double as guest favours – choose potted herbs or flowers, or jars filled with sweets.

30.   Decorate your venue with lush greenery such as herbs and leafy branches – they're less expensive than flowers. Arrange in borrowed or rented vases, baskets or terracotta pots.

31.   Shop smarter: think markets, opportunity shops and end-of-season sales. Buy romantic decorations and chocolate after Valentine's Day or fairy lights post-Christmas.

32.   Choose decorations you can use in your home or re-sell afterwards on TradeMe, such as mirrors, glassware and picture frames.

33.   Organise fewer tables and allocate more guests to each one, as this will reduce the number of centrepieces required.

34.   Pick up large lengths of cloth from discount fabric stores, or shop for inexpensive curtains – they can be used as tablecloths.

35.   Browse second-hand shops for china to use as place settings, or rent items from thevintagetable.co.nz or styleetc.co.nz.

36.   Hold a working bee to create venue decorations. Bring nibbles, drinks and music, and turn it into a social get-together among friends.

37.   Use soft mood lighting to create atmosphere at your venue. Consider hiring party lights or stock up on torches, lanterns and candles.

38.   Make your reception a lunch, brunch or cocktail party – more affordable options than dinner.

39.   If dinner is a must-do, offer a buffet, food stations or a family-style meal with large platters served in the centre of each table. As well as being cheaper than a sit-down meal, they're a great way to get guests to interact.

40.   Employing your own caterers rather than relying on those supplied by the venue often turns out to be less expensive.

41.   Instead of having a dessert course, invite friends and relatives to contribute to a table of home-baked goodies.

42.   Choose a wedding venue that allows you to BYO and stock up on beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages during supermarket sales.

43.   Rather than having an open bar, only offer beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks.

44.   Decorate your cake with fresh seasonal flowers, matching ribbon or use a bridesmaid bouquet as a cake topper – it's a lot cheaper than having the cake elaborately iced.

45.   Don't serve dessert – instead, use your wedding cake as the main sweet treat.

46.   Rather than hiring transport, think outside the square. Borrow a friend's classic car, boat, pair of retro bicycles or European-style scooters.

47. Hire classical music students from a local university to provide background sounds at a discount rate. Alternatively, create an iPod playlist of ambient music for mingling and dining, and save the band or DJ for after dinner only.

48.   Instead of gifts, ask guests to give donations towards a part of the wedding, such as the photography or honeymoon.

49.   Stay on top of things: download your free New Zealand Weddings budget tracker and plan your expenditures.

50.   Set up a consulation with a wedding planner. They have great relationships with suppliers and service providers, and may be able to negotiate to fit your budget – a good option if you're short on time. 


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