Wedding Planning

Wedded to a Budget

These days, couples are putting more funds into their wedding day than into the down payment on their first home. Surveys indicate that the average wedding bill in Canada runs between $20,000 and $25,000. If you would like to celebrate your big day at a fraction of that cost, don’t despair. There is such a thing as an affordable wedding; you just need to think outside the gift box.

Set your limit
The first thing you need to do when planning any wedding is to decide what you can afford to spend, advises Diane Warner, author of How to Have a Big Wedding on a Small Budget. Yes, it is your big day, but make sure you still have some money leftover for the everyday life that follows. Another limit to consider is the number of guests you will invite and whether family politics will let you keep the guest list within budget.

Must-haves versus maybes
Sit down with your partner and discuss what both of you see as your ideal wedding and then start to compare that vision with your allocated funds. Define what is important to you both. Maybe a large, elaborately decorated wedding cake is not a priority, but hiring the band that played the night you met is an absolute must.

Watch out for this and that
It’s the little things that can add up when planning a wedding, according to Diane. She suggests setting a limit for each item on your musthave list and then writing down the actual expense of each. From the grade of paper for your invitations to the types of flowers you choose, each detail can affect your overall budget, so watch the little things as much as the big.
Have your cake — or not
Consider alternatives to the formal wedding cake. More and more brides are ordering cakes from the grocery store or serving up dessert tables instead. Perhaps a small, elaborately decorated cake will satisfy your photo op cravings and then inexpensive cupcakes can be served afterwards.

Location, location, location
Most post-wedding couples will tell you that location is everything. But a location does not have to be expensive. Ceremonies can be conducted in backyards and parks or a lovely home.

Whether it is bought on sale or second-hand, the most important thing about a wedding dress is that it makes the bride feel beautiful, notes one former bride. Check out consignment shops, or consider purchasing an off-the-rack dress that can be worn for other occasions.

Flower power
Choose your flowers carefully. Purchasing seasonal flowers and arranging them yourself can result in big savings. Similarly, mixing real and silk flowers can often produce a high-end look without the high-end bill. Or you may decide to focus your funds on a wonderful exotic bouquet for the bride, but simple, seasonal flowers for the rest of the wedding party. Ribbons, beads and other accessories can add glamour to any arrangement. Your table arrangements can include lots of inexpensive greenery with just one truly stunning flower, such as a bird of paradise, or simply go flowerless on the tables and use floating candles in water inside clear glass vases, which can be found at most dollar stores.

Photo shop around
Most people agree that a great photographer can make or break your wedding photos, so this may be one area to allocate your limited funds. To ask a guest to be the unofficial photographer means that you could either have sub-quality photos or a guest who cannot sit back and enjoy himself. The survey is split on the need for a videographer. Some respondents vote for ensuring a high-quality recording of the day; others think a friend or family member could do it just as well for as many times it will be watched!

Consider bringing or making your own wine for the reception. Some venues allow this but charge a corking fee, so check to make sure the fee and bring-your-own option is still less expensive than the wine provided by the facility. Open bars can be a real drain on the wallet. Consider serving a special punch or cocktail at the beginning of the evening and then open up the cash bar afterwards.
And dine
Wedding receptions don’t always have to serve up a formal dinner. Brunches and luncheons are perfectly acceptable for morning or midday weddings and often cost much less than formal dinners. Later-in-the-day weddings can feature a variety of appetizers followed by dessert and coffee. An evening wedding can be followed up by a few finger foods and a lovely dessert. Quality is key. As one former bride points out, “Lots of superb, tasty morsels will be appreciated and remembered far more than a large, mediocre meal.”

Making beautiful music
Consider forgoing a disc jockey or live band at the reception and create your own musical lineup by pre-recording a mix of music you know your family and friends will enjoy.

Party favour-ites
While you might just want to eliminate the table gifts altogether, there are some affordable options to consider. Set up a candy table with little brown paper bags or mini- Asian food takeout containers for the guests to fill with candy of their choice. Other guest gift options include a tree seedling to be planted after the special occasion or some type of homemade chocolate, which can be prepared, packaged and put in the freezer until the big day.

Keep your perspective
In the end, just be sure to keep in mind that your wedding day is just the first day of the rest of your life together. Whether your event is big or small, expensive or not, there are still many more wonderful memories waiting to be made.
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