So, I don't know if anyone's ever told you this before, but weddings are EXPENSIVE.
No matter how sensible, how savvy, or how broke you are, inevitably the costs of having any kind of traditional wedding start to creep (or surge!) upwards.
So I figured, for this week's Real Bride Diary, before I press on to fun things like stationery, decor, and hair and make-up, I'd chat about that massive aspect that dictates almost every last detail in your wedding.
May 5th 2016: Two Months, Three Weeks and Three Days to Go
– My current obsession: Finding the right underwear to wear with a low-back wedding dress.
– Marko’s current obsession: Marvelling at how much we've ticked off the list (we had a very productive week last week!)
– This week we’re mostly: Deciding what the heck we should do for our civil wedding. We want it to be such a non-event, but the idea of walking down the aisle to no music just seems bizarre! Any pointers?
When we started wedding planning, we followed the advice I'd read from dozens of couples we've featured on Bridal Musings.
- Make a Budget
- Be Realistic
- Prioritise one or two areas and splash out on them.
But that's a lot easier said than done. When we made our budget, we were very realistic of what we could save in the time we had. And for the most part (aside from a trip to Cuba and an expensive Christmas!) we've hit our target.
What we perhaps weren't so realistic about, was how much things would cost.
Of course all the expense you actually need to get married is registrar fees. Everything else, from the dress, to the flowers, to the food, to the DJ, is optional.
If you're fortunate enough to meet a person you love, AND you have a bit of cash for a party, you're already luckier than a lot of people in the world.
I think it's important to keep that in mind any time you get upset about not having room in your budget for your Mariachi band of choice – true story, this happened to me!
That said, once you decide to go down the ‘traditional wedding with guests' route, there are certain obligations (feeding your guests) and expectations (entertaining your guests) that start to kick in. Along with your own ideas of course, whether that's a Mariachi band, an arch of peonies, or an amazing photographer.
I often get asked if vendors over-inflate prices for weddings, and I am so honest when I say that's absolutely not the case.
Planners, photographers, florists, and dress-makers will put so much more work into your wedding than you can even imagine. What you might see as the finished product, takes 5am visits to the flower market, days of editing, hand-stitched beading, or putting out fires on your wedding day (hopefully not literally!) that you'll never even hear about.
The thing about a good wedding vendor is that you're paying not only for the job to be done, but done flawlessly. It's the level of quality and service that makes them expensive, because if your florist creates a bouquet and the roses start to wither, she's not going to hand that over until it's absolutely perfect, no matter what it takes.
So if vendors cost what they cost, how can you actually save money on your wedding?
When I got quoted €200 for nine balloons last week, I started to ask myself the same thing!
Because I spend my day looking at weddings, I really did believe a lot more was possible for a lot less.
But the truth of it is, there tends to be a reason why an average-income couple can score an amazing venue filled with fresh flowers and incredible food. Whether it's that their family own the stunning barn they got married in, the dress was from a sample sale (and just happened to fit) or their granny has a vintage crockery collection that was perfect for the dessert table.
When it comes to planning a wedding from scratch, it's not always achievable to copy things you've seen on Pinterest, however rustic or homemade they look, within budget.
I'm not trying to be negative, of course it's possible to have a fantastic wedding, with quality vendors on your budget, but there's always something that's got to give.
I've seen brunch weddings that pull out all the stops, but only go on for three or four hours. I've seen DIY weddings that look spectacular, but the couple spent the previous six months cutting wood and stitching napkins. And I've seen beautiful civil weddings, where everyone got together for pictures and Champagne, but the couple took just their parents out for dinner, and then met friends afterwards for drinks.
All of those sound pretty great, but they're not without their big compromises, so they're not for everyone.
We wanted a full day and night party (Irish weddings are generally at least 12 hours long!), we also wanted great BBQ food for our guests, a killer band, an awesome photographer, and an unusual venue.
Those were our priorities, not flowers, or dresses, or fireworks, but unfortunately, each one of them is a big ticket item – you can see how it starts to add up!
But the good news is, it is possible!
How We've Trimmed Our Wedding Budget
Our venue has a beautiful glass orangery for wedding ceremonies, but as it's a stunning space, it's expensive to hire. So, we've moved our ceremony outside. For free!
(Yes I get heart palpitations when I think about Irish weather, but I firmly believe the sun will shine for us on the day, and if not, there's always umbrellas!)
I adore flowers, but having fresh ones all over your venue is going to be pricey. We worked out a wishlist with our florist, and then handpicked just a few items and decided to do the rest ourselves. So while they'll do the bouquet, flower crowns and ceremony garland, we'll be looking after the centrepieces and buttonholes ourselves.
We splashed out a little bit on our wedding band, though I still think we're getting a bargain because there's about 12 of them on stage! So, we decided to hold off on a DJ and we're crowdsourcing the playlist from our guests instead.
I'll do a whole post on stationery soon, but I will say having a wedding website meant we could simplify our stationery and make big savings.
We're not having wedding cars, our ceremony and reception are in the same place, and we want to be on the bus with everyone going back to the hotel after the party!
While our venue had catering packages for canapes and dinner, (I totally recommend looking for venues with in-house catering), it was actually cheaper to bring someone in for the late night food (and it means we get a pizza party!).
And finally, we don't have a crazy big guestlist. 96 people still sounds like a lot to us, but by keeping our guestlist to only friends and family who we're close with, and who are important to both of us, really helped us stay focused on giving our guests a great day. (It also happened to keep costs down quite a bit too!).
…And How We Haven't
So while I didn't splurge big time on my wedding dress, and it was under what we had allocated for it, it was more than I'd initially wanted to spend. I was determined to find a highstreet wedding dress (especially when I heard ASOS were launching a collection), but in the end I felt it was worth spending a bit more to have a dress I'd feel great in, and could order 10 months out from our wedding.
In booking a wedding venue that wasn't the usual hotel set-up that most people go for in Ireland, we have accrued some more expenses, just details like booking a bus to the hotel and not being able to negotiate certain add-ons (much easier when you're promising to fill rooms!).
As a general rule from the decor, to the food, anything you try to do a little differently from the norm or customised, tends to add up.
We've added significantly onto our budget because we've been a bit fussy about how things look on the day! We really wanted bare tables, which meant hiring in our own as our venue only had catering tables that need to be covered. We're also bringing our own napkins and cutlery.
Now these aren't expenses every couple will have, these are just Marko and I being pedantic, combined with a misunderstanding with our venue about what furniture would be supplied. (Bonus tip: Get EVERYTHING you discuss with your venue, or any vendor, in writing after you meet/chat on the phone!)
Our honeymoon, we were planning something closer to home. And then we booked flights to Belize!
And finally, DIY decor. Okay, so I know it's supposed to save you money to make your own decor, but that's not often the case.
From cans of spray paint, to sheets of timber, the price of big craft projects can add up. So, we didn't break the bank with our DIY endeavours, but the things we've made were certainly not essential.
Personal touches can really make a wedding, but do remember to factor them into your overall budget.
Oh one last expense people don't really chat about, all the cocktails/lunches/bottles of bubbly you'll have every time you try on a dress/visit your venue/cross something off the list. It's nothing major and it certainly adds to the fun of planning your wedding, but 20 quid here and 50 quid there can make a serious dent in your overall spending!
So now we have a good idea of how much we'll spend, would we do it all again, or would we sack the whole thing in and elope?
Of course we'd go for our wedding!
We're so ridiculously excited about it, it's going to be awesome, and while there are things I'd do differently, I know in the end it'll be our perfect day and we'll enjoy every minute.
Never again in our lives will we get to throw a party that's all about us, splash out big on a fancy dinner for ALL our friends and family, and just get to indulge ourselves in all our favourite things.
And that's why weddings – as much of a stick they get about being so obscenely expensive – are so freaking special!
Oh gosh I can't wait.
So, my final pieces of advice for other couples when it comes to wedding planning. Write down everything you spend on wedding items, keep your wedding money in a separate account, keep spreadsheets for everything, and finally, be really open and honest with eachother when there's something you want to spend more or less on.
That should make things run a little smoother, on the cashola front anyway!
Have you any wedding budget tips – I'd love to hear them (though it may be too late for me!).