Monday, 3 September 2012

Your Wedding Under $10,000

When I got married to my wonderful husband earlier this year, we were both newly out of uni with not much money between us. My parents offered to put $4000 towards our reception and we had about $3000 to put towards everything else. Ultimately, my parents ended up paying more as they gave my wedding gown as a gift and couldn't help paying for various other things as well.
It's not difficult to put a wedding together quickly (we had 4 months) if you know what you want, but to do it cheaply is another matter. As soon as the word 'Wedding' is used, prices begin to soar; a dress that is essentially a white evening gown suddenly costs at least twice as much, a nicely arranged bouquet of flowers that contains often less blooms than a standard $50 arrangement from the florist suddenly costs over $100, and I could offer many, many more examples. Retailers are out to get as much money out of the bride and groom-to-be as possible, and they often succeed because the couple don't realise that there are ways to work cheaply if the desire is really there.
Creating a beautiful wedding for less often means being flexible and willing to make certain compromises. If you have your heart set on a gorgeous but extravagantly priced church or reception venue, then this post may not be for you, as your reception alone will probably break the budget. Low prices do not always mean poor quality so it is important to shop around. Below I talk about the different aspects of wedding planning and give some suggestions from my own experience about finding low prices.

The Ceremony Location
Zion Lutheran Church
A church wedding is probably the cheapest alternative for the wedding ceremony. Avoid 'wedding chapel's' as these will cost way more to hire (because of the 'wedding' label). Some people think that an outdoor wedding is the cheapest option, but this simply is not true. It may be true that the venue will not cost (if you use a public space such as a park or friends' garden), but you will have to hire seating and furniture, sound equipment, and provide all the decorations for your chosen venue.

For Example: Chair hire costs between $2.40 (basic white plastic) and about $7.00 (folding timber white) per chair. For a wedding ceremony of 50 guests, chair hire alone will cost between $120 and $350.

A local church will sometimes allow the bridal couple to use the building for free or for a small donation. If you can find an attractive church, then the need for church decorations and flowers also becomes minimal. Be careful though when looking at churches to make sure that you are free to use your own pastor/minister/celebrant if you wish to, otherwise the church will probably be happy to perform this service for you!

My wedding ceremony was held at Zion Lutheran Church; an attractive, historic little church in a smallish town. The interior was lovely as it was. All I added by way of decorations was two flower arrangements (more about then below) on the altar and some tulle ribbons on every second pew end. The church cost $100 to hire for the day. We were able to bring in our own minister and had access to all the sound equipment and amenities. Someone even rang the old church bell as we came out of the church, much to my delight!

The Reception Venue
This is the most difficult aspect of planning a low budget wedding. If you live in a small town, your job will be easier; small towns often have lower prices on wedding venues than large cities. If you do live in a city, I recommend looking around with an hour and a half or so drive of the city centre for a venue that is just as beautiful but possibly much cheaper. As far as I can tell, the cost to hire out a function room for a day is between about $250 and $800. Alternatively, you could have an outdoor reception in a garden or some other location of the sort. While the venue may be free, it's a good idea to consider the other costs such as marquee hire, furniture hire, etc. My recommendation would be to find a venue that includes as much as possible for as little as possible.

Gunabul Homestead the night of our wedding

My wedding reception was at Gunabul Homestead and Golf course (an historical building in the same town as my wedding ceremony venue). This venue does a variety of functions, including weddings for a very decent price. The booking fee for the venue was $400 with a minimum of 50 guests to book out the venue. The venue had beautiful grounds for photos and a lovely reception room complete with all table linen, glasses, plates and cutlery provided. They also provided the skirted bridal table and a cake table. We had access to the venue the day before the wedding for decorating purposes. A restaurant was attached to the venue, so we used them to cater for our wedding.

Catering the Reception
About half of your wedding budget will go towards catering the wedding reception. There are two main options that you can go with; the reception venue caterers or bringing in outside caterers. If your venue has caterers this will be easiest and probably the most cost effective. In Brisbane city, the average prices for a wedding dinner are between $80 and $120 per person, not including drinks. Drinks menu's can range from $25 to $50 per person.

For example: For a reception of 50 people, the cost of food would be somewhere between $4000 and $6000. Drinks could cost from $1250 to $2500. For a reception of 100 guests, the cost of food would be between $8000 and $12000 and drinks between $2500 and $5000. 

It is easy to see that the smaller your reception, the larger budget you will have for your catering and the larger your guest list, the less money there is for expensive catering. You can easily cut the cost of drinks by providing non-alcoholic punch and the champagne for toasts and allowing guests to buy their own alcoholic beverages from the bar (at a function venue). Menu costs can be cut by serving canapés instead of an entrée, serving the wedding cake for dessert, and providing guests with a buffet instead of alternate drop menus.

My wedding venue catered at $35 per person for a hot buffet including 3 hot mains, 3 sides and 2 desserts of my choice. We added 3 choices of canapés at $6 per person and punch for $2 per person. Our final costing for the catering was $43 per person including drinks and canapés. We provided sparkling grape juice for our toasts at $117 (3 bottles per table). We had 64 people at our reception and so our catering cost came to $2870 in total.

It would be so easy to go overboard with decoration, but it's best to stay simple as it really does look best and comes out so much more cost effective! Flowers can be virtually all you need by way of decorations. We used candles and tulle (leftover from the wedding dress). The flowers at our church and reception were fabric flowers. These are much cheaper than fresh flowers and in no way less effective or pretty. We spent $80 on silk flowers, $54 on vases, $20 for glass beads in vases, $10 on tea light candles, $20 on tulle ribbons for the church. We borrowed glasses for the tea lights to sit in from a friend and used leftover paper from the invitations to make the table numbers. Decorations ended up costing about $184.

Table centre

Carnations, lisianthus, roses, berries and greenery
We set a very strict budget for our flowers as we had a shock when we first asked for a quote. When buying wedding flowers, it is best to be very clear about what type of blooms you want and the price that these attract. I gave the florist some lovely pictures that I found on the internet and she gave me back a quote of $400 for 3 bouquets and 3 buttonholes. I needed my flowers to come in under $250. Roses are very expensive, so are flowers that aren't in season. I ended up using flowers that look similar to roses from a distance mixed in with a few roses and lots of foliage to beef up the bouquets. The end product was gorgeous and everything I wanted at almost half the price.

The Wedding Cake
If you have friends with skills that are happy to help you out, make sure you use them! One of my bridesmaids is a cake decorator and she made my wedding cake for me as a gift. When buying a wedding cake, the price goes up by how many tiers you want and the sort of decorations on the cake. Making sugar flowers takes a long time and a lot of skill so the more you have, the more expensive it will be. Go for a simple design with only 1 or 2 layers for a less expensive cake. Alternatively, have a friend who loves baking make a double layer mud cake and ice it with ganache for a less traditional, but yummy cake. Fresh flowers can also be used to decorate a wedding cake and would be cheaper than sugar flowers.

2 layers, chocolate mud cake with sugar flowers and ribbon

The Wedding Clothes
My nearly finished gown
This is such an important part of the wedding day. After all, no one will know who the bride is without her beautiful gown and the groom always looks so handsome in his suit. There are ways to do wedding clothes cheaply and beautifully if only you can find the right people.
We bought my husband's suit on sale in a menswear shop and his groomsmen purchased their own. Hiring is another good option for suits though it can work out to be more expensive than buying, depending on what style you go for.

I started the hunt for my wedding gown by shopping through Brisbane's bridal stores. After finding a design that I really loved, I drew a picture with my alterations and took it to a bridal dressmaker (who happily for me was my mother). She looked at the picture and created a pattern from it to make me my very own couture wedding gown. The dresses that I had looked at in shops cost between $2499 and $3799. After my dressmaker created a pattern, I purchased the fabric for my gown from a high quality fabric store. The cost of fabric and lace together came to about $500. I did the same thing for my bridesmaid dresses. The combined fabric costs for all dresses cost about $700. Labour was free for me as the dressmaker was my mum, but would come in at much less than the prices quoted by bridal stores.

Bridesmaid dresses (coral)
Lace detail on my gown
Finished gown (you wouldn't guess it wasn't bought!)

The best way to keep the cost down here is to keep everything simple. My hairpiece was purchased for about $20 from a street stall. The jewellery for the girls was simple and cost only about $50 (earrings for all three of us). I found the shoes I wanted in a bridal store for $100 and looked them up in factory outlet stores. I found the exact same shoes for $40! It truly does pay to shop around!

Hair and Make-up
Friends are great for this job! Almost every girl will have a friend who is great at make-up and great at hair styling. I had a wonderful friend with her own make-up business who came and did our make-up for free. I did hire my hairdresser, but as the make-up was free, the price didn't hurt so much. The hairdresser came to my house and did everyone for $250. Again the tip is to look around and think about who you know.

I didn't want to spend much on these at all, in fact I wasn't even going to have them until I thought of a cheap and cute idea. I made the tradtitional sugared almond bags for our guests. These ended up costing about $66 in total for the almonds, tulle bags and ribbons. That's about $1 each!

If you can find people with fancy cars, this is the only cheap way to go. I wouldn't recommend hiring any sort of vehicle as it costs so much and you really don't spend that much time in the car. I just bought two car ribbons and used some friends' cars.

Invitations and Stationary
It's easy to go overboard here. There are so many pretty stationary items about to create a great look, but the key to low cost is simplicity. We used card and created our own invitations. The cost for card, paper fasteners and envelopes was $92 in total.
The place cards were made from card stock with a ribbon bow tied through the top. All the names were handwritten.

Bridal Waltz
Not everyone does this, but we thought it would be lovely to learn to dance for our bridal waltz. We took dancing lessons privately from an excellent (but really quite cheap) dance instructor in Brisbane. We took about five 2 hour lessons for $500.

Music can be the easiest thing to arrange for a wedding ceremony. We simply used a church organist for our wedding hymn and recorded music for the bridal entrance and exit and other musical sections in the ceremony.
We didn't want the expense of hiring a DJ for our reception so we simply created a playlist on an mp3 player and hooked it up to the reception sound system. Our music for our bridal dance was also on there and we simply had my brother switch it to the correct track for the bridal waltz.

Wedding photography is priced very steeply if you want a professional photographer. We did want the quality, but we didn't want the price, so we went looking amongst the photography students at university. After some recommendations we came across a photography student who had photographed some weddings previously and who was about to set up his own business as a wedding photographer. He agreed to do our wedding and travelled to our venue with a fellow photography student and stayed from the 'getting ready' stage until well into our reception. As he wasn't set up as a business yet, we agreed to a price of $700 for his time, travel and all the photos edited. We were extremely happy with his work and his professionalism and really appreciated having two photographers at our wedding.
His website is can be found by clicking on the link above.

Ceremony Venue: $100
Reception Venue: $400
Catering: $2870
Decorations: $184
Flowers: $250
Grooms Suit: $300
Wedding Gown: $500
Bridesmaid Dresses: $200
Accessories: $110
Hairdressing: $250
Bonbonniere: $66
Bridal Dance: $500
Photography: $700
Stationary: $92
Wedding Rings: $500
Honeymoon: $1100
TOTAL: $8122.00

As you can see from the figures above, it really is possible to have a wedding with all the traditional and lovely bits without the huge cost! All it takes is a little imagination, flexibility and some shopping around. I hope you enjoy planning your wedding as much as I did, and don't forget that the wedding is only one day in the marriage. You're better off to focus on the marriage!

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