How to save money on your wedding

How to save money on your wedding

It’ll probably be the most memorable day of your life – and the most expensive. Brenda Ward asks the experts for their tips on how to save up for a wedding, and how to keep the costs down.

Why do we do it?

Romance and love are still winning. More than 20,000 Kiwi couples are getting married or entering a civil union every year, versus around 8,000 divorces. Why?

“Aww, it’s the romance, isn’t it?” says Kiwibank’s Mark Lonergan.

He sees a lot of happy customers getting hitched, but he also sees many customers delaying their weddings too.

“They’d rather buy a house before they get married. Perhaps they get engaged and then have to decide if it’s better to buy a house, or to spend that deposit money on a wedding.”

Lisa Dudson, of Acumen, says she’d opt for the house deposit. “You should decide what’s more important to you. You could spend NZ$30,000 to NZ$50,000 on a day. It’s a lot of money for a party.”

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What does a wedding cost?

Megan Hutchison of shesaidyes.co.nz estimates the median of Kiwi wedding expenses at somewhere between NZ$18,900 and NZ$24,500.

“The cheapest wedding would be a registry office wedding, just NZ$150 for a venue and officiant,” she says.

Next up would be a backyard bash for 50 guests (an estimated NZ$2,580), an outdoor venue with a sit-down meal for 75 (NZ$10,150), a modest, casual wedding in a hired venue for 60 (NZ$15,000), or full-service catering for 60 (NZ$20,000).

Generally, if you want to cut costs, the big-ticket items will be food and drinks. Consider getting married in the off-season where you can often get cheaper deals.

“Most venues charge around NZ$100 per guest for food, and beer and wine are either part of an additional package, or paid for a-la-carte or by bar tab.”

She says for DIY weddings, the biggest cost is usually hiring a marquee, tables, chairs, cutlery, and glassware. Add to that decor, flowers, and lighting.

“The easiest way to save money is to have a small guest list, and not having wedding elements just for the sake of it, because they’re on-trend, or because you saw them on Pinterest.”

The dress

Hutchison says she spent NZ$10,000 on her dress, but it’s really each to their own.

“A bride should plan and budget for only those elements which would really bring her joy on the day – those that will bring real meaning to your celebration.”

Dudson suggests hiring, rather than buying the dress. “It’s looking at what do you get for your money; and what could you get for your money if you were going to put that sum of money into something else.”

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Who pays for what?

There was a time when the bride’s parents paid for everything.

Hutchison says most couples pay for weddings themselves. “I’d say parents are contributing to weddings for at least half of couples.”

Lonergan says this gives them full financial control. “Most brides have a clear vision of what they want their wedding day to be like, but having parents pay for the party means they could feel that gives them a say in who comes.”

Dudson says often, everyone helps contribute. She’s seen weddings where instead of gifts, guests pinned envelopes of money to a ‘money tree’, to help pay for the costs of the day; or in one case, pay for a new deck for the newly-weds’ house.

Save, save, save

Dudson suggests you start with a plan. Are you saving for an NZ$18,000 wedding in a year, at NZ$1,500 a month? Or can you only save NZ$1,000 a month, meaning you trim costs – or push it out to 18 months away?

Lonergan suggests setting up a separate bank account, starting with a goal and a time frame.

“Make it a realistic number, because you probably wouldn’t want your life to grind to a halt to save for it,” he suggests.

And don’t push it out too far into the future. “If something’s too far away, it becomes unachievable. It needs to feel like it’s within reach.”

He says automatic payments into a wedding account are a powerful way to save. When you have more than NZ$10,000, you might want to put the lump sum into a term deposit, to get a better interest rate. Just be sure to keep enough aside for deposits, such as the wedding venue.

Alias Smith and Jones

If you’ve made the decision to change your surname, visit your local bank branch with your marriage certificate to get your accounts and cards updated. You might want to look at getting joint credit and debit cards at the same time.

If you’re planning an overseas honeymoon and your name has changed since your last passport was issued, you’ll have to apply for a new passport.

A baby (or two)

As soon as you get married, people will start asking you when you’ll be having children (if they’re not already asking!).

Kiwibank’s Lonergan says kids are a ‘biggie’ in a relationship and you should have ‘the baby conversation’ with your partner well before the big day.

“Have a financial plan in place if you want to have children,” he says. “When you go down to a single income, it can mean living quite differently.”

Maybe you want to buy a house in three years, and then to have children two years after that. Once you have a plan, you can work out how much you need to put aside each week or month.

Lonergan says Kiwibank’s Goal Tracker tool enables you to link goals to your accounts to keep track of your progress in internet banking. Check out kiwibank.co.nz/goal-tracker.

How do you combine your finances?

Whether you marry or not, the law says your finances are combined after you’ve been living together three years, says Dudson, unless you both sign a legal agreement ‘contracting out’ of this rule.

“So, conversations about money should start early in the relationship. The longer you leave it, the harder the conversation will be. Cover transparency, awareness, planning, and goals.”

Experts recommend you each keep a ‘pocket-money’ account for your own use. You need never explain what you spend that money on.

One no-no for newly-weds is the ‘hidden’ account, that your partner doesn’t know about, says Lonergan. “That could become a source of friction later.”

Your debts are my debts

When you marry, you and your partner will share all your assets jointly – but you’ll also share your debts, like credit card balances, hire purchases, student loans, and personal loans.

Kiwibank’s Lonergan says you should talk about whether you keep debt separate, so one of you continues to pay off their debt, or you could combine all your debts into one, which could give you a preferential interest rate, so you pay if off more quickly.

“This way you know you have a set number of payments remaining and that you’ll be debt-free at a certain time.”

When it’s paid off, you can switch the payments into savings instead.

Julia and Dean: a Country Wedding

Julia Parnell says planning their own Bay of Plenty wedding made it a more intimate and personal experience for her and her husband Dean Cameron – and more affordable.

The pair kept the costs realistic for their wedding in Omokora for 110 guests, by organising their own ceremony and reception, and having friends help decorate the hall, supply music, and loan props.

Cameron kept a spreadsheet of all the expenses, which helped them keep track of suppliers.

The romantic ceremony was held overlooking the sea under a decorated arch, and cost NZ$3,097, including wine and canapes.

Food for the retro-style reception in a country hall was provided by a catering company, for NZ$7,527. Renting all the chairs, glassware, plates and cutlery came to NZ$1,060. The hall rental was just NZ$500.

Says Parnell: “It wasn’t really about the cost, it was about having something that felt like ‘us’. It was about making things, and creating the atmosphere ourselves, which meant it was more affordable, more intimate, and more personal.”

Future-proofing your marriage

Before you head off together into marital bliss, you should have a good understanding of where you’re at financially, for richer or poorer, says Kiwibank’s Lonergan.

“You need to know where your money goes now. Look at your last three months of statements. Ask, are we currently happy with where we spend it?

“If you’re not happy, figure out where you want to be and get some budgeting advice.”

He says the key is to regularly check in with your bank statements and say, “Are we on track to fix this?”

It’s the wrong time!

You simply can’t afford to get married right now, but you’d love to, anyway?

It’s better to have the savings set aside, but if you own a house, you might be able to top up your mortgage to cover some costs. The downside is you’ll have to pay it back for longer.

Or, you could just elope!

Whichever way you plan to get married, be sure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to your finances. 

Honest discussions about money habits (good and bad) may save you from any potential awkward conversations and relationship stress later on.

First published 28 November 2018

Story by Brenda Ward, sponsored by Kiwibank

This article does not contain any financial advice and has not taken into account any particular person’s circumstances. Before relying on it, we recommend you speak with a financial adviser.  This story reflects the views of the contributor only. Content comes from sources that we consider are accurate, but we do not guarantee that the content is accurate.


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