How to instantly save over $1,000 on your wedding

Australians are making big sacrifices for the perfect wedding, but you don't have to.

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The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has calculated the average cost of an Australian wedding to be $36,200, and research from MoneySmart shows that most couples-to-be are making incredible sacrifices for their big day.

  • 5% took the step of moving back in with their parents.
  • 10% of couples ended up selling their car to pay for the occasion.
  • 20% stopped going out and saved money by freezing their social lives.
  • 25% put their lives on hold, and delayed buying a home, having a baby or even the wedding itself.
  • 32% ended up compromising, and settling for a cheaper wedding than they wanted.

By sorting out your wedding budget sooner rather than later you can avoid ending up in the same situation. Getting started early also lets you pick up a range of discounts, and even better, lays the financial groundwork that you and your partner can keep after the wedding. This guide explains how to save on wedding costs, then gives 10 tips, each of which can, by itself, save you $1,000 or more.

What are the average Australian wedding costs?

  • Food, alcohol and venue - $18,683. This is the most expensive category in wedding spending with average price tag of $18,683. It might seem over the top, but this is a fairly reasonable rate. Booking a suitable venue, catering a full three course meal and having a well stocked bar simply doesn't come cheap. Fortunately, there are ways to save. It may be more cost effective to book a restaurant than a reception venue, and cocktail food throughout the day can be a very tasty and affordable alternative to a full-on dining meal. You can also save money by booking in the off peak times. Try Fridays, Sundays or during winter for better prices.
  • Wedding clothing and accessories - $4,271. Average Australians spend roughly $4,271 on wedding clothes and accessories. You can instantly cut the price by making your wedding dress "something old", but if that’s not up your alley try scoring the store sample of the dress you want. The shop has to get rid of the samples eventually so they'll often cut the price on samples that have been worn by a few prospective customers. If you have no luck there, it's worth remembering that you don't have to spend a fortune to find a dress you'll love. Retail bridal-wear is increasingly popular, not only because it's so affordable, but also because there are so many options that you can keep looking until the perfect one catches your eye.
  • Photography - $3,983. Do you need to spend $3,983 on a wedding photographer? Maybe not. It's not everyone, but you can save money by buying just the camera instead of the whole photographer. Newer digital cameras make it easier than ever to take professional photos, so if you know someone who's capable you might order the camera ahead of time so they can get some practice with it, and then bribe them with hors d'oeuvres, an open bar and good wishes until they agree to be your photographer. As an added bonus, you also get a new high end digital camera that you can keep using for years, all for much less than the cost of hiring a photographer for a day. Alternatively, some people choose to simply have a wedding camera to pass around to guests so they can document the day from all angles.
  • Flowers and decorations - $2,896. Flowers are all about the weather, and you can keep costs way down by decorating with seasonal arrangements. The trick is to ask your florist what will be in season ahead of time so you can pre-order the right arrangements, pay less and know they'll be available. This may be even more affordable and easier online, and you can also get electronic receipts to confirm the details and make planning easier. Do the same with the decorations and invitations, and consider opting for simple, tasteful designs instead of more complicated ones for a lower price from the printers.
  • Entertainment - $2,896. Sharing a price tier with flowers and decorations, wedding entertainment is also a major expense. A live band definitely adds something to the festivities, but bad music is a lot worse than no music and you probably don't want to take a risk on a group you're not sure about. These days it's increasingly popular for wedding parties to bring their own music and simply plug it into a venue's sound system.
  • Ceremony and others. The average ceremony costs $941, and the total average cost of miscellaneous expenses like cars, hair, accommodation and stationery runs to about $2,534. Set a wedding budget ahead of time to divide up the costs decide what you want to prioritise. The more you save in one place, the more room you have to spend extra on what's important to you. If you're not too worried about the wedding dress it's probably not worth selling the car or moving back in with your parents to get an extra-fancy one.

These average prices are taken from the IBISWorld Industry Report X002 Weddings in Australia (2012).

10 ways to instantly save $1,000+ on your wedding

  1. Find a venue that doesn't make you use their vendors. A lot of wedding venues will require that you use their entertainers, bartenders, caterers and other staff when you book an event. This makes things slightly easier, but means you have very little control over the quality or price of these. Avoid these venues and go with someone that lets you choose all your own providers. Avoiding this trap can save you thousands of dollars.
  2. Get creative with food. Think outside the "three courses, chicken or fish" catering and you could save thousands. We've already mentioned that cocktail snacks are a great alternative, but you can also make some of it yourself or go to smaller local restaurants ahead of time and see what they're willing to do for you. After all, if you have a favourite restaurant, why not share it with your guests? Get in touch with them ahead of time and see what they can do. Many will be more than happy to make special arrangements and great food for less than the cost of a caterer.
  3. Have your ceremony and reception in the same place. Save time and money on transport costs and booking fees by keeping everything centralised, and compound these savings by not needing to pay as much in travel expenses for wedding staff.
  4. Consider going easy on the cake. A genuine wedding cake can be a work of art, the culmination of hours of work from a highly skilled baker. It can also be extraordinarily expensive. If you're more interested in eating the cake than looking at it, you might try getting a number of store-bought cakes, pie platters or whatever else you want. If you definitely want the aesthetics of a proper cake at your wedding, consider faking it instead. For the best of both worlds at a much lower price tag, find someone who can make a fake cake for the appearance, and then serve real cake instead at the wedding.
  5. Find flower alternatives. Bridesmaids don't really need to carry a bouquet each. You can substitute anything else you want for something equally stylish but more personal. You can also build up the savings by using fake flowers, or combinations of real and fake, or ordering flowers and then assembling your own arrangements rather than opting for the premade ones.
  6. Share and use second hand items. If you're getting married, there's a good chance you know other couples who have recently tied the knot. Consider seeing if they have leftover decorations you can politely steal, or check out garage sales and other discount stores for your decor and accouterments. Depending on what you have planned this can save you a lot of money, but many people do this anyway simply because they want a more unique and colourful setting on the day.
  7. Pay your bill in increments, particularly if the alternative is putting yourself in debt or making one other sacrifices. This can help you sort out an arrangement that works with your finances without compromising on the occasion.
  8. Avoid telling suppliers you're shopping for a wedding, unless you really have to. Many will take it as an invitation to double their prices. They know that people are willing to make hefty financial sacrifices for a perfect wedding, but there's no reason for you to fall into the same trap.
  9. Develop a plan and stick with it. A lot of professionals will add a surcharge of as much as they feel like they can get away with if you want to make any last minute adjustments, so it can be advisable to have all the plans ready ahead of time, and to stick with them. Talk it over with your intended and take the time to hammer out a savings plan you can stick to. Having definitive plans can avoid a lot of unnecessary expenses.
  10. Save in a joint account with your partner. Make sure everyone's on the same page when budgeting for your wedding. Like budgeting for anything else, you can get a lot more done if you put your money somewhere it won't drain away, and where it will also earn interest. If you don't already have one, a joint, interest-earning account with no fees is an excellent option because you'll likely be opening one in the near future anyway, and the sooner you do the sooner you can start earning interest.

How did Australians pay for weddings and what did they sacrifice?

How did they pay? Sacrifices made
18% used credit cards5% moved back in with parents
56% had contributions from parents6% didn’t marry due to high cost
60% took out a loan10% sold a car
82% used savings20% put social life on hold
25% delayed plans (12% buying a home, 7% having a baby, 6% having the wedding)
32% had a cheaper wedding

MoneySmart’s research found photography, food, flowers and decorations as the most surprisingly expensive costs for a wedding.

According to MoneySmart, 43% of people stayed within their budget, 35% went over their budget and the other 18% didn’t have a budget to start with.

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