Saturday 1 October 2016

Cheaper ways to make your wedding day

There are far more ways to save on wedding costs, if you put your mind to it, writes John Cradden

John Cradden

Published 13/03/2016 | 02:30

'There are far more ways to save on wedding costs, if you put your mind to it'
'There are far more ways to save on wedding costs, if you put your mind to it'

How much you choose to spend on your forthcoming wedding very much depends on your priorities, but there are now countless ways you can keep the costs down and still have a day to remember.

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The average cost of a wedding (including a honeymoon) in Ireland this year, according to WeddingsOnline, is currently €22,531. This is up 6pc on the last year and broadly reflects findings from other such surveys.

The banks will be glad to hear that 28pc of respondents plan to take out a loan to help cover the costs, but parents may be rather less happy, given that 22pc expect to share the costs with them.

Most couples will set a budget but in many cases this amounts to picking a figure at random, rather than adding up what things actually cost, says wedding planner Blaithin O'Reilly Murphy of TheWeddingexpert.ie.

Reports of average wedding budgets of over €20,000 are "always a very loose indication of what you might spend on something", but that doesn't mean you have to centre a budget around such figures, she says.

At the same time, O'Reilly Murphy says couples tend to fall into two camps when it comes to sticking to a wedding budget: those who set one and refuse to go above it without making tough decisions, and those who set a rough figure but say to themselves that if they may spend more if see somewhere or something that they particularly like.

Indeed, it's important to consider value, rather than cost, when it comes to the wedding budget, says Susan Gallagher of the online wedding magazine OneFabDay.com.

"If something is hugely important to you and your partner, then try find a way to squeeze it in and then leave something else out," she says. "Honestly, no one will notice the bits you decide are not for you.

"Foodie couples often splurge on a fantastic meal, but perhaps stationery isn't their thing and some savings can be made there."

But if you're serious about doing things on a budget, what are the most effective ways to go about it?

Don't invite your Uncle Andy

The undisputed number one is by cutting the guest list. "The quickest way, but not necessarily the easiest way, to save money is obviously to invite fewer guests," says O'Reilly Murphy. "The costs of feeding and watering your guests will take up the largest part of your budget - between 35pc and 60pc."

You may have to deal with offended family members if you decide not include twice-removed cousins you've never met, but cutting your list from 150 to 100 can have a dramatic impact on your catering and bar bill and transport costs.

Get the timing right

Having a mid-week wedding - which means Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday and sometimes Thursday - is popular, while others advise having it during the 'off season', meaning the winter months. O'Reilly Murphy says that while summer weddings are still popular, prices are influenced less by seasonal factors as "pretty much everybody gets married at any time of the year now".

There is also logic to setting a wedding date sooner rather than later, on the grounds that less time to plan means less time spending money on things you wouldn't have otherwise thought of or time to change your mind about stuff and subsequently go off budget.

On the other hand, this might not work because, according to the wedding planner, most wedding suppliers are often booked up at least a year or more in advance. So choosing to get married in six months, rather than, say, two years' time will limit your options, particularly for good value or any special discounts that might otherwise be available.

"The other thing sometimes about getting married two years down the road is if you book your wedding today for 2018, you will, in some cases, get it for the 2016 price," she adds.

Use family and friends

Ms Gallagher says many couples now turn to family and friends to help them out with things like the wedding cake.

"It's a big ask if you want something elaborately decorated, but if you're laid back and just fancy a selection of tasty treats a dessert table provided by family and friends can be a real cost-saver."

Indeed, the potential for friends and family to contribute is unlimited and could include music, hair/make-up, wedding stationary, transport and photography and could be provided in lieu of a wedding gift.

And perhaps it doesn't matter if they're not professionals. (Though if you take a quick look at the photos on most people's smartphones, it might be good to get a pro if you plan on putting your photos in a frame.)

Pick your professionals carefully

If you do hire professionals, the idea of getting a wedding planner on board might seem anathema if you're on reasonably tight budget, but some planners offer their services on a 'needs' basis, so you can hire them for one or two things, rather than every service they offer, says O'Reilly Murphy.

"What I would also say is that not every couple needs a wedding planner, but I do think every couple needs a wedding day co-ordinator," she says.

A co-ordinator works with the couple for the last few weeks running up to a wedding date and on the day. They basically make sure all suppliers know what they are doing, arrange the schedule and ensure that everything happens at the right time.

It might set you back at least a grand, but for many couples, they are "worth their weight in gold", she says.

Cash is king, high-street is queen

On the subject of wedding gifts, hinting to your guests that cash is perfectly okay is another subtle but effective way to offset wedding expenses. According to the WeddingsOnline survey, when asked what their preference would be when it comes to wedding gifts, an impressive 77pc said they would prefer cash.

Brides could consider looking to the high street for their gown, rather than a dedicated dressmaker.

"With Asos (an online fashion retailer) launching their high-street bridal collection this week, you can still get the bridal look at a fraction of the cost of the big design houses," says Susan Gallagher.

"Grooms can also get in on the act, as the high street does a great range of suits that can really look the part."

Consider a cancelled wedding

But perhaps the ultimate way to save is to consider a cancelled wedding.

Cancelledweddings.ie is an online brokerage for cancelled wedding packages that is based out of offices in the UK and the US, but has already attracted a decent proportion of its business from couples in Ireland, its CEO, Peter Ulrich told the Sunday Independent.

"Selling couples get a chance to save their deposits and avoid vendors' cancellation fees. Buying couples get a chance to get a real bargain and wedding vendors don't lose a date that they weren't able to sell at full price."

According to Ulrich, the firm has sold cancelled wedding packages from plush castle venues in Wicklow, Waterford and Meath and currently has an opportunity with the four-star Landmark Hotel in Carrick-on-Shannon.

If you fancy an overseas wedding, the website might be worth checking out, too.

"Interestingly, a lot of Irish couples registered in our marketplace are looking for a wedding abroad, either as their primary choice or one of their choices," he says.

The amount that couples can save depends on the package, but he calculates that Irish customers have achieved average discounts of nearly 60pc on the cost of a venue or package by buying from a couple that has cancelled.

"In general, the higher the deposit or the steeper the wedding vendor's cancellation policy, the better deal a prospective buyer can get for adopting an event," says Ulrich. "But we urge prospective buyers not to get too greedy and have some sympathy for the selling couple."

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