Weddings: I do on a shoestring
It's the biggest day of a girl's life -- but would you trust your other half to plan your wedding? Onoir O'Brien-Boyd from Cork did -- and saved €10,000 in the process . . .
Desperately trying to save enough to tie the knot last year, mum-of-two Onoir and husband Jason applied to win a dream wedding on RTÉ reality show Don't Tell The Bride.
As fans of the hit show will know, there was just one catch. From the frock to the flowers, brave bride Onoir had to hand complete control of their big day over to her fisherman fiancé.
"We were watching the show one night and Jason just looked up from his magazine and said, 'I could do better than that'," recalls Onoir (30), an advertising executive with RedFM. "Jokingly, I said: 'Go on, so' -- but never dreamt that we'd get it.
"We were already engaged, but hadn't told anyone as Jason was still paying for the ring," she says. "As soon as we got the call to say we had been picked for Don't Tell The Bride, he got the deposit back and bought a boat instead!"
The cost of an Irish wedding averages €23,500 so it's little wonder that couples here are looking for more and more creative ways to say 'I do' on a shoestring.
With a budget of less than half the national mean and just three weeks to plan it all, Onoir says she's still amazed that Jason -- who runs a computer repair store -- managed to pull off the wedding of her dreams.
The couple, who married last November, are seen exchanging vows in a romantic island wedding off the coast of west Cork on the new series of Don't Tell The Bride which airs Thursdays on RTE 2 at 9pm (repeated on Saturdays).
"I couldn't believe how much Jay managed to get for 10 grand," says Onoir. "At first, I was really worried about handing over control of the entire wedding because I had very specific ideas about what I wanted.
"But I couldn't have done it better myself. Jason gave me a €20,000 wedding for €10,000 and the best part is that we didn't even have to pay for it -- although I paid in stress."
But you don't have to go on national television to get more bang for your buck on your big day. Up to half of engaged couples are cutting costs by compromising on venue, making their own invites or getting married midweek, according to one survey by wedding directory www.mrstobe.ie.
"It's very easy to get carried away when planning your wedding," says wedding planner Collette O'Leary of Elegant Events in Dublin.
"I've seen brides notch up thousands of euro in credit card debt on little things like bridal underwear and wedding favours.
"Your wedding budget should include absolutely everything you wouldn't buy if you weren't getting married, right down to the postage stamps for the invites and bridal magazines.
"Once you've decided on a budget, use an Excel spreadsheet or just a diary to help stick to it.
"In the current climate, there are fantastic savings to be had by being smart," says Collette, who is nominated for Weddings Online Wedding Planner of the Year 2012.
"Just by getting married 'off-season' -- either side of May to September -- you can automatically slash costs by up to 50pc. When checking out venues, ask for a quote for a 60th birthday party -- as soon as you mention the 'W' word, the price usually rises.
"Haggle with suppliers like you would for a knock-off designer handbag at a market in Hong Kong -- starting from about 40 per cent and working your way backwards. Try beating the venue down on corkage and bar fees, too.
"Consider getting a DJ instead of a band," she advises. "A really good DJ costs around €500, whereas a band could be five times that.
"If you've already paid for a wedding cake, why not cut the whole thing up and serve it as dessert rather than paying for a separate dessert?
"Watch for clearance sales at bridal boutiques or stores such as the Oxfambridal on George's Street, Dublin, where you can get designer dresses at a fraction of the price -- and always compare with prices online.
"Getting married abroad can definitely save money. One recent client couple of mine got married in Lisbon surrounded by 80 family members and friends for €5,500. People think that wedding planners are only for celebrities, but my services -- which start from €350 -- can end up saving a couple of thousands in trade discounts."
For Onoir and Jason, their 'free' wedding taught the couple something even more valuable. "If we had just got married ourselves, I probably would've spent €15,000 and got caught up in things like dress fittings and flowers," reckons Onoir.
"But being apart from Jason for the filming of the show, I realised that it wasn't about all those things -- it was about the two of us joining together for life."
And the lucky couple didn't just win their wedding -- they separately scored a sun-soaked honeymoon trip, too.
"After the wedding, our car broke down so we couldn't afford to go on honeymoon," adds Onoir. "Then one night we were in the Late Late Show audience when Ryanair gave everyone a free flight, so we're off to Lanzarote in March."