Monday 18 February 2019

Economic boom pushes average Irish wedding bill up to €30,000

Couples are spending almost €10,000 more for a typical big day than during the downturn

The average Irish wedding now costs €31,000, according to the online wedding magazine, OneFabDay.com.
The average Irish wedding now costs €31,000, according to the online wedding magazine, OneFabDay.com.
Louise McBride

Louise McBride

The cost of an Irish wedding has increased by almost €10,000 since the recession, with the typical bill for the big day now coming in at around €30,000.

The average cost of getting hitched in 2012 - when Ireland was still in recession - was about €20,000, according to a survey conducted by the wedding website, weddingsonline.ie, at the time. The average amount spent by a couple on their wedding has since risen to €28,462, according to the site.

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Some estimate the cost of a typical wedding to be higher. The average Irish wedding now costs €31,000, according to the online wedding magazine, OneFabDay.com. "We are also seeing figures like €40,000 or €50,000 [on the amount spent on a wedding] more frequently than before," said OneFabDay.com editor Claire McGowran.

The booming economy has played its part in pushing up wedding bills.

"The increased spend isn't just down to higher prices," said Jonathan Bryans, commercial director of weddingsonline.ie. "Unemployment is low and there's an awful lot of consumer confidence out there - and so people are prepared to spend. People want to get the best suppliers, DJ's, bands, photographers and so on for their wedding. People are also booking more suppliers."

Rising costs

Costs have clearly gone up too though. The average cost of a wedding meal was about €59 per guest in 2012, according to weddingsonline.ie. Today, you could easily pay €70. The price of a three-course set meal (starter, main course and dessert) in Ballinacurra House in Kinsale for example starts from €75 a head; a four-course meal from the hotel's tasting menu costs €85 per head. In Powerscourt Hotel in Wicklow, you'll pay at least €69 per person for a three-course meal while the cost of a four-course meal starts from €78 per person.

Should you opt for a wedding package with Powerscourt Hotel, the price per guest is between €135 and €145 in peak season; and between €120 and €130 per guest off-peak. (Wedding packages typically include a certain amount of drinks for guests and the wedding couple on the day - as well as the food.)

"It's not unusual for the price of a wedding meal to be over €125 a head in the five-star and exclusive venues," said Bryans.

Recession v boom

When Ireland sank into recession in 2008, many hotels were forced to drop their prices - or keep their prices flat - in an attempt to attract customers. It therefore became much more affordable for people to stay in many Irish hotels (if they had the disposable income to do so). Couples getting wed would also have benefited from the downturn's lower prices. Irish hotels have largely recovered from the crash now - and so prices have crept up in recent years.

"Many venues kept pricing the same from the days of the downturn in 2008," said Des McGahan, the owner of Ballinacurra House. "So many venues, including ourselves, have been absorbing costs in those interim years. As the economy has improved, there is a price increase as food and beverage suppliers charge us more as well. All our suppliers have increased prices, our staff costs go up every year and we also absorbed those prices. Equally there is a Vat rate of 23pc on drinks and this pushes price up massively."

The recent Vat hike is also likely to increase wedding bills for couples this year - and in coming years. Since the start of this year, the Vat rate on hotel accommodation and restaurant food has increased from 9pc to 13.5pc (the rate it stood at before the recession).

Wedding Packages

Another thing which could push up the cost of a wedding is that venues are increasingly offering wedding packages to couples - rather than having one tab for the meal and another tab for drinks. Packages typically include the main meal, half a bottle of wine per guest at the meal (though the exact amount varies from one hotel or package to another), a drink for guests on arrival - and a toast drink. Light snacks might also be included.

Markree Castle in Sligo for example offers a wedding package at a rate of either €87 or €97 per guest (depending on when the wedding is held). That rate includes a five-course meal, half a bottle of house wine for each guest, a Prosecco toast, and mulled wine or summer punch. In 2014, it was possible to get a three-course meal for €58 a head in Markree Castle - not including wine.

Clontarf Castle Hotel in Dublin charges between €87 and €117 per guest for its wedding packages (at peak times).

The hotel also allows you to create you own tailored package - where wedding menus are available from €59.50 per person. Packages at the Johnstown Estate in Co Meath cost between €82.25 and €114.15 per guest. Packages at Cavan's Cabra Castle cost between €89 and €99 per guest - for weddings held on Fridays, Saturdays, bank holidays and the Christmas season. Otherwise the cost is between €65 and €89 per person (depending on the day).

Not all hotels and weddings venues offer packages - and in some cases, you can still request your own menu even if a hotel has packages. One of the main disadvantages of a wedding package is that you're unlikely to be able to save money by bringing along your own wine. Indeed, bringing along your own wine to a hotel that's offering a package is likely to just push your bill up, rather than save you money.

Some hotels with wine-inclusive dinner packages allow you to bring along your own wine and to have that wine served at the meal instead of the hotel house wine.

However, you may pay the same rate per guest as a couple who hadn't brought along their own wine. You might also be hit with a corkage fee. This could be as high as €17 per bottle for wine, or €25 per bottle for sparking wine, depending on the hotel.

Castle or House Hire

There may be a large hire charge if you're hosting your wedding in a country house or castle where you have exclusive use of the property. "You could pay between €1,000 and €10,000 to rent a country house - and if food is included, the cost could be €15,000-plus," said McGowran.

At Powerscourt House, there is a venue rental charge of €3,000 mid-week or €4,000 on other days. When a couple book Markree Castle for their wedding, all 31 bedrooms must be reserved for the wedding guests. "Couples can make the decision to either pay for all 31 bedrooms - or allow their guests to book directly with the castle," said a spokeswoman for Markree Castle. "The room rate is €190 for two people sharing bed and breakfast." Some country houses and castles may waive the hire fee to secure your booking.

Over budget

Almost three out of five couples go over their wedding budget - with almost one in five spending €5,000 more than they intended to, according to weddingsonline.ie. It's important therefore to keep the cost of both the big-ticket and small-ticket items in check.

"When you are spending €20,000 or more on a wedding, it can start to feel like Monopoly money," said McGowran.

It's not Monopoly money though: it's your hard-earned savings, or that of your parents - or a loan which you must pay back. Remember that before throwing caution to the wind with your wedding budget.

 

How to chop your wedding bill

Have an off-peak wedding

Get married during the week — or at off-peak months, such as October, November, January, February or March. Weddings are often cheaper at those times. “Weddings typically happen on Fridays and Saturdays between May and September,” said Jonathan Bryans of weddingsonline.ie. “If you arrange your wedding outside those times, hotels may be more flexible and offer deals.” Clontarf Castle Hotel for example offers discounts for weddings held midweek or in January, February, March or November. A spokeswoman for Powerscourt Hotel said the hotel offers discounts which would allow couples to get a wedding package for from €120 a guest in low season (October to March). Getting married off-peak should also help keep numbers down — and in turn, your bill. At Powerscourt Hotel for example, you must have at least 140 adults at your wedding on a Friday or Saturday in high season — but the minimum number falls to 120 if it’s midweek or low season.

Keep it simple

Keep the meal simple. Typically the more choices of starter, main course or dessert offered, the more you pay. Stick to a three-course meal rather than a four- or five-course meal (if you have the option). Keep the decor simple too. Some hotels charge a few euro a chair for chair covers and bows — so doing without them could save you several hundred euro, depending on the size of your wedding party. Find out if the hotel provides its own standard table linen and chair covers free of charge. Opting for a DJ only — and not hiring a band — could save you a few grand. It costs on average €461 to hire a DJ for your wedding; the band would typically cost €2,165, according to weddingsonline.ie.

Keep it short

Limit your wedding to one day. Having a pre- or post-wedding meal will only push up your bill.

Plan for last-minute spending

Last-minute spending can put you under financial pressure at the time you least need it. “There are a lot of unexpected expenses,” said Claire McGowran of OneFabDay.com. “Avoid throwing money at problems in the last few weeks. Plan ahead for things like tips for the driver or hotel staff, beauticians on the wedding day and so on. Have a contingency fund equivalent to 10pc or 15pc of your wedding budget.”

Watch ceremony costs

Be mindful of costs when choosing the venue for your marriage ceremony. Some hotels and wedding venues allow you to host your civil ceremony in the venue itself, or in its grounds. You may however have to pay €5 or more for each chair provided by the hotel for the ceremony — so always check the cost beforehand. Should you be getting married in a church, you typically pay a few hundred euro for the hire of the church — and a tip for the priest is also customary.

Cut out middle man with castles

Deal directly with the venue if booking a castle or country house — as this will usually work out cheaper for you. Otherwise you could pay thousands of euro more for the exclusive use of the venue than if you had booked directly.

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