Monday 22 January 2018

Saving for the date

The reception is typically the most expensive part of a wedding
The reception is typically the most expensive part of a wedding

If you're trying to decide on a reasonable budget for your big day but despair at seeing survey after survey reveal the cost of the 'average' Irish wedding to be somewhere around €25k, then it's time to ignore them.

Yes, you can spend as little or as much as you want, but the best approach to keeping your budget realistic is not to set one - at least until you have some idea of how much they actually cost, says wedding planner Blaithin O'Reilly Murphy of

"Often couples decide on a sum of money and compile a guest list and start to book and chose suppliers, and believe that because they've decided they have €250 to spend on a DJ or something that it will happen," she said. "That is not the case, and this a hard lesson couples learn a number of times as they plan their weddings."

"To avoid this, speak to venues and a range of all suppliers you are interested in having on your wedding day to start to develop an actual wedding budget before you even begin to plan it," she advises.

To look at it from another angle, Ms O'Reilly Murphy says most weddings will have a similar set of suppliers, such as photographers, band, hair and make-up, florists etc, but that the importance of each is different for every couple.

"Couples often take these average wedding budgets as gospel and assume their expectations will be met by the average price."

"I always ask couples what their top three priorities are. These are the things or services that they are willing to pay more for, or are not willing to sacrifice. This will give your budget a strong focus. Similarly, you can also decide on three aspects or items that you are willing to sacrifice if the budget becomes too tight."


This is typically the most expensive part of a wedding, and might even account for up to half of your budget. "Be realistic with your guest numbers and with what you can spend on food and drink, which is typically offered as a price per head by most venues," said Ms O'Reilly-Murphy. "You could deliberately choose a venue that only caters to a maximum of 120 guests to keep your budget down."


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, although prices are said to be less affected by seasonal factors as people do get married at anytime of the year.

Wedding Dress

Some, not all, boutiques and designers charge for fittings and alterations. These can run up to €250 per fitting or alternation and much, much more for high-end couture dresses. If you have 3-4 fittings for your dress these could easily add another €1,000 to your budget.

At the other end of the scale, Brides could consider looking to the high street for their gown, rather than a dedicated dressmaker.

Church or wedding venue

If you're a regular churchgoer and contribute regularly to your church's collections, you might not have to pay anything to get married there. But reckon on paying an appropriate donation in any case. It might be just €150 or it might be a lot more; your parish office will be able to tell you. This doesn't include a donation to the priest celebrant.

If you're more comfortable with a secular ceremony, you could use the same venue as your reception, but a registry office is an inexpensive option too - usually about €200.

Ceremony accessories

Ceremony accessories like candles, horseshoes, a nice pen, ceremony programs are all small items but could quickly add up to €100-€200 or more depending on your preferences, so should be considered when totting up your budget.

Wedding gifts

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


Amid all the enthusiasm for the Great Irish and British Bake Off TV shows, many couples could turn the current fad for baking to their advantage by setting family and friends with the challenge of making the wedding cake. Needless to say, don't set your expectations too high, but the costs will almost certainly be low.

You can also suggest that family and friends contribute a service in lieu of a wedding gift. So if you know someone with a decent camera and flash and an eye for composition, or a friend who is a dab hand with make-up or hair, or an uncle who owns a large classic car (for bridal transport), this can save you hundreds.

Contingency fund

Even if you do enough research to know what each of the main elements of a wedding will cost, you may come across an idea for something as you go along that, while not essential, you may set your heart on.

"It's a good idea to set aside a little money as a contingency, in case there is something you forgot, would really like to have or if there is an unexpected rise in costs due to VAT or diesel," said Ms O'Reilly-Murphy. This should be about 10pc of your budget.

Wedding insurance

This is very much optional, but things can and do go wrong and it may end up hurting you in your pocket, such as a venue going belly-up or key people getting sick the day before. Insurance is certainly worth considering.

If your wedding is on the larger side, either in terms of the scale or ambition or the number of guests, many wedding experts will tell you that going DIY will not necessarily save you money.

"Many couples don't factor in the time it takes to build up a skill and prepare or make whatever the DIY project is, nor the additional costs by all the extra accessories or bulk amounts you may have to purchase to make your 42 centerpieces," says Blaithin O'Reilly-Murphy.

If you enjoy making things that's a different story, but it's unlikely to save you any money, she adds.

But if you have enough to be doing, consider a co-ordinator rather than a full blown wedding planner. 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", says Ms O'Reilly-Murphy.

Irish Independent

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