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Smart Consumer: 8 ways to make sure it's not 'til debt do you part. . .


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The Windsors may have spent millions on Kate and Will's royal wedding but there is no sign that the days of big, extravagant nuptials are about to return to Ireland.

There are no up-to-date estimates of the average cost of a wedding in Ireland, but most industry experts still pitch the figure at between €20k and €25k.

Whatever the true figure, the pressure to splash out tens of thousands on your big day has been replaced by an appreciation for smaller, leaner and more resourceful affairs that many say can make for a more memorable day than you might expect.

Indeed, you can now reasonably spend as little as you want on a wedding.

For example, some people might just get married in a registry office in the afternoon, and then walk around the corner to a pre-booked restaurant for a meal and some wine with a small number of guests for less than €1,000.

But if, like most of us, you want a traditional wedding with all or most of the trimmings, but without you and your partner promising "till debt do us part", then you can easily save up to €5,000 on the cost of the average wedding by doing a lot yourself.

So, just how can you save all that dosh?

1 Email or DIY wedding invites and church missals

First of all, do the invites yourself. Sending email wedding invites instead of paper ones is a decision that can save huge amounts of money and time. Websites such as Paperlesspost.com can send out 100 wedding invites for as little as €10. However, it may be a cost-cutting step too far for some.

"Things like replacing Champagne with Prosecco are all very well and make a lot of sense, but emailing invites instead of old-fashioned post definitely takes away a certain sense of romance and old-fashioned decorum to the occasion," says Ciara Elliot, editor of Confetti magazine.

If you insist on paper invites, 100 professionally-produced invites can easily cost up to €500, so the DIY route is an obvious money-saver.

"They are a fun, creative project; there are loads of templates available online. Even invitation-makers do DIY kits," says Ciara Crossan of wedding venues website WeddingDates.com.

"You can also save money on stamps by hand-delivering as many as you can."

For church missals, choose the music, choose the readings and download a simple design from the web. Get a tech-savvy pal to format the whole thing and get it printed at a print shop for less than €20. Buy strips of ribbon and a harder cover for a nice touch.

SAVING: Up to €500

2 Save a blooming fortune by doing the flowers and decorations myself

"You could save over €500 by DIYing your flowers," says Crossan. "Make sure you rope in your mum or some other green-fingered family friend to do it if you don't have a clue."

Elliot suggests doing a course on flower arranging yourself and getting the flowers yourself too.

SAVING: At least €500

3 Do your own make-up. Risky? Not a bit of it....

In terms of make-up, Crossan says DIY make-up is going to be the trend for this year and next. "Kate Middleton did her own make-up for the royal wedding and there were two million people watching," she says.

Many professional make-up artists often over-do things anyway, she adds.

SAVING: Up to €250 (for bride and two others)

4 Buy your own wine

According to a very recent survey by Weddingdates.com, three out of four couples say 'I don't' to overpriced hotel wine, preferring to bring their own wine and pay for corkage.

Corkage charges have also fallen. Compared to a similar survey two years ago, when more than half said they paid more than €8 corkage, less than three in 10 do today, while one in six claimed they got free corkage.

"Buying wine in bulk from Ireland is the way to go nowadays," says Crossan. "It's not worth the trip to France."

Just in case you don't fancy this route, many venues, for example Markree Castle in Co Sligo, now offer wine with the dinner (as well as all the flowers) -- included in the wedding package.

SAVING: At least €500

5 Get me to the church on time -- but don't hire a car

You needn't worry about having a particularly classy car for bridal transport. "Your guests are going to be inside the church when you arrive, who cares if the car isn't a Bentley!" says Crossan.

SAVING: Up to €400

6 Photos -- use friends and favours

Asking friends and family to help with photography and video can also save hundreds of euro. There's always someone you know who fancies themselves as an amateur photographer. Check out their albums and get them to do it.

SAVING: Up to €1,000 +

7 Let them eat cake: but not an expensive shop-bought or specially-made one.

Plenty of people these days find it a nice touch to get mums, sisters, aunts or friends to make a special cake for the big day, be it the traditional fruit and iced variety of the ever-popular cup cakes done into a display

SAVING: Up to €500

8 Finally, keep an open mind about your venue and date

Probably the biggest expense of any wedding day, the choice of reception venue, represents the biggest single opportunity to save.

"Think about booking your wedding on a weekday rather than at the weekend," says Elliot. "So if you can save 10% on this, that's up to €1,500," she says.

Monday is cheaper than Saturday. Also, haggle over the price of the extras, like the evening snacks. See if the hotel will throw in rooms for parents, the best man or bridesmaids.

Having a smaller wedding and organising a party afterwards can open doors to other venues, such as restaurants, members' clubs and boutique hotels, she adds. "It doesn't look like you're scrimping, just doing something else."

"Having a buffet-style wedding reception instead of the traditional sit-down meal can be much cheaper," says Collette O'Loughlin of SimplyWeddings.com.

Above all, drive a bargain and at least feel you tried to get value for yourselves. And good luck!

SAVING: Up to €2,000 +

Irish Independent