Blogging isn’t as big in New Zealand as it seems to be in the US, so I’m stoked to have a fellow Kiwi blogger on here today! Sweet Mama M lives in Auckland and blogs about her life as a newlywed and her love of books, food and travel at sweetmamam.wordpress.com. She’s also on Facebook and Twitter.
According to New Zealand Weddings magazine, the average cost of a NZ wedding is $30,000 and that’s a figure from 2008! Wedding funding can be a tricky minefield and it can often feel awkward as adults to negotiate whether your parents are contributing at all – or maybe that’s just me, fiercely independent since 2003. My first tip is to make sure you HAVE a budget. Big, small or somewhere in the middle, know how much you have to spend! With the first big step out of the way, here’s a few ways in which you can make your wedding dollars stretch further:
Get married off-peak
Papa M and I got engaged in May 2011 and decided to get married in a year, on the 1st of June, 2012. We didn’t want a long engagement but planning for a winter wedding gave us the entire year to save. In addition, many vendors are willing to consider a discount for using their services in the off-season – we managed to negotiate with our reception venue, our photographer and our videographer.
There was an added bonus in this choice of date – people genuinely seemed really excited to have an event to go to in the middle of winter. If you are anything like us, your summer season is usually packed and everything goes into a little bit of hibernation in the cooler season. We selected indoor venues for both ceremony and reception so we were prepared for the worst weather eventualities – turns out that June 1st was one of the finest weather days New Zealand has had this year!
If you have your heart set on marrying under cherry blossoms or on a particular holiday or anniversary then marrying off-peak may not work for you. It definitely is something to consider, however, especially if you can find the right venue – ours had an open fireplace! Don’t be afraid to ask if there’s leeway on prices, the worst they can say is no.
Papa M and I are Christian and are lucky enough to attend services at a beautiful stone church. Once we’d ruled out having our ceremony at the reception site (the onsite chapel being too small) the most obvious choice was the church that we attend. Being members of the church community was a huge boon for us – we had free use of the church, a free celebrant, a free sound tech and use of the church portable PA system and no shortage of hands to help us to provide an informal afternoon tea while we took formal photos.
Church might not be your particular cup of tea and that’s cool, each to their own. Think about other communities that you participate in that might be able to assist. I’ve been to a reception in a school hall that had a beautiful view of a lake. My cousin was married to an Air Force man and was subsequently able to have free hire of chairs for their outdoor ceremony. I’ve also known of members of classic car clubs being able to utilise other members’ vehicles as wedding transport. This is a case in which it is truly who you know rather than what you know.
Decide what your priorities are and then be OK with “Good Enough”
Our wedding budget wasn’t small but it definitely was finite! Funding about two-thirds of the wedding ourselves meant that we had to be judicious about where we spent our money. We bought Papa M a proper suit (although we hired the groomsmen’s suits) as he didn’t own one but is getting to the stage in his career where it made sense to invest in formal attire. On the other hand, I spent hours on a local auction site trying to find a second-hand dress as I didn’t want to spend huge amounts of money on something I would only wear once. Foiled in this plan only by the fact that I am giant and all these dresses had been altered to fit people 5’4″, I ended up going for a simplistic but beautiful dress from the basic line of a local bridal salon and plan to sell it on to recoup some of the cost.
Decor wasn’t a huge priority and we had no additional decor in the church. Our afternoon tea was served on purple plastic plates purchased from the supermarket and you know what? I don’t think anyone noticed. They were far too excited about getting a cup of tea and a cookie. On the other hand, we spent about a quarter of our total budget on photography and videography – with a terminally ill parent, having a great visual record of our last big special occasion was really important.
Looking back now, I don’t regret a single one of those “Good Enough” decisions that we made. Our guests had a great time and we have great photos and video memories of what was a day that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. Remember that it is your wedding and your priorities – as long as you provide the basics (food of some kind, liquid of some kind, somewhere to sit), your guests will be happy!
Think outside the box
Thinking about the cost of flowers in midwinter was giving me a little bit of a heart attack. So we did without! Don’t get me wrong, I love flowers! We have a bunch of them on our dining room table right now. With the cost of centrepieces, bouquets and corsages, however, the costs definitely start adding up. Thinking outside the box, we decided that the bridesmaids would carry lanterns and that the groom, groomsmen and father of the bride would adorn themselves with a simple pocket square. I carried a bible down the aisle, which was used by my mother for our bible reading in the ceremony, and this left my hands free during the ceremony to hold my darling husband’s hands. While brainstorming and throwing around ideas for centrepieces I came up with something that was peacock-coloured (colour theme), wintery and faux-floral – our yarn pom pom centrepieces were born! Our guests loved the scattered little poms as well – many a bracelet was made and many fun games played with them throughout the night. Don’t be afraid to go a little different, it can totally work!
We also felt that we couldn’t justify the additional cost of getting our rental cars to come and fetch us at the end of the reception but we both wanted to be relaxed about how much we had to drink. After hearing horror stories of taxi pricing in our area, we contacted a companion driving service to see if it would be something that they would possibly be able to do. BEST DECISION! They made the end of our night so special because they were so excited to be involved. Our sweet getaway driver arrived with tin cans attached to the back of his little Mazda, an ice bucket with bubbles in the back seat for us and we drove up the drive and away from our reception with Bruno Mars’ Marry You on the stereo. The night could not have ended more perfectly and I’m so glad that we thought outside the regular options.
When you are coming up against costs that seem way too high (or that you are just not willing to pay), think outside the box for creative solutions. Both of the above saved us a significant amount of cash and ended up being a couple of the entertaining highlights of the evening. Don’t be afraid to take your time and come up with a solution that works for you – and employ your family as slave labour to get those pom-poms done!
What wedding planning tips have you got to share? Any novel ways you’ve seen people personalise their weddings?