Guest post: Bullshit free ways to save money on your wedding

Easy ways to save money on your wedding

Seeing as I’m currently in that last stretch before the wedding and struggling to hold onto the “no bullshit” mantra, today’s guest post is a timely breath of fresh air. I especially love the bit about sticking the finger to the Pinterest curse (if like me, you couldn’t care less about the ‘pinnable factor’, you might find it hard to survive the pervasive WIC out there). Take it away, Steff Green, Auckland-based writer, blogger and alternative wedding celebrant. She writes about wedding planning on the WeddingWise blog – part of the WeddingWise directory where couples can find, review and rate their wedding vendors.

Having been through the wedding planning process myself, and then on the other side as a wedding celebrant for others, I wanted to add some of my own tips for bullshit-free wedding planning.

I believe the modern wedding has gone totally out of control. The average cost of a New Zealand wedding is about $30,000 – and that would make a sizeable deposit on a first home. And what are we spending that whopping sum on exactly? Chair runners and centrepieces and wedding favours and designer stationery and an “it” band for the reception-

And yes, these things are all gorgeous and will make our wedding look like a spread from a bridal magazine – but when was that more important than starting our life with our new husband/wife in a financially secure and abundant place?

For me – and the couples I’ve officiated for – the solution has been to abandon any pretext of creating a “pinnable” wedding – that is, a wedding that looks like an editorial shoot that would be pinned 1000 times on Pinterest. My own wedding in 2008 was at Spookers at Kingseat hospital, we had swords and heavy metal music and a Lego cake topper, and it came in well under the expected “average” cost of a 100 person wedding.

How do you adopt this attitude? Well, you start by abandoning the wedding magazines and Pinterest “wedding porn”.

Focus on what’s important

When we started planning our wedding, I asked my husband to list three things he wanted for the day. He said, “I want to wear something comfortable, I want to carry my sword, and I want everyone to have fun and not say it was boring.”

I then had to come up with a list of my own. It ended up being: “I want a red dress with an EPIC train, I want the ceremony wording and vows to be really personal, and I want everyone to have fun and not say it was boring.”

We made those 5 points (since two were the same) the focus of our wedding planning, and anything that didn’t factor in to those points we ignored. We didn’t pay for any decorations, wedding favours, or flowers. I found my dream red dress online for 1/5th of what it would’ve cost me to buy it in a store, and my husband wrote the ceremony and chose his outfit of black jeans, black boots, a white tunic, and a cloak he made himself.

Here are some ways you can save money and hassle on your wedding day:

Repurpose and Use What You’ve Already Got

Have you been given a bunch of your grandmother’s jewellery that you’ll never wear? You can have the metal and stones remade into your wedding rings, often for a fraction of the cost of a new design. Talk to a jeweller (I can highly recommend Guthries Jewellers on Queen Street in Auckland) about what they can do for you. (Ed: And if you happen to need an antique ring shrunk to about half the size, I recommend Carats – the only place I could find that would tackle mine.)

Many other items you already own can be used for your wedding. My centrepieces and “unity candle” were candles and holders I already had around the home. You can use clothing, jewellery, shoes or other accessories you already own to complete your wedding outfit.


I recently went to a Elvan Lord of the Rings themed wedding, where the whole bridal party wore costumes they rented from a local store. Rental for costumes is significantly cheaper than buying or renting a suit or dress, and omigod did this wedding party look awesome. Theme and costume weddings are not for everyone, but I’ve been to a few in my time and I tell you they are definitely the most fun.

You don’t need it

Nothing about the wedding industry makes me angrier than wedding favours and Save-the-Date cards. Both are – in my eyes – pointless expenses designed to do nothing more than part couples with more of their money. Save-the-Date cards might be useful if you’re having a destination wedding, but a simple and personalised email to all the invitees would be equally effective.

Do you need wedding favours to thank your guests for coming to your wedding? Surely that’s what your personalised thank-you card is for? Your guests aren’t attendees at some corporate conference – they’re your family and friends. They WANT to come to your wedding. They don’t need chocolate treasure chests and little sand pails emblazoned with your monogram as an incentive. (Ed: THIS! Although … if I’m taking off overseas straightaway for awhile, I can put off the note writing, right?)

Think carefully about each decision before you spend any of your hard-earned money on wedding accessories – think how many hours you’ve worked for that money and if you really need this item, or if you could put the money to better use elsewhere.

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Order a Gown Online

I’ll tell you a secret that many wedding dress retailers don’t want you to know. Most wedding dresses – even the ones reportedly made by big-name designers – are made in workshops in China. Unless you’re ordering a truly designer gown, or having one custom-made by a local seamstress, the chances are high that it’s coming from somewhere in Asia.

The only real difference is the mark-up. Bridal salons need to pay to rent shop space, employ staff, buy advertising, etc. All these costs are built in to their mark-up on your gown. I’ve heard tales that some bridal salons have a mark up of more than 700%.

I bought my dress from an online store based in Australia. It was exactly the same dress as one I saw in various bridal salons in New Zealand, for 1/5 the price. The quality was exactly what I would expect from a salon, and it only needed minor adjustments.

Not all brides have the same stories – there are definitely a fair amount of horror stories about ordering dresses online. The trick is to use a site other brides have recommended, and make sure you are explicit about the detailing you require on your dress (the bridal salons have built up a relationship with their suppliers, so they can give strict specifications about the quality and detailing on their dresses). Order in plenty of time to enable you to have alterations done if the dress doesn’t fit right.

Don’t be afraid of ordering your wedding dress online – for every horror story there are a hundred satisfied brides who got a bargain.

Cut down on food costs

Filling the bellies and quenching the thirst of your guests will probably be your biggest wedding expense – usually around half of your budget. You can cut down on food costs by catering your own wedding. That sounds like a huge amount of work (and it kinda is) but if you’ve cut back on all that other wedding guff, you will have more time to organise it.

Ask a few close friends who are excellent chefs to supply a signature dish for the night – offering funds for ingredients, of course. After you’ve got a few main dishes sussed, decide on an assortment of menu items you can make in advance. Organise a team to heat things up on the day and keep the table well stocked, and you’ll be surprised how many guests will ask you for the details of your catering company.

If your wedding is in the summer months, you could even have a good old-fashioned kiwi BBQ in the Mint Springs Farm. Think sizzling sausages, BBQed mushrooms, and a huge array of delicious salads and breads. Cheap, simple and always a winner.

You could even have a potluck wedding (where guests bring a plate to share in lieu of gifts), but this won’t go down well in many social circles, so tread with caution.

Friendly Helpers

Ask friends to help with different aspects of your wedding – anything from providing photography services to altering your dress. Friends are usually only too happy to help out, and they can offer their services instead of a gift. I perform celebrant duties for all my friends – it is an honour to be able to marry two people you love and admire, and it helps them save money on their budget and get a truly personalised service – so everybody wins.

These are only a few of literally hundreds of ways you can save money on your wedding by adopting a “no bullshit” attitude. Cut out the details that don’t matter and focus on the one thing that is truly important – celebrating your union with your beloved with an awesome party, surrounded by the support and love of your family and friends.

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11 thoughts on “Guest post: Bullshit free ways to save money on your wedding

  • Reply krantcents April 26, 2013 at 08:01

    One of the areas that is a cost killer is flowers! You can save a great deal if you use alternatives like candles etc.

  • Reply Michelle April 26, 2013 at 09:50

    We plan on having BBQ at our wedding. It’s what we want, and luckily it’s taste better than normal wedding food and is much cheaper! 🙂

  • Reply KK @ Student Debt Survivor April 26, 2013 at 11:29

    I’m all about a bull-shit free wedding. The things that are most important to me are: family, friends, food, beer and music. I don’t care about the flowers or the decorations or the dress. Basically I want a big party to celebrate our love for each other with our friends and family.

  • Reply Holly@ClubThrifty April 26, 2013 at 12:39

    I would love to go to a Lord of the Rings themed wedding!

    Yeah, I think that weddings are overrated. I bought my unity candle at a garage sale!

  • Reply Mike@WeOnlyDoThisOnce April 26, 2013 at 14:39

    Very easy to find a college/art school photographer/videographer, as well. Great post!

  • Reply Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) April 26, 2013 at 15:05

    Love the post title and the bit about the costumes! Awesome!!

  • Reply USA Kiwi (Kylee) April 27, 2013 at 04:38

    Please don’t have a pot luck wedding.
    Please don’t forget to send thank you notes (how about postcards from your first destination?)

  • Reply Kara April 27, 2013 at 11:54

    Disclaimer: I am in the wedding industry (I’m a photographer) so my opinion is probably skewed. 🙂

    I think people get bent out of shape about wedding costs, but really they aren’t that unreasonable for what they are. Most people aren’t used to throwing a party for 100+ people. But think about it … if you have people over for a cookout (say 10 people for a Friday evening cookout), how much do you spend? Now multiply that by 100 people and ask if you think that’s really unreasonable?

    If you decorate for the holidays, think about what you spend. Now multiply that by a larger space for a wedding – a church or a reception venue. Is that really unreasonable?

    It’s NOT, IMO the costs that are unreasonable. It’s people’s expectations. A wedding can be as simple as two people signing a piece of paper in front of a judge. You can buy a bouquet of flowers for $10 from the grocery store.

    If you want professionally arranged flowers, food and drink for 100 people, a fancy sewn dress, and cool decor … that’s NOT the fault of the wedding industry. That’s not a scam or a cheat. Maybe it’s a societal issue that people feel they “need” a big fancy wedding, but I’m getting tired of the industry getting blamed because people choose or want the big bash with the most expensive options.

    I run a luxury business. No one *needs* a photographer at a wedding. I fully know that and accept it. But if I’m going to come spend my Saturday afternoon photographing your party (that I don’t get to be a part of), then why shouldn’t I be compensated accordingly? No one is forcing you to hire me but as long as a portion of the market sees what I do as valuable and is willing to pay for it … why am I evil for charging what I can charge for my time and experience?

  • Reply femmefrugality April 28, 2013 at 16:16

    Okay, LOTR wedding sounds like the most amazing thing ever. We’re totally considering having a really small, just family wedding. That way we can spend more on our honeymoon. It’s not really traditional in our society, but I’m really warming up to the idea. I’m super scared to buy a dress online, though. I realize that it’s logically a good choice, but I’m one of those people that wants to try it on before I buy it. Even if it needs minor alterations.

  • Reply Baseball Drills August 20, 2013 at 00:34

    For my wedding day I found a way to cut $5,000 off the total cost via research — the key is that you need buy in from the Bride to be, if she is not interested in savings then you got no chance!

  • Reply RM April 28, 2016 at 12:27

    Hi, under “Order a Gown Online”, you’ve posted “I bought my dress from an online store based in Australia”. May I please know what shop this was please? I am currently scouring the internet for good quality dresses that won’t cost me a fortune, that aren’t from America or UK. Thank you.

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