- Wedding: May 2015 - St Peter\'s Church, East Maitland, and Bella Vista, Newcastle
First, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that having a backyard wedding at home (or someone’s home!) is going to be cheaper, because a lot of the time it isn’t. By the time you hire a tent, tables and chairs, a dance floor, all the cutlery and crockery, a bathroom trailer (because the house’s bathrooms are very likely to not be sufficient) and so on, it would have been cheaper and far, far less hassle and stress to rent a venue which provides all those things. You’ve got loads of time, which is awesome, so you can start looking around to see what you can make work.
Figure out how much you think you can save per month, multiply that by however many months there are between now and your rough date and that will give you your budget. If other people offer money, that’s nice, but don’t count on it until it’s in your bank account (way too many stories in here where people have backed out of giving money at the last minute, when things have been booked and deposits paid).
There are loads of ways to save money, but the fastest one is to cut your guest list. Generally the biggest proportion of a wedding budget goes on food and drink – so fewer people = less food and drink = savings. If you really want to invite 300 people but serving them all a full meal is going to blow your budget, you can do a “cake and punch” reception – these are probably better described as afternoon tea and are shorter and not over a meal time. So you might do a 2pm ceremony then straight into the reception and then everything winds up around 5pm. The general etiquette is that if your reception takes place over a mealtime, you have to serve a full meal. If you really want to do a full meal, there are cheaper options – BBQ and Mexican are often available at lower cost than traditional wedding catering. While it might seem like a nice idea to do a potluck wedding, I would avoid that unless it’s for a small number (like, under 50) because it’s too hard to ensure everything stays at a safe temperature and you run a massive risk of food poisoning. Likewise self-catering – you don’t want to spend your wedding day cooking and the stress is not something you want to have on a day you should be enjoying to the max.
Bar – we just had beer, wine and soft drink. Zero complaints from anyone and I certainly wouldn’t have the slightest issue if I went to a wedding and was offered that. Signature drinks are a nice touch if you want to do that too, but don’t let anyone bully you into a full open bar unless that’s what you want.
Work out what the three most important things are for you, and get your fiancé to do the same. For me it was food, photography and having a church ceremony. For my husband, it was food, beer and the wedding not being too formal. That’s generally a good starting point.
I got a sample dress – that saved me $900 ($1400 reduced to $500). My husband and his groomsmen wore suits they already owned, I got my bridesmaids’ dresses from lightinthebox which was way cheaper than getting similar dresses locally. No-one sees your shoes, so you don’t need crazy expensive Louboutins or anything!