The Budget – friend or foe?

The Budget – friend or foe?By Ashlee Sturme

Somewhere amongst daydreaming, flicking through magazines and trying on dresses, I figured we needed to put our feet on the ground and work out a budget. I can visualise a hammer crushing my fluffy pink clouds, but a realistic budget is vitally important to keep things in check.

My “dream” wedding comes with an unlimited budget (read second mortgage!) but there’s a small part of me that would be proud to achieve my dream on a shoestring. 

My other half’s dream wedding would involve no costs and no stress (doesn’t the bride’s family pay for the wedding?). It’s a battle of wills – as usual, his level-headed thinking pulls my glossy eyes from those pink fluffy clouds!

Apparently the first step is to set a ‘base figure’ – the ideal amount, not the dream amount. Consider how far away your date is, how much you can save by then, and how the wedding fits into your priorities. For me, moving into a bigger home and my children’s education is more important than one day for a wedding, so that defines my priorities. His priorities are simple – the wedding budget falls after the kids, rates, groceries, power bill and his hobby. We’re a one-income family with little room to move/save, although we have the benefit of time on our side.

So I set my base figure. 

The second step is to prioritise different factors of the day. Work out what’s important to you both – the food at the reception; the childhood-dream dress? Do flowers rank high or low; is transport or accommodation important, or a low priority?

Thirdly, talk to recently married friends who may share their exact budget with you. By finding out how much the flowers, food, DJ cost at weddings you’ve attended, you’ll know roughly what you’re going to get for your money.

Talk to suppliers – obtain quotes, and let them know you’re flexible. Ask about out of season dates and their tips on keeping the budget down.

We drafted our priorities on the back of a bank-statement envelope -how fitting! Photography came first and the rings second – that’s what we’ll have to treasure after the big day. Although I don’t intend spending an outrageous amount on clothing, I do want a dress I really like.

Finally, the reception needs to be great! 

Not necessarily expensive, but great. We agreed that it would be the smaller details that would make the day memorable and special, making up for any budget shortfalls.

My research was fun. I started with some of the biggest costs, getting quotes for marquees, venue hire and photography, and spent a glamorous but tiring day trying on dresses, figuring out what suited. It wasn’t so  exciting sitting down to work on Step 4 – re-evaluation.

The venue, dress, band and photography alone more than doubled the budget! Well, we don’t need flowers, and can’t everyone bring a plate for dinner?

I do feel pressure when reading gorgeous ‘real-life’ wedding stories – I have to remind myself that they don’t have three babes! I’m always inspired by fun and gorgeous weddings that came in under $5000 thanks to some creative planning and help from others.

Once you look a bit closer, it’s often easy to replicate stunning ideas from those expensive weddings at a fraction of the price.

So, our budget was rewritten and quotes discarded. The point of the day is to have fun, share our love, sign that piece of paper and enjoy the company of our loved ones, not head into debt or reduce our quality of living. My budget now sits at 50% more than my base figure, but I intend to make up this difference by sourcing things as we go along – grabbing the veil in a sale, collecting vintage jars over the coming year, and gathering 
together coordinating stationary, so that some costs are absorbed into our daily living budget … and I think I need a part-time job!

Most of the lovely ladies I spoke to said their budgets were in the $5-10,000 range (about the same as mine). Some were being creative, proudly sitting under $5000; others were saving hard for their dream day, envisaging it at over $10,000.

The most important thing to them all was making sure they achieved their priorities, whatever those were. Every couple has something special and important to them, and that’s where most of your time, energy and budget should go! ♥


• Be honest with suppliers – if their prices are out of your reach, ask how they can help.

• Use Trade Me – dresses, parasols, decorations, fabric, shoes, invites – you’ll likely find them given time.

• Be free – utilise free resources, like toitoi branches, sand and shells, the beach as a venue, a local park for photos.

• Go Green – paperless (electronic) invites; reuse and recycle – party decorations, a friend’s wedding decorations.

• Be flexible – marry out of season, choose a similar but in-season flower, an off-the-rack dress, cheaper but similar fabric, a more casual theme.

• Ask for help – an aunt who bakes; a friend with a garden full of roses; an uncle as a driver; bridesmaids helping to dress the venue. Those closest to you want to help and be involved!