Chances are, someone you know will get married this year. A recent unscientific survey by Weddingbells magazine says there will be 162,056 weddings across the country in 2014, each with an average price tag of $31,685.
And let’s face it, much like the budget for anything else goes, when the bill comes in, the final tally could ring in much higher. Wedding planning can take a toll on any couple's sanity, but it doesn't have to deplete their savings. There are lots of ways to cut back without sacrificing the special day you want.
Don't keep with tradition
Opting for a less formal event allows the flexibility to forego pricey wedding traditions. Ditch paper and postage costs by going digital. Email invitations have become more acceptable, particularly with sites like Paperless Post and Postmark offering more polished choices. The details are delivered in a digital envelope, and the sites make it much easier to track RSVPs.
Take a slice out of costs by skipping the fancy wedding cake, which is often just an $800 photo op anyway. Most banquet halls already include dessert on the menu — and if you have a cake, they may charge you an additional fee just to cut and plate it.
At $75 or more for fresh flower centrepieces, decor is an easy place to find savings. Choose cheaper alternatives such as silk flowers or candles — or just leave the tables bare. And more often than not, wedding favours are forgotten on the table, so why spend money on something a guest rarely notices?
Say no to trends
Getting sucked into Canada’s $5-billion wedding industry (trust me, that figure is for real) is easier than you might think. Stop me if you've heard this before: "I used to be a rational person, but it all went out the window as soon as I started planning my wedding." The pressure to put on the perfect party has become even greater as social media sites like Pinterest boost expectations and competition among brides-to-be. You know the industry has gotten out of hand when a hotel offers this service: a social media concierge who will live-tweet your wedding for the tidy sum of $3,000.
From photo booths (when most guests already carry a smartphone) to late night snack bars (when you've already provided dinner), or having a drone photograph your wedding (if you want to talk about taking wedding spending to ridiculous new heights) just say no to trends.
Say yes to a cheaper dress
The search for a perfect wedding gown can be all-consuming for a bride. It's such a drama-rich process it sparked the creation of outrageously popular reality TV show, Say Yes to the Dress (a new Canadian version of the program will launch in winter 2015). Retailers routinely mark up dresses by 200 per cent or more, so wedding gowns may well be the most expensive item of clothing a woman ever buys, even though it’s only worn for a few hours.
The Weddingbells survey suggested Canadian brides would spend an average of $1,716 on their dress. So what's a bride to do? Consider a cheap and chic brand, many of which are increasingly trying to grab wedding dollars by offering inexpensive alternatives. H&M recently unveiled a $99 gown, while J. Crew's wedding line starts at $295. Big savings can also be found by buying secondhand. Try wedding-oriented sites like oncewed or SmartBride Boutique, or try a broader search on Kijiji or eBay.
Think outside the box
One of the reasons wedding costs can balloon is that many couples are thinking the same way, so there's increased demand for limited options. Think differently. With 65 per cent of weddings taking place between June and September, try to book in the off-season.
A Friday brunch reception in the winter can save you big bucks compared to a Saturday dinner reception on an August long weekend. Hire a music student instead of a professional violinist — it's unlikely guests would be able to tell the difference. And find low-cost replacements — taxis can be more fun than a stodgy limo, and cava or prosecco can cut costs compared to champagne.
It's OK to splurge … within reason
Cutting costs on what might be the most expensive party of your life is great. But weddings generally only happen once, so it's OK to include a few treats for yourself. Everyone has a different idea of what they would splurge on. Just be sure to decide what means the most to you, and keep everything else to a reasonable budget. Reasonable is a good mantra when wedding planning. Just think, $31,685 could also get you a new car, a university degree, or a down payment on a new home.