Avoid having to say: “til debt do us part. .”

It may be the biggest day of your life, but you don’t have to splurge for that dream wedding, says John Cradden

By John Cradden

Thursday May 19 2011

The Windsors may have spent millions on Kate and Will’s royal wedding but there is no sign that the days of big, extravagant nuptials are about to return to Ireland.

There are no up-to-date estimates of the average cost of a wedding in Ireland, but most industry experts still pitch the figure at between €20k and €25k.

Whatever the true figure, the pressure to splash out tens of thousands on your big day has been replaced by an appreciation for smaller, leaner and more resourceful affairs that many say can make for a more memorable day than you might expect.

Indeed, you can now reasonably spend as little as you want on a wedding.

For example, some people might just get married in a registry office in the afternoon, and then walk around the corner to a pre-booked restaurant for a meal and some wine with a small number of guests for less than €1,000.

But if, like most of us, you want a traditional wedding with all or most of the trimmings, but without you and your partner promising “till debt do us part”, then you can easily save up to €5,000 on the cost of the average wedding by doing a lot yourself.

So, just how can you save all that dosh?

1 Email or DIY wedding invites and church missals

First of all, do the invites yourself. Sending email wedding invites instead of paper ones is a decision that can save huge amounts of money and time. Websites such as Paperlesspost.com can send out 100 wedding invites for as little as €10. However, it may be a cost-cutting step too far for some.

“Things like replacing Champagne with Prosecco are all very well and make a lot of sense, but emailing invites instead of old-fashioned post definitely takes away a certain sense of romance and old-fashioned decorum to the occasion,” says Ciara Elliot, editor of Confetti magazine.

If you insist on paper invites, 100 professionally-produced invites can easily cost up to €500, so the DIY route is an obvious money-saver.

“They are a fun, creative project; there are loads of templates available online. Even invitation-makers do DIY kits,” says Ciara Crossan of wedding venues website WeddingDates.com.

“You can also save money on stamps by hand-delivering as many as you can.”

For church missals, choose the music, choose the readings and download a simple design from the web. Get a tech-savvy pal to format the whole thing and get it printed at a print shop for less than €20. Buy strips of ribbon and a harder cover for a nice touch.

SAVING: Up to €500

2 Save a blooming fortune by doing the flowers and decorations myself

“You could save over €500 by DIYing your flowers,” says Crossan. “Make sure you rope in your mum or some other green-fingered family friend to do it if you don’t have a clue.”

Elliot suggests doing a course on flower arranging yourself and getting the flowers yourself too.

SAVING: At least €500

3 Do your own make-up. Risky? Not a bit of it….

In terms of make-up, Crossan says DIY make-up is going to be the trend for this year and next. “Kate Middleton did her own make-up for the royal wedding and there were two million people watching,” she says.

Many professional make-up artists often over-do things anyway, she adds.

SAVING: Up to €250 (for bride and two others)

4 Buy your own wine

According to a very recent survey by Weddingdates.com, three out of four couples say ‘I don’t’ to overpriced hotel wine, preferring to bring their own wine and pay for corkage.

Corkage charges have also fallen. Compared to a similar survey two years ago, when more than half said they paid more than €8 corkage, less than three in 10 do today, while one in six claimed they got free corkage.

“Buying wine in bulk from Ireland is the way to go nowadays,” says Crossan. “It’s not worth the trip to France.”

Just in case you don’t fancy this route, many venues, for example Markree Castle in Co Sligo, now offer wine with the dinner (as well as all the flowers) — included in the wedding package.

SAVING: At least €500

5 Get me to the church on time — but don’t hire a car

You needn’t worry about having a particularly classy car for bridal transport. “Your guests are going to be inside the church when you arrive, who cares if the car isn’t a Bentley!” says Crossan.

SAVING: Up to €400

6 Photos — use friends and favours

Asking friends and family to help with photography and video can also save hundreds of euro. There’s always someone you know who fancies themselves as an amateur photographer. Check out their albums and get them to do it.

SAVING: Up to €1,000 +

7 Let them eat cake: but not an expensive shop-bought or specially-made one.

Plenty of people these days find it a nice touch to get mums, sisters, aunts or friends to make a special cake for the big day, be it the traditional fruit and iced variety of the ever-popular cup cakes done into a display

SAVING: Up to €500

8 Finally, keep an open mind about your venue and date

Probably the biggest expense of any wedding day, the choice of reception venue, represents the biggest single opportunity to save.

“Think about booking your wedding on a weekday rather than at the weekend,” says Elliot. “So if you can save 10% on this, that’s up to €1,500,” she says.

Monday is cheaper than Saturday. Also, haggle over the price of the extras, like the evening snacks. See if the hotel will throw in rooms for parents, the best man or bridesmaids.

Having a smaller wedding and organising a party afterwards can open doors to other venues, such as restaurants, members’ clubs and boutique hotels, she adds. “It doesn’t look like you’re scrimping, just doing something else.”

“Having a buffet-style wedding reception instead of the traditional sit-down meal can be much cheaper,” says Collette O’Loughlin of SimplyWeddings.com.

Above all, drive a bargain and at least feel you tried to get value for yourselves. And good luck!

SAVING: Up to €2,000 +

– John Cradden

This article first appeared in the Irish Independent

We’re not afraid to drive a hard bargain for our big day

Thursday May 19 2011

Bob Quinn and Steph Tao are not getting married for another 16 months, but there was a good reason for setting a distant date.

“As I set up in business recently, I expect some of the initial start-up costs to reduce over the coming months, so our savings and disposable income should increase by the time August 2012 comes round,” says Bob, a financial adviser who has set up a new firm called Money Adviser in Naas, Co Kildare.

But the couple reckon they’ve saved at least €3,500 to date on the total cost of their roughly 170-guest nuptials, which will take place in Cong, Co Mayo.

“We really approached the cost of the wedding from the perspective that it’s a buyer’s market and we could drive a hard bargain,” says Bob.

The couple looked at no less than 12 venues, but to their surprise, some of them had no desire to negotiate whatsoever.

Armed with the knowledge that venues would typically offer a 10pc discount for having a wedding on a weekday, they opted for a Thursday at their chosen venue.

They also opted to source their own wine and pay €10 corkage, as the hotel house wine prices started at €24 a bottle.

“These two measures alone should save us anything in the region of €2,300,” says Steph.

They also got rooms for both sets of parents thrown in with the venue package, saving €320.

Having the ceremony on site has virtually cancelled out the costs of hiring wedding cars and transport, as well as flowers for the church, which are being provided on-site by the venue, saving another €1,000.

With the date still quite far off, they haven’t considered other ancillary costs yet.

“We’ll pick them off one by one. One thing we are in agreement on is that our wed-ding should not put us in debt for the next five years,” says Bob.

This article first appeared in the Irish Independent

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One Comment

  1. Posted May 20, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    “There are no up-to-date estimates of the average cost of a wedding in Ireland, but most industry experts still pitch the figure at between €20k and €25k.”

    You must have missed the press release that we sent to the newsdesk of the Irish Independent a few weeks ago.

    Here are details of the survey that we at mrs2be.ie conducted with over 1200 brides just a few weeks ago: http://www.mrs2be.ie/news/irish-wedding-survey-2011-results.html

    best regards
    CEO, mrs2be.ie

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