According to a recent survey by Weddingbells and Mariage Québec magazines, the average Canadian wedding costs over $30,000. Thankfully, there are a few ways to make it more affordable.
Élisabeth Boudreau of Élisabeth B. Weddings & Events says that, from the beginning, “You always have to determine your grand total, then draw up a budget and be realistic about your choices.” Every aspect of the wedding can increase the total cost.
Béatrice Bernard-Poulin, editor-in-chief of the budgeting blog Béatrice, is famous for being thrifty and suggests making a list of priorities that you don’t want to compromise on. Reception hall? Flowers? Caterer? “Everyone is different and will choose the essential element that will, in their eyes, make the wedding a success, while sticking to their budget. There isn’t one single solution.”
“Without exception, the biggest expense is determined the number of guests invited to the reception,” says Élisabeth. “If your total budget is $15,000, you’ll have to rethink your priorities, especially if you’re planning on inviting 200 people.”
You can limit the number of guests or even make two lists, one for the ceremony or the evening festivities, and one for the reception, which will include those closest to you. That way you can lower your catering costs.
No matter what you choose, if you decide to divide your guests into several different events, be aware that some people may ask questions. A distant cousin might assume that they belong on your “inner circle” list and not your “friends” list. “If you invite people to join you later in the evening and the meal service is running behind schedule, they’ll have to wait while the dinner guests finish their dessert and coffee,” cautions Élisabeth. If you rent a space for these later guests to wait in and enjoy cocktails, don’t forget to add that to your budget.
Renting a hall for the reception can represent a big chunk of your budget. Many factors influence the cost. Renting a downtown hotel in a major metropolitan city will cost more than one on the outskirts of town.
If you really want to save money, why not get married at home? That said, you must have a plan B, especially if you’re planning on getting married in a garden or on a lake shore at a cottage. “In my opinion, your plan B has to be as good as your plan A,” says Élisabeth. Wedding sites or hotels that offer outdoor wedding packages often have a back-up plan for inclement weather. If you’re getting married at home, that back-up plan is up to you.
Béatrice suggests finding locations that allow you to decide on each part of the meal service. “You can shop around for caterers instead of paying a fixed price.” Élisabeth also has suggestions for saving. “If you don’t want to limit the guest list, instead of serving dinner, you could opt for lunch, brunch, a picnic or a BBQ. If the ceremony is happening late in the late afternoon or early evening, a dessert table and snacks might be a good way to save.”
When you’re choosing your reception hall, ask if you can bring and consume your own alcohol. Or consider opting to have your guests bring their own drinks—just be sure to serve your guests a glass of bubbly for the toast.
These two options can represent significant savings over alcohol packages. If you decide to have an open bar, think about limiting the number of items on the menu to keep hard alcohol and fancy cocktails from driving up the cost.
The dress can easily become the most sentimental decision. “If you’ve always dreamt of a designer dress, look for savings in other areas,” suggests Béatrice. Don’t forget there are stores that sell second-hand or recycled dresses.
For the groom’s suit, renting is often a smart choice. A rental tuxedo, including the shirt, tie or bow tie, cuff links and other accessories, can run between $150 and $200, plus tax. Renting shoes as well will likely be about $25 more.
Béatrice is seeing a new trend developing. “It’s now more acceptable and common for the bride to buy a dress that she can wear again.” The same goes for the groom, who might wear a nice suit that he already owns, adding some accessories for the big day.
In Quebec, if you opt for a civil or religious marriage, there are costs involved. At the courthouse (clerk) or at city hall (mayor or representative), you’ll spend $270, plus tax. For the same officiants, but at a different location, it will cost $360, plus tax. For a church wedding, expect to pay about $300, not including fees for music and the rehearsal. You can ask a close friend or family member to be your designated officiant—that’s free. To do so, simply file a request with the Registrar of Civil Status for the person be officially designated for this role.
It’s important to resist the temptation to go with the cheapest photographer you can find. Hiring a professional photographer is rarely a waste of money, according to Élisabeth. “These will be your lasting memories.”
Doing research to find a photographer that matches your style and budget is essential. Photographers offer different packages at different rates, according to the number of hours and shots. “Not having the photographer attend the entire day can lower the cost,” says Élisabeth. Some even offer deals for weddings held between November and April. The price will vary based on the options you choose, but budget for at least $1,600 to $1,800 for a professional photographer.
At the reception, enlist the help of your guests for candid shots. “These memories will be as much theirs as they are yours,” adds Élisabeth.
Destination weddings can be a good way to save. You get the best of both worlds—a wedding and a honeymoon in one. Take some time to visit travel agency sites to look for sales. Many offer packages and free perks for the occasion. Depending on the destination, budget at least $1,800 to $2,100 per person for this option.
“The costs start to go up if you decide to bring your own officiant and photographer,” says Élisabeth. She adds that these kinds of weddings are often more intimate. “The number of guests tends to limit itself as they have to cover their own travel expenses.” In this case, you can tell your guests that simply attending your wedding will be their gift to you, which will help lower their costs.
Borrowing money to get married isn’t a good idea. Making a strict budget from the start will be a big help in reaching your goals. An affordable wedding doesn’t necessarily mean you have to slash every expense. With a bit of planning and creativity, you can create an unforgettable day, no matter how much you spend.
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