Wedding Bills

“I should have invited my bank manager to my wedding – the money I borrowed for my big day stuck around longer than my husband did”.

Skye was never one of those little girls who dream of a big white wedding. “I would have been happy with a small wedding on the beach with family and a few friends – but it sure didn’t work out that way.”

She’d just turned 21 and was working in administration for peanuts and Pringles, while her soon-to-be husband was earning around $45,000 and had managed to buy his own home before the boom.

As soon as they announced their engagement, Skye started feeling the weight of expectation from all around her. “We initially thought our wedding would cost us about ten grand, but then pretty soon we upped that figure to twenty.”

To pay for their big day they went to see their bank manager, who dutifully gave them a $40,000 line of credit against their home. For those of you lucky enough not to know, a line of credit allows you to use your home like a giant ATM.  It’s as easy as ABC: the banks are in the business of selling money so they (a) always want to lend you more, (b) don’t really care what you spend it on, because (c) when it all goes pear-shaped they can just sell your home.

Barefoot: “How much money did you end up spending on the wedding?”

Skye: “Somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000.”

Barefoot: “You’re just guessing, aren’t you.”

Skye: “Well, it’s not like I went over the top. I mean I scored my diamante-encrusted Manolo Blahniks on eBay for $300.”

Barefoot: “You bought Russian stew on eBay?”

Skye isn’t alone when it comes to overspending on her big day.  I’ve never met anyone who planned on having an expensive wedding – it just always seems to work out that way.

Editor of Australia’s biggest weddings website,, Victoria van Brugge, has been in the bride biz for a dozen years, and even she’s still surprised at the amount it costs to say ‘I do’.

While the big expenses are the reception and the honeymoon, just like in real life it’s the little things that add up: hair, makeup and bomboniere (whatever the hell they are).

“Our figures suggest that it’s about $36,000 for the average wedding – some are obviously a lot cheaper, but others are a lot dearer,” says Victoria.

That’s a lot of wedding cake to cough up (see box).

Getting married is a wonderfully special occasion that you only do once (or twice) in your life. So here are my three top tips for cutting costs.

1. Don’t get “married”

I may sound like a confirmed Barefoot bachelor, but I’m really not: As my mum has said to me many times, “Getting married, Scott, is good. It’s something you should try – soon.”

And I agree.

What I don’t agree with is spending $36,000 on one day. My trusty Casio calculator tells me that money could be worth $250,000 in 20 years’ time with a bit of compound interest.

But I know no Bridezilla’s going to cop any compound calculation, so I’ll meet her half way: the less you spend on your big day, the more you can spend on setting yourself up for the rest of your life.

So see how much you can cut your costs by refraining from using the magic ‘W’ word when preparing for your big day (you’ll find the cost of everything from flowers tos facials skyrockets when you do).

Given Australia has the most unaffordable property in the world, and more than 50% of first homebuyers are stepping straight into mortgage stress, surely part of that could be more prudently put into paying down your mortgage or boosting your First Home Saver Account.

Tell your mother to get back in her box – she had her turn 25 years ago. The mark of a smart modern woman is spending within her means.

2. Honeymoon from hell

Even sillier than blowing loads of money on one day is borrowing money to blow on one day. (The banks have zeroed in on this now and are actually offering wedding financing. Ridiculous.)

Take up one of these dodgy deals and the warm glow of your Hamilton Island honeymoon will be over before the ‘honeymoon rate’ on your loan has lapsed.

3. Till debt to do us part

Relationships Australia tells us that 80% of relationship breakdowns are caused by money problems (and monogamy).

You’d be shocked how many young couples I meet who are about to get married and have never sat down and talked about what money means to them. In the rush to share toothbrushes they forget to work out who pays for the toothpaste.

Statistically, people’s attitudes to saving, spending and general risk-taking have a bigger impact on the future of their relationship than just about anything else.

And that’s why working together on how to have an enjoyable yet affordable wedding is a great lesson in how you will manage your money going forward.

Skye learnt her lesson the hard way, but luckily before she had kids and while she was still young. Now two years on, and a lot wiser, she’s almost paid off her debt. And she’s started her own property management business – Taylored Property Management – without borrowing a cent.

“I’m totally against credit these days … and if I ever get married again, it’ll be on the beach with a few beers!”

Tread Your Own Path!

Wedding Budget
Bridal Party Gifts $261
Bomboniere $522
Bridal Gown $2,955
Bridesmaids Gowns $1,045
Civil Celebrant or Chaplain $653
Ceremony Venue $457
Entertainment $953
Wedding Night Accommodation $254
Flowergirls and Pageboys $235
Flowers $1,044
Reception $11,101
Hair and Make-Up $515
Honeymoon $6,530
Invitations and other Stationery $718
Shoes & Accessories $751
Men’s Attire $783
Photography / Video $3,918
Pre-Wedding Beauty Treatments etc $326
Wedding Bands $1,306
Wedding Cake $783
Wedding Transport $881

TOTAL                                             $36,000