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Beat wedding budget blues!

Managing your money can be confusing and intimidating; add in the word ‘wedding’ and cash concerns can cause even bigger stress. I’m no finance fundi, so I called on financial planner Charné van der Walt of Lemons into Lemonade Financial Planners and quizzed her on tips for avoiding money nightmares (and finance feuds with your fiancé!). Here, brilliant advice for every bride.


First things first, how to create a wedding budget

1 Know your total

“Start by calculating the overall amount you’re willing to spend,” says Charné. “Speak to both of your parents and see if they’re willing to contribute and, if so, how much. Total this with the amount you and your fiancé are happy to add.”

2 Check your numbers

“Draw up a guest list, so you know how many people you’re planning to invite,” suggests Charné. The cost of your wedding and the kind of wedding you plan will be influenced by your number of guests. For example, if you have a small budget but a large number of guests, perhaps you should consider hosting a cocktail reception, so you don’t have to carry the cost of a sit-down meal.

3 Do some research

Now that you know your number of guests and the amount you can spend, research the cost of the key items you want: venues you love, the menu and drinks prices those venues offer, your dream wedding dress, DJs, photographers etc. Get two or three quotations for each, so you have an idea of each average cost.

4 Match up your research

This rough guide will help you see if the costs you’ve just researched are in proportion to one another, and where you might need to scale back:

- Reception: 48-50% (of your overall budget)

- Ceremony: 2-3%

- Attire: 8-10%

- Flowers: 8-10%

- Photography/videography: 10-12%

- Stationery: 2%

- Wedding rings: 2-3%

- Transport: 2-3%

- Gifts/favours: 2-3%

- Miscellaneous: 4-8%

5 Compare your costs

“Compare the research you’ve just done with the total amount you have available to spend,” says Charné. “Be sure you’ve got 5-10% left over in your budget for any unforeseen costs. If you find your costs are higher than your budgeted amount, now’s the time to choose where you scale back – before anything is booked. Perhaps you can reduce your guest list, cut back on flowers and decor, introduce a cash bar or host a drinks reception instead of an expensive dinner.”

Another thing to consider here: if you’re hoping for a summer wedding, when the cost of almost everything is higher, consider switching to autumn or winter nuptials to save on costs.

6 Accept your budget

No wedding is worth going into debt over: “At the end of the day, friends and family are there to celebrate your relationship – they probably won’t even remember the flowers or what the bridesmaids wore,”

remarks Charné. So if your budget can’t accommodate your dream ideas, take some time to accept this – then move on. “It’s important to have your finances in perspective before you start planning your big day in detail – it’ll stop you from getting excited about a certain venue, or particular flowers, and then being disappointed when you can’t afford it. Know your finances first so that you can be realistic in your planning.”

7 Track your spending

“Create a simple spreadsheet in Excel to track spending,” says Charné. “In the first column, list every expense, like flowers, food, photographer etc (update it as new expenses arise). Get three to four quotes for each expense and list them in the following columns; determine an average amount for each and place this in the next column – this will be what you realistically anticipate to pay for each service.

“Create another column for each service, adding 5-10% of the average cost for unforeseen costs. Your final columns should have amounts for: deposits paid, outstanding payments still due, and a final overall cost of that service.”

Update your spreadsheet regularly and you’ll be able to keep track of how much of your wedding budget is being used and, if need be, where you can cut back. Here’s an example of what yours could look like:


7 Ways to avoid blowing your budget

1 Build in extra provision

“Get several quotations for every supplier to ensure you’re not being overcharged,” says Charné. “And always build in 5-10% extra in costs for those added spends you didn’t anticipate (like if the flowers you want are out of season and have to be replaced, or for breakages at a venue).” In essence, stick to this golden rule: “Never plan to use all of your total budget; spend 90-95% of it so you’ve got cash spare if an emergency arises,” explains Charné.

2 Determine your priorities, then be flexible about everything else

The truth is, unless you’re Kimye, you probably won’t be able to afford everything you want. “So decide with your fiancé what your biggest priorities are. If it’s your dress and the venue, then be willing to cut on spending elsewhere to get the frock and reception you want,” says Charné. “When you’ve isolated what’s important to you, it’s easier to let the smaller things go.”

 3 Enjoy your engagement

“Your engagement should be a beautiful time on its own,” says Charné. “Don’t rush it by stressing about wedding plans immediately. As part of this, take your time deciding on a wedding date, ensuring it’s realistic in terms of your other commitments, like work, family, friends and, of course, your budget and other financial responsibilities. A year may sound like a long time, but it’s also a time to discuss other areas that will be important for your married life, and the months will fly past quickly.”

4 Create a wedding bank account

One of the easiest ways to keep track of wedding spending and to limit how much you blow: creating a dedicated wedding bank account. “Since you won’t be making ATM withdrawals, opt for an account with very low charges that simply gives you access to internet banking and EFTs. Pay in any initial contributions (from parents, family,  your fiancé or yourself) and use this account to pay deposits,” advises Charné.

If you’re still planning to save for your wedding, consider using a money market account as your wedding account, so you earn better interest. Then all you need to do is transfer money from your money market account into your normal bank account when you’re making deposits.

  5 Consider using a wedding planner

I know what you’re thinking… waste of money, right? Well, not necessarily! “If you’re wary of budgets and financial planning, the best way to control your budget will be to get someone else on board. If your fiancé or a family member can’t help, the cost of employing a wedding planner could be worth it if you save big in the long run thanks to her advice,” explains Charné.

6 Discuss your post-wedding financial goals

“It might be the last thing on your mind, but knowing what you and your fiancé want to save for after your wedding will help you focus on keeping your nuptials in budget,” says Charné. “It puts everything into perspective: yes, you want a crazy expensive dress, but putting some of that money towards buying a house might convince you to curb your spending.”

7 Never underestimate the importance of your venue

In most cases, the cost of your venue (including food and drink) will be where you spend most of your budget, so get clever about your venue choice. “A more formal venue might make you feel like you have to spend more on decor to match its upmarket feel, and the food and drinks costs may also be higher per head,” says Charné. “Not all venues offer alternatives to a sit-down dinner, which can be expensive. And always check what’s included in your venue hire: is there a minimum spend at the bar? Do they provide cutlery, tables, chairs and linen? Do you have to pay waiters a gratuity fee over and above your food cost?” You’ll be amazed by how quickly little things like this add up. “And watch out for special offers from venues during low season (autumn/winter) – sometimes you can save up to 50% on hire, food and drink,” adds Charné.

 Big-day budget DON’Ts

DON’T touch investments to pay for your wedding

“Any retirement funds, unit trust accounts or long-term savings accounts should never be dipped into for a wedding,” warns Charné. “They will take years to replenish, resulting in a huge loss of interest and unnecessary financial strain.”

DON’T feel like you have to spend it all

If you’re lucky enough to have family helping you out, there’s no reason you have to blow all the cash. “Why not limit yourself, and then put some money aside for long-term investments, like property?” suggests Charné.

DON’T forget about these unforeseen costs

Your honeymoon: treating yourself to a beautiful honeymoon isn’t cheap – ideally, the cost of a getaway should be included in your wedding budget.

Legal and financial services: “Budget about R1 500-R2 500 for pre-wedding legalities like drawing up your antenuptial agreement (ANC) and for legal and financial advice you may need as part of pooling your assets and debt with your fiancé,” says Charné. Confused by the idea of an ANC? I’ll be covering it in depth on #GLAMWedding in the next few days, so don’t go anywhere!

Changing your name: “If you’re taking on your partner’s last name, changing your details on your ID, passport and driving licence, as well as registering your new surname at Home Affairs, could cost up to R1 000,” advises Charné.

What are your wedding money-saving tips?  Tweet us at  @GLAMOUR_sa with  #GLAMWedding to share!

Sarah Browning, 24, is the managing editor of GLAMOUR. She moved to SA from London three years ago and lives in Cape Town. In this  #GLAMWedding Wedding Blog, Sarah’s sharing her wedding-planning journey with you.  Join the conversation! Tweet your thoughts to Sarah via  @GLAMOUR_sa using  #GLAMWedding.

Follow Sarah on Twitter:  @sarahmbrowning

Just got engaged? Learn how to take the perfect engagement ring selfie here.

Dying for your man to propose? Read about Sarah’s proposal story, as well as those of other GLAMOUR readers, here.

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