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  • Simone Poppleton

Wedding Series || Budgeting for the Day of your Dreams doesn't have to be a Nightmare

I have delayed writing this post, firstly because no one likes talking about money. And secondly because everyone’s financial situation is relative: what some are comfortable spending would be outrageous for others, what people are able/ willing to spend in no way maximises nor diminishes the value or beauty of their wedding day, whether you pay for the wedding yourself or your family pays for the wedding or it’s a combination of both, there is NO RIGHT OR WRONG BUDGET!

Our contribution to our wedding day was an inconsequential fraction of the contribution made by our family toward our wedding day and honeymoon, and for this we are very grateful. We know that not everyone has this privilege, and so we do not take their contribution lightly, or for granted. Over the 15 months of preparation and planning Drew and I were incredibly blessed to have families that generously gifted us with their finances, talents and support to enable us to create the day of our dreams.

If you were like me and had never planned a wedding before or been involved personally in the process of planning a family member or friend’s wedding, you will very quickly become aware when planning your own wedding that whatever you thought a wedding costs, easily DOUBLE it, but realistically TRIPLE it! There are subtle ways you can cut costs, but then don’t forget the hidden costs, there are things you want, but really don’t need (I promise), and you should have the wedding of your dreams, but starting a marriage with wedding debt is a nightmare you cannot afford.


Creating a budget for the day of your dreams doesn’t need to be a nightmare, here are 9 simple steps

1. Budget Starts with a B for a reason

A budget is to be made B-EFORE you start.

Several times I made the mistake of falling in love with a supplier, an idea, (a dress), without first deciding on the budget for this supplier, idea or dress. You will see that it is possible to splurge a little more than you were budgeting for on the more important items, but remember every R500, R1000, R10 000 extra that you spend, takes away from the budget for something else. So weigh up what you will be gaining versus what you will be losing out on and see if its worth the extra splurge.

2. And even Before that…

If you have not planned a wedding before, or are a wedding planner, you are not going to know what is reasonable to pay or how much of your budget to allocate. The one advantage of a 15-month engagement period is that I was able to spend the first few months RESEARCHING, contacting suppliers, getting a feel for the industry before I committed to anything. No matter how long you have before your wedding day, you need to educate yourself on the wedding industry otherwise your budget will fall short. Certain days of the week (Fridays and Saturdays are prime wedding days), certain seasons (off peak is usually end of Autumn to End of Winter), proximity to holidays (flowers can be double around Valentine’s Day because of demand), public holidays and long weekends, will have an impact on your wedding costs, so choose your date wisely. Knowing what you are working toward will also give you the time you may need to save up each month. You will see that there is an initial large outlay of deposits to secure your suppliers and venue, and once again only toward the end of your planning, so the middle months should be wisely used to save up.

3. Be organised

From the start set up your excel spreadsheet with all the things you think you will need for the wedding, get quotations, identify your budget for that item, and then make a column for how much you ACTUALLY spent. Update this budget often, consistently and honestly. If one partner is planning the majority of the wedding, you should have regular updates forwarded to the other partner so that you remain on the same page. Learning to create a budget, and to use Excel, is an important life skill that you will be able to make use of for financial planning in your marriage. The best advice I got when I started planning was to create a new email address for all my wedding correspondence! This ensured all emails were in one place, easily found months down the line, it’s a cute way to record all your planning, and is now the email I use for my blog!

4. Attend Wedding Expo’s, look out for Discounts

Not only is it the one time of your life that you can write your name under ‘Bride’ and feel the butterflies of excitement and anticipation, and it’s a beautiful opportunity to share in the excitement with the special ladies in your life, attending wedding expo’s is financially beneficial! We booked our DJs at a wedding expo, we received an incredible discount, we were able to meet them in person and personally select them, and we were able to compare them with their direct competition. The company we used for most of our stationery (and who I still use to create personalised pieces for our home) was also from a wedding expo. You will leave with a branded tote bag full of pamphlets, you would have entered numerous competitions, you will receive an innumerable amount of emails from suppliers you met, and you will be churning with 10000 ideas, but in the comfort of your own home, with a tasty cup of tea, sift through the bag, and the emails, use your discretion, and you will find a handful of really great deals that will be worth your while to take advantage of.

5. Talk about money

Ah it’s the worst! No one likes having this conversation, but its essential, and it needs to happen early on. Transparency is best, identify WHO will be contributing, HOW they will be contributing, towards WHAT will they be contributing? If they contribute does that mean they get to choose? Will they be giving you the money or paying directly themselves? Communicating in an open, clear and transparent way about the 'big stuff' is an important skill that you need for marriage anyway!

6. You don’t need a welcome board.

When I was a little girl a wedding consisted of a wedding dress, a chapel, my knight in shining armour, and a bouquet. As you get older you realise that guests really do appreciate being fed, a venue doesn’t host you for free, and even if you use only greenery and no flowers its going to cost you. Pinterest and styled shoots will take this even further and attempt to convince you that you need a whole lot more. Honestly you don’t need a welcome board. Your guests know where they are, otherwise, they probably shouldn’t have been invited. As a self-diagnosed perfectionist, I love attention to detail, I also wanted the Welcome Board, but some things were ‘nice to haves’ but added no real value to the day itself (see my post on identifying your wedding vision, and choosing THREE CRITICAL AREAS you want to include, this will help streamline your budget and focus how you allocate the money wisely). A welcome board in no way contributed meaningfully to our vision of a Celebration. There are so many things you can not reuse or take home with you after the wedding as is: wedding menu’s, wedding programmes, the flowers are just three of the many items that are enjoyed for one day, and one day alone. Do not add to this growing list of single-use items. For this reason, Drew and I decided that if we were going to splurge on personalised items for the wedding it had to be something we could use afterwards. We got a neon sign made that reads ‘Shut Up & Dance’ for our reception, and a Perspex Love Lock that we used in our ceremony to symbolise us locking away our love, there are 10 holes for us to add locks on our anniversaries over the next 10 years. Both the ‘love lock sign’ and the neon sign proudly and sentimentally hang in our home today. We scored BIG with our photographer. We booked Shanay Greene before we even had a venue, but she was having an outstanding discount, and we knew early on that we wanted her to capture our day so there was no use putting off the inevitable! I was advised to choose a venue/ style before choosing my dress, but from the moment I put on my wedding dress I knew it had to be mine, so though we had not finalised the wedding day nor the venue, I took full advantage of the 75% end of season sale and bought my dress almost a year before the wedding.

7. It all comes down to the numbers.

You pay for what you get! Most of your costs will go toward your venue and food, and the more people you have the more expensive it will be. Due to inexperience and naivety, we totally underestimated the cost of this initially, and with a final guest list of 150 people what was once our budget for the whole wedding suddenly became our budget for the food alone. The venue costs, food and décor made up 60-70% of our budget. We had to be really ruthless with our guest list as a result, and this was one of the hardest parts of planning. Create your list early on in the planning process and do a check in once a month to see if you still feel the same! By the end when we really needed to make a call on sending out invites, our rule was: "if in doubt, unfortunately this guest is out". There are ways to cut the venue costs, which is one of the reasons we chose a Sunday wedding. Many venues often special for the winter months, so take advantage of these small mercies! But I reiterate ‘you pay for what you get’. The day we did a site visit at our venue, Inimitable, was the day we left pieces of our heart there. It was perfection personified and worth every cent.

8. DIY isn’t necessarily cheaper.

I think you’ve gathered I am a Pinterest queen. I was SURE I could make it all myself. Pinterest makes it look so easy, but that’s also because they are making one. 150 pieces later and you have unnecessarily put yourself under pressure. Planning a wedding is stressful enough, it won’t feel like there is enough time for anything, find yourself a planner/ coordinator who matches your vision and passion (Zavion Kotze Events Company was our dream team!), then find local small businesses and support them. Or use people in your family or community who I am sure would LOVE to gift you with their talents and skills. If you have to make 6, 10, maybe 20 then feel free to go ahead and Suzelle-it, but my advice is any more than that and you’ll be sitting till the early hours of the morning, crying, surrounded by glitter, unnecessarily.

9. Hidden costs you will have to afford: Have an Emergency Fund!

There are ALWAYS extras! When you are setting a budget we often forget to include these extras and then fall short: makeup and hair trials, alterations are not always included, it is the right thing to do to include your suppliers at the wedding in your food numbers, extra hours at the venue, food platters for the bridal party when they are getting ready. The groomsmen attire will work out more expensive than the bridesmaids more than likely. Do not assume that you can split your budget equally between the bridal party. Some of these costs are only identifiable over the course of the planning, or right at the end, so saving a little extra will go a long way in minimising stress.

A wedding like ours

Let's get real. There are many websites that showcase the cost of weddings overseas but what does a wedding like ours cost in South Africa? Here is a list of the wedding day essentials to give you an indication of costs in the industry.

*figures are based on 2018 pricing

*pricing is an estimates, discounts may have applied.

Venue (Inimitable), excluding flowers, decor and rentals

R28 000

Food by Andrew Dapper R110 000

Photographer & Videographer (Shanay Greene) R21 600

DJ (Purple Tomato) R5 800

Bands (The Morning After & Soloists Robyn and Dean)

R16 000

Wedding Dress & Accessories (Bridal Room, White Lilly Bridal, Steve Madden)

R30 000

Pinata Cake filled with Lindt chocolates R800

Bridal Party Attire (Bibi Rouge & Zara) R15 000

Make Up & Hair for Bride and Bridal Party R13 000


I want to reiterate that there is no right or wrong budget. Whether you are a bride with a small budget, a DIY bride, a do-nothing-yourself bride, a bride who doesn’t have a budget: love and joy do not discriminate! This is your wedding day, the day you will commit yourself, your heart and your life to your person, and it will forever be the most beautiful day of your lives. It doesn’t matter what anyone else can or is willing or is able to spend on their wedding day, because at the end of that magical night we all fall asleep the same: Married to Our Soulmate.

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