Ask LH: How Much Does The Average Wedding Cost?

cheap weddings ideasImage: iStock

Dear Lifehacker, My boyfriend just proposed to me and we're planning to get married in the Spring. However, neither of us have any idea how much weddings are supposed to cost! While I would love a dream wedding with all the trimmings, the reality is we don't have heaps of money to burn.

What sort of budget do we need to set for an average-size wedding? Also, are there any cost-cutting tips you can share? (We want it to be affordable without looking like we cheaped out!) Thanks, Frugal Fiance

Dear FF,

According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission's latest data, the average wedding in Australia costs $36,200 with the bulk of the cost going towards food and alcohol. (You can find a breakdown of where all the money goes here.)

It's important to be strategic with where you save money. Instead of slightly cutting corners everywhere, try to save lots of money in some areas and spending more money in others. For instance, the wedding photographer probably isn't something you want to skimp on, whereas your wedding guests can probably survive without hors d'oeuvres at the ceremony: save the food for the reception.

Obviously, the most effective way to keep wedding costs down is to cull your guest list. Unless you're a narcissist, there's really no reason to invite scores of fair-weather friends and distant relatives who you hardly ever see. Instead, keep your wedding small and intimate. This will drastically reduce the reception bill (not to mention the stress of planning your wedding.)

Granted, some people will be annoyed that you chose not to invite them to your special day - but if the gathering is restricted to your closest friends and family, it would be pretty unreasonable for them to hold a grudge. After all, most of your acquaintances will be in the same boat. Indeed, this can actually cause less problems than a large wedding where those who aren't invited will feel genuinely snubbed.

You should also put careful thought into the location of your wedding and reception. Set your budget first and then restrict your search to venues in your price range. Another cost-cutting measure is to ditch the Spring wedding idea and get married off-peak instead. Depending on the venue, this can shave a significant percentage off the bill and it will also provide different (but no less romantic) photographic opportunities. Just be careful with outdoor weddings as the chance of rainfall will obviously be higher.

Another way to cut costs is to be smart about booze - keep the selection down to two or three beer varieties, one red and one white, plus something a bit fancier for the bridal party's table. If people want to drink spirits, they can do it on their own dime. Generally, a fixed bar tab is also smarter than a drinks package, as many people will only have one or two drinks. (Plus, you can always top up the bar tab in increments if the need arises.)

If you prescribe to the "wedding tax" conspiracy theory, try telling the florist and food caterer that the event is for a funeral. This is cheeky and dishonest, but so is charging customers a meaningless premium just because you can.

Another option is to ditch the entire wedding and elope. Your parents might never forgive you, but pretty much everyone else will think it was recklessly romantic and fun. This guide explains how to pull it off!

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Do it in Bali / Phuket. 1/3 cost and your cheapskate relatives won't be bothered to attend. For those that have to get married in Aus, i've known people to make their own invites, table decorations etc to save money.

      Thailand is a winner, we spent around 40k. but that included All wedding costs, with a week in a villa prior to wedding, Catering and booz for wedding and pre and post events for 60 quests., honeymoon for a week after, and airfares for 4 of us.

    (Chris, you use that word "proscribe"; I do not think it means what you think it means.)

    We got married at about the same time as some friends. Theirs was traditional and cost a fortune, ours was quirky and personal and came in at about 10% of theirs.

    Both were great, and the guests at both had a wonderful time. If you have better uses for your cash, spend more of your time and imagination than your money and you'll still have a day that you'll always treasure.

      Actually, he used the word 'prescribed' (with an 'e') although I think 'subscribed' was what he meant.

    ive had friends do it for about 10k or less.
    knew someone with a farm. set up some big marquees, decorated them with hay bails and tables and chairs had a catering company, bought all the plates bowls and cutlery from op shops had family members playing music in a band and had out door games like quoits and badminton and what not outside the marquees. it was also BYO alcohol i think, and it was all still very beautiful. it definitely depends on your expectations though. and what you like.
    my wife and my wedding cost somewhere over 20k from memory, we did the whole, chuch wedding, then photo shoot, then reception at some fancy restaurant. and it was all nice and what not, but its been 8 years since and we look back and half the people we invited we dont keep in contact with anymore and it really wasnt any more memorable for having it in fancy places. keep it low key, dont stick to the traditional formula of wedding then photos then reception. think about things you both would enjoy and liken it to having an ultimate party with those you care about most.

    Lol, My wedding is in Sydney on Sunday... Yay!
    But it's costing MUCH more than $36k. (Capitals, Bold and Underlined: much)
    Elope.
    Just do it.
    No one wants to spend money travelling overseas for someone else's wedding. It's selfish and it's rude.

      This Sunday, eh? Good luck with the weather!

      Just an update. :D My wedding day was the f-king BEST DAY EVER!
      The sun came out for the ceremony, everything ran sooooo smoothly the day was amazing.

    We had ours for about 25k. Had 150 people invited, the venue cost included 3 course meal alternate drop, 2 tier cake of our choice, unlimited drinks package with a choice of beers and wines, small tab for the bridal table and parents extra drinks, and a car (convertible Chrysler sebring) to whisk us away to our hotel. I think some other things were also included but the only thing we didn't skimp on was the photographer/videographer.

    Celebrant in a park, home-produced invitations to friends and family, a table booked in a pub, advise everyone beforehand, buy your own meal and drinks but you are supplying one glass of wine. Collect 'photos from people with a smart 'phone. You don't need those who don't agree with the situation the you'll see you true friends and relatives.
    Let what an average wedding 'all in' will cost for ONE DAY, so keep the money and spend it on a house, or land, or something useful that you NEED, an expensive wedding is a want, not a need.

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