Ask LH: How Much Does The Average Wedding Cost?

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!


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[referenced url=”” thumb=”×231.jpg” title=”How To Choose A Wedding Photographer” excerpt=”While you can get away with photographing many events on smartphones these days, you probably want to entrust your wedding to a professional photographer with a professional-level camera. Here are some tips to ensure you get the best bang for your buck.”]

[referenced url=”” thumb=”×231.jpg” title=”Ask LH: How Much Booze Do I Need For My Wedding?” excerpt=”Hi Lifehacker. I’m trying to organise beverage catering for my wedding. I’m doing it on a consumption basis, but I don’t know what alcohol to request or the quantity to order. Could you please suggest the number of beer choices, number of wine options, and what variety of liquor to have at the reception dinner?”]

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