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Weddings: rip-off or worth every cent?

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Weddings are big business; we've heard that using the word 'wedding' in front of a photographer, caterer or florist will automatically increase the price you're quoted for your big day.

Australian couples are forking out $50,000 on average to get hitched, spending one quarter more on the combined cost of a wedding and honeymoon compared to six years ago. That's about $20,000 more than the average couple outlays on their first home deposit. And most couples are relying less on mum and dad to bear the cost, according to research from Bride to Be magazine.

Nevertheless Australian lovers are flooding to the altar in record numbers. Forget the global financial crisis, and the high cost of saving for home loan, a record high of more than 120,000 marriages were registered mid-GFC in 2009.

But given the crippling cost of walking down the aisle, and that one of the biggest causes of divorce today is debt and financial worries, you have to wonder; is a wedding really worth the cost?

Save without skimping

It might seem an obvious point, but so many couples fail to start at the very beginning; with a budget and maximum spend for the day. Before inspecting venues, dress-shopping or cake-tasting, figure out your wedding fund and how you will come up with money. Where possible, avoid borrowing money for the wedding – arriving home from your honeymoon to find a substantial credit card bill can be romance-killer!

Don't sweat the small stuff and forget the reason for your big day. It's unlikely to be the bonbonniere (wedding favours) you recall most fondly when celebrating your future anniversaries, so don’t waste time and money spent on unnecessary costs. So here are a few tips to keep it simple:

  • Think carefully about the guest list and don't feel obliged to invite everyone you both know
  • Buy a wedding dress off the rack, rather than from a bridal shop, for significant savings.
  • Opt for a venue or restaurant that provides room and table decorations and consider cutting costly extras such as chair covers, a band or a string quartet!
  • Many couples with a well-established home are requesting that guests bring gifts of money rather than material items to help cover the cost of the wedding. Others are giving guests the option of contributing financially to the couple's honeymoon, which can really help trim costs.
  • Don't be afraid to break with tradition. Two-thirds of couples choose civil celebrant ceremonies over religious ones, and given that venue hire is often the biggest expense of any wedding opting for a non-traditional wedding could help trim costs.

Finally, as Carrie Bradshaw demonstrated, it's easy to get carried away with an ostentatious ceremony and reception and forget the purpose of your wedding day. Whether you spend $5000 or $50,000 the outcome will be the same; you'll be married!

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