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The Real Cost Of Weddings

Weddings are a time honoured tradition seen by many as the most important day of their lives. In my experience most young girls have an idea of what their wedding day will look like and yet few plan how they will pay for it.

Many parents I talk to take the opposite view. When we sit down to discuss a clients finances and what they will spend money on in their lifetime, a child’s wedding is often top on the list alongside house deposits. These are usually prioritised way before the clients own retirement plans! This discussion invariably leads to the question of “how much?”.

How Much??!

According to ChatGPT (2023) the average cost of a wedding in the UK varies widely depending on several factors, such as the location, number of guests, and level of extravagance. According to recent surveys, the average cost of a wedding in the UK is around £31,000” 1.

As a Financial Adviser I would never dream of stopping someone spending their money on what’s important to them. If parents want to spend money on a wedding then great, but how much is the right amount? Could the money be better spent on another aspect of their child’s life for example a house deposit? And by gifting money for a child’s wedding does this impact the parents plans for the future?

For those paying for a wedding themselves, what else could you be spending the money on? Should you spend savings on one day of your life? Or spending on that all important deposit for your first home, which you will likely live in for several years as opposed to one day?

To put the National Average cost of a wedding into perspective, The Office for National Statistics shows the average UK house price for January 2023 was £274,0002. Since you typically need about 5%-10% as a house deposit  to get a mortgage. Based on a 5% deposit that’s £13,700 so the average price of a wedding is more than a house deposit!

I recall talking to a client not so long ago about planning for their daughters nuptials and the discussion they had with their daughter about budget. When asked how much she was planning to spend, they explained her response was “How do I know what my budget is, if I don’t know what I want?”.

Taking this approach you can easily see how a wedding could reach the giddy heights of £31,000 and then some! But that discussion has been playing on my mind for some time. I must confess that whilst I write this I have never actually been married so I can’t weigh in with any personal experience but I do think it’s an interesting conundrum because in any other area of finances people don’t look before they decide what their budget is.

Take house purchases, my wish list might initially include some basic ideas on location, number of bedrooms, a garage and a garden but I would not start looking at million pound houses. Typically I would save a deposit, work out what I can afford to pay monthly, I would speak to a Mortgage Adviser, and work out what I can borrow. Only then would I begin to look  at houses in the appropriate price bracket.

Don’t get me wrong with the internet at my fingertips everyone dreams big, and has a sneaky peak at the million pound houses! But I don’t look with any serious intent to purchase. Yet people seemingly do the opposite when it comes to weddings. Hunt first and then set a budget to match the aspirational goals.

Luxury-modern-two-storey-home-with-swimming-pool

Budget Planning 101

Weddings can be such a joyous occasion. I can certainly understand why people would want to have the day of their dreams, whether that be very small and intimate or huge and grand. Whichever route you take, my only guidance is think budget before you start looking. It’s common for people to go over their wedding budget. According to a survey conducted by Weddingwire in 2021, 77% of couple went over their budget on their wedding3  so the other trick will be sticking to it!

Planning a budget for a wedding and sticking to it can certainly be a challenge. Having helped my little sister plan for hers I am well aware that if you put the word “wedding” in front of anything, you may as well quadruple the price. OK that might be a slight exaggeration, but from the venue, to the invites, to the food, it all gets pretty expensive.  And I am told by friends that cake tasting and food trials are also the norm these days so the costs continue to grow.

Make a list

There is no hard and fast rule that works for everyone when it comes to sticking to a budget but I suspect that as with everything to do with finances, things tend to go awry if you don’t take time to sit down and compile a list and allocate a budget to it.

Unfortunately as scary or overwhelming as the prospect of that list might be, ultimately you will probably have to include the items at a later date so why not start with the full list of ideals and then work from there.

For clarification I don’t just mean dress, church, reception venue. Whilst these may well be on the final list, I am referring more to the items that you don’t immediately think of but crop up later. My advice would be to compile a comprehensive list and do the research so you understand what all of your options are whilst allocating a budget to each item.

Think of it a bit like your wedding guest invite list. Most people start with an extensive list of guests from Auntie Mavis to your neighbour from twenty five years ago, and then begin to crop it back to a more manageable number to meet your venue space. The scary wedding list can be the same. Start with the ideals and work backwards from there.

List-of-wedding-items-with-specticles

Prioritise

Once you have the list of everything you would like, sit down together to prioritise what matters most to both of you on the big day. In addition, whilst it is ultimately your big day, as I suggested from my previous experience with clients, it is often as bigger deal for many parents and even grandparents. Many of whom are relied upon for financial assistance so sharing ideas together and talking about the list will help you come up with anything that might be missing, so there are no surprises later. It will also help everyone to feel involved and give you a sounding board to work out the biggest priorities.

Don’t get me wrong I  understand everyone’s priorities may be a little different. I recall my sister’s dress being really important to her and I, but unsurprisingly my Dad felt that was far less important. It doesn’t mean any of us were wrong, it just took a bit more discussion or in our case negotiation! Luckily it was two against one, we of course won.

Be Realistic

Everything will feel important. If talking to each other and the family has not slimmed down the list then it’s time to be realistic. Tot up what you can realistically afford to save for the wedding between now and the event, if you are lucky enough to have support from family include this and compare with your “priorities” wish list.

I will never be an advocate for getting into debt to pay for your big day so if you have a shortfall in what you need verses what you will have available, then revisit the list and be realistic about what you can afford.

Whilst at first glance seat coverings might have seemed really important to you, if having no seat coverings means you could invite the ten extra guests is this a better compromise to make.  Or better still no seat coverings and removing ten extra guests might mean the plan becomes affordable without debt. Happy days!

Cost Cutting

If you simply don’t feel you can cut items out or cut guests from your list, then cost cutting might be a sensible approach. Let’s take for example invitations, but this could apply to anything.

A brief search of the internet suggests you could spend anything between 44p each and about £5.00 with many in between. The £5.00 cards are beautiful, handmade in fact simply stunning but ultimately they do exactly the same job as the 44p ones. If you were inviting 150 guests the cheaper cards would costs £66 verses £750 and don’t even get me started on the cost of postage! I am not saying go for the cheapest for everything but in this example that’s £684 that you could use towards something else. Using this rule of thumb when considering each item on the list will serve you well.

Wedding-invitations

Shopping around

Wedding fairs and shows provide an amazing opportunity to see what’s available but they can also be torture because they show you all the things that you could have. Many will offer you “amazing” deals on the day but don’t be afraid to walk away and do some more research. Like my wedding invite example, the internet provides a vast array of options at varying prices for everything so don’t feel you have to jump at the first thing.

The Dress

I have never been to a wedding where the words “the bride looked stunning”, and “that dress!” could not be heard. Having helped numerous people plan their big day both in current role as a Financial Adviser and in my previous career in conference and banqueting I know how important “The Dress” is. Don’t panic I have no intentions of saying don’t do it. I wouldn’t dream of it and let’s face it nobody would listen to me!

I can give you sensible suggestions about calling the shops in advance to check the price range of their stock before you go, so that you don’t go in with a lemonade budget and all the dresses are at champagne level. I could also suggest second hand dresses, vinted or copies of designers. Again all very sensible suggestions that you could and should consider.

What I would say is talk to friends and family about where they went to try dresses and the budget they had. Some of the boutiques will provide an amazing experience, fizz on arrival, beautiful fitted out, personal shopper and dresser… What’s not to love about this! But it is all designed to try to tempt you in to some super expensive dresses. A friend recently told me she was charged a fee, just to have an appointment to try on dresses!

I can imagine going to a luxury car show room works exactly the same way. Yes many of us would very much like a McLaren, and I suspect if we actually went to the show room and drove one, that ‘want’ would only get worse. But we don’t go because we know we can’t afford one. The same approach should be applied to wedding dress shopping. Sadly if your budget doesn’t allow, then you really are risking serious heartache because invariably you will find the perfect dress when you least want to.

Don’t feel you have to say yes on the day. NO! I don’t mean your wedding day! Still sticking with wedding dress shopping.

Having tried on countless dresses you find “the one”. You know it’s the one, the shop assistant knows it, your friends or family know it but just pause. Before you hand over your credit card with glee – shop around. We do with so many other things in our lives but we seem to forget all about that when wedding dress shopping.

If you are looking at a specific designer, check their website, who do they supply? It may well be worth ringing the other shops and asking what is the best price they can do on your dress. You might just surprise yourself. A friend did this and saved themselves over £1000 just for asking the question and that’s £1000 you could spend on another element of your wedding or better still save for the future.

Whatever you spend on the dress, don’t forget that you can also make someone else’s perfect day by selling your dress after your day to raise some money to put back into the coffers.

A-young-bride-surrounded-by-dresses

Revisit your list

The best way to sabotage a plan is to forget about it. Caroline and I both promote revisiting and reviewing any financial plans that we recommend to make sure you are on track. This is absolutely true when it comes to your wedding list. It’s very easy to forget all that great planning and prioritising at the beginning as you get closer to the day. To stop costs spiralling update the sheet regularly so that you know what you have spent and what you have left to spend. It might be that you decide to have a disco when you initially wrote the list and created your budget but after a bit more research you decide on a band and a disco. If you don’t keep the list up to date things can easily get out of hand. If you update things as you go you can adjust accordingly as it is possible your priorities will also change along the way.

What will you give up later?

Whilst I am quite sure your wedding day will feel like the most important day of your life at the point when you are actually planning it, unfortunately very few think about the impact it might have going forwards. What might you have to give up in the future for that perfect day? If you are thinking of having children does spending £18,400 delay your plans for starting a family? For those thinking of buying their first house, would having a lower budget for your wedding mean that you can save your deposit quicker and not have to rent? Or would you like to move to a bigger house and that wedding fund will get you there quicker?

Everyone’s plan will be different, it’s just important to be realistic with your budget as it is after all just one day and the choices you make for that one day have a butterfly effect on the years that follow. Above all else it should be a day of joy and celebration but not one to get into debt for.

Bride-with-two-bridesmaids

For more help and advice or to receive a complimentary guide covering wealth management, retirement planning or Inheritance Tax planning, contact Yorkshire Financial Planning on 01482 275540 or complete our contact form here.

1 ChatGPT (2023) https://chat.openai.com/?model=text-davinci-002-render-sha
2https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/inflationandpriceindices/bulletins/housepriceindex/january2022
3 ChatGPT (2023) https://chat.openai.com/?model=text-davinci-002-render-sha


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