Diamonds are forever, but why not save on the wedding?

Grant McIntyre and Maxine Morrison kept the lid on costs for their June wedding.
Grant McIntyre and Maxine Morrison kept the lid on costs for their June wedding.
With the money they saved, the newlyweds lashed out on a vintage James Bond poster.

With the money they saved, the newlyweds lashed out on a vintage James Bond poster.

He's not the marrying type, but James Bond will be a lasting memory for newlyweds Grant McIntyre and Maxine Morrison on what's possible when saving for a wedding.

In the lead-up to their June wedding, the Melbourne couple were shocked at how easy it would be for costs to skyrocket, notably when Morrison couldn't find the right dress and faced the prospect of spending thousands on something that was not quite perfect.

So Morrison instead chose an off-the-rack dress that could be worn again. With the money saved, the couple treated themselves to a $1300 vintage poster from the famous Bond movie Thunderball that they saw in a shop across the road. Not quite the typical wedding gift, but nonetheless striking.

“We could see there would be a lot of things the money could be better spent on,” Morrison said of the approach they took towards their wedding.

The couple estimates they spent about $24,000, and saved money on several fronts. A winter wedding kept the price down at their reception venue and holding separate "pre-parties" for extended family in their home towns meant the guest list at the wedding didn't swell out of hand.

While pleased with how they organised the wedding, they acknowledge it grew from what was originally intended to be a small occasion with immediate family.

For many couples, a wedding budget is well intentioned but easily stretched as the big day nears. Extra outlays can be justified by the dream of the perfect day or putting on a memorable show, but what if it means going into financial difficulty?

Wedding planner Rob Greca, of Vogue Weddings & Events, says there is little point in a couple paying for an extravagant wedding if it puts strain on the relationship.

"We always tell the bride and groom that they need to understand that the last thing they want to do is tie the knot and then have a burden that they need to pay off - the wedding," he says.

"Having all these elements in the wedding, they need to be sure it's not going to be an issue later on ... we don't want people to spend $60,000 on their wedding and feel like they're celebrities if afterwards they'll struggle to make the payments and have pressure put on the partnership."

Financial planner Laura Menschik, a director at WLM Financial, says discipline is the key in paying for a wedding as things can get out of hand with so many elements to consider.

"It's natural to say 'I've seen that and it's going to be so fabulous. I must have it'," she says.

"But do you need to have it or can you compromise and have something else?"

Menschik says it's vital for couples to be aware of all the costs they will incur, and to consider what resources they have – the relative who bakes, for example, or the friend with a vintage car – and to even consider creating a "slush fund" in case there are last-minute costs.

She says couples should start saving as soon as the proposal is accepted, so they form good saving habits and learn their capabilities. But above all, don't deviate from the budget, even if the in-laws are paying.

"Sometimes it's worth having everyone sit down at the beginning when the couple has announced their engagement with both sets of parents," she says.

"I've seen where one set of parents is quite well off and the other is not … it can get a bit stressful on all parts, so if people can agree at the beginning that these are the rules of the game, nobody is put out or flustered or disappointed."

Greca says there is no "standard" wedding, but says on average, his company's clients spend about $35,000 for about 150 guests.

He says a lot of his clients are "time poor" when it comes to planning such a big event – or leave things too late – and so often prefer someone with proven organisation skills.

“We see a lot of people come to us with six months to go panicking when the pressure is on, can we help them out regarding the event,” he says.

Wedding planners take a cut of the budget, but Greca says having someone objective in charge means there is no exceeding the budget.

Justin and Anna Klietz, also of Melbourne, said they had a stress-free lead-up to their May wedding by saving beforehand, which allowed them to make early deposits on their biggest expenses.

Their wedding cost $38,000 and they were satisfied with value for money, although some costs couldn't be avoided despite their research.

“We feel that the same services would no doubt have been cheaper had we not mentioned the word 'wedding' during the negotiations,” Justin Klietz said.

“But there's not much you can do about that.”

This story Diamonds are forever, but why not save on the wedding? first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.