Making Cents: A dream wedding or an expensive nightmare?

Celina Murphy

There is much joy in planning a wedding, but Celina Murphy, deputy editor at Irish online wedding magazine One Fab Day, says it can also be stressful, writes Gráinne McGuinnes.

“For most couples, there are only a few stressful moments and they’re very manageable, but we sometimes hear from people who are really struggling under the pressure and want to scrap their plans, in favour of a totally different type of wedding,” she said.

“For example, they might be planning a country house wedding for 150 people and have now realised that they’d prefer a registry office ceremony, followed by a low-key dinner with immediate family.

“The one thing that we try to communicate is that there’s no right or wrong way to get married.

It’s all about figuring out what’s right for you, your partner, and your family and friend circle, and also, how much time, money, and energy you’ve got to devote to the wedding.

It is vital to accept your financial position and work from there, rather than focusing on what you want at any cost.

“Most couples visualise a particular type of wedding day and think ‘that’s my dream wedding’, but it’s only their dream wedding if it’s achievable,” Ms Murphy said.

“Your wedding day is absolutely magical, but it’s not worth bankrupting yourself.

We encourage couples to be very realistic in the early stages of planning, and to have a hefty contingency in their budget to cover costs that you just can’t predict at the outset; we recommend 10% to 15%.

After the big decisions about time of year, location, and size of guest list have been made, there is still plenty of wiggle room in the budget. One Fab Day encourages couples to prioritise what is most important to them.

“Are you totally foodies? Splurge on the catering! Music more your thing? Make sure to secure a fab band and DJ. Or are you all about the style? Then, the dress and décor is your big spending point.”

Giving yourself permission to cut costs on things you don’t really care about allows you to spend more on what matters to you.

The website is packed with tips on how to reduce costs. Emailing invitations is becoming more common, or, if that is an innovation too far, then at least using email to respond and dispensing with RSVP cards.

Ms Murphy is also a big advocate of asking favours from guests who can help in particular areas, in lieu of a gift.

Know a wonderful baker, or someone with a beautiful car? They get the joy of giving a personalised gift and you have fewer items to worry about on your to-do list.

Use of greenery is another trend.

“A good florist can make the most gorgeous bouquets and arrangements using greenery in place of traditional florals, which will cut the cost of your floristry bill significantly,” Ms Murphy said. “Using potted herbs as centrepieces is another neat trick. They’re not as luxurious as elaborate floral arrangements, but they work really well for rustic venues.”

There are so many extras marketed to couples now that it can be overwhelming — from personalised robes for getting ready, to sweet trolleys and photo booths at the reception. But while these are lovely if you can afford them and want them, Ms Murphy says they are not what make a wedding memorable.

“I do think that guests notice the small details, but not in a conscious way,” she said.

“I don’t think most guests could describe the centrepieces a week later, or tell you what happened to the packet of sweets they received, but they will probably tell you that there was an amazing atmosphere on the day, and all of these little things contribute to that.

“But what couples often forget is that they can create an amazing atmosphere just by gathering all of their favourite people in one room. All that positive energy and excitement is enough to put everyone on a high. The details are lovely, but they’re really just extra treats for their guests,” Ms Murphy said.

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