The first thing you hear after getting engaged is the soft chime of wedding bells — a low, comforting sound that brings an exhilarating feeling of warmth and security. The second sound you hear is your piggy bank being smashed open.
Contrary to conventional wedding wisdom, I don’t think that second sound needs to be seen (heard?) as a bad one. You’re getting married: It should come as no surprise that a wedding is, without a doubt, the most expensive party you’ll ever throw. In my books, this is money well spent. That being said, I am not talking about spending so lavishly that it’s beyond reason.
I am a bride-to-be and my strategy has been all about owning my Scottish roots: hunting for value! Is there any better feeling than getting bang-for-your-buck? (After being proposed to, that is!)
When my fiancé, Giorgio, proposed to me, I was surprised, but not for the reasons you may think: Giorgio had already booked the venue and date for our wedding. Part of the shock was due to my being under the impression that my-soon-to-be Bay Street investment banker husband knew nothing about potential wedding venues. Well, wasn’t I wrong! Or was I? As you can imagine, he was a little more than worried that his attempt at a surprise would be less-than-warmly received by his new fiancée.
Giorgio had booked the Field House at Toronto’s Berkeley, a venue I’d once gushed about after a wine tasting event. So far, so great. And he had booked for November 3 — of this year. After a brief staring contest, I found my voice: “Why would two people that hate being cold ever get married in November in Canada!?” His turn to be surprised.
Lucky for him I was only kidding. You see, Giorgio’s decision was perfect. The venue was one he knew I loved (potential grooms: do not attempt this admittedly gallant gesture unless you are 100% positive she’ll love it). Better still, by booking a November date, we had saved two thousand dollars.
Initially, most brides want/expect a spring or summer, or even early fall, wedding. Sure, these are beautiful times of year — and, commensurately, costly. The wedding industry is an industry! For an early November date, our venue cost plummeted from $4,000 to about $2,000.
Such significant savings on our first, big wedding decision had set the tone: Value was the name of the game as I took over the planning — after all, most modern brides are their own wedding planners.
Here are some of the best financial starter tips I picked up in the process so far.
Timing is everything
Most venues offer off-season pricing as early as October and through until late March. During the early and late part of this off-season, you should expect moderate temperatures averaging around 10-15°C. For those brides seeking a romantic feel, the early sunset hours provides ample soft lighting during the ceremony and cocktail reception.
Make it about math
When planning your big day, it can be difficult to set aside your emotions. More than once, I’ve become inexplicably attached to the most expensive item in sight and have had to have my fiancé talk me off the ledge. He realized that thinking about the wedding budget in terms of percentages is an easier and less emotional solution. For example, when you think about a venue without food and alcohol, you are looking at using up 6-10% of the wedding budget. Food, alcohol and rentals should bring this percentage to 50% of the total. Money is a stressful topic for couples, even without planning a wedding, and figuring out a language that makes sense for both of you will help diminish stress.
Pick your priorities
I have a Type-A personality. Couple this with an unrelenting passion and optimism, and I can be a little aggressive. Lucky for me, my fiancé is a soft-spoken guy whose quiet confidence keeps me in check. Never had I realized what an asset this was until we got engaged. I’d be zipping around town planning meetings, tastings, décor, invitations, and he’d be getting a rapid fire set of Outlook requests at the office with little to no say about what I was doing. The notion of our big day was becoming more me-oriented. He suggested that we make a list of our top 3 priorities for the wedding. This allowed him to bring me back to reality in a constructive way and, best of all, it gave me guidance about making decisions when he wasn’t around. Making decisions knowing that we were on the same page made both of us feel better about the process.
Keep the email manageable
Wedding planning in the digital age is all about email. Email, email, email — between work and wedding planning, it’s all I ever seem to do. The problem is that wedding emails seem to pop into my inbox at the worst possible time. To help manage my time, and stress level, we created a separate email account just for the wedding. That way, on November 4, when all is said and done, we can delete it all, without worrying about the endless amounts of wedding spam bombarding our work emails.
As the owner of a food business, it is not hard to imagine where my priorities lie.
Amanda Garbutt is a bride-to-be living in Toronto. Amanda is an entrepreneur who runs The Hot Plate, an online cooking resource and recipe development company. Her upbeat attitude and attention to detail keep her busy whether she’s in the kitchen or planning her urban Toronto wedding. Follow her @TheHotPlate.