Budget winning advice from a professional wedding planner

With Australian weddings reaching into the tens of thousands, we decided it was about time to get some expert advice. So we asked wedding planner and owner of Girl Friday Weddings Sarah Johnston to run through her top wedding money traps to avoid, as well as the tips that will ensure your big day is a budget winner. Here’s her advice:

If you were recently engaged, chances are that after the dust settled one of the first things you did was to scope out a few reception places to get some perspective on what planning this huge soiree will cost.

Weddings are by no means cheap. And even the savviest bride will often lose out when DIY ends up costing more, in time, money and labour than having a professional take care of it for you.

My best advice is to make wise decisions from the start that are going to enable you to make cost efficient choices, rather than having to fix expensive problems down the track.

1. Beware of Pinterest

Pinterest is a fantastic tool we use all the time to help us plan weddings. But if you only want to spend $1,000 on flowers, then sending a breathtakingly beautiful $100,000 florist installation image to your florist to replicate is a waste of your time and sets false expectations.

Instead, be honest with your florist about what your budget is, and let them (who are the experts) suggest what you can and can’t do and where your money is best spent. Your vendors will be more willing to help you (and often throw value add-ins) if you can be flexible and upfront about what you want to invest.

2. Read!

Check out your local forums, bulletin boards and blog commentary. When people find a great deal, a great vendor or great service – they really want to broadcast it to the world.

Many couples find that if they are up against the wall with a tough expense that they are trying to work around, newlyweds are only too happy to help with recommendations or advice to help you troubleshoot. Even if it doesn’t solve all your problems, it often helps to bounce around ideas to someone who has been there and done it.

3. Do your maths before booking empty spaces

Booking an empty space, like a local community hall, surf club, or town hall can often be a mistake financially. Couples can be attracted to booking spaces like this because the venue hire appears to be incredibly cheap. This is the case often because hiring an empty space means exactly just that, only the space is included.

You need to consider all the extras you will need to run your event. Commercial kitchen, wait staff, event staff, bar staff, lighting, furniture, linen, cleaning fees and security. Some or all of which may not already be included in your venue. It’s always a good idea to scope out all your costs first before committing to venues like this so that you aren’t in too deep having to find money for unexpected extras.

4. Stick to one vendor

One of the smartest ways to save money is to try to book as much as possible with the same vendor. This essentially will save you on being charged delivery and set up fees across multiple vendors. Sometimes you may spend more on delivery and set up, than the actual order itself.

Many couples really overlook the value of a planner, but keep in mind, their experience can save you costly mistakes when it comes to vendor consolidation. Consider booking time with an experienced planner – you may only need an hour or two. Give them an overall vision of the event, along with your budget and they should be able to give you solid guidance about the best way to achieve the look you are after.

5. Avoid public holiday periods or larger festivals and events

This will inadvertently cost you extra in labour surcharges, and drive up the price on accommodation for your guests and usually impact transport.

6. Don't take a school holiday Honeymoon

School holidays are the lurking enemy of many honeymooners. It’s great for roads because miraculously the traffic tends to disappear, but the school holidays can mean inflated airfares and room rates for many destinations. Better to avoid the holidays (and screaming children on the aircraft) and get the best possible deal you can on your travel expenses.

Planning and being able to afford a wedding is way up there when it comes to life’s stressful milestones. Do the best with what you can afford and remember less is more. Invest in experienced professionals and trust in their knowledge. The last thing you want to be dealing with as a newlywed is burdening yourself with debt from a day that should be remembered with lots of love and happiness.