Your wedding budget checklist

bride and groom wedding cake toppers kissing for money saving budget celebration

You've met the love of your life, you've got the ring on your finger, you've shared the big engagement news:

Now it’s time to start planning your big day!

It's easy to start building up that dream wedding Pinterest board or saving venues to your Instagram without looking at the price tags, but weddings can be a costly affair and often need a hand from the bank of mum and dad or a well-researched personal loan.

That money you're pouring into your big day is money that can also be used to start you and your future spouse's life together, so it might be worth saving a little here for extra reward further down the line.

With the Easy Weddings Australian Wedding Industry Report 2022, we've found 10 questions that should definitely be on your wedding planning checklist - and ways to save on each of them.

1. How much does a celebrant cost?

The majority of weddings in 2021 were conducted by civil celebrants, and these don't come cheap. Prices differ from state to state with the most expensive being VIC at an average of $811 and the cheapest being SA at an average of $643. This is, of course, separate to the price you pay for the venue - so if you're planning on having a separate ceremony and reception, be prepared to double up on venue costs!

How to save: Not willing to host your wedding in South Australia to save $168 on a celebrant? Fair enough. If you were considering a religious celebration, many of these are priced as a bulk cost - the fee will include the venue and celebrant, so it can be a more cost effective option for the religious-inclined. If you're all about the party, you could consider getting the official duties done with a couple of witnesses and a cheap courthouse wedding - after all, the most important part is sharing the celebration with friends and family.

2. How can I save on the venue?

Venues comprise, on average, 43% of a couple's total wedding spend - think an average cost of $13,901. Those are big bucks! This does differ from state to state - far and away the most expensive is NSW at an average of $15,002 with Tasmania being a budget option at an average cost of $8,658. 

How to save: Only 7.5% of couples surveyed were interested in getting married away from their home state, so it's not surprising that a more affordable wedding in beautiful Tassie wasn't on the cards for many. Getting away from the big cities and popular locales can be a big savings spot when it comes to weddings if your guests are willing to travel, taking advantage of cheap deals and group accommodation. For small weddings take advantage of beautiful public spaces, like parks and gardens. Often a council permit will be a much smaller price to pay than a hefty venue fee. 

3. How many people should I invite to my wedding?

It stands to reason that the more people you invite to your wedding, the higher the spend will climb. In 2021, the average wedding had a desired 100 guests. Bigger weddings require bigger venues, more food, more drinks, and generally speaking: more.

How to save: It turns out, one of the few silver linings of COVID-19 are the savings! There was a 20% drop in average wedding turnout in 2021 with the guest count averaging at 80. Outdoor weddings surged in popularity, making saving on a venue that little bit easier. Flexibility around dates heightened the popularity of online invites over physical invitations, which usually cost approximately $760, with only a third of couples choosing to go the traditional route. That distant cousin you were dreading inviting? Give them an invite to the livestreamed ceremony and skip the invite to the reception - even your mum and dad can't be mad at that!

4. What should I be spending on wedding clothes?

Whether you're a blushing bride or a dashing groom, everyone wants to feel special on their wedding day. The popularity of shows like Say Yes To The Dress might make it seem normal to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a single outfit, but the average cost of a wedding dress in Australia is $2,316 and the average cost of other formalwear is $1,444. 69% of brides got a little saucy, buying special lingerie for their wedding.

How to save: Ask yourself the important questions - do you need a different outfit for the reception and the ceremony? If so, do they both need to be big-deal purchases, or can one be a chic off-the-rack number? Comfort is key because you're going to be spending hours in this outfit, so don't get lured in by lace that itches and boning that digs in - no matter how beautiful it is, you'll want to feel and look wonderful. More cost-effective options include going vintage - eco-friendly and right on-trend! - and renting for the occasion (particularly popular with tuxes and suits).  

5. Do I need to spend big on photography and videography?

If you want a wedding to remember and pass down through generations, it makes sense to want some photographic evidence. Photos and videos aren't an expense to sniff at - the average cost of a wedding videographer in Australia is $2,817, and wedding photography tends to run around $3,152. Wedding videography has become increasingly popular over the COVID-19 pandemic, with many couples opting to livestream their weddings for guests unable to attend.

How to save: Consider whether you need both videography and photography - both serve the function of preserving a beautiful memory, but there's definitely some overlap. If you are livestreaming your event, decide whether this is necessary for the ceremony only or the whole event - you can save by opting out of filming the reception if you only want the key footage. Encouraging guests to take photos and send them to you will result in a large shared bank of photography - but don't expect professional quality!

6. Can we save on transport to the wedding?

It's not a wedding without you, and you've got to get yourself there. Transport trends come and go, with 2021 figures showing 59% of couples opted to hire transportation to their venues - at an average cost of $1,118. 

How to save: The clearest ways to cut costs on transport are by limiting the amount you're moving around. Having your ceremony and reception at the same venue, on the same day, means the only transport needed is to and from the wedding. You can also save by scaling back on cars - of weddings hiring transport, 44% only had one car while 57% had more than that. All eyes are on the happily wedded couple - consider whether or not the bridal party also need hire cars.

7. How much should I spend on food and drink?

Australian weddings still default to the classic sit-down affair with alternating meals, making up 43% of weddings in 2021. The rest were a mash-up of alternative food service styles, from buffets to food trucks to roving canapes. On average, this ran Aussie couples a cost of $5,368. This was most expensive in the ACT - an average of $6,643 - and most affordable in QLD, costing an average of $4,151. If you're looking to add an open bar, things start to stack up even more.

How to save: Though a favourite, sit-down dinners tend to be an expensive option - especially when you're catering to a variety of food requirements. Offering a buffet or food truck, where people are able to choose their own food, is often more cost effective. Consider a morning affair where people will be more likely to eat and drink less. 

8. How can I find a cake that's tasty and cost-effective?

Cutting the cake is a memorable wedding moment, but people tend to forget about wedding cake in favour of other desserts. Wedding cakes cost, on average, $558 - though this average skyrockets to $1,061 in QLD. Most Aussies opt for a two or three-tiered cake baked by a professional, but 8% of couples said they wouldn't be having a cake.

How to save: If you aren't ready to join the 8% of people eschewing cake for a dessert alternative (cupcakes, a chocolate fountain, macarons...get creative!), there are definitely ways to make your cake cheaper AND more personal. Generally speaking, less tiers mean lower cost, as do simpler icing details - avoiding intensive sugar flowers and marzipan finishes. Instead of going for the expensive "wedding" section at the bakery, look to the cakes you love and pop on a cute cake topper. Alternatively, have a friend or relative in the baking business? Think about asking them to make a special cake as their gift.

9. Band or DJ - or is there a better alternative?

It's an age old question: band or DJ? These days, there are other options. Of the 73% of Australian couples who opt to get professional music at their weddings, 41% choose DJs. Some 23% choose a combination of DJ and live band while 16% go for band alone. Music costs usually end up around $1,745.

How to save: If you really want to save on the music, be your own DJ or have a special guest play that role! Compile your favourite songs on a playlist, making sure to highlight your first dance song and picks for certain times, and let someone trustworthy take over the sound system. Just make sure it's someone you really trust - no one wants your cousin thinking he's funny and playing Baby Shark instead of your first dance.

10. Where should I go on my honeymoon?

Your honeymoon might seem like a world away, but it's one of the biggest expenses when it comes to wedding planning. While popular destinations included The Whitsundays, Far North Queensland, Tasmania and Central Australia, Aussies were still dreaming of further afield: citing Europe, Fiji, New Zealand and the USA as dream honeymoon destinations. Many couples are opting to take a short domestic honeymoon now, with the intent on traveling abroad more widely further down the track, calling this a "minimoon" before their main honeymoon.

How to save: COVID-19 definitely changed up honeymoon planning, with 3/4 of couples opting to honeymoon domestically in 2021, but this has also meant big savings. Average honeymoon spend is down 24%, to $5,752. Domestic trips mean savings on airfares, as well as overseas currency conversion fees and ATM withdrawal fees. The year ahead will surely see a return to globe trotting, but there is still room to save. Think about setting up a digital wishing well instead of asking for gifts. Here, your guests deposit cash into a dedicated honeymoon account instead of buying you a crockpot you'll probably never use. Before you jetset, make sure you compare the travel money market to find a good deal and protect yourself from the unexpected by taking out a competitive travel insurance policy with good medical cover.

If you do need a loan to help you cover some of those wedding costs, we've added some below to help get you started.

Need some help covering wedding costs? Check out our Best of Personal Loans. Make sure you've got all your bases covered with our Ultimate Guide to Wedding Insurance.

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