Wedding costs: How to draw up a budget. Practical advice from Maya Fisher-French

wedding costsBefore I got married, my father urged me to elope. He said he would give me the money he was going to spend on the wedding as a cash lump sum instead. Much better sense, he reckoned, than pouring expensive liquor down guests’ throats and buying over-priced outfits that would only be worn once. But my mother wanted to be in attendance. And, like most young women brainwashed at the Cinderella School of Life Happily Ever After, I succumbed to having a reception. It was memorable and we had fun, but it was expensive. In this article, Maya Fisher-French cautions that weddings are a serious financial outlay. She offers pointers on how to draw up a sensible budget if you are planning to tie the knot in style. – JC

By Maya Fisher-French

Traditionally a young couple could expect the bride’s parents to pay for their wedding with a contribution by the groom’s family to cover the drinks bill.

wedding costs
Wedding costs: Personal finance writer Maya Fisher-French shares advice on prudent money management as you prepare to tie the knot.

Unfortunately for many young couples today that is now the exception rather than the norm. Most young people, especially those from previously disadvantaged communities, find themselves more likely to be supporting their elderly parents than receiving any assistance with the wedding costs.

According to wedding planners you can expect to pay between R70 000 to R80 000 on the average wedding with around 80 – 100 guests. A 2012 survey by Visa on Women Money Matters found that 30% of the women interviewed would be willing to spend more than six months’ salary on their wedding.

But the cost of marriage doesn’t just begin and end with the wedding. There is the honeymoon, the engagement ring and in many cultures lobola, which the man is expected to pay to his future parents-in-law.

The costs of a honeymoon, ring and lobola can range enormously but the average amount the women in the Visa survey would spend on their honeymoon was around R27 000. A quick browse on social media platforms found that men expected to spend around R20 000 on an engagement ring and R40 000 on lobola (there were those exceptions who paid R250 000 on lobola and R100 000 on the ring).

So this young couple, who have dreams of buying their first home and starting a family, will begin their married lives by spending anywhere between R130 000 – R170 000 just to tie the knot – and these are moderate numbers, the costs could easily be double.

My money-orientated brain can’t help thinking that this equates to a 10% deposit on a R1.3 million home or if invested would grow to R500 000 within ten years. That is assuming the young couple actually had R150 000 to start with.

While women would spend six months of their salary on a wedding, the same survey also found that 68% of these women had no savings because they “could not afford to save”. One of the more common questions I receive from readers is about taking out a loan to pay for their wedding.

So one can assume that this wedding is going to be paid from future income (a loan) rather than from existing savings (somehow people find the money to pay for loans before they find the money to save)

Again I whip out my calculator and work out that if this couple with the R150 000 marriage took out loans to fund it, they would pay R5 500 a month over the next three years or a total of R200 000.

Tying the knot is an expensive business, especially when it comes to the opportunity costs of what else that money could be doing.

In this modern world where couples are jointly paying for the costs of marriage couples need a more open and honest discussion about their values and priorities before committing the funds. Understanding each other’s money goals, money attitudes and personal dreams before you get married will save a lot of pain and fighting and hopefully the marriage itself.
Wedding costs:

According to wedding planning site Great Occasions, the total cost for an average wedding in South-Africa currently runs between R70 000 and R80 000 for 80 to 100 people – this works out at an average of R700 to R800 per person. For high end weddings these figures can calculate up to R1 500 and R2 000 per person.
Divide the budget as follows:

* Venue (hire costs, food and alcohol): +/- 50% of the total expected budget.
* Wedding gown and accessories, photography, music, flowers, décor: each at 10% to 15% of the total amount.
* Cake, invitations, candles, table gifts etc.: each 2% to 5% of the total amount.
* Budget for at least an additional 10% – 15% of the total budget for unforeseen costs such as travelling expenses, venues, service providers, consultation fees etc.
Budgeting resource: Online wedding budget tool Hitched.co.za

This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

Also read:

For richer or poorer? Weddings that won’t blow your wealth

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