How much does a wedding cost?

Q. How much does a wedding cost?

A. Lots.
B. More than you think.
C. Whatever you damn well want it to cost!

It’s a question asked by hundreds of thousands around the world* perhaps, but not always, in hushed tones and plotting whatever kind of “I lost my wallet” excuses necessary.
*(or 420,000 times per year according to Google).

Of course, there is no real answer – a wedding costs whatever you choose to spend on it, but thankfully my advice doesn’t stop there. See end of article for a video on How to Begin Your Wedding Budget.

The average wedding in New Zealand costs $35,000.  What is an average wedding, then? Who knows – so the “cost of an average wedding” is of little additional help.  What I thought would actually be helpful is to actually tell you exactly what my wedding cost, where I spent the money, where I blew the budget, and how I could afford to splurge on a few things along the way.  It’s a blow by blow wedding budget breakdown – not just what the average wedding costs, but what this exact wedding cost.  If you’ve been following this wedding blog a while, you’ll know our wedding well.  If not, you could have a look at our wedding photos, and I’ll briefly summarise.

Our Wedding (a brief summary)
On 20 February 2016 we were married in Coromandel at a private home which we hired for the weekend, with 75 wedding guests.  The hireage was very expensive (see below) but it included accommodation for many of our closest family and friends who had travelled a long way to be with us.

Because the venue is a private home, we had to hire absolutely everything necessary to create our dream day.  Moral of the story: what you save on wine, you more than make up for in hiring wine glasses.  We chose not to hire a marquee, as we loved the venue in its natural state, and managed to tightly squeeze the 75 wedding guests into the main dining room.

I spent a lot on my dress, not exactly on purpose (read on), but it was worth it, and by adjusting spending elsewhere (in life and in our wedding budget) I was able to afford it.

How much does a Wedding Dress cost? 

A. Lots.
B. More than you think.
C. Whatever you damn well want it to cost!

For me, the answer was definitely A and B.  My dress cost around NZD $10,000 (currently USD $7,000).  But here’s the thing… when I first ordered it, it was only $2-3000.  That’s a story for another day, but what you really need to know is that I had to make it work.  I had to really reevaluate what I was spending on other things, and that is the true answer to “what does a wedding dress cost?” i.e. Whatever you’re willing to reevaluate, go without, and compromise on, for a period of time before your wedding, to afford the dress of your dreams.

For me, a wedding dress cost 26 weeks worth of taking lunch to work (for at least 4 out of 5 days per week) –  a saving of around $100 per week; making my own Nespresso coffee at home instead of buying $6 flat-whites – at least $50 per week; and basically not buying any other dresses until I knew I could afford to pay for the big one (literally, the big one!)

Recently, Westpac approached me to trial its new app, CashNav, which is designed to help highlight how you spend your money – perfect for someone looking to save for a wedding or honeymoon, so I jumped at the chance.

Having been a Westpac customer for 18 years now, it was great to hear about a new tool to play with, and sure enough, it’s great to see exactly where your money is going through the month.  This is exactly the kind of tool I would have used to work out exactly where my money was going and how I could reallocate it towards achieving my savings goals.  I had to make it work, but I couldn’t do so without first understanding the status quo. This app would have saved me a lot of time to do so then, and now it’s helping me budget for other things (hello Hawaii!). It’s helped me set goals/limits and actually has created new spending habits (the campaign tagline of ‘see what you spend to get what you want’, is quite apt!)

how to organise your wedding dress

Worth it for this photo alone – The Official Photographers.

The Wedding Budget

I’ll be talking you through more of my wedding budget now that I’ve revealed it (and you can also read how to start a wedding budget, but here goes…

how to start your wedding budget

Zoom in, have a look around, and see where my wedding budget got totally blown out.  We started with an estimate of $39,000 (excluding wedding gifts to each other, and our honeymoon which is this month), and we ended up spending just shy of $55,000.

Over at Southern Bride, Amandra is sharing her real life wedding budget of $17,000 – take a look at the amounts spent on a wedding at the other end of the budget scale here.

what a wedding costs

But we don’t regret it!  I understand that some people will say that is a horrendous amount of money to spend on one day (it was five days, including accommodation for our family who travelled around the world to be with us, and it’s actually an investment in the rest of our lives too!), but we have zero regrets.  It was our perfect day, and we were able to achieve it by making an effort to recognise where our money was going (and where some of it could be going elsewhere).

It didn’t actually ‘cost’ us $55,000
Because we evaluated and reorganised our spending, the wedding did not ‘cost’ us $55,000.  Just like my dress ‘cost’ me various other dresses, lunches out and trips to Mission Bay Cafe, during our 1 year and 5 days engaged, we spent smarter.

I’m not saying we saved $55,000 out of our other expenditure, but we identified how the little purchases would prevent us from reaching our ultimate wedding goals.  If you want to do the same, I recommend using Westpac’s CashNav app – it enables customers to monitor, track and analyse their transactions, putting them back in control of their spending and keeping financial goals in check.  As I said above, Westpac approached me about this tool, but as you know, I will only ever share sponsored content where I really believe it assists with wedding planning.  Speaking of wedding planning tools… all photos featured are using the little white book budget pages, and I have an incredibly useful fully formatted excel spreadsheet as part of the little white wedding planning pack too (get them both).


Next head to the wedding planning page for an index of our content