June 2, 2017 1:46 pm
Updated: June 2, 2017 3:50 pm

These couples had $15,000, $35,000 and $85,000 weddings. What their big days looked like

How much did you spend on your wedding day?

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There’s the dress, flowers, cake and venue. Your wedding day is a major life milestone, but how much should you spend on it?

Once you’re engaged, you may be in full-swing wedding planning mode. Your best bet is to start with an honest conversation with your partner about how you both envision your big day. You also have to consider how much money you’re working with.

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“When my clients come in, the first thing I tell them is before we do anything we have to understand what your budget is and what your priorities are. That dictates what venues to look at, what your flowers could look like, what designers you want for your dress,” Toronto-based wedding planner, Lynzie Kent, told Global News.

“Finances can be a sensitive subject, especially if there are other contributing parties other than the bride and groom themselves,” according to Wendy Lee, who is a Toronto-based wedding planner.

READ MORE: Gift registry? Wedding bands? Here are the ‘traditions’ the wedding industry helped prevent

Kent said your budgeting works in tandem with finding a venue and setting a wedding date. It’s hard to lock in a photographer, florist and other services without a location and date.

Global News talked to three couples with different budgets for their big days.

James and Amanda Partridge

James is an economist and Amanda is a midwife.

Wedding date: September 17, 2016

Budget: $15,000

Venue: Guelph Youth Music Centre

No. of guests: 100

(Photos courtesy Amanda Partridge/Jennifer See Studios)

How did you come up with the amount for your budget?

After discussing with our wedding planner, we felt this number would achieve all of our wedding goals. After much consideration, we decided to get married in Guelph, Amanda’s hometown, at the Guelph Youth Music Centre. Toronto was our first choice, but too expensive. The GYMC allowed us to select all our own vendors, and bring in our own alcohol, which saved us a lot of money.

What was your biggest expense?

Food was our largest expense. We were able to save money by opting for cocktails over a plated dinner, though. We had food vendors that had hors d’oeuvres service. There was a variety of food options served after the ceremony until the music started, like salmon lollipops, samosas, mini chicken pot pies, Philly cheese-steak sliders — there were at least 10 different options.

What did you try to save on?

We saved on the décor — almost all of the decorations were DIY or thrift shop finds. We purchased flowers that were in season, inexpensive and easy to acquire. We made our own wine and guests RSVP’d online through our wedding website, which we saved on postage.

We hired vendors that are new or up-and-coming so they weren’t overly expensive but were working hard to earn their stripes.

James’ aunt is from England with a summer house in France. She supplied a popular sparkling wine for us as the first toast before cocktail hour. That saved us a lot of money.

The venue only allowed beer and wine so we didn’t have hard alcohol. We had our family buy Groupons for The Wine Butler and we made bottles of our own wine for really cheap.

What was your biggest splurge?

We hired a second band! This wasn’t planned, or budgeted for, but we had to have them.

What was your must-have for your big day?

We wanted our guests to have the best wedding experience ever. So hiring a second band was a no-brainer.

We hired our first band and a few months later we saw another band, they do covers of old school hip hop and R&B — that’s the type of music we really like. When we saw them we knew this was the band we needed. The venue we selected had an auditorium with a stage so we were able to set up both bands on the stage, with a background of all their gear. It was basically music from 9:30 to 1 a.m.

What is your advice to other couples when it comes to planning and budgeting for the big day?

The day moves by so, so quickly, sometimes it’s really hard to enjoy every moment. Carve out a short period of time for just you and your partner so you can reflect on what’s happening and have time together without being in a large group of people.

Be prepared for rain. The day before it looked like it was going to rain so we got umbrellas, looked at indoor options for our photos and made sure we had a backup plan.

Mark and Dian Vernest

Mark is a senior investment analyst at a boutique firm and Dian is an investment and wealth advisor at RBC Dominion Securities.

Wedding date: October 11, 2014.

Budget: $35,000 (excluding a $10,000 honeymoon)

Venue: Berkeley Fieldhouse

(Photos courtesy the Vernests/Sara Wilde photography)

No. of guests: 150. The venue gave us the discipline we needed. It can’t accommodate more than 150 people. We looked at six venues in one day and we made our decision that afternoon. We didn’t want a church or hall or something stuffy.

How did you come up with the amount for your budget?

We had an interview process with our wedding planner and we asked her what the typical downtown Toronto wedding costs. We had no benchmark, we had no idea how much flowers or a band was going to cost.

How did you save up?

We’re both in finance and we’ve always been good with our money. Neither of us had help from our parents – we only wanted to have our friends and didn’t want to be obligated to [invite parents’ friends] so we didn’t want that financial help. We were saving for a while. It wasn’t like we had $50,000 sitting there waiting, but we got to pay installments here, a deposit there. We didn’t have to make any cutbacks.

What was your biggest expense?

Food and booze. We had a good caterer and didn’t skimp on the food. We wanted people to have a good meal — it was beef short ribs and nothing too complicated. We didn’t even give people an option unless they had allergies or were vegetarian.

What did you try to save on?

We didn’t go all out on flowers, we did the bare minimum. We had a nice bouquet for Dian and the bridesmaids, boutonnieres, a few centrepieces here and there but that was it. We saved on using preferred partners from our wedding planner – we used all her vendors and didn’t have to waste time checking out people to know if they’re good and if they’ll show up, etc. By doing that, we saved 25 per cent because she’s a repeat client. [Our wedding planner] paid for herself ten-fold.

We hired Ryerson University film studies students to be our videographers. They put together an incredible video for us for one quarter of the price and it’s incredible.

What was your biggest splurge?

Of importance to us was that everyone had a good time, we just wanted to have a party so we splurged on premium booze, good wine, an awesome band and a DJ that had everyone dancing until the lights were on. We wanted a surprise dance, so our wedding planner got us in touch with a choreographer.

What was your must-have for your big day?

The entertainment. We really wanted to have a band, our surprise dance and we wanted our ceremony to be easy and breezy. We hired an officiant who was more casual and we worked with her on the script, which included how we met. We wanted the flow to be really smooth, we didn’t want people waiting around. We did pictures during the day so people didn’t have to show up to the wedding until 5 p.m. We joined them during the cocktail hour and it went right into the dinner reception and then to the party.

What is your advice to other couples when it comes to planning and budgeting for the big day?

Do pictures ahead of the ceremony if possible. It makes everything less stressful so you can focus on guests right away. We had a cute first look earlier in the day, that was our reveal to each other. We weren’t as emotional during the ceremony getting that part out of the way in a private moment.

We thought engagement photos were lame and our photographer said we didn’t have to use them but let’s do them anyway because it’s practice. We got used to knowing how to look into the camera and built a relationship with the photographer. It’s frustrating how many photos you have to take so this makes it less of a surprise.

Right after your ceremony, eat. We ran back to the bridal suite and we had little appetizers already up there waiting for us. When you’re talking and mingling, you don’t want to eat and at dinner you don’t really eat.

Mark and Kirsten Hannay

Mark works in corporate strategy in the mining industry and Kirsten is a nurse.

Wedding date: May 27, 2017.

Budget: $85,000

Venue: King Edward Hotel. Kirsten loves history and a lot of the different vacations we’ve been on have been cultural so the building had a look like some that we’d seen in Europe. We thought it was very elegant and had a lot of little details.

No. of guests: 150

(Photos courtesy Hannays/Rhythm Photography)

How did you come up with the amount for your budget?

Our original budget was around $65,000, but we talked to our wedding planner and with our parents — it was a collection of understanding what our vision was for the wedding combined with talking to our parents who were gracious enough to help us with the funds.

How did you save up?

Our parents obviously helped but we’ve saved over the past few years and we had funds available that weren’t wedding-specific, just general savings. We were probably more frugal than we’d been before. Our wedding planner helped us stretch our budget and delivered us some savings — we cut $10,000 off the wedding price when we moved our date to May from October 2015, which was a major thing.

What was your biggest expense?

Food and drinks for the dinner reception. We had a six-course meal, an open bar and a sweets table after dessert with a collection of cookies, tarts, cheesecakes, panna cotta, and popcorn.

Traditionally in a Chinese wedding, there’s an eight to 10-course meal and each course has different symbolism. The hotel provided us four courses and we brought in an outside Chinese caterer for two more courses so we had Chinese and Western courses. For the Chinese lobster course, we served a lobster bisque, and for fish, we had salmon. For fowl, we had a Cornish hen.

What did you try to save on?

There were certain areas we were more willing to take more of a cut on: we got a lower priced DJ, we didn’t want to go overkill on flowers because we knew they’d look great no matter what and we skipped on a limo. We wanted some sort of Rolls Royce or an old school car and they would have been nice for photos between the church and hotel, but we went with a more budget-friendly SUV.

What was your biggest splurge?

We splurged on photography. We wanted to make sure our day was captured very well and Kirsten and I had a specific look in mind and we found that in our photographer. The price was higher but we were comfortable with that.

What was your must-have for your big day?

We wanted to make sure we had the mixed cultures. [Mark’s] is Western and Kirsten is from Hong Kong so we wanted to merge them together. We had a Chinese tea ceremony in the morning with elder relatives from both sides of the family (Kirsten wore a traditional Chinese cheong sam), and we weaved the traditions into our meals.

What is your advice to other couples when it comes to planning and budgeting for the big day?

When you’re creating your schedule for the wedding day, give some buffer time for things. You’re not doing yourself any favours with aggressive scheduling because things will go off course. Be generous with time or you might run late.

(Graphics created by Janet Cordahi/Global News)

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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