As soon as Danielle Desjardins got engaged in 2016, she and her partner started saving money.
The 27-year-old media professional, who wed in 2018, began tracking costs for everything they’d need for their big day.
“Google Docs spreadsheets was our best friend,” she told Global News. “We had separate budget lines for decor, vendors and for the venue itself. It was also how we organized our guest list and gifts.”
Desjardins said she was “blown away” by how expensive certain items were, like flowers. She was also shocked at the cost of the venue.
To offset some of the pricier items, Desjardins and her husband found ways to save, like going with a friend as their photographer.
“I also can’t count the number of times we jokingly said that we would go elope at city hall,” she said.
Canadian brides cutting back
This is a sentiment Nicole Connor hears a lot.
Connor, a coordinator at Toronto-based event planning agency Love by Lynzie, says she’s seeing more millennial couples getting hitched on a budget. She says a wedding in Toronto can typically cost anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000, arguing that that might even be “on the low end.”
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A 2017 poll conducted for Global News found that Canadians believe a realistic price tag for a wedding should be just under $9,000, but wedding planners like Connor say a more realistic amount is closer to $40,000 or $50,000.
The discrepancy often chalks up to people underestimating how expensive weddings are and not budgeting properly for guests.
This means the cost of a wedding can easily add up to an amount that many couples simply cannot afford, Connor said.
“Living in Toronto is super expensive, and couples are trying to save or pay mortgages,” Connor added. “They’re also trying to travel before they have kids and they don’t want to have to pay for all the expenses associated with a traditional wedding.”
A 2018 U.S. survey by real estate site Open Listings found that 64 per cent of millennials would rather delay or downsize their wedding so they can buy a home sooner.
Furthermore, 62 per cent of millennial couples said they were only planning to spend US$10,000 or less on their future wedding.
The growing interest (and need) for cutting wedding costs inspired Love by Lynzie to create the popular Pop-Up Chapel events in Toronto, which are exactly what they sound like: couples tie the knot in venues across the city in front of a small group of 20 family members and friends and with a legal officiant.
The event costs $2,499 and includes live music, flowers and a photographer.
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“Couples really love the simplicity of the Pop-Up Chapel and that they don’t have to worry about having a huge guest list,” Connor said. “Instead, they get to pick their closest friends and family and have this super intimate celebration.”
Less pressure without a lavish event
On top of financial savings, many millennials find low-key ceremonies, like ones at city hall, are less stressful to organize than large-scale events.
In a recent article in Harper’s Bazaar, writer Ella Alexander said more young couples are eloping or having intimate destination weddings because it’s easier (and more affordable) than a traditional affair.
Alexander wrote that eloping, now, is about rejecting an event that “feels archaic to many” and “unjustifiably expensive to most.”
Amanda Douglas, a Winnipeg-based wedding planner, says many millennials are conscious of their spending. She says more couples are interested in creating personal and memorable experiences for their guests, shying away from large traditional weddings.
“I’m definitely seeing a lot more intimate weddings — we’re talking 50 to 75 people versus what used to be the norm of 150 people plus,” Douglas said.
Sticking to a budget
While bride-to-be Cynthia Edgley isn’t partaking in a chapel event or eloping, sticking to a “small” budget is still important to her.
The 29-year-old and her partner decided they are comfortable spending $15,000 on their big day and have developed a realistic savings plan.
Edgley, who is tying the knot in 2020, said she and her partner also decided to get married close to their home in Vancouver so they could utilize their connections in the area.
“One of our friends makes amazing cakes so she is going to do that for us for free, another friend is going to DJ for us and another friend owns a floral distribution company so we can get our flowers at cost,” she said.
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She thinks that when people spend the same amount of money on their wedding as a down payment on a home, they’ve gone “too far.”
“At the end of the day, we are just throwing a party to celebrate our love and to unite our two families,” she said. “There is no need — for us, anyway — to blow our life savings or go into debt over this.”
Watching others say ‘I do’
While some couples are opting for more affordable weddings, attending other people’s nuptials can be another story. Going to weddings as a guest can be incredibly expensive, depending on the circumstances.
A recent survey by Credit Karma found that Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 have spent an average of US$770 on attending a wedding.
The report, which surveyed 1,045 Americans, also found that nearly 20 per cent of wedding guests have spent more than US$1,000 to attend a single wedding.
What’s more, around 17 per cent of respondents said they have gone into debt to pay for wedding-related duties for someone else’s wedding.
Connor says many couples who opt to get married on a budget often prioritize sharing experiences with loved ones, not monetary or material gifts. This mentality is often passed onto their guests, as there is less pressure for lavish spending when a wedding is more understated.
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“I really think that the couples who do pop-up chapels are doing it because they really want to celebrate themselves and they want to remember that the reason they’re having this mini-celebration is because they’re getting married,” she said.
Edgley echoes this and says her loved ones understand her wedding planning is reflective of her and her partner.
“Our families are allowing us to have our own special day,” she explained. “They are not forcing anything on us, inviting people we don’t know, and they don’t care about lavish things — lucky for us!”
Tips to reduce spending
While escaping spending on other people’s weddings may not always be possible, there are ways to save on your nuptials.
Desjardins says turning to friends and supporting businesses in your network can be a real cost-saver.
“One top recommendation is to post on Facebook to see if you have any friends or family that already provide any of these services so that you can hopefully get a discount,” she said.
Edgley said it’s also helpful to determine your wedding priorities.
For her and her partner, the three things that matter most are an open bar, good food and a photographer. Those are more “splurge” items, while the rest she is comfortable spending less on.
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There are also wedding resale websites and Facebook groups where people will sell or swap gently used items like decorations. You can often get great discounts on things that you’ll only use once.
Despite the money it cost, Desjardins said her wedding was an incredible experience.
“All in all, it was one of the best days of my life; I got to marry my best friend in front of all my loved ones,” Desjardins said.
“But I also wish I still had all that money.”