By Hilary Hudson
Just how much does a wedding cost? How long is a piece of string?
Some people spend $10,000 and rising. Rumour has it that this is the cost of the average wedding. So what if there's more love than money?
The actual getting married should not cost more than $200. That pays for a licence from the Government and a celebrant, plus $50 for a simple wedding ring.
The costs lie in the invitations, the clothes, the flowers, the photographer, the reception and the cars.
So how do you organise a budget wedding that looks a million - well $10,000 anyway - for fifty guests for around $1,000 (alcohol and honeymoon not included).
Working within a budget means writing everything down - how much you will pay for things, who will pay it and when it will be paid. If others offer to contribute, get it in writing by giving them a copy of the budget with their part clear and ask them to sign it. Otherwise you could be stuck with paying later.
The invitation software lets you come up with a modern or traditional invitation personalised with the names of your guests. Warehouse Stationary sells packs of 100 pages of marbled paper for less that $20. They also have matching envelopes.
For the bride's wedding clothes renting a formal dress is around $250, buying one anything from $500 up. Get yourself a price to have a pretty dress and jacket made, not as a white meringue but as a slimmer fitting mid-calf dress in white or cream or your favourite colour. If you can get a dress made that you can use later for under $250 you will be on a winner. Have a look at fabric shops and patterns. Ask around for dressmakers - your celebrant, friends, Citizens Advice Bureau, and even ads in your local newspaper could help you find one.
For the groom. If he wears a suit to work then this is a good time to get a new one. If not, a dressy pair of black trousers and a white shirt are a sensible buy. Waistcoats look special and can be hired. A dressmaker may also make waistcoats - check out curtain or upholstery remnant bins for great fabric at bargain prices.
If you have a garden or know someone with a lovely garden then get married there surrounded with flowers. Also consider the public gardens in most towns and cities - many weddings are held there most summer weekends. One lovely long stemmed rose for the bride makes the statement without the expense.
Photographs - friends with cameras and a pack of wedding cameras handed out to guests and collected before they leave usually gets a great result. Ten years ago video cameras were everywhere, now it's digital cameras. Do you know of anyone with one? Encourage them.
The party after a wedding is just that - a party. If you can have it at home, or at a friend's house, so much the better. Otherwise it's hire a hall or surf club rooms or the local race-course. Think 'party' rather than 'wedding' for the venue and many options will open up.
If you want help with the final touches and the handing around of food and drink think about the seventh formers at your local college. They can do a great job and if they are raising funds for a trip away they'll be keen. The trick is to have a reliable captain in charge of what is to be done when. Give them the plan in writing - don't forget to rehearse the timing because it is so easy to get it wrong.
Forward planning is the way to save money on the food and still have a great time. Watch for specials in roasts of pork, frozen chickens and big pieces of rump steak and put them in the freezer in the months before the wedding. One bride's mother worked out just how much orange juice gets consumed at weddings and for a year before the big day she added a cask to her weekly grocery shop. Beer and wine can be purchased in the same way - watch for specials. (If you can't afford alcohol make it byo.)
If you do not fancy arranging roasts then consider barbecues. If yours isn't big enough for the crowd then borrow or hire. Big salads can look extravagant and cost very little. If you live in the city go to a market for the salad doings and strawberries, and if you want flowers get them there too. Remember small children are just as happy with chips, baby tomatoes and bread and butter with Vegemite.
For pass-around-food before the meal there are endless books in the library. Watch the basic costs of food involved - eggs and tiny sandwiches are much less expensive than cheeses and grapes.
Borrow plates and cutlery if you can. If you can't, then compare the cost of hiring plates and glasses against purchasing disposables.
For a wedding cake in traditional mode you can buy a large un-iced Christmas/fruit cake from the supermarket or make your own. The library has books on cake icing, and the almond and fondant icing is available at most supermarkets. The modern mud cake, a squishy chocolate cake, is often served with coffee after a ceremonial "cutting of the cake".
With planning you should be able to feed fifty people for no more than $5 a head.
That leaves the honeymoon. Do either of you work for the public service or have family members who do? Some of the best holiday buys come from the P.S.A. holiday houses in some of the most expensive holiday resorts in the country. Avoid school holidays and the range is wonderful.
For that special bridal car try someone who has a large vintage car they are very proud of. They will probably give it a polish, put an ironed white sheet over the back seat and some ribbons from the front windows to the bonnet. If you don't know someone personally ask at your local garage for car clubs near you. A $50 donation should cover it.
Ball-park figures then: $200 licence, celebrant and ring, $300 for clothes, $100 for photos, $250 for food, $49.95 for software, $50 for special paper, $50 for the car.
The most important tip is this: do not be bullied into having and paying for someone else's idea of what a proper wedding should be.
One great American authority of good behaviour was asked what was the irreducible minimum for a bride to get married these days. Her answer was simple. 'A groom'.