Tag Archives: $5500

Affording catering for small budget weddings: It’s a problem

Food is a problem for low budget weddings.

Let’s say you have $2500 to spend on your wedding. Let’s say you have 75 guests – not a modest amount, not a crowd. The first thing is, with this many people, your wedding will take quite a few hours. In order to host 75 people without snubbing any of them, you’re probably looking at at least 8 hours of wedding. And because there is no 8 hour stretch of wakefulness that doesn’t involve at least one meal, you’re going to have to give them, at a minimum, one meal’s worth of food. And because this is a celebration, odds are very high that you want to give them some booze too.

So there is no getting out of doing a lot of food, unless you have a really low number of guests. If you had say 35 guests or less, you could get away with just having them for a few hours, and if that’s not during a meal time, you can all just eat some cake and call it done.

But back to the 75 scenario, because I think it’s a good benchmark of wedding averageness. If you put $2500 into my favourite toy, the wedding budget calculator, and uncheck a bunch of stuff, because this is a budget wedding, and we don’t have room for a day-of coordinator, the result is a suggested breakdown that goes like this:

Celebrant: 52
Flowers: 330
Other decoration: 108
Drinks: 289
Food: 722
Bride’s dress: 309
Attendants gifts: 62
Groom’s outfit: 52
Photography: 505
Invitations: 72

This is assuming you somehow have a free venue to host 75 people (you probably don’t), you forgo cake or use it as the dessert for your meal, you don’t buy special shoes, etc etc. There is $722 for food here, and $289 for drinks. That’s $9.63 and $3.85 per person, for food and drinks and respectively. I don’t even need to write a punchline here.

Or let’s say you have 75 guests and $2500, and the couple wears clothes they already own, and they DIY decorations for free, and they email their invitations, and don’t have a photographer, and they get rid of all expenses except food and drink. $2500/75 = $33.33 per person, for a meal and drinks. Which maybe is just enough, if you self-cater, and are very shrewd about your drink offerings.

But this is a wedding. You want to make it meaningful, by having some of the common trappings of weddings, which is going to cost you at least a little bit of money.

The $2500 figure is based on being half of what the median income wedding-haver can afford by saving 10% of their post-tax income for a year. But it’s just not all that possible to have an average size wedding on that amount. Some variable is going to have to give.

Have a smaller wedding? People shouldn’t have to miss out on celebrating with a reasonable number of guests just because they have a small budget.
Save a greater portion of your income? But if your income is low, that’s hard to do.
Have a longer engagement, so you can save for a longer time? Maybe. But 12 months is already a long time to be saving for a consumable.

Maybe this post is just about grumbling a little about the cost of living in NZ. If we had higher wages or cheaper food, this wouldn’t be an issue!

The only solutions I can think of are: 1) Parents help fund the wedding, or 2) Make the wedding a bring-and-share event where guests each contribute ‘a plate of eats’, as they always used to be called in my childhood (do people still say that? A plate of eats? Sounds so old fashioned now).

I’m sure Miss Manners would be aghast at the idea of asking guests to contribute to the wedding like this. I mean, she’s already made herself very clear on the issue of cash bars. And I see her point: getting a wedding invitation would be more like a demand than getting invited to something. You can’t demand gifts. The only way a community chipping in could work, as far as I can see, is if the guests spontaneously self-organise a kind of surprise wedding reception. (And yet, we do see potluck weddings on blogs fairly often. How did these couples break that to the guests?)

So we’re left with parents contributing. I’m becoming more and more ok with that idea.


$5500 Wedding budget: Photography (What to do when you have $850 or less for photos)

Enough already with the tales of my own wedding, let’s get back to general wedding theorising. I think it’s more fun. Onward with my favourite wedding topic: figuring out what a average wedding would be like if people only had weddings they could afford.

If your wedding budget is $5500, you have about $850 to spend on photography. But $5500 is just the estimate for the (New Zealand) median, which means half of all people would be working with less than that. If your wedding budget was $2500, you’d have about $380 to spend on photography.

A freaking joke, right? Check this out: the price quote for A Practical “fighting the system yet sponsored by Proctor and Gamble” Wedding’s* most recent photography advertorial. The starting rate given is $2950 for 8 hours of photography. Which translates to a total wedding budget of about 19k. Which to comfortably afford means an annual post-tax income of $190k. (APW is always looking out for the little guy!)

It all seems pretty hopeless, especially when you read blog after blog talking about how photography is the most important thing. Skimp on everything else, but for the love of cake, splurge on the photography! But I offer you salvation:

1. Stellar photos aren’t actually that important. Seriously, how often are you really going to look at these photos in the future? Daily at first, then once a year? After the first decade will you stop looking at them once a year? And will your affection for them really be dependent on the quality of the photos, or will it be dependent on the happiness of your memories from that day? Do you have any old, crappy quality pictures, from say your childhood, that you love and treasure?

2. Covering every minute of the day isn’t that important. The photographers’ unaffordable ‘basic package’ starting prices have a bad habit of including 6 or 8 hours of coverage.

I submit to you that you do not need that much time. I submit to you that endless pictures of the wedding party in different poses are redundant, not to mention a waste of everyone’s time especially if it happens during the reception, by Jove. Also, who gives a crap about immortalising the moment the bride applied her eyeliner. I submit to you that there is such a thing as enough photography, and it involves a full length shot of the couple, a face shot of the couple, some family group shots, and a picture of each partner with their wedding party. The stuff after that is gravy.

3. A lot of your guests have cameras. Just because there is no professional present, doesn’t mean moments aren’t being captured. In fact, your guests might be so busy acting like a crowd of paparazzi that you’ll need to actually tell them to stop it. You know how when you have a night out with your friends, a few photos always end up getting taken?  And, you know how you never find yourself wishing, Oh, If only there had been a professional photojournalist with us to take photos of us all at Beerfest? (Bad example?)My point is, there WILL be photos of your wedding day, and they will be good enough.

So here’s what I reckon people should do: hire a professional for the length of time your budget allows for, and get your portraits taken during that time. Get the group shots that are necessary, and then spend the rest of the time you have on couple portraits, and then some photojournalism of the ceremony and  the beginning of the reception if time allows. At the reception let your guests do what people do anyway at parties, which is take photos. Ask everyone to upload their pics to a photo sharing site somewhere, or to just send them to you. Choose your favourites to collect into your own album.

The thing about all those unaffordable photography packages is that if you break it down to an hourly rate, it suddenly becomes an option to get them for an hour or two. For the photographer listed above at 8 hours for $2950, that works out at arout $370 per hour. Not that that’s what that person would charge, but it illustrates the range you’re working with. Even on a legitimately low budget, you could still have someone relatively high end do your portraits for an hour before the ceremony.

I recommend figuring out the hourly rates of various photographers, finding ones you like, and then approaching them with your numbers and asking what they can for you. The Wedding Photojournalist Association is a good place to start – it’s international, and list prices (sometimes by the hour!) of photographers with links to their websites.

That is what I did. I found a handful of photographers that charge around $200 per hour, told them I have $450 to work with, and said, What have you got? The one I chose in the end offered me 2.5 hours photography with the ferry transport to the resort included. He’s offering me something less than his normal hourly rate because, get this, the fact that my wedding is so low budget and quirky (read: short casual dress) makes it valuable to him as a photographer! It’s a sweet sweet feeling when the industry works in your favour.

*I did manage to stay off APW for quite some time after I wrote this post, and it was awesome. And then I started hate-reading it.

If you’re having a wedsite, it may as well be free (plus some wedding blogdom commentary)

Wedsites have been on my mind a bit lately. As I mentioned before, the cool thing about this modern wedding necessity is that it doesn’t have to cost you anything. A recent wedding innovation that is not about increasing consumption! It’s not hard to find free wedding websites that have all the functions you need. This is one of the very best things about the internet – people put stuff out there for free, and it just makes all our lives better. Sometimes I feel all warm and fuzzy inside thinking about that, and it restores my faith in humanity (not joking).

Meanwhile, of course, there are plenty of people online hawking non-free wedsites. Why in the world would you possibly choose to pay for something when you can easily get a just-as-good version for nothing? The only reason I can think of is that the specific graphic design is REALLY important to you. That, and/or you are sold on the brand of the website promoting it. Or maybe you don’t know how to google the words “free wedding website”.

So let’s make clear that the graphic design of your wedsite will not affect anything about your wedding day. But maybe you’re just into that stuff anyway, and also you cannot find something from the 129 designs on weddingwire that satisfies your need for good design. Fair enough. I hope your wedding budget can take it. Except if you’re like most people, you probably can barely afford your wedding, or you’re actively not affording it (*points at self*). So I’m going to just say it: paying for the design of your wedsite is unrealistic for most people.

Of course APW have just announced a collaboration that sees APW selling wedsites. You know, for money. This has always bothered me about APW, as you guys know: the simultaneous anti-WIC preaching and advertising of expensive wedding shit. Once upon a APW comment thread, Meg explained her rationale:

Here at APW we talk a lot about making a wedding budget that is created around  what makes you happy. IE, do what you love and ditch the rest. I (to my great  surprise) cared a lot about creating custom invitations, which we did with help.  That excited me, but I was willing to totally ditch a lot of other things, (no  DJ, no florist, no favors, no night wedding, etc.) to help make that happen. I  spent on what I loved, and got rid of the other stuff all together.

Well, I’m not buying it. The idea of choosing to spend more on things that are important to you is not revolutionary, it is the everyday life of all adults. So that is really not the point. It’s also not a question of choosing which luxuries you will include: I’ve looked up the stats and run the damn numbers, and most people are struggling just to figure out how to afford the basics (venue to fit people, refreshments to give them). Does no one else get frustrated about the disconnect in APW’s messages?

Argh, I feel like I could talk in circles for hours about APW. I have mixed feelings about it, because some of the content there is actually valuable. Plenty of people see no problems at all though, and it’s interesting to watch how the brand of Meg herself is a central part of APW’s business model. The fact that a business based on weddings can write a whole slew of posts about Amtrak, and people find it relevant and interesting, is testament to the fact that for a lot of readers, APW is about Meg, and not necessarily weddings. I think this is key in the other stuff APW gets away with, like repeatedly asking people to buy the book both online on the release date as well as on the book tour.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the reaction to APW selling unnecesary wedding shit is nothing but one of support (I’m looking at you Rogue!), but I am disappointed. Anywho, here is a list of places where you can get FREE wedding websites that will do what you need, and that make me feel like the world is a wonderful place:


PS. Rogue, I still love you.

Save-the-dates are stupid

The whole reason we have a crop of anti-[wedding]-establishment blogs is because the stuff that is getting institionalised is growing. More things keep getting added into weddings. I guess this is how cultures evolve and forms get established. We’re certainly dealing with a different set of circumstances than say, a generation ago (how much easier would this entire thing be if most of my people lived in the same city? Jeez). And I’m all about adapting the institution of weddings to reflect the fact that our lives work differently. But sometimes the changes in wedding culture make things worse, instead of better. Like freakin’ save-the-dates.

First off, their acronym in wedding blogdom is STDs. Have you sent out your STDs yet? Snort! Ahem, continuing on…

Did you know that when you invite people to somethng, it’s polite to give them an out? The out is that they have other plans. That is THE acceptable excuse to use if you don’t want to attend something. Oh, except also you can say that you “won’t be able to make it”. Those are your two options. It’s very rude to let on that you just can’t be arsed, yknow? So when you’re inviting someone, you need to spare them the awkwardness of insulting you, and essentially give them an opportunity to say they already have other plans. But also you need to give them notice.

This is why, for a party at your house, you invite people say 10 days before – a nice period of time when most people won’t yet have that night blocked out, but it’s reasonable that they might. Works a treat. But weddings are more important. Plenty of people might want to make sure they can come, so they need more notice than 10 days. And this is why ettiquette guidelines say the guests should receive their invitations 6 weeks prior to the wedding. It’s a concession to the fact that weddings are a big deal.

But these days it’s worse. Damn our freaking international lives (I miss my family). If people want to come, 6 weeks is not nearly enough time! Even 6 months is barely enough when it comes to organising leave, booking flights etc. You don’t want to know how many people are emailing me going, We need to know the date already! (Aaaagh, I know you do! I feel bad I can’t tell you yet! I’m on it! I’ll let you know asap, I promise!)

So when it’s going to involve extensive travel and plan making, you need to give people A LOT of advance notice. Like ideally a year probably. Here’s the delicate part though: it’s too early to actually invite them, because that early on, they don’t have an out. They can’t say they’ve got prior plans. They can’t say that they’d love to be there but can’t make it – because look, you’ve given them a year to save up for it! That’s why we need STDs (heehee!), something that functions less as an invitation, and more as a kind of announcement, that doesn’t require any personal response.

And how do we make announcements these days? Why, with facebook of course. And group emails, so deliciously impersonal. I’m going to go with the email, to make sure the right people, and only the right people, see it. Here’s how announcements about big events in one’s life are not communicated this century: with specially designed little postcards, fridge magnets or other such gimmicky crap, featuring a picture of yourself and a cutesy saying like “Eat, drink and be married”. When someone has a baby, do they specially design and post out little cards? When someone is moving to Singapore, do they send out magnets with their name and new address or do they email relevant people and then write it in their status on facebook?

The conundrum that gives rise to the need for STDs (snigger, it never gets old) is relatively recent, and the issue of how to address it has not yet been fully resolved. It’s interesting to watch how weddings are in a state of flux about this one. STDs are not yet fully institutionalised, lots of people don’t hardly know about them, are confused by them and RSVP to them. The option I’ve seen much more often is to simply send the invitation itself really early on, but as discussed above, that has its issues. The wedding world has enough random crap, and it’s laughably unaffordable already. I feel like we need to fight back against the STDs (zinger!!) whilst we still have the chance to prevent them from becoming non-optional.

No STDs for me! (GOLD.)

$5500 Wedding budget: Invitations

There’s nothing I love more than applying hard numbers and equations to concepts (my dad’s an applied mathematician. What have I become?!). Ok, there are some things I love more. But I do sometimes play with hypothetical wedding budgets for fun. And ever since I wrote the $5500 budget post, I’ve been thinking about what kind of wedding that would actually translate to. Today: what kind of invitations you could afford.

First, some basic principles:

  • $5500 should be the median, meaning half of all weddings would cost more and half would cost less. But Dog knows the wealthier half is already well catered to in finding out what their options are. In fact, even the so-called low budget ideas offered up by magazines and the like are generally too expensive for the 50% below the median. So I’m looking at two hypothetical budgets – the $5500 one, and a $2500 one, chosen for being roughly half the median, and rounded down in a spirit of erring on the conservative side.
  • I’m going to go ahead and unscientifically state that your average kiwi wedding has about 75 guests. To account for variation, I’ll look at three scenarios – an average wedding of 75 guests, a large wedding of 150, and a small wedding of 35.
  • I’m using this much loved wedding budget calculator to assign proportions of the total budget to specific items. Since this is a low budget wedding, I’ve removed the stuff I consider frivolous. Oh, that’s like 20 blog posts right there.
  • Kiwis are international people. We leave NZ a lot. For postage costs, I’m going to work with three scenarios: all local guests, all international guests, and 50/50.
  • I have worked my google-fu to find out that a good estimate of the number of invitations needed is about 60% of the number of guests. Hence I will proceed with this estimate forthwith…

Now brace yourself, there’s a lot of numbers coming at you!

75 people (45 invitations)
1. All local.
$27 on stamps, plus $83 on materials or $1.84 per invite
2. All international. $85.5 on stamps, plus $24.5 on materials or 32c per invite
3. 50/50. $56.9 on stamps, plus $56.9 on stamps, plus $53.1 on materials or $1.18 per invite

150 people (90 invitations)
4. All local.
$54 on stamps, plus $56 on materials or 62c per invite
5. All international. $171 on stamps…DOES NOT COMPUTE!
6. 50/50. $112.5 on stamps…DOES NOT COMPUTE!

35 people (21 invitations)
7. All local.
$12.6 on stamps, plus $97.4 on materials or $4.63 per invite
8. All international. $18.9 on stamps, plus $91.1 on materials or $4.34 per invite
9. 50/50. $26.9 on stamps, plus $89.1 or $4.24 per invite

75 people (45 invitations)
10. All local.
$27 on stamps, plus $28 on materials or 62c per invite
11. All international. $85.5 on stamps…DOES NOT COMPUTE!
12. 50/50. $56.9 on stamps…DOES NOT COMPUTE!

150 people (90 invitations)
13. All local.
$54 on stamps…DOES NOT COMPUTE!
14. All international. $171 on stamps…DOES NOT COMPUTE!
15. 50/50. $112.5 on stamps…DOES NOT COMPUTE!

35 people (21 invitations)
16. All local.
$12.6 on stamps, plus $42.4 on materials or $2.02 per invite
17. All international. $18.9 on stamps, plus $36.1 on materials or $1.72 per invite
18. 50/50. $26.9 on stamps, plus $28.1 on materials or $1.34 per invite

So the only times where the cost per invitation approaches what your standard inspiration blog promotes are the cases where you’re having a small wedding, and your overall wedding budget is sitting right at the median (cases 7, 8 and 9 above). At 75 wedding guests, it seems we’re at DIY or very pared down options. Even buying a downloadable graphic design to print yourself, at the low end will be around US$70 (excluding paper and ink), and therefore unreachable most the time. I’m not entirely clear on what it costs to DIY an invitation or card, and I’m wondering what the options for cases 1 and 3 would be like.

If the majority of guests are international (I’m telling you, it does happen), even at the median budget level, the amount of available to send invitations for an average size wedding dwindles to untenable, so evites are your only option. If you’re having a big wedding, evites are again the only thing affordable. Unless everyone is local (case 4), and you’re really crafty.

On the lower budget, you’re looking at evites all the way, baby. Unless you’re both crafty and having a small wedding.

So here’s what we’ve learnt:
1. Stuff that is sold to us as standard is actually way unaffordable for most. Surprise surprise. WEDDING BLOGS: STOP SHOWING ME LETTERPRESS.

2. Evites are the way of the future!! And since we figured out in the previous post that email invitations are fine, that’s cool.

3. We need to see a lot more blogging about how to DIY invitations for cheap. Right now I am so into the idea of DIYing cards, and maybe a fountain pen to write in them with.

The average wedding should cost $5500

Remember the other day (week?) how I was saying I’d love to know the actual median income of marrying couples? Well, the statistics are in! Yay numbers! Excite!

I did a little sleuthing and calculating. Statistics NZ tells us the median marrying age in NZ is 30.1 for women and 32.2 for men. So, applying this information to the handy personal income X age table, we can estimate the median income for those ages is about $32k a year. So as a couple, they’re bringin in $64k. But wait, there’s more! We have to take tax into account. The online tax calculator reveals after tax, the couple is left with about $55k in actual money to live on. If they’re financially responsible, they could save 10% of their income for a year, leaving them with: $5500 wedding budget.

Now there are two important things to notice here.

One. This is a median, which means HALF OF ALL WEDDINGS SHOULD COST LESS THAN THIS. Even a $10k wedding, which is considered pretty low budget, is freakin double the cost of what should be the completely average, run of the mill wedding. I don’t know the size and shape of the income distribution, so I can’t tell what proportion of marrying couples actually can afford a $10k wedding. But I’m guessing it’s a pretty small number. Which brings me to…

Two. Numbers that get thrown around as being low budget are still unaffordable for almost everyone. Wedding norms and expectations are SO out of touch with our lives, it’s insane. It’s like everyone going around thinking they can’t do without a personal butler and a private jet. Weddings are categorically out of proportion.

So from now on, when some magazine features ‘budget’ weddings in the $10-20k range, we can say, “Screw you, Magazine. You don’t know shit. Lower income wedding budgets should be more like $2-5k, you snob”.

Never have I more wanted to shout We need a new paradigm!! And a revolution!

And just in case anyone needs reminding, expensive weddings are not inherently better than affordable ones. This couple had two celebrations, a $600 one a WIC compliant one. Guess which one the bride preferred?