Tag Archives: decoration

Here’s my wedding budget

So after all my budget theory preaching, you’re probably thinking it’s about time I revealed my actual wedding budget.   I’ll do you one better: the line by line breakdown! Aren’t you excited? Doesn’t the prospect of looking at other people’s budgets get you all amped up? No? You don’t find it fun to obsess over numbers?

Jeez. Tough crowd.

I live in Singapore, so my mind thinks in Singapore dollars. Our wedding budget is (*fanfare*) SG$5000.

You probably don’t think in Singapore dollars, so you’re wondering how much money that really is. I’d go ahead and covert the currencies for you, but you know, cost of living stuff in a given area is always relative to incomes in the given area, and if you translated the cost of houses in South Africa into your local currency you’d be all, “I could have a mansion”. Plus, in Thailand you could have an amazing and massive meal for a dollar.

So refrain from using direct currency exchange as a converter, and use the Big Mac Index instead, which isn’t perfect, but at least does try to reflect the actual cost of living. I’ll tell you how many Big Macs I could buy in Singapore with that money, and then you work out how much of your local currency it would take to buy that many Big Mac’s where you live.

One Big Mac round here costs $4.85, So, my wedding budget is 1031 of them.

Ok, alright, fine, I’ll do the work for you. Here is my wedding budget translated into the currencies of various places using the Big Mac converter:

USA: $4.20 x 1031 =  US$4330

Canada: $4.73 x 1031 = CA$4877

New Zealand: $5.10 x 1031 = NZ$5258

Australia: $4.80 x 1031 = AU$4949

South Africa: R19.95 x 1031 = R20568
(see what I’m saying? One US Big Mac would buy you 4.75 South African ones, but the actual exchange rate between US dollars and South African rand is  like 7.8)

Attention England and Spain: Sorry, I couldn’t find the prices you guys have. I really wanted to know how my budget figures in pounds and euros. Maybe you could let me know your local Big Mac price?

Who else is craving a burger all of a sudden?

Ok, now for the line by line break down. I put this together, predictably, using that wedding budget calculator thing you are sick of me talking about. Then I started checking off all the things I know I don’t want to include, which was a substantial number of things (Get lost, Unity Candle!),  and filled in the fixed estimates I do already have.

Actually that last bit was interesting because it drastically changed the picture. The calculator wanted me to spend $1207 on food and $483 on booze. I’m having almost 50 people, so that’s like 10 bucks per person on drinks, which is totally laughable in all scenarios, except maybe if you home brew something, and then it gets downgraded to only pretty laughable. The amount for food is probably somewhat achievable if you’re self-catering too, but is almost half of the price I managed to get for catering.

I just want to quickly say two things here, and then I’ll move on.
1. I have a hunch that booze is much cheaper in parts of the world that aren’t Australia, NZ, and Singapore. How many Big Macs does a beer cost you, USAians?
2.  Nevertheless, these numbers and their apparent break from reality is evidence of the desperate need for a wedding paradigm shift, as I discussed in the podcast. What’s interesting is that this same iteration of the budget also allocated $733 all up for ceremony and reception decor and flowers, which seems excessive. If we’re going to afford our weddings, the paradigm shift is going to have to include a Step Away From the Pricey Decor clause. It’s a major component of wedding spending, and it needs to stop being standard and expected.

Based on the actual prices for food and drinks my venue gave me, I adjusted the catering to $1905, and $1000 for booze. I also already know that transport (ferry to the island) is going to cost about double what the calculator indicated, and I’m going to put our three nights’ stay at the resort down as the ‘facility rental’, and that’s going to be about 550 bucks.

I’m also allowing myself to cheat by not including it in the wedding budget if it’s something I’m going to use again (stay tuned for much more discussion about this in a future post).

So here, finally, is the result:

FrugallyWed’s Goal Wedding Budget

Facility rental                        550
Flowers and decorations  388
Drinks                                    1000
Food                                        1905
Bride’s wedding outfit        297
Attendants’ gifts                      55
Groom’s outfit                         46
Groomsmen outfits             119
Transport                                130
Photography                         447
Invitations                                64

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

Everything else we’re either not having, or it’s already included in the catering price (fire torches), or it’s something we’ll use again and thus I’m filing it under general life expense and not wedding expense. The main wiggle room comes from the flower and decor allocation – I plan to spend more than $55 on attendants’ gifts.

There you have it folks. Was that, or was that not, a whirlwind of excitement? Whew. Come, let me take you all out for burgers now.

Podcast: Me talking wedding budgets with Rogue Bride and Hindsight Bride

I’m not saying this is exactly what went down, but when I remember recording this podcast with Rogue Bride and Christie from Hindsight Bride, these are the words I recall being said:

Christie: Lindsay writes an angry, righteous blog…
Me: What? No, I’m a nice person, I swear!

Me: Wedding budget calculator. Income. Wedding budget calculator. Percentage. Calculator.
Them: You’re a massive nerd.

Them: Wait, is it REE-dill, or rye-DELL?
Me: What the hell are you guys talking about.

All of us: Sha-vari chairs? Key-uh-vari? What is that anyway, frikkin Italian or something?

Christie: Rainbows and sausages.

Rogue: I’m going to punch myself in the face.

Them:*giving me compliments*
Me: You guys are the nicest people ever!
Them: What? No, we’re badass, we swear!

Shorter version:
Them: It’s nice that you’re badass.
Me: It’s badass that you’re nice.
(Thank you Robyn Sherbotsky and Ted Mosby.)

According to Rogue and Christie, my South African – Kiwi mongrel of an accent sounds sexy to the American ear. I’m not sure I believe them. Certainly I don’t think either saffas or kiwis enjoy my deviations from their norms much. So it’s possible they were just being super nice to me again. They’re tricksy like that. They keep saying nice things to you and offering to do nice things for you, and then also doing them, and then the next thing you know, you really really like them and start to feel like doing nice things back. It’s how they suck you in. They’re selfish like that.

You can listen to the podcast and assess my accent for yourself here.

How to make your wedding special without spending money

I think one of the fundamental reasons why weddings have gotten financially out of hand is that people want their weddings to feel special and meaningful, and they mistakenly believe that the way to make that happen is to spend a lot of money.

There is actually some validity to the idea that money makes things special. Here’s a great example of how stupid our human minds are: things that are rare or expensive become regarded as wonderful luxury items that speak of status and are to be coveted. Critical to note: it’s not that the inherent awesomeness of the item in question pushes up demand and price. It’s that an item that is hard for the average person to obtain becomes a symbol of luxury, and therefore everyone starts to covet it.

Like when the Dutch used to have to pay taxes on stairs, and so then the fanciest houses in Amsterdam started having two staircases leading up to their front doors. Or eating shark’s fin – it’s a tasteless piece of cartilage that originally only the rich families in China could afford to eat, because it takes days of labour from a skilled cook to do the preparation that makes that crap approach edible. And then the general population got the message that shark’s fin is a luxury, and next thing you know it’s become a wedding staple in Chinese culture.

But there are other ways that our pathetically manipulatable human minds assign specialness and meaning to things: the time, effort, and skill to make something (a proxy for money), sentimental association, and ritual and ceremony. Though of course these things get muddled up, for instance you’re likely to have have a sentimental association with certain rituals. And things that were originally valued for their hard-to-make-ness have become commonly regarded as ceremonial necessity. I’m looking at you, Wedding Cake. Also you, Thousand Dollar Wedding Dress. But the upshot is, you can still make your wedding feel, uh, properly weddingy, even if you can’t afford a wedding cake that costs $5 per slice.

Here are some ideas.

1. Time, effort, and skill

For my wedding, the biggest deposit of specialness in this area is going to come from the fact that various family members, from a variety of continents, will take the time and effort to come be gathered together in one place. It’s something that our family only ever gets to experience any more at weddings. Time was when all my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all lived in the same country. We saw each other regularly and had Christmases together. No more. Now I go years without seeing cousins I saw all the time growing up. Being reunited with some of them at my wedding is a big, meaningful deal.

Other ways people might implement this idea could include taking the time to sew an exquisite dress, spending the effort to make a really special cake, having a bunch of people pitch in to put the centrepieces together.

2. Sentimental association

This is when you include objects that belonged to a loved one, or do things that remind you of your love for someone, or something that just means a lot to you. Playing a song that is meaningful to you. Giving speeches and toasts also falls into this category – they serve to spark emotion, maybe get a bit nostalgic, and bring love to the surface.

I plan to do all these things. My wedding ring is going to have a diamond that my mom’s grandfather gave to her. And we will play the songs, and we will have the speeches.

3. Ritual and ceremony

This is the heart of what makes something a wedding and not a family reunion with centrepieces and speeches. This one is cultural. I was raised in an Anglican community. For the people I come from, this means there are certain way weddings are done, and if they’re not done this way, they’re not as much of a wedding. Plus the stuff that is not part of the religion but has become definitive (you know what I’m talking about – veils, white dresses, and so on).

The tricky part here is when you’ve already rejected some parts of the culture that make no sense to you. For instance, I am no longer religious, so having religion be any part of my wedding is not something I want. Also I just don’t really like veils. And also I don’t dig myself in white. But I still want it traditionally weddingy enough that everyone there feels that it’s meaningful.

Everyone will strike their own balance here. For us, there will be no priest, no prayers, and no sermon, but there will still be an aisle walk, readings, vows, a ring exchange, and a kiss. I won’t wear a long white dress or a veil, but I will carry a bouquet, wear a light coloured dress, and probably have something nice in my hair.

So, I offer this as hope for any engaged couples out there who might be despairing the difference between their original wedding fantasies and what it turns out they can afford. The beauty of your wedding does not come from money. You can still go ahead and have something incredible. And stay financially solvent to boot.

How to find authentic wedding style

Authenticity is a popular subject when it comes to weddings. You already know you don’t have to look far before you someone gives you the advice to have the wedding be a true reflection of your personal tastes, and to make sure it is emotionally genuine. I have also talked about finding financial authenticity, and cultural authenticity in a wedding.

What I haven’t spoken about is the part that makes a lot of us fall in love with the romance of a wedding in the first place – the aesthetic touches. It’s true some of us don’t give a shit about this, but on the other hand, some of us have been looking at wedding magazines as a source of visual delight since forever, and reading wedding blogs for…years…without actually being engaged…(cough cough…So?).

The inspiration blogs often give a destination as an aesthetic theme for a wedding.  It often seems like the purpose of emulating these styles is to pretend for a while that that’s where you really live, and that’s what your life is really like. At the same time, it’s a rejection of how things actually are, which I think is why we are wont to use them as fantasy escapes.

The same thing can be found all the time in things like architecture, interior design, and garden styles. Elliot Stables in Auckland is awesome because of the “European-style” cobblestones, and places in Northland are always in a rush to call their gardens tropical.  Take it from someone living in Singapore: there is nothing tropical about anything in New Zealand.  Meanwhile French farmhouse style kitchens have been all the rage, everywhere.

So what would a kiwi aesthetic look like? When people on other continents are fantasising about New Zealand, what do they see? Maybe the trusty Style Me Pretty can help us out. This wedding took place took place at Mangawhai Heads. Says the bride:

Finding the venue was our first challenge. I had trouble letting go of my dream to get married on a Caribbean beach. But Robin (kudos to him) found the perfect location, which encompasses so many things we love: outdoors, tropical, sea and holiday feel.”

“Being a seaside resort, we really felt transported into a tropical environment and looking at our photos from Branco Prata, we really have the impression to be in the Caribbean or somewhere exotic. So that was it: we found our perfect venue.”

Mangawhai Heads is on the eastern coast of the North Island, north of Auckland. Just a few hours away is the Tutukaka Coast, voted by National Geographic Traveller as the second best coastline in the world (tied with the Pembrokeshire Coast in Wales) So why on earth is it being valued only for its resemblance to a tropical island? It’s better than a tropical island.

All the times and places that form the basis of various aesthetic visions did exist at some point, and they existed because that’s the way life actually was. A French farmhouse back in the day wasn’t trying to style itself “French Farmhouse”, it was simply a house, on a farm, decorated in the way that was available to the owners at the time.

To have a stylistically authentic wedding, it’s not necessary to try to emulate anything else. How about we stop trying to be something we’re not, and instead let others look at what we have going on here, and perhaps let them get a little jealous of the kind of life we live? As far as decoration goes, all you have to do is use the flowers (or rocks, or shells, etc, if that’s more your thing) that can be found in your local area at the time the wedding place. Like the way this kick-ass bride did it. Easy. Let’s take back our weddings!