Tag Archives: New Zealand

$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.


Purpose of weddings: It’s not about the legalities

Alternative titles for this post:

A case for multi-wedding marriages
A dress! You guys, check at this dress!*

M and I are New Zealanders. In New Zealand, once two people have been living together as a couple for three years, the de facto partnership they are in has practically the same legalities around it as an actual marriage. For instance, if you break up, assets would be split fifty-fifty. You enter this phase of financial union without doing a thing – the couple doesn’t have to go somewhere, or sign something, or make any declarations. It just becomes a truth that everything is now jointly owned.

We reached our three year mark right about the same time that we moved to Singapore. Before that though, we’d already completely merged our finances anyway. We were in it together, man. And then Singapore happened, which just further cemented the fact that as a couple, we were a done deal. Obviously emotionally, yes: if following your partner to a foreign country because he got a job there isn’t commitment, I don’t know what is. But also legally: the way the visa  situation works, M is here by what is known as an employment pass, while I am here as his dependent. The paperwork included going to the NZ High Commission to write signed statements, witnessed by an official, about how long we’ve had joint bank accounts and the like. We are officially recognised in Singapore as having a common-law marriage, and it’s what allows me to stay here with him.

It gets worse. For years we’ve had the habit of referring to each other as each other’s partner, but here in Asia, a lot of people don’t get that. And most people I’ve come across really don’t get living together before marriage.  Seriously, the number of times I’ve had to explain that we’re not married, but we live together, but it’s like being married, and actually, this is very common in NZ and it would be unusual not to live together first. So for the almost two years we’ve been living here, we’ve gotten used to just calling each other husband and wife when talking to locals. Makes conversation with a chatty cab driver that much simpler.

So why are we even getting married, when it doesn’t really change much? Well, for one, its going to be a bit more convenient to actually have a marriage certificate instead of having to prove our commitment in other ways. But for us, getting married, or more accurately, having a wedding, is not about the legal stuff at all. We’re doing it for two main reasons:

1. Making explicit all the implicit promises that we have already made to each other, and doing it in a way that our community recognises. I hate to be quoting Sex and The City, but Miranda put it perfectly, in the episode where she marries Steve: “I do actually wanna say those vows, out loud, to Steve. In front of the people I care about”

2. Acknowledging, along with our family and friends, that loving each other so much that we want to share the entire rest if our lives together, is awesome. We’ve been lucky enough to find our person, and that’s amazing, frankly, even if it is a miracle that happens to lots of people. It’s worthy of a big-ass celebration.

So once I figured out that the legal part of this wedding will be much easier to handle in Singapore than in Indonesia (for starters, Singaporeans use English), we made the decision to get the meaningless, five minute, registry office ceremony done a few days before the emotional, poignant readings, personalized vows, ring exchange ceremony at the resort.

My intention was to approach the legal thing as much like paperwork formality as possible – we’d show up in whatever we were wearing that day, sign what we needed to sign, and be done. But, it turns out, we need two witnesses. And there’s a dress code. The info online literally specifies that shorts and flip flops aren’t appropriate. What up, we live in those things.

So that means my man can wear his office wear, and I…well, I don’t look my best in my formal office wear. The thing is, for men, formal professional wear and formal social wear are the same thing. For women, they are kind of vastly different. Miss Manners discusses this issue here. And since our legal ceremony will be socially formal, and not professionally formal, I was instantly launched into fashion fantasies of a Kate Middleton-like nature.

Which brings me to this dress. I won’t bore you with listing the ways it is perfection, I’ll just let you see for yourself:

Karen Millen, I salute you.

I tend to be uber fussy, I mean discerning, about my clothes, but this one is hitting so many nails on so many heads, that when it comes to this dress, I just can’t. I just can’t not obsess over it. 

You complete me.

The only nailhead it doesn’t hit is the price.

Don’t speak. I know just what you’re saying.

You’re saying, “Lindsay, I thought this was a frugal wedding, you sell out.”

Yeah, the dress is over SG$500, and that’s not even addressing the shoe issue. So here’s the deal: it’s not coming out of my wedding budget, it’s coming out of my everyday budget. Plus I can totally wear it again. Right?! Also, you know how I just said my taste is very discerning? When my local friends just read that, they were all surprised and thought about how my ubiquitous plain t-shirt with denim shorts does not exactly reflect a keen sartorial eye. Here’s the sad truth: I’m so damn fussy about clothes, that I almost never find something that fits the bill, and hence I almost never buy new stuff, and hence, I mostly wear pretty old things that were acquired as gifts, or purchased in the days before my fussiness went stratospheric. The upshot is, I spend so little on clothes, that I can actually justify this.

Then there’s the witnesses issue for the legal ceremony. M wants his brother to be his, and I would like my mother to be mine. But since I’m all dressed up and such, and all our immediate family members will be in town, it doesn’t seem right to leave them out. We’re allowed to bring up to 20 guests to the registry office. So we’re going have all our immediate family come. And since we’re doing that, well, maybe we should all go to TWG afterwards and drink champagne and eat a macaroon or two.

Suddenly, it appears I’m having two weddings. But I don’t want to look at it like that. I still consider our non-legal ceremony on the beach to be our real wedding, the one that’s important. Now we just also have a fancy family morning tea to go with it. And the fact that I get to have both beach party princess, and elegant urbanite dresses, well, I’m not too sad about that.

*Yes, check at. That’s how we spoke where I grew up, mmkay?

$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.

When a destination wedding is sensible: Rethinking Miss Manners’ advice

Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, is right about almost everything. She’s been pretty vocal about her disregard, if not appall, for a lot of wedding-related behaviour, and I tend to agree with most of it. For instance, wedding favours can be pretty, but they’re mostly just a waste of time and money, and the less they are considered compulsory, the better. And, the groom and bridal party should be made up of closest friends, not selected based on gender or matching numbers (groomsmaids and bridesmen are the way of the future!). When it comes to destination weddings, Miss Manners has some opinions. Some great opinions. But opinions that may not be as universally applicable as she would like.

Her argument is that weddings should be local, and if you want to travel to a romantic exotic location, that is for the honeymoon, not the wedding. Destination weddings are disrespectful to your guests: you’re asking them to spend a lot of money, and a lot of time, traveling to a place they didn’t select, and essentially having a holiday* with people they didn’t select. She also feels the celebration has gotten out of control, spilling out into various types of warm-up events (showers, stag and hen nights, welcome parties), and after parties (morning-after brunches). This is also demanding perhaps more than your fair share of your guests’ time, plus it requires more and more money, which you most probably cannot afford. And it intrudes into the honeymoon, just when the couple should understandably be left alone.

I think the most common reasons people have destination weddings are 1. The destination has a strong brand of being a romantic, wonderful place, and WIC has sold us all on the need to make the wedding as visually appealing as possible, and 2. Even after taking the cost of flights into account, the difference in costs between your home and the destination can mean the whole thing still comes out cheaper. For instance, British people love having their weddings in Thailand.

I totally agree with Miss Manners and I think the common reasons for destination weddings suck. Because the fantasy of weddings is out of control and I want to redefine weddings to be more authentic with our actual lives. I believe if you can only afford a barbecue at home for the same cost as a ball in Thailand, then what you should do is have a barbecue at home.

But all this reasoning only works if you live, physically, in the same local area as your guests and loved ones. In that case, sure, you don’t need add-on events because you see all these peeps quite often.

But how many people live in these circumstances any more? My man and I live in Singapore, and our immediate family members are in New Zealand and Australia, with extended family members in South Africa, England, and a few other places, and our friends are all over the dang place.

We had initially thought we should have our wedding in Auckland. But such is the nature of kiwis that most our good friends from there are no longer there, and it turns out we’re down to about one couple of friends, three parents, and one brother and sister-in-law still residing in NZ. So, the majority of the guests
would have to travel overseas to get to our wedding anyway.

And the thing about NZ is that it’s pretty far away from most places. And the thing about South East Asia is that it’s relatively closer. If you’re in England
or South Africa, it’s much easier (and cheaper) to get to South East Asia
than it is to get NZ. So it turns out having a tropical destination wedding is
actually the least demanding thing we can offer our guests.

As far as the peripheral wedding events ago, you can bet we’re having them. If our guests, some of whom we haven’t seen for years, and maybe won’t see for years again after the wedding, are going to travel all this way, you can bet the time with them is not going to be limited to the few minutes we can spend with them at the reception.

In sum, the Frugal Wedding rules on destination weddings:

1. If your most important guests (immediate family, best friends) are not mainly concentrated in one geographical area, having a destination wedding makes sense.

2. Choose a location that’s relatively easy to get to, on the whole.

3. Since your guests are spending so much money and time to be there, spend some time actually seeing them.

4. Guests sure as hell do not have to give presents.

*USA-ians, please substitute the word ‘vacation’ for

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?

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!