When you first fall for someone there is a bit of trepidation. Fear of the unknown mixed with a dash of hope and a spoonful of exhilaration. The discovery of the unknown is thrilling but unpredictable. As you explore this new terrain as you reach a point where you have to make a choice. You can take a risk and unveil your heart and simply dive in, or you can keep your guard up, continuing to stand on the edge of the experience for fear of being hurt.

Once you can let go of the fear and simply surrender to the flow, it is like a dance. You relinquish control and yield to the next step. You begin to move in unison with the person you are falling in love with, there are less toes stepped on. You learn to anticipate each other’s steps and together you move with grace.

Then when you decide to dance this dance for the rest of your life, you know you have found something really special. You have faith your partner will be there to support you, wherever this dance will take you, catch you if you fall, twirl you around to face your next adventure together. 

It is a wonderful feeling and it fills you with excitement. Until you discover how expensive it will be…..

As I take these steps myself with my husband-to-be I thought to share some of my insights (and frights….)

1.    Set yourself a budget – but be prepared to go over

The first step to creating your wedding is to set yourself a budget. This will allow for a financial strategy, one that needs to be agreed on by both parties. By deciding on a wedding budget you are already setting up a framework to work within. If your dress budget is $2000-$3000 you are more likely to only look at dresses that fall within that price range, hopefully eliminating the danger of falling in love with that $8,000 dress…

The general rule with weddings however, is that it will cost more than you expect, so be prepared for this…Once you’ve gauged the type of wedding you want, setting your budget will be easier. Researching online will help you define the style of your wedding and work out cost estimates.

Microsoft Excel has a wedding budget spreadsheet template and I highly recommend using this or something similar to help work out the details. This will allow you to see where you are spending your money, but also help prevent the cost from getting out of hand.

Once you have an idea of how much it will cost, you can start budgeting for it. Open up a high interest savings account and have both you and your partner contribute funds from each pay. Set yourselves a time based savings goal and stick to it.

2.    Have your visions align

My partner Michael and I have quite different tastes aesthetically, (but at least we agree on fundamental things like values and principals). It took us 6 months to decide on a wedding venue because we needed to find one we both liked and we are both rather stubborn. In order to work out what each of our priorities were we made a list.

I knew I wanted a small wedding, with a good range of healthy delicious food, somewhere out of the city. Michael wanted to have lots of dancing, good music and, being an architect, wanted our reception in an inspiring architect designed space. So our mission was to find a venue that allowed for all of these things. These were priorities for us so we allocated our budget accordingly.

3.    Decide on a rule for guests – and make no exceptions

If you decide to invite all your friends from school and Uni that you are still in touch with, then to be fair you should be consistent with any friends that fall into that category. If you want every single family member there, you can’t really get out of inviting that creepy Uncle that has false teeth.

Michael and I decided to keep our wedding small, restricting our guests to very close friends we see regularly. We are also only inviting immediate family members and those we see on a regular basis to keep things simple and smaller. The choices you make can lead to some difficult decision making, but as long as you are consistent you can justify your choices and explain them if need be to disappointed parties. Obviously the fewer guests the lower the cost.

4.    DIY and Mates Rates

Take advantage of your contacts. Do you have a friend who could do your makeup or be your photographer or your celebrant? Still offer payment and ensure you come to an agreement both parties are happy with, but it can be nice to have someone you know take on these important roles, especially if they were going to be at your wedding anyway. Don’t be afraid to delegate and ask assistance from family and friends.

Does your soon to be father-in-law have access to a ute to help transport items? Is your mum particularly crafty? Perhaps she could help with making decorations.

If you have a flair for styling, consider arranging your own flowers as a cost effective option. This can also be more sustainable if you are using recycled objects (such as old glass bottles and jars as vases) or using flowers from your mum’s garden.

I will be doing my own makeup (but not my hair), arranging the flowers, as well as making my own gifts for guests. These choices were less governed by cost and more about wanting to contribute to the look and feel of our special day. Of course, if you don’t think time will allow or you imagine it will only stress you out, avoid doing anything extra. I am yet to find someone to make us an orange almond gluten free cake and it did cross my mind to make it myself, but I foresaw potential disaster and decided against that….

5.    Festive Fanfair

When you get married also has an impact on cost. If you are trying to keep costs down a cocktail/canapés set up is usually cheaper than a sit down three course meal, while a buffet will offer more choices for your guests. Having a brunch or a lunch reception is also usually less expensive than an evening reception. Getting married mid-week or on a Sunday is also a great way to save money, as is getting married off-season (in winter for example).

Your wedding doesn’t have to be a big hullabaloo. It could be a picnic in your parents’ backyard and still be special. Getting into huge amounts of debt because of your wedding just doesn’t make sense and will cause unnecessary stress on the relationship. The most important thing is that you and your partner are happy and you are given an opportunity to celebrate this happiness in front of those you love…and that you get to dance!

Professional Post from Alison Gallagher is a ‘creative communicator’ and is the Program Coordinator for the Gen Y financial literacy website She is also an actor and meditation teacher and enjoys inspiring others to follow their dreams.

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