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Curbing Wedding Costs as we Spring Into Season

by Sep 3, 20190 comments

Lee Hancox, Head of Channel and Segment Marketing at Sanlam, uses herself as a case study. She recaps on her financial learnings as she compares the experience of her first extravagant wedding to her toned-down second wedding…

Lee Hancox’s first wedding was in a town hall hosting 150 guests. Her second wedding was much more intimate, hosting just 21 guests in a forest. “The first time, I wanted the wedding of my dreams. I may have in part succumbed to peer pressure from friends’ weddings that were all happening around the same time as well as the fact that lots of people tend to equate a wedding with how happy a marriage will be.” It’s safe to say that most of the 150 people that attended my wedding I saw for the first and last time on that day.

Hancox recalls her second time walking down the aisle as dramatically different. “It was all about us. We just wanted people there who were special to us. We didn’t even have a photographer. We captured candid, in-the-moment photos on disposable cameras instead.”

Using herself as a case study, Hancox – Head of Channel and Segment Marketing at Sanlam – says it’s important not to get caught up in peer pressure, but rather, to make the day about you and your partner as a couple. She also suggests getting savvy with money and starting to save as early as possible. South African weddings cost about R70 000 to R 80 000 on average (but can escalate considerably). Globally, weddings cause spiralling debt for couples So, it’s wise to be wary and cut back on costs when you can. Remember that a wedding lasts one day, a marriage should last a life time.

“Social media has made it hard. There are so many pictures of people jetting off for perfect weddings overseas. But you never hear about the debt they go into to do so. It’s important to stay objective, consult a financial adviser and be very realistic about what you can afford.”

It’s not just the wedding that’s expensive. It’s also the less obvious expenses in the lead-up to it, like lobola, maskavi, umembeso, a prenuptial agreement, marriage counselling and more.  Another issue is that suppliers hear ‘wedding’ and their eyes light up – and expenses go up – so Hancox suggests doing some serious shopping around.

Picture: Courtesy of Avani Victoria Falls Resort

Some of her other top tips?

–          If you know you want to get married one day, start saving as soon as possible. Consider a flexible unit trust vehicle with good returns, or a suitable savings vehicle you’ve discussed with your adviser.

–          Use your savings, don’t go into debt. From a behavioural economics perspective, it’s a strange phenomenon that it feels easier to spend ‘borrowed’ money from the bank than funds that you’ve saved.

–          Consider your priorities. Big wedding now or a deposit on a house? When I was planning my first wedding, my dad asked me if I should rather think about using the money to put a deposit down on our home. Think about your future life and what you want this to look like. If you’re about to set up a home together, you might also want to keep what-could-have-been wedding money aside for practical things like a washing machine. 

–          Use your resources – aka friends and family! If you know a seamstress, ask her for help with the bridesmaids’ dresses. If your aunt’s a baker, ask her to gift you a cake.

–          If other people (for example your parents) are contributing towards your wedding, have an honest conversation with them about what would be an appropriate amount for them to contribute.

–          Chat to your financial planner as a couple so you come up with a viable budget and savings plan.

–          Go to wedding expos and get lots of quotes before deciding on a supplier. Read the fine print for hidden costs like a cake cutting fee!

–          If you have a long engagement, understand the effect of inflation on supplier pricing. It’s going to go up – have you budgeted for this increase?

–          If friends have recently had a wedding, ask for their spreadsheets as a starting point. That way, you can get a feel for what some of the costs are likely to be.

–          Put an antenuptial agreement in place. Understand what works for you both in terms of getting married in or out of community of property or an antenuptial agreement with or without accrual. You need a lawyer for this. Remember to ask about tax breaks for estate planning. Update your wills at the same time to potentially cut down costs.

–          Remember travel costs for service suppliers often add up, so it can be good to pick people close to your wedding venue.

–          Have a bit of fat built into the budget… You might budget a certain amount for the beverages, then great uncle so-and-so has a good night and you’re looking at paying quite a lot more.

–          Ask the tough questions. Does your aunt three times removed really need to make the guest list?

–          Get smart. Consider using the same flowers in the ceremony venue and at the reception, for example.

Remember, your wedding is one beautiful part of a much longer, exciting journey.

A practical example to bring it home:
If you add together pre-wedding expenses (these can easily amount to R50 000 to R100 000), plus the Big Day price tag of R80 000, then the honeymoon (about R27 000 according to a Visa survey), that’s close to R200 000. That could be a down payment for a home. Or school fees for a child for a few years. Or, it’s an investment that could grow over time. That’s assuming you have the money. If you don’t and incur debt, you’re starting off your married life looking at paying back a loan for the next five years or longer.

Additional information:

Here are some of the costs of getting married before you even say I do…

The engagement ring: The average sum South Africans spend is R20 000 to R40 000.

The pre-nup: Ranges from R1400 to R2650 or more.

Marriage counselling or a marriage course: About R350 – R1000.

Lobola: Mail & Guardian’s reader poll suggests R10 000 to R100 000, with the average being R61 540.

Maskavi: Also known as Mehr, this is the mandatory dowry or gift paid by the groom to the bride as part of a Muslim marriage. It can be anything, from a pre-determined cash amount to Kruger Rands, shares or even a house.

Umembeso: This special ceremony in Zulu culture involves the groom and his family bringing gifts to the bride’s family. Budget for about +R80 000.

The engagement shoot: Prices range from R850 for 30 min shoot to R1800 for an hour.

The wedding planner: Payscale suggests the average salary for a South African wedding planner per hour is R117 or more.

Photos courtesy of Unathi Mbonambi Photography

In your comments, please refrain from using offensive language and unnecessary criticism. If you have to be critical, remember – it must be constructive.

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