Valuable tips for the Big Day


Getting married can still be as expensive as ever – but for those prepared to put in the effort, there are myriad ways to get better value on many aspects of impending nuptials

IT FINALLY feels like summer again and, with the rising heat, many couples have started counting down the days towards their wedding. Irish brides, it seems, are unwilling to cut back on their big day, despite the ongoing recession – although many are finding ways of saving some money.

Wedding planner Tara Fay notes that while brides may not be slashing their budgets, they are looking for better value and are “more cautious” overall about their spending.

“They definitely are shopping around and doing price comparisons on every single thing,” she says. While costs such as hotel packages may not have declined by that much, couples are now getting better value, with more included in the package.

Couples may still be spending as much as they would have before, but they are just forgoing the “extras” such as chocolate fountains and favours, which no longer may be a priority.

“I tell people to make a list of the top five things that they really really want – and to put their money into that. And then they should make a list of stuff they don’t really want,” says Fay.

For many brides, a major expense has always been the wedding dress, with some spending up to €10,000 in the heady days of the boom.

While Vera Wang may no longer have an outlet in Brown Thomas, for some, a top-notch garment will always be a priority.

“People who want to spend money on the dress will spend it,” notes Fay. For some, shopping trips to New York or London are still on the agenda, for others, however, saving money is more important, with more and more brides seeking out second-hand or sample dresses., for example, lists numerous second-hand options, while you can also purchase dresses from outlets such as Oxfam on Dublin’s Georges Street or Barnardos in Dún Laoghaire.

According to Oxfam, most of its dresses are brand new and have been donated by wedding retailers and designers, with prices starting at about €250. The disadvantage of this option is that they may not have your size in a dress you love, although dresses can be altered.

Suzanne Hourican, owner of Covet, an upmarket dress rental shop in Dublin’s Powerscourt Centre, is seeing an ever-increasing demand from brides, bridesmaids and wedding guests alike for her services.

“Whether one has the money or not, it is difficult to justify splashing out €3,000-plus on a designer evening or cocktail piece that is so distinctive it is very often only worn once. As a result we are filling a much-needed gap in the market,” she says.

“There is a definite trend towards ‘shopping with a conscience’ – whether budget demands or not.”

Choosing your dress in a local bridal shop and then purchasing it online is still in vogue, particularly for bridesmaids’ dresses – although Fay does caution against such an approach.

“One thing I would say is that people can have disastrous experiences buying dresses on the internet – the alterations can end up costing as much as the dress itself.”

When it comes to invitations, the DIY option is still in vogue. Paul Barnes, owner of Daintree Paper shop on Dublin’s Camden Street, is finding steady demand from those going down the DIY route, noting that by doing it yourself you can make invitations for about €1.50 each.

Conversely, however, there has also been an increase in the number of those opting for the more expensive – but more time-efficient – route of getting invitations printed professionally.

“We find that there’s a growth in the number of people getting printed invitations,” says Barnes, adding that people appear to “either have the time and not much money, or money but don’t have the time”.

Catherine Bodey of Paperface. ie agrees, noting her biggest seller is the Classic range, where the price for each unit is €2.50.

“I think the reason the Classic range is popular is down to the fact that it looks expensive. You couldn’t fit stock like that through a printer, so it’s very different to a DIY-style invite,” she says, pointing to a distinction some people wish to make between the professional and DIY option.

“They’re doing subtle things that make the product look more expensive. The wedding venue is usually a four or five-star establishment, so these brides are scaling back on the incidentals but still keen to make a statement,” she adds.

In years gone by, incidentals such as favours, which are little gifts given to each wedding guest, were very popular – with couples offering bags of MMs with their initials on them, or Christmas decorations with the date of the wedding.

However, it is debatable whether or not these were ever appreciated, and many couples are now deciding to forgo this expenditure. Some though are opting instead to find cheaper, novel ways of extending their appreciation, such as little bags of flower seeds.

Some couples are also opting to cut back on wedding cakes, which can cost upwards of €500, in favour of a home-made chocolate biscuit cake, or tiers of cup-cakes bought in Marks Spencer.

Those looking for the ultimate bargain should keep their eye on group purchasing sites like Groupon or Living Social. The former recently had an offer of 60 per cent off a wedding package at the Bracken Court Hotel in Balbriggan, Co Dublin, where an “ivory package” for 100 guests at the four-star hotel came to just €1,950, or less than €20 a head.

It also had a photography package offer of two photographers and a DVD slideshow for €399.

It’s not just the brides though who are hoping to save some cash this summer – guests have also gotten more savvy when it comes to their big day out.

Many are now opting to wear outfits they have worn previously for different occasions, or even rent a dress for the day rather than splurge on a new outfit.

At Covet, for example, you can rent a Temperley mini-dress for €165 for three days, or a full length Badgley Mischka gown for €170, while the days of top-to-toe tanning, manicures and up-dos at a salon have been put to the side in favour of a DIY version at home.

Where it is difficult to cut back, however, is in the area of giving wedding presents. With more and more couples now looking for cash rather than a traditional gift – and some even stating it quite openly on the invitation – it can be difficult to downsize expectations.

However, Fay notes that guests are definitely cutting back when it comes to splashing the cash for a gift. She says couples should be conscious of the expense their guests go to when it comes to travelling to out-of-town weddings.

“You can’t say, ‘I spent that on their wedding, so they should spend it on mine’,” she says.

Finally, while it might seem like an extra you can ill-afford, taking out insurance to cover your big day might be money well spent in the current environment – after all, the last thing you want is your dress shop or hotel to go out of business before your big day, taking your deposit with it.

Weddinginsurance.ieoffers policies starting at €39.99 for cancellation cover of €5,000, rising to €139.99 for cover of €40,000.

If you’re expecting many gifts, you could also top up your home insurance policy to cover them in advance, as well as including your wedding rings as specified items on your policy.

Some couples are opting to cut back on wedding cakes, which can cost upwards of €500