Once upon a time, a boy met a girl and they fell in love and decided to get married. That was when they found out that love did not pay for weddings, any more than exposure pays a writer’s electricity bills.
Some day, we all will face this situation. Unless one is born to excessively rich parents, it makes sense for the young couple to get their heads together and starting making a wedding budget. If not, they run a risk of finding themselves in a situation where they spend the first three years of married life paying off the debts incurred to make that wedding a reality!
So what are the steps you should be taking to plan the expenses for your wedding and make sure you are left with something to start married life with?
List the heads of expense
Get an idea of what things are a must and what are optional. Typically, you would be paying for the bridal outfits, wedding hall, catering, a priest, a photographer. In addition, if a mehendi and sangeet ceremonies are planned, those expenses need to be tabulated separately. If a reception is being held separately from the wedding ceremony, another hall, caterer and photographer will come into the picture.
Estimate your resources
Put the nitty-gritties down on paper. How much money do you have saved up? How much are you willing to spend? How much will your respective parents contribute?
If it is the parents who are paying for the whole wedding, they need to follow the same step, of course. Identify your maximum outlay.
Make the guest list
At this stage, make your guest list as large as it could possibly get. Indian weddings are about a lot more than just a man and woman, so everyone from your father’s office friends to your sister’s school buddies have to be accommodated. See how much that comes to.
Do your research
Now that you know what you would have to spend on, and how much money you have, start looking around. In ideal circumstances, you need to be in the research phase at least 6-8 months prior to the wedding, unless you want to make it obvious you are in a hurry and have every service provider jack up his rates!
Get quotes from more than two providers in each category. Photographers, caterers, halls, mehendi-artists. It is a competitive world out there, and there is no harm in seeking out the best price. At the same time, look for references. If someone you know has gotten married recently, they can share their experience with that service provider and help you make a better choice. At some stage, you will have to balance out cost against reliability.
The guest list you made in the previous step will help here since you will not waste time looking at halls that are too big or too small, and can bargain for rates based on how many people are involved. Where possible, ask for samples of the service provider’s work. Decorators will have albums of their work, photographers will have them too. With any luck, you should be able to get a free meal out of the caterers as well. Always keep a margin of ten percent in everything for taxes and tips.
Prune the guest list
Now that you have an idea of costs, try to see if it fits within your budget. Odds are, at this stage, it will not. This is where you have to start making cuts. And the first thing that must be looked at is the guest list. Within your existing list, see how many are actually likely to show up. That itself tends to reduce the list quite a bit. Then look at the rest, and who can be excised without too much of a social impact. Distant cousins who you never actually meet, office colleagues from distant departments, school friends you have not seen in years…
After all, a lot of the costs quoted to you are ‘per person’, especially catering, so each guest reduced is money saved.
Dress, gifts and Jewellery
At the research stage, you should have identified the best places to buy the dresses and gifts. A little effort, a little willingness to travel will save you a lot of money. In the Mumbai area, for example, bridal shopping is commonly done at Dadar by Maharashtrian families and at Bhuleshwar by Gujarati families. As a result, these areas have a greater variety and multiple shops leading to competitive pricing. Explore similar options in your cities too.
Similarly, for jewellery, track the prices of gold closely. As far as possible, purchase at a time when the prices are low. Financial papers are always tracking gold prices and predicting the trends, keep your eyes open for price fluctuations.
Economise on the events
If you still find yourself with a deficit, start looking at the events planned around the wedding. A mehendi and a sangeet can often be combined into one event, saving hall rental costs. A fancy DJ may not be needed if you have a competent friend who knows how to spin a playlist. Decorations can be done simply and tastefully without breaking the bank – things like fresh flowers tend to push up costs unnecessarily. Similarly a live band, alcoholic drinks, a non-vegetarian menu etc. are things that can be pruned.
Hopefully, by now you will have reached a manageable number. Freeze it, and go ahead! Let’s get on with the nuptials, and may you…
Live happily ever after!