It’s a moment of pure elation. Your person has just got on one knee (or not – whichever approach you two decide to take!), you’ve said yes, and you’re both beaming with the thought of spending the rest of your lives together. You can practically hear the wedding bells.

Then it hits you. All your childhood dreams of the perfect wedding and expectations from family and friends (and a whole bunch of relatives you didn’t even know you had) culminate into one question: how are we going to afford to pay for it?

What's an average wedding budget in South Africa? 💒 According to a number of wedding supplier and organiser reports, the average wedding budget in South Africa sits around R250,000-R300,000. Who you invite, what your vision for the wedding is, and how long and involved you want your wedding to be all adds to the cost – that and all the details you didn’t even know you needed to think about.

Sound stressful? It doesn’t have to be! We recently chatted to Talya Plaatjies, a friend of Franc, founder of Fashionably Financial and current bride-to-be, and asked her how she was approaching her wedding budget and balancing her dreams for what her and her fiancé’s dream wedding could be, and what they can afford without breaking the bank. “You don’t want to be going into debt to fund your wedding,” is her one golden rule as she approaches the big day.

We go over her wedding budget and checklist, the tips she’s learnt along the way for keeping costs down and even the wedding budget template she’s put together for just this purpose for you to download.

We chat to Talya Plaatjies (Founder at Fashionably Financial) about her wedding budget

How to work out your wedding budget

“The options for weddings these days are endless: you can have a big wedding, a small wedding, or you can elope. It can be so overwhelming,” says Talya, who had to go through this decision-making herself lately. While her and her partner half-decided to throw out the budget and elope, they both agreed they wanted something special to include their loved ones in. What that looked like, though, they were happy to discuss and agree on. Here’s her step-by-step approach:

1. Work together to agree on the non-negotiables

“My biggest tip when you’re planning your wedding is for you and your partner to go away separately and write down a list of 5 things that you feel are non-negotiable for your wedding.

“Then come together and decide on a list of 3 things that you both agree on: these are then your agreed non-negotiables for your wedding. Once you have that list, you can start creating your budget and decide what you want to prioritise and allocate more budget to.”

2. Calculate how much you can afford to spend

Once you know what you want to have at your wedding, decide how much you’re willing to spend. This is determined by your savings or household budget.  “I wish I had a wedding fund before I was even engaged,” laughs Talya. But you’d best believe that as Fashionably Financial, Talya has made sure her and her partner had been good about saving and investing for their future and big events like this.

That’s because spending money they already had (not borrowing) was really important to Talya, and something she emphasises for other couples. "Going into debt is not the best start to your marriage. A wedding is a big expense, but it’s actually also the start of your lives together. Whether you decide to buy a house, relocate to a new city, or have kids, those are also big financial expenses that often come after a wedding that you want to be able to afford."

Set up a Shared Wedding Goal 🎯 The Franc investing app is goal-based, which means you get to put your money where your goals are. Choose the Wedding goal for your personal goal, or get your partner or family and friends involved in saving together with a Shared Goal, where you can invite up to 9 other people to save together with you, set a target amount and track your progress to that dream wedding budget.

3. Create your wedding budget and checklist

“Once you’ve discussed how much you’re willing to spend on the wedding, create your budget. That’s your plan that helps you navigate the numbers,” she says. “With a budget, have actual and projected expenses. At the beginning, there’s a lot of guess-timation. If a friend said they spent a certain amount on the wedding, you might be guessing that it will cost the same for you. But inflation is real.”

That’s why Talya emphasises giving yourself some wriggle room to work with in your budget. “Often we go in with the maximum amount we’re willing to spend, but there will be surprises,” she stresses.

“Once you decide on the amount you want to spend on your wedding, take about 30% out of that amount and either add it to the amount, or take it away from the amount.

“Let’s use simple numbers to build an example: Let’s say you’ve decided your budget is R10,000 – 30% of that is R3,000. That 30% is your buffer.

“So either your budget is R10,000 but you’re willing to go up to R13,000, or your absolute maximum budget is really R10,000, so you’re actually budgeting for R7,000.”

Sound like a lot of math that’s boggling your brain? Luckily, Talya has already put in the hard work and has agreed to share her wedding budget template with our readers!

4. Negotiate with your suppliers

“A surprising tip I got was that you can negotiate with your suppliers,” shares Talya. It may feel strange or stingy, but remember you have many items to pay for, and suppliers often put wedding premiums on their services or wares. So don’t be scared to ask them to help meet the budget you’ve allocated as a couple.

What should be on your wedding budget checklist?

This is by no means a full list, nor does your wedding have to include all these elements. But it is a list of all the bigger things that most weddings have and that are included in the downloadable wedding budget template.

1. Wedding venue

Where you have your wedding can be personal and special to you as a couple, and is up to personal preference. Talya does advise, however, to think strategically from a budget perspective. “To save budget, stress and admin, choose a venue that has everything included. Some venues don’t include things like the tables, chairs and crockery, and those things can add up pretty quickly, and it can be really expensive.”

“Some venues even include a wedding coordinator on the day or the week of the wedding. It can help to minimise the stress as much as possible.”

2. Wedding photographer and videographer

There are a range of photographers and videographers to choose from, with different price ranges. Based on your budget and non-negotiables, decide how much budget you want to allocate to this and stick to it. And remember that many photographers will work with you to match that budget.

One way to save budget on photos and video for the night is to get a professional photographer to take your couple and family pictures, then ask your guests to help out for the rest. Recruit your content creator friends, and hand out a few cost-effective disposable cameras for guests to have fun with. You’ll both get a fantastic surprise when you develop them later.

3. Marriage officiant

According to Talya, this is one of your ‘Small but Important Things’. It’s all good and well that your friends and family are there to witness your nuptials, but it’s important to make it legal as well. Remember to factor in budget for other important legal things, like updating your will with your spouse, too.

4. Wedding flowers

This is a cost that surprised Talya the most: not only is a professional florist pricey, but fresh flowers are expensive too. Her top tip is to use a combination of real and fake flowers. “No one’s going to even notice, and if they do: so what? Because flowers last a few days and then that’s it,” she says.

5. Wedding sound

If a good party is what’s important to you and your partner, then good wedding music is a must, too. Budgets are varied here, depending on whether you have to organise your own sound equipment, or you hire a wedding DJ or live band.

Make your wedding sound a shared experience by getting guests to add their favourite dance jams to a shared Spotify playlist. It’s almost a guaranteed party starter – everyone’s going to get their favourite tune! Just make sure you sense check the playlist before the big day.

6. Wedding cake

There’s nothing that says party like cake, right? How big, small or fancy this wedding item gets is all up to you. If you do have some skills in the kitchen (or better yet, have a friend or family member that bakes like a dream), consider making this one homemade – it can get pricey!

7. Wedding hair & makeup

You and your partner want to look snatched for the big day, right? Professional hair and makeup can go a long way when it comes to polished photos to frame, and if they’re not your forté, you might want to get some help.

One way to save is to find someone who can do both hair and makeup and negotiate a package deal. Better yet, recruit a friend who has the right beauty skills. If your bridesmaids or groomsmen are throwing bachelorette and bachelor parties respectively, another great idea is to ask them to pool their resources to cover this item as their gift.

8. Wedding dress and attire

“A wedding dress is a big moment for me,” says Talya. “All brides want to look incredible and beautiful in their dress.” A wedding dress or suit are also big financial buys – but buying them doesn’t have to be the only option.  

“I’ve got friends that have got married, and their dresses have either been sold now or are sitting in their cupboards,” Talya explains. “And sustainability is also a big consideration. So don’t limit yourself to buying: renting, buying second hand or making are also good options.” Another good option – that ticks all those sentimental boxes – is to take your mom or grandmother’s wedding dress and make alterations for your own wedding dress.

Talya will be looking at Once Worn and Style Rotate to rent her dress so she can experience her big moment, but save on her budget, too.

“Even if you’re not planning on buying a dress, schedule a session at a wedding dress boutique – it’s a big moment in your wedding journey.”

9. Wedding stationery

This is where you can really save. Instead of sending paper wedding invitations that everyone will eventually put in the recycling bin, save money by creating a digital wedding invitation or creating a wedding website instead. Some are paid for and some are free. It saves you the budget you would have used on printing those invitations out.

Talya likes AppyCouple to help set up her invitations and information for guests. 

10. Wedding bar & catering

Ah, the trickiest decision: to have an open bar or not? When it comes to food, do you splash out on a three-course feast to impress your guests? Again, go back to your non-negotiables as a couple and decide if quenching your guests’ thirst and knocking their culinary socks off is important to you.

Whatever your priorities are, there are other ways to still be generous as hosts on a tight budget:

  • Get a good deal on cases of sparkling wine, or a few beer and G&T kegs, and offer these to guests after the ceremony, then ask your guests to bring a cooler box of their favourite drinks for the reception.
  • Instead of individual three-course plates, bring each of your tables together with a table spread. Or better yet, set up a buffet for inter-table mingling. You’ll give your guests something to connect over – food!

What about wedding gifts?

Is it still okay to ask your guests for gifts on the day? Talya says yes – but how we do it has changed.

“It’s okay to ask people to buy you a gift or give you money. I say that because I know I’d want to give them a gift. So the way to approach it is to acknowledge that your guests’ presence really is a present, and that no gift is expected, but still have a section on your wedding website or invitation with gift suggestions or a link to a wedding registry or fund.

Here are some unique wedding gift ideas that help out your guests’ budget, too:

  • Ask for a contribution to a big item: “There are great registries these days that allow guests to contribute to a bigger gift, like a coffee machine. So they don’t have to buy the whole gift, but contribute to a portion of it.”
  • Ask for funds for your future together: “I know it’s pretty popular for couples to ask for a contribution to a honeymoon fund.” You can share a deposit link from the Franc app that means any contribution goes straight into your shared honeymoon fund or your investment as a couple. Just navigate to the ‘Deposit’ button on the orange bar on your Goal dashboard, scroll to the bottom, and select ‘Share deposit link’.
  • Ask them to cover an item for your wedding or honeymoon. “For one of the weddings I attended, I offered to cover a round of drinks on honeymoon as my gift. It was a small but special gift,” says Talya.

Whatever your big wedding plans or budget, our chat with Talya made it very clear that there’s no one-size-fits-all. There are so many creative ways to make your big day YOURS, and to fit it in whatever budget you have, without going into debt. That way, you can start your life together with a clean financial slate and happy memories.