Getting married is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life. It is the celebration of the love between two people and the joining of families. However, in order for a wedding day to be special and memorable (for the right reasons), a lot of planning is required.

There are a few essential things that must come together for a wedding to take place. These include venue, food and drink, music and entertainment, wedding attire and photography. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission's MoneySmart cited back in 2016 that the average Australian wedding sets a couple back $36,200. Broken down, this large cost looks like this:

Food, alcohol and venue - $18,683

Wedding clothes and accessories - $4,271

Photographer - $3,983

Entertainment - $2,896

Flowers and decorations - $2,896

Ceremony - $941

Other (cars, hair, makeup, accommodation, stationery) - $2,534

Of course, this number is now believed to be even higher, due to more lavish wedding trends becoming commonplace, and is expected to continue to rise in the coming years.

The study also found that only 43% of couples stayed within budget when planning their wedding, while 35% blew their budget entirely, and 18% planned without a budget whatsoever. Perhaps most unsurprisingly, 60% of couples took out a loan to pay for their wedding.

The budget

The key to planning a successful wedding without blowing the bank is to set the budget before doing anything else. Ensure you and your spouse has an open dialogue about money and a clear vision on how much you have to spend, as well as what things are important to you and what things can be dropped, if necessary.

For example, you may have your heart set on getting married in the church in your hometown, and this may mean you can save on venue costs and be able to put extra money into other areas, such as getting a videographer (as well as an official photographer) to film the whole day and create a professional video for you.

If you’re unsure on how to split your budget, use these below percentages as a rough template, and alter accordingly.

45% - Venue (ceremony and reception), which usually also includes food and drink as well as entertainment and music

20% - Wedding clothing and accessories (for bridal party and groomsmen)

15% - Styling (florals, etc.)

10% - Photography

5% - Stationery (invites, place cards, etc.)

5% - Travel, accommodation and transport

Venue/ food & drink/ music & entertainment

The venue is by far the biggest expense you will pay when planning a wedding. Depending on the size, location, a number of guests attending and the time of year, you can expect to spend almost half of your budget on the venue, which often includes food and alcohol, as well as entertainment.

The venue is one of the first things you should secure, but ensure you do your research, make lots of visits to space and ask the venue manager about capacity, access, entertainment and catering.

It’s important to note that many couples will pay for two venues. The first venue will be where the wedding ceremony will take place, which is often a smaller affair. A common place to have a wedding ceremony is in a church. The second venue is often the larger expense out of the two and is where the wedding reception will take place. The wedding reception venue will be where the largest portion of time will be spent, and will most likely involve a greater amount of people.

Most wedding venues that host receptions regularly (such as large manor houses and hotels) are fully-equipped with everything you might need for your and will be able to strike you a good deal that includes in-house catering and perhaps in-house entertainment (using their AV systems). Most venues will allow you to hire in external styling as well as entertainment and music, but be sure to ask before you book.

Entertainment is one of the most important things to consider when planning a wedding and should be included in the overall venue cost. Good music has the power to make any wedding day a success; you and your guests will have the time of your lives on the dancefloor until the early hours of the morning.

Choosing the right music for you can be tricky. Do you choose a DJ or a live band? Hiring a DJ is cheaper, and means you can have access to tens of thousands of songs, but there’s something so special and magical about having a live band who can get the crowd going.

Ideally, you’d have both (if your budget allows) - a live band for the first few hours of the reception, during dinner and then getting the party going. Then, when evening turns to night and the party is in full swing, a DJ can keep it going into the small hours.

For a spectacular and incredibly professional wedding reception band, you can expect to pay anywhere between $2,000-$5,000. However, this completely depends on whether you are booking a 3-piece band or, say, an 8-piece band.

Remember to consider the time of year, too, as DJs and live bands will typically cost more in high season.

Wedding attire

While the venue and everything that comes with it is essential for practicality and ensuring the wedding actually takes place, many brides-to-be will agree that the wedding dress is the most important thing to get right.

Brides will often try on lots and lots of wedding dresses in varying styles before they find one that they love. It is advised that the wedding dress is bought six months before the actual wedding day so that it has time to be custom fitted. This is because many women will lose weight for their wedding day, and so the dress needs to be re-fitted again and again to ensure it is perfect on the day.

In terms of cost, the wedding attire - including the all-important wedding dress, shoes and accessories, as well as the bridesmaid's dresses and groomsmen's suits - could reach a grand total of $10,000, going by today’s standards. However, some custom designed wedding dresses will cost this alone.

The ring

One small, though not unimportant by any means, a detail that you may have forgotten about in the whirlwind of planning a wedding, is the wedding rings. Of course, the engagement ring sealed the deal, and will always steal the show when compared to anything else, but what’s a wedding ceremony without the exchanging of rings?

They say you should spend around two to three months of your income on an engagement ring, but less on the wedding bands. Some couples will spend $2,000 - $5,000 on wedding bands, while others will splash out $30,000 - it’s all down to personal preference.

Conclusion

There is a lot to consider when planning a wedding, but if you stick to your budget and prioritise what’s important to you - often, the venue and the wedding attire will sit high on the agenda - you will not only stay within your budget but you will have a day to remember.