If I had it my way, our wedding should have cost less than $5,000 and we were not expecting any financial help from our families. But since marriage is about 2 families coming together, the next best thing is to stretch the budget the best we can.
First Principle on Wedding For Singaporeans- Start With Why
Many people get caught up with the details of the wedding planning and arguments and debts roll early into marriage, an unnecessary beginning that strains relationships.
It was important for us to start with why and our whys help us stay centred when we have disagreements in the planning process:
1. We wanted to honour our parents as best as we can.
That means we try to accommodate their requests as best as we can within a limit. The planning serves as an exercise of balancing between honouring them and also drawing boundaries to leave and cleave as husband and wife. Family involvement also helps parents in the letting go process, an indication that we value their wisdom and contributions.
2. A meaningful and memorable wedding does not have to be expensive.
It has to be thoughtful and guest-centric. We want it to be a time where we celebrate with people who journeyed with us. We used whatever free/cheap tools and resources that were available to us. I’ll cover those that made the most difference in this article.
4 Hacks That Saves Us A Lot of Time And Money On Our Wedding
1. Automate Retrieving Proposals from Wedding Venues
The hotel dinner bill was the largest of all.
Like stocks, the odds of breaking even or minimising losses is at the point of commitment to the contract, not on the goodwill of guests. Timing is also key. We asked for the packages during the BOWs season where hotels were offering discounts.
Here’s how we got over 20 hotels, clubs and restaurant send us their proposals:
Step 1: Scraping off the contacts (email address and contact numbers) of all wedding venues in Singapore on an Excel Sheet
Google Sheet: Singapore Wedding Venue Budget Planning. (Feel free to make a copy of it! You are welcome!)
Step 2: Upload the excel sheet on MailChimp – email template included in Google Sheet
Here are the responses we received from our enquiry.
Step 3: Compare offers with Seedly’s Ang Bao rates guide or AngBaoRates.com
Here’s a screenshot of our contract rate with the said hotel:
We dug into the offers and found a great deal. While Angbaorate.com quoted our hotel at $166, we managed to get a deal at $128 upon contracting.
That is a cool $38 buffer per guest. This is a margin of safety of 22.9% between the hotel offer and the rates stated online. This is the most significant buffer for our budget.
On top of the rates above, we obtained an additional $888 net discount, 2 free tables and 2-night stay in the hotel (we asked for one additional night).
We had 2 more complimentary nights with VIP lounge access (about $800 in value) for our anniversary when they made an error with our credit card resulting in some cashback losses (which the bank also honoured later on account of spend).
Something to think about should you need to ask for compensation for anything gone wrong.
2. Financing hacks for our hotel wedding
Credit Card Hacks
With housing and renovation to oversee simultaneously, we did not have the bandwidth to play with the miles game.
Our weapon of choice was UOB’s 5% cashback One Card + Standchart’s Manhattan over a period of 9 months (you need that runway to maximise the returns). This combination was a neat 3-5% savings. The UOB card alone got us 2 free tables (out of the 40 tables we eventually had).
Ladder/Staggered Fixed Deposits (FDs)
Up to 12 months before, we had 3 tranches of FDs expiring in 12, 6 and 3 months to pay for the wedding. Laddering FDs allows you to gain the full interest of each tranche instead of breaking up one FD and lose interest for the entire amount.
This strategy was borrowed and adapted from A Singaporean Stocks Investor (ASSI) for emergency funds. Thanks, AK!
3. Keep Guest list control and reminders
Guests No show = Empty Table Costs + Wasted Food
Most venues have a 1-2 table buffer. We were able to save exactly the 2 buffer tables by keeping the guest list very tight.
- Create a website for RSVP collecting mobile numbers.
- Convert the input into .csv and upload on a bulk SMS service and Mailchimp to confirm and remind. The website also has unlimited photos and our love story which saves us some money on printed albums.
All in, the hosting, domain and templates cost less than $100.
Some folks still like printed invites so make sure you allocate a bit of budget there. We did ours for $65 using a Canva and Gogo Print combo.
Use a bulk SMS service to remind guests after that.
If you can’t build a website, fret not. This option no need website building skills. Collate your guests’ contacts and send WhatsApp or SMS reminders. Custom SMS delivery services usually sell in bulk for businesses, like $500 for 10,000 SMS credits.
We wrote to Fort Digital and they let us in for 1,000 SMSes at $51.
1,000 SMSes was about enough to send one confirmation with event details and one reminder sms two weeks prior.
Cost: $0.07 per guest. It was a no brainer as it reduced our last min no-shows and people updating us earlier significantly.
4. Psychological Margin of Safety
Staying within budget happens from having the right expectations, not on the goodwill of guests’ Ang Baos:
- Prepare and additional 20% buffer for errors + unexpected items.
Although we blew our budget by about 10% we came out unscathed due to getting our big ticket item right.
- Expect to only recover 50% of the wedding expense.
When planning, take it that you will lose 50%. Extras are a bonus. Keeps you sane when your life savings are flying out of the window paying the credit card instalments.
I really felt like we had a windfall when we did receive approximately 20% more than our spend.
A lot of our decisions was based on honouring our parents, especially on the guest list.
One of my friends rightly reminded me that we didn’t have any excuse not to do it, it wasn’t as if we were struggling. He also said that in his experience, the parents and relatives will remember what we did and didn’t do for our wedding. And you’d be sure you get reminded every festivities. I took his advice to heart. It made a difference.
We were glad that we did as some of our guests still come up to us and told us how meaningful the wedding was months down the road when we met at work at homes.
Everyone’s financial, family and ‘face’ situation is different but remember, a wedding is a day and marriage is a lifetime. Seedly focuses on finances but it is just one dimension. Work on the budget you set aside and focus on WHY you want to do the wedding. Focus on the people you want to create the experience for.
Memories don’t need to be extravagant.
They need to be thoughtful and meaning
And remember to invest in your marriage. Go for a marriage prep course.
Your wedding is just for one day, whereas your marriage is for a lifetime. Spend below your means!
Seedly Contributor: Caleb Ho
Caleb Ho breaks down complex concepts into fun and useful everyday hacks and tools.
As Lead Educator at Master Principles of Accounts, he publishes in-depth guides, hacks and actionable tools that teach students, professionals and small business owners to thrive in schools and personal/business finance. In his other life, Caleb is Lead Curator and Stewardship Board member of TEDxSingapore, a 100%-community created platform for Ideas Worth Spreading since 2010.
Caleb is currently building a free accounting school.