Are any of your clients planning a wedding? Lee Hancox, Head of Channel and Segment Marketing at Sanlam, shares valuable lessons from her own wedding experiences.
Lee’s first wedding was in a town hall hosting 150 guests. Her second wedding was much more intimate, hosting just 21 guests in a forest.
‘The first time, I wanted the wedding of my dreams,’ she says. ‘I may have in part succumbed to peer pressure from friends’ weddings that were all happening around the same time, as well as the fact that lots of people tend to equate a wedding with how happy a marriage will be.
‘It’s safe to say that most of the 150 people who attended my wedding I saw for the first and last time on that day.’
Lee recalls her second time walking down the aisle as dramatically different. ‘It was all about us. We just wanted people there who were special to us. We didn’t even have a photographer. We captured candid, in-the-moment photos on disposable cameras instead.’
Using herself as a case study, Lee says it’s important not to bow to peer pressure, but rather to make the day about you and your partner as a couple.
She suggests getting savvy with money and starting to save as early as possible. South African weddings can easily start at about R70 000–R 80 000 on average, but can escalate considerably. Globally, weddings cause spiralling debt for couples. So it’s wise to be wary and cut back on costs when you can. Remember that while a wedding lasts one day, a marriage is a long-term commitment.
‘Social media has made it hard. There are so many pictures of people jetting off for perfect weddings overseas. But you never hear about the debt they go into to do so. It’s crucial to stay objective, consult a financial planner and be very realistic about what you can afford.’
It’s not just the wedding that’s expensive. It’s also the less obvious expenses in the lead-up to it, like lobola, maskavi, umembeso, a prenuptial agreement, marriage counselling and more. Another issue is that suppliers hear ‘wedding’ and their eyes light up – and expenses go up – so Lee suggests doing some serious shopping around.
Lee’s top wedding tips:
- If you know you want to get married one day, start saving as soon as possible. Consider a flexible unit trust vehicle with good returns, or a suitable savings vehicle you’ve discussed with your adviser
- Use your savings – don’t go into debt. From a behavioural economics perspective, it’s a strange phenomenon that it feels easier to spend borrowed money from the bank than funds that you’ve saved
- Consider your priorities. Big wedding now or a deposit on a house? ‘When I was planning my first wedding, my dad asked me if I should rather think about using the money to put a deposit down on our home. Think about your future life and what you want this to look like,’ Lee says. If you’re about to set up a home together, you might also want to keep what-could-have-been wedding money aside for practical things like a washing machine
- Use your resources– AKA friends and family! If you know a seamstress, ask her for help with the bridesmaids’ dresses. If your aunt’s a baker, ask her to gift you a cake
- If other people (for example, your parents) are contributing towards your wedding, have an honest conversation with them about what would be an appropriate amount for them to contribute
- Chat to your financial planneras a couple to come up with a viable budget and savings plan
- Go to wedding exposand get lots of quotes before deciding on a supplier. Read the fine print for hidden costs like a cake-cutting fee!
- If you have a long engagement, understand the effect of inflation on supplier pricing. It’s going to go up – have you budgeted for this increase?
- If friends have recently had a wedding, ask for theirspreadsheets as a starting point. That way, you can get a feel for what some of the costs are likely to be
- Put an antenuptial agreement in place. Understand what works for you bothin terms of getting married in or out of community of property or an antenuptial agreement with or without accrual. You need a lawyer for this. Remember to ask about tax breaks for estate planning. Update your wills at the same time to potentially cut down costs
- Remember that travel costs for service suppliersoften add up, so it can be good to pick people close to your wedding venue
- Have a bit of fatbuilt into the budget … You might budget a certain amount for the beverages, then your great-uncle so-and-so has a good night and you’re looking at paying quite a lot more
- Ask the tough questions. Does your aunt three times removed really need to make the guest list?
- Get smart. Consider using the same flowers in the ceremony venue and at the reception, for example
- Remember, your wedding is one beautiful part of a much longer, exciting journey.
- If you add together pre-wedding expenses, which can easily amount to R50 000–R100 000, plus the Big Day price tag of R80 000, and then the honeymoon (about R27 000 according to a Visa survey), that’s close to R200 000. That could be a down payment for a home. Or school fees for a child for a few years. Or, it’s an investment that could grow over time. That’s assuming you have the money. If you don’t and incur debt, you’re starting off your married life looking at paying back a loan for the next five years or longer.