Getting married at a registry office would, at first glance, seem to be the cheapest idea but we discovered the benefits of inviting heaps of guests – heaps of wedding presents. Although we didn’t have a totally oily rag affair, we made tremendous savings in some areas which are usually very costly, and the value of the gifts far outweighed the cost of the wedding. Here are my ideas, some of which we used, and others which I now realise would have been a good idea!
• Get married in summer. This is a good idea for several reasons. Firstly, the weather will probably be nice enough to get married in the great free outdoors. You will also need less material in the brides dress as it won’t need sleeves, and the groom won’t need a jacket. Also free flowers will be abundant.

• Use clubs. No, not the kind you hit each other with. I mean car clubs, floral arranging clubs and photography clubs or students. We asked out local Zephyr club to lend us some cars. They also lent us the drivers, and the only payment they required was to be allowed to take photos to display at their next meeting! The same was true of the floral arrangers. They did arrangements for the church and reception using free flowers from Mum’s and her friend’s gardens, and all they wanted was to be able to take photos. Speaking of photos, hire a student from a local polytech course or amateur photography club. If you’re worried about the results, hire two photography students! It will still cost only a fraction of the cost of a professional, and you will get photos in two different styles.

• The dress. Don’t be afraid to wear second hand or borrowed dresses. After the big day it really does hang in the wardrobe for years going mouldy and making you feel fat on your weeding anniversary! If you buy a second hand dress, you can always alter it to make it original. Or use the dress or some of the fabric that your mother or another special person wore. I have heard of a woman who sewed her wedding dress from an off-cut of curtain fabric in a cheap bin at a furnishing warehouse. It cost her $20 to make the whole dress, and it looked exactly like expensive material that cost $20 a metre as a fabric shop!

• Cakes and invitations. If you are an oily ragger you can bake a cake! If you can’t you know someone who can. You will save hundreds on buying one. Hire cake tins from a bakery if you want different sized tiers. Borrow a computer if you don’t own one, and make your own invitations. There are so many flash fonts and clip art pictures these days that it is a huge waste of money to have invites done at the printers. Print your own invites on coloured paper that matches your wedding theme. Deliver local invites by hand to save postage.

• The gift list. This is very important. Make a list of all the household and garden implements that would lead to a productive newly wed oil rag lifestyle! Organise them into price brackets, ie $10-$20, $20-$30 and so on. Then, when people ask what you want, you can give then suggestions in a price range to suit their budget. This is often less embarrassing if you let your mother or someone else handle it. Make sure you note what each person says to avoid double ups.

• The reception/wedding dance. The wedding reception is usually the expensive bit because you are feeding a huge number of people. Instead of a wedding breakfast, why not invite the guests to a light afternoon tea straight after the service. You can enlist the help of friends and relies a few weeks before hand to do some baking, which can be stored in the freezer until the big day. If you have a church wedding, there will probably be a hall with a water boiler you can use after the service. This also encourages people to hand around for photos. Then have a very small wedding breakfast for immediate family only, either at home or at a restaurant. If you put on a dance as well, it’s likely that the wedding presents might be a bit more generous! There are cheap and fun alternatives to hiring an expensive venue and band. How about a barn dance? Or a backyard boogie (make sure the neighbours are invited!). Make up tapes of music to play on the stereo, and put someone in charge of ensuring the music continues throughout the night. Or hire a band from a local high school, if they’re any good. They might be able to play for a low price to get some experience.

There is no reason why a wedding can’t be done cheaply without looking tacky. As long as the couple express their personality throughout, and there is continuity in colour and style, and everyone has a good time, then it really can be the greatest day of your life.