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How to plan a wedding on a budget

April 18, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin


According to weddingbells.ca, the average expected cost of a wedding in Canada excluding the honeymoon is $22,429 and if you include the honeymoon, the bill increases to $27,899.

Here is the average budget breakdown based on anticipated costs:

Venue $9,255 Limo $753
Honeymoon $5,470 Cake $584
Rings/bands $2,470 Jewellery $483
Photographer $2,206 Hairstylist $467
Bridal Gown $1,847 Guest favours $452
Decor/Florist $1,343 Bridesmaid’s dresses $428
DJ/Musicians $1,247 Stationery $384

Because weddings frequently end up going over budget, the average actual cost of a wedding is $31,110 in Canada.

Even if you have been dreaming of a fancy, traditional wedding since you could walk, that’s an awful lot of money to spend for one day when you are still paying off student loans or saving for a down payment on your first house.

Not everyone can be as frugal as Kerry K. Taylor (aka Squawkfox) who had only four guests and spent $591.12 in total on her wedding to Carl. But Part 1 and Part 2 of her wedding blogs are very entertaining and contain lots of terrific frugal helpful hints.

Here are a few of my suggestions based in part on a great list of Cheap Wedding Tips and Ideas I found online and coloured by my experience helping my daughter plan her wedding several years ago.

Invitations: Engraved invitations with return cards, envelopes and stamps can be very expensive. You can get beautiful paper and envelopes from a stationery store and print your own invitations using a laser printer for a fraction of the cost. You can also create an electronic invitation and have guests RSVP to an email address or a website. 

Venue & food: Look for a free or low cost venue like a community centre or an outdoor setting like a park or beach for a summer wedding. Sometimes it’s cheaper to get married on a week night or have a morning wedding followed by lunch instead of an evening ceremony.

If you can select your own caterer and friends and family are willing to contribute part of the meal, you will save a bundle. Also, try to find a venue that will allow you to get a liquor licence and buy your own beverages instead of paying per drink or per bottle.

But keep in mind that you may have to rent tables, chairs, dishes and even a tent for an unconventional venue. In addition to servers, you will need people to do setup, strike down and cleanup after the party. You may be more than willing to pay for a “wedding package” offered by a hotel or banquet hall that ensures you don’t have to worry about these logistics on your special day.

Rings/bands: Get simple gold or white gold bands. Think of options like coloured or semi-precious stones rather than diamonds. See if there are any family antiques or heirlooms you can incorporate into the design.

Bridal gown: Before you say “yes to the dress” and spend thousands of dollars at a traditional bridal salon, consider other options. Your mother or older sister’s dress may have great sentimental value and it may be possible to alter the dress to fit. It’s worth checking out stores that sell prom dresses or other evening gowns, particularly if you are getting married in a more casual setting like a beach. If you take a sample size, you may find your dream dress at a seasonal sale at a high-end dress store.

And don’t forget pre-owned wedding dresses available online or from The Brides Project, a charity that raises money for cancer.

Bridesmaid dresses: You have to watch the movie 27 dresses  to fully appreciate how hideous bridesmaid dresses can be and remember how much you hated shelling out for the dress you wore to your second cousin’s wedding. Allowing attendants to choose the same colour attire in styles that suit them makes everyone more comfortable. My daughter’s attendants all wore short black dresses they chose themselves with red shoes.

Flowers and decor: Buy seasonal flowers in bulk at a local market.  Display them attractively with tea lights in glass vases you can purchase from the dollar store. For a Christmas wedding poinsettias and dried branches sprayed white can make very effective centerpieces. I am not “crafty” but for those of you who are, there are lots of ideas on Pinterest.

Wedding cake: We decided to substitute a tiered plate of exotic cupcakes for a more traditional wedding cake. They tasted better and, there were only a few left over by the end of the night. 

Photographer: See if you can find a photographer who will take pictures of the wedding and in return for an hourly rate, give you a CD with all of the pictures. You can select the pictures you want to print and even create your own photo books online or using the services of a local camera store. To augment the professional photos, put disposable cameras on every table and ask your guest take pictures throughout the event.

Weddings are emotional occasions that bring out the best and the worst in people. One of the biggest challenges can be paring down the guest list to stay on budget without alienating someone.

You want your wedding to be perfect, but remember it’s just the first day of the rest of your life. You will be off to a much better start if in the early years of your marriage if you don’t have the additional burden of paying off debts for a wedding you couldn’t really afford.

Have you planned a wedding? Send us an email to so*********@sa*********.com and tell us about how you saved money. Your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And don’t forget that the Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers a flexible way to save affordable amounts for retirement.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

25-Apr Taxes Why declating all of your income can save you money
2-May Gardening Cheapest ways to plant a maintenance-free garden
9-May Mother’s day Mother’s day gifts for every budget

New house vs resale? Which should you choose?

April 4, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin



After renovating an old house and then buying a new house in the suburbs, we think we finally got it right with our current home which is close to the Finch subway station in Toronto.

Over 10 years ago, the builder assembled three large lots with small bungalows, tore them down and built five new two-story detached homes. We got the end unit surrounded by a park. We have an energy efficient furnace, the house is fully wired for Internet and it was a lovely blank, clean canvas to decorate.

I thoroughly enjoy working at home in my cheerful, bright office. When I do have to go downtown for meetings in off peak hours, I walk to the subway in five minutes and I always get a seat.

But whether to buy a new house or a resale is a very personal decision. Here are a few of the things you should consider before making up your mind.


If you want to live in a built up neighbourhood, close to public transportation you will generally opt for a resale home. Unless you can get an infill house in an old neighbourhood, new homes tend to be in a suburban area which can mean a longer daily commute.


In a new development you will typically get more house for your money. But depending where you work, you also have to figure in the cost, wear and tear of a longer commute. Furthermore, resale homes generally already have paved driveways, fences, decks and landscaping which you will have to shell out for on top of the initial purchase price of a new home. Proximity of local schools and other services may also influence your decision.


Older homes often have traditional layouts. It may be possible to add another bedroom, an ensuite bathroom, an upgraded kitchen or a main floor family room.  However, renovating can be hard on both your nerves and your wallet.

When you buy a home from the plans, you can select the layout you prefer and in some cases you can even customize. You also get to chose from a broad selection of paint colours, kitchen cabinets, counter tops, carpet and flooring.

Energy efficiency:

Newly constructed homes are typically better insulated and have double or triple glazed windows which will save you money on heating and cooling costs. They also generally come with a high energy furnace and new more efficient appliances.


Upkeep for an older home can be more expensive because of older appliances, plumbing and electrical systems. You may need a new roof or a new furnace sooner than you think. Old windows and inadequate insulation can drive up heating bills. In contrast, every new home in Saskatchewan is covered by the New Home Warranty Program.

What I’m hoping is that someone will decide to build new, affordable infill bungalows close by so for the next chapter we can have the best of all worlds – a new home on one floor in an established neighbourhood that is also accessible to public transit.

And the icing on the cake would be if our wonderful neighbours keep their promise to buy the house next door.

Have you bought or sold a house lately? Send us an email to so*********@sa*********.com and tell us whether you bought a new or resale house and why. If your story is posted, your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

11-Apr Taxes 10 tax deductions you might miss
18-Apr Wedding How to beat the high cost of weddings
25-Apr Taxes Why you should file your tax return on time