Christina Halloway and her fiancé are getting married in September and she has had to cut down a few costs, such as her bridal gown, guest list and a planner, to make the wedding work with their finances.
The millennial restaurant manager in Waterloo, Ont., said it took her two years to pay down her debt and finally pick a wedding date.
“We got engaged during the holidays, 2018,” she said. “I didn’t want to get married in debt because I owed quite a big number on my line of credit. Honestly, my parents have chipped in a lot.”
Millennials are increasingly skimping on wedding costs, including eloping to pop-up chapels instead of hosting big weddings in grand venues. This has a lot to do with their values and even more to do with economics: rising living expenses and student loans, as well as income that just isn’t keeping pace.
A 25-34 year old in Ontario makes an average of $43,700 per year, according to Statistics Canada.
But last year it cost an average of $2,209 per month, or $26,508 per year, to rent a one-bedroom condo in Toronto. Prefer to buy? It takes approximately $800,000 to buy a home in the city, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.
And millennials have student debts to pay off as well. Those who left school last year had an average debt of $14,311, according to a study by Hoyes, Michalos & Associates Inc., insolvency trustees based in Kitchener, Ont. And since Statistics Canada reports undergraduate tuition went up by 3.3 per cent and graduate tuition by 2.4 per cent from the last academic year, millennials’ debts are only going to rise.
As a result, millennials have to cut corners wherever they can, including on their weddings. Here are six ways they are reducing costs on the so-called best day of their lives.
Saving for a home or vacation instead of a wedding
“Millennials are much more interested in spending their money on life goals such as owning a home and developing their careers,” said Lynzie Kent, founder of Love by Lynzie Events & Design and The Pop-Up Chapel Co. in Toronto.
“They either want to spend a lot of money on their honeymoon, or they want to spend a lot of money on their house. Their values don’t align with spending $30,000 to $100,000 on a wedding,” she said. “This year alone, we will marry 100 couples in our pop-up chapel. That’s where the trend is shifting.”
They either want to spend a lot of money on their honeymoon, or they want to spend a lot of money on their house
Some couples are even staying home. Torontonians Kyle Marshall and Tara Black got engaged last year and are tying the knot in April at her parents’ house.
“We are using what we get for the wedding to contribute to our honeymoon in Montreal,” said Marshall, a full-time student.
Evelyn Clark, a Calgary-based director, lead planner and designer at Evelyn Clark Weddings, also said millennials prefer to save their money for a house, “or fun trips abroad, travelling to Europe or Asia instead.”
Quality over quantity
Millennials who pay for their own weddings prefer smaller guest lists and don’t like grand venues. On average, wedding venues charge $100 per head, so, naturally, smaller events cost less.
“(We have) a small guest list. Two people, maybe four for me, and maybe five for Tara,” Marshall said. He’s letting Tara deal with the finances. “I trust her, so I just let her do her thing.”
“With our clients, there’s a lot more emphasis on creating an incredible party and a day where everyone feels considered and has a fun time. Less emphasis is placed on outdated traditions or spending money on something they don’t feel like it’s worth it,” Kent said. “They’re more interested in creating a memorable experience.”
Those using their parents’ bank accounts spend a little more.
“Our clients are more in the luxury market. Our average is around the $65,000 area,” Clark said. “My millennial clients are actually having their weddings paid for by their parents so they don’t cut down as much.”
Untraditional wedding attire
High-end boutiques sell veils for about $250, but custom do-it-yourself veils can cost $25 or less, according to wedding blogs.
“Not a lot of our brides wear traditional veils anymore,” Kent said. “What’s trendy right now are flower crowns, jewelled crowns. There’s just a new bohemian look.”
Buying pre-owned gowns and sharing gowns are also becoming the new norms.
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“I am seeing a shift towards sustainability in the wedding industry across the board in the wedding industry including fashion,” Kent said.
For example, Halloway borrowed her mother’s wedding dress and saved almost $1,500, the industry average. “Her dress is vintage, but I did revamp it to my liking, which cost me less than half of my budget.”
Marshall, meanwhile, said he won’t be wearing a tuxedo to his big day.
“Pants and shoes I already have, and I’m going to go shopping for a shirt,” he said. “The most expensive (cost) might be the dress or cake. The least expensive will be the shirt I buy for the day.”
An article in MoneyWise said 68 per cent of brides today do not partake in the garter toss tradition as they find it distasteful. It also saves them as much as $125.
Food over limos
Millennials tend to choose wedding cake alternatives such as cake pops, cupcakes and doughnuts.
“A lot of our couples don’t even bother with the cake. They do an alternative to a cake,” Kent said.
On average, wedding cakes cost $450 while cupcakes cost around $2 each. Since millennials are inviting fewer guests than ever before, they are spending less on wedding desserts and booze as well. Kent said that when deciding between premium alcohol and a limo, millennials would choose the former.
“Invitations and often cake are less of a priority when it comes to budget allocation,” Clark said.
Marshall and Black are paying for cake and decorations, “but if I know her dad, he might offer to pay for some.”
Diamonds aren’t forever
Millennials are spending less on diamonds and more on precious stones.
“I’ve definitely seen a shift towards bespoke rings. I’ve seen black diamonds. A bride came in the other day and she had an amethyst. I’ve seen turquoise in rings. My girlfriend just got engaged the other day; she has a blue sapphire,” Kent said. “People don’t just really see the value in spending that much in a ring. Also, a diamond can be a bit controversial as well.”
The Economist reported that “young consumers increasingly shun the taint of conflict and exploitation” that are sometimes associated with diamond mining.
Using planning apps
Tech-savvy millennials are using free wedding planning apps such as TieTheKnot, iWedPlanner and Wedding Countdown to plan their big day.
“We use an online planning software,” Kent said. “It’s almost like Slack, but for wedding planning.”
Millennials are also opting for paperless invitations through Paperless Post and online honeymoon apps like HoneyFund.
Clark said many couples skip the hard copy, or send an invitation, but have everyone RSVP via a wedding website.