Jessica Bishop started The Budget Savvy Bride as a blog in 2008, while planning her own wedding on a budget of $10,000 – a feat of frugality even back then.

She can’t believe how much the event costs have skyrocketed since, sometimes well into the six figures.

“I just can’t wrap my head around it,” says Ms. Bishop, whose blog-turned-online-magazine and podcast offers brides-to-be tips on how to keep those nuptial costs under control.

Ms. Bishop’s site features weddings closer to $15,000 and ways to elope for around $1,000.

Couples often feel pressure to splurge on their wedding, but spending should be done in the context of a couple’s greater financial and life goals, says Ms. Bishop, who has since divorced.

She suggests couples talk through what they want and what they can realistically spend.

“At the end of the day, nothing is actually required to have a wedding other than you, your partner, and a marriage license,” she says.

While the average wedding in Canada costs roughly $30,000 to $40,000, expenses can sometimes soar to more than double that depending on the location and details, says Karina Lemke, founder of Karina Lemke Wedding and Event Design.

In the Greater Toronto Area, where she’s based, the average cost is closer to $100,000, largely because many couples don’t make – or stick to – a realistic budget, especially with so many emotions at play.

“A couple would never walk into a car dealership and buy a car without reading the contract and knowing what it was going to cost,” Ms. Lemke says. “Yet people enter into wedding planning without a clear-cut idea about what it’s going to cost.”

Ms. Lemke says couples should try to balance needs versus wants.

“The need is a marriage license, someone to actually physically marry you legally in the province that you’re in, hopefully surrounded by your family and friends,” she says. “Everything outside of that is a want. You have to determine what value you place on the want.”

She suggests engaged couples meet with a wedding planner, even if they’re organizing the event themselves, because even a two-hour consultation is likely to save more than it costs.

The guest count is the most significant factor, she says. In Toronto, for example, the per-plate price is close to $200, before taxes and gratuities, and many hotels and banquet halls have a minimum.

Ms. Lemke says a consultation with a wedding planner can save people money on wedding expenses, even if they handle the event themselves.

Pandemic restrictions have forced couples to scale back, she says, hosting intimate weddings in unique venues.

“Even though the guest count was smaller, the details were gorgeous,” she says. “And they’ve realized that that money is better pumped into other aspects of their life, like their home, or the family that they’re building.”

Once the party is over, those long-term financial goals remain, she says.

One popular online myth is that there are tax deductions for donating your wedding dress or other taxation regulations that will help a couple recoup some of the money spent on a wedding. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in Canada, says Susan Watkin, an accountant and spokesperson for TurboTax Canada.

“There’s no real way to recoup costs from a wedding in terms of income taxes,” she says. “There are some amazing charitable organizations that will take your wedding dresses to repurpose or resell, but the ones I’ve seen here in Canada are not giving tax receipts for the donation You would need to check with the organization first before donating.”

Still, there is a tax angle around weddings: Ms. Watkin says couples must inform the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) of any change in their marital status, which can be done on its website, by phone or mail as soon as possible.

It’s not just the law but can also make tax season go more smoothly.

“You don’t want to create a problem for yourself when you’re trying to get those taxes done quickly,” she says. “You have to let them know about that change and do it before you do your taxes.”

Ms. Watkin says TurboTax Online automatically searches more than 400 potential deductions and non-refundable tax credits to identify those that might apply. Couples can use TurboTax to file their own simple returns, while taking advantage of these key features. For those wanting more expert support to ensure they’re getting the most out of their return, the Assist & Review products are a great fit, at the Basic or Deluxe level.

“It’s a helpful tool for married couples to have and may even help you save money to make up for those extra wedding expenses,” she says.

And while the couple will file separate tax returns – as taxation rates are based on individual taxable income – there are some tax benefits for couples. For instance, spouses can pool certain tax credits such as medical expenses and charitable donations. Eligibility benefits such as the Canada Child Benefit or GST/HST refunds may change, and she adds that you may be eligible for a spousal tax credit now.

Mature couples can split eligible pension earnings with a lower-earning spouse to reduce the individual taxable income of the higher earner.


This article was originally published by The Globe and Mail – How to keep your wedding budget from getting out of control