indicatorWell Said

To splurge or to save: how one couple managed the cost of getting married

By ATB Financial 10 June 2024 6 min read

Image credit: Nicole Sarah Calgary Wedding Photographers

Tying the knot is a major moment. But the big day can have a big effect on your budget. There are the obvious expenses like invitations, flowers, a venue and a wedding dress. And then there are the less obvious ones, like insurance and meals for vendors.

Kelly Ngo married her husband Ian Macdonald in Calgary last June. We sat down to chat with Kelly about what they splurged on (hint: it includes a delicious spread of local treats) and where they kept their costs low.

Read more to find out why wedding décor can absolutely come from IKEA—and be sold later on Facebook Marketplace—and how this couple’s guests still talk about the photo booth they splurged on.


Q & A with Kelly and Ian


What were some unexpected expenses you encountered while planning your wedding? Were you surprised by the cost of items?

Meals for vendors and wedding insurance were some of the unexpected expenses that we didn’t think about when we first started planning. We were also surprised by how much food, alcohol and chair rentals cost.


How did you decide your wedding budget? Did you stick to it? 

We based our budget on what we’d already saved and what we were comfortable spending. We were slightly over budget by a few thousand dollars.

What cost-saving tips would you give to other couples planning their weddings?

1. Don’t use too much of your budget on stationery like save-the-dates, invitations, menus, place cards or thank you cards. These items add up and they all get thrown out so quickly. They’re also just not something people remember.

a. We used They have a lot of options and are budget friendly.

b. For save-the-dates, we sent an email from our wedding website instead of sending out a paper copy.

c. For our invitations, instead of sending response cards with paid return envelopes, we directed guests to our wedding website to RSVP.

d. For our menu, we printed one per table, instead of printing it out for each person.

2. Protect your budget from the cost of flowers, too! I was so sad to see all of my flowers discarded at the end of the night.

a. A budget-friendly option for flowers is They have great quality flowers, they ship directly to you, and it’s a perfect option for someone who might want to DIY.

3. Choose neutral decorations. IKEA was a great place for vases, picture frames and candle holders—that can be easily resold after your wedding. I resold all of my decorations on Facebook Marketplace for about 50 to 80% of what I paid. It took less than a month for everything to sell.


Looking back, what aspects of your wedding were worth splurging on? 

1. The venue. This one was important to us. The reception venue we chose was where we had our first date. It’s also in the community where we live.

2. The food. We are self-proclaimed foodies and nothing gives us greater joy than sharing great food with family and friends. We had our first date at Charbar in Calgary, and they’re known for their aged steaks. For our dessert bar, we chose all our favourite desserts: cupcakes from Crave Cupcakes, ice cream from Village Ice Cream, donuts from Native Tongues, and vanilla slices from Coaldale Bakery. And for our midnight snack, we served Connie & John’s Pizza—also one of our faves.

3. Photography. Everyone says this, and they're right! You want a good photographer so that you have photos to cherish of the day. Because it goes by so fast.

4. Videographer. I didn’t initially want one, but my husband Ian felt it was important to have a videographer. Again, because the day goes by so fast, this gives you another way to cherish your day. And now that we have the video, I feel like it helps us relive our day even more than our photos. You get to hear the vows, listen to the speeches and see all of the events happen all over again.

5. Photo booth. We got a black and white photo booth, and it was a hit with our family and friends. We still hear from people about how much they loved it. In fact, two couples who were at our wedding and are getting married this year both used the photos from our photo booth for their save-the-dates.

6. Day-of coordinator. We didn’t get a wedding planner as we felt we were very organized and had a good handle with planning our wedding. We did hire a day-of coordinator and they were worth every penny. I didn’t have to worry about a thing. I was able to simply show up at my own wedding and just enjoy the day. Because my coordinator took care of everything, I also didn’t have to ask family and friends to do things on my behalf. I highly recommend hiring one.

Kelly and Ian in the black and white photo booth. 

Were there any wedding expenses you regretted or felt were unnecessary?

1. For me, even though I loved my dress, this is something I think I would have made a different decision about. I think I got wrapped up in the moment and by the beauty of the bridal boutique. I don’t believe you need a brand name or designer dress. I think that if I didn’t feel the pressure to have the dress ordered by a certain time, I would have been comfortable buying a pre-owned dress.

2. I feel that some of the fees venues charge are unnecessary, especially for the amount that you spend there. 


What advice would you give to couples starting to plan their wedding about financial preparedness?

Ensure you’re aligned on what your budget is and how you’re going to pay for the wedding. Have conversations about what you’ve saved and how much of your savings you want to use for the wedding. Talk about if you’re willing to get a loan or use credit to pay for the wedding if you don’t have enough saved. Do a lot of research in your market to understand the costs involved. This will help inform the size of your wedding and the type of wedding you throw, based on what you can afford.


Did you negotiate with vendors to ensure you were getting the best value for your money? If so, how did you navigate that?

No, it didn’t feel like there was an option for negotiation. In hindsight, I wish we had tried. You don’t know unless you ask.


Were there any financial resources or tools you found helpful during the planning process?

I used a lot of resources on Pinterest and Instagram, where I could find quick hits and advice on budgets or spending. We hired a day-of wedding planner and she helpfully provided tips.


Looking back, is there anything you wish you had known about wedding finances before starting the planning process?

No. We did our research and felt pretty informed, and we weren’t really surprised by anything in the process.

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