Strained budgets mean finding new ways to save on weddings

by Tomoko Arima

Kyodo News

As the economic slump drags on, young people are finding creative ways to have their dream wedding at more down-to-earth prices.

According to a survey by bridal magazine Zexy, the average cost for wedding ceremonies and receptions is ¥3.17 million. The bride’s wardrobe is also costly, averaging ¥430,000; thank-you gifts for guests typically cost ¥330,000; and photos usually cost around ¥200,000.

Kikuno Yano, a financial adviser, refused financial help from her parents, paying for the wedding, honeymoon and new life expenses out of savings she and her husband had accumulated. The couple held the ceremony and reception at a major hotel, but managed to cut their expenses from the hotel’s initial estimate of ¥3 million to ¥1.8 million.

If the bridal array is arranged by a wedding hall, the rental fee, dressing, flowers and hairstyling and makeup fees add up quickly. Yano cut expenses with a secondhand wedding dress that cost ¥40,000. Her hairstyling and makeup were done at her favorite beauty salon for a mere ¥3,000, and she dressed herself. Yano’s shoes, unseen beneath her dress, were a bargain at ¥1,980.

Yano used wholesalers for the wedding rings and invitation cards, which went for half price. Gifts for wedding guests came from the hotel. They were inexpensive but high quality, she said. She made the place cards herself.

But Yano refused to skimp on the food or the ceremony itself. “The cardinal rule is that the quality for the guests should never be compromised,” Yano said.

Shopping around, making things by hand and other money-saving steps are a lot of trouble, she said, but “it’s easier to save ¥1 million than to earn it.”

Some wedding halls don’t allow brides to bring their own dresses and thank-you gifts.

Minako Kume, who writes about weddings, said, “There are many ceremonial halls with a package fee ¥300,000 to ¥500,000 cheaper than usual during the off-seasons of summer and winter.” For those who are not picky about the date, a day considered unlucky according to the Buddhist calendar may be a good choice.

“Restaurants at hotels are recommended because they are less expensive than banquet halls and already luxurious, so no decoration expense is needed,” Kume said.

Tomin Kyosai, an insurance cooperative for Tokyo residents, and prefectural co-ops offer marriage-related services for members, such as a rental wedding dress for less than ¥20,000.