Small Change is a series of stories that show how consumers can save money by making minor or incremental changes to their lifestyle.
Here comes the bride, all dressed in debt.
At least, that seems to be a common refrain these days, as brides and grooms in Canada are spending an average of more than $30,000 on their special day, according to Weddingbells, a Canadian wedding magazine.
But thanks to popular websites such as Buzzfeed ("33 insanely smart ways to save money on your wedding!"), Pinterest ("How to feed 40 people for $3 each. You're welcome"), and Etsy ("Cheap unique wedding invites"), couples will find a number of resources to help them save money.
Erin Green, the managing director of Etsy Canada, says that the wedding section is one of the largest on the shopping site, and it's growing.
Established in 2005 as an online portal where artisans can sell their one-of-a-kind items to the masses, Etsy is tapping into consumer desire – especially in Canada – to "shop local."
"With the dollar being as volatile as it is, there is no better time than now to shop local," says Ms. Green. "Especially for that big day, and that big milestone, to be able to shop from someone who is local can help with the pocketbook, especially as compared to a large chain in the U.S."
Ms. Green says many brides are keen to put their personal touch on their ceremonies. "The trend for do-it-yourself weddings and personalized-type weddings isn't going anywhere. In fact, it's probably going to get increasingly bigger over the next few years."
But online isn't the only place to find bargains. Brides and grooms are hitting the road, too, to find a good deal, according to Rebecca McCracken, owner of High Gloss Weddings in Stratford, Ont.
"We'll have girls drive from London, [Ont.], to Toronto to get wedding stuff, and vice-versa, all the time," says Ms. McCracken, who is also the administrator of the Ontario Wedding Swap & Sell group on Facebook, a private group with more than 10,000 members. "They'll drive two hours to get a box of mirrors, for example, if they're getting a good deal."
The Facebook group was established in 2008 but has really taken off in the past three years, says Ms. McCracken, who has been working in the wedding industry for 15 years, including six with High Gloss Weddings.
"I feel like people are trying to cut costs and save money where they can by doing things themselves," says Ms. McCraken. "Not everything from Pinterest works out, but the majority of the time you can take those ideas and develop them a little further."
Ms. McCraken says she is also finding a lot of her clients are scaling back the size of their weddings.
"We do quite a few weddings where it is less than 100 guests, but they maybe have a nicer venue. They're feeding less people and don't have as much money going to food or alcohol," she explains. "It's a smaller wedding, but more elegant."
She even says her company is arranging elopements, or weddings of 10 to 15 people because the betrothed "don't want to have the family drama that comes along with it."
Monica Caesar, of Aisle Plan Your Day in Edmonton, preaches the savings of a destination wedding, where costs for 30 guests can be as little as $3,000 depending on the clients' taste and overall vision for the day.
Using local wedding venues and working with local vendors in selected destinations, as opposed to having clients go with standard resort packages, can be less expensive, Ms. Caesar says. "Once you think outside the traditional boundaries of cookie-cutter resort weddings, [you can] realize substantial savings in many areas of a destination wedding," the wedding planner explains.
Alisha Chadee, of Whim Event Co-ordination and Design in Woodbridge, Ont., says the best thing a couple can do to save money is to start planning their wedding as early as possible.
"There are other areas to save on, like little things as guest favours that you can DIY, but when you have time on your side, that's the best thing," she states. "You can make better decisions because you have time to educate yourself."
If you're committed to having a big wedding – or if you have family members telling you to have a big wedding – Ms. Chadee says to think outside the box when it comes to timing. She has seen a rise in winter weddings and weddings on Fridays or Sundays – instead of the typical Saturday afternoon – as venues are eager to host large events in their off-seasons and offer better prices.
"If your hands are tied to invite 400 people, be flexible with your date," she says. "That's likely going to be the biggest cost."
Of course (sorry, grooms), another big expenditure is the wedding dress itself.
The Toronto-based Brides' Project, established 11 years ago, is aiming to help with that, and make brides feel good about their purchases as well. The profits from the sale of the shop's second-hand dresses go toward cancer research. The Brides' Project has raised more than $600,000 since its inception.
Started by owner Helen Sweet, who is a full-time officiant, she realized after her own wedding that she wanted to do something about the excess "stuff" she had. "After my wedding, I thought, what do I have to show for this? And you end up with a room full of stuff that you never use again. Including the dress."
Brides can drop off dresses at any time during the year to the shop, and Ms. Sweet uses an approximate formula to determine the second-hand cost, which range from $100 to a maximum of $1,500.
The shop is on the lower-floor of a Victorian home in Toronto's Riverdale neighbourhood, where rent is the biggest expenditure for the non-profit organization.
"Our ideal client is socially conscious first and budget-conscious second, but we get a lot of people who are budget-conscious, period," says Ms. Sweet. "People are getting married at a later age, paying for their weddings themselves, and that puts responsibility and thoughts into how those dollars are being spent."