NOMPU SIZIBA: Getting hitched can cost a pretty penny and, if you want to make it memorable, getting to that point must be well considered. There’s the venue, the outfits, the cake, the guests, the whole shebang. And in making the day memorable it’s important not to have to spend a huge chunk of your life recovering from the event.
To talk through the planning of a wedding and how to get there without breaking the bank, I’m joined by Happy Ngale – she’s a financial planner at Alexander Forbes Retail. And on the line I’m also joined by Matthys Potgieter, a debt expert at DebtSafe. Thanks very much to both of you for coming through or being on the line for us.
Happy, planning one’s big day can be a joyous and frustrating process, can’t it?
HAPPY NGALE: Correct. It can be. There is a lot of detail that needs to go into preparing a wedding, whether it’s going to be a large or a small wedding. It requires a lot of time, a lot of planning, and a lot of conversations and discussion with family and between the couple. And there is also the money discussion involved. You know that discussing money can be quite uncomfortable.
NOMPU SIZIBA: [Chuckling] Indeed it can. Matthys, when it comes to actually budgeting for a wedding, what should inform that decision?
MATTHYS POTGIETER I think the first thing is to ask yourself what type of wedding you want, and Happy has alluded to that now. Is it going to be a big wedding or is it going to be a small wedding? I think that sometimes we are under the impression that we have to have to this huge, big wedding with 300 or 500 people. But actually it is really about the groom and the bride on that day, and sometimes family gets involved and then you have to start inviting extended family just because your mom says so, or because dad wants that, or because your in-laws want that.
So determine first and foremost what kind of wedding you want, and then determine the budget that is going to cater for that wedding. Actually, the better way around is to determine your budget, what you can afford, and then see what kind of wedding it will be. It is never a good idea to start off your new life together with your life partner by making loads of debt, and then start paying that off when you have to start enjoying each other’s life. The usual rule of thumb is first to decide what kind of wedding you want, but my advice would be first to see what your budget is and let that determine what kind of wedding you are going to have.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Happy, it’s interesting what Matthys says, but you and I come from very African backgrounds, where the family does have quite a significant influence. So how does a couple delicately handle the demands that come from significant family members – like your parents and their demands – which invariably have cost implications, especially when it’s ultimately the couple who are paying for the event?
HAPPY NGALE: I think it’s important that we are seeing that the discussions that you have include the parents and the siblings, because they do have a say in terms of what happens and what does not happen in the wedding. I think what’s going to be most important is for the couple to decide on what is important to them. So, from the beginning, once they are able to identify what is most important to them, that’s where they can channel a lot of their money into. And also just make it quite obvious to the parents and the siblings that this is what is important for us, this is how much we are willing to spend on the wedding. But then again, whatever budget that you are creating for your wedding, it would also be important to have an allowance for those unintended expenses – and most of the time those are some of the expenses that come up from parents and siblings.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Now, Matthys, I’m going to ask you this next question. Happy, when he’s done, do add your two cents’ worth, because I’m sure you may have different views on this. If, say, a couple are not in a rush, and they decide to save over a four-year period, what would be the most ideal savings vehicle with the best interest return and minimal banking costs?
MATTHYS POTGIETER I think a normal savings account will be a very good idea because the admin costs of maintaining a savings account are quite low. If you have big lump sums if, as you said, you are planning for four years and you are saving on a monthly basis, and also decide to put your 13th cheque or your bonus or any increases that you get over that period into the account, then have a look at the highest interest-bearing account to obviously get the best buck out of it in the long run.
I think the most important thing is also what you mentioned – start saving early. It doesn’t help that you start saving the day you get engaged, because maybe that only leaves you with a couple of months, or only a year or whatever. So I think any young adult who has the dream and the idea of getting married one day, should start saving even today, even if they haven’t met their significant other yet.
But have a look at which products are available out there at a bank or whatever that will give you the best interest and which is also not going to eat up some of your capital investment with all the admin cost.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Would you agree with that, Happy?
HAPPY NGALE: I definitely agree with that. A savings account is a great way of saving. These days we have tax-free savings accounts which in my opinion come cheaper when it comes to cost. And, considering the fact that the proceeds are not going to be taxable, that’s a great way of saving.
But I think sometimes we tend to ignore the stokvels that are available in our communities. What South Africans don’t know is that the stokvel industry in South Africa is worth billions of rands. So, using a stokvel to save – I know that it doesn’t come with the interest – because it forces you into a saving attitude, it tends to lead you into saving and can actually help you.
But that’s not only in terms of saving money. We do have stokvels where as peers you help each other in terms of financing weddings or funerals or whatever event you might be having. So most of the time the stokvels can actually give you groceries that are going to take care of more than 60% of your grocery spend.
NOMPU SIZIBA: That’s excellent. That’s a very good strategy, indeed. And these stokvels – what kind of time period would they be over?
HAPPY NGALE: Well, different stokvels have different time periods. So if you know that you are going to get married very soon and you join a wedding stokvel, they do have their terms and conditions as to when you start to qualify for any payment from the stokvel members. So that will differ from one stokvel to another in terms of their terms and conditions.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Alright. Okay, fine, people have taken your advice, they’ve done this, they are saving. Now’s the time to actually go around procuring the venue, the outfit, and doing so in a cost-effective manner. What do you think, Matthys, is a cost-effective way of going about the wedding?
MATTHYS POTGIETER Well, there are a couple of things. The first part is planning. So don’t think that you decide to get married now you’ve the money, and then you’ve got to get married in a week or two weeks or a month’s time.
The first thing that you obviously have to procure is the venue, and you can save quite a lot with venues, especially in what we call in South Africa the “silly season” – and that’s the summer period when people usually get married. Usually those wedding venues have different rates between summer and winter. So for you to possibly save a couple of rand on the wedding venue itself and the logistics around that, it is possible to have a look at a winter wedding. Also not to go for the regular Saturday, but maybe have a look at a Thursday, Friday or even a Sunday. That can definitely help save you some money.
Another thing is having a look at, yet again, coming back to what type of wedding you want – when you can possible save on decorations or you can save on the wedding cake. So there are different ways to have a look at it.
The other thing is that with today’s technology, where we are basically online, it is not relevant anymore to really print out invitations and send them by post. There are a lot of other ways that you can invite and connect with people on a technology platform that is really going to be more cost-effective than doing all that printing.
Also, having a look at the specific date that you are getting married on, have a look at your food and beverages that you are going to provide on that day, but also the flowers. Sometimes flowers are one of the most expensive parts of a wedding; having a look at what is in season at that moment might be able to save you a lot of money in the long run.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Wow, those are fantastic tips. Can you add to that, Happy?
HAPPY NGALE: Ja. You could look at having a wedding planner. Somebody can say but I’m then going to have to pay the wedding planner. But the truth is wedding planners have relationships with different suppliers. They are also able to negotiate prices on your behalf. They will make sure that your event is absolutely beautiful in a cost-effective way. So having a wedding planner can actually be considered part of saving costs.