How much should you spend on a wedding?

AMaya Fisher French with Zamo once he’d completed the Money Makeover challenge and decided to put his financial future ahead of a family-pleasing wedding
AMaya Fisher French with Zamo once he’d completed the Money Makeover challenge and decided to put his financial future ahead of a family-pleasing wedding

Weddings are big business, but should they be a priority for a young couple raising a family?

When human resources manager Zamo first entered the Absa/City Press Money Makeover competition his main goal was to save for two weddings as the couple’s families live far apart. Although he and his wife are legally married in law and lobola has been paid, they never had the big traditional African wedding required by his Zulu culture, or the “white” wedding which his wife’s Tsonga family requires.

Zamo and his wife had been building their savings towards the wedding but the more savings they have put aside, the more they are questioning the rationality of spending it all on a wedding. As one of six candidates selected to be part of the Money Makeover Challenge, Zamo had the opportunity to work with an Absa financial adviser to make sure his current money decisions were matching his life goals.

African American couple getting married at the bea
A wedding just lasts a day, but a marriage lasts a lifetime. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images

“When we first discussed the wedding, Zamo and his wife did not realise the extent of the cost of the wedding. Once they understood the cost, they realised the total wish list and cost is more than they expected,” says their Absa financial adviser Charlotte Pretorius.

Having done a proper budget for the weddings they would be spending R167 000 in total and they questioned whether spending all that money on two weddings just to make their families happy is really worth it.

“The R160 000 we expect to pay in today’s value will be even more when we eventually have the wedding – prices will go up so we will probably end up spending R190 000. That is how much I owe on my investment flat. If I paid that off, I would have an income of around R3200,” says Zamo.

Zamo when he signed up for the Money Makeover. He believed he’d use the experience to save for a wedding, in the end he discovered that weddings are for a day, but marriages are for ever

Not only would Zamo be saving on the interest he is currently paying to the bank, but if Zamo saved the R3200 from his flat and invested in a fund that delivered 10% return a year, he would have R250 000 in five years’ time which he could put towards his children’s education.

For Zamo and his wife the weddings are not important, it is something their families want.

“The ceremonies are not necessary, they are just a nice to have. We are legally married so we can celebrate the way we want, but we have to convince the parents to do things differently compared to the last 100 years,” says Zamo who explains that culture dictates that they must each be married at home.

“Everyone is invited and we must feed them. Is this realistic now with the pressuring facing young people?” Zamo and his wife have broached the subject with both families and hoping the matter will be finalised during the Easter Weekend.

“We will come up with something, whether we scale down, cancel or make it just one wedding,” says Zamo.

Another Money Makeover candidate town planner Mmabatho faced a similar challenge over her marriage last year. Although lobola had been paid in 2011 and the couple had been together for several years, they could never afford the big white wedding their families required.

Zamo’s wedding budget

What do you include in your budget?

Matrimonial venue, wedding dress, food, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), bridesmaid dresses, groomsman’s suit and bridesmaid dresses, photographer and videographer, DJ, transport, hair and makeup, car hire, wedding rings, MC, tents and chairs, decoration, catering services, wedding cake etc. For traditional wedding, a cow, groom’s family gifts, traditional attire (imvunulo), food and drinks again. The costs are a bit less on the traditional side. Before the wedding can take place, the gifts ceremony must be done where a groom buys the bride’s father a suit, hat, bottle of brandy and be visited by the groom’s family for celebration.

What cost surprised you the most?

The price of a return transportation from Tzaneen to Mandeni is currently R2500 for a 22-seater bus and ceremonies must happen in two places. The white wedding will be in Tzaneen and a traditional wedding in Mandeni. This amounts to a projected R5000 fee.

What advice do you have for a young couple getting married?

Try to finalise your matrimonial ceremonies before you have kids and long-term debts. It is difficult to plan for an expensive wedding while you are dealing with a 20-year bond and six years of car repayments, while trying to save for kids’ education as well as retirement.

Then early in 2017 the couple was in an accident.

Fortunately neither of them were badly hurt but this was a wake-up call.

“We didn’t have a marriage certificate and because we were not legally married my husband was not on my medical aid and would have had to go to a government hospital.”

They decided to use the opportunity to marry legally, and as the family were still in shock, they did not insist on the big wedding.

“We would have had two weddings as my home is 600km away. It was just too expensive, so after our accident I called my mom and said, ‘I can’t afford to have the big wedding, but I need to think about our future’. She spoke to my dad and they agreed to a small ceremony.”

A few months later Mmabatho and her husband were married at church with 30 guests which just included immediate family and close friends.

The total cost was R35 000 and the couple paid in cash with no debt.

“The accident was a blessing in disguise, it made them understand that weddings are expensive. Our children’s futures are more important than a big a wedding.”

Mmabatho is once again faced with the pressure of providing for a big party when she graduates with her master's degree in April.

“I have now set my priorities and learning to say no. I have told my family I will take them out for lunch, but this will not be a big thing. I used my bonuses and made sacrifices to pay for my master's, I am not going to make more sacrifices to pay for a party for other people.”


Money Makeover

The Money Makeover challenge takes candidates through a money bootcamp over six months in which they transform their finances.

The 2020 Money Makeover Challenge is starting on 23 February with a whole new line up of contestants. Each contestant has been allocated their own Absa financial adviser who assists them in organising their finances and reaching their personal financial goals. Personal finance expert Maya Fisher-French shares their stories with you and inspires you to start your own journey.


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