How to plan an amazing, affordable wedding

Avoid the madness of creating a fairy tale wedding that leaves a train of unpaid bills with these tips

As many couples are starting this year with wedding planning in mind — the first quarter of the year is the most popular time to get engaged, experts are advising grooms- and brides-to-be to begin the journey with a rational budget. The average expected cost of a wedding in Canada excluding the honeymoon is $27,455, down 3% versus 2020 but up 35% since 2018.

Most of the weddings are usually 120 to 160 people and it’s very rare that people will spend under $50,000 to $60,000. Whether you plan to spend $5,000 or $105,000, remember, it’s about the marriage, not the wedding.


Pebbles pulls the focus back to what it’s all about: you are celebrating a marriage. You don’t want to go into mountains of debt just for that one day. That’s no way to start a marriage. You want to have money to buy a house and raise kids. As amazing as your wedding is, you can make it special many other ways. Learn more about our properties.

Here are some tips on how to stay clear headed and still have an amazing and fiscally responsible wedding at Mercara Farmstead and Vineyards. Download our budget planner.

Questions for the perfect wedding venue

Even though preferences of the bride and the groom may differ, the goal is the same – happy guests, amazing food, fabulous cake, a perfect ceremony, memorable toasts and stunning decorations. Here are some questions to ask yourself to ensure your event is memorable.

  1. Who should be on the guest list? How do we decide?
  2. How early should the wedding invitations be sent out?
  3. What entertainment do we need for guests at the reception?
  4. How formal should we make the occasion?
  5. What types of menu would work best?
  6. How can we customize the seating arrangement?
  7. What activities should we plan for the children?
  8. What budget range would we be comfortable with?

Make a plan

Not the “dream” plan that you have on Pinterest. Sit down with your other half and talk about your financial future. What do you want to accomplish in the next year, five, 10? Write these goals down and carrying them with you in your wallet. When you go out to the bridal shows or look at dresses, you can pull it out and say: “This reception venue is absolutely gorgeous, but I have to buy a car next year, so maybe we have to go with a different place.”

Work with numbers

Most couples are in complete denial about what things will actually end up costing them. The dress never falls into the budget. The honeymoon and rings don’t fall into the budget. After the venue/meals are booked, couples can spend an equal figure on secondary vendors: photographer, videographer, flowers, chair covers, invitations, cake, transportation, guest favours, hair and makeup, etc. Create a detailed budget and build in a contingency fund for unplanned expenses, such as the bride and groom bobble heads you suddenly have to have as guest favours.

Consider a Mercara Farmstead wedding planner

People think it’s this luxurious thing and they’re going to hire a person to come in and put bows on their boxes and be their new best friend. Fees range from $1,500 to $8,000. The lowest cost planner could end up in a disaster for your event, One of the things Mercara Farmstead does is offer sound financial advice. We offer planning services for $3500. Our planners are often able to negotiate with vendors for volume discounts and extras or waive certain rental fees, for example.

Have your wedding on a Friday, a Sunday or in the “off season”

Off-season varies depending on the venue, but often refers to January to March. For example, a wedding that costs $23,000 for 110 people, would cost $19,000 in the “off season” or on a Friday or Sunday. That’s $4,000 you could put toward your honeymoon. However, keep in mind Saturdays are most convenient and we do not recommend other days.

Set your priorities

Once you have a budget, if you want to add something, you must subtract from elsewhere (for example, I want these bobble heads, so I will cut my dentist and my boss from the guestlist).

Say “yes” temporarily to the dress

Consider renting your bridal gown. If you buy it at full price, try selling it on Kijiji or a bridal forum afterwards.

Just skip stuff altogether

Forget the guest favours. Instead of Jordan Almonds, have the emcee announce that you’ve made a donation in their names to your favourite charity. And skip the wedding cake. It’s a pretty item but it’s no longer used for dessert. Every banquet hall includes a dessert course. Wedding planners wrap up 80% of every wedding cake that is taken home to throw in their freezer. The average wedding cake starts at $600 and goes to $2,000; that’s a lot of money to spend on an item that doesn’t get used.

Go big and you may not have a home to go to

Consider inviting fewer guests. A small wedding at a restaurant will save you money. For $5,000 for 50 people, you can have premium champagne, premium wine, oysters and charcuterie; you can serve them a beautiful meal.


Make your own invitations, your own bouquets, your own centrepieces. Arrange your own flowers and reuse your bouquets as centrepieces for the head table. Don’t know how? Watch a tutorial on YouTube. Buying vases from a dollar store versus renting them from a florist is a much cheaper option.


Speak with your venue about piggybacking on some of the services — in-house AV supplier or dance floors for example. If they’ve done an elaborate set-up on a Friday, you could get a discounted rate to use it on Saturday. Once they set it up, it just stays up and you can save in labour there.

Use your friends

Ask people in your circle what they’re good at. You may have a girlfriend who’s a fabulous baker and she’s going to make all of our cupcakes. That’s going to save us $600 or $700. Or you may have a good friend who is in a band and is a deejay. Don’t want to spend on a deejay? Set your iPod on shuffle.

Employ a student

Hire music students. Also consider a photography student to capture your day. Although Ms. Lemke would advise otherwise: It’s like plastic surgery. Do you really want to find the cheapest plastic surgeon? But a professional photographer will cost you. Its difficult to find someone competent for under $3,000 and the high-end is $10,000. Now, anyone who can pick up a good camera suddenly can call themselves a wedding photographer.