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How To Plan a Low-Cost Wedding in Nigeria

Late marriages are fast becoming a norm in several parts of Nigeria. The average Nigerian man is eligible for marriage usually gives financial constraints as the number one reason for delaying marriage. For many Nigerian, the thought of wedding alone is scary. This is because weddings are one of the biggest and most expensive event for many Nigerians. 


If you have all the millions to spend for you wedding or you have an oniduro who is footing the bills or sponsoring your wedding, these tips may not really be useful for you. But if you want to have an elegant and memorable event on a shoestring budget, pay close attention. 

There are plenty of ways to save money when planning a wedding, and still have a great event. There are proven strategies to plan a great wedding without going broke. You don't have to be a fan of Arsenal FC to know how to throw a champagne wedding on a beer budget. 

If you have never planned a large event, working out a wedding budget can be an uphill task. Most times, the kind of wedding most couples want does not align with what they can afford. This is why I say, "if you cannot afford to the wedding you want, you need to have the wedding you can afford."

I strongly believe that if you go broke after your wedding, you have overspent. In fact, you must never go into debt just because of your wedding. Planning a wedding must not give you unnecessary financial pressure. Why on earth should you keep paying your wedding debt till your second anniversary?

1. What kind of wedding do you really want
What is your dream wedding? A low-key backyard barbecue wedding? A classic hotel ballroom reception or a flamboyant reception? What is the overall feel you want your wedding to have? Before you get too far into planning your wedding, sit down and talk. 

Think back to the weddings you have been to or seen. What got you really interested and what pissed you off? Sometimes, if you don't know the kind of wedding you want to have, these can be a clue to the kind wedding you do not want to have. 

2. Set your priorities right
Knowing your priorities is really important when it comes to planning your wedding on a budget. Rank the importance of different aspects of your wedding and allocate extra funds for that expense. 

3. What's your total wedding budget
You are likely to overspend if you follow the spend-as-it-comes strategy. If you do not have a budget in mind, you are more likely to spend more than you expected. When planning a wedding, you need to have a rough estimate of what you intend to spend for your entire wedding. 

List everything you can think of and walk through these items one after another.  How much are you willing to spend for the entire event? This discussion concerns everyone who will be playing a financial role in your wedding. 

When planning a wedding budget, the most challenging problem is how to align what you want with want you can afford. When what you want and what you can afford does not match, get ready for a debt wedding. 

Take note, budget is not only about how much you want to spend for the entire event, it is also about how much you intend to spend for each item.

4. Decide what is non-negotiable
Some items in your budget list are negotiable, while others are non-negotiable. You have to decide on your top-three must-haves for your wedding day. Different items are most important to different couples. 

For you, it may be Live Band, sourvenirs and flowers, while for others, it may be decor, food and outfits. Figure out which items of the wedding are most important to you. If your top priority is having a designer gown and you are least concerned about having a Live Band, then you may spend more on your wedding dress and hire a DJ instead. 

If your top priority is having one the best Nigerian photographer cover your wedding, you may use your low-cost or no-cost venue for your wedding. You must determine the specific areas where you want to scale back to save on costs, and areas where you want to spend more money. That is, while you are spending more money on your top priorities, you are keeping other items low-key. However, it is not appropriate to cut corners when it comes to catering for your guests. You must understand that most Nigerian guests don't care about how expensive your wedding dress, flowers, centerpieces, wedding photographer, wedding rings or invitation cards is, they only care about the good food, good venue and good music.

Those are the things on which you will spend the most money. Then, balance them by spending less or items that are less important. To avoid a clash of interest, it advisable that you and your partner sit down and decide what you both really want.

5. Create space for additional expenses in your budget
You must understand that there will always be unexpected expenses before, during and after your event. So, you may need to make some adjustments in your budget as planning proceeds. By giving your budget a breathing room, you will have flexibility to handle any surprise expenses.

6. Limit your guest list
Take it or leave it, every guest is an expense. Every additional guest is an additional cost. Harsh but true. Every single person you add to your guest list will consequently shoot up your overall cost, no matter how small. With every additional guest, you increase the cost on food, drinks, chairs, tables, invitation cards, souvenirs and many more. 

If you are making food for 300 guests, it is cheaper than making food for 1,000 guests. A hall that would take 1,000 guests could cost #1 million, whereas a hall that would accommodate 250 guests could cost #120,000. Can you see how much you have saved? 

If you sincerely desire to have an elegant event on a shoestring budget, it is advisable that you cut down your guest list considerably. Invite fewer people. Invite only those that actually matter. Pre-agree on a specific number of guests and stick to it. 

Think twice before giving out your invitation cards to every Tom, Dick and Harry on the street. It is better to have fewer guests that would enjoy your event than having a large number of guests where majority would be disgruntled or dissatisfied. 

But in a situation where more people show up than expected, try to make room for the extra people. Most reception venues are capable of accommodating an extra 50 people. This is why it is advisable for you to go for a venue that can accommodate slightly more than the number of guests you are expecting. It is also advisable to prepare for more food, for at least 50 people.

7. Use a low-cost or no-cost venue 
Generally, wedding venues take almost half of your wedding budget. This is why you need to consider your wedding venue options carefully in order to reduce total expenses considerably. 

You can save money by using your home, a public field or car park (or a friend's or family member's). Nevertheless, whether you are making use of a outdoor reception or an event center, you must understand that each has its own pros and cons.

8. Exchange skills for presents
There are several tasks that are involved in before, during and after your wedding. Talk to some of your friends and families you are inviting to your wedding and ask them if they would be willing to provide help at your wedding in exchange for a gift. Getting a little help can save you some percentage of the total cost of your wedding. 

Wouldn't you prefer a friend to be your MC or photograph your event for free instead of receiving cutlery set as a gift? Wouldn't you prefer your aunt bake your wedding cake in exchange for the gifts she may want to give you? 

Does your cousin have an eye for graphics design? Why do you have to hire a driver when one of your friends is a professional driver and will be available for your wedding? Look around you for some family and friends who can offer you some professional services for free or at a significant discount. 

9. DIY whenever you can
If you have to pay for every service regarding your wedding, you may find it difficult to stick to your budget. You can save a lot of money by doing some things yourself. If you can,  make your own wedding dress or wedding invitations or bake your wedding cake. 

However, you should only do it yourself if you know that you can do it well. There is no point doing it shabbily just to save cost. Ensure that you have enough time to do it yourself. 

10. Use a dummy wedding cake 
If you cannot afford a real wedding cake, you can tell a pastry chef or cake designer to decorate an elegant dummy cake. Dummy cakes look as real as wedding cake. Your guests will never be able to spot the difference. 

What about during the cutting of the cake? Well if you insist on cutting the cake, add a real cake to the tiers and put the knife there. 

11. Time your wedding
Highly sought-after seasons and days of the week are pricer for obvious reasons. you truly want to save money, then you have to cut down your guest list. How? Time your wedding wisely. Saturday weddings are generally expensive. 

Having your wedding during a weekday can save you a lot of money. It is becoming a norm in Nigeria. There is no rule that says you must have your wedding on a Saturday.

Even some venues cost lesser during weekday events. Since most wedding vendors are often booked for Saturdays, you will have a wide variety of vendors to choose from and at a lower cost if you schedule your wedding during the week. 

The time of the year also matters. In Nigeria, the 'mber months' are peak season for weddings. In other words, you may incur more expenses having your wedding at this period of the year. Choose a non-peak and less traditional time for your wedding. Avoid popular Nigerian months like December, Easter holiday, major public holidays and Valentine's weekend. 

12. Start planning early
The earlier you plan your wedding, the better for you. You will be able to quickly identify alternatives and better bargains. This way, you will be able to cut down cost. 

If you discuss your wedding budget upfront, you will save yourself from plenty of bad surprises closer to the wedding. This is also a time to convey your thoughts on the style of the wedding. This is time to gather together everyone that will be involved in financing the wedding and talk about your expectations. 

The earlier you start planning, the more things you can think about. The earlier you start planning, the less "last minute stress." The earlier you start planning, the more time you will have to find sales and discounts and reasearch other good ideas. 

13. Choose affordable, simple wedding rings
Your wedding ring does not have to be a diamond ring or 30-karat gold ring. If you are able to cut 25% off of the cost of wedding rings, you will be able to save money. Keep your wedding rings simple. Go for affordable ones. You can always change it during your wedding anniversary. 

14. Choose a wedding venue close to your home
You want to reduce cost, yet you want to have a destination wedding? Haba! Kole werk! If you are trying to save money, a destination wedding may not be a great option for you. You will incur travelling and accommodation costs among others. Better still, choose a venue close to your home. It can be a money saver. 

15. Have an all-ceremony-in-one-venue 
With different venues for your wedding will spike the entire cost. Therefore, have all your wedding ceremony and the reception in one venue. This is more affordable. It significantly simplifies the logistics of the day. 

16. Serve Beer or Soft drinks
Beer and wine are usually less expensive than spirits. Hard liquor can skyrocket your budget. Soft drinks and juices are even more affordable. If you can, do not serve alcohol at your wedding. It can run up the total cost.

17. Say no to three course meal
You do not have to serve a three course meal with assorted meats if you cannot afford it. No! The favourite dish in a Nigerian wedding is the Party Jollof Rice. Nevertheless, you can also include fried rice, white rice or coconut rice. You can include an option for 'swallow' too. Don't hesitate to give your guests meat. Nigerians love meats, no matter how small. By all means, simplify your menu. 

18. Know the not-so-mandatory in your budget

Although several Nigerians expect that you will share sourvenirs in your event, especially the guests who gave you gifts and guests who bought your aso-ebi, this is not so mandatory. Presenting sourvenirs to your guests is optional. Special effects and expensive flowers are not so mandatory. Once you have decided on the most important items, all the rest are optional. 

There is no rule that states that you must have another wedding dress for your  reception. You can wear the same dress for all the religion or traditional and reception.
Save money on invitation cards by using cheap bulk SMS text messages, WhatsApp Facebook messages or Emails to invite your agemates, colleagues and friends. 

Let them know in the message that they should consider the text as their formal invitation cards. You can only print cards for older guests and your parents' friends. No matter how expensive or beautiful your wedding card is, they will surely end up in the dustbin.

19. Rent items you will only use once
There are several items that you won't use more than once or after your wedding. For example, wedding gowns are often worn once. If you are on a tight budget, you need to save money my renting any item you won't need more than once. 

20. Ask for help
If you are getting married in your church, ask for help. Most churches have a women's organisation that is often willing to help with some wedding preparations. Get them involved. 

They can take a lot of worry off your shoulders. More so, close friends and families can surprisingly have a great ideas that can save you money and effort. They could have something you could borrow for your wedding day.  

21. Have all events in one day
To avoid duplicate costs and to save cost on feeding your guests twice, choose to have both your trad and wedding on the same day. 

If for any reason, all your events cannot hold on the same day and you still want to save cost, invite only a handful of your close friends and families to the traditional wedding, so that you the white wedding can be for the bigger audience. 

22. Avoid home service
A day before your wedding, take yourself out to the hair salon to do your wedding day hair, instead of bringing the hair stylist to your bridal suite to charge you for extra home service.

23. A DJ or an affordable Live band
Instead of inviting an artiste, you can call a DJ or a small band . With any of the two, you can have a good time, dance with your parents and friends. 

24. Hire an event planner
Talk to a credible event planner. Without an event planner, a dream wedding can become a debt wedding. An event planner will help you to reconcile your expectations with what your budget can cover.

One way people run into 'trouble' during their wedding is when they give certain important duties to unqualified family members. Once family members are in charge, you could be looking at a flop. This is because they would most likely take of themselves and their guests first. 

More so, there is a limit to how you could speak to them. But a professional event planner would ensure that everybody gets a fair, equal treatment and not that someone would just show up from nowhere and ask for 50 pieces of meat. Often times, this lack of planning brings about shortage. In most Nigerian events, it is not lack of money that causes shortage of food, drinks and sourvenirs: LACK OF PLANNING causes shortage.

25. Don't spend money emotionally to fix bad surprises
Something will always go wrong at the last minute. A little detail of some sort won't work out. Don't feel too worried about it. Avoid the urge to spend money emotionally to fix bad surprises that may arise.

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