4 Things My Big Fat Italian Wedding Taught Me About Money

I always imagined my future wedding as a cosy, intimate day with a handful of loved ones watching on. Yet it wasn’t long after my fiance slipped that blue topaz onto my finger I realised life had a different plan.

You see, my dad is Sicilian. And his firm wedding philosophy goes a little something like this: “This is your day. And our day.”

As the original guest list quickly tripled to 150, I learned the Italian way doesn’t always come cheap, and that there were some big financial lessons coming my way. Here are the learnings forever etched in my memory.


1. Question suppliers who ask for upfront payment

Most of our wedding suppliers rolled out a fee schedule that required payment in installments, with a hefty chunk charged upfront to secure the booking. Given the substantial effort required to craft a wedding dress from scratch or make a layered wedding cake, this approach can make sense to protect the provider.

However, these payment plans aren’t always in your best interest. I learned this when the videographer that came highly recommended charged us 80% of the fee upfront and went on to dodge our calls after the big day for five months. It was only after we brought up the possibility of contacting the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that the video turned up in our mailbox two days later.

Lesson learned: where a supplier delivers the majority of work on the wedding day (ie flowers, photos, rental cars), ask if some wiggle room is possible to allow you to pay a greater portion after their product or service is delivered. This will give them a bigger incentive to deliver you the final product you expect. And do your homework – find as many recent customer reviews as possible to get an idea of the provider’s business ethics.

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2. Leave your emotions at the door or risk being sucker-punched

Our wooden-bound photo album ended up costing more than my engagement ring. True story.  When we arrived at the photographer’s studio to be upsold view our fancy album design, we found a delicious cheese platter and chilled wine waiting for us. We puffed up as he told us about the numerous requests he’d had for shoots inspired by our photos since he shared them on his blog. We bonded over the fact he also loved greyhounds and when he said he’d love to meet our dog, we almost believed him.

He’d also designed an optional extra (spectacular) two pages over and above what we’d originally agreed on. The cost was an extra $1,000. No, that wasn’t a typo. We swooned, agreed, and swiped our credit card. By the time we got home we realised we’d been duped, and our album has lived a lonely existence on a high shelf ever since.

Lesson learned: beware of false flattery when it comes to wedding salespeople. It’s easier said than done when you’re on a post-wedding high, trust me.

One of my favourite shots from the album

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3. Brace yourself for the cost of dry-cleaning a wedding dress

It cost $600 to dry-clean my wedding dress, which is currently gathering dust in a white box at my parent’s house.  At the time I was shocked but felt it must be just ‘one of those costs’. Now I wish we’d done our homework first.

Lesson learned: shop around before landing on a dry-cleaner, and consider both the price and value they offer. There’s no point in going cheap if your gown ends up ruined.  This means looking for reviews and word of mouth recommendations. And if you decide to make the investment, why not consider dyeing your beloved gown a different colour or making it shorter to give it a second life? Alternatively, you could think about recouping some of your costs by selling it through a website like Still White.

My now lonely wedding dress (yes, it took three bridesmaids to zip this baby up)

4. Extras for the guests was money well spent

There’s no denying wedding costs quickly stack up. Though when I look back, there is one thing I’m glad we spent our hard-earned on – those little extras for our guests. We organised a black and white photo booth with loads of fun props, which proved a surprisingly good way to get the party started. It gave us some of our best shots of the day, plus feeling the love as we shared the photos around was pretty hard to beat.

We also threw a ‘pre-wedding party’ two nights before the wedding where our closest family and the bridal party got to know each other better without the pressure that comes with ‘the big day’. I’d highly recommend it.

Lesson learned: sprinkling a little extra wedding love on those closest to you can go a long way and leave you with a lifetime of fuzzy memories.

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A photo booth = guaranteed laughs

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