Weddings on the cheap - the Canberra duo tapping into a different market

Weddings on the cheap - the Canberra duo tapping into a different market

With the average Australian wedding costing well above $30,000, it appears a rising number of Canberra couples are finding it all a bit much.

Working as a wedding photographer and a marriage celebrant, Steven Murray heard time and time again from couples wanting to keep things small.

Michael Conlin and Steven Murray from Canberra Small Weddings.

Michael Conlin and Steven Murray from Canberra Small Weddings.Credit:Mel Hill

"They get engaged, she starts looking through all the magazines, and then they start adding up the budgets, and they say, 'It just got too much and we're finding it too stressful,' or there's pressure from parents – the whole thing's just become way too much," said Murray.

Speaking to countless couples ahead of their big day, Murray realised people didn't think there was a way to have a wedding without spending a small fortune.

Renee and Evan Willock at their wedding in September at Gold Creek Station.

Renee and Evan Willock at their wedding in September at Gold Creek Station.Credit:Michael Conlin

"You don't have to re-mortgage your house to get married – you can get married, have heaps of fun and get some fantastic photos – and quite cheaply," he said.

Together with photographer Michael Conlin, they created Canberra Small Weddings, a business offering $1200 packages during peak times – Sunday to Thursday – which include photography, a celebrant and all of the paperwork.

And Conlin said they were finding it's not always just about the cost.

"Some of them, they just want a small wedding – they might have heaps of money but they'd just rather have the small intimate gathering," he said.

"And the smaller weddings are so lovely because all the focus is just on these two people – it's not about the dress, it's not about the shoes, it's not about the bridesmaids, it's only about these two people."

Renee and Evan Willock are one couple that reached out to Canberra Small Weddings to scale their nuptials down. They got engaged last year and had planned a "big fancy wedding" in March next year before Renee said they "got sick of it".

"The stress of it and the planning and the pressure more or less. We said, 'Let's just cut it back, keep it casual – it's more us, we're casual people – and have something small and intimate,'" she said.

Renee did some Googling and considered eloping or a pop-up wedding, and found many others online having similar thoughts.

"I am a member of a couple of the wedding Facebook pages and I see so many people posting on there now: 'Considering cutting back the wedding, or eloping, what are people's thoughts? Will I regret it?' So obviously it's definitely crossing people's minds," she said.

Their wedding in September had just 26 of their closest family and friends, and then on the Saturday night they hired a hall and hosted their own casual reception with a larger group.

"The wedding we were originally planning, we set ourselves a budget of $20,000, but I think it crept up to $30,000 and kept on going," Renee said.

"And ours probably cost us, including the Saturday where we supplied all the alcohol and food, it probably cost us about $5000."

Jil Hogan is an food and lifestyle reporter at The Canberra Times.

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