Having worked in the wedding industry for several years now, I’ve helped to plan my fair share of weddings. One of the main things I’ve come to realise is that, contrary to what many seem to think, you don’t need to spend a fortune to have a beautiful wedding. In fact, some of the best weddings I’ve witnessed have been done on a ‘budget’.
This term of phrase, coined to refer to something which is cheaper than the norm, is something I’ve seen crop up more and more of late in the wonderful world of wedding planning. It would seem that the national average cost of a wedding, currently at around £27,000, is simply not something all of us brits are willing to shell out for on one day, and many are now opting for something altogether more cheap and cheerful.
So, is it really possible to get your perfect day whilst watching the pennies? Of course it is! Here are some tips and tricks I’ve come across over the years to help you plan the wedding of your dreams without resorting to starting married life in debt….
Sit down with your partner and decide what is most important to you. Is it the venue? The photographs? The food? Decide what you value highest, and allow as much of your budget as you can for these things. If you want a wedding in that stunning castle, it isn’t unattainable, simply cut the costs for other areas and make it happen!
Following on from the last point, if you dream of getting married somewhere that is out of your budget entirely in the summer months, ask about their off peak prices. Venues will often slash their costs for dates which are less popular, as it is better for them to fill these dates than have long periods without any bookings.
Also ask about weekday discounts. Generally venues no longer offer much money off for a wedding on a Friday, as it’s become just as popular as a wedding on a Saturday, but they might be able to offer a good deal on a Monday to Thursday.
This doesn’t just apply to venues either, if you do decide on an off peak or weekday wedding, don’t be afraid to ask suppliers if they offer any discounts for these dates.
Keep a Spreadsheet of Your Costs
Budget accordingly based on what you can afford and then keep track of it as you go along using a good old excel spreadsheet. I would also advise keeping your wedding fund in a separate savings account or ISA so that you don’t accidentally spend any of it on anything else. This also gives you a good idea of how much of your budget you have left at all times.
You may have your heart set on a certain venue, bridal shop or supplier, but it’s always worth having a look at the competition before signing on the dotted line. Look around lots of local venues, narrow down a shortlist and really take the time to consider your decision.
It can be so easy to jump in straight away when the excitement takes over, but often this leads to buyer’s remorse. Take your time and be sure before you confirm anything.
Wedding fayres are often given bad press these days, but they are brilliant for meeting local wedding suppliers and being able to discuss your plans face to face rather than going back and forward via email. It’s also easier to get a discount if you talk in person.
Offer to Pay in Full
Sometimes a supplier or venue are willing to cut the cost down by a percentage if you are willing and able to pay the cost upfront. If you can’t get money off, see if you are able to have any extras thrown in instead. It’s always worth asking.
Ask to Adapt the Package
Often venues offer a fully inclusive package. This might include things like chair covers, sparkling wine and canapés. If you don’t want something that’s included, there’s no harm in asking if you can adapt the package to suit you. They might not be willing to do what you want, but if you don’t ask, you won’t know.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a bespoke package to be made based on your own requirements. It’s your day and just because you don’t want to spend a fortune, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get the day you deserve.
Ask the Experts
Most of the time, a supplier will be more than happy working with your budget. Don’t write somebody off straight away if their prices seem too high, everybody is out to make a living but a lot of the time, a supplier is willing to adapt to suit your needs.
Got your heart set on an award winning hairdresser but don’t think you can stretch to their fee? Ask them whether they are able to simplify what they are offering to cut the cost. Want to use a florist because their reviews are amazing, but don’t think you are able to afford the roses you were eyeing up? Ask them what flowers they would be able to offer you to help keep your spending to a minimum.
Sure, they might not be able or willing to help, but if you don’t ask you will never know. Plus, if they really aren’t able to help, they might know somebody else who is!
Cut Corners in Style
Can’t afford a DJ? No worries, ask your venue if it’s possible to attach an iPod to their PA system, then load up the tunes guaranteed to get everyone on the floor and dance the night away. Really love the idea of a sweet buffet but unable to dip into the wedding fund for a professional company cart? Borrow glass jars from friends and family and load up on sweets from eBay or your local Makros (you’ll need a business account to shop there) and your guests won’t know the difference.
Fake it Until you Make It
There seems to be stigma against ‘faking it’, but this is often an easy way to cut the cost of a wedding.
Love the look of those Pinterest worthy bouquets? Go for foam or silk versions over fresh with the added bonus that you can keep them as a proper souvenir afterwards.
Have your heart set on a five tier masterpiece cake but can only really afford two? Ask your cake maker if they are able to add some dummy tiers in. These are, as you can probably guess, tiers which look like the rest of the cake, but are in fact not edible, and simply for show. This is a brilliant way of bulking out a design but cutting the cost of production right down. Nobody will be able to tell unless you happen to accidentally try and cut the wrong tier in front of your guests…
If you’re worried about the remaining cake feeding all your guests, get yourselves to the supermarket and pick up some plain cutting bar cakes to have just in case (but so much cake is wasted at weddings you probably won’t even need as much as you think).
Ask About Corkage
Most venues offer corkage alongside their own drink prices. This is a fee you pay for them to serve wine you have bought yourself. Generally speaking, it is cheaper for you to go down this route, as even though you are effectively paying twice, you make your money back by opting for cheap deals on booze in places like supermarkets.
Think Outside of the Box
So you are struggling to find bridesmaid dresses in your colour scheme which look nice and won’t break the bank? Stop looking in the obvious places. Rather than blindly searching for blue bridesmaid dresses on Google, have a look around on the high-street.
I found my bridesmaid dresses in Miss Selfridge. They weren’t called bridesmaid dresses. They were also not priced like bridesmaid dresses. In fact, they were in the sale for £15 each. Even better? They were on an offer of buy one, get one free (yes, for sale items – Miss Selfridge is amazing for bargains) so my dresses ended up costing £7.50 each – an absolute steal!
Love your venue but not keen on the pricey 3 course sit down meal? Ask them if they would be able to offer a more relaxed meal of something like hot dogs and chilli.
Be clever with your purchases. Fancy the idea of wedding favour donuts? Justify what could be deemed a frivolous purchase by being clever with your costs. Have a donut tower as your cake which, after you ‘cut’ it, can be dismantled and placed at each guests place setting with a name tag. You’ve then saved yourself the cost of a wedding cake and place name card all in one fell swoop.
Stick to the Sales
Planning our wedding, I wasn’t afraid to take a look for what I wanted in the sales. The bridesmaid shoes I got from fashion favourite ASOS for a purse friendly £12, down from £25.
Think strategically and make sure you hit the sales at the right time to get the most out of them. If you marry in the summer of next year, get yourself to the shops this August in order to find season friendly outfits at half the price.
The economic climate at the moment may be making it hard to afford a wedding, but it does have some perks. When high street favourite BHS went into liquidation recently, lots of brides to be found absolute bargains in their closing down sales. Silver linings!
Ask for Help
Perhaps you have a relative who is brilliant at flower arranging? Or know somebody who owns a beautiful vintage car? Don’t be afraid to ask a favour. Most of the time, people will be more than happy to help, and if you couldn’t accept it for nothing, it’s generally still going to be more cost effective than going elsewhere and paying full price.
Ebay is your Friend
Found something online that would be perfect for your big day? Have a look on eBay before parting with your cash. Nine times out of ten, you will be able to find the product, or something very similar, at a fraction of the cost on eBay, quite often with free or low cost delivery charges.
I used to love Amazon and bought nearly everything from there, but they’ve since pushed their delivery charges right up and, now you don’t need to have an eBay or PayPal account to purchase from their site, eBay is beating Amazon hands down for me.
Got a Discount Code?
Get into the habit of googling for vouchers prior to any purchase. Half the time, you’ll come across something which will save you money, even if it’s only free delivery. Shop wisely for things like a bridal perfume or makeup and head to Boots when they have their double or triple advantage card points events. Maybe you can’t get money off, but sometimes you are able to find a deal which will give your more for your money. Never miss an opportunity to make your money go further.
Don’t be afraid to buy second hand. Most wedding items will only have been used once, and then sold on. It’s worth taking a look at local selling pages on Facebook and Gumtree. Often items, which are generally still in perfect condition, are sold at far below face value as people simply don’t have the room to hold onto everything from their big day.
Charity shops are another brilliant place to bag yourself a bargain, whilst helping a worthwhile cause. Oxfam has a brilliant dedicated wedding dress section in some of its stores across the UK with once worn and sample dresses from as little as £30.
Be wary of buying a secondhand dress online where postage is required, always go along and ask to see a wedding dress in person to check it has been cleaned and is in good condition before parting with your cash.
Finally, it may be tempting, but try and avoid these common mistakes when planning a wedding on a budget…
DIY (But Only What You Can)
Some people get so carried away with the belief that ‘doing it yourself’ will save money, that they end up spending money on something they ultimately aren’t happy with.
Only take on projects which you are confident you will be able to do. Sometimes it’s worth calling in the experts if it will save you the stress. A good example is chair covers. Nobody expects chair covers to take as much time and energy as they do, and it’s usually best to pay extra and not worry about it.
It All Adds Up
Don’t risk being hit with costs you weren’t expecting nearer the time and budget for every aspect of the wedding, even down to those gifts for the bridal party, and the little extras that help tie your theme together. Every cost will add to the overall total, so factor them in from the start.
Yes, it’s frustrating when the word wedding seems to magically add on an extra 20% to the cost, but don’t be tempted to lie to your venue or suppliers. Most of the time this additional cost will tie in with things like insurance, and if you lie, you run the risk of breaking the contract between you. It’s just not worth it.
Also please don’t be tempted to deliberately ‘fudge’ your numbers for things like evening guests. There is a reason that venues need to know how many people you are having at your wedding. Things like fire regulations are important, and it’s dangerous to mislead in order to cut costs.
Venues will usually be willing to cater for 75% of the total number of guests to help you keep costs down, any less than this and you run the risk of running out of food. You don’t want this and neither does your venue as it looks bad all round.
Sometimes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Arguably china wedding and bridesmaid dresses can cut costs but there are so many horror stories out there of dresses that have arrived looking nothing like the picture on the website, is it worth the stress or the additional cost involved in finding a replacement if the worst were to happen to you?
There are also some things you shouldn’t compromise on, and in my opinion, the photos are one of them. I know so many people who rely on a relative or a friend to take the wedding shots. For one, these people often don’t have the skills of professional photographers, and this will be evident in the quality of the prints. Secondly, if they are a friend or relative, they will want to witness your wedding first hand, rather than behind a lens.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good photographer. Shop around and don’t run the risk of not having beautiful images to look back on.