Getting married can be expensive... but it can also be affordable!

Congratulations, you’re getting married and now planning starts for the big day. Knowing what to book and how much things cost can be a bit daunting, so this blog aims to help you out.

First things first, set a budget! Regardless of what you think you may want for your big day and how you want it to look, it is SO important not to stretch yourself beyond your means and walkaway with years of debt ahead of you. We all want it to be the ‘best day ever’ and perhaps have had images of what our wedding day would be like for many years. But getting married and making memories doesn’t have to be all about how much you spend and the ‘show’ you put on.

Once you have your budget, next work out what is most important to you. Is it the venue, the photography, the food, the entertainment, the dress…? List everything in order of priority and then start getting ideas on costs for each aspect. Once you have done this, you will get a true reflection of what is and isn’t achievable.

Finding the right venue that fit with our theme but also created the relaxed atmosphere for our wedding was most important to us. We hired a blank canvas barn on a working farm for £800. I love crafting, so making the bunting using fabric bought from a local market was great fun. Just allow plenty of time. Sophie

The photographer was the most important thing for us. We decided that a good photographer would help us capture the memories of the day and we just couldn’t bring ourselves to scrimp on the quality. Megan

How can we make our money spread further

Being a photographer, I am of course going to be biased about photography. I genuinely do think though, that this is one area you can’t cut costs on. Your pictures will be your lasting memory of your day and if they don’t come out right, then that’s the memory you have! So do thorough research on photographers and get costs. PLEASE, for your sake, do not rely on family or friends to capture the day for you, it so often goes wrong!

There are a number of areas where money can be saved. Below are some tips and advice on how this can be achieved. Obviously, these are just a few of the things that can help, there will be many more ways to save money if you do proper research. It is also only fair to say that wedding suppliers, like myself, are experts in their areas and in most cases can and will provide the best quality product or service for you. Where budgets allow, go with a supplier, it takes some pressure off.

Most of us can turn our hands to a little creativeness, or failing that, know someone who can! Couples I have spoken to have told me about their bargain buys online, with the most popular site being eBay. They have also searched around car boots and markets for props and table centre pieces. Some have spent hours on sewing bunting and making seating plans and others have borrowed items from family and friends.

When you have such a limited budget you need to micromanage everything – you have no room for error, so you need to keep track of everything and take the time to save every penny you can. Laura

Flowers

There are a number of options with flowers where money can be saved. Without doubt, florists are amazing at what they do and their bouquets and displays are simply stunning. But if money is tight, then you can save by doing them yourself.

Over the years, I have seen artificial flowers improve ten-fold. Gone is the plastic appearance, they now look and feel more real than ever. So this is the first option… go to a market or garden centre or shop online for options.

Next idea is real flowers but kept simple. Collect jars or pots, or get vases from second hand shops (the mix-match look works beautifully) and buy some flowers from a local supermarket or elsewhere. Separate them into small bunches and pop them in the vases. You can keep the jars plain or glue some hessian round them or paint them, the options are endless. Once you are done with them, gift them on to someone else in need or sell them.

And my last idea for flowers is this… ask your guests to bring one flower each to your wedding. As you walk down the aisle, take the flowers from the guests at the end of each aisle and by the time you get to your partner, you have your bouquet! It’s quite a lovely thing to watch. The remainder of the flowers can be placed in a few vases on the top table.

It was popular to have flowers in jam jars at the time. I collected coffee jars, hot glued lace and hessian to them and added my own flowers rustic style!!! (Florists wanted approx. £20 a jar minimum. We probably spent less than £2 per jar by buying supermarket flowers!) Sophie

Decor

When it comes to decor, the world is your oyster. You can go for any style, colour or theme. There are suppliers out there that can source items for you and even set everything up to save you the bother. This is an amazing service if you have the budget for it, otherwise, the task is yours, so make it fun.

You can literally get some bits for nothing! Nature can be a lending hand to this. I have had numerous couples growing plants in their gardens and foraging for leaves and ivy and such like.

I have seen giant leaves as place names, home made ivy arches, hand sewn bunting (for miles!) and backdrops made with origami cranes.

Timing is essential if you are making things yourself, or foraging for foliage. If you are making your own invites or bunting for example, this will likely take more time than you expect. Start early as it can always be stored ready for the big day once it’s made (your spare room will turn into a wedding storage area). If you are foraging, this needs to be done as close to the day as possible, as naturally, leaves and such like will die off quickly.

Pine cones, dried petals and pebbles (all of which can be collected by yourselves) make great centrepiece decorations. Homemade pom poms can be hung from ceilings or put in vases for a gorgeous injection colour. Decorate chairs with off-cuts of ribbon instead of paying out for chair covers and use pallets to write the Order of Service and any other venue signage.

We did a lot ourselves. We wanted our wedding to be personal to us and I love crafting. Luckily we had people who could help us too with the things I was less confident with! Sophie

Food

Food consumes rather a large whack of the budget, so how can you bring this cost down?

Buffet style food is generally cheaper than a sit down meal. Your choice of venue will be the deciding factor on this. Some venues will only offer a sit down meal, whilst others have more options. Venues will also sometimes have their own preferred suppliers you are required to use and others will allow you to bring your own in. If you can bring your own, it gives you the opportunity to ‘shop around’ for menu choice and cost.

Other options are street food vans and hog roasts. They look awesome and offer some scrumptious choices. They can also create a fab atmosphere as your guests will be getting up and talking when getting their food.

Whilst canapés will add to your budget, personally I wouldn’t cut these out. Guests really appreciate pre-dinner nibbles. It stops the stomachs rumbling and can potentially soak up a little of the alcohol that’s being consumed! So remember this when budgeting.

My friends have offered to bring certain dishes for the buffet we are doing ourselves and we are doing a ‘bring your favourite home made dessert’ for the dessert table. Megan

We’re going DIY with the food which is going to cost us about £500 for c.80 guests. Quotes for hog-roasts were £600+ and caterers usually look to charge £5-7 a head for real budget finger foods. Laura

Entertainment

Entertainment is one of the main things that will get the party atmosphere in full swing. It can come in many ways… DJ, live band, singer, karaoke etc. But entertainment like this can cost a fair bit.

So what else can you do? A popular choice is to stick on a playlist but where do you start? How long should it be, what music styles should you play and when?

Music is emotive, so timing and styles are quite important. I saw a blog recently by the fab Dan from JN Sounds and he offers a service where he will put together a playlist for you, professionally mixed with your favourite music. It means that the right kind of music will be playing at the right time of day. A cheaper option than hiring a DJ or band but with the peace of mind that the music will play smoothly throughout.

As experienced DJs we mix our songs club-style, even with older music where possible, which really helps create a great atmosphere without sudden changes in tempo between each song. With a structured mix tailored to your tastes you will not need to worry about what song is coming next. You’ll be able to relax knowing that you are partying to YOUR Personalised Wedding Mixtape! Dan - JN Sounds

Attire

You want to feel super special on your wedding day, so that means getting something smart, sexy or chic!

Going to a tailors or a bridal shop is a wonderful experience and you will walk away with something pretty darn gorgeous but it invariably comes with a fair sized price tag. So, what are your other options?

You can shop online but that can come with it’s own complications… you could potentially be taking a risk with the quality of the fabric, the fit or discrepancies in colours, so going to see the dress/suit etc in person is a wise idea. Boutiques occasionally have sample sales and ex-demo dresses for fractions of the original cost, so well worth looking into. Also, certain department stores have bridal sections now, so you can head out and see what they have to offer. Likely, you’ll find a dress for less! And who’s to say that the dress you wear needs to be ‘bridal’. Your wedding should be about your style, so if you see a jump suit or a dress elsewhere that you fall in love with and is ‘you’, then wear it!

And for suits… you can either vamp up a smart suit you already own with a fab dickie bow or tie, some funky cuff links and a new pair of shoes. Or, you can weigh up the costs between buying a suit from a department store or renting suits. Again, shopping in the sales will save you money.

The benefit of hiring a suit is that you don’t pay for it to be cleaned after the wedding and all the groomsmen will look the same (if this is the look you are going for). Don’t forget, that it’s your wedding, so your rules. There’s nothing to say that you have to wear a full suit. You can get a cool pair of chinos and a nice shirt and go for an urban casual look. Or you can ditch the waistcoat and just stick with jacket and trousers. Different options for different budgets.

I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a dress I was wearing for one day, when I would look just as good in a lower costing one. So I searched around and my dress came from Phase Eight off the peg and it was perfect for me and the day. Sophie

Venue

There are a whole heap of choices when it comes to venues. Venue hire and food/drink generally take up the largest chunk of your budget, so looking around is essential.

You have grand stately homes, hotels, independent venues, barns, fields and even your own home and back garden to choose from. If you decide on a more costly venue to host your wedding, you will have to be prepared to cut back on other aspects of your day. Or, you can save some pennies on the venue and still get all the other bits you want too.

It is surprising how a little bit of imagination and decor can transform a space. Don’t forget, when considering a venue, think about the outside space and surrounding area too… this will come in very handy for those group and couple shots.

Look at village halls and smaller venues. They will have a lower fee and some may never have hosted a wedding before, so you could get yourself a right result there!

Obviously, doing it at home means you get to do the clearing up, but if you have the space, you save a wedge of money! You will probably still need to hire a gazebo or something similar for shelter (we can never rely on our weather!). But festoon lighting and ribbons and pom poms, amongst many other things can completely transform a space.

Some final bits of advice from brides on a budget

It’s worth shopping around for venues. For us, the reception venue was incredibly cheap because they hadn’t hosted a wedding before. Village hall hire is so affordable and with good decoration can look amazing. Megan

Decide what you categorically will not cut corners on (if photos are important to you for example) and work everything else around this. Be prepared to compromise. Laura

I got my dress from Townhouse Bridal which was amazing value. Megan

weddingchicks.com– free printable wedding invites – we printed all of our invites at home. Sophie

Ebay – they sell everything!! 3 weeks before the wedding, I decided I wanted a vintage bike… we bought one for £60, my dad gave it a wash, a polish and added a basket. After the wedding we sold it for £90!!! Sophie

Shop around. eBay, car boots, markets. Don’t be afraid to be out there. Do as much as you can yourself. Guests having fun mean you have fun. Ceiron

We had vintage crockery (150 trios). We collected from charity shops leading up to the wedding – approx. £150 spent (we thought of it as just a big donation to charities) – I still have these and rent them out! Sophie

Try and consider what expenses associated with a marquee you will actually need – if it’s August, you won’t need a heater. Already used carpet flooring is also the cheaper option instead of board backed carpet, so make sure you ask suppliers for the options. Laura

Be ruthless with your guest list. We had a rule… if you haven’t spoken to that person in the last three months, then are they really worth inviting? Megan

That's a wrap!

Hopefully that has given you some useful ideas and money saving tips to help with your wedding budget.

I adore homemade, colourful weddings, so if you are looking for a photographer, please get in touch!