Anyone who has ever planned a wedding knows that they’re very expensive affairs. Apart from the obvious big costs, like the wedding dress, the food and the booze, there is a crazy amount of things you never even knew you’d need, small things that just add up, and things you could never guess would cost so much (I’ve just been quoted close to a thousand pounds for having fairy lights put up!).
Soon after we got engaged last summer, I threw myself into the planning, and joined a few Facebook groups for brides. Straight away a discussion on budgets caught my eye. On the one hand I was relieved to see that the rumoured average cost of a wedding in the UK (I had seen £26,000 quoted somewhere) didn’t seem to apply, but at the same time I was gobsmacked by the number of brides who answered the question on budgets with “Hah, what budget?” or “Yeah, I had one of those, but I’m already £10,000 over”. I couldn’t believe how blasé all these women were about spending all this money – and some even admitted to hiding some of the costs from their fiancés!
I was determined to stick to my beliefs when it came to planning our wedding. Sadly reality set in quite quickly. We are very lucky in that both of my parents are contributing, but I’ve come to realise that no matter how hard you try (and trust me, I have tried!) it seems almost impossible to organise a wedding on anything under £10,000 (note: if you are having a small wedding, or are able to choose a cheaper location, I don’t doubt that you could get on just fine with less than ten grand, but in our case, with a guest list that is pushing 100 even when we’ve cut it down to the bare minimum, and getting married in a capital city, I just haven’t managed it despite my best efforts).
BUT just because weddings are expensive and it is difficult to stick to your original budget (mostly because it’s pretty much impossible to know what every single thing will cost ahead of time) it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have some sort of budget. A budget can be adjusted along the way, but any adjustments need to be assessed carefully – if something doesn’t fit into your budget, can you find a way to increase the budget? And just because it’s all so very expensive, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make savings where you can!
I read somewhere that the only things that your guests will remember from your wedding was a) did they like the food (not what they had, but whether they enjoyed it and they had enough of it) and b) was the atmosphere good. That’s it. All the rest can be seen as extras – things that will make it nicer, and that may be important to you, but which at the end of the day few people will notice, and ever fewer will remember.When it comes to #weddings, if you don’t remember it, it’s likely you don’t need it. Click To Tweet
My test for all wedding-related spending is simple: think of past weddings you’ve been to. What do you remember from it? If you don’t remember it, it’s likely you don’t need it (unless you really really want it, of course). Beware of everything that’s classed as “that’s just how it’s done” or “everybody has that”. There will be many things that you see at every single wedding, and you could be forgiven for thinking that means you have to have those as well. But here’s a little secret that no one in the wedding industry will tell you: it really is up to you. Figure out what’s important to you and your fiancé(e), and stick to your priorities.
So with that in mind, here are my top 7 tips on things you can save money on without making any difference to the experience of your guests:
There are lots of ways you can save on the food at your wedding without leaving your guests unhappy – remember, how they felt about the food is one of the things people actually recall afterwards! So make sure the main meal fills their bellies, but cut out any add-ons. So even if every wedding you’ve ever been to had canapés before the main meal, it doesn’t mean you have to. Or have canapés, but skip the starter. And do your guests really need both dessert and cake?
Also, don’t overdo it on the late night snack. Only the other day I spoke to a wedding coordinator who warned me of the same thing – “The day guests have just eaten, the evening guests will have had dinner before arriving, so it only needs to be a little snack. There’s usually lots left over as well, so you don’t want it to be hot food as that just gets thrown away.” So take the word of a professional – keep it simple!
Think back to the weddings you’ve been to, how many of those favours have you held on to and treasured forever? Many of them will be left behind, anyway. Sure, you could go for edible or drinkable favours, but that is a cost that definitely adds up, and I can promise you that no one will come up to you and ask where their favours are.
We have all seen pictures of weddings that have amazing decorations, and there are pretty things to look at in every corner (thanks, Pinterest). Of course we all want our guests to think our wedding is beautiful. But once again, very few of your guests will notice all the little details you spent hours painstakingly making. I am very much a believer in less is more in this area.
And there’s also no point covering your tables in too many decorations – you need to fit plates, glasses, cutlery, napkins, possibly bottles of wine and maybe even serving plates on there, so don’t clutter the table up with all sorts of other things! You also don’t want to stop people from being able to have a conversation with the person sitting across them because they can’t see over the huge, expensive flower arrangement.
Another thing to consider when you plan how to dress your venue is this: many wedding venues are gorgeous buildings to begin with, and need very little to make them look beautiful. We’re sticking to fairy lights, candles, a few carnations in decorated glass jars and bottles, that sort of thing.
DIYing your decorations can save you money, but it could also go the other way, so be sensible!
And don’t even get me started on chair covers! I personally don’t like the look of them anyway, but more importantly, the chairs will be covered in people! Once again think back to previous weddings you’ve been to – do you remember what sort of chair you sat on? No, I thought not.
While not everyone is comfortable making their bouquet themselves, that doesn’t mean you have to order all your flowers from the same florist. If you’re happy to stick to simple flower arrangements (think carnations or roses and gypsophila in glass jars), or if you or someone you know is good at arranging flowers, you can order them from a wholesaler or get them from a flower market at the fraction of the cost! I personally really like carnations, and you can get them in so many different colours, but they are also both cheap and durable, so you don’t have to worry about ending up with limp flowers.
For some people arriving in a fancy car, or even a horse-drawn carriage, is important. I’m not one of those people. We will also have our ceremony and reception in the same venue, so no one will see me arrive, and we won’t need a car to take us anywhere after the ceremony. That’s why I plan to simply hire a taxi for the short journey from my pre-wedding accommodation to the wedding. I could get a valeted, decorated taxi for £90, but I’m happy with just a regular cab – but, to be fair, I would maybe feel differently if I was wearing a long dress! If you know someone with a nice car, you could also ask them to act as your chauffeur for the day.
- The Dress (yes, I went there!)
A wedding dress usually costs a lot of money. Many brides dream of going dress shopping, trying on beautiful gowns and eventually “saying yes to the dress” (I’m starting to get a bit sick of that expression…). But if you have other priorities, then there are many lovely wedding dresses in high street shops these days. I actually found a great candidate for my dress on Asos (sadly it sold out before I had time to order it). If you still dream of that designer dress, but the price tag is more of a nightmare, there are of course also sample sales and the option to buy your dress second hand. Some brides have even found their dress at a much reduced price when opting for a white ball gown rather than an “official” wedding dress – and who says the dress has to be white, anyway!
Invitations are another thing that you can spend endless amounts of money on if you choose, and most of those invites will end up in the recycling sooner or later. And it’s not just the invite; you might also want to send out Save the Dates, and the invite itself often includes various info cards, RSVP cards etc. And then of course there is the admin when you start receiving the RSVPs back, keeping track of who’s replied and who hasn’t, who’s eating what etc. So my solution to save both money and time was to go completely paperless. We used Paperless Post, who have a large variety of really lovely invites. They can either be completely free, or just cost a few cents each depending on things you want to add on (envelopes, for example). And it makes things SO easy when people can just RSVP with a single click, and I can keep track of who’s opened the invite, who’s replied etc. And for the few older guests who don’t use email (most do, including my grandparents) we can order the same invites in printed format! Job done.
These are just some of the ways that we’re saving money at our wedding, without (I think) affecting the quality of the event or the experience of our guests. These are of course all based on personal preference and priorities – I don’t judge anyone else for spending money of the things that we have chosen to save on! Someone else might want to offer a free bar for their guests all night, or have lots of decorations, as those things are important to them, and they would never spend money on some of the things we’re choosing to spend money on. It’s up to you as a couple to decide what your priorities are, but all I’m saying is this:
Figure out what you want and what would make your wedding more special for you. Don’t do things just because “that’s what everybody does”! It’s your day, so focus on what you want (and what you can afford!) rather than following the (more or less) well-meaning advice of everyone else.
Because here’s the main thing: you don’t want to start married life with crippling amounts of debt.