Today I am going to be talking to you about how to throw your dream wedding on a budget. Yes, I promise you it can be done!
When we set about planning our wedding one thing was certain, we didn’t want it to cost the earth. Horrified to hear that the average wedding in the UK now costs around the £25k mark (I mean…what?! That’s a deposit on a house!) I was determined to have the day we wanted without breaking the bank.
Let’s make one thing clear…weddings are expensive and there is zero way of getting around that, but you can be smart with your choices, and today I am going to let you in to a few secrets on how I kept my wedding affordable – this is totally up to the person, nobody can tell you how to organise your wedding but this is how I did ours.
Buy off the rail: Not for everyone but I wasn’t a bride that was overly fussy about most things, and buying off the rail certainly wasn’t something I was snobby over. In fact I didn’t intend to buy from a bridal shop at all, but I went to try a few dresses on (2 sample gowns and 4 which would be made for me) and as it turned out I ended up picking one of the sample gowns. It was because it was a sample gown I got 50% off, so my gown came in around the £800 mark instead of £1600. Plus, it was just perfect! I also tried on some high street gowns (which was actually what my first choice was) and tried on a beautiful gown in BHS for slightly over £100. If you want to save money there are plenty of options out there.
Ditch the venue for a hall: I never wanted a venue wedding, I didn’t want a hall decorated how they do it, I didn’t want someone else telling me what I should be doing. I am very laid back and I’d like to think most of my wedding planning was pretty relaxed and low key, and I don’t think there were any bridezilla moments, I am just not that kind of person. If something went wrong we changed it, it was never a big deal. What I wanted really was a blank canvas that I could work on myself and I also knew this would be way cheaper than a venue wedding. We hired our the function room at a local sports club for our wedding reception at the grand total of £300 for the entire day (plus we had it the evening before to decorate it). We had the perfect room, with caterers, a great bar and staff and it was just perfect for what we needed. I honestly wouldn’t have wanted anymore.
Buffet’s are becoming all the rage: When we started looking into wedding food one thing I didn’t want was a sit down, stuffy three course meal. It’s not me, it’s not us and the whole mood of our day was a relaxing one amongst friends and family and I wanted to feel that in every aspect. A sit down fork buffet is a great alternative if you’re looking for a cheaper food option without compromising on the sit down aspect of the wedding breakfast. We had a brilliant sit down buffet, including meats, salads, potatoes, breads and every single person we spoke to said how much they loved the food. They are often considerably cheaper (we just had the main buffet course and then a variety of deserts) but you don’t have to compromise on having the traditional aspects of the wedding breakfast. Our caterers were amazing and we created a brilliant menu and everything was really reasonable in price, with our total food bill for 70 people during the day for a sit down buffet and a finger buffet for the evening total of 110 guests (oh, and canapes on arrival for our day guests) costs us just under £1700, which I know is absolutely amazing for wedding food. Our caterers were absolutely incredible!
Find a friend with a nice car: When it comes to weddings my theory was pick the things you are bothered about and work on those, everything else find a solution for. Something I wasn’t majorly worried about was transport, for many reasons such as I don’t really care for a nice car I care for cars that take me where I need to go, and unless I could ride in on the back of Fernando Alonso’s McClaren F1 then I wasn’t overly fussed (still think we totally should have made that happen). Nobody see’s the bride arrive as everyone should be in and seated by that point, nobody saw us leave the registry office to go to the reception venue because we had arranged it that they would head off for the welcome drink and canapes while we finished off our photos. Nobody saw us leave the reception either because we opted for an indoor goodbye/last hurrah and then we left and everyone stayed inside because it was February and freezing! My uncle has a lovely, immaculate white car, perfect for a wedding. We asked him as a favour if he would mind driving us on the day and he was happy to oblige. We had a lovely car and a cracking driver, and we didn’t have to spend a penny. Also, bridesmaids went with my family in their cars as nobody see’s them either. Unless you plan on making a big deal out of leaving in a car this is definitely an area on which you can save. Also, you can buy the ribbons and bows from eBay or Amazon fairly cheaply so your cars still look the part!
Shop on the high street: Bridesmaid dresses are in a league of their own when it comes to affordability, and for me I was never going to spend £200 – £300 per dress. I had four bridesmaids and to me that just seemed like a massive waste of money, especially for a dress they more than likely won’t wear again (especially the younger two who will inevitably grow out of it). I had a fair idea of what I was after and after trailing many websites I found exactly what I was after on Boohoo, not quite the colour I was after originally but being quite laid back (and early on in the planning process) I just changed the colour scheme slightly. Each dress cost £25, much more reasonable and we scored the entire lot for £100, much more affordable than the £1000 it could have cost at a bridal shop. Being a winter wedding we also were able to provide our girls with accessories such as cardigans, gloves and a scarf (all sourced from Primark and cost under £10 per bridesmaid). My older two bought their own shoes (I let them pick the colour and style themselves) while I provided little cream pumps for the younger two. On average the girls cost under £40 each.
Make up: I always knew I wanted to do my own make up, as nice as it is when someone else does your make up you nobody knows you like you do. The last thing I wanted was not to look like me on my wedding day and I asked my older bridesmaids to do the same (I didn’t want the younger two in too much make up). By doing our own we were able to create the natural look we were after, we saved so much money on a make up artist and our make up still looked fantastic and lasted all day. Win Win.
Get familiar with DIY: I am a crafter, I co-run a craft business with my mum and I don’t mind getting stuck in and getting my hands dirty. I think if you’d have asked any of our wedding guests before the day they would have assumed I would be doing lots myself. Pinterest is a great place to get ideas, and for many things I saved money by making things myself.
Centrepieces: We strung bottles (mum did most of these, around 97% of the bottles and 1 did one, and Ray did two – she’s such a champ). I’ll be doing a tutorial another time how best to do this – considering I am such a pro after doing a whole one. Maybe I’ll get mum to guest post this actually! We saved bottles from my orange squash (glass bottles – so wine bottles will work too) so they were free because we were buying them anyway, and just used twine which is fairly inexpensive.
We also used jam jars and got everyone we knew to save the jars and then me, one of my bridesmaids and a few friends spent an afternoon decorating them. Each one was different and we used hessian, ribbons, buttons, lace etc from Hobbycraft.
Place Cards: I didn’t want standard white ones (are you getting the vibe that I like things a little bit different) so I went with brown card which I ordered from eBay (FYI eBay is a brides dream). My maid of honour then painstakingly wrote all the names and then a few days before the wedding me and her sat and glittered every single one (another FYI: Glitter gets everywhere – don’t use it. It’s been six weeks since we did them and yesterday I found glitter on Ray’s face – it NEVER goes away). Then I glued peach and navy bows (Peach for the ladies, navy for the men) which corresponded with our colour scheme on each one. I picked up some peach and navy bows from eBay for a couple of pounds.
Bridesmaids Hangers: This one is a bit more complex and I would probably advise doing this only if you know what you are doing. I wanted to provide the girls with hangers with their name, title (Maid of Honour, bridesmaid etc) and the date of our wedding. I didn’t want to pay someone to do what I could do, so we bought some unvarnished hangers (very important, you cannot burn through the varnish as it might be toxic) from Amazon (another bridal goldmine) and using a pyrography tool (for wood burning) I did these myself. Then using some of the ribbon we had for the jars and flowers I tied a little bow around each.
Don’t do an open bar: We provided a fair amount of alcohol during the day, with a generous welcome drink to plenty of wine on the tables for the meal, however we didn’t want to provide an open bar. It is costly, people end up drinking more than they would because it’s free and it was not the kind of environment we wanted. People don’t mind paying for their drinks, plenty did and nobody went without.
Don’t waste your money on favours, spend it more wisely: I did a survey of the men I knew and asked them what they thought of wedding favours. None of them knew what a wedding favour was – so it was then and there that I decided not to bother with them. Instead we took the money we would have spent on favours and donated it to charity.
Flowers DIY:Flowers was another thing I didn’t mind too much about, I wanted to give it a try on my own and I was pleasantly surprised while practicing to find out that it actually wasn’t that hard to do. We ordered flowers from a wholesaler and hand-tied them (I have recently written about how to create your own hand-tied bouquet’s yourself). We created 1x bridal bouquet and 4x bridesmaids bouquets. For the tables in our reception venue I also wanted some fresh flowers in our jam jars so we bought a couple of bouquets of peach and white carnations which looked beautiful! This, plus all the flowers for the bridal party bouquets cost us little over £100. (As an FYI my flowers lasted so long, longer than they should have done. We managed to have a two week holiday, my nans funeral and then I was able to put the bouquet on her grave and it will still going).
Here are some little extra’s on what I would splash out on:
Toastmaster/Master of Ceremonies: Our toastmaster was just incredible and if I have one recommendation for your wedding it’s a toastmaster. He was absolutely worth every penny and more. He will guide your day, ensure everything is ticking over behind the scenes, make sure you’re in the right place at the right time and ensure things don’t overrun. He will basically guide your day from start to finish and ensure you don’t have to do any of the thinking, clockwatching or organising and so your families and wedding party, along with yourselves can enjoy the day. Absolutely invaluable.
Wedding Rings: We didn’t really set a budget for our wedding rings, we went with an open mind (and a rough idea of what we wanted) and tried on styles we liked. It is something you have to wear for the rest of your life so make sure it is something you love. If you are looking to save my advice is to use a diamond merchant, they are often cheaper due to not having shop fronts or other overheads, and you still get excellent quality.
Honeymoon: Many people skip this or have family-moons. Now I know, I am not a mother, I have no place to stick my opinion in. However I will say this, if it is possible to have a honeymoon, just you two, as husband and wife then do it. If it’s not, then it’s not – that’s life. We don’t have children so were pretty free with our time and responsibilities, so we took a two week honeymoon (Daredevils aren’t we), and it was perfect. It’s so important to take that time just after your wedding to get away and enjoy that time together. You’re still on the wedding high, you need time to recover and recuperate (nobody tells you how exhausting weddings are) and it is so nice to spend that time enjoying such a special time in your lives. If you can do it straight after I completely urge you to, we’ve spoken with people who have taken a honeymoon much later and have said it just felt like a normal holiday because the moment had past.
These things were just things we found useful/helpful for our own wedding and by no means are the bible on weddings, you have to do what you feel is right for your day – it will be the best day of your life and you deserve to have everything that you want!
Do you have any good money-saving wedding tips to add? Leave yours down in the comments!