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Wedding on a Shoestring

Updated on May 17, 2017

So You're Engaged...

Weddings. One of the most expensive things you will ever participate in, in your entire life. But do they have to be? I spent 18 months planning our wedding (by our, I mean mine and my long suffering fiancé Craig), and having had only a small budget, we managed our costs and kept them to under £3000. Even with a guest list of over 100, a church wedding, gorgeous ivory dress and a stunning meal for all. So how did we manage it? Here are my top tips to get the best deals for your wedding...

In my wedding dress
In my wedding dress

1. When looking for a dress, look at end of line options and NEVER accept the first price they offer you!

My dress was amazing. Even though I had intended to only go and look for styles that suited me, the first dress I put on was the one I fell in love with. Only one problem, it was £900. And that would have blown nearly a third of our budget, so was an absolute no go. However, I found out from one of the staff at the shop it was the last in that style thay had left, and it was in my size, a near perfect fit. When they mentioned the price, I looked longingly into the mirror, then declared to my mum 'There is no way I can afford this, we'll have to look elsewhere for something cheaper.'

No sooner had I uttered these words, there was a sudden flurry of activity, and within two minutes they had dropped the price. To £450! I think I was reeling with shock at this stage, while my mum quickly offered to pay the deposit before they could change their minds! There is always room for negotiation, and even if you can afford it, it might be worth trying to get the little bit extra off to put towards something else. And after this, they also gave me an £84 discount on my shoes and £50 off my tiara, not a bad return for one simple phrase...

From a talented friend...
From a talented friend...

2. Get friends & family with the right skills to help out.

Family and friends are the perfect people to use to get cheaper things for your big day. My sister made our invitations, a family friend made the cake and my future mother in law made drapes and bows for the top table. My best friend from work's husband provided the disco for us, as well as background jazz music for during the meal, and the microphone for the speeches. This easily knocked around £1000 off our overall bill for the wedding.

Using family and friends to scout their own friends can be useful as well, as we found a photographer this way who only charged £120 for the day and one album, and £20 for any additional albums ordered. Plus, we got a disc with all of the photos of the day so we can reprint them as we like, as we have full copyright. The photographer also ran a competition to win back the cost of your photography, so if at the end of the year you are the lucky winner, you might even end up having paid nothing at all! Unfortunately, we didn't win, but we didn't really mind with such a bargain.

3. Use your own creativity.

We really looked around in shops like Ikea and Hobbycraft, as well as charity (thrift) shops, and made the table decorations, church decorations and table plan ourselves. We saved loads of money by buying various craft materials and making up our own designs, and were also able to buy buttonholes in white or cream roses from Hobbycraft. This means that you are saving money, and the flowers can be kept after the day or sold on to make some of the money back. They can also be bought in advance of the day and stored, which saves stress and time on the day. It also leaves you with a more personalised day, where you know that what you have is exactly what you want.

Men in suits
Men in suits

4. When choosing suits, visit as many shops as you can to get the best deal.

We found that a number of shops will use the same supplier for the suits they are hiring out, which means their prices may be similar. However, as we also discovered, for the same price, the level of service may well be drastically different. Rather than calling the shops, visit them; you will get a better idea of how interested the staff are, and they are more likely to respond in a positive way face to face. It also gives you a chance to check the quality of the garments before you book. Online shops can be all very well and may offer you a very cheap deal, but will the quality be as good?

The face to face element is also important when trying to negotiate a deal on the hire price. Many stores have deals in place already, such as groom goes free, but you may be able to get even better deals by talking to the staff. We were advised by the gentleman we spoke to (and eventually chose) that we would get a better deal by leaving out the white shirts, which cost £9 to hire, as we could buy them cheaper elsewhere. All the men wearing hired suits also opted to buy their own white shirt, saving us even more money. Bonus!

5. And finally, the reception. Yes it is possible to save money on this!!

Many idealists will want the most amazing stately home, wedding breakfast, evening buffet, band etc... the list could go on forever. My younger sister is planning exactly this kind of event at the moment for around £20,000. However, the cheaper, less well known venues can be brilliant too. Our venue was at Radcliffe Hall (, which is part of a British Legion club; however, it is a separate building, which used to be the home of the local landowner in the 1800's. Hence, it is big, beautiful, stately... and cheap. Only £100 for the day, it has a bar too, which means no extra costs of providing your own, and if you do choose to put some wine on the tables or offer a welcome drink, it was only £1 a bottle for corkage. Check out similar kinds of venue in your own area, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

As for the food, this is something which you will have to be resigned to spend the most money on. We had Two Counties Hog Roast, and ours came in at just over £1000 for 120 people (the original guest list was for this number), which I thought was pretty impressive, as we were being quoted at least £2500 by most other companies. And as we booked a hog roast, it was all hot food, so everyone had a hot meal too.

As for dessert, I have seen so many wedding cakes go to waste because people want to keep it looking good all night, and it really annoys me! We decided as a result of this to give out the cake as dessert on the day, and had 3 tiers of different cake; fruit on the bottom, chocolate in the middle and vanilla sponge on top. So this pleased everyone! If you really wanted to get something slightly different, you could ask the venue if they could provide an alternative to the wedding cake, or purchase something in advance. Our local favourite for events in Nottingham is The Cheesecake Shop, which is great value for money, and has all kinds of flavours!

Wishing you a happy day, and a wonderful life together

I hope these tips help at least a few of you to get the wedding you want for the budget you can afford, or even just to save a bit of cash for something else. For all you brides to be, your day will be amazing, no matter how much you spend on it!

What budget did you set for your wedding?

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