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Planning a Wedding on a Budget
How to Save Money on Your Wedding
Weddings can seem like a faraway dream to those who have a small budget. The good news is it is possible to plan a wedding on a tight budget. I have compiled a list of ways to save you money, based on my own experience of planning my own wedding. You can use this hub as a checklist of things to do, and If you read through my following hints and tips you are bound to find some ways to save money without scrimping on your dream day. Who says that cheap weddings have to look cheap?
Start Planning Your Wedding Today
Do I need a Wedding Planner?
If you plan your wedding about 1-2 years ahead of the big day, you can forget about paying for a wedding planner and arrange things yourself a bit at a time in the evenings, at the weekends and whenever you have some spare time. Even if your wedding is in 6 months, it is possible (with a lot of hard work) to arrange it yourself.
Keep a list of all the things you need to arrange, put them in priority order and attack the list whenever you can. If your fiancé is reliable delegate some duties to them. Keep coming back to the list to make sure you haven’t missed anything. You can get some really good binders where you can keep important bits of information/receipts etc. which also give you prompts of what you should be doing next.
In reality you should be looking at the big things first, then concentrate on the smaller details later. In other words, get your venue booked before you start picking out table cloths.
Wedding Planning Binders and Guides
Having somewhere to keep all those ideas, receipts and to-do lists is a vital part of planning your own wedding. Cut images out of your wedding magazines and stick them in your binder (don't forget to include contact information if you intend to use the supplier). If you would rather save money instead of buying magazines, you can look things up online and print images to add to your folder.
One big tip: have scraps of your wedding dress/bridesmaid dress fabric pinned into your binder, and when you go out wedding shopping you can take your binder with you and instantly check if something fits into your scheme.
Planning ahead gives you time to hunt through the sales, if you can’t afford wedding dress boutique prices then take a look at the department stores.
If you or someone you know is handy with a sewing machine you can have a wedding dress made, completely to your specification for around a £100 (and the cost of a big bunch of flowers/box of chocolates to say thank you) depending on the amount of fabric you need to use.
If you don’t personally know someone who can make dresses, take a look to see if anyone is advertising their services online, or perhaps the fabric shop can recommend someone (a lot of people who work in fabric shops take on freelance dress-making jobs).
If you are planning a long way ahead of your big day, you can look for fabric stores that are having a remnant sale, where you can buy small amounts of fabric (end of rolls) for less, perfect for making a bodice. If you are lucky you might even find enough to make the bottom of your dress.
Alternatively you can modify a second hand wedding dress, or find one on Freegle (or similar websites listing freebies). Just don’t be tempted to order one online from China, as good as they look in the photos I have heard lots of reports of people receiving dresses that look nothing like what they ordered.
Using any of these ideas can end up saving you anything up to £2000!
Groom/Best Man/Ushers/Grooms Men/Father of the Bride/Page Boys/Ring Bearers
First of all you will need to decide if the groom’s suit absolutely must match the best man’s and any other male members of the wedding party. If the answer is without a doubt a huge YES, chances are you will have to spend some money either hiring suits or buying them.
Secondly, do you really need that many Groom’s Men/Ushers? Could your wedding still be perfect if you just have a Best Man? The less people you have in your wedding party, the less expense for you. Remember it isn’t just the cost of suits; it is thank you gifts, buttonholes, and maybe shoes too.
How to cut down on suit expenses:
Shop around and find the most reasonably priced suit hire shop – planning is the key here as with most other aspects of wedding planning; and with time on your side you can find some real bargains. Bear in mind that you will probably have to reserve your suits way in advance to guarantee that they will have them in stock and at the price you want. Again, the fewer men you have in your wedding party, the more chance you have of arranging an early fitting that they can all attend… Trying to organize a bunch of men to all go shopping together is never easy. Believe me I have done it, and it took forever to arrange a day they could all stick to.
Buy suits off the peg. Most high street stores for men have reasonably priced suits. Ask your best man, ushers etc. if they mind contributing to the cost of the suits if it is something they are going to be able to keep and wear again.
Alternatively, if you really want to save cash, you could let your male entourage wear their own suits. The downside is they will be mismatched, but you can unify them slightly by getting matching waistcoats, ties or shirts that compliment your wedding theme.
You could compromise by asking them to wear their own black trousers, and buying/hiring matching blazers for them.
If you are making your own bridesmaid dresses, why not use some of the same material to make waistcoats or ties?
Again, think hard about how many bridesmaids you really need… Will that second cousin really be that offended if she isn’t asked? Could you get away with just a Maid of Honour or one small bridesmaid/flower girl? Remember it isn’t just the cost of the dresses, it is the thank you gifts, make-up and hair on the day, jewellery and shoes (although you can cut back on some of these things).
If your dress has a long train that needs to be tidied before you walk down the aisle, then you probably will need one bridesmaid, unless the father of the bride is a dab hand at that sort of thing. Other than that, the only thing bridesmaids really do is plan your hen-do and hold your bouquet while you say your vowels. Could your best-friend plan your hen-do with/for you without having the official role of bridesmaid? Could she or the mother of the bride/groom hold your flowers?
I saved a fortune by having my wedding dress and my bridesmaid dresses made for me by my Nan – who is an absolute whizz on a sewing machine. Do you have someone who can do the same?
See my tips regarding fabric shopping in the section above titled: Bride’s Dress
If you can’t make your own dresses, can you buy something simple off the peg? Some shops, such as BHS and Debenhams have a lovely range of bridesmaid dresses at reasonable prices. Some higher purchase catalogues also have a range of dresses suitable for bridesmaids (some have wedding dresses too).
Take a look on auction sites like Ebay, and giveaway sites like Freegle – you’ll be amazed at what you can find for next to nothing… including rolls of fabric.
Can your bridesmaids wear their own shoes? Or perhaps do their own makeup and hair? Maybe you have a friend/relative who is great at applying make-up and will be willing to help you out to save on the expense of a professional. Before you hire any professional to assist with some part of the wedding, think to yourself 'are they really needed?'
OK so who out of the wedding party really needs to be provided with a lift to the ceremony and reception?
- You need one car for the groom and best man (perhaps the groom' parents can fit in too)
- A car for the bridesmaids and mother of the bride
- A car for the bride and the father of the bride (or whoever is giving her away)
After the ceremony everyone shuffles around a bit.
The only car that is usually seen in wedding photos is the one that brings the bride to the ceremony and then takes the happy couple off to the reception. So do you need more than one 'fancy' car? The others could be fairly standard.
If you are having no or just one bridesmaid, you can cut out one car and have the bridesmaid and mother of the bride travel in the main car with the bride and father of the bride. If it will be a tight squeeze (due to the size of the wedding dress), you might be able to negotiate with the car hire company that the car makes two trips.
Look into the prices for mini-cabs/taxis, bearing in mind any sitting around waiting time they will have to do during the ceremony.
If you want to lay on some transport for guests to get from the ceremony to the reception, look into coaches or buses which you can hire for the day. Or if you only want to provide transport for certain people (such as the elderly), it will be much cheaper to book a taxi to pick them up and take them to the reception.
You can save money on cars and transport by having your wedding ceremony at a venue where you can also have the reception, for e.g. hotels, manor houses or sometimes you can hire the church hall. If that is the case, once the cars drop you off at the ceremony they can leave, and everyone organizes their own transport home.
Or perhaps you can revive an old fashioned tradition of walking to the church. Many nineteenth century novels write of the wedding party taking beautiful walks through meadows or along country lanes to the church before returning home for a wedding breakfast and party. Only consider this option if you don't mind the hem of your dress getting a little dusty and if you not concerned with factors such as the weather.
Flowers can cost a fortune, depending on how mad you go. I would recommend sticking to the following:
- A small bouquet for the bride, perhaps also for the bridesmaids
- Button holes for the mother and fathers, best man and ushers
- Thank you bouquets for anyone who helped
Everything else is just wasting money, like flower arrangements to decorate the ceremony venue and button holes for ALL the guests.
Artificial flowers are cheaper than real flowers and can be kept.
Preserving your bouquet is a nice idea, but very expensive. If you want to keep mementos of the day, why not collect little things during the course of the day, e.g. some confetti, a napkin, a spare invitation, the decoration off the top of your cake… and place them in box frames along with photos of the day. If you don’t think you will have time to collect things ask someone else to do it and then you can be surprised by the things they have thought of that you might not have done.
Button Bouquets are becoming quite popular, not only are they a fun idea they have the added bonus of being something you can keep without the added expense of preservation. They can also be hired, along with buttonholes etc which can prove to be a cheaper option. Shabby chic paper bouquets are also a stylish alternative to real flower bouquets, plus it is possible to make a paper bouquet yourself, using paper in a complimenting colour to your scheme, or you can use something sentimental: like pages from a romantic novel, sheet music (maybe the sheet music to your first dance song), or perhaps there is something that means a lot to you as a couple that you can get in paper form to use in creating your own bouquet.
Learn How to Make Your Own Paper Bouquet
- How to Make Bouquets, Posies and Buttonholes from Paper Flowers
A step by step guide to making your own shabby chic bridal bouquets, posies and buttonholes from paper flowers and ribbon.
- How to Make Decorative Candle Holder Table Center-pieces for your Wedding
An illustrated guide to creating your own stunning center-piece candle holders for a wedding reception, or for the festive dining table using new or up-cycled components
You could consider having cheaper rings for the ceremony, and replacing them a year or two later. If you are religious you can have your replacement rings blessed.
The earlier in the day that you have your wedding, the longer you need to keep your guests entertained. Having an afternoon wedding not only gives you extra time to get ready, it gives your guests who live further away more time to travel to the venue, and saves you a heap of money – especially if you plan on providing an open bar (let’s face it some guests will exploit an open bar and run up a massive bill).
Wedding Venues for all Price Ranges
This one depends entirely on you and your wishes… This aspect can be as cheap or as expensive as you want.
Manor Houses, Stately Homes, Historic Venues, National Trust buildings, Hotels, Castles, Private Members Clubs (e.g. golf and other sporting clubs).
Barns, Private-Hire Halls, Private Homes/Gardens, Restaurants
Community Centres, School Halls, Old Ballrooms, Pubs, Conference/Function Rooms, Church Halls
The expensive venues will more than likely decorate the venue and provide a sit down meal or buffet as part of the price, including table cloths, napkins, chair covers etc.
The cheaper options will provide you with a hall, plain chairs and tables; which will mean putting in some extra effort, getting up early to decorate the hall or asking someone trustworthy to do it while you get ready.
Alternatively you can employ a company that will organize the catering and decorating for you. They will also provide plates, cutlery and glasses.
Weigh up your options and decide how much effort you want to put in on the day… As most venues will not allow you access the day before to decorate due to other functions going on.
Cheaper venues will also need to be cleaned at the end of the reception, whereas the more expensive options will include staff to do this for you. Will you be staying to the end of the reception? Or will you be making a grand exit? If you won’t be there to clean up will your relatives and friends help out?
For a small intimate wedding party, why not consider having a picnic? Yes, this option is entirely dependent on the weather and time of year, but how nice would a relaxing sunshiny picnic be? You could use your own garden, or a friend's and decorate it with nightlights in jars ready for the evening.
Or you could look into the possibility of using a park...
Things to consider if this idea grabs you:
- What time does the park close?
- Is alcohol allowed?
- Is there somewhere (for example a bandstand) where your party can go for shelter if it starts to rain?
- Who will be in charge of preparing the food and taking it to the park?
- Would it be covered by your wedding insurance policy?
Traditional Wedding Reception
A Traditional Reception doesn't have to be expensive
Do you really need a sit down meal? If you just have a buffet style meal you can make some huge savings. Sit down meals start from about £20/per head, that’s £2000 for 100 guests! And the price can jump up significantly from one supplier to another, or depending on the meal you choose.
You can get a really good buffet supplied for half of that price, not only that – you can make some savings on other things like a seating plan, place cards, silver service waitresses… none of which are needed for a buffet style meal.
Is an open bar a good idea? You might be better off putting a fixed amount over the bar and once that has gone letting the guests buy their own drinks, but you might want to have some cash put aside for late arrivals who miss out.
Have Your Cake and Eat it
Again, look to your friends and family – do you know anyone who bakes and decorates cakes? If not, try asking them if they know of anyone who does; or look online for recommendations. You do not need to go down the expensive route of expensive cake boutiques with tasting sessions.
Long gone are the days where couples kept the top tier of their cake to use for their first child’s Christening, so give this one some thought – do you really need multiple tiers? How many guests do you have coming? Are you going to go to the extra expense of sending a slice of cake in the post to everyone who couldn’t come/wasn’t invited?
If you still want the illusion of a multi-tiered cake why not borrow a war-time solution and have one real tier at the bottom along with fake upper tiers? Just make sure you cut into the right one when it’s time for that photo of cutting the cake!
Other alternatives might prove more cost effective. Such as a multiple tier cake stand holding dozens of mini cupcakes, whoopie pies or colourful macaroons.
Wedding Photography on a Shoestring
Get recommendations from friends and family, look online and check out their reviews. The last thing you want is a photographer who lets you down on the day. Look for guarantees… do they have back up staff if they are ill? Will they bring spare cameras (and film if necessary) in case of technical errors? Make sure you get receipts for any deposits you pay.
Having photos taken on the day is something I found incredibly tiring, and it showed in some of the photos. Bear this in mind if the photographer allows you to set an amount of photos they will take on the day. My motto is: less is more.
Before you choose to have your photos printed in black and white or sepia tones, find out if you and your partner look good in those kind of photos. I made the mistake of ordering a large framed print in black and white, and when it arrived I discovered that my skin tone looks terrible in the photo and I would have been better off ordering the photo in colour. Maybe take a few photos of yourselves and play around with some photo editing software before making any decisions.
As a real money saving option consider asking a friend who has a good spec camera to take your wedding photos, maybe they are trying to build a freelance photographer business and need to create a portfolio… Or maybe photography is their hobby. In any case, most enthusiasts would be happy to help out. Just make sure they are reliable, and can take good quality photos before you commit to this money saving idea. Remember photos of your special day can’t be replaced, and staging a fake wedding after the event just to get decent photos will cost a lot of money.
You can buy disposable cameras which you leave on the tables at the reception for guests to take photos. The idea is they take photos during the evening reception and leave the cameras behind for you to get the photos developed. I found that half the cameras went ‘missing’ despite the lovely message printed on the cameras to leave them on the table at the end of the evening. Those that were left behind were filled with random badly taken shots, (think heads chopped out of the photo and weird angles). In my opinion it was a waste of money, and the only photos people oohed and aahed over were the professional ones. Save your money. These days with Facebook and other social media sites you will be able to copy friends’ photos when they post them online. Bearing that in mind, could you hire a professional to take just a few extra special shots and turn to friends who will bring cameras to fill your album?
DJs are cheaper than bands… period. While bands can create a great atmosphere, a DJ can play the exact version of ‘your song’ for the first dance. Way up the pros and cons… A DJ usually works alone, a band can be multiple people, all of whom will need food and drink during the course of the evening. A DJ will tend to take up less space too, meaning more room for dancing!
If you know a friend with a set of decks, they might DJ for a reduced price (or free). Maybe give them a trial run at your engagement or birthday party?
Alternatively, if you are friends with a band and you like their style maybe you can get a great deal.
If your venue lacks room for either a band or a DJ, consider making a playlist which you play through your MP3 player hooked up to a decent stereo system. Put someone in charge who will know when to stop the music for speeches etc.
This is something I wouldn’t cut corners with. It can prove priceless if something goes wrong (think freak weather conditions wrecking the venue, or your beloved pet clawing your dress to shreds the day before the wedding). Yes these are extreme scenarios, but bad things can happen and it is best to be prepared.
Money Saving Ideas for the Stag/Hen/Bachelor/ette Parties
While it might be the ‘in thing’ to have a hen or stag holiday, you can save a huge amount of money by keeping things simple. Consider these alternatives:
A meal and a show
Going to see some stand-up comedy
A day at the races
A picnic at the beach or park
Go-Kart racing, or an off road quad bike adventure
A mini adventure, such as a treasure hunt or abseiling
A day of pampering
Going to a sporting event
Or just simply do your favourite thing to unwind with your friends.
Otherwise you can have a look online for alternative bachelor parties to get some more ideas.
Or why not consider a Jewellery Making Party
Make your own wedding favours: Buy organza bags to match your colour scheme and fill them with 5 sugared almonds, or take a look online for some unusual alternatives which you might be able to recreate yourself, for e.g. paper cones made out of newspaper or nice paper matching your colour scheme, and filled with sweets. Perhaps use the pages out of a romantic novel.
If you have access to a printer, you can design and print a whole load of things to save you money, such as order of service booklets, invitations, little menus rolled into scrolls and tied with ribbon that matches your colour scheme, place name cards,
You can make your own table decorations, simple tea-lights in glass vases (check that your venue allows candles, or you could get flickering electric tea-lights), small arrangements using artificial flowers, party bags for small children including toys, sweets, colouring books and crayons.
Consider having a stamp designed especially for your big day, for e.g. a heart shape, your initials, your names, the date, ‘I Do’, ‘Happily Ever After’… The choice is all yours. Then you can use the stamp to decorate lots of different things… invitations, envelopes, order of service, RSVPs, decorations… you are only limited by your imagination.
You could print out some ‘message to the happy couple’ templates, stamp them with your wedding stamp and leave one for each guest at their tables. Then decorate a box and turn it into a post box where your guests can post their lovely messages to you. After the wedding you can put all their messages into a keepsake scrapbook, along with other bits and bobs you collect from the day: extra special cards, confetti etc.
Instead of making or buying individual wedding favors, maybe consider making a centerpiece for each table which will double up as a sweetie jar. You can put sweets inside that have pretty wrappers that compliment your scheme, or you can put different sweets in each jar encouraging your guests to walk around and talk to each other.
- How to Make Decorative Table Center-pieces for your Wedding or Christmas
An illustrated guide to creating your own stunning center-piece candle holders for a wedding reception, or for the festive dining table using new or up-cycled components
Get a simple design for classic elegance
Some Tools and Handy Bits n' Bobs for DIY Decorations
Because, let's face it - when you make something yourself you are much more likely to get the perfect match for your wedding colour palette.
Create your own invitations, and other printed ephemera
Use vases of different heights and fill them with petals or tea-lights for eye-catching table decorations
How much money can you save?
Off the peg £2000 +
DIY £200 +
Sit down meal 100 guests £3000
DIY Buffet £500
Hiring a professional £30-£100/hour
DIY - Free
As you can see just cutting back on these three components of your wedding can save you in the region of £4000. Once you start looking you will be sure to see other things you can cut back on, or find ways that you can indulge your creative side to save money.