Getting married will be the most wonderful day of your life. Footing the bill will probably be the scariest. With the average UK wedding costing a staggering £20,000+, it’s no wonder that so many couples start married life together in debt. You don’t have to! We reveal how you can have the wedding of your dreams without breaking the bank, or compromising on quality.
- Planning the wedding
- The big one… the dress!
- A beautiful ceremony
- How to pick a budget venue
- A reception to remember
- Saving up for your special day
Rule 1: Be your own wedding planner. Make a thorough budget early and make sure that everyone who is paying for the wedding – ceremony, reception, flowers etc – is happy. Also, stick to the things that really count. Some people would like to have a sit-down meal for a large family, where others want the best photos they can get for lasting memories. You and your partner should write down two or three things they really want and then see how inexpensively you can get them.
Rule 2: Be realistic. Remember there’s no such thing as a completely perfect wedding. The ‘perfect’ part depends on your opinion and the people who are there. If you rip something or the photographer pulls the plug on the organ while you’re signing the register – it’s no big deal. Our advice when you’re paying out your hard-earned money for anything is to shop around – and weddings are no exception.
Rule 3: Ask friends and family. Recommendations from friends and family are priceless. They may know someone who has used a great caterer or found a really cheap venue so ask around. Don’t get sold anything that isn’t on your budget list. Be critical, bargain hard and don’t let high-pressure sales tactics get the better of you. Those wedding dress saleswomen may look sweet but they’re tough sellers!
Rule 4: Try to keep the numbers down. Decide who you want to have at the wedding and then work on the invites, rather than deciding on 100 guests and then inviting people to make up the numbers.
Questions to ask
You could save money by getting married in the same place as your reception, so check to see if they have a marriage licence. It’s also a good idea to check if they have set a minimum number of guests. There’s no point paying for 100 guests when you’ve only invited 50.
If you aren’t sure exactly how the costs are broken down then ask! You need to know the details of all the costs as soon as possible, so make sure you know about any admin fees, VAT, service charges and deposits. It’s important to ensure they haven’t included items in the package that you don’t need and therefore shouldn’t pay for.
Barter on every single element – always ask if you can save money in any way. Try offering your skills to cut any costs, for example, if you’re a painter or gardener offer to do some work for them for a discount on the venue.
When it comes to wedding attire dodge the crystal stilettos. If you choose formal clothes, hiring may be cheaper but pick well. If you buy clothes you’ll find most styles of shirts, suits, dresses and shoes can be worn again. Another option is a second-hand dress. Hopefully most people only need to wear their wedding dress once so it’s unlikely to be damaged, but do be careful with the sizing and try before you buy.
For discounted dresses try warehouse sales, vintage shops and auction sites like eBay. You can also find out about all the latest sample sales by checking sites such as Dailycandy which lists the venues and times of upcoming sample sales in London. Other sites including SampleSalesLondon, Designer Sales UK and Stylebible have their own sample sales diaries too so keep an eye on all four to make sure you don’t miss out.
It might become a bit of a hunt, but finding a wedding dress on the high street can be done. Places like BHS, Marks and Spencer, Debenhams, John Lewis and Monsoon.co.uk all have some gorgeous designs to offer. And don’t forget catalogues like KandCo.com and very.co.uk, as they offer some designer bargains.
- BHS has some stunning bridal designs for 2013, with prices ranging from £80 to £595. A stunning Josephine beaded strapless satin dress is just £295 and an exquisite Florentina taffeta and lace bridal dress is £495. All dresses are available in sizes 8 to 22.
- Debenhams is another great place to find beautiful yet affordable creations. This breathtaking Ivory embellished bandeau dress is now just £120 – down from £400 – and this gorgeous Ivory embellished dress is an incredible bargain at only £105 (was £350).
- Monsoon.co.uk bridal dresses aren’t as costly as you might think – prices range from £129 to £399 and there are some good alternative designs on offer. If you fancy something simple but not necessarily traditional, check out this Silvie Bridal Dress for £129. This Kristiana dress for £159 is dazzling and this silvery Natalia dress is a real steal at £179.
- KandCo.com has some simply lovely bridal gowns on offer – plus some very daring ones! Prices for all gowns range between £87 and £307. Check out this gold Fishtail dress for just £129! Or take a look at this Short corset dress for £124.50 (half price) and this romantic Bluebell dress for £219.50.
- Last but not least, John Lewis is well worth checking out – they have a fantastic range of dresses all under the £400 mark. If white’s not your colour check out this beautiful champagne Opera maxi dress (£180) or this heavenly nude sleeved silk maxi dress (£195).
For jewellery there are some fabulous pieces available online – we love the range and value at H.Samuel and Jewellery Express has a vast selection. The latter is based in Australia but will ship to the UK for around £10. You can even rent your wedding jewellery for some bargain bling – take a look at the bridal collection at RentYourRocks.co.uk (membership is currently free). All the jewellery is 18-carat white gold or 18-carat yellow gold, diamond set or gemstone set.
A really basic wedding doesn’t need to cost the earth. You may have to compromise a bit so if you’re more interested in the reception than the service, think about saving on the ceremony in order to have more money for the fun afterwards.
Having a weekday wedding will automatically cut costs by as much as 50% – as will having your wedding outside of the peak summer months. Also, if your wedding is the last ceremony of the day, late in the afternoon, you won’t have to provide guests with lunch and dinner – you can just feed them once in the evening and save a packet.
Ask your florist to use flowers that are both in season and from the UK – they’ll be fresher and cheaper. You could always do the flowers yourself. Buy the flowers wholesale from florists or flower markets, go for a simple hand-tied or single flower bouquet and get some advice from a florist – you’re bound to find one kind enough to give you some free hints and tips. Also, get someone to transfer theflowers from the church to the reception venue to save even more money.
“Not all arrangements need to be full of flowers. Be inspired by a walk in the country, there is so much that can be picked for free – stunning foliage, berries, blossom – you can create fabulously filled vases without having to spend on blooms” – Emma Lappin
Consider inviting a larger group to the ceremony and afternoon tea, and a smaller set to a finger-food party afterwards.
Hotels with wedding licences will often offer a discount for your room hire if you have both the ceremony and reception there. They will also lend you a cake stand and knife, print place cards and so on, but if they charge for this then check against prices elsewhere.
Village halls and local club houses will have lower hire charges than specific venues designed for wedding receptions. You’ll probably find that they offer low-cost catering so start asking around and compare prices. And try to avoid using the ‘W’ word – some venues will automatically increase prices for weddings so if you can leave that detail out you should be able to avoid them adding an unnecessary premium.
- Village halls: Most village halls can be hired for a couple of hundred pounds, and should include all your tables, chairs and catering facilities.
- Local schools: Nearby schools may have facilities that you can hire out during the school holidays so ask around.
- Local sports clubs: There are bound to be several clubhouses near to you that may be able to use for your reception. If you have a friend or relative who’s a member then you could even get a discount on the hiring charge.
- Pubs: There are some really gorgeous pubs all over the UK that have lovely gardens, stunning riverside settings and great function rooms which can be perfect for a more relaxed or casual wedding. They should also be able to do your catering at great prices. Take a look at website Beer In The Evening, where you can search for pub function room hire by location.
- At home: If you know anybody with a large garden then why not ask if you can use it for your reception? It’s a big favour to ask, but you can tell them that you’ll do all the organising and make sure the setting up and clearing away is sorted. You can even hire a removal service such as Gbliners.com to take all your belongings out and create some space temporarily for the wedding.
The two most expensive aspects of a wedding are by far the reception and the honeymoon, averaging at around £5,500 each. There are lots of ways to save on both of these so take a look at our money-saving hints:
Reduce the number of guests as much as you can. This will mean you spend less money on food, drink and the venue itself. A sit-down meal will vastly increase your costs. A buffet is much cheaper and can be just as tasty. Go local and choose a smaller catering company to reduce your costs, but check to see how long they have been in business to make sure they don’t run off with your money!
Keep the menu simple – pub food was good enough for Kate Winslet’s first wedding, so why not for yours?! Once again, family and friends can be invaluable – if you’re having a buffet why not ask them all to help out with the food? And go on a few booze cruises before the big day to get some cheap spirits and wine in.
Wedding cakes don’t have to cost the earth either. There are lots of high street stores selling traditional wedding cakes at great prices. M&S has a range of very pretty wedding cakes from just £8! You can also make big savings by looking at non-traditional alternatives. Take a look at some of these suggestions from WeddingsIdeas. We particularly like the idea of a cheese wedding cake – yum!
Don’t pay extra to have someone decorate the reception space for you – do it yourself and get your family and friends to help. Don’t dismiss a less attractive-looking venue straight away. A dreary-looking local hall may not be as hopeless as you first think – you can use photographs of your families and friends (and each other of course) to decorate the walls and drapes to cover any unsightly marks or damage.
A few creative touches here and there can make all the difference. Also don’t forget to take the flowers from the ceremony to the reception venue. For something a bit different you could even try a theme – it’s a great chance to have a bit of fun and save loads of money.
You can easily pay as much as £1,000 for a photographer. Canny couples go for friends who fancy themselves as Mario Testino. Also, spread a few disposable cameras on some of the tables so that your guests can take photos of each other. Many of the snaps will be rubbish but you could get some candid shots that are priceless – and it won’t cost you much at all.
Couples take honeymoons very seriously with going abroad for two weeks taken as read for most newlyweds. The Caribbean is a popular destination and can cost £2,000 to £3,000. It’s an irony that the honeymoon, which needs nothing more than a bed placed anywhere on the planet, so long as you are with your best beloved, should get the bells and whistles of an expensive holiday.
Get some inspiration from 101 honeymoons which features all kinds of honeymoon destinations.
When you’re looking around for a good deal the same rules for shopping for any holiday apply – try to book out of season, use online search engines such as Kayak and Opodo for cheap flights and find cheaper hotels on Lastminute.com, Expedia and Ebookers. See our article for 18 ways to save money on your holiday for even more tips.
Start as early as possible. There’s nothing wrong with planning for the future so even if you haven’t got any immediate plans to marry you can still put aside some money for when you do.
Cut the cost of living
Go to our comparison tables and find cheaper insurance (on everything from your car to travel), cheaper utilities and cheaper banking.
We can also help you to eat out on a budget and enjoy a little slice of luxury for much, much less. You might even be able to get some money for free!
Save your money
If you already have a nice sum tucked away but you don’t know what the rate is and what you can get for that money, you’re wasting valuable resources when you could be making twice as much just by changing savings accounts. Just think of the extra money that could go towards gorgeous shoes or a new hairdo.
Check out our savings article for a rundown of all your saving options.
Borrowing for the big day
If you do need to borrow some extra cash, do it as cheaply as you can with a 0% credit card or take out the best loan you can. Do think carefully whether it’s worth starting your married life in debt though – see our debt section for more advice.
Get a credit report
Have you checked that your credit is in order for the big day? If you need to borrow money, or basically do anything that requires a good credit score then you should be well aware of what your record says about you.
It’s free and it will give you a good picture of how ‘viable’ the banks think you are. Another very good reason to check it is to make sure that it has your details correctly logged.
It will take you through to the CreditExpert home page where there ‘s a box entitled, ‘Get Your FREE Experian Credit Report’. Click on that box which will take you through to the registration page.
- Complete the registration.
- Note your details, including the credit file reference number.
- Your PIN should arrive in the post in several days.
- Use the PIN to log in online and check your credit record.
- Inform CreditExpert of any inaccuracies.
- Cancel your membership (so you don’t forget or get charged anything) by phoning 0800 656 9000 and selecting Option 4. You can email, but these are your bank details, so it’s better to speak to someone on the record.