How to slash your budget (but still have the wedding you want)

With the average cost of a wedding now an eye-watering £20,000, the thousands of brides- and grooms-to-be heading through the doors of this weekend’s National Wedding Show will be asking themselves the same question – how can we have the big day of our dreams, without breaking the bank?

Well, by avoiding the peak wedding season and choosing an autumn or winter ceremony you can slash the budget without scrimping on style.

Here’s how…

How to save on the venue

The average cost of venue hire is over £2,000, but by marrying out of season, you can save hundreds of pounds. “When bookings are quieter, it’s easier to do a deal” explains wedding planner Isabel Smith ( “Never be afraid to take apart a venue’s all-inclusive deal to get exactly what you want – otherwise you’ll be paying for things you don’t.”

If you’ve only considered traditional wedding venues and hotels so far, widen your search, suggests Bernadette Chapman of Dream Occasions Wedding & Event Coordination ( “Hire a yacht club or a barn, and you could cut your venue hire costs down to as little as £500.” However, if it’s not normally used for weddings, you will need to spend some money dressing the space to make it look more like a venue.

How to save on food and drink
Timing is key, says luxury wedding planner Sarah Haywood (  “A midday wedding means you’ll need to feed guests twice, once early afternoon, then again in the evening, whereas a 4pm ceremony only requires one meal and you can still fit in the ceremony, meal and an evening reception.”  Plus when you consider the average couple spends around £40 per head on food and drink you could save £1000 or more.

A traditional three-course sit down meal isn’t the only option, either, “why not serve canapés instead of starters,” suggests Isabel Smith. “Go for slightly bigger, more filling options like mini jacket potatoes – they’ll be great on a cold day, and will help keep costs down.”

When it comes to drinks, Bernadette Chapman has three top tips:

1. Shorten the drinks reception so it only lasts an hour, you’ll only be providing two drinks per guest instead of the usual three.

2. Serve fruit punch instead of champagne - the alcohol won’t cost as much and punch bowls look fun and quirky.

3. Move the speeches away from the end of the meal. Guests will already have got drinks from the bar which they can use for the toasts, so you won’t need to buy champagne, or hire champagne glasses – saving £3-£5 per guest.

[See also: Gifts you should never include on your wedding list]

How to save on entertainment
The average couple spends over £600 on music and entertainment, so the easiest way to cut back is to load your iPod with your favourite floor-fillers rather than booking a band or DJ.

If you really want live entertainment, think about talented friends and family, says Chapman. “If anyone can DJ, sing at the ceremony or play guitar during the drinks reception then enlist their help.” A local band that performs on the pub circuit is another cost-effective option, you’ll pay £300 - £500 rather than £1000+ for a party band.

How to save on flowers
“If there’s another wedding at the venue within a day or two of yours then you could split the cost of flowers with the other couple, suggests Sarah Haywood.  “If not, go for a few larger arrangements in the reception, where you’ll spend the most time, rather than lots of smaller displays that will fade into the background.”

Don’t forget there are other cheaper ways of decorating the venue. “Table centrepieces can look great with just foliage and candles, or vases of feathers or baubles,” says Isabel Smith, and these will be a fraction of the £15+ that a single floral centrepiece would cost.

How to save on stationery
Stationery tends to cost £4 - £8 per invite, but you can cut this back to a more budget-friendly £1.50 by making your own, says Bernadette Chapman. “For a recent wedding, I bought a design from for a nominal fee, and then used it to create the stationery, which I then got printed onto heavyweight paper at a high street printer’s.”

You could also take the eco-friendly approach and send save the dates and information via email, or with your Christmas cards, and ask people to call or email rather than send a written reply which would need an RSVP card and stamp.

So a stylish and budget-friendly wedding is perfectly possible if you book your big day for autumn or winter and are prepared to haggle, do your research and spend time on a little wedding DIY.  The reward for your time and effort will be a wedding that’s really personal to you.

How to save even more!
Invite fewer people – the venue and catering are the major expenses, so be ruthless.

Buy cheap and sell on. Scour eBay for things like table decorations, then once your big day is over, put them back on and recoup some of the costs.

Book a lesson at a beauty counter then you can do your own wedding make-up.

Hire rather than buy bridesmaids dresses and groomsmen’s suits.

Download a budget planning App for your phone to help keep track of costs. The Ultimate Wedding App from Sarah Haywood combines expert advice with a budget tracker for £6.99.

What do you think? Can you have the wedding of your dreams on a tight budget? We’d love to hear your top money saving tips.

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