Lauren Kennedy, 28, a statistician from Belfast used her financial know-how to save thousands on her wedding to Adam, also 28, a clinical technologist. Here she shares her brilliant money-saving tips...
Ever since we began dating as teenagers at 14, I always knew I’d marry Adam. But I was still blown away when he got down one knee and proposed to me.
He pulled out a diamond ring during a weekend away in Dublin at a fancy hotel to celebrate my birthday in November 2019. Although we’d talked about taking the next step in our relationship after returning from travelling in Australia, I hadn’t quite realised it would happen so soon. It was perfect timing really as life was settled and it gave us something to look forward to.
Popped the question
I never dreamed of a traditional fairytale wedding with Adam – probably because we had been together for so long – but I really enjoyed throwing myself into planning the day. There was no risk of me turning into a bridezilla though. We didn’t feel the need to validate our relationship with a showy wedding, we just wanted it to be a happy day.
When we married on 27 July 2021, it was a magical day in more ways than one. We managed to save ourselves £15,000 which was a huge achievement.
My day job as a statistician means I work with numbers and data. It’s not the most creative job which is probably why I loved planning the wedding so much, but it does make my brain think in an organised way. I was in spreadsheet heaven during the planning!
I had various spreadsheets for the dresses and groomsman, the venue and the food and extras like flowers, music, lights and confetti. Neither of us wanted to spend money we didn’t have on one big day, so we drew up a realistic budget before we started any planning.
We were already saving money to buy a house and a car, and we didn’t want to lose sight of those as they’re really important to us long-term. This meant we had to be careful with spending on the wedding. So many couples get themselves into debt just from celebrating their one big day, and we didn’t want that to be us.
We set a total budget of £6,000 and started to save into a joint account over the next 18 months. Each month, we saved £500 between us. We weren’t always super strict – times like Christmas or birthdays, we wouldn’t make the £500 but we made up for it during quieter months.
The first thing I did was work out which parts of the day that required the most money. Every night after work, I’d do research on the sofa scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest and emailing for quotes so I could compare prices.
The surprise venue
We came across our venue by accident. I visited a commercial wedding venue within Glenariff Forest Park near our home in Northern Ireland. The vast 1,000-hectare woodland with scenic lakes, waterfalls and gorges was astounding. But I knew we wouldn’t be able to afford it…
Then on the way home, I noticed a sign for a family-run restaurant in the park. As soon as I got home, I googled it. After one quick phone call we were back there for a tour. We both fell in love with it – the restaurant was right next to a stunning waterfall where we could have the ceremony.
It was a cheaper option at £1,300 and saved us a huge £10,000. We just had to pay for 30 dining guests in a private side room, no extra venue hire. We could decorate it ourselves and have our own entertainment. We weren’t cutting any corners – we celebrated with a three-course wedding breakfast and champagne flowing on the tables.
I couldn’t believe how lucky we were to find it – especially for a Saturday wedding. We even had glorious sunshine! We were able to party into the night outside on the patio as the weather held out. We had scones and tea then homemade food, mini cupcakes and drinks with a disco for the extra 30 evening guests. All guests were invited via a free website link I created saving us £200 and paper.
I’d predicted the second biggest expense to be my dress, but again, I got lucky. I was shopping around with my bridesmaid and mum when I came across my dress… on the sale rack. I didn’t realise when I tried it on and looked at the beautiful buttoned-back of the dress in the mirror.
My mum cried tears of happiness. I actually panicked it was too pricey, so I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read £400 on the price tag. I’d budgeted for £1,000. In the end my mum paid for it as part of our wedding present, which was lovely.
Despite this saving, neither of us wanted to spend thousands on the groom’s suit for it only to sit in the wardrobe forever. When we shopped around for Adam and his very tall three brothers, suits were coming in well over a thousand pounds. And then a friend mentioned looking into hiring them which was genius! We managed to hire six suits – all customised – for £350. This saved us an estimated £2,000.
I wouldn’t usually call myself a bargain-hunter, but we managed to buy our wardrobes at a steal. The same happened with the flowers. I found a new small business and because I was their first wedding, they gave me a discount – with some lovely personal touches like delivery.
For a bridal bouquet, three bridesmaids' bouquets and six buttonholes, I saved around £250. My other clever idea was I ordered dried arrangements which means I still have my bouquet sitting in my living room today.
Our family also helped out with preparations. My aunties spent months drying rose petals for the confetti – a cost-saving and eco-friendly idea. My dad and his partner grew our willow arch for us under which we got married – the same would have cost us a few hundred pounds.
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The beautiful backdrop for our wedding pictures was totally free too – as was our photographer who was a friend. I still can’t stop looking at the pictures taken on top of the Glens. We would never have got such stunning pictures at a traditional wedding venue.
Savvy bride tips
My best money-saving tip is to look for an unusual venue. Some wedding businesses have so many added extra costs like hundreds for fairy lights or fees for corkage. Do you research and try and personalise your day to suit you as well as your budget.
I discovered the trend for private vows on Instagram. Adam and I get nervous talking in front of a lot of people so we exchanged our vows separate from our ceremony. It was so romantic.
Where we saved, we were then able to top up the budget to spend on more important things like my diamond ring and the music entertainment. I also managed to claw some money back by selling on decorations to other brides after the wedding.
I was so chuffed I got the day we wanted for a fraction of the price. We were on cloud nine. My parents were so impressed too. And my mother in law had the best day. No one felt like we had scrimped on anything.
The pandemic limited our honeymoon plans, so we didn’t get to holiday in Rome until earlier this year, but that was ok. We’d had a perfect stay in a little cottage at the top of the Glen on our wedding night for less than £100. The gorgeous views we woke up to on our first day as a married couple were worth millions.
Our next money-saving project is creating a new home for ourselves. We bought it a month before the wedding and we’re learning a lot of DIY work from my dad. There’s no spreadsheet as such this time, but I do have a Pinterest board…
Lauren has teamed up with Diamond Factory Island to share her top money-saving tips on throwing a wedding.
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