How To Plan A Wedding - For Half The Price

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Forgo the financial hangover and plan a budget wedding that still looks the real deal [Photo: Pexels]

The average cost of a wedding in the UK is (actually rather insanely) £20,000 to £25,000 - the exact figure varies depending on the source but hey, when it’s a hefty chunk of house deposit or a chance to pay off your student loan in one go, what’s a few extra grand?

The good news is that it doesn’t need to be this way. Honestly. And don’t think we’re talking about a wedding so tight you have to wave goodbye to both style and substance. Instead we mean you can still throw a celebration worthy of Hello mag. It just takes a little planning.

The venue
First up is the wedding venue. This can easily account for a third of that £20,000+, and with many a venue quoting upwards of £10,000 to host your big day (and not even batting an eyelid when they do) then it’s easy to see why your budget could be in trouble.

Fear not. Firstly, shop around. For every established wedding venue with a big price tag, there’s a lesser known venue ready to offer you an unbelievable deal.

Or go one better still, and find a venue with no hire fee at all, like a restaurant, which will often be more than happy to give you exclusive use for free as long as you commit to a minimum spend (usually what they’d take on average on that day if open as normal). Or a field (great if you know any farmers) or a garden (yours, your mum’s, a friend’s), where not only will you save yourself a fortune, you’ll also do away with the worry of closing time cutting the party short. Unless your mum sets a curfew.

If you are hiring a venue, you can also save megabucks by finding one that lets you bring in your own vendors - caterers, etc - rather than holding you hostage to using theirs, whatever the price. Likewise somewhere that allows you to supply your own booze - you’ll save a fortune paying supermarket prices rather than hotel/restaurant prices - but beware of the corkage charge as that can really sting.

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Think outside the box with your venue: A marquee in your grandmother’s back garden might be the most magical venue [Photo: Pexels]

The dress
If there’s no way you’re missing out on the full bridal boutique experience, commit to a budget. And stick to it. No matter if the sales assistant brings out one more dress, right at the end, and it’s the dress of your dreams. Under no circumstances should you try it on before you have asked the price. And if she can’t utter the price out loud and has to write it on a slip of paper, fold it over and slide it across to you, then run. Run for the hills.

But know that there are so many other places to find your perfect dress. Okay, so they might not come with the free glass of champagne but with the digit that will be knocked off the price tag you could justifiably buy yourself a magnum of the stuff and not make a dent in the saving.

Go off the peg. There are some beauties to be found in places like J Crew, Monsoon and Asos, which all now do their own wedding lines.

Or consider second hand. Oxfam has around a dozen bridal shops where designer dresses sell for a fraction of their original price. Likewise, if you find a designer dress you love but you can’t justify the price tag, there are several sites, including the obvious (eBay) and the bridal specific (such as Preloved), that may just have that very dress on offer. And when you consider these dresses have only ever been worn once, for around 12 hours tops, it’s hardly even second hand, is it?

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Your dream dress might be waiting for you in your local charity shop - you don’t know until you look [Photo: Pexels]

The food
Do you really need the formal three-course wedding breakfast where menus start at £40 a head for the most basic of options? If you’re happy to go for a more relaxed feel, you could save enormously. Wood-fired pizza or fish and chip vans are a very popular choice, for good reason, along with hog roasts and barbecues.

The flowers
Wedding flowers can be unbelievably expensive and the bill for something that will barely last the day can be hard to stomach.

Consider doing them yourself. Buying the flowers from a florist and arranging them yourself will save you a lot. There’s heaps of inspiration and flower arrangement tutorials online. Just get practicing.

And one to consider for the winter brides - if you’re getting married anytime close to Christmas, chances are your venue will be decorated anyway, saving you the trouble and cost. It’s worth trying to see the venue the Christmas before your wedding though just in case they truss it up like Santa’s grotto.

The music
Ditch the band with their diva demands (we won’t play unless you feed us even though it’s not in our contract; we won’t play your first dance song as it’s not our genre; we need a break every 40 minutes).

Instead, think seriously about not having live music. Or even a DJ. But just an iPhone playlist and a friend who’ll do it for small fee. Because let’s face it, the original always sounds better than a wedding band cover anyway.

The timing
Just about everyone wants to get married in the summer. If you’re willing to think about getting married out of season, you’ll slash your budget. Venues are much more likely to offer discounts and incentives to couples looking to get married in winter months than the May to September wedding window.

Likewise consider a Friday or a Sunday, rather than a Saturday. Obviously a weekday wedding can be more difficult but if your guests love you they won’t mind a day off work to watch you get wed.

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September is probably more likely to have nicer weather than June, anyway [Photo: Pexels]

The little white lie
Whenever it is at all possible, don’t use the W word. There is so much evidence of vendors hiking up prices for weddings - by up to £1,000 - compared to the same service for a birthday.

Obviously it might be a little awkward if you tell your venue it’s your birthday and you show up in a white gown and have a bridal party in tow.

But if you can book any of your suppliers without specifying the nature of the event, do it.

And afterwards
Don’t think it’s cynical, but instead sensible, to sell on whatever you can after your wedding. Help another budget-savvy bride out. You’ll have the memories, the photos to look back on, the actual marriage to look forward to. Do you really need that dress hanging in its dust bag at the back of the wardrobe? Says she whose dress is exactly there.

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