Weddings on a budget. We'll toast to that.

By Charlotte Yau

A handy guide to saving money on your wedding, including how to budget and save on the biggest expenses.

When couples get married in the movies, there is hardly ever a reference to how much the whole thing cost them. In fact, movie weddings always look like they must have cost a fortune. Bridesmaids, My Best Friends’ Wedding, I Love You Man, we’re looking at you.

However, weddings on a budget are often the reality. Whether you don’t fancy blowing a year’s salary on one day or simply don’t have big bucks to spend, it’s an understandable issue. While you want your day to be perfect, you don’t want to spend every minute dreading the post-honeymoon debt crash.

Thankfully, more and more ways are emerging to help you with budget wedding ideas. From the much-loved new trend of non-traditional ceremony venues, to discount wedding dress and ring stores, saving money on your wedding can be great fun.

Make your budget

How should you budget for a wedding? Well, rule number one is simple: before you buy, budget. If you spend £20,000 on your wedding when you only have £15,000 of savings and resources, you’ll be starting your new life with £5,000 of debt. Make your budget in this order:

How much do I have to spend?

Add up savings, loans, and money from family and friends plus anything else you have to play with.

What do I need to buy?

Think of everything you need and want to include at your wedding, from essentials (venue, transport, rings, cake etc.) to your personal touches (flowers, entertainment, decorations and so on).

What is my priority?

Do you have your heart set on a gorgeous venue but are happy to wear a simple suit or dress? Have you been dreaming about your wedding cake for decades but aren’t too fussed about the flowers? Consider what you regard as a priority and list each expense in order.

What is my budget for each item?

Starting at the top of your priority list, assign a budget then work your way down. Disclaimer: this part will take numerous revisions. Your first time, you might run out of money before you reach half-way! Just start again and re-adjust the numbers.

Save some spare cash

For the love of all that is good, don’t use up every penny. There will always be surprise costs that you weren’t expecting, such as a supplier you’d forgotten you needed or delivery charges on items you’ve ordered. Save a chunk of money so that these surprises don’t ruin all of the hard work you’ve put into budgeting.

Once you’ve finished your budget – Woohoo.  It isn’t easy, but now the fun begins. You can start to bring your big day to life.

How to save on the big things

Save on the rings

Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to spend three months’ salary on an engagement ring. This isn’t even a tradition, as some people think – the origin of this is a highly successful ad campaign fronted by De Beer’s diamond corporation back in the 1930s.

There is no shame in choosing second-hand rings, or budget rings, especially if you decided in your original budget that you’d like to use the money you have elsewhere. Alternatively, ditching the engagement ring altogether and just exchanging simple wedding bands on the day might work best for you.

Save on the cake

There are a variety of high street retailers who stock and make wedding cakes in store, as well as local bakeries. This may be cheaper than hiring wedding cake specialists. Also, don’t feel that you have to have a classic fruitcake. After all, who doesn’t love a slab of chocolate cake every now and again? Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could make the cake yourself; BBC Good Food has you covered. Alternatively, ditch the wedding cake altogether. This is your day, and if you say no cake, no cake it is.

Save on the venue

Consider a mid-week wedding. This will help you save on most wedding venues and also registrar fees, as fees are almost always at their most expensive from Friday to Sunday. You will need to accept that not every guest will be able to make it, but you’ll be surprised just how many will happily sacrifice a day off work for you. Booking a wedding mid-week will also bring down other costs. For any supplier you speak too, ask if they offer a mid-week discount. Some will offer you about 10%, and by the end of your spending, you could save a major amount.

Save on the dress

A custom-made Vera Wang dress might be the stuff of dreams, but it’s also the stuff of bankrupt nightmares. If you don’t want to wear a second-hand dress, there is a middle-of-the-road alternative. Wedding dress shops that stock ‘unwanted’ dresses are growing in popularity. These dresses come from bridal boutiques, shops and designers that have shut down, gone into liquidation, have excess stock or are shifting stocking from two or more seasons ago. However, there is nothing wrong with the dresses and they’ve never been worn! It could be that you find a dress that you tried on the week before in a fancy boutique for half the price.

Tips and tricks to save more money

Trade your skills

Think about what you actually need to buy for your wedding, such as hairdressing services and flowers. Do you have friends or colleagues who can do these things? While you might feel uncomfortable asking them to do it for free, if don’t have the money to pay them, offer to trade skills instead. It could be that you can do something that they’d like in exchange. There is no harm in asking!


Swap the Three-course meal for a buffet

It will blow your hair back seeing the cost of some wedding meals. Save here by hiring a food truck serving pizzas or burgers to stop by, or lay on a buffet. Both are likely to be way cheaper, and whoever picked a prawn cocktail over a couple of slices of pepperoni pizza anyway?


Give yourself longer to save

Rather than rushing the wedding planning stage, why not give yourself an extra 6-months or a year to save. You’ve got the rest of your lives together, and that additional bit of money could take your wedding day from what you’d like to what you’d love.

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