Plan your perfect wedding on a shoestring - advice from a budget (yet blushing) bride
Wednesday 05 September 2012
I got married in June, and realised a number of things about weddings along the way.
For instance, you can never have enough fish and chips. And that sometimes there is little better than a surprise gingerbread man from Greggs left in the wedding car by friends who realise the happy couple have not had lunch.
I also learnt that some things are twice as expensive for no reason other than the word wedding is involved, and that some costs are unavoidable, but - despite the best efforts of certain parts of the wedding industry - some costs can be easily reduced. It sounds crazy, but you don’t have to fall out with your bank account as it backs into a corner hissing at you like a spooked cat. Who knew?
So if you don’t have parents offering unlimited funds, you’re not a WAG with a mag deal, or you simply aren’t comfortable with the idea of spending so much money on one day, I hope the hints and tips I’ve outlined below might help you too.
Happy wedding planning!
* All prices quoted are approximate, and for equivalent products/services available in my area
Where in the (fictional) wedding rulebook does it say you have to hire a fleet of shiny cars? We soon decided it just wasn’t our thing. My brother stuck bows on his Mini for us, and two family friends offered up their cars for the bridesmaids and parents. Budget, and lovely to have my brother drive me to and from the ceremony.
Usual cost: £300+
We spent: £20 (on bows and silk flowers)
Let’s face it, unless you have a particular act in mind, a lot of hotel DJs just plug in their iPod or play tunes through a laptop anyway. After several drunken nights texting songs we heard in bars, my other brother compiled a playlist on my computer and hooked it up to the sound system. Music we liked, minimal effort, no fuzzy DJ yelling over the songs.
Usual cost: £175+
We spent: Zero
As we hired a marquee, our food options were varied. While we didn’t want a traditional three-course wedding breakfast anyway, that would also have required the additional cost of a catering tent. We opted for informal ‘street food’ – self-contained vans able to set up anywhere. They catered easily for over 100 guests. We had pizza and fish’n’chips, but there are lots of options. If you’re not having a marquee, it’s still worth asking your venue if you can use their outside space. Your guests can queue up or you could ask staff to hand out the food.
Usual cost: £30+ per head
We spent: £5-7 per portion
It’s little wonder most people cannot afford to provide a free bar when hotel and catering quotes are through the roof. While some venues let you provide your own alcohol and charge corkage, our marquee wedding meant there were no extra costs. We bought wine both at auction and from Tesco’s wedding wine service, and hired glasses. It’s up to you whether you trust guests to help themselves or hire someone to keep an eye on things!
Usual cost: £25+ a bottle
We spent: £5-7 a bottle, plus £50 glass hire
Enter as many as you possibly can. There’s a wealth of bridal websites you can sign up to. If you can cope with constant email newsletters, the reward could be amazing. I won bouquets for my bridesmaids and I in an online competition.
Usual cost: £200
We spent: Zero
Another wedding ‘rule’ – everything has to match. You end up paying over the odds for Save the Dates, invites, table names, table plans, signs when essentially, they are all just bits of cardboard with the same font. Making it yourself is time consuming, but much, much cheaper and there’s also nothing to say you can’t make it match anyway. Our Save the Dates were photographs and our table plan was typed on Microsoft Word and hung in a frame.
Usual cost: £100 (Save the Dates at £1 each)
We spent: £6.49
No surprises here – DIY is the budget way forward. Instead of shelling out for flowers or asking the venue to provide something, just think a little differently. Our centres were helium balloons tied to jam jars (see here) but you can do anything. Silk flowers in vases, framed pictures of the guests, a basket of sweets. No-one will shoot you for forgoing elaborate floral arrangements.
Usual cost: Could be anything!
We spent: £25 (on helium, mainly)
GROOM & USHER SUITS
Don’t dismiss secondhand. We bought my other half a Saville Row suit from a vintage shop for £75, and spent another £75 having it tailored to fit him perfectly in the original Saville Row shop.
And making the wedding party stand out doesn’t always mean hiring or buying identical suits – just a nod worked for us. The groom, best man and ushers had matching ties and handkerchiefs with their own suits. Instead of buying them, we bought the material from Liberty and had them made.
Usual cost: £340 (based on Liberty ties and handkerchiefs) or £368 (based on Moss Bros cheapest full package hire)
We spent: £40
I did my own and the bridesmaids did their own. The only costs incurred here are if you buy new cosmetics for the day (a good primer is a good investment to ensure it stays put) and any associated stress from making a mistake with the mascara and starting again.
Usual cost: £65+
We spent: Zero
Look at all areas of your venue to see what you can cut down on. Are they charging you for decorating the room, when you could do it yourself? Are you hiring your table centres, or paying for them to put together the table plan? Have the caterers charged you for luxury tablecloths – do you need them at all, or will basic ones do instead? Do you need the favours they’re providing? Do you need to hire their chair covers or can you stick a ribbon on them and be done with it?
Once you think about it, it’s easy to let go some of the things you might assume you have to do, like matching suits or wedding cars. It’s also about personal priorities – if the food is more important to you than having chair covers, don’t worry that anyone will judge you.
We definitely had more flexibility having a marquee, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do all this with a hotel or hall venue. It just shows how important it is to choose the right place. If you’re hoping to a. do a lot yourself and b. get creative, then you really need to be working with the right people to start with.
Lastly, if someone offers to help with anything, accept! It’s not just saving money, it’s that you can look back and really enjoy the fact so many people wanted to be involved.
We’ve thought about what we’d have done differently had we won the lottery before we got married. We would have paid for everyone’s travel and accommodation. We might have bought actual champagne instead of sparkling wine, but the actual wedding? Nope, it was perfect.
By Amy Milanian
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