Whatever your budget, keeping costs from getting out-of-control is always an important aspect of wedding planning. But with temptation at every turn and pressure to create the perfect day, most brides-to-be will find they overspend to some extent — and nowadays, that’s less of a trivial hiccup than it once may have seemed.
Aware that there have always been couples who’ve gone out of their way to stick to a ‘budget wedding’, I decided to investigate some of the secrets of the most frugal brides and grooms around. Take Chris May and Odette Fenwick (above) for example, whose wedding cost them £600. Once considered mean, these thrifty couples are now looked up to as trendsetters, yet the savings they make are small sacrifices that could make all the difference.
Read on after the jump to find out more.
This is one area where you may just have to get really lucky – or just get looking well in advance. If there’s a ‘family heirloom’ dress available and you happen to be the same size as the previous owner (and have similar tastes!) then you’re laughing. More usual is buying a second-hand or vintage wedding dress.
We often find gorgeous second-hand gowns on Ebay, which is where Odette found her dress for £52. She certainly bagged a bargain there, as you’ll normally expect to pay around £150-200, for that’s still a huge saving compared with a new dress costing several grand. And in my experience, the odds are, if you find a ‘pre-loved’ dress you really like, it’ll feel a lot more special than one that’s come straight out of the box. There are some great tips here on what to look out for when buying a wedding dress on Ebay.
Another option is buying a dress that’s cheap but not perfect (wrong size, wrong cut, hideous bows) and having it altered. Alteration is rarely too expensive, and can utterly transform a garment into your dream dress. Again, if you’re lucky enough to have a friend or relative who’s nifty with a needle, you’ll save even more.
When booking your wedding and reception, the most basic points to remember are hat it’s always cheaper to book in advance and to book your venue for a week day and/or out of season, i.e. in the autumn or winter.
Instead of going for a hotel or similar ‘premium’ spot, consider holding your reception in a village hall and decorate the walls and ceiling with a marquee lining, buntings and other decorations you can prepare and bring in yourself. One of the nicest weddings I ever attended took place in a village hall, which was far more spacious than some of the pokier, ‘posher’ places that couples sometimes insist on choosing in an attempt to impress guests!
This can be one of the hardest areas of all to keep under control. One option is to simply limit numbers (possibly just to family to prevent potential loss of friendship!) to keep up the quailty of the food and drink, inviting additional guests to the post-dinner dance only.
But if you do have more of a ‘feeding of the five thousand’ in mind, cheaper food is available! Try contacting your local catering college and see if you can sort out a deal with the students. They might be able to do the job for you as part of their exam work. Another option for the very brave only is self-catering: one couple describe here how they provided food for over 100 guests at their £5000 budget wedding. If you go for this option, you’ll need help from family and friends, and will almost certainly want to opt for a buffet, as you probably will in any budget wedding – catered or otherwise.
Drinks are also a major expense, but unless you’re teetotal, you’ll be well aware that a dry wedding is not likely to go down well! The main advice here is to buy in bulk, preferably from outside the UK. A ‘booze cruise’ to France is a good (and enjoyable) way of achieving this!
Unless you want a spectacularly elaborate piece of sculpture on a plate, wedding cakes are really not all that difficult to make yourself, and the longer in advance you do it, the better. The techniques will be familiar to anyone who’s made Christmas or other celebration cakes at home. If that sounds too much like hard work, you can buy a simple white, iced cake from a supermarket and have a go at decorating it yourself.
The chances are you’ll have at least one friend who likes to flaunt their amateur photography skills, and if you trust them enough to do the job, you wedding album could be their big break! If they offer to do it for free, it’s up to your conscience to accept or not, but the more usual scenario is to agree on a flat rate, or for you to pay their accommodation and travel costs. Bear in mind that most professional photographers charge between £600 and £1000 for a day’s work.
Other areas where you might be able to enlist friends, according to Cheap Wedding Success are:
Finding a friend with a car big (and smart!) enough to transport the essential wedding party and guests is not always a problem; finding ones willing to play ‘designated driver’ and not drink, quite another.
While not everyone will want to follow the example set by this eco-conscious couple and take the Tube to your wedding venue, you can cut costs considerably by simply ensuring your ceremony and reception take place within walking distance of each other or (ideally) at the same location.
Do you have a crafty friend who’d be happy to make you a guestbook or a set of invitations? If it’s someone who knows you well, these will look far more personal, and will invariably be cheaper. You might even want to make your own if you have the talent and time! There are loads of free tips available online at The Wedding Crafter. Another cheap solution is to order a handmade set on Etsy.
If you know any amateur DJs (and we’ve all got a friend who likes to take control of the stereo at partie) the chances are they’ll relish the chance to work their magic on a large crowd. Technological advances mean that decent equipment is now easier to come by for non-professionals, and a friend is also likely to have a pretty idea of what you’ll willingly dance to, so this is a good way to avoid getting Robbie Williams if you really want Metallica.
If you’re determined to go with a pro, prices typically range from around £80 to £500.