Budgeting will always be an important part of wedding planning, and never more so than now. But you can’t put a price on friendship, and nobody wants to start married life sent on a long honeymoon in Coventry. So here’s some advice on how not to go about holding a cut-price wedding, with suggestions on how you could do it better!
1. Hold a ‘Dry’ wedding
Booze accounts for a large part of your wedding expenses, so it can be tempting to try and cut costs here. But unless you’re part of a strict religious sect, the odds are at least some of your guests will be looking forward to a drink or three at the reception, and will be decidedly unhappy if you announce on the day that it’s OJ and mineral water only. As a serial wedding attendee, I can honestly say you’d gain more popularity serving beans on toast at the wedding breakfast…so how can you make it affordable?
Read on after the jump for some solutions to this and more cost-cutting no-nos…
The simplest answer is to buy in bulk, and to shop for wine outside the UK. A ‘booze cruise’ to France is a good (and enjoyable) way of achieving this! Cutting catering costs elsewhere can cause less of a kerfuffle among guests – how many people tell you they don’t even like wedding cake? Think about having a smaller or cheaper cake if you want one, or perhaps making your own.
Don’t get hung up on having ‘real’ champagne: one glass of Cava will be enough to get your guests mingling, and is no longer seen as any less ‘acceptable’ as a celebration drink. For an interesting variation, add fruit puree to make bellini, which tastest great and makes the drink go further. But whatever you do, don’t water drinks down – this will be immediately apparant to most guests and come across as decidedly stingey! A last resort is a paying bar, but make sure you throw in at least one free glass per guest for toasts.
2. Ban partners
Excluding (some) partners is never a popular decision and can lead to some rather cut-throat decisions being made – decisions that often essentially boil down to placing a value judgement on your friends’ relationships. Limit it to ‘marrieds only’, for example and your single friends will quite rightly never speak to you again; extend that to only inviting couples who live together, and you’ll upset a whole other subset of people who for their own reasons choose not to cohabit.
Banning all partners is also obviously never going to work, so you’d be better off limiting your guest list to close friends who either know enough people not to need a plus one — or just invite a small enough number over-all that partners can be catered for too. You might also want to go down the ‘reception only’ route for any partners you haven’t met. Excluding children from the event is also a less controversial solution, since many people prefer child-free weddings and parents can get the night off. Just make sure your wishes are comminucated clearly and sensitively, so nobody feels they’re being singled out.
3. Make them pay
Bridesmaids and other attendants are essentially your servants for the day, and as such it is appropriate to cover as many of their costs as you can realistically stretch to. Asking bridesmaids to pay for their dresses is not uncommon, but since your girl friends are unlikely to accept a frumpy dress as payment for their efforts, it’s important you include them in every stage of the designing of bespoke dresses or the choosing of off-the-peg ones.
You’ll also need to discuss clearly and honestly with them how much they can afford at the start of the process, and in most cases this works out well all round: you get your bevy of beauties; they get a nice new outfit they can wear to the next big social occasion. But if you’re not comfortable with their offer of a cute little number from Primark, that’s the point at which you offer to either stump up or cut back on attendants.
4. Pack ’em in
If you’ve got your heart set on a particular venue that turns out to be a little (or a lot) over-budget you have two options: let it go, or trim down your guest list. Don’t do what many couples resort to and try to cram too many guests into a smaller space because it’s a more prestigious or impressive-sounding venue: as someone who’s experienced this phenomenon, there is nothing ‘impressive’ about being packed in so tight to a space that you find yourself spilling red wine all over the mother of the bride.
A far more generous solution is actually the cheaper one: find a larger space not normally used for weddings that will do you a better deal, and decorate it yourself with fairy lights, buntings or whatever else says ‘wedding’ to you. 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!
5. Make them come to you
Getting married ‘in the middle of nowhere’ is common wish among a certain type of couple, and is an idea that has a lot going for it: you can make more of a weekend of it with your friends, far away from the mundane concerns of home. It can also be a good way to find cheap and unusual venues. But unless you’re going in for the obstacle course approach to cost cutting (essentially pricing and inconveniencing out a chunk of your potential invitees) which I have always found a little disingenuous, you’ll have to think about ways to ensure your friends can find affordable and practical accommodation near the venue. They’ll also really appreciate you looking into cheaper travel options (information on advanced train tickets, car-pooling etc) on their behalf, so it’s a good idea to get on to that at the invitation stage.