Want the wedding of your dreams but don’t have a budget to match? With the average wedding costing more than £15,000, most of us are looking for ways to cut corners on costs. You can have the wedding you want for less, and do it in style. Here are my ten top tips for brides (and grooms) on a budget.
1. The Wedding Dress
Your wedding dress really is one area you won’t want to compromise on too much. If trawling charity shops is not your style, check out designer sample sales where you can save hundreds on an amazing designer dress. Buying second hand is risky unless you can see what you’re buying before you hand over the cash.
Be very careful when buying using online auction sites – some things are quite literally too good to be true.
Buying off-the-peg is a real option as trusted high street names such as Debenhams. Monsoon and BHS Bridal have some lovely gowns starting at around £100.
Selling your dress after the wedding is a great way of recouping costs. You could expect to get around half the value of your dress back if it is in good condition, but do be aware that it could cost around £100 to dry clean it first.
2. The Invitations
You can save hundreds on the cost of formal invitations by making them yourself. All you need is the blank cards, paper inserts, envelopes, glue and pretty trimmings to add. You could use a small ribbon bow in your chosen wedding colours to each or add a small sprig of lavender or a pressed rose – whatever means most to you.
Make them look professional by printing them on your home PC and printer. You can even create your own table planner.
3. The Wedding Cake
There are a number of options for how to save when it comes to your wedding cake. You could buy a pre-iced fruit cake from the high street and add your own cake topper and ribbon or flowers. Or, if you or someone you know if good at making cakes, that’s even better.
These days cupcakes are the biggest name in wedding cakes and you can have lots of fun taking your bridesmaids along to a fun cupcake decorating class where you can learn how to decorate your own cakes. Or to mix traditional with contemporary, try a combination of a pre-iced fruit cake at the top of a 3-tier cake stand with lots of small iced cup cakes below it.
4 The Flowers
If you love real flowers but just can’t afford to have them at your ceremony as well as at your reception then be a little clever and you can reuse the same ones. Have one large moveable floral display and several small ones such as hanging pew-ends for a church wedding. Ask your ushers to carefully transport them from your ceremony venue to your reception venue. Ensure you have just enough pew-ends to cover the tables at your reception and reuse each one as a floral table centre. Make sure you tell your florist that this is what you’re planning and they will make sure the flowers look right for both occasions.
Another budget-busting idea is to invest in everlasting silk flowers that you can sell on after the wedding to recoup costs. It’s nice to keep just one as a lasting keepsake of your wedding flowers. Silk flowers can be bought very cheaply second hand too so you could save even more buying second hand and then selling on again if they are in good condition after the big day.
5. The Reception
The room hire and food and drink costs are generally what most brides and grooms spend the majority of their budget on. A great way to cut costs here is to cater the reception yourselves. I don’t mean making the sandwiches, but ordering in a supermarket buffet and buying your drinks wholesale. A reception held in a local village hall with your own decorations, a brought-in buffet and drinks will cut hundreds off a sit-down meal in a hotel or restaurant.
Getting married later in the day means you won’t have to feed all your guests twice, you could get away with a drinks reception with a few canapés and then a buffet later.
NOTE! Getting married later in the afternoon, particularly out of summer will mean a lack of natural light for outdoor photographs so later weddings are best in summer for that reason. Posh picnics, barbeques and other less formal dining options will always cost you less.
6. The Venue
You can save a small fortune on a top venue by booking out of season or, for those happy to do things last minute, by checking for late availability. A venue that is several thousands of pounds in the height of summer can be booked for a fraction of the price with amazing all-inclusive deals in early spring and late autumn/early winter time when they are less likely to be booked.
Alternatively, pretty local village or church halls can be great places for an informal wedding reception and you can decorate them just as you wish. Many village halls are now licensed for civil weddings so you could have everything in one space and do it just the way you want to.
7 & 8. The Table Centres & Favours
Make your table centres your favours too. If you’re worried about the costs of buying table centres for each table as well as place cards, menus, favours and cameras, combine them and kill two birds with one stone. Have a 3-tier cake stand as a stunning centrepiece and load it with home-made cupcakes on the lower 2 tiers and top with a few flowers on the top tier.
You could even add your guests’ names to each cup cake to do away with place cards too. This way you have amazing vintage style centrepieces and favours (and even place cards) all in one. Sell the cake stands after the wedding and you’ll be quids in.
9. The Car
If you don’t have the budget to order a couple of Rolls Royces then just book one to do two tips if the venues are near enough to each other. You could ask friends of friends if they have a fancy car you could borrow for the day. Just make sure their insurance covers whoever drives it, or take out additional insurance just in case.
Another idea is to turn up at the ceremony in something unusual, be it on the local bus (risky if it’s late!) or in a friend’s motorbike sidecar (not with a large dress please!) or on a local farmer’s tractor (be careful of mud!)
10. The Honeymoon
So you would love to jet off to somewhere exotic but you just can’t afford it. Ask your guests to contribute to a honeymoon wish list. Instead of having a formal gift list full of toasters and cutlery draw up a wish list of where you would like to go and how much each part of the journey is likely to cost.
Add a note to your invitations explaining that if guests would like you give you a wedding present then there is nothing you would both love more than a honeymoon. You can set this up yourselves with a separate bank account and have a posting box at your reception for guests to post their wedding cards and cheques into or if you want to do it more formally, register online with one of the dedicated honeymoon registry websites.
Finally, please try to keep in mind that the wedding day is just a celebration of your marriage and the start of the rest of your life with the person you love.
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Kate Thompson is Confetti's features editor and wedding expert, and has worked in the wedding industry for 15 years. A widely published lifestyle writer, she has made BBC television and radio appearances discussing wedding trends in the UK.