Wedding Planning

12 Ways to Plan a Stylish Wedding on a Smaller Budget

Wedding planning is all about priorities – especially when you’re working to a tight budget. So even if you can’t afford everything on your wish list, you can still have a stylish wedding with the money you’ve got. To help, we’ve rounded up the latest money-saving tricks, smart strategies and chic-but-affordable styling ideas to help you take the budget you have as far as it can possibly go. 

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1. Be ruthless with the guest list. 

Sounds harsh, but cutting the guest list is the number-one way to get the look of your wedding dreams for a lot less money. It’s basic maths: You can throw a much more luxe-looking celebration for 75 guests than you can for, say, 150. Every guest you’re able to trim means less food, less booze, and less décor to pay for, helping you save on catering, stationery, flowers and favours. (The savings aren’t only financial. The fewer guests you have, the more quality time you’re able to spend with each one on the day.) Just be sure to work this one out early on. There’s no point slashing the guest list if you’ve already committed to a minimum spend with your venue and suppliers. 

2. Say no to marquees and “dry hire” venues.

“Dry hire” venues – aka, event spaces that you book as a blank canvas – offer tons of freedom to customise, but costs can quickly spiral when you realise you have to source your own chairs, crockery, cutlery and linens. The same goes for marquees, where you usually need to bring in everything from loos to kitchen equipment, plus lots of decorations. To save money, look out for all-inclusive packages and venues that offer chic trimmings as part of the deal. Think charming pubs and gorgeous hotel event spaces that look great before you’ve added any finishing touches. 

3. Think off-peak.

Much like a train ticket, you can save big money on your venue if you arrange your celebration outside the busiest traditional wedding times. (Suppliers such as photographers and florists sometimes offer better rates off-peak, too.) Fridays and Sundays are often cheaper than Saturdays. But for the best deals, choose a mid-week date and avoid the months of June to September.

4. Go paperless.

Wedding stationery can easily set you back £500 or more, especially if you opt for luxe finishes like letterpress, envelope liners, foil printing and bespoke illustrations. So if money is tight, consider switching to email Save the Dates and/or invitations. They are a fractions of the price, don’t require pricey postage, and are eco-friendly to boot.  Sites including Paperless Post, Greenvelope and Evite offer stylish designs and useful RSVP tracking tools. Depending on the design and number of guests, it’s possible to send all your invitations for less than £50. 

Want to stick with hard copy invitations? There are still ways to get in on the paperless savings. Set up a free wedding website with a platform like gettingmarried.co.uk, where you can include helpful information that might otherwise require a printed insert (think accommodation, transport and gift-list details). 

Or display a poster-size order of service board at your ceremony and cut out printing costs for all those individual paper booklets. (Most guests end up binning them anyway.)

Printable order of service poster, £9, Creastelle Events at Etsy

5Get by with a little help from your friends (and family).

We love live bands and professional DJs as much as anyone. But if you’ve blown the budget in other areas, why not ask that cool friend with the turntables and vinyl collection to spin a set at the reception? Then curate digital playlists you can play through the venue’s sound system. Voilà: instant party on a shoestring. 

Other skills you can source from your nearest and dearest:

  • Cake- or dessert-making
  • Place-name crafting or calligraphy
  • Live ceremony music on piano, guitar or cello
  • Smartphone videography and film-editing expertise

6. Choose high-impact decorations.

When you’re working to a smaller budget, every item of décor has to deliver big value. To make an impact with less money, search for larger items you can hang from the ceiling or mount to draw the eye upwards in your venue. Paper pom poms, fans, bunting, garland and ribbon all help to fill the space and unify the design for a lot less than a room full of fresh flowers. 

Botanical ivy decorative garland, £7.99 for 10 metres, Ginger Ray at notonthehighstreet.com

7. Crowdfund it.

Alternative gift-list platform and honeymoon fund Patchwork knows that crowdfunded weddings are growing in popularity. To respond to the demand, they’ve built gorgeous online templates to help you source everything from fairylights and flower-arranging assistance to cash you can put behind the bar at your evening do. It’s a great way to invite your guests to swap traditional wedding presents for contributions towards an amazing wedding day. As a result, you’ll save money – but you’ll also create a real community vibe and sense of connectedness. 

8. Shop the sales for fashion and decorations.

Keep one eye on the sales throughout the year of your wedding. With a little luck, you can find stunning high-street dresses and/or accessories that can work for your bridesmaids as well as discounted suits for the groom and ushers. Be creative in how you shop for decorations, too. Stock up on baubles that aren’t too overtly “Christmas-y” after Boxing Day, nab romantic heart-shaped Valentine’s Day accessories after 14 February, or source pretty pastel ribbons and springtime jars and vases after Easter Sunday. 

9. Source secondhand décor – the stylish way.

Everybody knows to scroll through eBay and Gumtree when you’re looking for used stuff on the cheap. But for a wedding-specific take on secondhand, check out sellmywedding.co.uk. The site offers pre-loved as well as for-hire wedding décor, and the user-friendly website makes searching for specific items a breeze. You’ll find everything from a job lot of paper lanterns to floral arches and gold charger plates for way less than retail price.

Handmade linen napkins, £150 for 70, sellmywedding.co.uk

10. Consider dried flowers. 

Dried flowers are a huge wedding trend right now, which means you’ll cut costs and score big on Instagram. Etsy has an amazing selection. Choose from bunches of dried larkspur, delphiniums, lavender, eucalyptus and other blooms that you can arrange yourself into pew ends, posies and centrepieces. Or go for pre-arranged bouquets, buttonholes and table decorations. Six tied bunches from Cornish Moor Flowers cost just £29.

Dried flower posies, £29 for six, Cornish Moor Flowers at Etsy

11. Save on your dress.

Budget won’t stretch to a bespoke silk-satin creation? Don’t worry, you’ve still got great options. First, read our definitive guide to wedding dress sample sales and see if you can bag the designer gown you crave for less. Next, shop the high street. Satin and georgette viscose bridal gowns from Ghost start at just £225, and go-to brands including Whistles, Phase Eight, French Connection and ASOS all do wedding dresses. Also check out Wed2B, where all gowns (apart from their Platinum Edition) are priced at £599 and under. If you’re willing to go pre-owned, visit stillwhite.co.uk, preloved.co.uk, sellmyweddingdress.co.uk, or Oxfam’s online wedding shop  and specialist bridal departments.

“Rose” wedding dress, £599, Whistles

12. Trim your catering costs.

One of the easiest money-saving tricks is to serve your wedding cake as dessert. As a result, you can cut the separate dessert course from your catering budget. (Our other favourite cost-cutting catering ideas? Skip the traditional three-course seated meal and go for Mediterranean-style sharing platters on each table, a stylish grazing buffet, a hog roast or barbecue, or even a picnic.)

If funds are too tight for a professional tower, you can still get that elegant, tiered cake look you love (and that looks amazing in photographs) with a bit of clever DIY. M&S sells “Build Your Own” iced cake tiers that you can stack and decorate with fresh flowers, lavender, eucalyptus or a cute cake topper. Individual tiers cost £14-£56 depending on size and come in flavours including red velvet, sponge, chocolate and traditional fruit cake.

“Build Your Own” wedding cake tiers, £14-£56, M&S

Or, follow the Great British Bake-Off trend and ask friends and family to bring a dessert item to share on a massive communal cake table. For more advice on how to make a statement on a budget, check out our guides on:

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