If you believe what you read and hear in the media, weddings take a long time to plan and cost a fortune. In fact, the wedding planning website Confetti posted the results of a survey with 6,600 participants on weddings in 2019 showing the average couple spends between 7 and 12 months planning and just under £15k. However, as I am on the path to financial independence and I aspire to minimalism and a low stress lifestyle, we took less than 3 months to plan our wedding and spent just over half the average.
If you are planning to get married in the future, here are my top tips to keep a lid on the budget and maximise the enjoyment.
- Discuss with your partner what your perfect day would look like. You may already know what your partner would like – a huge church wedding with all the bells and whistles, a laid back barn wedding with just family and closest friends, or an elopement with just the two of you. There is a wide spectrum of options and it’s worth taking some time to really think about what you want. My husband and I don’t particularly like being the centre of attention. We both wanted something small and simple but knew that with two big families and a lot of friends this could be difficult. We got engaged in the middle of May and we already had a holiday booked in July. I suggested getting married while we were on holiday, we looked into the logistics of that which turned out to be pretty simple so we went for it! I booked a Justice of the Peace for the ceremony, a licence for the beach where it would take place and a photographer to catch the special moments. Once we were there we’d need to go to the Town Hall for a licence and the Court for a Do Not Delay Order (so we didn’t have to wait 3 days before having the ceremony). Then all we had to do was tell our family and friends! Most understood why we were eloping and we softened the blow with a small engagement dinner and a big post wedding party back at home.
- Do your research. Planning the actual ceremony was straightforward and low cost. A party for 130 of our family and friends took a bit more planning! The venue and catering will be your biggest cost and they all have different pricing structures. A few that I called charged thousands of pounds just to hire the venue with perhaps some decorations included but certainly no food or drink. It’s worth ringing round venues for prices before you go to visit – avoid falling in love with a venue that charges high prices and has lots of additional extras; that’s a surefire way to blow your budget. We ended up in a venue that just had a minimum spend for food and drink with no charge for the venue itself. This worked out perfectly because we wanted to provide a drink on arrival and a buffet for our guests so we hit the minimum spend without spending excessively. However, there may be venues that do charge for hire but have low cost options for catering so you need to be able to compare the venue and catering together.
- Be aware of extras. I was planning to go to a discount store for my wedding dress but my friend talked me into going to quite a fancy boutique on the promise that they often had sale dresses. I went along thinking that it would also be a good idea to try on some different styles as I had no idea what kind of dress I wanted. An hour later I had fallen in love with a dress at the boutique and although it was in the sale, the adjustments and the hoop increased the price by 65%! With hindsight I would have bought the hoop from somewhere else but having it worn it only twice (at the wedding and then again at the party) I’m hoping I’ll be able to sell it on.
- Don’t get sucked in to the marketing. I felt I was in a pretty frugal mindset when we started planning but I still had a few wobbles after answering endless questions from family and friends about what we were doing – Should we have favours for guests at the party? Should we hire a car to take us to the ceremony? Should we order a flower wall or special lighting for the party? What about hair and make up? Blue rhinestones to stick on the bottom of our shoes that say bride and groom? (No I’m not making that up). JUST SAY NO! No you don’t need a flower wall or a sweety truck or a dessert if you’re already serving wedding cake or a special car no one will see or anything branded as bridal or with your surnames like dressing gowns and slippers, mugs, champagne glasses, hooded jumpers, pillows etc. Some of this may not cost a lot individually but it soon adds up and you will regret it when you look at your budget at the end and when you realise how much extra clutter you now need to get rid of.
- Decide what is important to you. We decided food was important so we splurged on the deluxe buffet option for the party and it was well worth it! As was the photography because our family and friends weren’t there to share the day. But we saved in other areas – no cars for the ceremony or the party and I did my own hair and make up after having a lesson in a local department store.
- DIY where you can but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. The table decorations were our main DIY area. I found milk bottles and hurricane lanterns with candles in on Facebook marketplace. My husband and his friend cut some wood slices from logs we already had and we ordered flowers in bulk to arrange ourselves.
- Remember the point of the day – to promise to spend the rest of your lives together. If you put too much pressure on the day, once it’s over you may find that you feel a bit sad without the organising and excitement to focus on. But remember the point is to mark the start of your lives together so think about what that means to you. We threw the party for our family and friends knowing that we would barely see each other but that didn’t matter – that night wasn’t about us and we have the rest of our lives to spend together. That thought made me more excited about what came next – normal life!
In total we spent £7,676 which breaks down as:
My outfit £825
My husband’s outfit £144
Ceremony costs (Justice of the Peace, licenses etc) £524
Photographer £1,047 (including a printed album)
Party food and drink £4,240
Decorations £226 (flowers for the ceremony, table decorations)
It still feels like a lot of money to me but I’m happy knowing we came in at around half of the average and we had a great time with lots of photos and memories that will last a lifetime! Post any other tips and tricks for wedding budgets in the comments below.