Whether you’re planning an inexpensive wedding or you have a generous budget, nobody likes the feeling that they’re not getting value for money. That’s why we’ve pulled together our insider tips for making the most of your budget – while still having the celebration you want.
There are savings to be had and bargains to be found on everything from wedding dresses and accessories to venues, and even food and drink.
As well as following our money-saving hacks, it’s worth negotiating, too. We know not everyone enjoys haggling. However, so long as you’re polite and respect the fact that wedding suppliers need to earn a living, you can always ask if there’s the possibility of a discount, or whether something extra can be added to the package, particularly if you’re getting married outside peak wedding season.
The average cost of a UK wedding is £31,974 – a 54% rise from 2014 – but you certainly don’t have to spend that to have a beautiful celebration. Just follow our 71 tips for making your wedding budget go further.
1. Choose a date outside the most popular period of May to September. Having an autumn wedding or a winter wedding should mean prices are lower.
2. Have your wedding ceremony and reception at the same venue, so you’re not paying for two locations. This will also save you money on transport between the ceremony and reception.
3. Choose a venue with statement interiors, so you won’t need much in the way of décor.
4. Find out if the venue will only let you use their preferred suppliers. If that’s the case, you won’t be able to shop around for the best price, so you may want to reconsider.
5. Before you sign the contract, make sure you’re aware of any potentially price-boosting policies from your venue, such as a service charge, cloakroom costs, corkage and cakeage, clean-up and take-down expenses, and charges for using suppliers not on their preferred list.
READ MORE: What to ask your wedding venue
6. Consider having a weekday wedding, as prices will be lower – just check with your must-have guests that they’d be able to take the time off.
7. Don’t rule out venue packages. These can turn out to be excellent value. Just make sure you get an idea of the cost of going bespoke, so you’re confident the package you’re being offered actually does save you money.
8. If you or your parents have the space, look at having your reception at home. It’s an increasingly popular option: according to Pinterest, searches for “back garden wedding” are up 441%. Of course, if you’re going for the whole big-marquee-and-caterers affair, this might end up being an expensive option, but keep your at-home wedding low-key and you could make a big saving.
9. Be cautious when it comes to blank canvas spaces, such as village halls. Yes, the hire fee will be small, but you then have the cost of bringing in everything you need, from crockery and cutlery to décor. You’ll need to price this up carefully to be sure your celebration won’t end up more expensive than at a wedding venue.
READ MORE: How to decorate a village hall
10. Get married close to home, so you don’t have an accommodation costs for the night before or the wedding night.
11. Have an elopement. This could be just the two of you or only your very nearest and dearest. Read our guide to how to elope to find out if this option could be right for you. Some venues offer elopement packages for small or no-guest weddings.
Food & drink
11. Dreaming of a showstopping cake? Serve your it as dessert – you’ll save cash by not having this course, and ensure everyone actually tries your carefully chosen confection.
12. Think about the timings of your wedding day. If you have your ceremony later in the day, you can have your wedding breakfast later, which means you won’t need evening food – unless you’re inviting evening-only guests, of course.
13. Be choosier with your guest list. Food and drink are per-head costs – you’ll just need to check with your venue and caterer whether they have a minimum number of guests or minimum spend.
READ MORE: How to decide on the size of your wedding
14. Think beyond the traditional sit-down meal. This doesn’t mean your guests going without – an opulent buffet, gourmet food trucks, grazing platters or delicious hog roast will delight them but also save you some wedding money.
15. If you are having evening food, consider ordering pizza on the night for anyone who wants it. We’ve seen this done at weddings, and it goes down a storm, as well as creating less waste.
READ MORE: Amazing ways to include pizza in your wedding
16. Find out whether your venue charges corkage, and if not, source your own alcohol. You can make a significant saving this way, particularly if you use a service that lets you return unopened bottles, like Laithwaites and Majestic.
17. Rather than pricey champagne, look for something different for your fizz – crémant, cava and prosecco are all good options.
18. There will always be debate about whether you should have a free bar at your wedding. It is a lovely way to host your guests, but to make a saving, limit the available alcohol to wine and beer, and put a set amount of money behind the bar – after that runs out, your guests will need to pay.
19. Rather than cocktails, have wine, beer and soft drinks at your drinks reception – these are significantly less expensive than anything spirit-based.
READ MORE: Your guide to a wedding bar and drinks
20. Ask your caterer to base your dishes on seasonal ingredients, as these should be cheaper as well as more eco-friendly.
21. Don’t rule out having vegetarian or vegan wedding food – vegetables are often cheaper than meat and fish, and you can still have a luxurious feast.
Image | Brooke Lark at Unsplash
22. Look for local, independently-run cafes and restaurants whose food you enjoy – they may offer a catering service for less than larger companies.
23. Choose a cake from a supermarket like Waitrose or Marks & Spencer. They have a range of options: undecorated iced cakes you can dress as you please; pretty multi-tiered sponges; and chocolate sponges. You can even get cheese cakes, if you don’t have a sweet tooth.
24. Don’t like cake? Don’t have one! Serve a pudding course instead.
READ MORE: 8 of the most stylish doughnut wall ideas
25. Ask any friends who like baking if they’d kindly contribute their favourite homemade cake or other sweet treat in lieu of a wedding present, then use these to create a dessert table.
26. If you’re keen to have a professional cake, ask for just one decorated tier for cutting – known as a display cake – then guests can be served undecorated sheet cake that’s sliced in the kitchen.
27. Try not to fall in love with an over-elaborate professional design. We love an intricate floral wedding cake, but all that sugar work and detailing can push the price up, so if this is an area where you want to save money, go for something simpler. You can always add fresh flowers to create more impact.
28. Consider a naked cake. These are less expensive than iced versions but can still look bewitchingly pretty.
READ MORE: Lovely naked cakes for your big day
29. Talk to small, independent bakers to see what they can offer, as well as freelance cake makers.
30. Think about having a cheaper alternative to a cake, such as a wedding cupcake tower, perhaps with a small cutting cake on top.
31. Book a meeting with your florist to discuss what they can do on your budget, and bring pictures – but be prepared to compromise. They’re skilled at creating beautiful looks at different price points, but if you’re set on a roomful of peonies, there’s not a lot of leeway.
32. Go for seasonal and local varieties. If there’s a particular bloom you love that won’t be in season at your wedding, talk to your florist about lookalike alternatives.
READ MORE: The best wedding flowers for spring
33. Ask your florist to reuse flowers from your ceremony at your reception, so you’re not paying for two sets of blooms. You could also see if your florist can repurpose your bridesmaids’ bouquets as arrangements after the ceremony, assuming they don’t mind!
34. Foliage is your friend, as it’s more more affordable than flowers. Opt for arrangements with more foliage to add volume, or think about embracing a greenery-only theme – succulents and potted plants on the tables, which can do double duty as favours, or a greenery table garland.
Image | Caught the Light
35. If you’re feeling particularly creative, you could DIY your flowers. You’ll need to consider where to store them before the wedding so they stay fresh, and also which vessels you’ll need for the displays, along with wire and any accessories such as ribbons. Wholesale flower markets – so long as you get there early – and specialist local growers are good sources, or if you and relatives have a sizeable outdoor space, you could even grow your own.
READ MORE: Top tips for DIY wedding flowers
36. Look for a ready-to-wear service, as this should be cheaper than bespoke. Grace & Thorne and Rogue Flowers, for example, offer bouquets and arrangements you can buy online.
37. Don’t rule out dried flowers – these are increasingly popular at rustic weddings. We like the themed blooms you can get online from Great British Florist.
38. Potted trees are a great way of adding impact, and these are cheaper than an equivalent floral arrangement. Bonus: you can keep them afterwards, or give them to your wedding party as a thank-you.
READ MORE: The best flowers, bouquets and plants to thank your wedding party
39. Rather than getting a bouquet for each bridesmaid, you could give them an impactful single stem to carry, or a pretty floral wrist corsage.
40. Put more money into the flowers people will see. While it might be nice to have statement floral arrangements at the entrance to your venue, for example, you’d be better off concentrating your resources on the flowers that will be on and around the tables during the wedding breakfast.
Image | Madison Phipps & Jasmine Andrews. Flowers | Lavender Green
41.You don’t have to carry a bouquet of flowers – check out our guide to the best non-floral wedding bouquets for inspiration.
42. Rather than large arrangements, consider single stems in bud vases.
Image | Frances Sales
43. Stick to three or fewer types of bloom – that should bring the price down if your florist is ordering in bulk.
READ MORE: How many flowers do I need for a wedding?
44. Go faux. Fake flowers have had a less-than-perfect reputation for a few years, but you’d be surprised at the quality that’s now available. Indeed, some leading florists mix in faux flowers to their arrangements, and you can’t tell the difference. Obviously, it would be expensive to buy your own, but you can hire garlands from Friend of Faux, and there are specialist florists who can create bespoke faux arrangements to rent.
45. When it comes to wedding dresses on a budget, don’t overlook the high street. You can buy some seriously high street wedding dresses in shops and online, and then put some of the money you’ve saved towards alterations for a perfect fit. Remember, you’re not necessarily looking for something that’s marketed as a wedding dress – any white gown that takes your fancy should work perfectly well.
46. Don’t be tempted to buy fake designer wedding dresses online – the results rarely match the photos on the websites. If your heart is set on a particular designer who’s out of your price range, ask boutiques that stock them whether they ever run sample sales.
47. It’s also worth looking at second-hand sites such as Preloved and Still White. You can try on second-hand dresses at Bridal Reloved. Want to give something to a good cause while bagging a designer bargain? Check out Brides Do Good, which funds international programmes to support young women, and Oxfam.
48. When you’re buying shoes and accessories, some online retailers offer a discount to first-time buyers, so ask your friends which brands they’d recommend that you haven’t tried before.
READ MORE: 32 hair accessories for chic brides
49. If you’re a groom who’s keen on the idea of a bespoke suit but can’t justify the price tag, consider going semi-bespoke, otherwise known as made to measure. This is where you can choose different linings, styles and fabrics to create a personalised look. Many high-end tailors offer the service, but you can also get something similar on the high street with Moss Bros’s Tailor Me and Reiss’s personal tailoring.
50. You can always have an off-the-peg suit altered to ensure a better fit, which will make it look much more expensive – Marks & Spencer offers the service for suits over £299.
51. You can also hire grooms’ suits, as well as matching ushers’ outfits, so you’ll save money and get a co-ordinated look.
52. Look to the high street for your bridesmaid dresses – there are some gorgeous looks, and the sizing is often more accessible.
READ MORE: 26 best high street bridesmaid dresses
53. You could always ask your bridesmaids to wear something they own or to pay for their dresses – but in this case, the etiquette is that you have minimal input into what they choose, apart from giving them an overall brief.
54. If you’ve always dreamed of designer heels on your wedding day, check out The Outnet, where you can get discounted styles from designers including Jimmy Choo, Valentino and Sergio Rossi.
55. Consider some wedding DIY. There are online tutorials for everything from garlands to wedding signs.
56. Take a look around your home to see if there’s anything you can put into service as wedding decor. A large mirror could work as a table plan, for example, or a cabinet could be filled with flowers and used to display the guest book.
Image | Anneli Marinovich
57. Ask your guests for help instead of wedding presents. Patchwork is an online gift list service that lets you ask for favours or cash instead of homewares. You can ask your guests for a financial contribution to, say, the lighting, or if they’re craft-inclined, request that they help you make decorations.
58. Go digital with your stationery – you’ll save on the cost of postage as well as the printed invitations.
READ MORE: What to put on your wedding website
59. If you are having printed stationery, work out you really need. Rather than one menu per person, for example, have a couple per table; instead of RSVP cards, include an email address for replies.
60. If you’re having professional stationery, skip pricey techniques such as embossing in favour of letting the design itself do the talking.
Image | Kat Antos-Lewis. Stationery | Mama Inc
61. Make sure you choose invitations of a standard card size, to avoid paying extra on the postage – trust us, this really does add up, particularly if you have a larger guest list.
62. Rather than paying for a wedding invitation design, create your own using a site like Canva, or use a free downloadable template that you can customise.
READ MORE: Everything you need to include on your wedding stationery
63. Don’t spend money on special envelopes – your guests will only look at them for a matter of seconds.
64. Look for discounts – our sister brand, Hitched, regularly offer money off their customisable designs.
65. Think outside the box when it comes to buying wedding décor – you don’t have to stick to specialist wedding retailers. Ikea have some excellent candle holders, for example, and you can pick up inexpensive vases at Wilko. The homeware range at H&M is great for stylish finishing touches. Whatever you buy, you can always pretty it up with gold paint or ribbon.
READ MORE: 15 ways to use gold spray paint at your wedding
66. Put together a pub quiz to do after the wedding breakfast, with your most confident member of the wedding party hosting it.
67. If you have outdoor space, lawn games are an inexpensive option, particularly if you can borrow them from friends.
68. Make your own photo booth – you’ll need a backdrop, props and a device like an iPad for taking the pictures. While Polaroid cameras are a good option, the film is rather expensive.
69. Look on Etsy for downloadable games to print out and put on the tables to keep guests talking during the wedding breakfast.
70. Consider going DIY with your wedding music. Just check that your venue has the right soundtrack so guests can hear your playlists. You can always do this for the day then hire a DJ for the evening if you’re not confident in keeping guests on the dance floor.
71. Get a pretty piñata and fill it with sweets – never underestimate how children’s games delight adults.
Need more inspiration for keeping guests happy? Here are 41 unusual wedding entertainment ideas.