12 steps to shrink your wedding costs

Downsize your big-day spend with these top tips from Samantha Birch

1. The Time of Your Life
Weddings are all about timing—and we don’t just mean him choosing the perfect moment to get down on one knee. When can be just as important as where when it comes to saying your ‘I dos’, so opt for an out-of-season, midweek big day and you’ll be surprised how much most venues cut your costs. Dare to plan the whole day in three months or less? Ask if your fave setting offers a whirlwind package.

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2. The Food of Love
Just because the silver service three-course meal is way out of your price range doesn’t mean you have to settle for curly sarnies and sausages on sticks. Budget-friendly barbecues, afternoon teas and hog roasts are available at most venues—and you can top up the menu with a sweetie table or a quirky trike of treats.

3. Pop the Questions
If you’re determined to opt for the sit-down wedding breakfast, ask your venue three things before you sign on the dotted line: 1) Is it possible to serve the pre-reception canapés in place of a starter, or our wedding cake instead of dessert? 2) Do you charge corkage, and if so, what does it cost per bottle? 3) Can we serve prosecco or house wine for the toasts instead of champagne?

4. Venue by Numbers
As long as you’ve walked down the aisle in a certified spot, you can get your big-day boogie on wherever you want—it’s all a case of finding enough space for all your nearest and dearest. Intimate weddings only need somewhere with a private room; guest lists around 100 or so need a function suite or spare floor, and bigger parties should look at venues that commonly cater for large numbers, like universities during the holidays.

5. Your True Colours
If the inspiration for your wedding dress is still a drawing in the back of your Maths book, ask your boutique to only show you dresses that come in under budget, and get to know the names in bridal design who offer gorgeous styles that don’t smash the piggy bank (Alfred Angelo, Ellis Bridals and Amanda Wyatt, for example). But if you’re open-minded about The One, you’ll find more brands keep your purse sitting pretty if you opt for shorter, simpler, even subtly coloured designs.

6. Sharp-Dressed Man
The cost of your groom’s chosen look of love can quickly spiral out of control—especially when you’ve got a best man and ushers to truss up as well. Keep his digits down by going two-piece rather than three-piece (swap the waistcoat for a patterned tie), ditching the morning suit for a standard suit, or even coming over all laidback and up-to-date with a shirt, suit jacket and coloured chinos.

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7. The Colour of Money
There’s a reason black is the new black—not only does it flatter bridesmaids of any shape and size, it keeps your brand and designer options wide open. Instead of choosing that specific shade of shiny jade that ties you into gowns at hundreds of pounds a pop, shop around for inky dresses, add simple white sashes and go chicly monochrome.

8. The Hours
When it comes to suppliers such as your photographer, videographer and hair and make-up artist, there are two cash-counting golden rules. First, go local and skip the cost of travel, food and potentially putting them up for the night. Second: be sure to keep their hours in check. Tempting as it is to snap everything from the minute your eyes ping open to when you tumble into a taxi, you’ll pay for the privilege—and it’s more cost-effective to have your MOH on hand with clips and grips than to keep your hairdresser on hold.

9. Tiers for Dears
Cheese cakes—that’s stacks of the savoury stuff, not the biscuit-base kind—and cupcakes are climbing the ranks of W-day desserts, but you can have the traditional three-tiered sweetie, as long as you choose it carefully. The simpler the style, the easier it is for your baker to put together, so the fewer hours they’ll bill you for; the hardier the type of cake and easier to come by the ingredients, the smaller the price shrinks again. The real trick, though, is to pick square over circular—it maximises your portions.

10. The Little Things
There’s no need to spend big on decorations, favours, centrepieces, marquee furnishings and other style details—just pick your sources carefully. Find cute, quirky finishing touches at haberdashers, homeware stores, gift and charity shops—or be prepared to bid at auctions or haggle in antique shops. Among our faves: the V&A Museum Shop, Handmadebyhells, Paperchase, Cox and Cox, Etsy, Folksy and Papermash.

11. Oh, Mr Postman
If you’ve bought a book of stamps lately you’ll realise what you get for your pounds and pence has dwindled since we were writing to our holiday pen-friends. Instead of paying postage per invite, package yours into parcels and send them to the hub of each family and friendship group—you know, the super-organised one who’s inexplicably amazing at seeing everyone on a fortnightly basis.

12. Digital Love
Since you’re the thoughtful type, you’re probably planning to send every guest a few smart tips and tricks on travel and accommodation near your venue—but post that off with your invite and you’ll pay extra for every insert. Instead, keep your stationery spend small by directing guests to your wedding website. Set one up free at savvy sites like, oh, I don’t know, youandyourwedding.co.uk…

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Want more? The High-Street Bride’s Guide: How to Tie the Knot in Style, Without Blowing the Budget is out now on Amazon for Kindle or the Kindle app for iPad, PC and Mac, £4.99, amazon.co.uk