By the time you’re engaged, you probably should have been saving up for your wedding for the last couple of years already. Pound signs light the eyes of anybody who sells wedding-anything – from your save the dates to your venue, and every detail in between. It’s one of those well-known ‘facts’ that as soon as you mention your wedding, your quote is going to increase exponentially. Which is why I allowed my penny-pinching ways to reign supreme throughout the time I was planning our wedding. I figured I’d share some of those tips here!
Don’t be too matchy-matchy
I decided pretty early on that while I wanted our wedding party to stick to a colour scheme (gold, blush and denim. It was a ‘country’ wedding!), I didn’t mind if all of my bridesmaids wore the same thing. My husband’s side of the party didn’t wear anything that matched in any way; we told our guests to wear whatever made them comfortable, and we sent many texts on the morning to reply that yes, we really meant ANYTHING!
My step-dad actually performed the ceremony for us dressed as Batman, which was a total surprise to me and absolutely hilarious to boot. When it came to my bridesmaids, I asked them to choose their own dresses. My only stipulation was that they had to be light pink/blush, but I didn’t care what shape or style they wore. I gave each bridesmaid £50 to put towards the cost of a dress, and I wouldn’t have cared if they bought a tenner dress from China and spent the rest on a takeaway; they had a dress they could wear again and again, and the extra money was just another way to thank them for being there for me. I bought them each a denim jacket each as my gift to them for being my bridesmaids, which tied the outfits together and made them match.
In terms of shoes, I really didn’t mind. My step daughter wore gold cowboy boots because I saw them and thought they were adorable, while one of my bridesmaids wore a pair of flip flops. It’s amazing how much stress melts away when you decide you don’t care about your wedding day being Pinterest perfect and actually focus on people being happy and comfortable in clothing they would choose to wear.
Actual cost of bridesmaid outfits: £80pp
Average cost of bridesmaid outfits: £150pp plus alterations
Think outside of the box
Like I said earlier, mentioning the word ‘wedding’ can make your quote skyrocket pretty quickly. I don’t know about other areas of the country, but the wedding venues I looked at first were averaging around £5000 for the night. Given that the entire budget for my wedding was £3000, this was not feasible! We had a vision of an outdoor wedding, where all of our friends could relax together and drink something bubbly under the setting sun. When I realised what I wanted to do, I felt silly that I hadn’t thought of it sooner: all I needed was a holiday home with a nice big garden and some owners who were happy for us to hold a wedding there!
I viewed a few places who weren’t happy for a wedding to be held there (and one lady with a perfect garden, who said a wedding was fine but music was not to be played under any circumstances because “my garden is a garden and that’s that” – rude!) before I came across a small group of farmhouses with gardens, a coach house and a large communal garden in the outskirts of Daventry. The houses were rented out to members of our wedding party, and we also rented one of them for three days so we got a mini holiday out of it too.
The man who was showing us around was really concerned that we would hate it because it was a working farm and they couldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be tractors running on the day, but it all added to the appeal for us! We also got officially married at lunchtime on a weekday because it was cheaper to do so, then held our own ceremony in which we recited our own vows and my step-dad officiated. The garden ceremony at the weekend was the one we invited our family and friends to, and we consider our anniversary to be that day rather than the day we were legally married.
Actual cost of venue (including three days’ accommodation): £550
Average cost of venue: £5000
Cost of legal marriage: £50 (plus £70 to give notice of marriage or civil partnership)
Cost of having an officiant marry you at your own venue: £600 (plus £70 to give notice of marriage or civil partnership)
Ask for the gift of time
My husband and I had lived together for five years when we got married, so there really wasn’t any need to ask people for toasters and matching dressing gowns. Instead, we asked our friends for their help. My maid of honour trained as a make-up artist, so I asked her to do my make-up as my gift and then I paid for her to do the rest of my bridesmaids. My Mum has an interest in photography, so we asked that photographs of our day be her gift to us. We asked my aunt if she would make our wedding cake, and my Granny (who was a seamstress) handled my alterations.
It was really lovely to see how our loved ones pulled together to work on our wedding – in fact, on the day, about 10 people got together to prepare food and decorations and kept plying me with wine and telling me to sit down and stop flapping! It definitely took a village, but it was fantastic because some sides of our families had never met and immediately they were working together as a family on our behalf.
If you have somebody skilled in your family, ask them if your gift could be their services! We personally weren’t worried about videography or anything, so it was great for us to be able to ask a family member to use her snazzy camera and get some good shots of us. Please note: this is only applicable if your friend or family member doesn’t actually make their living out of what you’re asking them to do. You don’t want to skint your loved ones! If you don’t know anybody who is skilled with a camera, there are definitely some great places online where you can hire a portrait photographer and find exactly what you’re looking for within your ideal budget.
Actual cost of wedding cake: £0
Average cost of wedding cake: £200
Actual cost of make-up: £0
Average cost of make-up: £100
Actual cost of photography: £0
Average cost of photography: £1520
Actual cost of alterations: £0
Average cost of alterations: £150
Do It Yourself
I couldn’t believe some of the amounts of money that were laid down for weddings. Catering was astronomically high, and the cost of flowers made me baulk. In the end, I bought 100 foam flowers from eBay (along with some plastic white sprigs and some tiny gold roses that, funny story, I didn’t realise were tiny when I ordered them) and made the bouquets myself. My maid of honour and I sat down one afternoon and made them together, and we were actually thrilled with how they turned out!
We ended up organising the food ourselves, deciding to buy a load of BBQ food and make use of the equipment at our venue. I only ended up spending about £100 altogether for burgers, sausages, veggie sausages and all of the relevant buns, and then we put on regular buffet food and a few family members brought desserts and extra dishes for the table. We spent twice as much on alcohol (and asked that people bring along a bottle if they wanted anything specific) and bought about ten bags of ice, then just filled a paddling pool with ice and drinks for people to grab! Totally redneck, but totally practical. We ended up with a tonne of food and drink left over, and gave entire bottles of whiskey away to guests just to get rid of it.
We also made things like a giant Instagram (or wedstagram!) board for our guests to take photos with for only £20, passed around a polaroid camera I already owned so we’d have a collection of candid pictures and opted out of having companies set up things like tables, the gazebo etc in favour of doing it ourselves. Finally, we made our wedding programmes and invitations. If we could have made our own stamps to save some money we would have, because the cost of actually posting the invitations was much more expensive than making and printing them!
Actual cost of flowers: £12.00
Average cost of flowers: £300
Actual cost of food and drink: £300
Average cost of food and drink: £3000
Shop local and handmade
Wherever you can, particularly if you’re also going for a rustic wedding, pick things up as soon as you see them. I bought a bunch of our wedding decorations from discount stores, charity shops and on Etsy. I picked up 10 horseshoes on Freecycle, shined them up and used them as table decorations! A couple of people actually asked to take some home at the end of the night, apparently they can be difficult to get hold of. I bought my son an adorable pair of black cowboy boots on Etsy that were shipped over from Texas, and they ended up costing a fraction of anything I could find in this country. I bought foil trays and large sweetie jars from Wilko for holding all of our food, and only spent about £30 altogether on that. Many sellers on Etsy are great at what they do but offer things like invitations, save the dates etc for much cheaper than a large chain would offer. Have a shop around, and don’t go for the first thing you see because you like the design; have a chat with an Etsy seller about a custom order and see if they can come up with exactly what you have in mind.
It’s hard to quantify what I saved on decorations and all of those other bits and bobs, because there is no standard number of decorations a wedding is going to have. But when I look at my food and drink, my bridesmaid dresses (not including my own dress, which cost £150 and was completely custom made in the UK!) and all of the little bits and bobs, I was able to shave £10,168.00 off the cost of my wedding. At the end of the day, the most important thing was getting married. We both said it was a big excuse to get all of the awesome people in our lives together to have a good time, and it didn’t need to look picture-perfect. We just didn’t want the stress. I have no regrets about the way we did our wedding, and I would do it all exactly the same if we had the chance to do it all over again!