You’ve just got engaged, the champagne’s been opened and once the initial celebrations are over it’s time to start thinking about the wedding.
First things first, weddings are an expensive business and whatever you plan to do, whether it’s eloping to Gretna Green, or planning a no expense-spared bash, you’re going to need to think about how to pay for it.
Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesday are cheapest while Saturdays are the most expensive
Average wedding costs vary dramatically, as do the occasions themselves, so it’s worth taking surveys with a pinch of salt when looking at your own day.
For example, according to the wedding planning website Hitched, average wedding costs in 2017 were £27,161. This includes everything from the venue, outfits and food to the ‘mini-moon’, honeymoon and engagement ring.
A similar study by Nationwide put the average price-tag closer to £8,000.
There are hundreds of tips and tricks to cut down the cost of your wedding, but here we’ve picked out 14 of the best to get your started.
If you have any ideas of your own, or tried and tested ways to cut the budget, please let us know in the comments box below.
1. Unpopular days or getting married out of season will cut costs
The date you get married is one of the first things you’ll need to think about and the date you pick could make a difference to your budget.
The cheapest months are January, March, April and November (as February and December are still expensive due to Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day), and the summer months are the most expensive.
Picking a day between Monday and Wednesday will usually be cheapest and Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer are the most expensive, and get booked up the fastest.
If you’re saving up for your marriage, it’s worth making sure your money is earning as much interest as possible
2. You don’t need to invite everyone (and their kids)
When you work out a wedding budget, one of the biggest reasons for it getting out of hand is the number of guests. For large groups the room hire and food and drink bill will escalate.
Think about who you definitely want to stay close to for the rest of your married life, and perhaps – among those who are single – whose wedding you would expect, or want, to be invited to.
Do you really need to pay for transport and accommodation, wedding favours and a huge cake for all your guests? Force yourself to make hard decisions.
If you’re tight on space or budget, you could put more people on the evening list, or ask people to come to the service (if it’s in a church) but explain the reception is only for immediate friends and family.
Many couples are choosing to keep their wedding child-free. You might not want to exclude the children in your immediate family – but do your distant relatives and friends all need to bring theirs?
3. Save for the big day with the right account
If you’re saving up for your wedding day, it’s worth making sure your money is earning as much interest as possible.
As you’re going to need to get to this money at various points in the process, you’ll need an easy access account – and unfortunately the current rates are not great.
The current market-leading easy access account online is from Bank of Cyprus and it pays 1.32 per cent tax for the first 12 months while the best branch-based account is the Newbury BS paying 1.35 per cent interest.
A full list of best buy accounts can be found in our best savings rates guide.
Some current accounts pay a better rate – but only on a certain balance, usually between £1,500 and £3,000.
The average cost of a wedding dress was £1,200 but it’s a lot cheaper on the high street
How I cut the cost of our wedding (including making the cake)
‘Not only did we save money, it gave the wedding a really personal touch.’
By Rebecca Goodman
‘I got married last September and there were a number of things we did to cut costs.
‘The first was prioritising the most important things we both wanted from the start and keeping these in mind while planning the wedding.
‘We chose an afternoon tea for our main meal and asked a local college to cater it, which was almost half the price of most professional caterers and we were really impressed with the food and service.
‘My dress was from Phase Eight, around a third of the cost of buying from a bridal shop, and we paid for a local coach company to transport our guests rather than a specialist wedding bus.
‘Several very generous friends helped with the planning, including one making all of our invitations and wedding stationery as a gift, one sourcing flowers and arranging these for us, and another designing our guest book.
‘I also made my own wedding cake, and baked shortbread favours to give to guests. After going to several weddings as a guest, and seeing numerous wedding cakes go to waste, I decided to have the cake as the pudding.
‘I made and froze it months before the wedding and then the day before covered the three different flavoured cakes in buttercream and used some spare confetti to decorate it.
‘It was big enough for 150 portions and for a supermarket cake of the same size, it would have been around £200, but for a specialist cake, with different flavours and our own design, prices were closer to £400 including delivery.
‘Not only was it a good way to save money, making our cake, and having our friends involved, was a really personal touch to our wedding which is what we wanted the day to be.’
4. Ask (talented) friends for help instead of gifts
Is your friend a star baker or good with taking photos? Ask them if they would be happy to help you out on the day and offer their services to you as a wedding gift.
This will not only save you money, it’s also a way to include your friends in your wedding and make them feel part of the day.
However, if you are doing this, make sure you’re clear about what you want and be open and honest – if someone’s volunteering to make a cake but you know it’s likely to be a disaster, it’s probably best to politely decline at the start.
5. It’s free to send email invites and to set up a wedding website
There are a number of different websites, such as Paperless Post, which allow you to design and send your own invites and thank you notes.
It’s free and will save you the cost of making your own, or paying someone to do them, and then posting them out. At 67p for a first class and 58p for a second class stamp, for the stamps alone this could knock around £100 off your spend.
Similarly you can also create a free online wedding site where you can list all the details about the wedding, including your accommodation, travel details and gift list, and keep a track of your RSVPs.
6. The cheapest way to get married is at the registry office
It costs £119 to get married at a registry office, for a wedding or civil partnership. This is £35 for each person, £45 to register the marriage, and £4 for the certificate and you’ll need two people to be your witnesses. Councils will also charge for the use of their rooms and this will vary but is typically a fraction of private hire costs.
Getting married in a church will cost you slightly more and will depend on the type of church and the service you have. If it’s in a Church of England church, for example, it costs £517 if you marry away from where you live and £474 if it’s in your home parish and you’ll pay extra for a choir, bells or service sheets.
Most of the major supermarkets will let you hire glasses for free, even if you’re not buying your wine from them
7. Starting the wedding later means less time to cater for your guests
If you’re wedding starts in the morning, you’ll need to provide refreshments for all your guests throughout the day and evening – expensive.
But if you have the service in the late afternoon, you can get away with serving one large meal, and supplying drinks for fewer hours, which will make a big difference to your budget.
8. High street dresses start from £300 (or you get one second hand)
The average cost of a wedding dress was £1,200 last year, according to Hitched.co.uk, but it’s a lot cheaper to buy a second-hand dress or shop on the high street.
As wedding dresses are (usually) only worn once, if you’re buying one second hand it should be in pretty good condition. Along with the usual websites such as eBay and Gumtree, Oxfam has a specific website for vintage dresses.
On the high street, Phase Eight, Monsoon and Whistles have all launched their own bridal ranges, starting at around £300.
9. The best ways to borrow money (if you’ve not got the savings)
Many people won’t be able to afford a wedding without another source, such as a credit card or personal loan.
If you need to borrow money – and if you do, you should really be asking whether you really need to and where you can economise – it’s worth doing so in the cheapest way possible, with a 0 per cent spending card, for example, or a card that offers cashback or rewards on top.
Make sure you keep a track on how much you’re spending, and what the interest rates are on the debt. If you can’t pay it off within the 0 per cent period, you must remember to switch to another 0 per cent deal.
You can read more about the cards, and the best way to use them in our guide to the top credit cards for spending, holidays and rewards.
When you work out a wedding budget, one of the biggest reasons for it increasing (or decreasing) is the number of guests
10. Pick your gift list carefully
If you’re choosing a gift list, it’s worth going for a company you’ve heard of before – or doing some careful research.
In 2008 the wedding list company Wrapit went into administration leaving 2,000 couples without wedding gifts, and their guests out of pocket by around £700,000.
If you are using a small provider, ask it what measures are in place – like ringfencing of guests’ cash – should the worst happen. If you’re thinking of taking out wedding insurance, check it’s included –we have a full list in our guide to how to pick wedding insurance.
11. Ditch the three-course meal and make your own food
The food and drinks can add a hefty amount onto your wedding budget. Couples spend an average of £2,014 on it and £252.00 on the wedding cake, according to recent research from Lloyds of 2,000 adults.
However, this tip is not for the fainthearted, and you’ll need to rope in some reliable friends to help if you plan on catering your own wedding. You’ll also need to factor in the time spent making the food, where you’ll store it until it’s served, and where it will be prepared.
Making a posh picnic, for example, with sandwiches, pork pies, sausage rolls and pies, or large one-pot dishes can be done in advance and would cost significantly less than putting on a three-course meal for your guests.
If you don’t want to spend the day before your wedding prepping the food, buying pre-made platters from a supermarket could be another option.
Some people book a restaurant, where the per-head menu prices can be much lower than a wedding venue. If you’re really strapped, tell everyone you’re going for a meal after the service but that you’re not picking up the tab!
Is your friend good with taking photos? Ask them if they would be happy to help you out
12. Get extra cashback on your spending
When you shop through cashback websites, you also earn a percentage of the cash which is paid back after you’ve bought the item, usually in a month. As you may be buying a lot of things beforehand, it’s worth seeing what offers are available to you.
For example, at Topcashback right now there is 8 per cent cashback on womenswear at House of Fraser, 7.35 per cent off Phase Eight and 8.4 per cent at Ghost. While you can also get 4 per cent cashback at Etsy, 10.5 per cent cashback on invites at Vistaprint and 4.2 per cent cashback at Wedding Rings Direct.
13. Scrap the free bar / bulk-buy the booze
Supplying a free bar is becoming more of a rarity and 33 per cent of couples scrap this when they come to planning their wedding, according to Nationwide.
Some venues allow you to provide you’re own booze – sometimes with a corkage charge. If you’re buying the alcohol yourself it’s worth keeping an eye out for discounts in the year leading up to your wedding.
There are often sales after bank holidays, such as after Christmas and Easter, and if you’ve got room to store them this could be a good way to save on your budget.
You could also save money by going over to France and stocking up on cheap wine. Bottles can cost as little as £2 and you can usually pre-order the wine, although you’ll also need to factor in the transport costs of getting there and back.
14. Don’t pay for glass hire – it’s free from the supermarket
Most of the major supermarkets and places like Majestic Wine will let you hire glasses for free, even if you’re not buying your wine from them.
You will usually need to pre-order the glasses and return them clean. This usually includes, champagne flutes, wine glasses, water glasses and beer glasses and you might be able to also hire water jugs and wine coolers too.
Most ask for a deposit, of around £1 per glass, and this will be returned to you once you give the glasses back.
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