Keep the cost of your wedding day down

When it comes to minimising the cost of a wedding, I'm no shining example. I got hitched to my betrothed in a fairytale wedding in March, with our ultimate spend running 50% over budget.

However, brides are seemingly getting savvier. The average wedding spend in 2012 was around £20,000, according to Ideal Bride Magazine, but that's expected to fall to £16,000 this year.

Whatever your budget, there are ways to trim costs and get value for money. Here, we look at three couples – including my husband and myself – with differing budgets, all of whom tried to save money without compromising on their big day.


BUDGET: £10,000
SPEND: £10,000

Marketing manager Gill, 34, married artist Scott, 34, in a ceremony at Dunkeld Cathedral, Perthshire, followed by a reception at the Hilton Dunkeld House hotel on the banks of the Tay in July 2007. Guests numbered 100 during the day and 120 by the night.

"We first met and were friends at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, graduating in 2000, but didn't get together until a few years later," says Gill. "Scott surprised me with a really romantic proposal in Italy in 2006. We were on holiday, but Scott was also gathering research for a commission for a series of paintings."

Scott's talents shaved thousands off the couple's potential spend: one of the bridesmaid's husbands, another art school graduate, did the wedding photography (average budget of £1,080 for this year's brides, according to Ideal Bride) in return for a painting or two by the sought-after contemporary landscape artist.

The couple, who live in Glasgow and are now parents to Arran, two, and eight-month-old Sophie, designed and printed their own save-the-date cards, wedding invitations, place cards and orders of service, based on paintings produced on the back of the Italian holiday, while female guests received prints of Scott's work as wedding favours.

"Wedding favours for the men were whisky miniatures, which a friend who worked for a drinks company was able to get for us at £1 a bottle," says Gill.

"Another friend offered to film the wedding video as their gift to us. We hadn't planned to have one, as I wasn't that keen, but I'm so glad he did this for us. It includes the occasional bit of hilarious Irish commentary as well."

Another big saving was made on the table centrepieces. "My other bridesmaid lent me bowls she had used for her wedding to float non-expensive candles and petals in – really pretty. Those bowls and pebbles did the rounds of various weddings after that."


BUDGET: £20,000
SPEND: £22,000

Kate, 32, managing director of a content provider, and David, 31, a farmer, will be married in North Yorkshire in June. The guest list runs to 175 people.

"We met at a clay-shooting event," says Kate. "Four years later, on my birthday on a cliff top in Cornwall, David proposed. That was a year ago, and we're now just a few weeks away from the wedding."

The couple, who split their time between London and Somerset and love the great outdoors, sourced an empty grain barn outside York as their venue at a cost of £1,500.

"The barn was literally four walls and a roof – no heating, lighting or anything like that, let alone a bar, tables and chairs, so although our initial venue outlay was cheap, we've had to sort out all the logistics on top," says Kate.

The creative pair made the wedding favours (miniature bottles of sloe gin), elderflower champagne, decorations and the wedding cake themselves. The cake cost £115 compared with the 2013 average of £290.

"We're just getting the cake professionally decorated for a fraction of the cost," says Kate. "We've trawled charity shops and eBay for bits and pieces, such as an old picture frame for the seating plan, and we're even making our own wedding rings with the help of a local jeweller."

Although Kate's dress was £1,500 (more than the £1,300 this year's brides are budgeting for), her shoes were samples and reduced from £120 to £50.

Kate adds: "Our approach made us think laterally and suits us a couple. In ‘real life', we're far more likely to go for a nice piece of vintage furniture than buy something brand-new and our wedding won't be any different."


BUDGET: £30,000
SPEND: £45,000

I married property management director, William, 28, in March of this year at St Andrew's Chapel, Aberdeenshire, followed by a reception at stately home Fasque House in the Scottish Highlands. We had a fairly hefty budget but we still tried to spend sensibly and make sure we got real value for money.

We knew we wanted to get married somewhere in Scotland and when we visited Fasque for the first time we fell in love with it. To hire the private house and grounds cost £11,000 for the weekend. That was before any other costs, so we knew then the stunning wedding we'd envisaged was going to cost far more than we'd budgeted for, and we didn't want to compromise on ensuring our guests felt very well looked after.

So, we trimmed the guest list from 100 to 80. We wanted to take care of all the drinks the whole weekend and, as we were able to supply our own, we shopped around for the best bulk discounts and Christmas deals and asked those invited to stay in the house to bring a bottle to help them stock the bar.

We also used our last holiday before the wedding as a sourcing trip. We went to China and South East Asia, where we managed to get loads of amazing gifts – silk scarves for the bridesmaids, jade jewellery for our mums and Japanese dolls for the kids. It's amazing how much you can save with a bit of carefully thought-out timing.

We had planned to arrange a photobooth for the big day at a hire cost of £600 but we decided to make another cutback here and bought a Polaroid camera and film for £110 and put together a £60 ‘props box' so people could dress up and create snaps to use as a photo guestbook.

We spent a phenomenal amount on a single day by anybody's standard, but I was very accurate in my accounting so at least we knew exactly what to expect.

The day was more than we could have hoped for – and the memories are priceless.

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I'm one classic example of overspending. We had a budget but sadly we didn't stick to it.