According to the most recent national survey, the average cost of a wedding in the UK is now a jaw-dropping £32,273*. There’s no getting around the fact that that’s a lot of money. So it’s natural to want to figure out where you can cut back when you’re planning your big day.
I’ve been planning weddings for nine years now and I can tell you that amazing, blog-worthy weddings that your guests rave about for years can be created on a much smaller budget. Actually, the budget doesn’t have all that much to do with the overall amazing-ness of the day. The best weddings are the ones which are infused with personal details, creativity and the cost doesn’t have to get anywhere near that eye-watering national average for you to make that happen.
The Five Things to Never Scrimp on at Your Wedding
(and how to save money on those things without scrimping)
But there’s some areas where scrimping is just a bad idea. A really, really bad idea. So here’s my round up of the five things I recommend that you never, ever scrimp on at your wedding, with a few tips of how you can save money on those things without regretting it later.
This one is usually at the top of the list couples are happy to splurge on; and there’s good reason for that. Your wedding day, planned so carefully for months or even years will pass by in a flash. Any bride will tell you that. The photographs will be the memory of the day that you treasure for the rest of your lives. Your grandkids will see them. Maybe their grandkids will see them. So you want to end up with photos that you love.
So while it might be tempting to hire a cheap, inexperienced photographer or have a friend take the pictures to save money, it’s definitely one area where scrimping can be seriously risky. Aside from the possibility of ending up without the pictures you were hoping for, you actually also risk ending up with no photos at all. And there’s no second chances, no re-runs and no do-overs.
Investing in an experienced photographer who’s style you love will be something you definitely won’t regret. A great place to find a photographer that’s perfect for you is on your favourite blogs (check out the WWW Supplier Love Directory for some great wedding photographers) or on social media, especially Instagram, which is a great way to connect with the personality and style of photographers to find the one that’s right for you. A really great photographer is an artist who’s going to tell the story of your wedding, so look for one who feels right and who’s style and personality gel with the vision in your head.
If you want to save money on the wedding photography, you can opt for a limited number of hours on the wedding day. There’s also no need to pay out for luxury wedding albums or prints straight away. You can make savings by going digital and creating an album later on. The important thing is to make sure you have a professional photographer you love capturing the key moments of the day so you end up with the memories you want to keep.
It’s your wedding day, and so it’s tempting to think it’s all about you. But when you break it down to the brass tacks, you’re also hosting an event. So keeping guests comfortable is up there at the top of the list of things you absolutely can’t cut corners on. That doesn’t mean you have to re-mortgage your house to serve up a luxury meal to 200 people, but it does mean you have to keep your guests’ bellies full through the day. So cutting quantities of food is an absolute no-no.
Instead of scrimping on quantity, think about alternative catering ideas if you want to save money. Nowadays, that’s actually pretty easy to do. The pinnacle of sophisticated wedding catering doesn’t mean a formal banquet with silver service any more. Actually, people love alternative catering. They love mingling. They love casual. Help yourself Ottolenghi style salad bars, street food stalls, wood-fired pizza trucks, Mac n’ Cheese bars – all these ideas are ways of serving up delicious, budget friendly food that your guests will love.
I’m not sure there’s anything worse than a wedding where it’s hard to get a drink, so making sure the drinks are free-flowing is essential to guest hospitality on your wedding day. If you do want to make savings on your bar bill, like with the food, don’t try and limit the quantities. Instead be creative with how you serve the drinks and what you’re offering.
There’s nothing wrong with limiting your bar selection or replacing expensive champagnes with a lower cost Prosecco, providing there’s plenty of it. The bar is one area where you can also get super creative with signature drinks, DIY stations and pop-up cocktail bars. If your venue allows you to DIY your bar, I always recommend sticking to a very limited menu and presenting it creatively so it feels fun. Fun is at the heart of every great celebration, so there’s nothing wrong with departing from tradition and serving up the unexpected.
No one is going to remember your wedding day for the pretty details and décor (as much as I love those things) but they will remember the music. They’ll remember the dancing. They’ll remember the party. So no matter what your budget is, put entertainment at the top of your list of priorities and put a lot of thought into using music to create an atmosphere.
During the ceremony and drinks reception, a bit of live music is something that I think always adds to the atmosphere of a wedding, and there’s a massive variety of live musicians who you can book for the earlier parts of the day at a pretty small cost. This is also an area where if you have talented family or friends, it’s a great idea to rope them in for a performance. Some of the best moments I’ve ever experienced at weddings have been when a family member or friend has sung or played during the ceremony, and it’s this kind of personal touch which makes a great wedding. It’s sentimental and authentic and that’s what the entire day should be about.
For your evening party, investing in a band can be really worthwhile, with live music giving any celebration that extra edge. But if you can’t afford a full band, then think about other creative live music options to go along with your DJ. There’s a range of acoustic artists, duos or solo singers who are available at the fraction of the price of a full band and investing in some extra entertainment can really add the “wow factor” to the evening.
There’s no need to spend thousands on your wedding dress, but what’s important is that you don’t try to take short cuts. If you want to spend-less-on-the-dress, then opt for an off-the-rack gown or visit a bridal warehouse or outlet shop where you can get a stunning dress for £400 or less. There’s some online retailers right now with absolutely amazing wedding gowns available off-the-rack at really affordable prices, so there’s no need to feel held hostage to the idea that you need to spend thousands on a wedding dress to look and feel amazing. You don’t.
What you should never do is try and buy a cheap knock-off online or scrimp on alterations. There is nothing worse than an ill-fitting or badly cut wedding dress, so focus on finding something that’s beautifully made, comfortable and feels right for you. And if you’re not traditional, find a dress that works for you. I remember my favourite ever wedding dress of any bride I worked with was a delicate silver gown that cost under £200 from a vintage shop. The bride looked absolutely amazing on the day and it didn’t cost much more than an average nice dress.
Creating your dream wedding is never about how much you spend, but more about how you spend what you do have. Scrimping isn’t the same as spending smart. At the heart of any great wedding is great food, great company, great music, personality and fun. Departing from the traditional or the expected can often be a great way of ending up with all that perfection without the £32,273* bill.
Thanks so much to one of my favourite photographers (and one of the UK’s most beautiful wedding storytellers) Ash Powell for providing the images for this month’s post.
*Figure from the hitched.co.uk survey.