Monday, 12 February 2018

A Wedding On A Budget

Throughout the planning process I had a lot of comments and questions here about how we were managing to stick to a small budget for our big day. With the average UK wedding registering at an eye-watering £21,000, our aim of spending £4k or less looked naive at best. But achieving our wedding on a budget actually turned out to be incredibly easy.

For a start, it helped that we were consciously trying to do things a little differently and keep it low-key, and so didn't want a number of traditionally expensive extras such as wedding cars or fancy floral arrangements. But what truly enabled us to stick to such a small budget was the help of friends and relatives, many of whom already work in the wedding industry. Now, I appreciate that this isn't a tip most people will be able to replicate for themselves, but knowing a wedding photographer, a professional cake maker, and a graphic designer specialising in wedding stationery was an enormous contributing factor in our wedding eventually coming in at a not-so-whopping £3,272*. However, the following tips are hopefully more easily replicable.

* In actual fact, our entire spend was just under £6k, but for the purposes of this post I'm only counting the elements that would be part of a more traditional wedding day. The extra £2,600 paid for a large family brunch on the morning of the wedding and - something that was incredibly important to us - hotel rooms for all the guests travelling from overseas. We basically booked out three floors of the city centre Premier Inn for the weekend!
Decide what your main priorities are & allocate money accordingly
Ours priority was food and drink. We wanted yummy cake & fizz for after the ceremony, amazing vegan & vegetarian food, and enough free booze that people could get a bit tipsy. And so that's where the majority of our budget went.

I've had the pleasure of being friends with the brilliantly talented Elle Jane since we met through blogging years ago, and our wedding coincided with her going into business as an occasion cake-maker. She made us 200 beautiful bite-size cupcakes to enjoy after the ceremony with glasses of Prosecco, which I bought from Tesco during one of their regular "Buy 6 bottles get 25% off" promotions.

Meanwhile, the meal was a real highlight of the day. Our fabulous reception venue, The Lansdowne, served up a delicious three course meal for a mere £18.50 a head, which meant we had money left over to put behind the bar.
Avoid bridal shops if you're on a strict budget
When it came to outfits I knew two things for sure: I wanted something comfortable and relatively non-bridal (and if it featured polka dots then so much the better), and I wanted to spend as little as possible. In the end, I managed to find my literal dream dress in the sale at Lindy Bop for a mere £16. Yep, you heard right, £16.

That sorted, I found polka dot dresses for my nieces - Gracie's turquoise dress was also from Lindy Bop at about £11, while Amelie's pink number cost £20 from Amazon - a cheap petticoat from eBay, and a pair of teal Mary Jane shoes which I'd spotted years ago in Clarks and loved, and eventually tracked down on eBay, paying £13.

All of which left enough in the budget for Thomas to splash out on a new suit from Slaters in Leeds which, thanks to having previously worked in the Glasgow branch, he got a discount on. Picking up a pair of secondhand brogues from a vintage store in Bristol left Thomas suited and booted for just over £100.

My advice, then, would be to avoid traditional bridal stores (particularly if you know you want something less traditional and structured) and embrace secondhand shops and eBay as sources.
Reuse & repurpose
I was also really keen to use the beautiful 1940s diamond ring I'd inherited from my granny and, as I wasn't fussed about having a traditional wedding band (in fact, without the existence of my granny's ring I don't think we'd have bothered with rings at all), it made sense to repurpose it as my wedding ring. Meanwhile, ever keen to keep costs low, we bought Thomas's hammered silver ring from Etsy for just £18.
Do It Yourself (or get a mate to do it for you)
Partly to keep costs down and partly for the reasons outlined in my post on planning an anxiety-free day, we kept things incredibly simple and pared back. No favours, no bouquets (actually this is maybe my only regret - in retrospect I would have loved a bunch of sunflowers), no complicated table settings beyond jars of flowers. And I don't think anyone attending the day at any point thought, "you know what, I'd be enjoying myself so much more if there was more stuff around."

But what we did have, we did ourselves (or, more accurately, roped in people to do for us).

The flowers were from supermarkets, arranged into jam jars (collected by friends in the months leading up to the day) with the kind help of my cousins, and dropped off at The Lansdowne on the day by a friend (who also made the tree trunk sign below).

The seating plan was a vintage suitcase that usually sits on our wardrobe, strung with twine and with beautifully calligraphed cards pegged onto it. My cousin Sadie volunteered for the writing, cousin Caroline's husband Steve did the stringing, and in the space of an afternoon we had it finished for the cost of four sheets of card and some mini pegs from Paperchase.

So my advice would be to keep things as simple as you dare and, for everything else, get people involved. I had so many friends and cousins not only willing to pitch in but actively wanting to help.
Think outside the box
Finally, my absolute top tip would be to consider non-traditional venues. There's not many places you could feed 70 people for less than £20 each, but your favourite local gastro pub may just be one of them. Even if they don't do normally private hire, it's worth asking (opting for a weekday wedding is also a huge money-saver: ours was on a Monday).

I also can't emphasise enough how much we loved hosting the party at a place we were so familiar with and fond of, with staff who knew us and enjoyed celebrating alongside us. We still get such a kick from going back to The Lansdowne for a pint and remembering what an ace time we had there with our friends and family.

Price Breakdown
Food & drink: £1846
Outfits (mine, Thomas & bridesmaids) & rings: £268
Flowers: £57
Ceremony venue: £670
Extras (including photographer, taxis, make-up artist, balloons, confetti, gifts etc): £432

My other wedding posts:

All photographs by James Mottram Photography


  1. Love these tips, as a fan of the cheap wedding I could/should do my own version of this post (although my main tip is basically don't invite many people, which seems kind of mean on paper) x

    1. Oh you should definitely do your own version! We invited 96 people and at one scary moment it looked like they were ALL going to come! Although in the end we had 81 I think, which isn't much better.

  2. I love seeing your wedding photos! We did a lot ourselves too, lots of collecting jam jars and drinking gallons of Fentimans Rose Lemonade for their vintage looking bottles! Similarly our biggest expense was the food - we knew we wanted everyone to have a great party (and provided our own alcohol saving a small fortune on what the caterers had quoted us!) I also thought I'd done well with my bargain £150 wedding dress but you absolutely smashed that with your £16 beauty!

    1. Ooh rose lemonade is SO good though. Your dress was so beautiful, what a bargain at £150!

  3. Yes! My personal priority quality photography, I feel it is an expense worth having. You’re lucky to have appropriate contacts! It’s not just the budgeting but also the wrestling with other people’s opinions and expectations of what a wedding should be.

    I have several weddings coming up and while I try to accept the choices of other brides and be balanced in my views, I too get caught up in “weddingthink” where I find myself subconsciously *expecting* there to be certain aspects, or gulping at money spent in particular ways. I have to check myself when doing so to be less judgey and remind that it’s fine for someone to decide what is most important to them, even if I disagree.

    1. I feel so lucky that we knew a photographer because I think otherwise we'd have deemed the expense not worth it, and we'd have been SO wrong! I love our photographs so very much and am very grateful we had a proper photographer.

  4. These tips are good. We did lots of things on budget, e.g. also flowers from the supermarket in borrowed vases and charity shopped vases (2 days before the wedding), a TA at school did my bouquets, I made the table names and Chris did the table plan, his sister (who is a graphic designer) did the invitations, my Mum made ONE of the cakes, my Mum did some wedding favours (mini eggs bought after Easter in little bags) - my wedding dresses were both second hand (£200 for the main one but it was a £3000 dress I'd fallen in love with in a google search months before, £30 for the Vivenne of Holloway one for dancing in!) Chris got his Jaeger suit from a discount designer village for £160 but he's still wearing it for work 5 years on! Our photographer was a friend of my stepmum who wanted a chance to try being a wedding photographer who charged us £350. Our venue and food cost the most!