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
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 budgetWhen 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 & repurposeI 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 boxFinally, 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.
Food & drink: £1846
Outfits (mine, Thomas & bridesmaids) & rings: £268
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