Set a budget
An estimated 350,000 weddings are set to take place this year, and couples spend an average of £32,000 on tying the knot. Those prices are expected to rise considerably in 2022 as some couples look to make up for the last two years of lockdown restrictions but you should be realistic about what you can afford and how many guests you can accommodate.
To work out a budget, consider how much time you have until your wedding and how much you can build up that fund between now and your planned date. Look at your monthly spending to see how much you can start saving with simple adjustments to your current lifestyle, says Karen Barrett, the founder and chief executive of the financial adviser website Unbiased.co.uk.
“Set up a separate savings account to ringfence the money you both save,” she says. “You can also earn interest tax free in a cash Isa, though there are limits on how much you can save each year. The total amount you can save annually into all your Isas is currently £20,000.”
If you decide to borrow money on a credit card or via a loan, remember you could be paying for it for some time to come.
Save the date – but choose off-peak
Nobody wants to have to drag their wedding dress through muddy puddles or shiver down the aisle, so it’s no surprise that summer is the most popular time to get married. But it comes at a price.
To make a saving, avoid “wedding season” – from May to October. Weekends are also more expensive.
Get married in the morning and have a family wedding brunch or 1920s-inspired afternoon teaWedding planner Liz Taylor
Some venues offer deals for midweek weddings, as well as for off-season dates (November, early December, January and February). According to the wedding planning site Hitched, booking a venue Monday to Friday in the off-season can save you up to £10,000.
Liz Taylor, a wedding planner at the Taylor Lynn Corporation, says changing the time of your wedding can also help you get more out of your budget.
“Get married in the morning and have a family wedding brunch or 1920s-inspired afternoon tea,” she suggests. “Here you save on an expensive bar bill and reduce catering costs compared to a full wedding breakfast. Similarly, an evening ceremony and then just one party saves, but also leads to exciting catering opportunities. Think about street food or hot fish and chips wrapped in wedding-branded paper. Simple – and your guests will love it.”
Do you want to get married in a church? Photograph: Geoffrey Swaine/Rex/Shutterstock
Be smart about the venue
You can’t just get married anywhere. Before the coronavirus pandemic, ceremonies had to be held inside or in a permanent outdoor structure. But the rules were relaxed temporarily during the pandemic, and from the start of this month, outdoor civil weddings in England and Wales were legalised permanently. Similar rules on religious weddings will follow. However, the ceremony will still have to be held at a licensed venue – so forget about exchanging vows on a romantic beach at sunset. If you want that, head to Scotland, where just about anywhere goes and you could save thousands on venue hire.
The average cost of hiring a licensed wedding venue comes in at £5,406 but you can save significantly by tying the knot in a register office (from £57) or church (from £500).
The reception afterwards does not have to cost a fortune either. Think about a pub or village hall, for example. Or if you are lucky enough to have a big garden, or access to one, you could hire a marquee. Depending on the time of year and the size, you can expect to pay between £650 and £3,000 for a marquee hire.
The average cost of hiring a licensed wedding venue is £5,406. Photograph: MBI/Alamy
Get thrifty on attire
Yes, the Duchess of Cambridge looked breathtaking in her designer wedding frock but high street and online retailers have plenty of looks at affordable prices.
Another great option, which is also kind to the planet, is to buy a “pre-loved” dress. Check out sites such as Stillwhite, Bridal Reloved, or Oxfam’s wedding dress page. The groom could also consider hiring a suit for the day. Hire of a black tuxedo from Moss Bros, for example, costs £69.95. Meanwhile, Burton charges £68 for hire of a two-piece suit, or £110 for packages that include jacket, trousers, waistcoat, shirt, neckwear and hankie.
Once the wedding is over, you could get money back by selling items such as your dress, shoes and other paraphernalia from your big day.
Be frugal with your flowers
Bouquets and other floral decorations can be expensive, not to mention wasteful. Repurposing the flowers used for the ceremony at the reception is not only more economical, it is more environmentally friendly. So is opting for seasonal and local blooms.
The florist and author Judith Blacklock says that if you are marrying in a popular church, you can sometimes team up with another bride getting married the same day and reuse their floral arrangements.
Alternatively, you could pick your own flowers and foliage. “Think of those close to you who have gardens and are good-natured. Go and investigate,” Blacklock says. “You want foliage that will last and doesn’t wilt as soon as you get home. Deciduous foliage such as beech needs to be mature to last – say from late June onwards. Wild evergreen foliage such as ivy is brilliant. But if you forage, do take care and only take judiciously where growing abundantly. Be gentle and don’t denude an area.
If you choose a venue without corkage you can take your own alcohol without being charged for opening it and drinking it on-site. Photograph: MBI/Alamy
“Consider using Daucus carrot – Queen Anne’s lace (also known as cow parsley) that grows in profusion in April and May. It grows rampantly but, even so, take only a small amount carefully.”
The average couple spends £65 on food and drink for each of their wedding guests, according to Hitched.co.uk.
Choosing venues without corkage allows you to bring in your own booze without being charged for opening it and drinking it on-site.
Meanwhile, eschewing formal dining for more relaxed buffet-style food and drink stations, where people can grab bites and top up as they please, is another potential money saver.
Another is opting for a sweet cart offering guests a selection of cupcakes and desserts to replace the traditional – and typically expensive – cake options on the big day.
“Buy beer barrels from local breweries that tend to offer the pump as a rental,” advises Anna Davison, the chief executive of the Tiny Wedding Company. “Setting up ‘pimp your’ gin and prosecco tables is a lovely added extra, too. Fire pits with s’mores and toasted marshmallows in the evening is also great fun once the sun goes down.”
There’s no need to fork out on an expensive DJ: make your own playlist on Spotify (a premium subscription is £9.99 a month). It will be more personal and match your musical tastes.
Instead of paying for a professional photographer (on average £1,200), give people disposable cameras to create their own wedding memories. Or buy a Polaroid camera, lots of film, set up a backdrop and make some props.