Hold the bubbly: How to have a wedding on a budget

By Chloe Hayward
Business reporter, BBC News

  • Published
couple getting marriedImage source, Thinkstock
Image caption,
To save money, why not recruit family and friends to help out with the wedding?

Up to a quarter of a million couples will say their vows in the UK this year, a privilege that on average will cost them £21,000 each.

That is not including a honeymoon or the rings.

With a venue setting you back on average £6,500, and a wedding dress costing in excess of £1,400, it is easy to see how costs spiral out of control.

Tessa O'Sullivan is getting married in a few months time and continues to be surprised at how much anything wedding-related seems to cost.

"Every time I call a supplier - whether it's a florist or the printers - the quotes I get are always so much higher than I expect," she says.

"It's like you need to add a zero on anything that is wedding-related. Everything seems to cost so much," she adds.

'Perfect day'

This wedding "premium" appears most stark when pricing a photographer.

One London-based professional quoted £1,500 for nine hours work at a wedding.

When we asked how much it would cost for him to photograph a 25th wedding anniversary - also for nine hours - his price fell to a far more palatable £680.

But experts say such pricing is justified.

"There is so much more emotion and work involved in a wedding than for any other party," says Sandy Moretta, a wedding planner.

"Suppliers - florist, photographers - always go the extra mile when it's a wedding. There are always more meetings, more emails, more mind changing when someone is planning their wedding.

"Brides want their perfect day," she adds.

And that is how Tess is justifying many of the additional costs at her wedding.

"This 'you only do it once' line is making me part with far more money then I probably should, but I've dreamt of my wedding for years and want it to be perfect," she says.

Learn to negotiate

However there are plenty of ways to reduce the final invoices.

Moretta says that negotiating with suppliers is essential.

"Photographers and florists are nearly always willing to discuss their pricing schemes, and if there isn't another couple also wanting them on that day, you can often get a slight reduction," she says.

Reducing the guest list is another great way to cut the final bill.

Many wedding venues are costed on a per head basis, so not inviting those distant cousins could substantially cut the cost of your wedding.

Do it in November

One of the best ways to make sure your wedding comes in on budget is to chose a week day in the winter.

A wedding on a Tuesday in November could be up to 50% percent cheaper than a Saturday in June.

Emma Eeles was one bride who chose to get married out of the peak season.

She married Brett in November last year, holding the reception in a hotel on the beach near St Ives in Cornwall.

"Not only did it mean the venue was much cheaper, it also meant our guests could get cheaper accommodation too," she says.

"Many travelled down from London so this made a real difference to them."

Help from your friends

Emma also asked for help from family and friends in her bid to come in on budget.

Her mother helped make the table centre pieces, buying ivory candles and flower petals instead of expensive out-of-season flowers.

Emma's make up was done by one friend who had trained as a make-up artist. Another designed and printed her wedding invitations.

A third friend helped make up sweet bags that were given to the guests.

"Having friends and family involved was great - it made them part of the day and made the day feel more personal … as well as saving us some money," says Emma.

She was also careful when it came to planning the menu.

"We served prosecco which was so much cheaper than champagne and tried to pick seasonal foods that were local," she says.

"I realised exotic fruits weren't going to be cheap in the winter after they'd been flown halfway around the world," she says.

As Emma says, it is about marrying the person you love, not breaking your bank balance.