For richer or poorer?

Save money on your wedding – and ensure there’s something in the bank to start your life together as Mr & Mrs – with our top tips

Spend or save? Splurge or cut corners? Okay, we know it’s probably the biggest day of your life to date but is your wedding really worth blowing a lifetime’s savings on – not to mention that of your mum and dad too?

What you need to remember when planning your nuptials is that there is a distinction between cost – what you pay for something – and value – whether something was worth the price you paid. And let’s face it, if it was £300 or £3,000, in all the heady excitement of the day, would your guests really notice the difference?

Once you’ve discussed your budget – and set a realistic target – prioritise costs and see where you can save.

One of the best ways to save money is to involve as many people as you can in preparations. Ask friends and family to contribute something towards your big day, perhaps instead of buying you a gift, and your wedding will be special, unique and personal.

Take favours for example. These are great for cutting back on. Usually priced per head, £2.50 per favour seems doable when, in fact, the reality is 150 guests x £2.50 equals a spend of £375. So an evening in with the girls, making fridge magnets or baking cookies with your guests’ names iced on, not only results in a more personal gift, it frees up some of the budget to allocate elsewhere.

Wedding dress

Once you’ve accepted his proposal and named the date, the next biggest decision for any bride-to-be is that dress! And just as broad as the styles on offer, is the price you can pay. While it may be the biggest day of your life, do remember that the dress will only be worn once.

Be completely honest with the sales assistant from the start, and stipulate that you don’t want to see or try on any dresses which fall into a price bracket above what you’re looking to spend.

Our high streets are brimming with bargains for budgeting brides, and also remember that second-hand dresses can be dry cleaned and altered to suit. Many brides buy on eBay and other online auction sites, from charity shops (Oxfam has a string of specialist wedding shops), or even adapt a family heirloom.

Vintage is in vogue, so search the shops for a frock that you can add to or amend to make it a true one-off.

It’s also worth visiting designer outlets – Bicester Village, which is a mecca for labels such as LK Bennett, Prada, Michael Kors, Dior and Jimmy Choo, offers more than 50% off end-of-season stock.

Photography

Many aspiring photographers (you might even have one in the family or a friend may know someone) need a solid portfolio in order to build their reputation, so it can be worth asking around and checking out local art colleges. As with the majority of other wedding services, photographers offer a discount for weekday weddings. Also, avoid leaving a long gap between your wedding ceremony and reception – photographers and musicians will charge you for extra time.

Flowers

Invest in a florist for the most photographed flowers like your bouquet and DIY the rest. Create arrangements that work for both the ceremony and the reception – taking flowers from your ceremony to your reception is an additional crafty cost-cutting exercise.

If you’re tying the knot in the spring or summer, you could consider fresh flowers from your parents’ garden for a truly personal touch to your bridal bouquets and buttonholes.

Mix short (cheaper) arrangements with expensive taller ones and you’ll save £s!

Many churches have volunteers who will be happy to create your flowers in return for a donation to the church. Ask your local vicar or check out the parish and church noticeboards and newsletters.

Venues

Many venues offer packages, especially if you opt to tie the knot during the week or out of season. Check out, too, whether the venue has special offers – such as a further discount if you book rooms overnight or opt for a reception package including table plans, napkins, name cards, centrepieces etc, coffee and petits fours.

The fewer guests you invite, the smaller the venue, which in turn can help cut your costs. If you need to reduce numbers, consider a “no children” policy, or opt not to invite those distant relatives you haven’t set eye on for years.

Find a venue with a no corkage charge for the wines, spirits, beer and champagne – then do a discount deal with a local off licence on a bulk buy or take a booze cruise to a French hypermarket.

Cake

Time really is money when it comes to the cake – the fancier the creation, the greater the cost. Skip a bespoke big-tiered wedding cake, which can run into hundreds, and serve single-tier ones at each table that double up as centrepieces. Check out supermarkets such as Waitrose who stock ‘naked’ cakes (pictured above), which you can then dress up – or dress down – to tie in with your theme. (Visit www.waitrose.com).

Catering

If you’re opting for a professional catering package, make sure you are clear on what is and isn’t included – beware of hidden extras such as crockery, and table and chair hire. The average price of wedding catering combined with your venue is just over £4,000 so this is an obvious area to try to cut costs. Arrange for a poured service at a sit-down meal over bottles on a table. The average guest drinks half a bottle of wine, so a 150-person meal will need about 75 bottles – that goes up to 100 if guests pour their own.

Why not swap a three-course meal for an afternoon affair, serving high tea, or keep it contemporary and classy with champagne and canapes. Or if you fancy a DIY do, there’s bound to be an aunty or two willing to bake up some mouth-watering treats.

Another top trend is hiring a food truck to feed your guests – it adds a great focal point to the celebrations, not to mention a personal touch. Tuck trucks to tempt your guests include: ice cream, burgers, coffee and hot chocolate, puddings and pies, fish and chips, pizza, tacos, hot dogs and so many more.

Stationery

Personal computers can be used to create your chosen wedding stationery, orders of service and table plan. Depending on the style of your wedding, you can embellish them with ribbon, personal photographs, etc. Good quality paper, perhaps with a textured finish, is readily available from stationery specialists or craft shops.

Sending save the dates, invites and thank you notes electronically will save a fortune on postage. And skip place cards at the reception – why not write a guest’s name on a menu or use a personalised favour as the place card?