The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Wedding on a Budget
9th May 2022
The reality is that weddings will probably be one of the most expensive events of your life, and there’s a long list of reasons why such as unnecessarily huge guest lists and picture perfect social media pressures. This is why the question of marriage or mortgage is a legitimately important question for many couples.
As a side note: if you’re interested, we carried out our own survey to see whether UK couples believe they spend too much on their weddings.
The good news is that there are more budget wedding ideas than ever before, which means you may not have to compromise on your vision for your dream day - you just need to think smarter. You’ll find thousands of results for budget-friendly wedding inspiration online and we know that can be overwhelming, especially with everything else on your to do list.
That’s why we collected all the best tips to save money on your big day into a single guide. Bookmark this for later or share it with your partner and let’s get started!
Define Your Budget
Overspending is a common issue when planning your wedding, but how do you avoid it? Budgeting. By creating a wedding budget breakdown, you’re essentially drawing a line and setting boundaries. Yes, we know sorting out your finances for your upcoming big day can be confusing and overwhelming, and no one wants to start married life under a mountain of stress, so the sooner you start, the better off you’ll be.
Open a Wedding Savings Account
Simply by setting up a wedding savings account you set your intention to save, both incentivising you to add regularly and disincentivising unnecessary purchases. You’ll be able to set up automatic, regular deposits into this account from your bank accounts, meaning you don’t even have to think about contributing part of your wages each month.
You’ll want to stick to an instant-access saving account for this. While it might not make much interest, it’s important that you have the freedom to spend your money throughout the wedding planning process whenever you need to.
Before you decide on a budget total, you should consider how much you have saved between you that you’re willing to contribute to the wedding. Be careful here. It may be exciting to sink all your life savings into the wedding of your dreams, but you should always have an emergency fund to cushion you if things go wrong or the unexpected happens.
You may also have family members who want to contribute to your wedding costs. Try to bring up the topic as soon as possible (no matter how awkward it may be) and find out what you could be expecting.
Unless you plan on taking out a wedding loan, the total of this will be what you have to work with for your wedding, along with any future savings in the months to come that you can forecast for.
Figure Out Your Non-Negotiables
Everyone has things they just have to have for it to be a perfect day. Whether that’s a venue, a dining experience, photo booths or a horse and carriage, it’s important to communicate and list these things ahead of time so you can allocate your budget for what really matters to you, even if it does seem silly.
Start by creating a list of wants and needs, then highlight any non-negotiables that either of you has. Since, unfortunately, you probably won’t be able to have all of your wants and needs lists, from there you can start to figure out what you would be willing to give up to keep within a reasonable budget.
Divide That Budget
Having a total figure for your wedding isn’t enough - you’ll still be confused and risk going over that or even being too frugal in areas you probably should spend a little more. Thankfully, weddings can easily be divided into different categories like the venue, food, flowers, the dress… you get it. Your budget should be too.
First, set aside the expenses at the top of your priority list like the venue hire. These should be the most expensive and inflexible expenses. From there, you can divide up the rest of the less important, but nice-to-have touches with the remaining wedding budget. It’s also worth leaving some saved for any hidden wedding costs that may pop up.
There are so many ways to save money on your wedding once you get into the little details, but there are also fundamental changes you can make that will cover almost all areas of your wedding and have a knock-on effect. Here are our overarching top tips for planning your wedding while cutting costs wherever possible.
Buy Second Hand
Everyone needs their traditional “something borrowed”, but why stop there? There are plenty of parts of your wedding you can get second hand either from someone you know or on resale marketplaces and in charity shops - and not just the dress either. Sell My Wedding is a marketplace designed just for this.
You can pick up beautiful budget-friendly wedding dresses and tuxes, veils, jewellery, and all kinds of decor including glasses and centrepieces you probably will never use again. And the best part is that people won’t know any of it is pre-owned unless you tell them.
Book in Advance
For most venues, it’s a good idea to book at least a year in advance, but this is pretty dependent on when you’re getting married, i.e: season, day of the week, time of day. Unsurprisingly, in summer you can expect longer waiting lists, especially at the weekend. This means you’ll either have to get your booking in early or be willing to compromise on when you get married.
With suppliers, booking in advance can score you decent discounts. If you’re having a destination wedding, flights or travel and accommodation all tend to be cheaper the earlier you book.
Location, Location, Location
The beauty of UK wedding venues is that you can get anything from country houses with panoramic views of a particularly beautiful country park, or enjoy the modern flair of city weddings. That’s not to say you’re limited to venues in the UK, there are plenty of cheap wedding destinations around the world if you’re looking for the ultimate wedding abroad.
If you choose to get married in a city or country with a high cost of living, the cost of your wedding will reflect this, plus, for weddings abroad you need to think about travel and accommodation for you and your guests for more than just a day or two.
Do You Need a Wedding Planner?
A wedding planner can be well worth the money, but that depends entirely on your situation. If you don’t have time to organise the wedding yourself, or organising doesn’t come naturally to you and could seriously stress you out, a wedding planner can be more than worth it to make your life easier.
With wedding planners, you can have them do as much or as little as you like. This can be anything from creative input and event planning to venue and wedding vendors sourcing and expert advice. While it can be costly, often wedding planners have far better planning tools and can negotiate better rates for you, especially if they have their own preferred wedding suppliers.
Introducing the black hole of your budget: the guestlist. The one time where having more people who love and want to celebrate you is a bad thing. With so many areas of your wedding, the more people you invite, the more it will cost you. Unfortunately,
the easy way to cut your costs is to invite fewer people, but this can require quite a bit of bravery to do.
Calculate a Rough Estimate
To determine how many wedding guests you can reasonably have, you need to iron out your non-negotiables. If you already have your dream venue picked out, you’ll be restricted to their capacity. If you want an intimate wedding, inviting everyone simply won’t fit the brief. And if you wanted to have an unforgettable five-course meal, you’re limited to how many meals you can afford.
Take all of these things into consideration, along with your budget, and try to come up with an acceptable number of guests that works for both of you. Be realistic. Or start by calculating cost per head and working backwards.
If you’re sticking to a budget or trying to keep costs down, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to invite everybody, that’s where you need to start trimming down the excess. Of course, no one wants to hear that someone they care about is considered as “excess”, so be careful how you approach the conversation.
Ideally, each partner would get to choose half of the guest count, 50/50, but with some people’s circles smaller than others, it really is variable and up to your situation. Even so, it’s worth agreeing on a particular ratio that you can stick to so both parties are happy.
…But Don’t Compromise With Anyone Who Isn’t Your Partner
Many couples will turn to their parents to help create a guest list, which is great if you think you may have forgotten someone you genuinely want to invite. But other than that, it’s just a hassle, especially if they want to invite all their friends.
It’s a bit tricky if they’re helping to pay for the wedding, but would it be cheeky to explain if they want to invite everyone they know, they can pay for them themselves? Or just have a good heart-to-heart and explain how important it is for you that you keep the day intimate.
A good rule of thumb is to only invite people who will be part of your future. There’s no use inviting people that should be left in the past on a monumental day like this.
Add Plus-Ones Consistently or Not at All
It’s worth setting rules for plus-ones. Some people opt for none at all, which is definitely the cheapest option. The problem with this is that there may be people you truly care about who aren’t comfortable in that situation alone.
For those in couples, where do you draw the line? For example, you might have a rule where if a couple hasn’t been dating for longer than six months, the partner doesn’t get invited. That way you avoid playing “who’s that?” years down the line.
Kids or No Kids?
You either allow children, or you don’t. That’s completely your choice, but make sure you’re consistent. Allowing one child but not another may lead parents to ask uncomfortable questions like “don’t you like my child?” - and no one wants to answer that.
There are, of course, tactful ways to have the conversation if you really do want a particular child there. Or you could also set restrictions based on age - over 14s will probably behave.
Create a Tier List
While it might feel a little strange, dividing up everyone you know into different tiers is one of the easiest ways to decide who makes it to the wedding invite list. Start by sorting it by immediate family, close friends and relatives, extended relatives, family friends, coworkers etc. By doing that, you’ll already have a rough tier list, then you can just go through and adjust individual people based on how important it is that they’re there.
Be Ready to Communicate
Everyone reacts differently to “not making the list”, so to avoid any potential fallout, you need to communicate your feelings effectively and efficiently. Keeping everyone up-to-date and in the know is much better than leaving people asking themselves what they did wrong. Most people will understand if you want a more intimate event, or if you’ve had to make decisions based on budget restraints. And if they don’t, they’re not really the kind of person you want with you on your big day anyway.
With a wedding to plan, you won’t have time to sit down and have a conversation with each not-invited person, nor will you want to. It may sound silly, but having a script prepared may be the best way to ensure everyone is treated fairly.
There are some people who you can *probably* cut from your guest list immediately. These are:
- MIA family members
- Friends you haven't heard from in years
- Work friends
- Kids of family and friends
- Plus-ones you've never met
- Friends of your parents or in-laws you've never met
Invites & Save-the-Dates
Wedding stationery is likely to be the first thing you have to spend money on, but it’s also easy to forget when budgeting. While most people will be aware that you’re getting married, it’s customary and functional to give everyone the details, especially the wedding date and location (for destination weddings), so preparations can be made, accommodation can be booked (if needed) and children have babysitters.
Digital invites, and particularly save-the-dates are by far the cheapest method to let people know everything they need to. Realistically, it’s a lot more convenient for most people (except the technophobes), because they can check the details anytime, wherever they are. Plus, it helps save the planet!
The downside is that it could get filtered into your guests' spam folder, or they may not regularly check it, so delivery is not 100% guaranteed.
Stick to What You Need
Rather than sending invites and save-the-dates to every single guest, stick to just one per household - only the one on the fridge will be kept anyway. If there are any overlaps in addresses as you go through your list, bunch them together.
Not everyone needs the same either. If you want to send something special like a magnet or fancy save-the-date/invitations, you can just send them to your closest friends and family, and send something cheaper like digital versions or postcards to everyone else. And make sure you don’t order more stationary than you need, 5-10 for accidentally forgotten guests is enough.
Don’t Overthink It
On one hand, your save-the-dates will be your guests’ first glimpse of what your wedding might look like, on the other, it really doesn’t matter that much. You can play around with different colours and themes at this stage. Of course try to make sure your save-the-dates and invitations don’t look cheap, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them budget-friendly.
Check Postage Costs Before Deciding
There are a lot of things that can push the price of your postage up unexpectedly. This includes the weight or thickness (which can be pushed over the limit by things like ribbons, heavy decoration or magnets) or if your wedding stationery is an irregular shape.
Keep it simple, and you should be able to get that cost per invite down to a budget-friendly number.
To everyone you see on a regular basis, skip the postage costs and just give them the invitation whenever you next see them. You don’t have to go out of your way - you’re busy with wedding planning, after all. Plus, this way you get to see the look on their faces too.
The bulk of your budget will be spent on the venue. Some venues have prices ranging above £20,000 in the peak summer months, so it’s easy to see why average wedding costs are shooting up. Therefore, if you have your heart set on a July date, you may need to rethink your perfect wedding venue and opt for something low-key or use one of these tips to score a better deal. Here are a few ways to find affordable wedding venues.
Time It Right
Should you have your heart set on a particular venue, you may find that compromising on the time of year whittles the price tag down dramatically. While summer weddings look stunning, falling autumn leaves or snow-covered branches also make for beautiful winter wedding backdrops.
Similarly, swapping to a mid-week date could see you make some serious savings on your venue. What costs £5,000 on a Saturday could be £1,000 on a Tuesday, so it’s worth shopping around and getting quotes for different days to see what you have to work with.
Embrace the Evening
You might not be able to afford to book your dream wedding for the day, but what about just for the evening? Some venues offer an hourly rate so you can rent it out for just a few hours, pushing your wedding back to later in the day. The shorter the wedding day, the lower a lot of other costs will be too.
Many venues will offer all-inclusive wedding packages with their own suppliers, usually offering deals and better value than shopping around. This also helps you keep on track with your budget as you can see almost all the costs up-front, rather than having to keep track yourself.
The opposite of this is a blank canvas venue. While these may seem like a perfect option for those with a specific vision, filling it with furniture, decor and ways to provide food can add up to much more than a venue that already has what you need.
Stick to One Venue
It might be tempting to have your wedding ceremony in one place, and your reception somewhere completely different. After all, they are very different activities.
The problem with this is that you’ll be paying for two separate venues and the transportation between them (not to mention the upheaval for everyone). Venues may even offer extras or discounts, which you’d miss out on if you go to a reception venue not designed for weddings.
Brave Last-Minute Bookings
If you don’t need too much time to prepare, you could make huge savings by having an impromptu, last-minute wedding. Like flights or theatre tickets, venues want to be booked up and fill their space, otherwise, they won’t earn any money for that day. That’s why if you’re organised and can make quick decisions, you might be able to get a significant bargain on your venue.
Lucky enough to know someone with a beautiful home, garden, venue or even a farm? It might be worth asking if you can use it and putting your money into decorating it and making it appropriate for a wedding (like hiring portable toilets). With a good-sized open outdoor space, a marquee could be a cheaper option. Often these can be just as stunning as an indoor space.
If you’re already planning your wedding, you probably already have your engagement ring, but traditionally it doesn’t stop there. Your wedding bands are important since the idea is to wear them for the rest of your life, meaning they have to be durable and timeless. That doesn’t, however, mean you can’t find ways to cut costs.
The Metal Matters
When shopping for your wedding bands, the simplest way to save money is to go for the right metal. Do you really need them to be platinum? By choosing a slightly different metal, you can save a lot on the initial cost - although that may mean you spend more on future maintenance down the line. As an example, white gold and titanium look similar, but titanium is the cheaper option, and in this case, its the stronger one too.
The other thing you need to think about is whether it's hypoallergenic. If you or your partner have an allergy to nickel, metals like white gold often contain considerable amounts of nickel so will likely react with your skin.
Shop Around Online
While the experience of stepping inside a jewellery shop and trying on different rings to find the perfect one can be tempting, you’re far more likely to find better deals online. That’s because you’re paying extra for that shop to physically exist and to pay all its overheads, including the staff. Shopping online cuts out those costs.
There are plenty of reputable jewellers with websites for you to choose from, without the hassle of shop hopping. You’re also far more likely to find more unique designs, if you want something a bit more out there, especially on platforms like Etsy where their rings are often handcrafted.
Hair & Makeup
Unless you prefer the natural look, which some brides do, your hair and makeup are going to be a big part of making you feel confident and beautiful - and what better day for it? We understand a good beauty session can be just the pampering you want on the day, especially after the stresses of planning, but this is also an easy area of your wedding to cut costs.
Do What You Can
While the experience of getting all glammed up with your girls is one you won’t want to miss, you don’t necessarily need to book a full package for your nails, hair and makeup, especially not for everyone involved. For example, it might be worth getting your nails done at a local salon a couple of days before the big day.
It’s also worth finding out what your bridesmaids are capable of. Maybe one of them could do your wedding makeup and hair, with a little practice, of course. There are plenty of lessons and tutorials on YouTube if you’re looking for wedding ideas. It could also be a really lovely idea for your mum to do your hair, reminiscent of childhood.
Book the Assistants and Students
Who needs the pros? Most professional stylists with their own studios have assistants who can be booked at a fraction of the price. There’s a good chance they have the same knowledge and potential, just a little less experience. After all, in a few years, they’ll be the ones charging the high prices attached to their brand.
Alternatively, you can reach out to beauty students who are looking to practice their skills and build their professional portfolios. This way it's a mutually beneficial exchange, meaning you pay far less. They’ll also be putting in their best since they’re eager to prove themselves.
Go Directly to Them
Instead of hiring stylists to come to your venue for you and your bridal party, which means paying by the hour and having to cover their travel expenses, travel to the salon yourself. This will be far cheaper and you can even go to your regular hair salon and enjoy the experience with your usual stylist - you’ll probably get better treatment as a regular client.
Flowers, Decor & Favours
Once your venue is booked, it’s time to start planning how it will look on the day. A lot of wedding venues will add room-dressing to the total cost, and before you know it you have paid an extra £300 for chair covers, so it’s important to look for alternative ways to beautify the place. Most couples want to decorate with floral arrangements, but there’s also the bridal bouquet to think about.
To avoid spending excessive amounts on decorating the space, why not do it yourself? Not only will you save money, but you can put your own personal stamp on your day by including touches that reflect you both as a couple. For DIY wedding decor ideas, try Pinterest.
Before you begin buying your decorations, set a décor budget and plan how you want to spend it. Carefully think about how you want it to look and start researching how much things like lanterns and fairy lights cost. Some cost-effective, yet attractive wedding DIYs you might like to incorporate include flower garlands, vases and tealights. For example, why not grab some old jam jars and add some fairy lights in them for ambient lighting for the tables?
Make it Green
Increasing the amount of foliage and branching while reducing the number of flowers in your arrangements and bouquets will save you a lot of cash. It will also add depth and texture to your displays, which is always a winner.
There are no surprises when it comes to the cost of branches vs. flowers, but when arranged well, they can create an ethereal and romantic aesthetic. From wrapping ivy round beams to having a higher silver-dollar eucalyptus ratio to white roses, going green will save you a bunch on your decor.
Stick to Seasonal
Wedding flowers that are in season are naturally cheaper than plants that are out of season. For example, if you’re having a September wedding, yellow sunflowers might be your best bet. For a spring wedding, forget-me-nots (which are quite apt for an occasion such as this) are in season, so will be cheaper. When flowers are in season, it means you don’t need to source them from afar, which will not only save on money but will be environmentally friendly, too!
When you incorporate in-season flowers with local ones, you’ve got a double-bubble saving. Number one, you won’t have the cost of importing them, number two, you get to support local businesses, and number three, they’ll stay fresher for longer because they won’t have to travel as far. And if you live local to an independent florist, there may even be an option for negotiation in price if you explain you’re on a budget. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!
Choose a Venue That Matches Your Style
One of the biggest saving tips when it comes to wedding decor is to choose a budget wedding venue that already matches your personal style or your chosen wedding style. Otherwise, you’ll be spending the extra money to transform the venue to your tastes on top of actually paying for the space.
If you’re into the rustic look, why not look out for converted barns with big beams? Barn weddings are very popular nowadays. Or, if you’re a coastal lover, why not see if there’s an option of getting hitched actually on the beach? For those who want something charming, village halls or even pub weddings can add something extra to your special day. There are some truly unique wedding venues waiting to be discovered.
Creativity is Everything
Your wedding favours can literally be anything. Unique weddings deserve equally unique favours to commemorate the occasion and thank your guests for sharing in your happiness.
One idea is buying each of your guests a lottery ticket or scratchcard - this is essentially the gift of hope. You could pop to a pound shop and see what you could transform into something fun and quirky. For a super personal touch, you could even create your own wedding playlist on Spotify and hand out little cards with a link to download it.
Music & Entertainment
What’s a beautiful moment like your wedding without a carefully-crafted soundtrack to accompany it? Plus we’re sure you’d rather your drunk and disorderly family members that seem to cause trouble at all the wedding receptions aren’t the only entertainment your guests have between toasts.
Dance to Your Own Beat
Rather than hiring a DJ or band, why not create your own playlist for the day? As well as being a cheaper alternative, this will be a lovely way to spend some time together, curating a list of wedding music that has meaning to you both.
Whether you use a music streaming service, or you use your own music library, you can plan every musical moment, from the service right through to the last dance of the night.
When it comes to booking the music or entertainment for your wedding (whether that be the actual ceremony or the reception), booking local can save you a pretty penny. Think about it: if you book a function band, for example, from a different part of the country, you’ll have to factor in things such as travel costs, petrol/diesel, and accommodation as well as the actual fee itself.
If you’re searching for wedding entertainment on a budget, booking an artist in closer vicinity to the venue will eradicate all of those extra costs.
Stick to the One Band
It’s not rare these days for weddings to have ‘go big or go home’ vibes. And this includes having live music and entertainment running throughout the day. From the music during the ceremony to entertainment during the drinks reception, right up until the evening party that often goes on until the early hours.
But this constant entertainment (and often from different acts) can be very expensive. The solution? If you want your guests to be entertained at all times, why not book one band with a set fee that plays all day? Many acts have different setlists that cater to different moods, as well as playing classic wedding songs, so you’ll still get the variation you want but for a cheaper price.
Book a Band With a Live DJ
If your guests are the type of people who love a party, especially a wedding party, you’re probably going to need a DJ set for the night owls. When searching for your wedding band, find out if any of them offer a live DJ set alongside their performance. It’s more common than you think for wedding acts to offer a DJ as well, so if you want both but can’t afford to pay two separate fees, it's advised you book a live band with a DJ set.
Let an Agency Handle It
Don’t be fooled into thinking hiring an agency will cost you more money. In fact, agencies are experts in sourcing the best entertainment for your specific budget. Factoring in both the agency fee and the music/entertainment fees, they also save you time so that you can focus on other aspects of your wedding.
Good agencies also have quality acts on their roster, which means whoever the act is, you can be assured that the performance will be of the highest standard.
Book a Solo Artist
Whether it’s an acoustic singer-songwriter, a pianist or a harpist, going solo will save you heaps of money. Number one, there’s only one performer you have to pay for instead of a whole band, and number two, they’re often a great alternative for smaller weddings.
So, if an intimate ceremony and reception is more up your street, and you’re on a budget, booking a solo performer could be a great option.
Photography & Videography
Capturing your big day for years to come is a priority for many couples, which is why it may be hard to part with if you’re on a budget. Thankfully, there are ways to get high-quality wedding photos and videos without having your guests take all the snaps on their phones and send them to you later - although that’s an option too.
Have Shorter Coverage
Some photographers and videographers will charge lower fees for shorter coverage. While this may not be possible on peak (i.e the height of summer, or a weekend) due to the fact that they could definitely earn more money during these times if you’re getting married off-peak (i.e a weekday or during the winter) chances are, you can negotiate a cheaper option.
So, speak to your wedding photographer and videographer to see if they will cover your wedding for a shorter period of time in exchange for a smaller price. Often if you explain you’re on a budget, this won’t be an issue.
Combine Photography and Videography
Many weddings have one person taking the snaps of the happy couple and another videoing the romantic event. If you’re on a budget, look out for individuals who offer both - that way, there’s only one overall payment you need to make (and it’s easier to organise).
Obviously, having someone take photos and videos will cost more than hiring just a photographer, but if you’re adamant about having your big day filmed as well, you’ll definitely see the savings when you combine the two together.
Take Pre or Post-Wedding Photos Instead
If you’re not precious about having photos taken on your actual wedding day, you can cut the costs by staging a shoot on a different day. Whether it’s before the big day (if you don’t mind your S/O to see you in your dress before you get hitched) or after you tie the knot, there are some big savings to be made by doing it this way.
Call Your Photographer Friend
If you’re lucky, you might have a talented photographer or videographer friend who will come and help with your wedding photography for mates rates. Or even better, for free. While it’s always preferred to pay someone for their work, (even if it is your bestie) they may do it cheaper for you - especially if they know you’re on a budget.
Another great advantage about having a friend who can shoot your big day is that you’re more likely to feel comfortable in front of the camera. They’ll also likely know your angles and be able to direct you and bring out your confidence if you’re camera shy.
Get Your Photography and Videography Sponsored
If you’re not one for wedding presents, why not ask your guests to make a donation towards your photography and videography instead? If having your big day well documented is a massive priority but you’re on a tight budget, this is a great saving tip.
So, ask your close family and friends to avoid the traditional wedding gifts (no pots and pans or fancy knives, please) and instead make a contribution to the thing that means the most to you - having a perfect wedding album that you’ll be able to treasure forever!
Food & The Cake
There’s one thing people will remember about your wedding, and it’s not the dress. It’s food. But that doesn’t mean you need to start with lavish wedding breakfasts and design a three-course meal tasting menu with all the trimmings. Your guests will get excited about any yummy food if they’re hungry, so why not get creative?
Fake the Cake
Our favourite tip for a budget-friendly cake that looks like the real deal is to use foam. If you’re after a beautiful multi-tier masterpiece, ask your wedding cake designer to fill the bottom tiers with foam instead of cake. No one will know the difference. You’ll still be able to cut and enjoy the top tiers, but without all the waste a huge cake leaves behind.
Graze On Appetisers
Think simple with your appetisers and it’ll become easy to do it yourself. If you have a Costco membership or know someone who does, you’ll be able to bulk buy all kinds of easy, low-cost appetisers. Ideas include cheese and charcuterie boards, crackers, breadsticks, a selection of dips, crudites and hummus. It’ll be quick to set up on the day and should keep the hunger at bay until the evening food as people can return as many times as they want.
Hire a Food Truck
For outdoor weddings, renting a street food truck can be a stylish yet inexpensive alternative to a catered meal and much more relaxed. You’ll be limited in options, but since they’re experts in their particular street food speciality, you know the food will be delicious. Pizza is always a crowd-pleaser, as are burgers, but you can always get a bit more creative, and there are tons available for hire. Plus, they barely take up any space, unlike a full kitchen.
Ditch the Pricey Meat
Meat is where the costs can really add up, so for the biggest savings, start there. Switch the more expensive cuts like prime rib, filet and lamb chops for more non-traditional cuts or different meals entirely - ask your caterer for their alternatives. Plus, there’s nothing saying you need to serve steak, fish or chicken. For a more casual option, why not pizza or burgers?
Limit the Options Available
You don’t need to tailor your wedding menu to everybody invited - you’ll never be able to please them all. In fact, the more you try, the more expensive it’ll be, and realistically, it’s your wedding, so you just need something the two of you love, and maybe a vegetarian option. Not everyone will be a fan of your choice, but if it’s just for one meal, they’ll survive. For drinks, it’s cheaper to stick to beer and wine or have a very limited number of cocktails available.
Light Up the BBQ
Barbeques may be unconventional, but people sure do love them. It’s definitely best for a more casual wedding, but you could get some truly amazing BBQ and comfort food for very little, especially if you bulk buy the meat and sides. You’ll probably have the father figures of your family queuing up to be in charge, and if things go wrong, at least you’ll have a great story.
To Serve or Not to Serve
Going full-service can push up labour costs, thanks to all the prep, plating and service that needs to be done. There are, however, multiple alternatives that could save you money. One is to go for a buffet instead where everyone can serve themselves, and you won’t go through tons of plates and cutlery. Alternatively, you can have a seated meal but serve it family-style where your guests share and pass around dishes.
From a welcome drink and champagne toast to a full-on booze up, how many drinks are too many? Your wedding, your rules. But of course, alcohol costs always add up, just like any night out, so if you’re keeping to a budget, here are a few ways to still get a good buzz.
Create a Bespoke Signature Drink
By exclusively serving a bespoke cocktail, you’re sneakily disguising a budget-friendly trick as a trendy, personalised detail that your guests will want to copy. Get creative: the cocktail could symbolise you, your relationship, your first date etc. You might want to make it one that matches your wedding colours and theme. The key is to make sure the ingredients it uses are relatively cheap.
BYOB: Bring Your Own Booze
The best way to buy the excessive amounts of alcohol your guests are looking forward to is to bulk buy the booze yourself from a good-value supplier. Again, Costco works, but Aldi is known for having an amazing, budget-friendly alcohol selection.
Note: for this to work, you have to make sure your venue has no corkage. This means you won’t have to pay an additional fee to provide your own drinks. This also means you can return any unopened bottles for a refund, share them after, or keep it all for yourself to continue the celebration.
Skip the Champagne Toast
This is an easy, but definitely non-traditional one. By the time you want to do the wedding speeches and toast, everyone will probably already have a drink and don’t actually need champagne. Even if they don’t, people will always find a way to cheers. Half your guests might not even like the taste of champagne. Why waste money simply because of tradition?
Hide the Good Stuff
Your guest will be happy to drink anything, but if there are special, more expensive bottles available and you really don’t want to have to shell out for everyone else to enjoy them: hide them. It’s your wedding, no shame. Ask the bartenders to only serve it to certain people, or if you’ve got a room spare (perhaps where you got ready), consider keeping it there and only telling a select number of people you’d like to share with.
With all the fun of getting creative with aesthetics, it’s important to remember the logistical elements of the day like wedding transportation. If you’re on a budget, you might not prioritise these aspects, but they’re still essential depending on where you’re planning to get married.
Go Big or Go Home
The easiest way to ferry your guests around for good value is to go big. Larger vehicles, naturally, can hold far more guests, bringing the cost per person down significantly, especially compared to a fleet of smaller cars. Stretch limos, party buses, classic London red buses and actual boats (for lake or island weddings) are all great options. Get creative and see what unique ideas you can come up with, adding a fun twist to the wedding.
Rent By the Hour (And Be On Time!)
Instead of renting vehicles for the entire day, consider renting by the hour. This means you have more control over your costs, especially if you’re able to keep the waiting time to a minimum. You can do this if you keep to a strict schedule with specific timings for your ceremony, reception and any other destinations. This way you’re only paying for the time you actually use.
OK, so that’s a lot of information to consider (maybe worth bookmarking?) but the plus side is that there are a ridiculous number of ways you can save money on your wedding.
And hey, if it’s all a bit too much, you could always follow the ultimate money-saving tip for weddings: elope.