Planning 'the big day' isn't just about trying to find a venue and a dress, it's about being realistic when it comes to what you can and can't afford. Some of you maybe fortunate and have a benefactor who is going to fund the final tally, but for most brides that's simply not the case.
Weddings can be a costly event if you let things spiral out of control and this post will in some way, I hope, help towards keeping an eye on the bottom line.
Obviously you're going to need a dress. You'll no doubt have a particular designer in mind, or a local bridal wear boutique you want to splurge your money on with the hope you'll be able to sell the dress after the big day. However, ask yourself this, "Should I buy second hand?" - If you're reluctant to even consider this and wear someone else's dress, why do you think someone will want to buy yours after your wedding?
The bridal store market is worth and estimated £238 million pounds here in the UK, and growing. They're not doing that by stocking 2nd hand dresses. As of today, there are nearly 150 used wedding dresses on Gumtree of varying sizes and styles with prices ranging from £100 to nearly £2,000. They're usually dry cleaned and up for sale within weeks of the wedding, so will be current in terms of trend, and whose ever going to know? More to the point, who really cares?
"But it's all about the dress Darron!" I hear you say, but is it? I thought it was about the celebration of the marriage to your future husband. Let's be honest here, you will still look fantastic in a one time worn bridal gown, all I'm saying is, at least have a look.
The Venue. This is probably one of the most costly aspects of the wedding (depending on what you're doing for a honeymoon), and the best way to get a good deal is by booking them at a wedding fair. Don't go with the intention of just browsing, take a cash to make a deposit. You shouldn't need more than £500, usually a bit less.
The venue will charge you per-head (guest), and they'll need confirmation of those numbers at least 48 hours ahead of time but you can give them an early indication as to how many you think you might invite. Which leads me on nicely to the next consideration for your venue, how many people are you thinking of including? Remember, this is a budget thing, and there are three parts to a wedding:
Everyone knows what to expect at the reception dinner so don't worry too much about the choices on offer, it's probably going to be a mix of Turkey & Ham with a second option of Beef at the lower end of the budget, possibly even just chicken. Keep to the lowest cost possible and cut corners where necessary. Most guests will probably buy a light bite during the day between the service and the evening reception. The only people typically hungry are the bridal party, cause they're distracted with the photographer so having tea/coffee with shortbread (buy your own) on hand when they get there will keep them going till dinner.
Talk to the wedding co-ordinator to see what they can do for you, put the pressure on them to get you as a client. See what you can get them to throw in to the deal, such as centre pieces, table covers, tea & coffee (tip: If you've 50 guests, don't buy 50 teas & coffees, get half that, not everyone drinks it so it will be wasted) and seating covers. There are plenty of businesses out there that sell these ancillaries as a service, but you'll find hotels will have most of it anyway. Remember, wedding fairs put you at an advantage because the wedding co-ordinator is trying to make a success of the wedding fair, and that translates to bookings for them, so you're in control!
The evening function may include additional food costs, such as mini-burgers or fish bites and chips. It's well worth thinking about , and it won't break the bank, but remember that you'll need to factor in your evening guest numbers too.
Consider a 'Sweets Stand' to distract the children (and those guests with a sweet tooth). Start scouring the discount stores or Amazon for Plastic Jar Party Packs to hold the sweets that you can guy from pound stores. Just get the hotel to put a table in the corner of the room and hide a the box you'll bring them under the cloth to make a sort of tier to place the jars on. You can also buy coloured sweetie bags online too!
The bottom line is this, it's all about the numbers. The more you intend to invite the more it's going to cost you. You'll need to drill this home with your parents time and time again, because you'll be surprised how many aunts and uncles start popping out of the woodwork when a family wedding is on the horizon.
A Dress Code can really help keeping the spends down. The more informal you try and make it for your guests, the less pressure there is on the numbers in your bridal party. Informal sends out a signal as intimate, and those tend to be the most memorable. Do you want 5 Bridesmaids and 5 Groomsmen? Cause that means 10 outfits you have to buy/rent.
If you've children already, just go with those as the bridal party. The boys can look great in just a jacket & jeans with new shoes matching Dad, and the girls can easily be catered for in any department store. The benefit of keeping it this way means you're buying clothes that can be used in other family situations. I got married in jeans and a jacket I already owned, the only thing I bought was a new pair of shoes for me and my teenage son, who was also my best man. If you've told everyone you're keeping it simple, they'll not expect tuxedos and ball gowns.
Your flowers can be purchased online, again, they can be kept for centre pieces in the home if you want to create an intimate wedding memory corner once you've got your hands on your wedding photos, and other little items you've saved from the day. There's some really great bouquets available on Amazon, and it can give you some ideas on which way you want to go if you want to add your own coloured ribbons to the table centre pieces.
What about the cake? Do you have any friends or family who can make you something a little more in-keeping with your bank balance? We had a Batman and Minions cake from Tesco for our wedding day, because, why not?
Obviously, the longer you give yourself between the engagement and the wedding day, the bigger the 'war chest' can be, allowing you to push the boat about a bit further in those really important elements, such as the professionals.
You're going to want someone who you can trust to capture your wedding day on film or video. 'Uncle Bob' being a keen photographer is not the same as a professional and experienced wedding photographer. It's a whole different kettle of fish managing a wedding ceremony, and manage it we do. Personally, I offer a flexible payment scheme that you can pay towards as and when you've the means to do so. Other professionals may require a deposit and balance on the day, so make sure you've all those envelopes ready on the night to settle accounts. Which is why it's important to shop around.
The best people to speak to are those who've walked down the aisle before you, or speak to those who work in the industry at the wedding fairs. One thing is for certain, any bad customer service in the wedding sector is quickly shared across all social media, so if you're picking someone, make sure you do a bit of research on them before you hand over any money, as 'deposits' tend not to be refundable.
I hope this has helped, and given you some fresh ideas on how to keep the costs down.
If you've read this blog and have walked down the aisle already, what pointers would you recommend? Share in the comments below, I'd love to hear your stories.