Weddings on a budget

Old skool wedding
Darren & Chantelle's wedding was a day to remember...until Auntie Bertha chinned the best man
"credit cards can help with the purchase of goods and services for your wedding, provided they're used wisely"
  • | by Dave Jenkins

The bells are ringing… But with the average cost of a UK wedding at £20,000, they’re probably alarm bells. Don’t panic! With a willingness to get stuck in and be creative, you can save thousands…

Be realistic

Set your saving goals, identify your wedding budget, and stick to it. Think about opening an account which your wedding savings will go into. Make regular direct debit payments that you can afford.

Credit cards can help with the purchase of goods and services for your wedding, provided they're used wisely. Purchases cards with 0% terms can be a godsend for spreading the cost of big items - but be wary that these terms don't last forever.

Speaking of buying things, you'll be afforded all sorts of protection under the Consumer Credit Act if they end up being faulty. And when it comes to honeymoons, your credit card company can help you get home if your airline goes bust when you're away.

Depending on what card you've got, you might be able to rack up rewards and cashback. We can't stress the importance of staying within budget and never failing to pay off your debt though.

If, by any chance, you have overspent on your credit card, balance transfer cards can help ease the cost of servicing your debt.

Whether you’re negotiating flowers or food everyone upsells the moment you say wedding. “Don’t say it’s a wedding!” says Helen Brady, founder of “Especially if it’s a venue. Tell them it’s a family gathering. It’s not really a lie! Once you have the price you can let it slip.”

Weddings are perfect for the classic good cop/bad cop strategy. The bride calls the shots; If she’s ‘not happy’, the husband-to-be shrugs reluctantly and the seller has to make a better offer. “Do your research, visit as many shops or businesses as possible so you’re confident about the price and availability,” says Helen. “There’s nothing to lose if you walk away.”

But don’t barter too hard: they won’t be keen to help if you need to amend things later. They want your custom, but you need them onside. Curry favour with a larger deposit than requested; they’ll know you’re serious. It might also help you negotiate a few freebies such as a discount DJ, or a complimentary toast. “If you’re using a venue that does weddings ask them to negotiate on external suppliers such as flowers or photos,” Helen suggests. “They’ll give a hotel a bigger discount more than an individual.”

The essentials for a budget wedding

Buying skills sorted, let’s look at the key big day factors…


Non-weekend or out of season weddings always cost less. Some guests may be unable to attend but it’s your day; no one will judge you for making this decision and no one will judge the missing guests.


 Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals. Hidden costs will affect both you (cutlery, chair covers, crockery) and your guests (higher prices at the bar) and it’s not likely to be exclusive use. Be creative, approach village halls, community centres and pub function rooms or even a field as an empty space to put your mark/marquee on. Cheaper still, a park… Although your privacy will be lost here! Alternatively, a wedding abroad can be a lot cheaper as you’re paying for your honeymoon too. However you will alienate all guests who can’t afford to fly or are too old to travel.

Dress and rings

Bottom line, a dress from China will cost no more than £100. We’ve heard equal amounts of horror and delight tales. If you do decide to buy online – from any country – do it months before the big day. Ask for material samples, check the photos on the site are of the actual dress. Keep a record of all communication.

For rings, Helen’s got a great tip: “Don’t necessarily buy the bands from the same jewellers you got the engagement ring from. Their previous discount isn’t an instant green light for a discount wedding band. We got our two for a quarter of the price from a jewellery wholesaler.” Alternatively, a wedding band tattoo is all the rage and won’t set you back more than £100.

Again, this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but nothing says lifelong commitment more than permanent ink.


Unbelievably, stationary can cost as much as £1000 so get creative! Whether it’s with glitter or Photoshop, guests love personal touches. 21st century guests will enjoy the free invite and wedding social network style site like


The most expensive factor. Many advice features suggest slashing the guestlist. Easier said than done, so flip it; your loved ones will understand the costs and will be glad to contribute. From photography to baking cakes to DJing to stationary… Don’t put a price on your guests’ heads; ask what they can do!

Food & Booze

Huge savings alert! One happy bride we spoke to scored a wedding for £1500 for 250 people as her guests were happy with party food. “Who doesn’t like fish and chips?” say Helen.

“Alternative venues like pubs are very open minded and flexible for deals.” Another popular option is a hog roast; a pig for £120 will feed 150. A buffet is also cheaper as the venue won’t have to pay as many waiters. And in the case of external caterers, know every detail; you may be able to get tableware, crockery and such much cheaper using free ad sites or through friends.

Cake-wise, the best cost cutter is the popular cupcake tower. Easy and fun to make, it will also feed your guests later in the evening. When it comes to drinks, choose cava over champers, free toasts but paid bar or bring your own and pay corkage. No guest expects a free bar nowadays… But don’t skimp too much, especially if they’re helping you out in other areas!


From hobbyist friends to photography students, savings can be made. But photos last forever. Shoddy snaps will taint the memories. Avoid rip-offs by knowing this: professional wedding photography should never exceed £1,500.

Décor and entertainment Creativity is king! Wholesaler flowers are heaps cheaper and buying flowers that suit the ceremony and the reception halves costs. Little vases, fairy lights, ivy, fir cones, single roses… Simplicity can work well and you’re guaranteed to have one creative family member to help. And why pay a DJ when everyone owns iPods? Beware; DJs keep the momentum with their playlist, but, as Helen suggests: “you make a feature out of it and call it the wedding jukebox.”


Lavish wedding favours are no longer essential. Again, creativity is a great personalised thank you. Home-made jams or chutneys, cupcakes, jars of sweets or charitable donations have much more value.

And finally…

If you’ve been living together for years anyway, you can politely request donations in lieu of unnecessary presents. Be it for the equally unique honeymoon that follows or even for the big day itself. The most important aspect of your wedding is you. And not one of your friends and family want to see you get into unsustainable debt as a result of it.