17 May 2017

How to keep your wedding costs down

One clear trend stands out in our latest survey on how British people today manage their wedding expenses: Forget the canapés. Just over half of the 2,000 people in our study of married Britons dispensed with fancy nibbles when they tied the knot.

'Favours' were the next most popular wedding item to drop, with just under half of married couples abandoning the tradition of giving sweets and other little gifts to guests. Wedding dresses also saw major cuts, with 48% of survey participants spending less on them. Guest numbers and luxurious invitations were next for the squeeze.

The result of these savings? Just over 30% of people spent less than £1,000 on getting hitched. Only around one in six paid for their wedding on credit, the rest using savings or family cash for the celebration; and three-quarters of couples ended up with no wedding debt. This is the frugal spirit of the times, according to those working in the industry. 

The expert opinion

"Post Brexit and with a national election coming up, feedback from our suppliers is that people are a little reticent to spend on their wedding", says Siobhan Craven-Robins of the National Association of Wedding Professionals. "But it's also freeing couples to take a new approach to the style of their wedding, with some moving away from tradition to create bespoke weddings that also save money."

Ali Fleming, a specialist in non-traditional marriage ceremonies, says "some couples feel under pressure to splurge on traditional showy nuptials, and don't consider the low-cost, low-key alternatives."

"More often than not, today's weddings are mixing it up between traditional and modern," Dom Harness of wedding planners Rocks & Frocks. "That gives couples the freedom to drop pricier wedding items that don't add that much to the happiness of the day."

Knot-tying spots

The cheapest wedding or civil partnership will cost you precisely £119 at a registry office: £35 for each person when you give notice of the marriage, £45 to register it and £4 for the certificate. And the only guests you'll need will be a pair of witnesses.

But they also offer the option of cheerfully inexpensive group rooms for the ceremony, which may suit smaller-scale weddings. Village halls are a great saver for the venue, Ali Fleming advises, but the setting can also be entirely free.

Ali recently organised a gypsy-style reception in a back garden and another taking place on an – equally free – Devon beach. A venue that doesn't charge corkage can save a huge amount on the drinks bill too.

Food & bubbles

Journalist and editor Laura Tennant chose a homespun local caterer at her wedding instead of a big catering firm, partly to save on pricey uniformed servers but also to avoid the standard salmon-and-chicken dishes, offering her guests instead simple Turkish stews, tapas and salads.

The dream of a low-cost wedding can go 'pop' as soon you start opening the Champagne. The alternative to expensive bubbly doesn't always have to be Prosecco (although there's nothing wrong with that).

Laura started her guests on a glass of proper Champagne before moving onto the less well known and less expensive Crémant, a delicious French sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne method but with different grape varieties.

The rings

Over one third of the couples in our survey decided to cut spending on the rings, both engagement and wedding, with nearly 10 per cent forgetting about wedding bands altogether. To economise, you could trek to places where they deal with rings in bulk, like Hatton Garden in London, and the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter, and do your best to haggle.

For her engagement ring, Laura used a combination of inherited jewellery, which she and her fiancé took to an East End jeweller to melt down and turn into a contemporary chunky ring. That meant they were free to choose a celtic design with special significance for them.

Have a look for artisan jewellers offering low-cost but bespoke rings, made from recycled materials, even old silver cutlery and coins.

Other ways to save

Friends can help you save. Instead of hiring a wedding photographer, ask them to share the hundreds of pictures and videos they'll make.

There are so many options online, it can be dizzying. If you want the traditional look, you could try to order a bespoke wedding gown via eBay for as little as £100. Or check out one of the many high street retailers offering bridal wear such as Topshop or online retailer ASOS. You could pay someone to design a smart invitation but send it via email rather than post.

Be sure to check you'll be getting a reliable service. Despite the initial outlay, a professional wedding planner can help couples save by knowing good-value suppliers and keeping track of costs, says Siobhan Craven-Robins of the National Association of Wedding Professionals.

Above all, remember: the real magic of your wedding day is priceless and can't be bought. Don't lose it in all the planning.

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