By Katie Lyth, House of Oliver
So you’re engaged…Congratulations! Once all the excitement has settled down one of the first and most important things to do is to set a budget and being in the middle of a recession things just aren’t easy out there! Luckily the big fat celebrity style wedding seems to be a trend of the past and more and more of you are opting for a more personal intimate service and handmade chic is very much in. Read on for some real tips on how to save money, liaise with suppliers and have the day of your dreams on a realistic budget. I’m having my own big day on a strict budget, so here are some helpful tips I’ve been picking up along the way. Mummies out there enjoy having the day you’ve always dreamt of.
First of all don’t compromise on the thing you’ve always dreamt of. If you’ve always wanted a horse drawn carriage you should have one but make tight cut backs elsewhere. Make a list of the things you absolutely must have on your day and the things that you could do without. Also decide early who will be paying for what, some parents like to help out and it’s helpful to know early on.
The most important dress of your life and don’t those retailers know it! The average dress now comes in at over £1000 but there are ways you can save. EBay is the most obvious place to find a wedding dress bargain. A lot of bridal stores sell on ex sample dresses but always check the listings carefully, samples are effectively seconds and some have imperfections. Always check the seller’s feedback and contact a few ex customers for good measure. I have heard plenty of horror stories of people ordering their dress of EBay from China and it can be hard to get your money back so please be careful. If you have already found your dream dress ring around a few other stores, you may find it cheaper elsewhere.
If you are buying from an independent store pay by credit card if you can so you’ll be covered should the store go bust. You could always try haggling with the store; I’d get into a lot of trouble if I told you how much these dresses were marked up by so I’ll just say….a lot! If you’re good at haggling see if you can get a discount. Offer to pay the full balance there and then or pay in cash to tempt them into accepting. A last trick and a cheeky little plug is to check out what dresses I have in stock, House of Oliver sell designer gowns at heavy discounts. See below for more info.
With Save the Dates, Invitations, Maps, Escort Cards, Table Plans, RSVP’s and Thank You cards its no surprise wedding stationary costs around £1000 but it is one of the easiest ways to save. It’s fairly easy to knock up a fancy invitation using publisher or word. Rope in a few girlfriends to help and bounce ideas off each other and make a night of it. Check out wedding magazines and blogs for inspiration. Don’t be put off by the task in hand, it’s fairly easy to do once you find a design you like and just coordinate everything for a more professional look.
At a recent wedding fair I visited I was shocked to discover that each buttonhole I needed would set us back £7 and with a pretty large family to cater for just buttonholes were going to set me back about £80! A wedding bouquet costs anything between £100-£300 and then there are bridesmaids and decorations. It mounts up quickly. I know a florist and I can promise you it doesn’t cost anywhere near this much to put together your own bouquet.
Don’t be put off; there are loads of videos online to show you what to do. If you are worried about your flowers wilting spray them with a good dollop of hairspray. Don’t be put off using silk flowers. I will be using these at my own wedding. There are plenty of authentic looking ones around now and they are a fraction of the price of the real thing. It also means you can make up any posies or decorations in advance without worrying too much the day before.
You can rent vases for your centrepieces from your florist and there are plenty of companies now that offer this service. DIY is definitely the way forward! If you really do want real flowers pick flowers that are in season and haggle, haggle, haggle! You could try your luck at a flower wholesale market. These are usually just for retailers to attend and you may need ID to get in but if you show up with a wad load of cash and flash it about a bit they may turn a blind eye.
Along with the catering this will probably take up the biggest chunk of the budget. If you get married on a weekday or out of season, the costs can be cut by as much as half and this rule usually applies to most suppliers. Check out hotel package deals and don’t be put off just because it’s a ‘wedding in a box’ Most hotels allow you to chop and change elements of the package and will just supply you with a new quote. Always ask for their best price and ask for discounts for holding your wedding at a less desirable time.
A lot of couples are opting to get married later in the day to save on catering. If you opted for a 4 o clock wedding you wouldn’t need to supply two meals and perhaps a buffet would do fine. Again haggle, haggle, haggle and offer to pay a large deposit there and then.
If you know anyone with a fantastic garden ask if you can have your wedding there. I would suggest drawing up an agreement of what will be expected of each party as this is a big ask! You need to be careful with this one as the UK has strict alcohol laws so you wouldn’t be allowed a bar and any alcohol there would need to be supplied free of charge. Consider toilet facilities too and your family members privacy and security. I’m sure they wouldn’t be too happy with a few happy go lucky guests getting it on in their spare room!
Cake and Favours
We are lucky enough to have a relative who bakes fantastic cakes, ask around you may know someone who knows someone who would be happy to make one for you or perhaps offer a heavy discount. Another great tip/secret would be to have a dummy cake. A wedding supplier makes your cake out of Styrofoam for photographs and to look good on your cake table and once its ready to be served it gets whipped off to the kitchen and a much cheaper fruit cake is served (you can pick these up from supermarkets fairly cheaply, M&S do a really nice one) and no one need know!
Some people now opt for a cheese board instead of a cake and I have seen cakes made up entirely out of fairy cakes or doughnuts. The trick here is to be creative. If you think you’re a dab hand with a piping cone give it a go yourself. It’s fairly easy to make a bog standard rose from sugar icing and there are plenty of videos online demonstrating how to make more fancy decorations.
For your favours you could stick to tradition and serve sugared almonds, these come in at the cheapest by far. Another budget busting tip is to hand out seeds of a favourite flower. There are some lovely templates for signs such as ‘With every seed you sow, our love will continue to grow’ and others. It’s quite a cute idea, check out Martha Stewart weddings for templates of seed packets. You could make cookies or handmade soap, lottery tickets or make a donation to charity. The trick here is to get creative and put your thinking caps on. You will find that a lot of guests forget their favours so bear this in mind and don’t splurge out here if you don’t have to.
Again I was shocked as to how much a photographer for a wedding was. Originally we decided that we weren’t going to have a professional photographer but the more I planned our day the more I wanted one. Shop around; there are some good photographers out there who offer fantastic rates. Ours isn’t costing the earth and he’s a really nice guy too.
If you can’t afford or don’t want an official photographer on the day you could provide guests with disposable cameras and get them to take lots of photos. I would suggest handing these out before the ceremony and having a collection at the end so that nobody takes them home with them. Pop a note in the invites such as ‘no professional photographer on the day, please bring plenty of cameras and film!’
Most people own a camera these days and there may be a family member willing to take the more formal shots for you. Ask your guests to send you all of their pictures for your editing after the wedding. There are plenty of online companies that can make wedding albums up easily and cheaply so I wouldn’t personally splash out here. Some photographers charge an extra £400 to make up a photo album with a little bit of time you can save yourself a fortune here.
This topic is my bugbear at the moment. Quite easily the hardest place I have found to save money. My hubby to be really wants the full tails and I am happy as this is something he really wants. If your hubby to be isn’t too fussed a hired dinner suit is about half the price and you can buy some really nice suits from the high street for under £100. However, if your man wants the full get up then look for offers such as groom goes free, ask your groomsmen to chip in for their outfits, or only hire the trousers and jacket and look for cravats and waistcoats elsewhere such as in the sale or on eBay.
There are loads of other places you can save but to stop this article becoming too lengthy I better stop really. As a final note here are things you truly do not need for your big day as they are just a huge waste of money:
A master of ceremonies – get one of your wedding party to do it, its just shouting a few announcements out after all!
Fireworks – so expensive, about £400 for a 3 minute display and will be a total washout (literally!) if it rains
The most expensive menu option – will your guests really notice that the braised beef costs £15 per head more than the chicken?
Napkins Embossed with your Initials – No one will notice!
Entertainment for your tables – magicians, a wedding singer, people will be too busy gossiping to notice any of them.
Outfits for your pets – We’ve seen the photos, it does happen!
I hope that has helped all of you budget brides. If you have anymore tips leave a comment I’m sure other mummies would love the advice.
By Katie Lyth, House of Oliver
Brides to be….. Don’t want to spend thousands on the dress of your dreams?
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