etting hitched? Congratulations – but can you afford fancy nuptials in a cost of living crisis?
Rising energy costs, interest rates and mortgage costs mean fewer people can afford to splash out on their big day, with many brides and grooms forced to scale back their wedding plans.
According to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, the average UK wedding now costs £23,030, while a big blow-out bash can set you back more than £60,000.
These sums will be unaffordable for many couples, especially those saving for a house deposit or with childcare costs to pay.
Here are seven ways to have a budget-conscious wedding during the cost of living crisis.
1. Keep numbers down
The easiest way to reduce the cost of your wedding is to simply slash the guest list. This will have a knock-on effect on the size of the venue you need, and food and drinks. Legally, the only people you need to be there are the bride and groom (obviously), the registrar or celebrant and two witnesses.
There are numerous ways to collect guest numbers. Some couples keep their weddings to family and close friends only, while others ban children or don’t automatically include plus-ones.
Once you’ve sorted out the guest list, send digital invites. These are much cheaper than paper invitations and you can include a link to the gift list and the option to RSVP online.
2. Buy a pre-loved wedding dress
According to a survey by Bridebook, the average wedding dress cost £1,250 in 2021. That’s a lot of money for something you’ll only wear once.
A pre-loved wedding dress will be much cheaper, although you might also need to budget for alterations. Visit wbsites such as Stillwhite or Bridal Reloved to find a dress – and then sell it on again after the wedding.
You could also consider hiring, rather than buying, the groom’s suit.
Traditionally, bridesmaids are expected to pay for their own dresses and shoes. But bear in mind that members of your wedding party are likely to be feeling the financial pinch too, so look at high street options for your wedding party.
3. Call time on the free bar
Free bars can get expensive if you give your guests free reign to drink all day and all night at your expense.
If you don’t want to ditch the free bar altogether, consider setting a monetary limit for the event, after which guests will need to start paying for their own drinks.
Time limits are another option, as is limiting free drinks to just wine and beer.
Some wedding venues might permit you to stock the bar yourself, meaning you can save cash by stocking up on booze at a wholesaler.
4. Be your own DJ
If you don’t have the budget for a wedding DJ or band, use Spotify instead. You can set up various playlists for pre-dinner cocktails, the wedding breakfast and the all-important disco later on.
Make sure you have a decent sound system set up and ask a tech-savvy friend to be in charge of the music.
It’s best to download the songs you want to play, rather than rely on wi-fi.
It’s best to use a laptop – if you rely on a smartphone for tunes, you’ll need to put it on airplane mode to stop notifications and phone calls being played to everyone at the wedding.
5. Choose the date wisely
According to Hitched.co.uk, ‘wedding season’ in the UK is from May to October, with July and August particularly busy. You’ll save cash on everything from the venue to photography and make-up if you pick a quieter month. Hitched.co.uk has examples of wedding venues that cost twice as much in August as they do in February.
Weekday weddings are also a lot cheaper than weekends, and could act as an organic way to trim the guest list as some people won’t be able to take the day off work.
6. Borrow wisely
In an ideal world, you’d save up for your wedding – and not start married life in debt.
If using savings isn’t possible, some banks offer specialized ‘wedding loans’ to fund nuptials. These work in the same way as other personal loans and are usually paid back on a fixed rate of interest on repayment terms ranging from 12 months to seven years.
Using a 0% purchase credit card for some of your expenses might be a better option, especially if you can repay the entire debt during the interest-free period. Thanks to section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, credit cards also offer extra protection against suppliers going bust or letting you down.
7. Location, location, location…
Where you get married will have a massive impact on the cost of your nuptials.
You can’t get married just anywhere – civil weddings need to be at a licensed venue or a register office, while religious weddings must normally be held in a place of worship.
The Law Commission has put forward proposals for weddings to be allowed to take place in other locations such as beaches and on cruise ships – so keep an eye on whether these plans become law.
Churches typically cost from £500. Hiring a licensed wedding venue such as a hotel or castle is likely to cost at least £5,000, sometimes a lot more.
Remember, there’s no need to have a big wedding at all. Getting married at a registry office costs about £50. After that you could have guests back to your home or just go to the local pub.
For the ultimate in romance, and no guests at all, consider eloping. ‘Elopement packages’ at Gretna Green cost from about £500 for a wedding ceremony and photography.
Capturing the day
On the subject of photography, how to get the most out of your budget, and how do you identify a photographer who is going to do the job you’re looking for?
We asked Alex Rose, a professional wedding photographer based in Essex who photographs weddings across the UK, for her thoughts…
“Lots of people think wedding photographers only offer full day packages, but there is a lot more flexibility in the industry since the pandemic caused so many cancellations and postponements. For example, I offer a 3 hour micro-wedding package for £750. This typically covers your ceremony, couple and group shots, with some time left to capture moments in between. It’s definitely worth asking photographers if they offer something similar.
“If you do book a photographer for less than a full day, think about what your priorities are so that you can make the most of their time. I ask my couples to complete a questionnaire and a day plan for me. It asks them to list all of the group shots that they would like, including the names of people to be included in each shot.
“I also ask them to nominate someone from within their party to be responsible for gathering the right people for the right shot. Listing out the shots like this really focuses people on what’s important to them, and makes it super clear for me.
“An easy way to make the most of your photography budget is to book a photographer who is based near to where you are getting married, otherwise you may need to pay for their travel expenses. If your venue has a list of recommended suppliers, this could be a good starting point.
“Take the time to really think about the style of photography you love, whether it’s editorial, documentary or portrait, and then look on social media to get a sense of what can be achieved. And it almost goes without saying that you should check out the websites of potential photographers to find out more about them and to see their work.
“Don’t be afraid to ask your photographer questions about their working methods or for any advice. For example you may be wondering if it’s better to do couple portraits before or after your wedding breakfast? The answer will depend on the timing of your ceremony and the time of year in terms of available sunlight hours.
“Reach out to several photographers to get a sense of who they are as people – they’ll be at your wedding, after all – and speak to them about your priorities. I always recommend a consultation call with my couples, so that I can find out about them, understand their vision for their day and what vibe they are going for. It’s so important to understand each other.”