Wedding costs can quickly grow, but couples need not say ‘I do’ to paying an average of £7,500 on their big day
The wedding season is in full swing, and while some couples are happy to throw cash around like confetti, others try to slash the cost of their big day. Those tying the knot can expect to pay an average of £7,500, according to Nationwide building society (that’s for couples of all ages, which includes the lower amounts older couples tend to spend), or more than £24,000 if you’re a reader of Brides Magazine.
But celebrating with a bit of fanfare doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, it is perfectly possible to tie the knot for less than a grand.
To be legally married, costs start at around £120. That covers fees for the notice of marriage (£35 for each partner) and a brief registry office service on a weekday. In Chester, for example, hiring a room in the city centre registry office that seats 50 guests costs £49, and that includes the marriage certificate (usually £3.50). The cost of this type of basic, legal service is about the same anywhere in the UK, including more expensive cities such as London.
If you want to get married in an approved venue (you cannot just do it in your local pub), you will need to pay for a registrar, which can easily run to £400 at weekends, and you will also have to fork out for the hire of a venue. If you want a religious service costs will vary again – a Church of England wedding, for example, will set you back £413.
Brides spend an average of £1,098 on their dress, according to the magazine You & Your Wedding, but there are an increasing number of cheaper options on the high street, where wedding dresses start from about £150. If you are willing to wear a secondhand frock, check out Oxfam’s online shop or one of its 11 bridal departments across the UK – grooms can have their pick of suits from just £20.
There are also specialist second-hand websites, charity shops and eBay – which is where newlywed Alex Fitton, a London-based chef, found her dress. She says: “It was a vintage dress in a shorter, informal style, and it cost £45. I bought plain shoes from Primark and made them sparkly with glue and glitter.”
Brides happy to wear “something borrowed” could use a friend’s dress or find an outfit for free on websites such as Freecycle or Freegle. Other ideas include making your own (see eHow.co.uk for ideas) or buying material and paying a local seamstress.
You don’t have to limit yourself to the wedding department of shops, either. This year there are plenty of white and ivory lace dresses in fashion, which may prove cheaper (fingers crossed, though, that one of your guests doesn’t turn up in the same dress).
Opting for a Sunday or off-peak winter wedding will help you avoid the high rates charged for summery Saturdays. “Even the very best venues have quieter times, so check when they are and negotiate costs if you take an off-peak date, or investigate local restaurants that have a private dining room you could use,” advises wedding planner Liz Taylor of the Taylor Lynn Corporation.
You can also cut costs by throwing a garden party if friends or family have a large enough space, having a picnic in the park or beside a river, or hiring a local pub with a garden. Last July, Jennifer Earle had her reception in a pub. “We played music on our iPods in the garden and borrowed garden games for free entertainment,” she says.
Local community centres are also a popular cost-saving option. Jo Dyer, who lives in Plymouth, had her reception in a village hall. “We booked it from Friday through to Sunday. This meant we had plenty of time to set it up and take the decorations down – and it cost £300,” she says.
Sites such as Halls for Hire, Hallshire.com and Hall Hire UK list everything from tiny local halls at £4 an hour to Grade II-listed castles. And don’t let the exterior put you off. Charlotte Ward, who is getting married in her old school grounds in Kent in August, has come up with a good solution. “I’ve arranged to have my wedding photos taken at a nearby museum with prettier grounds, in exchange for a donation,” she says.
Food and drink
Couples spend an average of £1,449 on wedding food and drink, according to research by VoucherCodes.co.uk. Ways to slice those costs include having your do later in the day (you then only have to feed your guests once rather than providing both lunch and evening food), buying food from a local restaurant rather than hiring caterers, and serving canapés as your starter and wedding cake as pudding.
If you can make a cake, or rope in a family member to make it, the ingredients can cost as little as £30 for 50 guests if you ditch the traditional fruit cake and whip up a sponge. This compares with an average of £660 for a professionally made cake. For example, the BBC’s Good Food website says its zingy lemon wedding cake costs less than a fiver to make – so if you slice it into eight, a £4.90 cake works out at 61p per guest.
For substantial savings, ask your guests to contribute food to your celebrations instead of buying gifts. Fitton says: “I suggested recipes and people made a portion big enough for about six people. There was plenty of food and guests took the leftovers home.”
There are also ways to save on wedding drinks. “We’ve bought Prosecco from Italy at £4.50 rather than £10 a bottle,” Ward says: “And we’re drinking out of jam jars instead of hiring glasses from the bar.”
Costs drop further if you make your own wine, cocktails, beer and cordials. Dyer served elderflower champagne for the toast. “It went down really well and cost only a few pounds,” she says.
Forget the expensive gold-edged invitations and table decor – many couples send out emails and make their own decorations. “We printed our invites ourselves for about £34, but when people RSVPd we emailed the arrangements over,” Earle says. “Guests said this was handy as they had the details on their phone, and it was free.”
For photos, you can ask guests to upload their snaps to a dedicated website so you can take your pick and create an album online – or you can put disposable cameras on every table. Other ideas include asking a friend to act as photographer or paying a student from a local photography or art college.
There are social media sites such as Pinterest where you can find inspiration for creating homemade table decorations and stationery at a fraction of the cost of buying them ready-made.
Growing your own floral bouquet and buttonholes is also popular – seeds can be bought for a few pounds (or are even free at seed swaps) and you can grow posies in jam jars and then pick them fresh on the day.
Or you might prefer to go for dried flower arrangements. “We’ve bought lavender for the tables,” Ward says. “It works out at about £1.10 per table.”
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