Eek - you’re getting married! According to research by Bridebook, the average UK wedding budget sits at just over £30k - £30,355 to be precise. With that in mind, how can you make sure you stick to your £30k spending limit without going overboard, or having your head turned by ideas you spot on Instagram and Pinterest that you just know have the potential to make your celebration that little bit more fabulous? (Hello, flower wall…)
It’s all about communication says wedding planner Bruce Russell (bybrucerussell.com), who has organised jaw-dropping celebrations all around the world. 'Discuss with your partner the elements that are most important and break it all down,' he suggests. 'Assign a budget to each item and stick to it: if one costs more than than you planned, you need to reduce the budget for another item. It all has to balance.'
Another simple way to stick to your budget? Create a Google Sheet and keep a note of everything: your rough budget for each element, deposit payments (and deadlines) and so on. You might think it sounds excessive but it’s a simple way for you and your partner to keep on top of W-day expenditure; and of course, the beauty of Sheets is you can both update it from anywhere, at any time. Easy peasy. (And nope, I’m not on the Google pay-roll, promise.)
With that in mind, read on for our breakdown of how to plan your dream day for £30k...
How much should you spend on the wedding venue?
Whether you’re hosting your celebration at home or booking out an extravagant Italian castle for the week, a significant chunk of your budget will go towards the venue and associated costs: catering, tableware and so on. If you can stretch to it - guestlist size depending - consider a venue where you can have exclusive hire for the extent of your celebration (ideal for a hotel location, as this means the only guests checked in will be yours!); alternatively, look for options where you can host a weekend-long celebration with your loved ones. It will cost a bit more but arguably would be totally worth it for the memories - The Country Castle Company has some excellent recommendations on their website (https://www.thecountrycastlecompany.co.uk/wedding-venues-wedding-party-houses).
If the thought of saying ‘I do’ overseas appeals, you could also consider a destination wedding: of course, it won’t just be you who forks out for this as your guests will also have to pay for flights and accommodation. Explore options: prices for this vary depending on where you’re going - a romantic celebration in Ibiza, for example, will cost drastically less than a sun-drenched ceremony held on a beach in the Bahamas.
Wherever you book, don’t cut corners on is the food and drink says Bruce. “The one thing your guests will definitely remember about your special day is whether there was enough good food and drink,” he advises. “Put yourself in their shoes!”
How much should you spend on the ceremony fees?
There’s no bartering or negotiation involved with this one. The figure varies slightly according to whereabout you live, and you’ll also need to pay £35 each when you give notice of marriage. Get it ticked off ASAP.
How much should you spend on the wedding photographer?
Find a photographer whose imagery is so beautiful it makes your heart skip a beat - after all, your wedding pictures will be one of the longest-lasting souvenirs of your celebration, so you want to love them. Look for a photographer who can incorporate an engagement/pre-wedding shoot into your package, as well as providing the option of a secondary photographer on the big day. Also consider keeping some money aside for extras: for example, if you have a shoot ahead of your wedding day, you could consider printing out your favourite photo to use for your thank-you cards.
How much should you spend your wedding stationery?
With a little more money in the bank, you can afford to consider more bespoke options for your wedding stationery. You could perhaps commission a talented illustrator to design your save-the-dates and invites; equally, you could stick to a more budget-friendly option and save the cash or reallocate elsewhere. The obvious aside, other essentials to tick off include the wedding planner book (perfect for helping you keep on top of your spending and wedmin), copies of your Order of Service and welcome signs for your venue.
“Stationery for the day - menus, place cards and so on - can get quite expensive,” says Bruce. “I love calligraphy and it feels so personal as a guest to see your name in lovely scripted writing. If you fancy a little DIY, take a calligraphy course and hand-write your own rather than getting them printed… It can be fun!”
How much you spend on the wedding dress and bridal accessories?
Make appointments at two or three local boutiques and try on a selection of dresses in different styles to help you find ‘the one’. Keep half an eye open for sample sales taking place; gowns by your favourite designer could be available at a fraction of the cost. Remember to save a chunk of cash to one side in case alterations are required.
Once you’ve sorted the dress, shop around for the perfect accessories to complete your look, be it a embellished veil, a customised jacket or a glittering headpiece. You might be able to find your perfect shoes in the sales, so be vigilant. When it comes to your jewellery, shop around for something that you can wear again after the big day: a beautiful necklace, perhaps, or a timeless pair of earrings. Equally, if a friend or relative has something you love, considering asking if you could incorporate it as your ‘something borrowed’.
How much should you spend on hair and make-up?
With your budget, you can afford to spend a little more - which means either considering pricier options, or sticking to a lower-cost professional(s) who can also do the hair and/or make-up of your bridesmaids, too. Either way, trials of both your ‘do and your glam are both essentials; make Pinterest boards of save pics from Instagram of ideas you’d love to try.
How much should you spend on the groomswear?
Depending on whether he wants to buy or hire his suit, your H2B could potentially stretch his budget to incorporate the outfits of his best man or ushers, too. If he does choose to hire, suggest he treats himself to a couple of stylish accessories to lift the look; a decent pair of shoes, for example, or a new watch, perhaps.
How much should you spend on bridesmaids’ dresses?
Assuming you want to buy their dresses, you can play around with this figure; obviously it depends on how ‘maids will walk you down the aisle, and you might want to factor in the cost of shoes, too. Whether you’re shopping for one best friend or a handful, browse online for inspiration: Goddiva, for example, has a glittering selection of sequin-adorned gowns, whilst Maids To Measure dresses are available in a huge range of colours and styles.
How much should you spend on the wedding flowers?
If you stick with seasonal blooms and simple arrangements - your bouquet, buttonholes, bridesmaid posies, tablecentres - you don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune. That said, if you elect for off-season flowers, which are harder to source, or more dramatic displays (think a beautiful arch, a detail-rich table runner or even a wall of blooms), you will obviously pay more. No idea where to begin? Work out roughly what you want to spend and make a Pinterest board of colours, styles and so on that you love. Approach a colour of florists and find out how feasible what you want is in relation to what you can spend.
How much should you spend on the wedding rings?
You could consider a ring-making workshop (these take place all over the country and are a great excuse for enjoying a weekend away together). Alternatively, you could simply head to your local high street and browse what matches your requirements (cost, metal colour, shaping and so on). If you have some money left over, consider getting your wedding bands engraved with the date of your celebration, or each other’s names. All together now: aw...
How much should you spend on the wedding favours?
Your spend depends on what you want to do and whether you’re planning to DIY or buy ready-made (and the former doesn’t always mean things will be cheaper, FYI). You could give guests miniatures of your favourite spirit, complete with customised labels; you could handmake cute packets of seeds; enlist a baker to create iced biscuits with names on that could double as place-settings… The possibilities are endless, so head over to Pinterest or Instagram for a browse of even more ideas.
How much should you spend on the wedding reception decorations?
Bruce recommends focusing on smaller details consistently throughout the venue rather than one or two ‘big’ designs. “For example, rather than a large floral arrangement, opt for an abundance of smaller ones,” he suggests. “Also, candlelight can be cost-effective and creates a beautiful romantic atmosphere. It’s so much better than harshly coloured LED lighting.”
How much should you spend on the wedding cake?
You could easily spend a lot less than this on your cake: after all, it’s becoming increasingly popular for couples to provide guests with tiers of different treats (brownies, donuts, cookies and so on) rather than traditional layers of sponge. If you want a bespoke creation with wow-factor, consult local cake-makers with your ideas and see what they’d charge. Alternatively, shop around the supermarkets and see what you can order: Marks & Spencer and Waitrose, for example, both offer beautifully classic designs that could be the perfect choice for your celebration.
How much should you spend on the reception entertainment?
Bruce suggests this is a no-brainer area to save on: simply swap your plans for a live band for a DJ instead. “A good DJ can create better atmosphere and can cost significantly less than a band,” he advises. “They can also adapt the style or genre of what they play to your guests and the different parts of the reception. If you want a ‘live’ feel, add a saxophonist or a vocalist to accompany them.”
How much should you spend on the honeymoon?
Of course, it depends on where you want to go and how soon after your wedding you want to leave. Unlike the ‘old days’, when couples would be waved off from the reception to jet off on their first holiday as newlyweds, we’re now increasingly holding off on the straight-away honeymoon in favour of a shorter, closer-to-home mini-moon instead. Why? One suggestion is that budget-conscious couples who have asked for money as a gift from guests might prefer to add that to their honeymoon fund before working out where they want to go. (Of course, another suggestion is that people simply want to make the wedding magic last that little bit longer.) Keep your eyes peeled for offers and sales and be ready to pounce should your dream trip become available at a price tag that appeals. Remember, you don’t need to blow a fortune on your honeymoon really: after all, you’ve got a whole lifetime to explore the world together, no? Admin hack: if you’re planning on changing your name, make sure you don’t book the honeymoon in your married name unless you’ve already managed to update your passport.