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7 Tips on Where to Save or Splurge on Your Wedding Day


Last month Mel and I were invited to exhibit at the National Wedding Show in London where we met a gaggle of lovely brides and grooms (as well as a couple of girlfriends who just love free stuff and pretty dresses - fair enuf'). Everyone we met had that strange look in their eye, a look that sits somewhere between excitement and sheer terror. They were planning their version of a day that the world tells you is meant to be "the best of your life." It's a lot of pressure. And it got me thinking about my own experience of wedding planning over the last 18 months.

This August my now-husband and I successfully found ourselves throwing the First Wedding After Lockdown! We began planning our big day in April 2020, in the midst of a lockdown that even the most pessimistic of us didn't believe would last longer than a few months. However as this summer approached, unbelievably we found ourselves genuinely doubting whether we would be able to go ahead with our plans. But thanks to a firm dose of incredible good luck, go ahead we could! And it was euphoric!

Let's rewind though...

From the minute I started planning, I was enraged by the idea that the average wedding in the UK costs £30,000 and I was determined to not let that be the case in the choices we made. And in trying to keep to a more sensible budget, I learnt exactly where money can be saved and where it really is worth letting it rain. So here's our definitive list of the 6 places to save and spend your wedding budget.

flowers, menu and small bottle of metaxa whisky on the dinner table at a wedding

1. Flowers - SAVE

Let's be honest. All flowers, no matter how small and humble, are beautiful. Sure everyone particularly loves a peony, but are they 100% necessary as an extra expense? No.

Think back to the weddings of your friends. How many of them can you remember the bridal bouquet from? This is not a place to throw away your pennies. But that's not to say that you need to abandon flowers entirely; they are a great way of making dinner tables look vibrant and homely and they're a helpful prop for giving bridesmaids something to do with their hands! But there are plenty of ways of keeping them cheap.

First of all, size. Calm down on the scale of the bouquet. A small posy of flowers is plenty. Then find out what's in season. If you're getting married in spring or summer, this will be easy-peasy. Buy local or even grow and pick your own flowers (my father grew a whole flurry of flowers that we used on my wedding day.) And if you're getting married in winter, how wonderful! Tap into the more seasonal plants and flowers: Snowdrops, thistles and pansies. Play with grasses and leaves too. They can add bulk without masses of cost. The majority of my floral arrangement was made up of olive branches. They provided a simple nod to my Greek heritage and also beefed up my bouquet on the cheap.

Bride laughing with father of the bride standing outside the church before going in
A simple bouquet of seasonal flowers can save you a heap

2. Cake - SAVE

Cutting the cake is an outdated tradition that guests don't much care for. However, in the words of my theatre director brother Simon Evans, "It's an essential structural moment in a long day. It gets people to come together and then disperse again in new groups." This is valid point and for this reason it can play a vital role in maintaining the energy of a wedding. But don't let this argument drive your reasoning too much; there's plenty of other ways to keep the energy up. Rather hilariously at my own wedding, we had a cake that we intended to cut and... we forgot! There was so much else going on and we were all having such a cracking time that the poor thing just sat waiting all night. It ended up being hacked into the next day, when my husband's family and mine gathered to nurse our hangovers.

The essential take-away here is that even if you have a cake, it does not have to be elaborate, it does not have to be huge, it doesn't have to exist at all. It can be Colin the Caterpillar or a Waitrose Chocolate Gateaux balanced on top of a tray bake. Nobody is going to care if it's a hand-crafted gourmet masterpiece. I promise you.

bride and groom in a church laughing in front of the vicar with laughing family behind
The laughs don't come from the cake or the invites...

3. Dress - SAVE

This was an area that I knew I wanted to save on from the get go and I'm here to tell you that it was so easy.

The average amount that brides spend on their wedding dresses in the UK is £1300, so I made a decision early on that I would not be going into 4 figures. Now, I was personally willing to go near that amount, because I knew I wanted a big fancy outfit (it was my one day to get away with wearing something that outrageous so I was going to go for it), but if you don't need that for yourself then DEAR GOD you can get something for much less! Try ASOS for crying out loud, try Zara, try John Lewis! And if you're like me and you're willing to spend close to 4 figures but only just, then honestly the world is your oyster.

I went to 2 boutiques in particular that I was seriously impressed with. Bridal Reloved in Wallingford (they've got stores all over the country) and The Little Bridal Boutique. Both these shops were sample store boutiques, which means that all the dresses they stocked were originally sample dresses that had been tried on by other prospective brides in the past. That means they're not literally brand new, created specifically for you. But it also means they're sometimes over half the price of their original counterparts and still in perfect condition. I was trying on gowns that I would never have been able to afford in my wildest dreams: stunning dresses by designers that were so far out of my price range, I wouldn't even put them on my Pinterest board! But that's what I ended up with. A gown by a Lebanese designer called Gemy Maalouf that usually sells for $4000-5000 in the US!

There's an added benefit too that when you buy sample or second-hand, you're doing your bit for the environment and making sure that an entirely new piece isn't made for you to wear on one day and then store away. And a final perk: you can take the dress home with you on the day you buy it. No outrageous 9 month lead times. Find a dress, buy a dress.

Bride walking down the stairs in a striped lace wedding dress with deep V neck and flowers around the waist
The dress of my literal dreams

4. Invitations - SAVE

save the date example for a wedding
Our "Save the Date" was an easy online design

Have you tried Canva yet? Do it.

Canva is an online design platform that makes designing your own invitations child's play. So save on the design, and then save on the sending. We decided early on that we would only print a handful of physical invites for close family and friends who we knew loved to scrapbook! Other than that, our guests would be getting e-invites. And it worked a dream. There's a misjudged worry that if an invite lands in your inbox it's less likely to be taken seriously than an invite that lands on your doormat but this just isn't the case. An invite to a wedding, no matter how it arrives with your guests, will always be a priority. And choosing to go "e" meant we didn't have to spend on printing, on envelopes, on stamps! The costs just keep going up. It also meant a quicker and more immediate response from our guests. Ideal.

Finally, it makes creating little design features for the big day even easier. You can tie table plans, name cards etc. in with the design of your invite using Canva again. (You'd think we're being sponsored by Canva the amount we're wingman-ing it here. We're not. But if they'd like to sponsor us, we wouldn't say no.)

5. Food and Wine - SAVE

smiling guest at a wedding with napkin tucked into his shirt
Recognise Reveller Freddie Hutchins?

We made a bit of hiccup here. We hired a fancy chef, with wild ideas, we were very excited and we spent the biggest portion of our budget here. And it ended up being... perhaps not worth it. So please learn from our mistakes!

Ultimately it's important that the food isn't gross. But that's about it. It's sustenance. That's all. Fortunately for us, we did make that correct realisation when it came to wine and we bought decent stuff all for under £6 a bottle. The statement we lived by was that we wanted the wine to be "un-comment-worthy." We wanted our guests to go, "I want a glass of red wine," then drink the wine and think, "Yup, that's a glass of red wine." As long as the response wasn't, "eugh! What is that?" then it was fine for a wedding! Your guests haven't been invited to dinner at the Hotel Du Cap*, they've been invited to a wedding. They know you're catering for big numbers and you're juggling a million other things. They just want the food and booze to be plentiful. So make it plentiful and stop worrying about making it gourmet.

Extra tip when it comes to wine. Most supermarkets will have "25% off" deals a few times during the year. If you get ready to buy at these points, you can save big money on your wedding booze. We ended up going with a mixture of wines found at Sainsbury's, Tesco and Aldi and they were all delicious! Or rather, they were all un-comment-worthy and highly quaffable. So they were perfect!

*Unless you're actually getting married at Hotel Du Cap. But if that were the case I don't think you'd be on an article seeking ways to save money on your wedding day. You're clearly alright.

Performer for wedding entertainment looking serious at a wedding while guests laugh hysterically in the background
Friend and actor Paddy Warner doing an eye-wateringly funny sketch during the dinner

6. Entertainment - SPLURGE

Alright here we are. At the place where budget should really go.

Entertainment on your big day is the stuff that your guests are going to remember and the stuff that really gets the blood pumping. The entertainment elements are what will make your day really stand out from the rest, because that's the experiential stuff. Get the perfect outfit for you, pick the meaningful venue for you, but organise the entertainment for your guests!

Miss Baby Sol the singer performing at a wedding
Singer Miss Baby Sol and the Faithettes

At the most basic level, we're talking bands. Get a good band. Spend as much as you're willing to spend here. In the lead-up to my own wedding I asked a huge number of people what were the best weddings they'd been to, and universally they all told me that the best weddings they'd been to were the ones where they remembered the dancing. At my wedding we had the incomparable Baby Sol and The Faithettes and I am smug as HELL about that choice. Because we all had a wild time on the dancefloor!

But there are so many other exciting options beyond the band too. And no, we're not about to suggest a magician. How about getting The Wedding Whisperer to write a bespoke poem about you and your partner that can be read out instead of a speech; or get the guys at Revels in Hand to do Shakespearean love scenes around your guests at the reception; we even offer a service now where we commission one of our world class writers to create a comedic sketch around a particular memory of the couple. These unique performances can be integrated into any part of the day to make it truly memorable.

2 singers performing to a groom and groom in Kew Gardens
Revels in Hand performa at a wedding service in Kew Gardens

7. People - SPLURGE

Guests whoop and cheer at a wedding, the men in morning suits and the women in brightly coloured dresses
That's the kind of energy we're talking about

Last but not least, don't save on the guests. What we mean by that is: if you want to have everyone there, have everyone there! This was certainly where most of my budget went. My husband and I had a big list of people we wanted to celebrate the day with and it was making food, drink and venue costs rocket. It was suggested to us at one point that we just needed to cull some of the guests, because a smaller guest list would mean smaller costs. But that just wasn't an area we were willing to mess with. And I'm so glad we didn't.

The people make the wedding.

So invite who you want to invite, and leave your snobbery at the door when it comes to the less important details: Wedding favours? Scrap 'em. Dining? Make it homely. Transportation? Get a taxi!

Just make sure the people you love most in the world are there to share the day with you.

Bride and groom dancing with photographer snapping from below

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