save money on your wedding – getting married on a budget – cost saving ideas for brides
As I sit here at my desk I can see it’s a glorious day to get married. The sky is an amazing blue and the sun is shining. Yet there may be no weddings in the UK today… you see, it’s a Wednesday in March. Who would get married on a Wednesday in March? The most super savvy, money saving bride, that’s who!
This article is about how you can save money on your wedding budget. I meet couples every day online who are seeking money saving ideas. The problem is often that they set their wedding date for a peak summer Saturday without realising how that would impact on costs and availability of suppliers further down the line. The more market demand there is to marry on a certain date the harder it is for you to negotiate discounts or get special offers.
I want to help you build in cost saving ideas at every stage of your planning process, not be left trying to save on the little things after you have committed to the main costs.
So where do we start?
1 Select your target month. I’d suggest March because the weather is often pretty good and wedding prices are low. Other months to consider are early April, October & November. You need to avoid anything near the Easter holidays and any half term holidays that occur in your area. Check for those on the local school websites. Remember to check the private school holidays too as they may be different. January and September are popular months for corporate conferences. As a general guide, if you were looking at pre-Easter savings you’d marry about 3-4 weeks before Easter as that is guaranteed to be in school term time everywhere.
2 Select your target day. If you really want to save then go for a weekday. I don’t mean a Friday because lots of weddings happen on Fridays. Consider Tues/Weds/Thurs. You might be wondering what’s wrong with Monday? My reason for avoiding Monday is that you need to give suppliers like the chair cover hire business time to turn around the cleaning of the chair covers, table cloths etc from the weekend hire. Your wedding is intended as a welcome extra “bonus” for the suppliers you choose, not something they have to rush to cover. Monday is likely to be day when hotel staff are exhausted from working weddings Fri, Sat & Sun!
3 Choose your ceremony time. A few years ago I noticed some Yorkshire brides were booking ceremonies very late in the day, eg 4pm. This was designed to save money on catering costs as guests would only need feeding once. I believe there may be benefits to other costs, such as room decor, as the company has much more time to get ready in the morning. Less stress for the supplier means a potential saving for you!
Caution: If you book a late ceremony in winter/spring then it’s essential you check your photographers portfolio for winter weddings. You need an experienced photographer who knows how to capture the group shots and bridal portraits outside in the dark or in a spare room at the venue. Read about how to choose a wedding photographer here.
4 Guest numbers. Before you can book a venue you need some idea of how many guests you will have. The advantage of a weekday wedding during term time is that there will be fewer children to pay for! Also, guests who you are not particularly close to but felt obliged to invite may be unwilling to take a day off work. A venue normally will look for two figures: a) Number of guests at wedding ceremony & reception b) Number of guests for evening party. You only need rough numbers, but it’s important to have an idea because some venues may have a maximum or minimum number of guests on a particular room or package. For example, I know of one hotel that has a lovely ceremony room which only holds a maximum of 60 people. I know of others that have a minimum requirement, eg you must have 50 guests to the sit down meal. If you have fewer than 50 you still pay for 50! These minimum guest numbers are much more flexible on off-peak dates. A hotel that insists on a minimum of 50 guests on a summer saturday may have no restrictions at all on a wednesday.
5 Wedding insurance. This should be purchased BEFORE you book your venue or other suppliers, but after you have a fair idea of the date. Read more about it here. It’s recommended for all couples who can’t afford to pay twice for suppliers.
Now you’ve thought through the options above you are ready to start choosing and booking your venues. There’s a whole host of other things to consider about what you need from your venue, but that’s for another article!
Church weddings – the Church of England has a central tariff for wedding fees. These may be added to by the local church to cover things like heating, bell ringers etc. The local church committee (PCC) set their own fees and collect the central tariff fees. This can lead to a variation in price between churches. One church may quote £750 and another £500, depending on what their own church council fees are, so it’s worth checking the rate with different churches if you haven’t got a particular family link to one.
Caution: If you would like photographs taking during the wedding ceremony (most people do!) it is vital that you ask the minister what the photography rules are for their church. If the minister says photography is allowed by the official photographer get the rules in writing and make them a condition of your booking. Most churches allow the minister to make up their own photography rules, so unless you check you could end up booking your wedding in a church where photography is not allowed during the ceremony! The reason for getting them in writing at the time of booking is that the minister could change before your wedding and the new one might not want photography. You need to ensure that your original agreement is honoured. The photography community is aware of many cases where nothing has been said about a photography ban until the photographer arrives at the church. One photographer friend of mine had a church warden allocated to “guard” him during the ceremony to make sure he could not take any photographs!
Hotel weddings – Be straight with the wedding coordinator about your budget and expectations. Ask if there is any other way of reducing the cost, eg by moving to another day or week? Check how minimum guest restrictions vary from date to date. Ask about corkage fees should you decide to supply your own alcoholic drinks. Check what their cancellation policy is, and whether you might be able to change your date if that became necessary.
Case study: Michaela & Sam booked their wedding at Great Victoria Hotel in Bradford for 15th December 2013. Sam is in the army and a change to his deployment dates meant the wedding had to be moved. Great Victoria Hotel allowed a switch to 22nd December. Fortunately, myself and other suppliers were also able to accommodate the change in date so the couple didn’t lose any money.
Registrar costs – couples are often surprised to discover how much it costs to have the registrars attend a hotel wedding. If you’re having a weekend wedding then bear in mind you have to pay double time for two registrars to attend the hotel. It’s bound to be more than if you go to where they are (the register office) on a week day. One possible way of saving registrar costs is to have a minimal ceremony midweek. Leeds Town Hall does a £75 legal ceremony on a Wednesday for the couple only. Once the legal stuff is sorted you can book a celebrant to cover the formal wedding at a hotel or anywhere else you wish to marry. Using a celebrant means you are no longer restricted to venues that have a marriage licence. You can have the ceremony in a forest if you like! The legal part of the ceremony will have already been carried out by a registrar in the days before the main ceremony. (Please note that if your legal wedding ceremony is on a different day to your reception you will need to insure both events separately.)
The colour scheme – This affects the price of your flowers so my advice is to start by looking at what flowers are in season and how much they are likely to cost. Silk flowers or even paper flowers may not save you money but could extend your colour choices.
The photographer – If you have chosen an off-peak wedding date then you should find it easy to obtain reliable suppliers. It’s still worth bringing the photographer on board fairly early in the planning process as you then have access to someone who can give you further guidance if required. They will probably know several good florists, dj’s and venue decorators. Your photographer may even be on good enough terms with certain suppliers to negotiate with them on your behalf! See this article for advice on how to choose your wedding photographer.
The florist – Select three florists who are relatively close to the wedding venue. Go see them in person and get a feel for whether they are the kind of person you can work with and trust. Ask the florist what they would recommend for a bride on a budget. Give them the freedom to design something they can be proud of. Suppliers like florists are creative people and they usually take a pride in their work. If you give them the freedom to create you will get something better for your budget.
Check what date Mothering Sunday falls on. Make sure your wedding is not within 3-4 days either side of it! Valentines Day, Mothering Sunday and Easter are days when flowers are traditionally given as gifts. Flower prices rise steeply at those times and the workload of florists is much higher than normal.
The make-up artist – To be honest, this is one supplier I would not attempt to save money on! As with photographers, there is a huge variation in quality and expertise among the hair & makeup artists. A good one can transform you beyond what you have ever imagined. An OK one can do a decent job. Choose this key supplier wisely and look carefully in their portfolio for before & after photographs of previous brides.
The dress – Many brides find that the designer dress they want is too expensive and it’s not long before someone suggests they can be obtained much more cheaply from Chinese suppliers on ebay. Brides are tricked into thinking that they can “deal direct with the factory” and cut out the profits of the dress designer. This is not the case. The copy dresses sold are advertised using photographs of the real designer dresses that have been stolen from the manufacturers website. The difference in price between the UK shop price and the “factory” price is accounted for by it being a completely different dress! The special materials and skilled dressmaking staff used by the designer are not available to the copier. See the site Brides Beware for more information about this.
There are many reputable Chinese factories selling online. Just be certain that you are buying their original design and not a high risk “designer copy.”
The cake – Go to a professional cake maker and be flexible. Give them your colour scheme and look at samples of their previous work. Pick something you like but don’t be too prescriptive. Brides who want to control every aspect of everything may end up paying more as dealing with them and producing their exact specification takes longer. Choose your cake maker wisely, pick someone who you can trust to do a great job and let them get creative with it.
Couples usually order much larger cakes than they need based on the number of guests attending the wedding. I find that as the cake cutting is often not done until around 8pm, by the time the guests get a chance to eat cake they are usually full! I have seen wedding cakes go almost un-eaten. So if your dream cake in the size you think you need is out of your budget, just downsize and it’s likely it will still be more than enough.
Another good money saving tip for more complicated cakes is to discuss having a polystyrene tier. These are iced and appear as an exact match with the rest of the cake. The advantage of polystyrene is the reduction of weight at the top of the cake. You save a little due to no cake ingredients being required and you get to keep the top tier of your cake forever!
If you can’t afford a professional cake maker, then of course it’s something you could get a friend to do. However, be realistic! Don’t ask your friend to make a 4 tier wedding cake, choose something that does not require internal supports. For example, you could get a 3 tier cake stand and place the tiers onto that separately. That way, the stand supports the cake rather than the cake requiring a more complicated internal support structure. I have seen wedding cakes at risk of collapse and it’s just not worth taking the risk of suffering this embarrassment at your wedding.
Stationery – The best wedding invitation & stationery makers will charge for samples so expect to pay up to £5 for a custom sample making and posting to you. This amount is often deducted should you decide to place your order with the supplier. A way to trim your stationery budget is to avoid Save the Date cards. These are an American tradition that has crept into the UK market in recent years. If your guests already know about your wedding you don’t need save the dates at all! If your wedding is already booked and you have confirmed the venues then you can issue the wedding invitations at any time of your choosing.
Avoiding wedding scammers – Part of saving money is making the right decisions as to where you can save and where it’s “too good to be true.” Please read this article about how to buy wedding services safely on Facebook.
Good luck with planning your wedding. Take time out to relax regularly and ENJOY the process! See my wedding planning advice page here for more helpful articles.
Article By Paula Brown of Ollievision. Paula is Chair of The Adel Association, a Leeds residents and consumer rights group. She is also a full time professional wedding & event photographer in Leeds.
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money saving ideas for brides – wedding on a tight budget – wedding photographer Yorkshire