Wanna throw a kick ass wedding but have a tiny budget? Welcome to the club, amigos. Apparently the average cost of a wedding is £21,000! I know!! But fear not, after shooting more than 100 weddings I’ve seen loads of really easy ways to save tons of money and still have an awesome wedding. In fact, it’s the budget weddings that have been the most fun, for the couple and for their guests.
Just for you, I’ve done a bit of research and maths and I reckon if you do all of the below, you could throw a wedding for 40 people for less than £4k (including me as your photographer!)
Here are my top tips for throwing a wedding on a budget:
If you’re trying to keep the budget down, keep the guest list down. Only invite people you really want to be there. You could always invite your workmates over later in the evening and ask them to bring their own drinks – like a house party when you were a teenager.
Town halls are pretty cheap if you have your ceremony mid week and only have a few guests, two of whom will act as witnesses (I’ve twice been a witness as well as photographer and am doing it again this May). All a simple ceremony involves is saying you agree with what the registrar says and signing the paper that makes you a married couple (eek ok that’s pretty exciting!) Your official ceremony doesn’t have to be any more elaborate than that, and you can do it on the morning of your wedding day, or any day before (or after!) Then you can have a big fancy ceremony literally anywhere you like, without the restrictions of the law saying you can only legally get married in certain places by certain people.
Do you, your parents or close friends or family have a semi-decent sized house and back garden? If you’re not having too many guests (30-60) a normal house is perfectly fine, as long as you have a couple of loos and enough space for everyone if it rains (basic gazebos from Tesco are dirt cheap). I’ve shot weddings in big fancy back gardens and simple back garden weddings – you can do a lot with a back garden! Lay down some picnic blankets, and put out some chairs and tables – all of these are pretty cheap at supermarkets. If you don’t have a back garden to use, ask locals in your area if they have a field you can borrow – the extra costs would be a larger marquee, more tables and chairs, a van to transport everything and portaloos (or rock up at the local park for a simple, laid back wedding reception with blankets and picnic baskets and sneak into the nearest pub to use the loo). Having a “fake” ceremony is so much more personal and beautiful than a big production with an expensive registrar and it means you can do what you like, say what you like and have it last as long (or short) as you’d like. Celebrants are pretty pricey (£350-£1000) – having a mate or a family member as your celebrant is so much more meaningful.
Aside from back gardens and parks, you could look into warehouses. I have a friend who got married in an old warehouse in London, and her 114-guest wedding came to £5k in total. Village halls are a great option too, especially if they don’t do many weddings. So many of my couples have booked venues dirt cheap because the venues don’t do weddings yet. Pub function rooms are great and cheap if they’re not a wedding venue – usually just a minimum spend at the bar.
£200 (based on a backyard wedding)
Crockery and cutlery
A lot of blank space venues, such as warehouses in London, require you to hire/buy your own crockery and cutlery – instead of spending tons on plates, why not ask past couples to sell you theirs? Their wedding has been and gone and they’re left with 100 plates filling their spare bedroom. Get on the Rock n Roll Bride Facebook group and ask in there! I’m sure they’ll love you to take a few plates off their hands!
If you’re having it all in one place, including getting ready, you can save loads on transport. If you’re getting married in London, having everyone (including you!) catch the Tube is so much fun and great for photos. Hiring a London bus is very expensive and every single time my couples have asked the driver to take them to a certain place to stop for photos, the driver has decided last minute they can’t do it due to traffic. Every single time. It’s a nice idea to give everyone a bus tour of London, but the buses are hot and stuffy and no one looks out of the window – everyone just wants to get to the venue so they can be comfortable, get a drink, go to the loo, and mingle. Fancy wedding cars are almost always not worth it as they cost a bomb and no one really sees it as they park out of the way and drop you off at the venue where everyone is indoors or elsewhere. If it’s just a short drive, jump in someone’s car or get a normal taxi.
So many of my brides get their dress from Topshop or Asos! Asos have a fab collection, with most dresses around £200. And they’re actually even more beautiful than “wedding” dresses. Amber’s dress (below) cost £47.50 from Asos! Even better, Rachel of the Brighton powder paint wedding‘s dress was 19.99 from Zara. You can see it below under ‘For the boys’.
For the boys
Jeans, Converse, a nice shirt, funky braces and a bowtie will do the job. You can buy a cool waistcoat pretty cheap and that will set you apart from the other boys.
If you’re having a floor-length dress no one will be able to see your shoes, so wear whatever you want! If you’re having a back garden wedding, barefoot or sandals (or barefoot sandals!) is a good idea, with Converse for the boys. For a warehouse type venue, why not both go for special wedding Converse or Doc Martens?
If you don’t want to do your own makeup, pop down to Boots or a department store and get a free makeup session! I wouldn’t mention it’s your wedding day, as tempting as that will be. If you like the lipstick, buy a stick and bring it with you to touch up. I mean, It would be rude to get a whole makeup done and walk away empty handed, plus you get a brand new lippie. Alternatively, book an appointment at the Mac counter for a full face makeup (an hour session) for £40. They have 30 locations so it should be doable!
Unless you’re a hair whizz, have talented friends or just want to have it as you normally have it, it could be an idea to get a pro to do your hair. Ask your normal hairdresser what they can do for you – it’ll probably be cheaper if you can go to the salon rather have them come to you.
M&S do amazing cakes. I mean, everyone loves cake, but it’s not the reason your guests are at your wedding (ok maybe it is). Pop down to M&S and pick up 45 cupcakes for £75 or (and) a 12-serving rainbow cake covered in sprinkles for £25. I’ve found at about 90% of the weddings I’ve shot, when couples who cut and serve the cake after dinner, only about 40% of the cake gets eaten. Serve it right after the ceremony and you’ll have a 100% hit rate, making your investment worth it!
Go to France, stock up on wine – it’s like £2 a bottle! Alternatively you can get a decent bottle of wine from the supermarket for a fiver, especially if you buy in crates. Buy loads of beers, stick them in a bucket of ice. Or tell your mates instead of getting you a wedding present, to bring a bottle of something boozy.
A bottle of supermarket wine per person plus 4 beers per person and 40 cups and plastic wine glasses:
M&S does delicious fancy platters for around a tenner, and they’re super fancy too. For canapes, buffet food, plastic plates and forks and serving plates:
Spend a few Saturdays lurking around the charity shops and junk stores seeing what treasures you can find. Anything that will work in your home afterwords is a bonus. Or you could save up jars and tins from your dinners, wrap some nice fabric around them and pop flowers in them.
In my experience, the best favours are edible ones. Bake up a batch of cookies, freeze them til the day, and wrap them individually. Or maybe something cute and already wrapped like Tunnocks tea cakes.
If you want free invites, use Facebook and email. It also saves you loads of time and effort chasing RSVPs.
If you want a cheap holiday, go off season. There are some super cheap, awesome places to visit in Europe. We’re off to Romania for a few days in March – our flights were £30 each and accommodation is around £10-20 a night. Also, you don’t have to go on honeymoon the day after the wedding, you can go whenever you want – then you can get the best deals!
Go on a 4am adventure to a flower market and buy a job lot! Hang them in bunches around the venue or pop them in vases – charity shops have loads and they’re always handy to have. Buttonholes only need to be a few pretty flowers tied together with string and DIY bouquets are fab.
Bands and DJs take up a hefty chunk of a wedding budget and while they’re super fun (well, bands anyway – DJs are really just good for the funky lights), if you’re on a tight budget, you might be better off hooking up an ipod to some decent speakers, which are pretty cheap to hire.
I know you know photography is super important – lasting memories etc. All photographers go on about this, and it’s true. But you’ve heard it all already, so I won’t bang on about it. You want to know how to get your dream wedding photographer on a budget. Getting married in winter and/or on a weekday can really help. As can last-minute bookings – if the photographer wouldn’t be likely to fill the date (say a few weeks in advance) then you can get a great deal – it’s a risk but an option. I love winter weddings so I can offer shorter coverage if it’s local to me – the same for weekday weddings. You’d be hard pushed to find a decent photographer who will do shorter coverage on a peak date (a summer Saturday) as they’ll very likely book it, but get married on a weekday (Mon-Thurs) and you’re winning!
Get in touch for all my prices. Let’s rock this budget wedding!!